The Tree of Life

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

At Ganga Darshan, you are encouraged to adopt a tree and develop a special relationship with it during your stay in the ashram. Every evening light some incense and a flame under the tree, sprinkle some water around the roots and give the tree some flowers. This is the ritual. If you have the inclination, you can also say a prayer to the tree.

The symbol of the spiritual tradition is a tree. The Kabbala speaks of the tree of life. The Bhagavad Gita speaks of the tree of existence. Our life is similar to a tree's. Above the ground we see the trunk, branches, leaves, flowers and fruit. Underground are the roots. Externally our physical body is the trunk, the senses are the branches, the thoughts, the feelings, desires and emotions are the leaves. The flowers and the fruits are our fulfilment or achievements in life. And what is hidden in our lives? The spirit.

In order to maintain a tree we need to water the roots. In order to maintain a healthy life we need to water the roots of life, the spirit. If the tree is not cared for, it will become sick and die. If we do not look after our spiritual nature, we will become more and more negative, our minds more uncontrolled, and our thoughts, feelings and emotions more confused. There will be a lack of willpower and wisdom.

Therefore, the tree we adopt externally reflects our inner nature, our inner being. The act of giving water to the tree's roots, lighting a small flame and some incense represents what we need to do for ourselves. We need to water the roots to strengthen our spiritual nature. We need to light incense so that there is fragrance in the environment rather than the odours that come from many people's minds, personalities, attitudes and behaviour. We need to light the flame of wisdom to dispel the darkness. We need to offer some flowers for beauty, to show respect to the symbol of life.