Dec 26, 2007

Lessons from the Banyan tree

Click hereThe other day, I was standing at my backyard. The main occupant of our backyard is a Banyan tree, quite old. Not counting the rings, I guess it existed even before the construction took place around it. If you have ever noticed a banyan tree, it is intriguing. A fully grown tree as this is, is immense in size. Its foliage dense and the canopy extends all around like a wide green umbrella. The most distinct feature would be the striggly staggly prop roots which grow downwards like stilts towards the soil, supporting the tremendous growth of the trunk and branches. This particular tree is as much a part of our lives as the other things scattered around. Perhaps, that is why my attention was never drawn pointedly towards it. But this day was different. I was in a melancholic mood. Downcast for no particular reason and was just churning over thoughts senselessly in my mind. My mind was drawn to an allegory on the tree that ‘nothing grows under the Banyan Tree’ . Now, nothing seemed further from the truth. For I could see that the Banyan tree was the epicenter of life around it. Somehow I sat their and started thinking - What lessons can I draw from the Banyan tree. A tree that starts out as a mere seedling and grows into this giant must represent something wondrous which we can draw upon. When I really thought about it a lot of parallels came to my mind.

A Banyan tree like other trees too starts out from a seed…little by little it grows…and one day stands before all as a giant. Can’t we all grow similarly…little by little…growing tiny ‘roots’ here and there. Trusting time to make us grow. Our ‘little roots’ could be the love and support of the relationships we nurture over time.
he tree’s branches continually shoot out new roots into the ground, seeking growth…shouldn’t we also try to grow like the ‘roots’, forever progressing. Rooted to a spot ( the idea of culture, family, morals) can’t we spread ourselves around.
Can we not endevour to grow like the banyan tree…giving sustenance to those below us. Helping them also to grow along, a symbiotic relationship of nurture and caring.
When the tree has grown to its full height, it is rooted in its own strength, giving shelter to other plants and creatures. If one notices, the growth under and around a Banyan tree is a micro world in itself. This metaphor could suggest the moral of humility as a virtue for us humans. More often than not as we grow in life we distance ourselves from those who are less fortunate than us…maybe those who need our very support at that time.

That is why in many cultures it is revered for this symbolism. The Banyan tree is a veritable symbol of calm and wisdom. It is also a tree under which the Buddha is said to have meditated.

In the end to quote:

To study a banyan tree
You not only must know
Its main stem in its own soil
But also trace the growth
Of its greatness in the further soil
For then you can know the true nature of its vitality

- Rabindranath Tagore

Perhaps if we follow the example of the Banyan tree, we will achieve an iota of what the tree finally represents - Longivity.


Andrea said...

This is beautiful! The Banyan has been an incredible visual for me, for many years. This is a lovely article, and I would love to reprint it, with recognition to the author.

Breathe JOY!

Saikat Basu said...

Hi Andrea,

Sure go ahead. And thanks so much for the feedback.

luvlee said...

Very lucid writing..beautiful and attractive. i teach this poem to my 8th graders and i really enjoyed your take on this topic. I have a blog too and i appreciate your great attitude towards life. keep up the good work.

Lovely Dutta