(Image from Kaui Hindu Monastery)
Many people roll their eyes at the thought of somebody being a “tree hugger.” The implications and mental images that usually accompany that title are potentially of a sloppy person, a bit whimsical and carefree (careless?), perhaps anti-establishment. It’s a label that’s been around for decades and, as with everything else through the decades, the definition of what a tree hugger today is has probably changed from the original meaning. I suppose in a lot of ways, I could be called a tree hugger. Don’t get me wrong – in so very many ways I’m not even close to what “tree hugger” probably originally meant. Still in many other ways I’m very much a tree hugger, and a number of people in my life may well be able to vouche that I’ve literally hugged a tree once or twice. From a young age, others will also be able to confirm, I’ve enjoyed being in “the woods” and going rivering and traipsing through creeks and just being completely enveloped by Mother in nature. I think it’s something most people never experience, but I can attest that trees give great hugs if you allow.
I’m not a hippie. I’m just a Hindu.
Tree hugger (hugged?) or not, one thing I am is a tree worshipper. For thousands of years Hindus have recognized the immense value of trees and have also recognized how very truly trees imitate the Supreme One – far beyond the superficial “roots in heaven” symbolism. As Hindus, we’re free to see God wherever we might be inclined to, and a number of scriptural references encourage us to see God in trees. This is something I do, and have always done, with much ease.
** An important thing for any non-Hindu readers to understand is that Hindus don’t really worship trees (or any of our other religious images). At the foundation of our religion is the Ground of All Being – the essence that supports all that is and is common to virtually everything. This is what advanced modern sciences are catching up to and proving accurate at an increasing rate. And it’s this recognition, of that Ground of All Being, that allows for the immense diversity, and consequently the expansive freedom afforded to Hindus. **
Something else I easily could manage but have yet to accomplish (at all, let alone with much ease) is parenthood. I’ve posted a few times here how important my parents are to me and what an invaluable treasure they’ve been to me and many others in this life. Anyone who knows me outside of all things cyber can attest to my strong desire to be a dad, and how envious (in a good way!) I often am of parents.
Luckily for me, there seems to be scriptural support for the fusion of these two, seemingly unrelated aspects of my life. A year or two ago, a friend on Facebook posted a quote, something from one of the myriad Hindu scriptures, that included the Sanskrit translation, and I found it striking. It truly struck a chord with me because it linked the huge benefit and value of family and parenthood to that of ecology, and quite specifically trees. Those scriptural references are cited below.
“A pond is equal to ten wells; ten ponds are equal to one lake; ten lakes are equal to one son; and ten sons are equal to one tree.” (“dashakupa-sama vaapi dashavaapi samo hrdaha dashahrda samaha putro dashaputro samo drumaha”) -Vrkshayurveda 6
“Those who plant trees, for them they are like sons. There is no doubt that because of those trees, man attains heaven after his death.” -Mahabharata, Anu parva 58/27
The photo at the end of this post is primarily of a treeling I’m nurturing in the middle of my front yardage. When we purchased the property about four summers ago, an actual tree stood where this baby one does now, although it was mostly dead. After a year or so, we came home one day to see that the HOA and landscapers had chopped the half-dead tree. A year or so later, you can imagine my thrill when, while piddling around my yard, I notice a resurrection of sorts occurring. I nursed the little bitties and helped them grow – offering not only regular watering, but also regular pujas. However, one day much to my dismay, I came home from work to see another chop job had taken place. I’ll admit: I cried. And not only that, I spent the rest of the evening melancholy and pouting indoors.
For me, things like this ARE kind of like my children and I miss the life I interacted with when something like that fails or ceases. I suppose that proves the scriptures true, no? At any rate, my treeling is growing back! I noticed it very early this spring season and I’ve been tending to it since before our final frost. To date, it’s survived and prospered even more than it did last year!
As with so much else within the Scriptures, I’m not sure I really buy that a tree is equal to ten human sons. This isn’t the first time I’ve doubted the scriptures… in fact, I do that often enough. At any rate, I do enjoy the sentiment and every day when I go outside for vrksha-puja and I notice that this treeling has split into “two” very close to the ground I smile at the thought of my twenty twin sons, and my heart enjoys the moment as a temporary expression of the love I have for the human child who is likely never to arrive in my life.
Om Shri Ganeshaya Namaha