It is interesting to note that since we go away from ordinary environment of living and functioning, we encounter negative issues and problems. Our bodily and emotional functions set to work with the plan of nature. We take pride in moving to flats, but gradually struggle there; it is a shift from homely bliss to concrete forest. It may look a bit embarrassing as we reflect further.
I am referring to the context of nearly one century back. Temples and such common places of worship were always built in areas surrounded by trees, hillocks, streams and environmentally cool and silent places. We see children playing around trees and climbing on them; they enjoy playing on the grass lawns; playing in the streams; fountains, etc; it is a sort of green bathing or forest bathing. Trees have inspired people in all religious traditions. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful tree. To plant a tree is to follow a dream. To uproot a tree is to be boorish.
Sadhus are found sitting under shady trees; people come to them and sit around them. Silence of the tree is inspiring. Siddhartha Gautama after years of struggle and pilgrimage in search of truth found enlightenment having sat under a shady tree for seven weeks. Here he became the Buddha, the enlightened one; here he learnt the inspirations of his new thinking and religion. Even today after about 2500 years, the devotees visit the tree in Bodh Gaya in Bihar, which had inspired their lord and master Gautama Buddha.
In the middle of Bahrain desert, there is the acacia tree which is about 400 years old. No drop of water is found for many kilometers in all direction around the tree. In California, general Sherman, the 2000-year-old tree has a base bulk of 11 meters diameter. The Montezuma cypress tree has the stoutest trunk in the world, with 43-meter diameter. It takes 30 people holding the hands to hug it. It gives shade for thousands of people.
Dehradun district in Uttarakhand, with its numerous health resorts like Nainital and Mussorie, is surrounded by spacious forests on all sides, and that makes the district most comfortable especially in summer. It is one of the most lovely places in the world.
The enlightened group of Taoists enjoy simple life and contemplation in the midst of trees. Chinese culture advises its followers to have retreats in the midst of nature surrounded by trees. Ancient Celts believed forest to be the center of the universe; trees were at the center of their mythology. The spiritual men and women preferred to make their dwelling around trees. Forest as a “right of passage” from childhood to adulthood is a belief of many civilizations. In some tradition of the Amazon, teenagers had to go to the jungle and be there for many days living by hunting and defending themselves; after this test they are accepted as strong adults to face the life challenges.
According to Hindu belief, Lord Ram lived in the forest till the appointed time; Jesus Christ at the last sacrifice of his life allowed to be nailed to a tree and died on it. Believers accept that tree (cross) as a sign of salvation. In some traditions tree-hugging is a therapy for health; it is medicinal. The sick gets vibrations from the tree which cure them. Some traditions hold that we have deep relation with nature, with all its living beings as brothers and sisters. In the words of Doreen Valente: “Magic indeed is all around us, in stones, flowers, stars, the dawn, wind and the sunset cloud; all we need is the ability to see and understand.”