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Monday, September 21, 2009

Two ways to look at a tree

Let’s say we are engaged in the joyful occupation of looking at a tree. I’ve noticed that there are at least two ways in which we can look at a tree.

The first way would be to look at the tree critically. As soon as we begin, the minds starts a running commentary comprising of statements, observations and questions. Something like – “The tree looks so beautiful / green / bare / wilted. I wonder how old it is. But I can find out only by cutting it down and counting the rings. But it certainly looks old. I wonder if there are any birds’ nests in it. What kinds of birds would be nesting in it? Does it produce flowers? Or fruits? How does one tell if a tree’s fruit is edible and not poisonous? Maybe in the old days people tried eating all the fruits and when they found it tasty and no one died, they pronounced it edible.” And on and on. At the end of half an hour, our brain would have worked out a number of things about the tree and worked itself up trying to get a cerebral understanding of the tree.

The other way would be to simply watch the tree. If any thoughts come up to watch those as well. Eventually the thoughts would all die down and there would be only the tree in all its Beingness. After a while the barriers that separate you and the tree might begin to dissolve and you may begin to feel that your being is one with that of the tree’s. It wouldn’t even matter that you are one kind of living being and the tree is another. And that you communicate using different means. Because you would have reached a state where it can be said that you are in communion with the tree, that the tree and you are one. After that there could be a realisation that you and the tree are both pure consciousness of which you and the tree are manifestations. That can be said to be a state of pure love. This state, of course, can be reached with anything, whether living or non-living.

Unfortunately, most of us live in a world where we don’t get a chance to look within ourselves, let alone watch a tree. We mostly only look at CVs, bank balances, health test reports, other people's successes, and of course the mirror. Our lives are almost entirely lived in the external, in the world. Outside events and experiences determine all our joys and miseries. We fail to notice that there is an inner world that is vastly more powerful, more magnificent, more blissful and which encompasses the whole universe, not just the world of the senses. That the joy present in this world is totally independent of the outside world and can be accessed anytime, regardless of the circumstances.

Sometimes we need to watch a tree / a cloud / raindrops / sunset / cats. Or just observe silence.


Footnote : Most societies, even the most materially prosperous ones, are still living in ‘survival’ mode. The poorer ones are just trying to survive in the physical plane, ie trying to keep body and soul together. But once this need has been met we construct more and more elaborate models to keep what we have acquired and acquire more and more. Then it has more to do with the ‘survival’ of the status quo. And as more success is achieved the subtle shift in the status quo ensures that more prosperous societies struggle and stress out as much as poorer societies do, trying to keep themselves in the ‘income bracket’ / comfort zone and to move further up. Thereby condemning themselves to perpetually being in ‘survival’ mode.