Tree Sons

(Image from Kaui Hindu Monastery)

(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
Om Shanti




What should the view of a person be, if he’s not particularly superstitious, and is in fact usually quite logical, but has a tendency for noticing “coincidences” in virtually all areas of life? Does this mean he’s actually superstitious, but in denial about having this primitive characteristic?

I know many religions and many cultures have traditions that amount to little more than superstition- most developing over centuries, as byproducts the cultures they grew from. For instance, I’ve read that during eclipses, expectant mothers in India avoid going outside at all and certain children are “buried” in sands. Truth be told, there’s no earthly reason for suchery. No scientific knowledge is even needed to discern this…simple common sense suffices. If burying folks in sand actually ever healed anyone, hospitals would be less crowded. No? I mean… I don’t know. Maybe I’m missing something here.

And what of the discernible, and truly incredible numerical/mathematical sequences found everywhere in the natural world? Many see these things as naturally occurring, and something necessary and ironed out through a bajillion years of evolution, while others see these things as “proofs” that there exists a Higher Intelligence. A show I watched recently highlighted numerous incredible patterns within the natural world, some so striking it’s tough to think of them as unintentional. Still, the show insisted that chaos is at least as prevalent as order.

Someone told me today that so-called superstitious activities have immense value, regardless of their efficacy- or lack thereof -if they lead to deeper resolve. And because of that, it doesn’t matter if your actions are truly efficacious or mere superstition. She’s a devout, yet worldly Catholic. (Aren’t they all? I kid!) She tells me people who use religion as a crutch are essentially superstitionists, flavored by their immediate faith. According to this woman, real faith involves a letting go. She determined that it doesn’t matter if what you are doing is superstition, so long as it deepens your faith. Religions have practices that might well be labeled as superstitious, but the difference is that religions (mostly) aren’t abandoned when goals aren’t realized, and apparently superstitions are. She cited her own husband, who once wore the same yellow t-shirt to each Pacers game. At the time they were on a winning streak and he knew it would break were he to wear another shirt. The minute they lost, despite his best fashion attempt, he abandoned his ritual.

To kind of tie back to the show I mentioned earlier, since as far back as I’m able to remember I’ve been interested in nature and in studying any natural/living science. When I was very young, I would spend hours and hours outside climbing trees or running in fields or playing in creeks and rivers. I never ever tired of being in those places where there was literally nowhere I could turn and not find something moving or squirming, flowing or growing. And, from the start, I have always been inclined to see that there is Something behind the scenes. One of my earliest memories of god is a memory of a snowfall. I was in my parents’ home, looking out a window at snow falling on our expansive front yard. I noticed the flakes, some large and some small. I noticed the direction of their fall would shift at times. I noticed the invisible wind causing the flakes to swirl and fly. I saw these flakes accumulate on our driveway and drift from one place to another before gaining enough volume to stick somewhere and accumulate further. And I could feel, as I lingered near that window, the cold outside temperature penetrating through the glass and touching my face like some kind of fingerless ghost hand. And I recall, as I took in that winter experience, that I was knowing god. The snowflakes weren’t god. Neither was the wind. But somehow the whole sh’bang was. I actually talked to It right then. I was addressing the flakes, or the wind, or the drifts, or the grass slowly becoming buried… I addressed All of It.

Is that the same as, or bordering on, being superstitious? I know I wasn’t doing something odd for the benefit of its hope-for effects, like wearing the same shirt to ball games, but certainly some would say I reading more into the weather than is reasonable. I saw a natural process, identified with it in some way, thereby personifying it, and suddenly I knew god. Or not?

Allow me to toss out just one more instance for your consideration.

In the last couple weeks, I interviewed for, and was offered, new employment. In the weeks prior to my interview, and certainly between the interview and receiving the offer, I stepped up my sadhana like you wouldn’t believe. I basically followed a schedule based on the sandhyas. At each sandhya I performed one type of sadhana or another, with the most extensive being at the close of each day. (I’m happy to share the formula of this sadhana with anyone interested) (I don’t have a ton of time in the mornings, and lunches at the job I’m leaving are only 31 minutes long, so, while I performed my sadhana at each sandhya as best as I was able, necessity mandated that the final sandhya allowed for the longest-sustained effort.) Finally, after the longest 9 days of my life, I received the call and accepted the offer I had so badly hoped for.

Naturally, this has led me to questioning all of this. I left the interview knowing it had gone well, and wouldn’t have gotten the interview in the first place had my résumé not been well-constructed. Lots of folks would stop there and say that those things are all that came into play here. There are also lots of others who would insist that even a lame resume and poor interview can result in employment offer, if one has faith. I should admit that I’m a bit less in this crowd. But since sadhana was a part of this process (or at least I believe so, or I wouldn’t have dived into it as I did), how am I to know to what extent I benefitted from those efforts?

My religion is one founded in experience. This experience, superficially, would seem to support my shraddha/dharma. Fine. Dandy, even… Except that I can’t currently quantify/qualify what’s happened here in terms of my faith. Can I?