“In home to home they set up altar areas and hoisted flags. They planted trees bearing fruits, blossoms, and other auspicious signs.” (Janaki Mangala, 184)
bandana vāra bitāna patākā ghara ghara |
rōpē saphala sapallava maṅgala tarūbara ||
Trees are good for us. This only makes sense. Aside from being integral to a beautiful backdrop, providing the proper setting for a nature scene, they provide shade to the weary traveler. They give the comfort of shade on a hot summer’s afternoon. They give a resting place for the bookworm who enjoys being outdoors. And in the scientific analysis, they provide the vital oxygen that is necessary for breathing in the human species. Still, there are grades of trees, with some considered pious and others impious. The scene referenced above speaks of pious trees.
Sin gets you further away from your true identity of spirit soul, which is part and parcel of God and thus servant of Him for all of eternity. Sin isn’t so difficult to understand. There are sins in just about every category of activity. If you put the wrong type of gasoline in your automobile, you’re committing a sin. The reason is that the mistake will lead to a negative reaction, something particularly unwanted. Putting the right type of gasoline in the car is piety; it yields a desired result. Piety is auspicious and sin inauspicious.
In terms of trees, a sinful one does not yield fruits. Every living entity survives off other living entities. This is nature’s way. There is something called the food chain which basically explains the same concept. The human being is the lone species that has discretion. It has a choice in its diet. Just because it has dominion over other creatures doesn’t mean it has license to kill without limits. Just as the human being does not normally kill other human beings and a few selected animals like cats and dogs, when in a state of sobriety it does not kill any other animals for food.
This leaves the vegetables. But even then there is some sin involved, as the vegetables are cut away, made lifeless, when the time is right for consumption. The only kind of diet that is totally free of violence is one based on fruits. The fruits fall from the trees at the appropriate time. Shri Ramachandra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His incarnation form famous for ridding the world of the evil Rakshasa named Ravana, once remarked that for the mature human being there is no other fear than death. He compared it to the ripened fruit, which has no other fate than to fall.
“Just as the ripened fruit has no other fear than falling, the man who has taken birth has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)
The fruit’s fateful descent, its inevitable fall from the tree, does not involve violence. By approaching the tree, one who picks up such fruits and eats them can survive. Indeed, a person could survive just remaining near such a tree. Therefore the fruit-bearing trees are considered pious in the Vedas. They are better than the non-fruit-bearing ones, which are thus considered sinful. The fruit-bearing tree is also found in the heavenly realm. There you can ask for anything from the trees and receive it immediately. Thus these trees are known as desire trees [kama-taru, sura-taru, kalpa-vriksha].
In this verse from the Janaki Mangala, we read that the residents of Ayodhya planted trees that bore fruits, blossoms and other auspicious signs. They did this as a welcome for the Supreme Lord, who was returning to their town after having been away for a while. In home to home they set up altars and flags as well. Home is where the heart is, and so when there is worship in the home, the heart is properly situated. It remains connected to God, even though it may be far away from a formal devotional atmosphere. It may be many miles away from others practicing devotion, but the heart can stay just as connected with God through the altar in the home.
In the same way that the pious trees are those which produce fruits, there can also be pious books. Those works which yield the fruit of devotion to God, bhakti, are the most pious. Every page, which likely originates from a tree, is filled with descriptions that bring the heart closer to the eternal occupation of devotional service. Conversely, the mundane literature keeps one away from God. Those works keep the mind unfortunately situated in maya, or illusion. And so one cannot survive on such works; they need to constantly shift their attention.
The pious works stand alone in greatness. They become the main source of sustenance for the devoted soul and they also pass the test of time, bringing future generations so much joy. The mango is the king of fruits, making the mango tree the most pious on earth. Devotion to Rama is the king of all fruits given in literature, and so those works which describe Him have a value that cannot be measured.
Accompanying names of Rama chanted,
Pious trees Ayodhya’s people planted,
Mangos and blossoms to bear,
To provide shade, comfort and fare.
Pious and impious books too there can be,
From effect on consciousness one can see.
As bhakti the soul’s long-lost treasure,
Books giving it of value without measure.