When I think of the present situation in the world around us and think especially about the various people I meet in my day to day interactions, be at work or otherwise, I am sometimes deluded by the feeling of selfishness that surrounds each one of us including myself. Forcing myself to think further, I was looking for who in this world is a symbol of selflessness that so much has been expounded by the Gita and many other spiritual texts. Mothers probably come close to being selfless examples, but they too have traces of selfishness in many situations. Having found it difficult to find one among human beings, I looked beyond and searched for other living beings. I did find definite indications of selfishness among animals - especially observing crows, dogs, etc. Continuing my search for an answer to my question to beyond animals, deeper thoughts led me to the plant world. And contemplating further, I discovered that a tree is probably a perfect symbol of a selfless nature.
The tree is a beautiful example and one that can teach many facets of the selfless nature. In a way it is a true teacher, a true Guru that can teach so many aspects of how to treat life.
The tree grows from a seed to a plant, nurtured by nature or sometimes by humans. It never asks for water or nutrients but if fed well, grows well. It doesn't make a noise about the kind of water or manure that is provided to it nor does it complain about the soil in which it grows. It never gives up growing unless someone cuts it off or too much water or fertilizer kills it. Clearly shows that too much of anything is not good for life! The plant sustains on what is provided and slowly but surely grows to a beautiful tree. Now that it has grown and matured, it provides shade to many travelers and passerby, never once discriminating on who has to sit under its shade. Does it ever choose that only people of a certain caste, creed or race should utilize its bounty? The tree provides flowers and fruits in plenty, never for once boasting about its wonderful fragrance or tasty fruits. So many birds make the tree their home and never does the tree choose who should sit on its branches or who should enjoy its fruits. Sometimes we humans quarrel over who owns the tree or its fruits, but it just observes in silence all the drama before it. So many probably come, play and have fun under it, sometimes some come and share a story of anguish and sorrow that it just listens and probably smiles within itself.
Over time the tree ages, still standing majestically providing everything it can offer to everyone who wants it.
Someday someone decides to cut it down for its wood or decides that it is an obstacle for some "civilized development". The tree just lays down its life without a murmur, satisfied at having a lived a life of full glory, never selfish, never discriminative, and never boastful!
The tree, in my view, is a true teacher and a great symbol of selfless attitude, "nishkama karma" that is expounded by many spiritual teachers. It is a silent witness to all that happens around it, never reacting to ups and downs of life. The tree indeed is a true Guru! Let us learn from it.