A question I am frequently asked is, ‘Why is a mystic, a spiritual leader, planting trees?’
The reference is to Project Green Hands, an Isha environmental initiative, under which 22.9 million trees have been planted since the year 2004 in Tamil Nadu state.
My usual rejoinder is, ‘In this tradition, people always attained enlightenment under a tree. I am preparing so many people with the necessary yogic sadhana. But where are the trees? The ambience is missing! Who will believe you if you say you got enlightened under a concrete building? You deserve a tree!’
Unfortunately, human consciousness has grown so compartmentalised that most people have forgotten that what you consider to be your ‘body’ is just a piece of the planet. Interdependence is not a metaphysical or scientific theory. It is a reality. Your physical existence is possible only because of your body’s seamless ability to respond to the entire universe. If your body wasn’t responding, you wouldn’t be able to exist for a moment.
Modern physics has established that the universe is just a great dance of energy, and every subatomic particle in your body is in constant dialogue with the entire cosmos. The aim of the spiritual process is to make this dry scientific fact a living experience for you.
You have probably thought about this connection intellectually. But if you had experienced this, would anyone have to tell you, ‘Plant trees, protect the forests, save the world’? Would it even be necessary?
The 22nd of April has been designated Earth Day. It is the right occasion to remind ourselves of a fact we ignore at our own peril: the fact that we are organically connected to everything around us. Once this becomes a living experience, caring for the environment as we care for ourselves is a natural consequence.
Most religions look up to the heavens for inspiration; a few look down. The few that seek the divine down in the earth have proved to be more humane and ecologically sensitive. Those that look up usually end up worshipping every other planet but this one!
The spiritual process is, however, about looking neither up nor down, but looking within. And once you look inward, you cannot escape a fundamental realisation: you are an inseparable part of everything around you. This is not the goal of spirituality; it is its very basis.
Trees happen to be our closest relatives. What they exhale, we inhale. What we exhale, they inhale. This transaction is on all the time. Whether you are aware of it or not, one half of your pulmonary system is hanging up there right now on a tree!
If you establish even a psychological connection with a single tree and simply remind yourself five times a day of the constant transaction between both of you, you will see the transformation in just a few days. You will start connecting it everything around you differently. You won’t limit yourself to a tree.
Using this simple process, we at Isha have unleashed Project Green Hands. We spent several years planting trees in people’s minds, which is the most difficult terrain! Now transplanting those on to land happens that much more effortlessly.
When I was at the World Economic Forum in Davos some years ago, a gentleman asked me if I was that ‘amazing tree-planter’. I told him I wasn’t. Planting trees is the job of other agencies, but because they are not doing their job, I am! I don’t consider this some great achievement. It is just the need of the moment, no more.
It happened. Two men were working. One man was digging a hole. The other was closing it up. The third man, who was watching this, puzzled, asked, ‘What are you doing?’ The first said, ‘It’s my duty to dig holes.’ The second said, ‘And it’s my duty to close them up. There’s also another guy who plants trees, but he’s on leave.’ It’s because he’s been on leave so long that I’ve stepped in!
The gentleman then asked me what my work really was. I said, to make people flower. That is my real work, my only work.
Sadhguru, a yogi, is a visionary, humanitarian and a prominent spiritual leader (www.ishafoundation.org)