Monday Morning Greetings 2020 #24 – The World is Burning and Krishna Loves the Trees

June 15th, 2020

I received some unusual feedback from a friend on my last article, “Krishna Loves the Earth”. “Hilarious, the world is burning!” It was tongue-in-cheek, but he had a point. Monday Morning Greetings is the platform where I try to serve as a public intellectual, and one important aspect of that is reflecting on my tradition to make it relevant to current issues. My regular readers over the years know that I have never shied away from addressing the issues at hand, so the question arises, why have I not yet addressed this crucial one? Truth just doesn’t neatly fit in an ideological box. In a world that is increasingly polarized it is not an easy task to represent our tradition in a way that will not be misunderstood by people on both ends of the political spectrum. Don’t get me wrong. I have patiently heard the views of many people on this issue and have come to my own conclusions about its cause and where the solution rests. My understanding of the prejudice African Americans face has certainly deepened. I have just become painfully aware from my experience in being inadvertently drawn into such discussions that I would not be an effective agent of change here, nor is it particularly my duty to do so. I will leave that service to others,[1] but I will do my part in another way that very much reflects our tradition and my personal mission, which is to highlight the ancient practice of turning our minds to God in all circumstances, especially in times of social tumult. I hope I have not disappointed you, and that doesn’t discourage you from reading “Krishna Loves the Trees”.

 

In the two previous posts, I have discussed the need to more deeply realize the pastimes of Krishna by understanding the mind of the main protagonists. I demonstrated this through an analysis of Krishna’s exchange with Mother Earth. I would like to continue this theme in terms of Krishna’s relationship with the trees.

 

When Krishna enters the forest of Vrindavan, all the trees simultaneously blossom with the most exotic fruits and flowers, which display gorgeous colors, stunning designs, and emit ambrosial fragrances, all manifesting as an offering of unalloyed devotion. Other forest entities vie for Krishna’s attention with no less beauty and devotion. Each bird sings beautifully in a variety of tunes and pitches. Of the sounds Krishna hears, He is especially allured by the bees buzzing with intoxicated devotion, but all the animals of the forest come to the path where Krishna is walking to offer Him their best, from the beauty of the peacocks, to the cute auspicious glances of the does. Although Krishna looks here and there all over the forest in appreciation of the many exquisite devotional offerings, He first turns His attention to the trees by pointing them out to His brother Balarama. Why of all the millions of entities in the forest welcoming Him are the trees recognized by Krishna first?

 

As Krishna enters the forest, the tallest trees lining the path gradually bend so their reddish flowers touch Krishna’s lotus feet as if to announce, “The opulence and beauty of our flowers is nothing compared to stunning red lac on Your lotus feet.” Krishna reads their minds: “We are so fallen. Due to our sinful life as trees, we are cursed to stand stationary, while all others can follow You into the forest.” Their sentiment especially moves Krishna’s inner heart as He considers their disability — their inability to move. Overflowing with affection, Krishna therefore veers towards them to accept their offerings. Perhaps more than any other quality, Krishna exudes compassion and is allured by those humble souls who realize their dependence and take shelter of His lotus feet.

 

The trees are described as vanaspatim, the Lords of the forest (vanas) because they stand tall and erect and project a sense of aristocracy. There is special charm when those with status humble themselves. But it is not just their humility that invokes Krishna’s attention, it is there unparalleled level of service. In the Bhagavad-gītā Krishna deems four natural items that can be offered in devotion: a fruit, flower, leaf, and water.[2] Is there any other entity among all innumerable devotees in the forest that can offer to Krishna, from their own body, three of the four items mentioned by Him as offerings of devotion?

 

Krishna’s relationship with the trees is so sweet. The trees are humble, dependent, and dedicated to service. Krishna’s heart melts in response, and He reciprocates with their desire to serve. In fact, there is not a flower or fruit in the forest that He does not personally harvest and accept.

 

The world is burning in hatred. If I was more qualified and had more time, then maybe I could have added something of significance to that discussion. But perhaps there is relief to hear that there is actually a world where God loves the trees.

 

 


[1] There is an attempt to analyze the current controversy from the standpoint of śāstra by Hari Pārṣada Dās, a scholar whose articles I have often shared with you. I appreciate people who can step out of ideological lenses and look at issues neutrally. I will send out his article on Tuesday to everyone here.

[2] Bg. 9.26

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