Trees (April 2008)

Human life on the earth depends on the plants and the trees. It might not be an exaggeration to say that human race would not have existed (at least in the current form) if it was not for the plants and the trees. A quote from one of the scientic journal “The human race has been dependent on plants for their survival, material and emotional needs since its evolution.”

The whole world has built a great respect for the richness and depth of the Indian culture, heritage, and philosophy. Our scriptures taught us to worship nature. This shows a concern for the environment. Worship means acknowledgement of our dependence on the environment. Since the Vedic times, the main motto of social life was to live in harmony with nature. The following hymn is found in the Rigveda:

“The Sky is like Father,

The Earth is like Mother, and

The Space as their Son;

The Universe consisting of the Three,

Is like a Family, and

Any kind of damage done to any

One of the Three, throws the Universe

Out of Balance.”

Yet another similar slogan is “ Vasudaiv Kutumbkam,” which means the world is one whole family. This came about when the Hindu Scholars and Philosophers sat under the trees in the thick forests, and meditated extensively. They produced books like Vedas and Upanishads, which have been cherished by generations.

Our ancient literature preached in one form or the other, a worshipful attitude towards the plants, trees, mother earth, sky, air, water, and animals; and to keep a benevolent attitude towards them. It was regarded as the sacred duty of every person to protect them. The Hindu religion enshrines respect for nature, environmental harmony, and conservation. Therefore, trees, animals, hills, mountains, rivers are worshipped as symbols of reverence to these representatives of nature. In Smriti, various punishments are prescribed for those destroying trees and plants. Charak Samhita considered the destruction of forests as the most dangerous act against humanity. Non-violence, truth, respect, and love for other living beings are the basic tenets of our religion.

Things to learn from the trees:

  • Sacrifice for the welfare of others. A tree stands up in the sun and the rain, to give cool shelter and fruits. It takes in bad air and gives out clean air to keep our environment clean. Even the leaves of the trees are used as manure, and the wood is used for fire and building, paper, clothes etc. The tree roots help to prevent erosion and control floods. Trees provide us with life saving medicines. Medicinal properties of plants have been recognized and exploited for thousands of years. New chemicals are continuously being discovered and extracted from plants for combating many human ailments.
  • Trees teach us that the hospitality has to be all-embracing; and the guest, whoever she or he may be, has to be welcomed with the open arms. Just as the trees do not discriminate in showering their benefits, we can learn to be impartial in our hospitality.
  • Humility: Tree with fruits always bends down so that others can cherish the fruits. We should learn from trees that when we give others, we shouldn’t feel superior; instead, we must feel fortunate for being able to observe our duty. We must give with kind heart. There is an Indian saying that if your right hand is giving something, your left hand shouldn’t know. God always gives more to those who share, so “BE A GOOD GIVING TREE”

Suggested activities:

  • Draw a picture of tree pointing out the material usages and spiritual teachings of its different parts.
  • Plant a tree to enrich our environment.

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