Looking at the image of the Universal Octopus in the book CENTRE and seeing everything; humans, animals, birds, butterflies, trees, mushrooms... emerging from the Centre, the one Source - I wondered about trees, “Do trees feel pain when they are cut down?”
I recalled visiting the Findhorn Community in Scotland many years ago and being at a gathering in the Community Hall to meet an esteemed Tibetan Buddhist Lama. He and eight monks had been flown in by helicopter as invited guests for the afternoon.
This friendly looking Lama with a golden wizened face gave a talk about loving kindness and compassion. He then invited questions from the audience and someone had asked “Do carrots feel pain when pulled from the ground?”
He had answered simply “I don’t know” and asked the questioner whether this was her experience. She had replied enthusiastically quoting someone else who could hear carrots and cabbages scream... The Lama had smiled with good humour shining from dark oriental eyes and had encouraged the lady to investigate for herself and to let him know when she found the answer.
I have never heard distress sounds from vegetables or trees but was curious about whether there was any truth to the matter. I asked the author of ‘CENTRE The Truth about Everything’: “Can trees and plant life feel pain when they are cut down or dug up?”
“Though there is ‘livingness’ there,” Brian Taylor replied, “it’s not the same as for example in a centipede, or a worm, or a cat, or bird – it’s more mechanical. You can cut off a branch and stick it in the ground and it will grow roots and make a new plant or tree. You can take a part of a leaf and culture it to grow. Similarly you can cut off someone’s hair which has a sort of ‘livingness’ in it, or their nails and there is no pain. Plants and trees are the same.”
He went on to say “Plants and trees are the dwelling places of devas.”
This was awe inspiring to hear as it gave credence to the countless folk tales and fairy tales involving Nature Spirits that go as far back as can be remembered in oral tradition and exist in all cultures on earth. There are people who claim to still perceive them or at least their presence, although this is rare in today’s world unless one follows a method such as described in 'CENTRE' to develop new organs of mental perception in a conscious way. The primordial ability to perceive the spiritual world has faded over eons of time as humankind has moved further and further outward from the Centre into the physical plane and materialistic consciousness.
In his book “Devas” is used as a broad term to cover all beings of mental construction – gods, angels, guardian angels and household gods (what the Romans called lares and penates). The gods and angels are described as inhabiting specific heaven worlds, though they are not confined there. The household gods remain in a particular dwelling.
Other devas are described as beings which move around quite freely in the parallel worlds of astral and material form. They inhabit trees, plants, streams, rivers, even flowers. Most of the English names familiar to us for this kind of deva, derive from Graeco-Roman culture: Naiads, nymphs of fountains, wells, springs and brooks; Dryads, the nymphs of trees; Anthoussai, nymphs of flowers.
Every spot on Earth is thought to be alive and imbued with a spiritual element that is accessible to a developed human consciousness. These are invisible beings. They know what we think and feel. Our thoughts and feelings are part of their habitat.
Apparently babies and very young children often, without realising it, use both astral and physical eyes at the same time and can see the “parallel worlds of astral and material form” but as their “exteriorisation” progresses, this passes (my mother had told me that I saw ‘fairies’ in the garden when very young).
In CENTRE there is an example given of how in Buddhist Southeast Asia it is not unusual for tree devas to be seen, resulting in a large, red, green or yellow muslin-type cloth being wrapped round the trunk of the particular tree, to indicate that it should not be cut down. Offerings are then made to it (the deva) such as lighted joss sticks, rice and fruit.
The effect of destroying the trees and bushes in which these devas live is that they simply lose their home, just as humans do if their houses burn down and they escape the fire. The devas are not destroyed (any more than the astral is killed when its physical body dies). However, they can and do experience loss and sorrow. They can also experience anger. This may result in hostile actions aimed at those responsible. Of course they cannot normally impinge upon the physical human form directly. But, Brian Taylor writes, they can reach the mind... They can cause dreams and nightmares.
There is a story about a group of monks who had taken up residence in a cave to meditate and they reported to the Buddha that they were being disturbed by ‘dreams and nightmares’. The Buddha instructed them to radiate loving kindness to the devas of the cave. This solved the problem.
So there may be some truth after all to the story of a sensitive who can "hear a carrot scream" but if it isn't disturbed plant life they are hearing - might it be astral sounds from the "deva" world?
Khun’s house stands impermanently
by a large and ancient Bodhi tree.
This has lent him its shade
since the house was first made
and has spread its branches comfortably.
Under such a tree was Buddha enlightened.
Hundreds of birds come here
to watch the night fade
and the dark sun appear.
Khun has heard of chicken flu.
Seeing all those birds, he fears
that he might catch it too.
He drew the Council’s attention to it.
He wanted the tree cut down
and the Council to do it.
The Council refused,
said no, declined, demurred.
But Khun was not so easily deterred
and hired a local man to do it for him.
But first he knelt down on the ground
(Suchit saw him).
He put his hands together
in a gesture of submission
and asked the Bodhi tree’s permission.
I do not know
what the tree had to say
but I do know
it was chopped the very same day.
Opposite Wat Krathum,
a large and ancient banyan tree
has been blown down by the wind.
A Medium says the deva
has been complaining it is homeless.
On Sunday the old Headmaster (eighty three)
announced in the Temple
that local people had collected
seven thousand baht
for a large Spirit House to be erected
next to the stump.
Brian Taylor from ‘Bamboo Leaves’
The Buddha’s advice to send out thoughts of loving kindness to the Deva world is as applicable now as it was over two and a half thousand years ago and is a reminder of the powerful effect of human thoughts and feelings. Flowers, plants and trees give us a wonderful opportunity to recollect this optimum response.
"...Whatever living beings there be,
Feeble or strong, long, short or tall,
Seen or unseen, dwelling near or far,
Whether born or to be born,
MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY!"