A hundred years ago Poet Joyce Kilmer gave us a vision of life. His poem Trees is one of the most familiar in the English language. The poem’s imagery evokes feelings of beauty, sustenance, forbearance, and humility.
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A Tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Fast forward to the year 2010, what kind of images dominate our consciousness today? Remember the scene in the film Avatar when the gigantic bulldozers and flame-throwing robot/men cut down the Hometree of the Na'vi clan on Pandora. That’s the image of trees that’s stuck in my mind. I know it’s just a film, and I know that at least one of the film’s objectives is a protest against this type of environmental devastation, but still this image is so striking that it’s the one that lingers in my mind.
In a hundred years we have gone from enriching our existence through a refined reflection upon and appreciation of nature, to a kind of shock treatment aimed at opening our eyes to the rampant abuse of nature. Is this progress? I think not. We seem to be losing our sense of love for nature. Man and nature, particularly trees, have a natural mutually fulfilling relationship. Man receives the Mother Earth’s bounty, and offers back respect and care. Yet, modern civilization at its worst abuses this relationship, and even at its best tends to make the relationship an economic one.
The abuse is well documented, but regarding how our relationship has devolved, I found the following exchange of Yahoo! Answers to be quite interesting:
Question: What is the rate of trees planted every second one is cut down?
I'm not asking for a debate here. I am an 8th grader, home schooled. I'm doing an argument paper. I had no topics so I thought this was good. MY argument is that more trees need to be planted when trees are cut down. NOT trees shouldn't be cut down, not that they should. I am neutral. I think trees need to be cut down but need to be replanted quicker. SO PLEASE! Don't answer unless you know the ratio as the following, "This many trees are planted every ___, when one is cut down" etc.
Best Answer - Chosen by Voters
It's one to one. Forests in America are at about the same amount as a hundred years ago. Most forest land is privately owned and managed. The logging industry is directly invested in the well-being of forests, so they are taking a leading role in preserving trees on public lands. Also, there are businesses that farm trees to use for paper pulp.
Check the references, they are logging industry websites. The purport, the real value of trees to man is an economic one.
The Vedic civilization is different. In his essay Sacred Trees, Dr. Satish Kapoor of Prabhuddha Bharata writes, “Trees being nature’s major processors of solar energy which is vital for our existence, and yielding flowers, fruit, wood or medicine, have been worshipped by the Hindus as a matter of gratitude...Due to their ecological value and efficacious properties, trees continue to be used in the religious and social ceremonies of the Hindus…Some trees are considered sacred due to their association with prophets and holy men.” Gratitude and religion are elements of a reciprocal loving relationship, not an exploitative economic one.
Man’s relationship with trees is transcendental. The relationship is not limited to this material realm, but continues to exist in the spiritual world. Personally, I find one of the most fascinating aspects of the spiritual world described in the Vedic literature to be the existence of wish-fulfilling desire trees. Sri Brahma-Samhita provides this image of the spiritual world:
I worship Govinda [Krishna], the primeval Lord, the first progenitor who is tending the cows, yielding all desire, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of desire trees, always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of laksmis or gopis.
Like the trees in this material world, these desire trees provide many benefits to man, but in the fully conscious existence of the spiritual world these desire trees do more. There are responsive organisms with perceptive powers and unique ability to grant benedictions, marshal resources, and provide opportunities in the service of God, Sri Krishna. Because desire trees flourish on the devotee’s desire to serve Sri Krishna, they can grow anywhere such spiritual desire is found, even in the material world.
The pavement of New York City’s Lower East Side during the summer of 1966 was certainly an unlikely place and time to plant a desire tree from the spiritual world, but such a tree did indeed take root there due to the desire of Srila Prabhupada. On July 11, 1966 Srila Prabhupada incorporated the desire tree known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
Images can be deceiving. ISKCON may appear to be an organization, a legal entity registered with the State of New York, but in actuality it is a desire tree. Don’t be fooled by external appearances, for in its materially imperceptible spiritual form, its true and eternal identity, ISKCON is a desire tree from the spiritual world.
How so? The answer lies in understanding how trees are important to us, what is the essence of our relationship with trees. The answer is the same thing Joyce Kilmer understood about trees: God conscious love based on reciprocal, unconditional protection and provision.
The desire tree ISKCON is firmly rooted in an unbroken chain of disciplic succession dating back to the direct appearance of Sri Krishna in this world millenniums ago. Srila Prabhupada, as ISKCON’s Founder-Acarya (the representative of that disciplic succession), protects ISKCON through the purity of his teachings. Srila Prabhupada also protects the service of all those who take shelter under this tree by connecting that service to Sri Krishna through disciplic succession.
The desire tree ISKCON provides unlimited service opportunities. It was said about Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON that he built a house the whole world could live in. From art to building construction, solitary places of devotion to massive public festivals, agrarian life to big city temples, family life to the renounced order, and everything in between, however you desire to serve Sri Krishna can be fulfilled in ISKCON.
Indeed, perhaps the best proof that ISCKON is a desire tree is the fact that many sincere souls have come under the shade of this tree. They come from every continent, every race or color, every religious background, every level of the social and financial strata, and every political orientation. They come together with a desire to share their unconditional love for Sri Krishna, their love and respect for all living entities in both the material and spiritual worlds, and their love for each other. ISKCON reciprocates by providing avenues for expression of this spiritual love. Never has such an all-embracing spiritual organization been seen in this material world.
ISKCON celebrates its 44th birthday on August 4, 2010. Come under the desire tree, desire to serve, and spiritually thrive at the ISKCON center near you.