One year, around the time of Guru Ram Das’ birthday, sangat from the Espanola Ashram came to visit the Siri Singh Sahib at the ranch. They asked, “Sir, to honor Guru Ram Das on his birthday, we always do langar, a meditation for 11 days, and host a special Gurdwara; but how can we actually honor him, since he lived in the 1500’s?”
To this Siri Singh Sahib replied: “If you really want to honor Guru Ram Das, plant a tree.”
Everyone in the ashram as a family or individual purchased a tree. That year, Guru Ram Das’ birthday was on Saturday and in the morning everyone came over to plant their tree, exactly 108 trees. This took place in the late 1980’s.
To better understand the significance, I need to share with you two things that happened. In public classes, Siri Singh Sahib did not talk about global warming or about the land very much. However, privately he was very protective of all the land and especially the trees. Any time property management wanted to cut a tree down at the ranch, they had to ask the Siri Singh Sahib for permission.
At this time, Dev Murti Singh was the property manager. He was redesigning a certain part of the landscape at the ranch and needed to remove a tree. He went to see the Siri Singh Sahib to get permission. The Siri Singh Sahib was sitting in his big chair in the living room and Dev Murti came in and explained, “Sir, we are redesigning this area and we want to put a small road where the tree stands.” Siri Singh Sahib became very, very quiet. After a few moments of silence he said, so softly you had to strain to hear and placing equal emphasis on each word, “You. Will. Not. Cut. That. Tree. Down. Do you understand me?” “You want a road?” “You put a road around the tree but you shall not cut down that tree.” The entire design blueprint that had been drawn up had to be redone in order to preserve that tree. The tree still stands today and is pictured above.
The other aspect in understanding the Siri Singh Sahib’s love and firm protection of trees lies in the following: Espanola, by air, is only 8 minutes from Los Alamos. For those who do not know, Los Alamos is the area where the first nuclear bomb was built and today there is a big, active, nuclear facility. People were concerned in the case that anything should happen in Los Alamos what we would do. When the Siri Singh Sahib was asked, he looked incredulous and said “Why are you worried about nuclear war? Global warming is much, much worse than any nuclear war will ever be.”
In New Mexico, when it is very hot what do we do? We stand in the shade of a tree where it is always 20 degrees cooler than the full sun.
The Siri Singh Sahib put emphasis on caring for and protecting every single tree to help to keep the planet cooler. There are so many options for each of us to honor Guru Ram Das in this spirit. You can plant a tree in your garden, at your parent’s house or even a public park. If you don’t have one of these options and would like to sponsor a tree at the Siri Singh Sahib’s Ranch, the Mother Ashram in Espanola, or up at Guru Ram Das Puri, please contact email@example.com.
In general, trees are routinely planted in the spring or fall. Guru Ram Das’ Birthday falls on October 9, making this a perfect occasion to plant a tree. Let’s make it an annual tradition honoring our Beloved Guru.