“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)
अवश्यं लभते जन्तुः फलं पापस्य कर्मणः।
घोरं पर्यागते काले द्रुमाः पुष्पमिवार्तवम्।।
avaśyaṃ labhate jantuḥ phalaṃ pāpasya karmaṇaḥ।
ghoraṃ paryāgate kāle drumāḥ puṣpamivārtavam।।
The science of self-realization is not necessarily difficult to put into practice. It is not required that every participant implement a strict regimen, one that cannot be deviated from, lest the progress be immediately halted and erased.
Purifying the consciousness, connecting with the Divine, practicing real yoga, can be as simple as riding along the highway and noticing the many trees that pass along the driver and passenger sides. The vision of the tree can strike remembrance of various principles from shastra, which have deep and profound meaning.
1. The arrival of happiness and distress
Bhagavad-gita provides a new outlook on happiness and distress. Without a proper education, the tendency is to strive for happiness. At the same time, avoid distress. Sometimes, we put the sole emphasis on avoiding pain, thinking that will make us happy.
Shri Krishna explains that happiness and distress actually arrive on their own. The comparison is to the seasons. Winter and summer are the polar opposites. Right now it is hot and humid outside. It has been this way for several months, and so the bitter cold of winter is a distant memory.
Yet in a few months I will be longing for the extended sunshine, the significant presence of daylight, and the warmer temperatures. The two opposite conditions arrive almost on a set schedule. There is nothing anyone has to do. No button to press. No phone call to make. Nature coordinates everything.
In the same way, each person will experience happiness and sadness in a certain allotment. Everything might be going wrong for me today, and yet I find joy in a simple vision, like the blue sky. I might be experiencing heightened success in recent times, but I am sad and depressed for some reason.
The bare trees I observe on the side of the road remind me of this important principle from shastra. Today there are no leaves, but in the future they will return. Though I am sad at the moment, there will come a time for a reversal.
2. The position of a low-born devotee
This tends to be a controversial topic; whether or not birth determines the status and eligibility for achieving perfection at spiritual life in a single instance. Basically, some people say that you cannot be a Brahman-realized person unless you are born into the occupation. Others say that it is the combination of work [karma] and material qualities [guna] which determine the appropriate designation.
राम नाम सुमिरत सुजस भाजन भए कुजाति |
कुतरूक सुरपुर राजमग लहत भुवन बिख्याति |
rāma nāma sumirata sujasa bhājana bhae kujāti |
kutarūka surapura rājamaga lahata bhuvana bikhyāti |
“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 roads in the heavenly realm are famous throughout the three worlds.” (Dohavali, 16)
Goswami Tulsidas provides a nice comparison to help us understand. He says that the low-born devotee, kujati, is famous throughout the world. It is like the lowly trees found in the streets in the heavenly realm. Though they may not give the appearance of strength and vitality, such trees are still considered kalpa-taru, meaning they can grant desires immediately.
Since a devotee connects to the Divine, they are worthy of fame. It does not matter who their parents were. It does not matter what they do for a living. They may not be beautifully adorned in various physical attributes, but since they are always worshiping the Supreme Lord, they are the most worthy of adoration and honor.
3. Vedic knowledge
The Vedas are like a tree. They have many branches, with their own leaves. The individual parts are various aspects of knowledge, bringing success in specific departments. For instance, the Vedas provide wisdom on how to succeed in military operations, how to maintain proper health, how to administer a kingdom, how to attract the opposite sex, and so forth.
While there are many leaves that blossom on the tree, the Supreme Lord is still at the root. In Bhagavad-gita, we get the comparison to the inverted tree. We see this in the image reflected on the water. The root is the Supreme Lord, who in the reflection image is positioned at the top. This symbolizes the spiritual world, the place from which everything and everyone have come.
4. The seed of the creeper of devotion
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu explains that it is the combination of the chance meeting with the spiritual master and the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead that allows a person to ultimately succeed in spiritual life.
The contact leads to a transfer. The caregivers hand over a seed. This seed can mature into a creeper, which then turns into a full-blown tree. The tree represents pure devotion, bhakti-yoga. From that tree, the devotee can offer the same benefits to others, simply through their association.
The key is to properly nurture the seed. Through following the regulative principles of sanatana-dharma, there is every chance for the seed to grow into a creeper, which then turns into a vibrant tree, full of devotional life.
5. The sinner’s fruit
A perplexing issue for even the staunchest of believers is the clearly evident escape from accountability for many wrongdoers in society. How can there be a God when so many criminals run free, when they seem to be in charge of governments, where the liars and cheaters get rewarded and the honest punished for no reason?
Shri Rama explains that the sinner’s fruit arrives at the appropriate time. It is like the flowers blossoming on trees. We cannot expect everything to happen immediately. There is no way to force the reaction, but the event will take place nonetheless.
That principle extends to the opposite direction, as well. Through following dharma the auspicious results are guaranteed to manifest. We may not see them immediately, and we may feel that the time of arrival is too far in the distant, but Shri Rama tells the truth. Those who are devoted to Him will always find the best destination in the future, where their devotion will continue.
While driving to see,
Passing many a tree.
On my left and on my right,
Wisdom in mind to strike.
Where shastra to recall,
How devotee standing tall.
Whether born high or low,
Towards supreme destination to go.
Categories: the five