Kenya had her Wangari Maathai who won a Nobel prize for planting trees and helping women. Now India has Peepal Baba who has planted twelve million trees across the subcontinent.
Twelve million is a humungous number. When this number represents new trees planted all over India, it becomes very significant. This change has been made possible by an Osho sanyasi, Swami Prem Parivartan, who is living up to his name but is more popularly known as Peepal Baba. For the World Environment Day on 5 June, here is a positive story, instead of doomsday articles on destroying ecology.
Swami Prem Parivartan has been planting trees since the age of ten. He has planted over 12 million shade trees in the past 39 years. He is the founder trustee of ‘Give Me Trees Trust’, an environmental charity devoted to planting trees. He considers planting trees as a celebration of life and an essential part of his spiritual journey, inspired by his master, Osho. Here are excerpts from a conversation with him:
Planting trees is my way of bringing people across the country to listen to and understand Osho. It is my meditation camp for those who understand the language of trees. It is an introduction to Osho and his message of connecting us to ‘Nisarga’ or nature.
The start : My romance with Osho started when I was 10 years old. I had the first glimpse of my Master in 1977, when I first visited the Pune commune along with some relatives.
A Master crafts his disciple in miraculous ways. Osho destroyed a lot of things around me and re-engineered my life. Sanyas changed my gears from within and gave me the strength to take steps to pursue my hobby of planting trees across the country.
Early life: I was born as Azad Jain in 1966 in Chandigarh. My father was serving in the Indian Army as a doctor, which meant moving from one military station to the other every two years. At a very young age I got to travel a lot and understand my country and the environment around me.
At school: When I was at school in Kirkee Military Station, near Pune, I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Williams who taught us geography. She inspired me to plant trees. In 1977, at the age of 10, I started planting trees and planted my first tree on Range Hills Road at Kirkee Military Station. Today, I am 49 years old and have planted over 12 million trees across the country.
Journalist: I completed my post-graduation in English Literature in 1988 and a post-graduation program in Mass Communications and Journalism in 1989. For 13 years, I worked with newspapers, media agencies and corporate communications with multinational companies. I left the corporate sector on July 31, 2003 to take to planting trees as a fulltime work.
Why Peepal? I had been planting Peepal trees in large numbers and gradually came to be popularly known as Peepal Baba. My focus is on planting shade trees instead of ornamental or landscaping trees. Our work is managed totally by volunteers. Our network of friends across the country helps us plant and maintain saplings even in remote corners of the country.
Osho Camps: I started conducting Osho Meditation Camps in 2003 for the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir. For nearly four years, I travelled through the state interacting with soldiers and civilians. But it was my work of planting trees in the state that gave me the breakthrough. People easily connect with trees. It is a secular subject. It does not bring any god or religion into discussion. I started talking of trees and gradually introducing Osho into the lives of thousands of my friends and followers. My camps came to be popularly known as ‘Tree Meditation Camps’.
Environment push: I made Mayur Vihar in Delhi as my base. Here, I established a small plant nursery and started teaching children, college students, and families who came visiting about tree planting, environment, soil preservation, waste management, recycling, water harvesting, composting, organic farming through an organization named Osho Paryavaran Paathshala (Osho Environment School).
Social media helped me to reach out to more people across the country. Today, I have more than 9,000 people connected with me in the digital world. I have volunteers from remote mountain villages to Dalal Street in Mumbai. We connect with our volunteers through our website www.givemetrees.org
Osho and Environment: Environment has been a much neglected area of positive action. As an Osho disciple, I always felt that if I have to do justice to my Master. I have to plant trees and get other people to do likewise, for the rest of my life. Whenever I visit Oshodham or Pune Commune, the trees ask me if I am doing what I should be doing. They talk to me and after some rest at these meditation facilities I return to enroll more and more nature lovers to plant, along with me.
Positive action: It is high time for the Osho disciples to take charge of positive social action. We have to bring Osho into the lives of people with positive action, such as a tree planting movement across the country with a message to reconnect with our roots by serving Nature.
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Peepal Tree: Why is it sacred?
Peepal tree (Ficus religiosa or sacred fig) is very sacred in India. The Hindu scriptures mention it; in the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna declares that of all the trees, he is the Peepal. Hindus in India have a great spiritual regard for the Peepal Tree – they regard it as the tree beneath which Vishnu was born. People tie threads of white, red and yellow silk around it to pray for progeny and rewarding parenthood.
Lord Buddha attained enlightenment mediating under the Peepal tree. So it is also known as Bodhi Tree. According to the Buddha, ‘He who worships the Peepal tree will receive the same reward ‘as if he worshiped me in person’. The site is in present-day Bodh Gaya in Bihar, visited by millions from the Far East every year.
The leaves of this tree move continuously even when the air around is still. This phenomenon can be explained due to the long leaf stalk and the broad leaf structure. However, religious-minded people in Hindu/ Buddhist religion attribute this movement of the leaves to the fact that “devas” or “gods” reside on these leaves and make them move continuously. This fact is also mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita as a verse “O Ashvatha, I honour you whose leaves are always moving…’
Sadhus (Hindu ascetics) still meditate beneath sacred fig trees, and Hindus do pradakshina (circumambulation, or meditative pacing) around the sacred fig tree as a mark of worship.
Peepal tree is of great medicinal value. Its leaves serve as a potent laxative as well as tonic for the body. It is especially useful for patients suffering from jaundice. It helps to control the excessive amount of urine passed when one is jaundiced. The leaves of Peepal are highly effective in treating heart disorders, by helping to control the palpitation of heart and thereby combat the cardiac weakness. Ayurveda makes an extensive use of the leaves for about 50 disorders including asthma, diabetes, diarrhea, epilepsy, gastric problems, and sexual disorders.
Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi
* Published in print edition on 5 June 2015