In the dojo (meeting-room) at Gurukula has been 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.

There have always been a few such visionaries in every age whose lives seem to correspond with the whole Tree of Life … including the trunk.

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

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