The Tree of Life
At Gurukula, there is a large hand-embroided wall-hanging of the 'Tree of Life', that was given to us by our daughter.
The wall-hanging clearly depicts in stylized form, the whole tree -- leaves, branches, trunk and even the exposed roots.
What is the hidden meaning of this symbolic tree? What deeper understanding does it offer us?
The way we see it, the leaves are the symbol of our individual identities. There are so many leaves and so many individuals on the tree of life.
If we see ourselves only as a leaf, we tend to live minly for ourselves and experience what could be called, personal love.
But, when as a leaf, we realize we are connected to a particular branch, we may move from an individual identity into a collective identity. This identity unites us with some and separates us from others, just as one branch is separated from another.
At this level, our love becomes collective love. We live for our collective identity and may even be willing to die for our collective identity.
The trunk is the symbol of the universal mind. All branches and leaves are attached to the trunk, but at the same time it transcends them. Identified with all humankind, our love becomes universal and more like compassion.
The roots, however, are symbolic of Consciousness, Spirit or God. When 'enlightenment' happens, there is an unshakable identification with this inner presence or dimension and we experience what could be called, divine or unitive love.
Each of us is a leaf for we are a unique physical being. Each of us is a branch in as much as we belong to a particular nation, culture or tradition. And each of us is the roots in as much as we are one with the divine or absolute ... whether we realize it fully or not.
To accept intellectually the truth that we are, right now, each grounded inseparably in and as the divine is one thing, but to actually see It, even briefly, is another thing, and to experience this unitive vision continuously is quite another altogether ... and joy unspeakable.
These rare individuals serve the Tree by becoming mediators or conduits between the roots, which represent the unmanifest and the manifest branches and leaves.
The Buddha, Jesus, Shankara and Ramana Mahashi etc. could be described as 'enlightened beings', who lived for all humankind. They are the way-showers, the truth-revealers or the connectors, as it were, between the the roots and the leaves / branches of their time.
We are fortunate to be served by a growing number of contemporary spiritual teachers who are fulfilling much the same function today. These are the teachers we respect and attend to at Gurukula.
No one is outside this Tree and no ideology, religion or belief-system is outside this Tree that is 'Life' Itself. There's only one way, one truth and one life. This is the way of the Tree -- ulitmately, there is no 'other'.
The great transition or shift isn't about an individual entering into a branch (belief-system) or moving from one branch (belief-system) to another branch (belief-system).It's an invitation to make the leap in consciousness from leaf to branch to trunk and from there to the roots. Now that's radical!
The Tree of Life Experiment
During one of our gatherings at Gurukula, the discussion leader invited the ten friends present to try out what he called "the Tree of Life Experiment."
We all lay on our backs on the carpet of the dojo, an equal distance apart, with our feet almost touching in the center. Looking from above, we would have made a kind of star formation.
We were then asked to raise ourselves up on our elbows and, looking toward the others, imagine that our bodies together made up the trunk and branches of the Tree of Life.
The question was then asked, "In your overall picture of this Tree, where do you perceive the trunk to be?"
Of course, we all agreed that we saw our own body as the trunk, and all the other bodies like branches fanning out from the top of the trunk at our feet.
We were then asked to notice, on the basis of our own direct experience, what was at the bottom of our 'trunk', where the roots would normally be.
On the evidence, we each acknowledged that our 'trunk' mysteriously extended from the chest to our feet out of an alive, aware, spaciousness that took in the 'Tree branches' made up of our friends.
We were asked to note that, according to our own direct experience, everything 'out there' had color, shape, density and other qualities, whereas, what was witnessing all this, the very roots of this Tree of Life, had no color, no shape, was completely transparent and had no discernable qualities at all!
We also noted with some awe that while each 'branch' of this Tree ended with a head and had limitations or boundaries, the 'root' area at the bottom of each 'trunk' had no length, breadth or boundaries of any kind. Our roots were apparently vast and infinite!
Although we each had our own unique perspective of the trunk and branches of our Tree of Life at that moment, it seemed that, as friends, we were bound together into a unity by a common 'seeing' or insight that transcended the purely personal ... it was a kind of unitive vision as if Life was suddenly conscious of Itself, both as formless and as the many forms.
When I got to my feet with the others, it was with a heightened sense not only of my rootedness in or as limitless Spirit, but that I had some role to play in bringing this unitive vision to the branches and leaves that made up 'my' Tree of Life.
In his Free eBook, Who Do You Say I Am? — Reframing Jesus in Light of Perennial Wisdom and The Gospel of Thomas, Rev. Dr. T J Hickey concludes with this insightful paragraph ...
The Vedic and Sikh traditions picture a tree with its roots in the heavens and its trunk and branches growing downward. The upturned roots symbolize mystical knowledge of the Absolute, to which mystics of all times and climes testify.
The tree represents the manifestation of this ancient religion in the perennial wisdom that masters, sages, saints and seers teach. The branches are the various wisdom traditions, the twigs the various teachers, and the leaves the multitude of seekers clustered around them.
The Qabalistic Tree of Life can be interpreted in the same way, thus uniting the mystical wisdom of East and West.
The fruit of this tree is the enlightenment that it produces. All of us have eaten of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Now it is time to taste the fruit of the Tree of Life.
At Gurukula, we honor the great perfection of Absolute Being, the teachings of our timeless Nondual Wisdom Tradition and the community or fellowship of those who value and practice this wisdom. In friendship together, we seek to embody the transformation that we wish to see in the world
At Gurukula, you will always find a warm welcome and an invitation that reads:
"Thank you for coming here, for surviving your life-experience this far, and for staying in your search for truth. You can relax here just as you are; we've been waiting for you."
Gurukula is located in Bickford Court (off Balcombe Rd), Beaumaris, about 20 km from Melbourne's CBD.