In the state of Tamil Nadu, in the south of India, stands a mountain covered in rocks, called Arunachala. It is four and a quarter hours southwest of Madras (Chennai), in the Eastern Ghats. A very sacred mountain, Arunachala is considered to be Lord Shiva Himself, not just his abode, but the God Himself.
The great Saint Ramana Maharshi, during a visionary experience at the age of 16, went to live there. He never left and spent his life at Arunachala, visited over time by many thousands of devotees. He was very fond of animals. Today, as well as his own grave, there are the graves of several of his favorite animals; including a cow named Lakshmi and a raven that he had rescued.
Trees are aware of the rain – a gentle rain, filling the air with moisture – rain like silver footsteps tiptoeing on the leaves of the cottonwood tree. But that is rather poetic. “Poetic”, however, does not mean “untrue”. On the contrary, poetry and myth are the truest truths – far more true than mere physical reality (which only describes a small part of what is – and so is woefully incomplete).
The truth of the tree is extreme sensitivity to and awareness of the sound of the rumbling distant thunder, of the fragrance of the wet flower petals – of the gentle happiness of the forest in the falling raindrops. Truth is the tree’s awareness. A poem.
To ancient peoples, the world of nature was not made up of inanimate beings – or of beings less than ourselves.
Everything was alive and had a spirit and a presence.
The mountains were gods, the rivers goddesses.
The lakes, the oceans, the trees, the deserts, the forests – everything was living and conscious. Also, all the beings of the sky were alive – the sun, the planets, the moon, all the stars.
Life was present in every aspect of the universe. The sacred rocks were living entities.
All the animals – the fish, the whales, the bears, the lions, foxes, deer, all the birds, also the ants, the bees, the butterflies and all the insects.
We can see this perception still in the older (and wiser) belief systems of the world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism, in the world views of Native Americans.
Because ancient peoples saw and understood the spiritual essence of all of nature, there was reverence and respect for nature. Human beings took only what they needed for survival – and nothing more. They were respectful and not greedy. They listened to the voices and to the laws of nature. They were aware of the sacred beings of life. Because of this awareness, they did not destroy the planet earth.
Today, though we consider ourselves, in the modern world, to be much wiser, we are in fact, very ignorant. We see nature through blind eyes, not recognizing the living essence, the majesty, and the awareness of nature and the earth herself.
It is through this blindness and stupidity, that we destroy nature – through greed and oblivion.
No amount of calculating carbon footprints in a futile effort to save ourselves is going to work.
We must focus, not on ourselves, but on the ineffable beauty and life of nature herself.
To put it simply, we must go back to worshipping nature – to feeling a sense of reverence for the earth. We belong to the earth. It is only by returning to that sense of the sacred that we will be able to save the earth – and perhaps ourselves as well.
“Perhaps the relevant stage is not the real world at all – but rather the world of fantasy, of art, of stories, of myth – myth is the best way to express it – this is the world of the spirit – of magical life.
“The “real” world, meaning the physical world – is not real at all – it is going, going, gone – on the way out – it is dead – a stream of images — and only the ethereal world of meanings and relevance is actually real or relevant. It continues.”
As the wise William Shakespeare wrote, in MacBeth: