A story, a memory and a question

It’s 7 PM. The vast winter sky is a deep slate-blue, and quiet. I am restless. There’s a story I have to tell you. But it has brought me, on the waves of some fundamental connection, to something else first. A primeval memory: Under the same sky, in another circle of time, my ancestor humans stood offering chants of peace to the Soul of the Universe. I am there now, at that fire ceremony, under a commune of giant trees, by an ancient river. There’s that bright, purifying smell of camphor and juniper rising with the smoke. Flames dance and crackle, sending up sparks of energy. Hushed bodies sway with the rhythm of one intention. And the harmonic hum of a chant rises on their voices, invoking peace.

“Om dyauh shantirantariksham shantih,
prithivih shantiraapah shantiraushadhayah shantih,
vanaspatayah shantir…

The Meeting (Raghu Soman, 2015)

On it goes like an enormous wheel of flowing electricity, encompassing everything from the great void to all the gods of the world, from Absolute Consciousness to the trees, the waters and the dwellers of this Earth. 

The words cycle in my head now, turning like rosary beads. They expand into symbols of life, death and regeneration. And I dive deep into its many meanings.

These lines of the Shanti Mantra are a diagram for the layers of ‘Being’. I see them radiating from the macrocosm to the micro. And how they maneuver, gently and steadily, your attention to every form of consciousness in this cosmos. The stars, the thinking ones, the standing ones, the flowing ones, the… You sit one inside the other, just like nesting dolls.

Did you notice that the chant is also everyone’s address in expanded notation?
And it is your inner skin and outer? You never go anywhere alone! It all moves with you, at all times, even when you are hiding from yourself…
And it is a method to plug in to the Source yourself. It shows you the inlet and the outlet, if you listen close enough.
It is also the simple realisation that THE REST OF IT IS AS ALIVE AS you. Though you can’t touch the core, you cannot not touch it, for it is IN YOU. It is the mother of all paradoxes.

The buzz of meanings stops, dropping me back into the palm of the present, leaving me to wonder what happened. How did this spectacular celebration break up? How did we become “man”, as different from and superior to “plant” and “animal”? The conqueror of seas and mountains? The ruler of our own life-givers? The divider of our own grand self? This brings me right back to the edge of the story I had to tell you, which drives this question. An incident took place at The Little Space, the garden in Pune where Shambhavi and Maali Kaka are the caregivers. Here it is for you to look into:

Some months ago they had planted Lemongrass in the small sunny patch of her society. It grew lush and healthy with the care it received. One day, a man from the neighboring twin building came in, uprooted one of those Lemongrass plants and walked away. Just like that. He did not ask the gardeners if he could take it, if seeking the plant’s permission seemed too far out. He did not stop to consider what events his action might perpetuate.

But too far out is where we need to go. Out and beyond the mind.

Shambhavi saw him walk out the gate, the plant dangling by his hand, and ran after him. To his own mind, he had merely taken an inexpensive and common plant, simply to plant it in his own building. So, he had to be told that it was not done.

You cannot ‘take’ without having personally gone through the rituals. The cycles of effort and patient waiting and watching over. 

She let him take the plant, it was already uprooted. He went away, hopefully, a bit sensitized. But the story did not end there. Within a few days of this occurrence, the Lemongrass left behind began to show signs of being ill. It was almost as if life went out of them. No matter what solutions were applied, the remaining plants waned.

“The soul of these plants seems to have gone with the one that was taken away,” said Maali Kaka to Shambhavi, after searching his memory box for the wisdom of his land. In non-spiritual words, what this means is that a group of trees or plants growing together is an entire system, an energetic network, a world. You uproot one, you expose the rest to an uncertain fate by having disturbed their underground lives.

“…Weaker members [of a forest], who would once have been supported by the stronger ones, suddenly fall behind.”
-Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees

The Lemongrass did not revive. It’s a bare spot in the garden now.

Discussing this event deeper, Shambhavi said, “It goes to show how we have divided ourselves, as well as this Earth. The man took the plant from this space to another one he considers ‘his home’. Would it have mattered where the plant grew if the man believed that this whole Earth was his ONE HOME? Would he have stolen the plant had he remembered that all trees and plants everywhere in the world are family?”

Would there be wars and pandemics, if we remembered that we belonged to this land and not the other way round?

The story ends there. But does it?

It’s like that Transformation Game that goes on forever–until one actually goes through the metamorphoses, and steps up to the next level. Right now, we are all stuck at this precipice in our collective story. We have climate change conventions and treaties, but no certainty. For there is one huge part of us that wanted to go faster than the other species and win the game. So fast, that going whole’heart’edly was forsaken–which is the sole condition of this game. It’s all or none. We cannot escape this level till each one of us is on the same page. And at the same pace. The pace of the Nature.

But how do we get there?

It’s all there. The film is already running. Enter that loop again. There’s a lion resting on the rocky ledge, even as tender-fleshed deer graze within leaping distance. He just ate and is not hungry. There’s no reason for greed. The elephants are walking down to the lake, balancing delicately their huge bodies. They do not seem or feel cumbersome. They have no fight with how they are. The eagle soars without so much as an extra beat of the wings. Her power is not in demonstrating it, but in relishing her glide. The fruits and flowers come and go not in competition with each other, but in completion of a seasonal rhythm. There’s no need anywhere in Nature to steal, divide or conquer.

Slowing down to be in step with THIS is to have enough and to be enough. And that’s RICH! Slowing down is to be ‘attentive’ is all that is needed to transform. Watching it is all the method you need to know.

In Maori cosmology, they say, ‘Ko te awa ko au’. It means, ‘I am the river and the river is me’. It is the same river that flows by the forests of the fire ceremony. The same land, water and forest that run along to create this world. Our existence is the same. It is the biggest, most beautiful identity ever. And what happens to a plant anywhere is what happens to you and me.

So, we wish the plant that was uprooted from The Little Space good health and peace. May it grow… We kneel and kiss the ground on which it now stands. “Sa ma shantiredhi…” May the same peace flow into all of us.