Back when I was hunting to buy my first house, my nature and tree-loving inclinations had me secretly hoping for a yard around the house with at least one nice tree. The realtor helping me in this house-finding mission would give me for sale listings in the vicinity of the apartment complex where I lived because I wanted to stay nearby if possible. I used to awaken in the early morning and go out walking carefully viewing the houses and trying to imagine what kind of home I would succeed in buying. One day I studied the latest additions to the MLS listings and saw that a house was listed in my price range only about a mile from my residence. I set out on foot to find this house for sale at such a reasonable price and crossed my fingers and toes that I would like it.
As soon as I located it during that morning’s walk, I instantly liked it from the front and the backyard beckoned. I somewhat boldly walked along the periphery of the property and my heart delighted in seeing a number of trees in a very nice yet not too large backyard. This house with the wonderful trees and yard did end up becoming my new home shortly after that morning peek into its promise.
Now many years later I continue to enjoy the trees in my backyard and whenever I sit under the three trees prominently towards the center of the yard I feel a sense of peace and contentment basking in the shade under their canopy of branches and leaves.
One day a number of years later as my car approached my house from a distance up the street I suddenly was struck by the difference in height of two trees in my backyard which are next to each other. All those years from the ground underneath the trees, they share a sense of sameness in my eyes, even with one being a red maple and the other a green maple.
As if for the first time ever, my eyes were opened to an altogether different viewpoint through the sight of the trees in my backyard from afar as they loomed up over the roof of the house. “Look at how much taller the green maple is than the red,” I exclaimed to myself. That tree on the right is very, very tall – infinitely higher than the one next to it and appears to be one of the highest trees on the entire street. How is it possible that I never noticed before the impressive height of this tree compared to the others? From the ground-level underneath the trees, they seemed precisely the same and I never would have noticed the one’s towering height over the others if I had not viewed them from the crest of the gentle hill a few houses back from mine.
What a lesson this observation hinted at! Depending on the viewpoint, one might apply the same analogy to the world of people instead of the genus of trees. When a great man or woman bends down in humility and self-giving to share the flowers and fruits of the tree with people found at the foot of the tree, we might never realize just how high into the thin altitude of greatness this giant among men and women truly was.
Such is the man , my spiritual teacher for the last 22 years, who to my deep sadness passed away on October 11, 2007 at his home in Queens, New York.
His spiritual philosophy always emphasized the importance of humility and the obstacles inherent in pride and human ego in the quest to find true satisfaction in life. In one poem he writes,
To become spiritually tall, taller, tallest,
We must be always
On our knees.
This poem from a series of poetry by Sri Chinmoy is aptly named in relation to this tallest tree musing since the book’s title/series is Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 23.
His lifetime of offering and service in so many walks of life glowed with a sheen of greatness that I have never witnessed by any other person alive today. Yet this giant among men also dedicated his every breathing moment to instilling a sense of gratitude, encouragement and support for all he came in contact with. He composed countless songs in honor of friends and guests, wrote at length about all he admired – even in great detail about the diversity of religions and spiritual teachers through the ages in such a manner that you would feel “here is a follower of Christ, here is a follower of Buddha, here is a follower of Krishna” depending on which passage you read from his prolific writings.
I honestly and deeply believe that there was never a moment that he was not trying to see the best in all whom he met and he truly is a teacher whose middle name is encouragement and positive all-forgiving divine love. He coaxed forth potential and promise that I never in my wildest dreams imagined might be waiting dormant within me.
Like a towering tree that sends forth countless seeds and fruits to germinate and sprout in the future, his influence will resonate long after this end of his life at age 76. With thousands of students and well-wishers from across the globe arriving in New York to pay homage to this beloved man who touched countless hearts, I think of the tree in my yard looming high above the others yet sharing a message and perspective of unity and equality when viewed from underneath the bottom branches. I am fully confident that the many centres based upon his teachings will continue to blossom long after his death. I know that my own lfe will continue to bask in the wisdom his life embodied until I too reach my end. Thank you Sri Chinmoy. Thank-you from the bottom of my heart.