| Swami Prem Parivartan
'Poaching' on Our Own Future
It is depressing to see the thinning and denuding of the forests. During my bike rides through various states and forest regions it saddens my heart to see what has become of our forests.
It is difficult to define poaching in Indian terms because for centuries before the British took the forest under government control and set up the forest department, the forest and its properties were considered as belonging to nobody and everybody.
However, there were usually strong traditions established by local communities which ensured the sustainable use of forest products. No one was allowed to exploit the forest beyond a point for his personal gain. In some cases the sanctity of religion was invoked to protect a group of trees –and many of these sacred groves still exist.
This English word ‘poaching’ has a long history in its own country. In England the forests were owned by the king or some local landowner and no one was allowed to hunt except with permission. So if a man went into a forest and shot a deer for himself he was considered a poacher and punished in the same way as a thief.
But poaching in our forests does not stop at animals, it also extends to trees. Our forests produce some of the best timber in the world and the foreign buyers are ready to pay a price for the same. And, unfortunately, timber is very easy to steal under the cloak of legality.
When the forest department sells a certain number of trees to a contractor, it is almost impossible o ensure that he does not cut more than he is entitled to. The forest guards and rangers in charge of guarding this vast treasure-house are very few and powerless. The contractor is rich and powerful. In order that the guard is above temptation, he must be well-paid and self-confident. He is charged with the responsibility of guarding a treasure-house as valuable a the Reserve Bank of India. He must have not only the will but the means and the capacity to do it.
For years, then, we in India were uncorned about what went on inside ta forest, and the concept of poaching was not a very live or important one. It is only recently, when we realized how fast the forest areas were disappearing and how thin and ineffectual evern the existing forests and become, that we have worken up.
As long as it was limited, the small-scale gathering of firewood was harmless. The local villager had the right to carry away dead wood from the edge of forest, and to make a living by selling it . But after a point, the daily removal of several hundred such loads adds up to deforestation. Dead wood is an important source of humus and adds to the nutrients of the soil which in turn stimulates new growth. Besides, the fuel –gatherers are not content with naturally dead wood—they create dead wood by killing trees and branches in different ways. Bark is stripped off the trees, slowly killing them and soon the ‘dead’ trees can be collected as fuel. Living branches are hacked and killed. As the need for fuel grows more and more desperate, no tree, whether in a forest or outside it , whether old and strong, or a mere sapling, is safe from the determination of wood-gatherers.
It is reckoned that the amount of wood collected for fuel in Madhya Pradesh exceeds the amount of new growth. This leaves out of account all that wood which is logged in a planned manner. And Madhya Pradesh, has more forest than any other state. If this is true, of Madhya Pradesh, we can imagine how much worse the position of the other states must be. Unless we can almost immediately discover and start using other fuels for cooking, we are almost certain to lose our forests.
The government is all powerful. It can change the course of things if it is willing enough. Protection of the wealth of the forests should be a priority of the government, both at the Centre and the States.
If the government can launch a project empowering all the villages near the forests with alternate fuel, it will lead to the resurrection of the forest land. If we can meet the needs of the fuel-gatherers in form of alternate cheap fuel, the human intervention will be far less in the forest areas.
If the government can put aside some budget for a Forest Protection Force exclusively to guard the forest wealth, it will deter poachers from doing any further damage. Accountability is important. If we can have a national Central Industrial Security Force for our public sector establishments, then why can’t we have one for our Forests and Wildlife Reserves.
As seekers and people of the path, it is our duty to bring awareness among the people and the government to do the needful for saving our depleting and dying Forests.
Live As Dangerously As You Can
Osho said live as dangerously as you can. And then he says take it easy. And then he says the grass grows on its own. And then he talks of free will. And then he talks of destiny and karma.
All the above are correct because he also says don’t use your mind.
One can easily understand that if you want to understand Osho you better not use your head. Your head will go for a spin. So I found an easier way out. I only use my heart. I only use my faith and trust. It is far less torturous to understand this modern day Buddha who gave us all these beautiful confusions and left us hankering for enlightenment.
Well, this proves why I am a successful unemployed environmentalist, biker and tree planter.
Osho and paradox are synonyms. They match perfectly. He taught me don’t do what you say and don’t say what you do.
For example, I never tell my parents that I am reaching Pune on my bike, riding 1700 kilometers in three days from Delhi, I tell them I am coming in a train. I don’t tell them which train it is. I lie about the train name and number. That makes my task easier. They keep tracing which train I was talking about and till then I have crossed into Pune city.
Then never say what you do. If I have to go and plant trees, I tell my parents I am going to teach, work in some decent office, or busy during the day giving a presentation to a corporate house. And then I can visit any forest and plant trees till the end of the day till the time they figure out which office I was visiting.
The entire day is so satisfying after planting trees and the expression on my face clearly tells my parents that it has been a successful and happy day for me. Everyone thinks I worked hard all day long at some office and therefore I have this middle-class-tired-happiness on my face.
Osho always said keep smiling. Therefore, no matter what crime you do, what lies you tell, just keep smiling and no one will guess what you have really been up to.
Osho inspires me at all fronts. He tells me to go left when the society teaches me to go right. Therefore, I always end up somewhere where I never expected. My destination is so predictably unpredictable that I myself do not know where I am going. But I end up doing good for the environment and planting trees. So says my heart !
My friends love to party, drink, eat chicken, mutton, fish and things which live deep inside the sea. But Osho told me not to. He told me to be different. He teaches me that vegetarian bodies alone can go into meditation. Therefore, I believed him blindly hoping that being a teetotaler and a vegetarian will show be the divine light. He said you will surely see it one day. So I am waiting for it.
Osho told me to live for the day. So I chucked my job because I stopped thinking who will pay my rent and who will foot all my bills. Osho guided me well on the path of unemployment, joblessness and making a perfect resume for a socially deviant unacceptable citizen. But looking at the brighter side of things I suddenly became very secure. Because Osho told me insecurity in the best security.
My girlfriends left me every now and then. Because Osho told me love everyone. And each time I did, my relationships would come crashing down. But then Osho told me all ships are meant to sink one day. So only relate, don’t get into relationships.
So I am today without a relationship successfully relating with people I meet on the highway, dhabas and forests.
Many a time I try to be normal. I try to be a good son, brother, boyfriend, father and a few other good things. But Osho tells me to be different. To be an individual and not a part of this stinking society. Therefore, I am what I am today not knowing exactly what I am today but surely I am something that is why people ask me to come and give lectures and write articles.
Osho has his own ways. He figured out that gardeners will not be able to plant millions of trees needed by the planet. So he chose me. He destroyed me first and reengineered me.
Osho came in my dreams that I am made for a higher purpose. Osho told me that the higher purpose is to dig pits and plant trees. I dig pits and plant trees trusting Osho who has assured me of moksha and enlightenment and has also advised me that these are merely words. I feel assured and secured with Osho and keep doing what he calls existential plan.
In a nutshell Osho taught me to believe in myself. I love to believe that I am doing the right thing. With osho’s grace today I am a happy person. He taught me to take it easy. Even abject poverty and total insecurity should be taken as a divine blessing. Osho has graced my life. I know he is with me. Till he is with me nothing can touch me. Everyone will want to stay away from me.
OSHO ! OSHO ! OSHO !!!
The Grass Grows By Itself
Sitting silently in the Aravali forest during a tree planting drive last week, I was reminded of Osho’s discourse “The Grass Grows by Itself”. These were talks on Zen given in February 1975. Osho’s words struck me like a hammer when I saw the condition of the Aravali forest which has been destroyed, molested and torn apart by human interference and indifference. Far from anything Zen, these words gave me a lead to write my next piece.
I wrote these few of lines as a tribute to our forests of the past.
It has been said that India’s greatest asset is her sunlight for the heat and light of the sun is the ultimate source of all life and all energy. But somehow, by itself it cannot bring a desert to life. It is the combination of sun, water and soil which produces a rich vegetation. Most parts of India have this combination in varying degrees and proportions. And so, whenever an area of land was left alone, or the human settlement was not too dense, a natural forest established itself.
Indeed, in olden days, when the population was small, when the horse and the bullock -cart were the normal means of transport , a large proportion of our country was covered by forests of various kinds, especially the hilly areas , where human settlements were sparse, and agriculture was difficult. The fact that many temple sculptures in practically treeless places like Mathura, portray the rhinoceros and the lion, is enough proof that at one time these places were covered with forests which sheltered large mammals. How else would the sculptor have known what a rhinoceros looked like? Apart from other more scientific evidence we also find that in historical stories heroes and heroines were always walking off in to the forest. The forest was obviously at their doorstep.
Let’s imagine that a piece of land is lying open and empty, and undisturbed. A few seeds fall on it, brought by the wind, or in some other way like animal droppings or in the feathers of birds, or on the fur of mammals. The ground is soft and receptive – it has not been hardened by the feet of men or the hoofs of animals. It rain , the seeds germinate, and in a few years they become trees.
If there is a drought in the first year the seeds may not germinate or the little seedlings may be killed, but at some moment conditions are bound to be favorable so that some fallen seeds sprout and become trees. Then other seeds will join the first group, and there will be a collection of young trees, bushes, climbers and other sun-loving plants struggling to establish themselves. Small animals, birds and insects will move into this patch of growth to feed on the leaves, berries or nectar, and they will bring in more seeds ( by their droppings , on their fur) . soon there will be great many plants in different stages of growth on this patch. Only those for whom the conditions are suitable will succeed, some will push out others and perhaps later, be pushed out themselves.
All this time the plants will be shedding their seeds, and producing new crops of saplings. After some years, the trees will reach full height and our piece of land will take on the appearance of a young forest. The shade of the trees may now discourage or eliminate the early undergrowth and different shade loving plants like ferns, may be encouraged to appear. The birds , animals, and insects will multiply. New species will move in for now there is a large variety of food available and there are may more ‘niches’ to be filled by them. There is room in the reaches and high canopy of trees for those that like to live at a great height , like leaf birds and monkeys ; there is the ground level, including tree trunks for woodpeckers and squirrels; there are bushes and there is the ground level including grasses, fallen leaves and rotting wood. Here the majority of the mammals live. Also, most snakes, reptiles and a few ground birds. After a while the bigger mammals will move into the protection of the forest. Some like the deer will come to feed on the grasses, some like the wild boar on roots and some like monkeys to feast on fruit and berries.
These animals themselves are the foods of the kings of the cat family, the tiger and panther. Although life of the smaller animals or prey species is made alarming by the need to be constantly on guard against these predators, it helps to keep the stock healthy, for it is usually the old and sick animals which are caught and killed.
We can plant trees but only nature can create a forest. We have to just leave some spaces alone. We have to learn to reserve areas where human habitation and interference is absolutely banned.
“The Grass grows by Itself”. All we have to do is leave some spaces alone and just let them be. Yes, ‘The Forest Grows by Itself’.
Some place to sit in the open to watch the world go by
Shady roads lined by trees are the dream of all citizens. But apart from this, the citizen also needs some place to sit in the open to watch the world go by. Surrounded by cement and asphalt, he must, if he is to retain his sanity, be able to find a place where his feet touch the good earth, where he can see and smell flowers, hear insects and birds, and feel a clean breeze on his face. In the old days there used to be many such oases in every city. Today there are hardly any and the city dweller can pass weeks without seeing or feeling the beauty of natural forms.
We tend to believe that any land which does not have a structure on it is wasted land. We calculate the rupees per square meter which the land could fetch, and feel it is an extravagance that land is only being used for trees and to give a breath of fresh air to the city. These are our values. That breath of fresh air is a thousand times more important than any structure. Indeed, our effort should be to enlarge and multiply the parks and open spaces in a city rather than nibble at them and finally destroy them.
A few parks do still exist in many cities, but it is obvious that the city takes little pride in them and grudges the space they occupy. There is a continuous effort to take away the corners of the park for other purposes.
For many people who live in cities, the municipal park is the only place where they can be close to natural forms and textures. City authorities ought to be lavish in effort as well as money to keep the parks in the best condition, to ensure that whoever enters them shall have a truly pleasurable and uplifting experience. The permanent features should be grass, shady trees, and if possible water, while the impermanent features should be the changing forms and colors of seasonal flowers.
Apart from the major parks, tiny islands of well kept greenery can also be helpful in soothing the nerves and tempers of the populace. Some cities have tried the experiment of allowing industries to take over and maintain traffic islands as small gardens. This is an excellent scheme - it saves public money, gives the city a pretty although small plot of greenery. However, every city has hundreds of of untidy, unutilised spaces which tend to become rubbish dumps or where people put up huts or rusty tins, and squat. These places could easily be cleaned up and planted and the overall effect on the city would be miraculous. Imagine a city which has plenty of parks, big and small, and plenty of trees, where all the streets are clean and you will find that it is automatically beautiful.
Chandigarh, is one such city in North India. It has the highest number of trees in proportion to its population. It is the greenest city of India. Not that it has skyscrapers or the best shopping malls in the country...it is just that it has a lot of tree lined avenues, parks, well- kept traffic islands that give a soothing and charming look to the entire city.
Greenery helps in meditative practices. It soothes our nervous system and makes it easier for us to be silent within. Communes created in the lap of nature are doing very well. Oshodham meditation facility near Delhi is one such living example. Thousands of trees themselves have created a magical energy center. Nisarga Meditation Resort in Himachal Pradesh is another example of the miracle which greenery surrounded by mountains can create. It just pushes you within. It would take a lot of effort in a city or a five star hotel to gather yourself, but in such places as Nisarga you have no option but to be with yourself. Oshodham and Nisarga are some of the beautiful places to sit in the open to watch the world go by...
Protect Our Forests
The latest report of the Forest Survey of India says that 300 hectares of forests are vanishing every month. This is a conservative estimate by the government agencies. Experts feel the actual figures are many times over. Tall claims of the government so far that millions of trees are being planted every year are negated by their own survey. The trees are nowhere to be seen. The rate of loss is much higher than what is being planted.
Vanishing forests in India and around the world only mean a critical global challenge involving absorption of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
If forests were to die on a sufficient scale, they would not only stop absorbing carbon dioxide, they might also start to burn up or decay at such a rate that they would spew huge amounts of the gas back into the air — as is already happening in some regions. That, in turn, could speed the warming of the planet, unlocking yet more carbon stored in once-cold places like the Arctic.
Scientists acknowledge that their attempts to use computers to project the future of forests are still crude. Some of those forecasts warn that climate change could cause potentially widespread forest death in places like the Amazon, while others show forests remaining robust carbon sponges throughout the 21st century.
Many scientists say that ensuring the health of the world’s forests requires slowing human emissions of greenhouse gases. Most nations committed to doing so in a global environmental treaty in 1992, yet two decades of negotiations have yielded scant progress.
As best researchers can tell, the oceans are taking up about a quarter of the carbon emissions arising from human activities. That is causing the sea to become more acidic and is expected to damage marine life over the long run, perhaps catastrophically. But the chemistry is at least somewhat predictable, and scientists are reasonably confident the oceans will continue absorbing carbon for many decades.
Trees are taking up a similar amount of carbon, but whether this will continue is much less certain, as the recent forest damage illustrates.
Carbon dioxide is an essential part of the cycle of life on Earth, but geologic history suggests that too much can cause the climate to warm sharply. With enough time, the chemical cycles operating on the planet have a tendency to bury excess carbon.
In the 19th century, humans discovered the usefulness of some forms of buried carbon –coal, oil and natural gas, as a source of energy, and have been perturbing the natural order ever since. About 10 billion tons of carbon is pouring into the atmosphere every year from the combustion of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests.
The concentration of the gas in the atmosphere has jumped 40 percent since the Industrial Revolution, and scientists fear it could double or even triple this century, with profound consequences.
While all types of plants absorb carbon dioxide, known as CO2, most of them return it to the atmosphere quickly because their vegetation decays, burns or is eaten. Every year, during the Northern Hemisphere growing season, plants and other organisms inhale some 120 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere, and then exhale nearly the same amount as they decay in the winter.
Forests take a century to grow to maturity. It takes only a single extreme climate event, a single attack by insects, to interrupt that hundred-year uptake of carbon.
Forests are re-growing on abandoned agricultural land across vast reaches of Europe and Russia. China, trying to slow the advance of a desert, has planted nearly 100 million acres of trees, and those forests, too, are absorbing carbon.
Deforestation, usually to make way for agriculture, has been under way for decades, with Brazil and Indonesia being hotspots. The burning of tropical forests not only ends their ability to absorb carbon, it also produces an immediate flow of carbon back to the atmosphere, making it one of the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
Rich countries agreed in principle in recent years to pay poorer countries large amounts of money if they would protect their forests.
The wealthy countries have pledged nearly $5 billion, enough to get the program started, but far more money was eventually supposed to become available. The idea was that the rich countries would create ways to charge their companies for emissions of carbon dioxide, and some of this money would flow abroad for forest preservation.
We should not leave the question of our survival to the whims of governments. It is time we took things into our own hands. It is time for NGO’s, associations, clubs, social and spiritual organizations to come forward and do their bit. It is time for individuals to take charge. It is time for the seekers and spiritual travelers to put some energy into this issue. Only then will we have some hope.
Osho Blessed Us With a ‘Green Sense’
Osho Commune in Pune is an island of green. It’s the way the world used to be a few decades ago. Trees, forests, plenty of water and a wonderful healing green energy.
My visits to Pune are good education for me. I develop a better understanding of what needs to be done. As a tree planter I get inspired to do more. Looking at the urban landscape it is a sad feeling. Wish I could wave a magic wand and change all of it. I wish I had the magic to bring back the trees. Today only the immediate area around the Osho Resort Meditation facility is green. The rest is a concrete jungle. Lots of traffic, honking, noisy crowds a missing healing ‘green sense’.
Interestingly, Osho disciples have a way of living which is very environment friendly and reflects a rich ‘green sense’. His blessings have helped many to be friends with their environment and merge harmoniously with their surroundings.
Osho disciples have a subtle way with their living and work spaces. The way they keep their potted plants, their lawns, their green spaces, their living space, the furniture, their work space, everything reflects a style of living which is not easy to explain in words but can be absorbed by our senses.
Homes and work spaces of Osho disciples have a certain austerity and simplicity about them. They are comfortable and very soothing to the visitor’s senses. Their space is very ‘eco-friendly’ very soothing to your ‘green senses’. They stand apart from the urban jungle.
I have seen the making of the Nisarga Commune at Dharamsala. The entire construction was executed in a very environment friendly manner. Everything was built around the rocks and the trees. Nothing was uprooted. The river that flows along the facility, rocks around the Meditation hall, even the walkways, kitchen, rooms everything seems to be part of the original landscape.
Osho disciples have a way of keeping their house. They are seldom unfriendly to their environment. From organic foods and farming to recycled paper, from garbage disposal to green issues, their sensitivity is definitely more than the other members of the civil society.
I feel proud to be part of this eco-friendly community. Recently, at forums and discussions I have started highlighting this positive aspect of Osho disciple community. Osho community is one of the most environment friendly communities. I compare them to the other members of the civil society and of course not to the respected residents of our forests and tribal areas.
Our Master in his own way taught us a ‘green way of living’. It is the only way to live... living in harmony with ‘Nisarga’. Unfortunately man has been moving away from nature. All his problems stem from the fact that his connection with nature is on the decline. His children are headed for a materialistic life as they are not getting an opportunity to be near Nature. The greens have left us. The urban spaces are dry and cold. They are focused on utility and comfort. They are no more natural. They support material enhancement but not spiritual well being. Even schools are left with little space for greens. I am sure many of you remember how the schools in the past were synonymous with greenery. Even today when I travel to the villages I wish our children living in the cities could experience the wonderful energy of studying under the shade of the Peepal trees.
As Osho disciples I feel it is our duty and responsibility to do the needful. It is our good fortune that we are the chosen ones to share and create the ‘green sense’ that we have been blessed with. Let’s do our best.
Osho and the Art of Motorcycling
Osho in one of his discourses said that we go out as tourists and gradually become travelers. Traveler eventually becomes a seeker. Travelling is essential to one’s inner journey as well. Traveling teaches that which no classroom or the four walls of a house can teach.
Osho’s words struck me then. They still rule my life. Master’s message has been my guiding path. I developed a great love to travel. During my stay at Poona, I spent many hours riding through the splendid Western Ghats. Riding around Poona, where I studied most of the years, I grew into a traveler. I was fortunate to be in a city like Poona which kept me close to Nature and my Master.
I have two motorcycles. Bunty and Babli. Bunty is the robust Yamaha bike gifted to me by actor John Abraham. Babli is the hardworking more feminine Hero Splendor. Both are red in colour.
I have planted thousands of trees riding Bunty and Babli. Babli has been with me for over a hundred thousand kilometers across North India. I have covered nearly every major town in North India and have biked throughout the Gangetic and the Himalayan regions.
One thing that I learnt from Osho and the Art of Motorcycling was being here and now. Driving a bike keeps you in the moment. One wrong move and we are on our way to heaven. Osho taught us that we have to keep our body in good condition to be effective seekers and so did my motorbikes teach me that I have to be very aware about their health.
I understood Osho better because of my biking experiences. Moving across regions, meeting thousands of people, cutting across different geographical and climatic regions, from deserts to Himalayas, travelling gave me deep insights. Osho’s words made a lot more sense to me when I related them to what I experienced being with people and moving across a broad social spectrum. From the richest to the poorest, biking brought me close to many.
I only listen to Osho when I ride. Osho’s words give me the same high as other riders and drivers get from music. Osho’s discourses help me on long drives. They keep me calm and keep me going. In difficult times too I feel Osho is right next to me. In fact I feel he rides pillion with me.
Visiting cities like Benaras, Allahabad, Rishikesh and Haridwar, to name just a few, Osho’s teachings give me more clarity of the things that I see around me. It’s a whole new dimension. Travelling to congregations like the Kumbh and Magh melas of Allahabad have added another dimension of my understanding. It would not have been possible without constantly listening to Osho. I get more understanding out of listening to my Master on the move, than sitting in the meditation hall.
My sannyas mala is my strength. It is always there with me. I never hit the highway without my sanyas mala. It keeps me company, close to my heart.
Wherever I go, people respect my love for my Master. No matter what their opinion on Osho and his message, I always have a pleasant experience talking to people. I am glad Master uses me to spread his message. From far flung army camps in Kashmir to the deserts of Rajasthan, riding on bikes is just a means to spread the message of the Master and plant trees. And in turn the Master and the trees give me immense growth and understanding, and a reason to be!
Learning from Trees
As part of the 80th birthday celebrations of my Master Osho, I intend to plant 80 Peepal trees on Delhi-Dehradun highway. Osho taught me to love trees. My master indicated to me that the trees are the safest company to keep. My master taught me to learn from trees, to sit under them silently and let them speak to you. He taught us to have a deep silent conversation with nature.
Whenever I visit forests, there is so much that I learn from them. Every tree is a forest in itself. One of the foremost lessons I learnt from them was that even destruction is creative. Whenever I lost a dear one or things did not go my way, I would rush to the nearby forest and climb over trees to be alone.
And there I learnt that even giant trees have an end and when the mighty trees fell, the space they created gave birth to hundreds of young plants. I learnt the way of nature. I realized how important it was for the old to give way to the new. That’s evolution.
My sadness would drown in the view of the ever dynamic nature of the forest trees. I could sit for hours gazing at the miracles happening in the canopy of the trees.
When I used to run away from the family demands and chaos, the trees would embrace me and I felt it to be the safest place in the world.
I know of no other interaction that so immediately and intensely renders us aware of the life around us. Have you ever hugged a tree and written something about it in your daily journal? Try doing it. There is so much you will be able to write. Then go and hug another kind of tree the next day. It is incomparable. Different varieties of trees render you different experiences to write about.
Why our meditation group leaders focus on tree hugging sessions is precisely this reason. The act of spending time with trees nourishes our mind, body and soul.
What I learnt from hugging trees was what I call my "affirmations" (little signs that reaffirm for me the magic of the universe and my part in it). Sometimes it comes in the form of a visiting hawk; sometimes a horde of butterflies; sometimes I find unique feathers at its base. What goes on in, on and around a big tree is mind-boggling. I feel humbled at the variety of life a tree supports. From squirrels to birds, ferns, moss, parasites to thousands of varieties of insects whose names I do not even know. Interacting in silence with trees is a very powerful meditation. A very powerful therapy which only leaves me humbled and in complete awe of existence.
Living with Trees
It is time we learnt to live with trees. A majority of the human species sees trees as competition. They see it as something occupying and trespassing on land which humans can use for construction or agriculture or lately as frivolous as parking their cars. Trees are seen as something that comes in their way to comfort and prosperity.
House owners cut down beautiful trees as they feel the falling leaves make their surroundings look ‘dirty’. People cut down shade trees because they feel the leaves and twigs fall on their parked cars. They have to dust them off again and again. So it is convenient to cut off trees.
That is one reason why I plant Peepal and Banyan trees. People think twice before touching them. Due to mythological and religious reasons, they are scared to cut down Peepal and Banyan trees.
Trees are nature’s air conditioners. In one year the average tree inhales 26 pounds of carbon dioxide, the amount emitted by a car on an 11,000 mile trip. This same tree will in turn exhale enough oxygen to keep a family of 4 breathing for a year.
Your trees treat the carbon dioxide they take in. The foliage uses the carbon in the gas to make sugars and starches. The leftover oxygen is released back into the air. We could not sit here today and breathe the clean air we are breathing without our trees. Trees are the greatest collectors of the suns energy. All energy comes from the sun and our trees collect and store more of it than anything else in the world.
The benefits of trees can be divided into two general areas. Direct benefits, such as cool from the shade or increased property value and indirect benefits. Indirect benefits impact you, the tree owner and the community in real, but less tangible ways. In fact, indirect benefits from trees are more numerous than direct benefits.
These benefits include filtration and absorption of air pollutants, reduced storm water run-off, storing of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and beneficial impact on the general quality of life.
Perhaps the greatest contribution our trees make is an emotional one. People who live in cities brighten up at the site of a tree, the scrawniest saplings challenging the concrete. Silently in our minds they rise as symbols of stability, dignity, adventure, comfort and knowledge. Maybe we should stop for a moment and wonder how many trees will be left for our children and grandchildren. As someone once said "Your family, your friends, your trees you take for granted you will always have these until you don't.”
Lets Teach Our Kids to Connect with Nature
Connecting with nature is the best meditation. And we have to teach our kids to do so. In a world of gadgets and internet our kids are drifting away from their source and centre-mother nature. We have to help them, guide them, encourage and motivate them back to their centre.
We live in a world where kids do not get to see the sunrise or sunset. Our kids have their eyes glued to their computer or television screens. So it is not uncommon to come across children who have never seen a sunrise or a sunset. There are many who have not seen the beautiful canvas of the sky when sun is setting. Many kids are not even familiar with the word horizon.
How many kids have touched and appreciated the leaves of fresh green grass? They may have played cricket or football in their grass lawns. But it is left to us to help them on their knees to know the wonderful world of grass better. Kids would love to use a magnifying glass...to see the beetles making their way through the grass, observe strange looking insects running around in search of food. Observing is the best way of learning for the kids. Let them know there are insects called crickets and not just the cricket which is played as a sport.
Take them for nature walks. There are green spaces in every city. Parks are the best places. Be with them when they explore little things in the park. Let them do their own things. Try reading on such issues and environmental education for children on the internet or buy some books for your own reading. Make small efforts to show interest in green issues. Kids too will develop respect for the same.
My grandmother followed a simple method and it was so successful that till date I carry the impressions with me. She often took me to sit and study under the banyan tree. There was this huge banyan tree near my grandmother’s house. She would often push me out of the house along with my books and we used to spend hours under the massive green canopy of the banyan tree. It is there that I learnt my first lessons in environmental education. It is under the green mountain of leaves and prop roots hanging all around me I got my first lessons about insects, birds, their eating and living habits, how each and every part of the tree is used by nature, dispersal of seeds and the social gatherings of birds and animals.
Whatever I am today I owe my beginnings to those moments under the banyan tree. My grandmother later introduced me to peepal tree groves, mango orchads, litchi gardens, irrigation canals, travelled with me to Haridwar, Rishikesh, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Allahabad, Benares just to teach me about the river systems in the North Gangetic Plain.
The reason I am sharing with you is that you need not have special reading or knowledge skills to be able to give this immense treasure to your children. You just need to understand the need for our kids to connect with nature. My grandmother was illiterate but what she gave me was much better than my university education.
October has many holidays. We should use them to the advantage of our children. It is the best Diwali gift we can give to them.
Value of Trees
Today our greatest need is to cover the earth with greenery. Trees are world’s greatest carbon banks and producers of oxygen. They collect carbon dioxide from our atmosphere, lock , convert, and deposit it in the form of wood, bark, roots and leaf.
While building up their carbon capital trees give us life-sustaining oxygen, water, food security, and various services, as if, as an interest on the carbon deposit.
One half of trees’ dry weight is carbon. One ton of wood locks about 1.63 tons of carbon dioxide and generates about 1.19 tons of oxygen and host of services.
A human being needs about twice as much oxygen as the weight of the food he consumes in a day. Due to this unique relationship, human metabolism is highly dependent on trees, the carbon banks, breathing polluted, oxygen depleted / deficient air is the main cause of nearly 90 % of our heart, lung, cancer and other diseases.
Valuation of Tree’s contributions though not liquid cash, USD 162. 000 is a trees contribution over a 50 years’ span in the USA just for its four services, viz. oxygen production, mopping air pollution, rejoicing water and controlling soil erosion. It works out roughly to USD 3000 or about INR 120, 000 per year, per tree. This amount can be professionally worked out for different tree species and locations in India.
To start with, using just –third prices for Indian conditions we can conservatively say that an average living tree contributes vital services worth more than INR 40,000 per year for our survival in India. However, if there is intrinsic spiritual, cultural and rejuvenation values, its airconditioning, temperature moderating, and soil building services are added, this amount would be much higher.
All the costs of artificially generating the utilities and services, and also the total value of subsidies given by the government to these industries are counted towards the GDP.
Clearly, growing trees and protecting them from being axed for producing vital services worth more than INR 40,000 per perennial tree, every year, for peoples’ vital needs of air, water, food, health, wellness and better life, is a huge contribution to the ‘economic growth’ of the country that cannot be overlooked.
Meditations under the Peepal Tree
My relationship with the Peepal Tree is as old as my relationship with Osho. Though I started planting trees at the age of ten in Pune, I realized the spiritual importance of my act only after knowing my Master. Osho taught me the meditations with Vanaspati chetana. His presence in the serene and green environs of Pune Ashram taught me the first lessons of how to connect with the outer environment apart from your inner environment. From Osho I gathered how to work on the inner and outer environment.
One of the most powerful tools of my meditative journey has been the Peepal Tree. I have seen it like my Master in the absence of the physical presence of Osho. For me it has been my spiritual guide in my journey.
I can only share some of the interesting things about this beautiful tree. In Hindu religion, Peepal tree has a lot of reverence. People worship the tree and perform a puja. During the Vedic period, the wood obtained by cutting Peepal tree was used to produce fire. In the ancient Puranas, an incident has been described in which the demons defeated the deities and Lord Vishnu hid in the Peepal tree. Since, the Lord resided in the tree for some time; the tree holds great importance for people. Thus, people began worshipping the tree, considering it to be a means of offering prayers to Lord Vishnu.
There are a few legends, which suggest that Lord Vishnu was born under the peepal tree. There are a couple of stories, which say that the tree is home to the trinity of Gods, the root being Brahma, the trunk is Vishnu and leaves represent Lord Shiva. Another popular belief is that Lord Krishna died under the Peepal tree.
Upanishads have also made a mention about the Peepal tree. To clearly define the difference between the body and soul, the fruit of peepal is used as a classic example. According to the Skanda purana, a person who does not have a son should consider the peepal tree as his own child. It says that the family will prosper and have a good name, till the peepal tree survives. Cutting a peepal tree is regarded as a big sin, which is almost equivalent to murdering a Brahmin. Skanda Puranas say that a person who cuts the tree surely goes to hell.
It has a large crown of leaves with the wonderful wide spreading branches. It can grow in any type of soil. It is a native tree which gives shelter to lots of birds, insects and reptiles too. May be due to its importance in ecosystem, its also known as Vanaspati (Lord of Forest).
Buddhists regard Peepal tree as the personification of Buddha. According to the Buddha 'He who worships the Peepal will receive the same reward as if he worshiped me in person'. Because Lord Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment under this tree, it is often referred to as the Bodhi tree or the ‘Tree of Enlightenment’. Thus Peepal tree has its own symbolic meaning of Enlightenment and Peace. It is considered highly sacred, as people are of the belief that our trinity.. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh & many other Gods used to reside underneath the tree.
The tree is also closely linked to Lord Krishna as in the Bhagavad Gita, He says,"Among trees, I am the Ashvattha." According to the Skanda Purana, if one does not have a son, the Peepal should be regarded as one. And as long as the tree lives, the family name will continue. People tie threads of white, red and yellow silk around it to pray for progeny and rewarding parenthood.
It is a well known fact that plants utilise carbon dioxide for photo-synthesis & release oxygen during day time. But Peepal can also do a modified form of photosynthesis called as Crassulacean Acid Metabolism. Though they may not release large amount of oxygen by this process but they are capable of doing photosynthesis during night. Besides this research work conducted on several plants revealed that the Peepal releases large quantities of Isoprene a volatile organic compound necessary for preventing depletion of ozone layer concluding that these trees play an important role in preserving ozone layer.
Being such a wonderful and useful tree, it is obvious that our mythology does not allow to hurt the tree in anyway. To cut down a Peepal is considered a sin equivalent to killing a Brahmin, one of the five deadly sins (Pancha-pataka). According to the Skanda Purana, a person goes to hell for doing so!
Truly Peepal is one of the Nature’s valuable gifts. The highly beneficial tree is easily propagated through the seeds. It benefits not only humans but birds and insects too in multiple ways. Hope this heart-leaved sacred tree resides in your heart and you have the heart to plant one!