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Listening to the Trees

- by Swamini Ambikamrita Prana

Amma by a tree
In 2014, after a gap of 10 years, Santa Fe, New Mexico was again scheduled as a regular stop on Amma's annual summer tour. When Amma arrived at the Amma Center New Mexico in Santa Fe after so many years, she stepped out of her camper, looked out over the native tree canopy of the high desert landscape and with open arms, exclaimed,

"Namah Shivaya, do you remember me?"

She wasn't yet talking to the small number of ashram residents who had gathered around for the late night welcoming, she was first speaking to the pristine Nature, the trees, shrubs, plants, and animals that make up the high desert ecosystem, and which must have also been staying awake for this sweet reunion.

For Amma, talking to and listening to trees, plants, rocks, animals, birds, bugs, and the ocean, is quite normal. A great soul, a Mahatma, who sees herself in all beings, and all beings within herself, is quite at home and familiar everywhere. That is her constant experience. For one example, see the story about Amma and 'The Mango Tree' (Respect For All Life).

Amma has said that eventually, science will uncover many things that the ancient sages discovered in their inner meditations.

I remember reading Secret Life of Plants, by American scientists Peter Tomkins and Christopher Bird, way back in the 1970s. They followed up on the experiments of the Indian scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose who, in the early 1900s, thrilled the scientific world with his research showing that plants, and even metals, respond to stimuli in the form of radio wavelengths similarly to animals. The later research of Tomkins and Bird found that plants respond also to even the subtle vibrations of emotions and intentions of a human mind.

It was the first time that educated western minds seriously contemplated the possibility that sentience is not confined to humans and animals, but might be found even in plants and rocks.

The ancient sages of India, with their divine insight, spoke of the supreme Universal Consciousness, the vibration of Universal Energy, that pervades everything in the entire universe.

For Jagadish Chandra Bose, after much push-back by skeptical eminent English scientists of his day, he was invited by a sympathetic English colleague to present his research in the prestigious setting of the Royal Institution of Science. He ended his presentation with these words:

"I have shown you this evening autographic records of the history of stress and strain in the living and non-living. How similar are the writings! So similar indeed that you cannot tell one apart from the other. Among such phenomena, how can we draw a line of demarcation and say, here the physical ends, and there the physiological begins? Such absolute barriers do not exist."

"It was when I came upon the mute witness of these self-made records, and perceived in them one phase of a pervading unity that bears within it all things - the mote that quivers in ripples of light, the teeming life upon our earth, and the radiant suns that shine above us - it was then that I understood for the first time a little of that message proclaimed by my ancestors on the banks of the Ganges thirty centuries ago:

'They who see but one, in all the changing manifoldness of this universe, unto them belongs Eternal Truth - unto none else, unto none else!'"

Amma plants 1000 trre at San Ramin ashram


And now some wonderful discoveries about how trees communicate with each other are being published. These discoveries are happening outside of the laboratory and in the forest itself. As one example, Peter Wohlleben, in his book, The Hidden Life of Trees, writes about his experience and observations in the woodlands of Germany. He is a professional forester whose love of Nature and of trees opened his awareness beyond just seeing the forest as a commercial enterprise, but as a wonder to be explored.

His wonderful discoveries show that there is so much more to a forest than just what we can see. He calls forests "superorganisms with interconnections much like ant colonies." He found that trees communicate with each other through their roots and exchange nutrients and help each other out during times of stress. They even warn each other when being attacked by insects or people.

He has made many other valuable discoveries because he has been listening to the trees. One need not be a mystic like Amma to take time to love and take time to really see and listen to trees; to appreciate how important trees and all of Nature is to the quality of life... to life itself.

Amma says,

"Plants and trees too have emotions and can feel fear. If you have a compassionate heart, you can sense this."

Our beloved Guru and the Vedic scriptures, teach us that the foundation of the universe is love, sacrifice and dharma, and that every being on earth has an important role in maintaining the harmony of life on earth, from the humble grain of sand, to the Great Mahatmas meditating in the Himalayas. She repeatedly reminds us:

"The harmony of nature depends on all things that have been created. Every aspect of Nature tirelessly contributes its share to life. The participation of a little bird, an animal, a tree, or a flower is always complete. No matter what the hardships, they continue to try, wholeheartedly."

Amma continues, saying,

"We are indebted to the world and to all the beings in it, all of which have nourished us, and brought us to our current state."


How do we repay this debt? The scriptures have a prescription. That is LOVING GRATITUDE, which can be done in many, many ways. The ancient Rishis identified 5 areas where this daily gratitude is necessary, in order to maintain harmony in life. They are as follows:

    1. Loving Gratitude to God, the Consciousness that pervades the entire Universe, every being, and from Whom the first primordial vibration of creation, the sacred syllable AUM, emanated. We give gratitude through the many ways that we worship, pray, and meditate to commune with this Universal Consciousness. To listen to, and communicate with God, within ourselves.

    2. Loving Gratitude to the Rishis and Guru. This is done by listening to, and reading and studying the scriptures given to us. This includes the Guru's teachings, which reveal the great truths of the ancient teachings in a way that we can understand and follow in the age in which we are born.

    3. Loving Gratitude to our Ancestors and Parents. We appreciate them by listening to them, giving love and respect when they are alive, including taking care of them when they are old, and then praying for their souls after they die.

    4. Loving Gratitude to Society. This is done by listening to the needs of others, of society, and giving in charity to those who are less fortunate than we are. By being kind to others and being good neighbors and good citizens, doing our civic duty, abiding by laws, voting, paying taxes to support our communities.

    5. Loving Gratitude to Mother Nature. This is done by taking time in nature, to listen to it, and then nurturing and caring for mineral, plant and animal life. To conserve water, paper, and other commodities. Living simply is included here, by not taking more than we require of natural resources. To take care not to pollute our earth, air, and water resources. Examples of caring for nature include planting trees, growing gardens, providing bird baths in drought-stricken areas, bird feeders in cold winter areas, caring for animals, clearing trash and debris from nature parks and other natural areas, and more.

GreenFriends North America is primarily concerned with #5. The beauty of #5 is that through our gratitude to Mother Nature, we are also worshipping God and our Guru, respecting our ancestors, and being good citizens!


GreenFriends North America Tree Planting Campaign
Group tree planting

For the past number of years, we have all witnessed the widespread destruction of forests through human carelessness, commercial use, forest fires and other natural disasters.

Amma, concerned about the destruction of the world's forests, has for years been asking us to plant one tree per month. How many of us have done that? I will be the first to admit that I have not.

Now, during Amma's recent Divali address, she asked us to plant a tree for every festival during the year! For those of us who celebrate Indian festivals, that can be more than 1 per month!

We at GreenFriends North America want to kick start our tree planting program again and make it a permanent fixture.

Together, with our efforts and Amma's grace, we can make this request of Amma's a reality. We are working out a plan and will be contacting Amma's devotees with something soon. We are collecting ideas from all quarters. Your ideas are very welcome.

Please contact us at info@greenfriendsna.org

"Feeling Life's oneness broadens our minds, expands our hearts and spreads love to all of creation."

- Amma

Read Confessions of a Cloth-O-Holic from the Winter 2020 newsletter >>


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