Firstly, I have a new location for blog at Write Sprit. This post is a look at the spiritual significance of trees including aspiration, strength from flexibility, service, and patience.
Many spiritual devotees have had spiritual experiences with trees. Perhaps most famously Siddhartha Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree for 7 days, until he attained Liberation and Nirvana. Descendants of that Bodhi tree are still revered today as an auspicious place of spiritual significance.
Trees and the connectedness of life
Trees play a vital role in creating a harmonious eco-system. Trees absorb excess water, provide oxygen, help reduce pollution and provide many raw materials, such as wood, nuts and fruits.
It is believed that the ancient Nazca civilisation collapsed after it cut down all its trees. Initially they lived in harmony with nature, but expansion led to the civilisation cutting down all its forests of the Huarango tree to gain wood and space for agriculture. However, the Huarango tree was performing a vital role for the eco-system in this fragile arid area. The Huarango not only brought water from deeps for itself, but also brought moister to the top soil to provide water for other vegetation. With the forest denuded, water washed off the top soil and no water was brought from underground reserves, causing the civilisation to have a crop failure and starvation. (Clearing Oasis system)
This lesson is from an ancient civilisation, but it is just as applicable today. Modern farming has led to treeless landscapes, but this can make areas more prone to flooding because trees have the natural capacity to help reduce water flow from the valley sides. A recent report shows that planting trees could help reduce flooding by 20% (BBC) – more effective than costly man made structures.
Shade to all
“Be like a tree. The tree gives shade even to him who cuts off its boughs.”
– Sri Chaitanya (MFS, 151)
It is easy to take trees for granted. On a hot day, we look out for their shade and benefit from the cooling effect of trees. When it is raining, a tree provides a temporary shelter from the rain. Even if we neglect and harm trees, using it for our own selfish purposes, the tree still offers shade. This is an important lesson – could we still offer help to those who have taken us for granted?
A tree is all service from the top to the bottom. A tree is used as shelter by birds, animals and insects. The nature of a tree is service and sacrifice. Yet, with a tree, there is no sense of superiority or inferiority. If we offer service to other people – can we retain this nobility and dignity, not needing anything in return?
Strength from flexibility
If a tree was rigid, it would likely break in strong winds. However, most trees can bend in the wind, to absorb the worst of the storm; with deep roots they can survive the severest winds. If we are rigid in our world views and proud opinions, then we will invariably snap at some point. If we can be flexible and accepting, then we can survive the buffets of life.
A quality of trees is aspiration – the constant growth and striving to grow into something better. This aspiration is steady, patient and goes through different seasons. It is not like the impatience of human desire, which would like an immediate transformation. The key to a trees aspiration is patience, a constant purpose and acceptance of the different seasons.
Everything in this world is fleeting. People, events and problems come and go. We are apt to get wrapped up in the small problems of our daily life. Yet, it sometimes is helpful to remember a sense of perspective. Some trees are 500 years old, how many things have come and gone in that time? Empires have risen, fallen and new countries emerge. Sometimes, in this world, falsehood triumphs for a period of time, but every tyrant has eventually fallen. The tree remains constant, in the fleeing life. As Sri Chinmoy says:
“O tall tree,
You remind me
That everything on earth
Is astonishingly temporal.”
– Sri Chinmoy ST 9370
Beauty in the midst of modern life[/caption]
There is great beauty in trees. There is no adornment or cosmetic change, but from nature’s simplicity and purity. Whether it is the simple beauty of the trees bare shadow in winter or the glory of spring with buds and flowers forming. We can remember that trees help us to see the beauty in nature.