“You may call a tree a standing man, and a man a
walking tree,” said Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. We know that some
insects, animals and even human beings are harmful, occasionally or
otherwise. But trees? Do they have anything but good for all of us? That
Bhagavan lavished love and compassion on all creatures is well known.
Perhaps not equally well-known is his touching concern for all
tree-life. Not even his close devotees were spared when they overlooked
Echammal was one of
his great devotees. For years she considered it her sacred duty daily
to cook food for Bhagavan, climbing the hill in all seasons to take it
to him, and see him partake of it. Only then would she eat. Once, she
undertook a vratam (vow) called laksharchana, worshipping the ishta devta (god) by offering 100,000 sacred leaves or flowers. Daily she collected sacred leaves (patri) and performed the puja.
Soon summer set in. Leaves became scarce. She had offered only half the
number by that time. She would roam all over the area and the hill too,
with little success. She narrated her plight to Bhagavan.
“Why don't you go on
pinching your own body, as many times as the number of leaves required,
and complete the puja?” he asked. Echammal was taken aback, “Oh!
It would be very painful, Bhagavan!” she replied, “I see,” Bhagavan
said, “then will it not be painful for the trees, too, when you pluck
away their leaves one by one?” The lesson went home. She gave up the vratam.
Langur monkey in tree, Ramana Ashram
Once, Bhagavan was recalling
the happenings at the mango grove where he had lived for some time
during his early days at Arunachala. The owner of the garden asked him
to take for his use as many fruits as he liked. Bhagavan said he was
satisfied with the few fruits that fell down occasionally when the bats
were at them.
At the Ashram one
day, a few unripe mangoes were required in the kitchen. Some workmen
were deputed for this. Instead of climbing the mango trees and plucking
just the required number, they went about hitting the branches with long
sticks. Bhagavan, who was seated in the hall at that time, was
disturbed by the sound and sent word through one of the attendants to
advise the labourers not to do so. After a while he went out to go for
his usual walk. The sight of broken branches and leaves scattered all
over the place shocked him. And the workmen were still at it.
“Enough of this,” he
shouted, in a rare display of anger. “How cruel! The trees give us
fruits. In return we give them merciless beatings with sticks. Instead,
why not cut away at the very roots and kill them once and for all?” How
sensitive he was to the pain of the trees!
As a real friend of
the trees, he shared their joys too, when they swayed merrily in the
breeze with blossoms of radiant hue and sweet fragrance. “Why not leave
some flowers for the poor trees,” he remonstrated, when someone was
plucking the flowers away to the bud. “It likes them, it needs them. I
really cannot understand why you are so cruel.”
True, we need
leaves, flowers and fruit from the trees. We can have them. They are
only too happy to give us. But should we not appreciate their
sentiments, their sacrifice and love for us and approach them with
observed a workman rudely chopping the leaves off an almond tree. “Hey,
what are you doing?” Bhagavan called out. The workman humbly explained
that he was ordered to collect dry leaves for stitching leaf plates.
Bhagavan continued, “You people can do nothing without causing pain.
Imagine, I grab you by the hair and pull. Your hair may have no life,
yet you would feel it.”
Trees have their
joys, their pains, and moments of rest – perhaps meditation too.
Otherwise Bhagavan would not have rebuked a man cutting a twig at night
for use the next morning as a toothbrush. “Can't you let the tree sleep
in peace?” he asked. “Surely you can have your twig in the daytime. Why
not have a little sense and compassion? A tree does not howl, or can it
bite or run away. Does it mean you can do anything to it?”
trees. He held them in great reverence. They were more than our equals.
He pronounced that trees, too, can have Self-realisation. He narrated a
long story of a great scholar-devotee of Siva at Chidambaram. His name
was Umapathy Sivacharya. When challenged by the king, he initiated a
thorn bush into Jnana. It was so evolved, ripe for Self-realisation,
that it immediately vanished into thin air. The king could not believe
his eyes and called it black magic. Sivacharya then took him to the
temple, and at the time of arati the king found the plant standing next
to Lord Siva himself!