Talking to Trees

Lord Rama“By remembering Shri Rama’s holy name, even those who are born into a low caste become worthy of fame, just as the wild trees that line the road to the heavenly realm are famous throughout the three worlds.” (Dohavali, 16)

rāma nāma sumirata sujasa bhājana bhae kujāti |

kutarūka surapura rājamaga lahata bhuvana bikhyāti |

“If this hill could speak, it would tell me of the wonders of the darling of Vrindavana, the seemingly powerless child who had an irradiant beauty and a divine glow about Him. That young boy had the most beautiful complexion, and He carried a flute in His hands and wore a peacock feather in His hair. Yet this essence of innocence, a divine figure in a diminutive form, once held a majestic hill over His head with His little finger for seven consecutive days, providing comfort to the citizens of Vraja who were besieged with torrents of rain falling from the sky. This innocent hill, though seemingly an inanimate object composed of material elements, if it could speak would sing the glories of the wondrous boy who roamed the land of Vrindavana some five thousand years ago. Regardless of the hill’s composition, due to its association with the young child it is forever adored and worshiped. Though seemingly in the lowest possible form of life, one that doesn’t even classify as an animal or a plant, this hill is eternally honored, respected and remembered for its wonderful benevolence in acting as the instrument for the victory of the darling of Vrindavana over the vindictive assault of the king of heaven.”

Tulasi Devi“If this nonmoving plant could speak, it would sing the glories of Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Lord who resides in the imperishable sky. This wonderful plant is forever dear to Vishnu, as her level of devotion is exemplary. Though in the form of a plant, a being which is incapable of expressing emotion, those who simply look at her and remember her will have devotion to Vishnu and all His forms for the rest of their lives. Though in a higher species than the objects of matter such as the rocks and hills, a basil plant is still a long way from evolving into a human being, a form which brings the greatest opportunity for the purification of consciousness through advancement in levels of intelligence. Despite the predispositions borne of her species, this sacred plant can very quickly instill love and affection for the Supreme Lord within the heart of anyone who kindly offers their respects to her.”

Normally, if we were to honor a hill or talk to a tree, our behavior would indicate a loss of rationality. “Look at this person. He has obviously gone mad. He is bowing down in front of a hill, and he is talking to that tree. He spends all his time trying to find satisfaction by feasting his eyes on these two aspects of nature.” In the spiritual world, however, there are no rules and regulations and especially no limitations placed upon the various body types. The human species is the most advanced in terms of its potential for intelligence acquisition, but since spirit is the essence of all life, regardless of the particular form it is placed into, a spiritual entity is equally part and parcel of the complete whole, the Supreme Lord, who is known by many names, including Vishnu, Krishna and Rama.

“One who is not in transcendental consciousness can have neither a controlled mind nor steady intelligence, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.66)

Lord KrishnaKnowledge of the Supreme Person represents the pinnacle of understanding, the highest revelation resulting in the most pure consciousness, a mindset which subsequently never deviates from transcendental topics. A higher consciousness is desired because only through a purification of thoughts can there be any steady peace. And without peace, how can there be happiness? The key to altering consciousness is finding a tangible object to focus the mind’s attention on. By default, the animal instincts kick in at the time of birth, leading to a steady pursuit of sense gratification through activities such as eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Indeed, when the effects of the senses become even stronger, the more harmful engagements like meat eating, intoxication, illicit sex and gambling are taken to. These activities are considered sinful because they lead to the further clouding of intelligence, strengthening the pull and influence of material nature on the conditioned individual. When stuck on the pendulum toggling between acceptance and rejection of material activities, the mind is left no time to contemplate the real meaning of existence and the purpose to life on earth.

Within the human species, those with a high birth are considered the best candidates for transcending the effects of the senses. If we are born into a brahmana family, there is a tremendous opportunity for learning about the Supreme Absolute Truth and devotion to Him. Similarly, if we are born into a well-off family, there is little chance of being bogged down in worries about meeting the basic necessities of life. Therefore there will be more time for the mind to focus on matters of importance.

On the flip side, if we are born into a family of laborers or businessmen, the likelihood of being attracted to the sense objects will increase, thus making it even harder to attain self-realization. A laborer has to work very hard during the day to enjoy a paltry living at night. There isn’t even any time to really think about worthwhile endeavors. The first part of the day is spent in distress under constant pressure, so the off periods are intended to bring relaxation and release from strenuous activity, both physical and mental.

moneyThe businessman is equally as occupied, as he has to constantly work hard to maintain his fortune. They say that if you really want to earn serious money, you have to either own land or start your own business. The revenue from land ownership is very steady, and the value of the property can increase gradually over time. With a business, the revenue comes from the patronage of the average citizen, who is willing to pay a high price if the product or service offered is of quality. When owning a business, there is always concern over competitors and the interests of the consumer. In this way the future is always uncertain. While one year may be very profitable, the next may not. Therefore there is constant worry, leaving little time for higher thinking.

Yet even if we aren’t born into a higher class or our occupations lead us into passionate activity, all hope is not lost. Direct association with the Supreme Spirit is open for every single person. In the present age of Kali, which is marked by the preponderance of hypocrisy and quarrel within society, the easiest method for connecting with the Lord is the regular chanting of His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. No restrictions or prohibitions are placed on the recitation of this sacred formula. Even the lowest born person, one who has no understanding of spiritual life or even the basic morals practiced in a civilized society, can recite the names of Krishna and Rama and gain real benefits.

Lord RamaGoswami Tulsidas, a medieval Indian poet and wonderful human being, ups the ante by stating that one who is lowborn, or kujati, actually becomes famous and worthy of honor by regularly chanting the name of Rama, which both describes the Supreme Absolute Truth’s ability to provide transcendental pleasure and His non-different expansion as the prince of Ayodhya, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty. To give life to his assertion, Tulsidas compares the transformation that results to the way the trees that line the road to the heavenly realm are famous and honored throughout the world. A tree is not a very unique living entity after all. We can find trees everywhere, especially when we are driving our cars. We pass by so many trees in a given day that they primarily go unnoticed. Yet on the path to the heavenly realm, even the ugly trees, the ones that aren’t very tall or noteworthy, are worshiped and adored. This is due only to their association with a land that is considered superior to the earthly plane. In the absence of the higher association, the trees would be considered unremarkable and go unnoticed.

In a similar manner, the ordinary worker, who may be a construction worker, a janitor, or even a servant, is not given much attention for their characteristics. They may get love and affection from friends and family, but in the business world they are not very much appreciated. Yet if the same people take to chanting Rama’s name, they become worthy of fame and honor, which means they surpass even the most exalted members of society in status. More than just a lofty claim, this wonderful truth is supported by historical incidents relating to the Lord’s pastimes on earth. Ironically enough, the wonder and glory of the holy name’s ability to elevate seemingly insignificant living entities extends even outside the scope of human beings and animals. Certain bodies of water, hills, and plants are considered sacred due to their association with Vishnu.

Lord KrishnaAround five thousand years ago, Lord Krishna advented on earth and spent His childhood years in the farm community of Vrindavana. Depending on the spiritual tradition followed and the Vedic scripture of preference, Krishna is taken to be either an incarnation of Vishnu or the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. The Shrimad Bhagavatam describes Vishnu’s vow to appear on earth to alleviate the distresses caused by the influences of the demonic King Kamsa, but the confidential information found in the Brahma-samhita and the teachings presented by Shri Gaurahari, Lord Chaitanya, describe Krishna to be the original and Vishnu to be His expansion. In either case, there is hardly any difference in the results that come from remembering Krishna’s pastimes.

During one incident in Krishna’s childhood, the king of the heavenly realm, Lord Indra, vengefully issued a downpour of rain upon the residents of Vrajubhumi, causing mass flooding. Seeing the perilous condition, which was in part caused by Krishna’s insistence that the residents ignore the puja for Indra that year, Krishna decided to uproot the hill named Govardhana which had just been worshiped. Taking shelter under the massive umbrella-like structure held aloft by Shyamasundara, the residents were saved from sure death. Afterwards, a contrite Indra offered His prayers to Krishna and the transgression was soon forgiven. Yet the incident of the lifting of Govardhana Hill and the importance it played in one of Krishna’s most glorious pastimes were not. Ever since that time, the hill has been honored every year in what is known as the Govardhana Puja. As declared by the Lord to the residents of Vrindavana, worship of Govardhana Hill is as good as worship of Krishna Himself.

Worship of Govardhana HillHow can paying obeisances to a land mass filled with grass and rocks be considered a worthwhile spiritual endeavor? The answer is found in the wonderful assertion made by Tulsidas. The lowborn becomes famous by chanting the holy name of the Lord. Similarly, the land that offers up its service in the divine pastimes is just as intimately associated with the Supreme Lord. An ordinary hill may not be noticed, but one that is closely tied to Krishna will always be honored and never forgotten. Simply looking at the hill or saying its name, Govardhana, immediately brings Krishna consciousness, a disposition which is the ultimate goal in life.

Tulasi Devi, the beloved maidservant of Vishnu, takes the form of a plant. Because of the benedictions offered to her by Lord Vishnu, Tulasi Devi is always associated with Him. Indeed, whoever worships her regularly will very quickly be blessed with devotion to the Lord, or vishnu-bhakti. Though success in other forms of yoga, such as karma, jnana and hatha, require strenuous activity, dedication to the acquisition of knowledge, or adherence to strict austerities, the bhakti process is very simple. Tulsidas elsewhere notes that Shri Rama is certainly God and the most merciful person because He has purposely made those things in life which are essential the cheapest and most abundant. Those things we don’t need are actually more expensive. Similarly, bhakti, which is the only transcendental process required for achieving liberation from the cycle of birth and death, is the easiest and most readily available. Success in bhakti can be had by simply sitting in front of a tulasi plant and chanting the Lord’s names over and over again. The wonderful poet was so adherent to this practice that at the time of initiation he was given the name of “Tulasi dasa”, which means servant of Tulasi Devi.

Tulasi DeviLord Chaitanya has stated that just as Krishna is worshipable, so is His land. The land and the Supreme Personality it is connected to are the same. The real secret to success in life is not to try to forcefully elevate ourselves to a higher social standing or seek out fame and adoration from others. Simply taking to bhakti through regular recitation of the sound vibration representations of the Supreme Lord is enough to gain the proper stature. If even Krishna’s hills and plants are worshipable and capable of granting eternal love and devotion for Him, just imagine what the pure-hearted devotee in the form of a human being can do. The bhaktas can be found in all different shapes and sizes, and there is no end to their glories.

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