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The trees are our mothers

Several years ago, we moved to an Olive Farm in the Karoo. So it is no coincidence that a vast, beautiful ash tree grows in our backyard. In the early morning light, when the sun breaks through the clouds, the tree becomes alive, jewels shining in glorious colours of emerald, shifting dapples of gold against the dark purple, early morning colours of the mountain breaking through the slightly fluttering leaves - a complementary shadowy background – calling me to a deeper understanding of life, as not a void, but a pleroma of relationality with the ‘mothers’ of existence; the experience of the interconnectedness of everything and all beings, a knowledge that gives birth to self-enquiry, ethical training of pure awareness through disciplined thought, non-attachment, no expectations, cultivating the right attitude and speech, and the outpouring of compassion for others.

The ‘mothers’ is a uniquely Tibetan concept. Through our understanding of our ‘mothers’, we awaken to the universe - as a web mandala of infinite connections. The mothers of existence are those who have given us life, clothed us, loved us, fed us, taught us and sustained us; that is, all beings that share in our existence: our genetic mothers and fathers, the parents, teachers and friends of previous lives; the plumbers, carpenters, farmers, road builders, pottery makers, chefs, teachers, professors, who have contributed to our lives. In as much as these people have contributed to the making of us, our lives are made sensible by our contribution to their lives.

The jewel is everyone’s own heart of love and compassion. This treasure is a symbolic integration of body and soul, wisdom and compassion, and life and death in the lotus. The Great Mantra, “Be here now”, resonates as “Om Mani Padme Hum”. Chanting this mantra sets the great shining, spinning wheel of the mandala in action, turning in the core of every atom. As the wheel turns, the six syllables enunciate. Light rays flow from the wheel, from sand to the river, to the sea, to the clouds, to form rain that falls on the earth, where new seeds of life and understanding sprout and liberate the individual and the world through the teaching of love and compassion.

The world tree, the tree of life, the Tibetan jewel tree, the Ash tree, and the Silver Oak tree of my childhood, and now the thousands of Olive trees in my immediate life on a farm, are all metaphors for this teaching of interconnectedness, loving-kindness, and compassion for self and others. The many branches of the trees reflect on multiple paths of understanding, where many jewels (teachings) illuminate and guide all of us to live our lives in service of others, fearless, awakened with razorblade-sharp intelligence, courage, and deep compassion.

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