Desire, Illusions & the Wish-fulfilling Tree
On the 4th night of the Deepam festival in Thiruvannamalai, the image of Lord Shiva is taken in procession while seated under Karpaga Vriksham - the Wish-fulfilling Tree which grants the desires of whoever finds it. Men and women throughout the ages have sought this tree with desires and petitions brimming.
But this is a tricky tree because the fulfillment of one desire always births another and you will find yourself in the endless cycle of wanting and suffering. Anything we desire that can pass away will always lead to other desires.
Adam was told not to eat of the tree. But his desire to know something other than the Oneness he already knew thrust him into the cycle of birth and rebirth and the duality of good and evil. And so at the tree he forgot the truth of his being and entered the world of desires, illusions, and suffering.
Sitting under the Bodhi Tree the Buddha reveals that the nature of the world is suffering, and the reason for suffering is desire, and suffering can end only if desire is ended. So, sitting under the tree, the Buddha shows the way beyond the cycle of birth and death.
Christ too is found at a tree – he is upon the Tree of the Cross. Unless the ego-self with its endless desires is crucified we cannot be saved from suffering. The false idea of ‘I am the body’ and the desires that are born from that must die as we awaken to our eternal and true desire to return to the Source of Being.
There is also the story of Krishna stealing the clothes of the Gopis and sitting on the tree. He demand that these damsels reveal their nakedness as they come to the tree to fetch their clothes. He thus steals the facades and false coverings of the ego-self. He demands that we stand at the tree in the nakedness of the truth of who we are, like the original Adam and Eve, stripped of our false ideas and temporary desires. And seeing Him on the tree may we desire Him above all.
Shiva as the eternal Guru, Dakshinamurthi, is seated beneath the Banyan Tree. Here, in silence he transmits the eternal wisdom that will end desire, illusion and suffering. He shows us the truth of who we are - Chidananda Rupa, Shivoham, Shivoham - I am that blissful consciousness – I am that Shiva! I am that Shiva!
And so on the 4th day of the Deepam Festival here in Thiruvannamalai, Lord Shiva under Karpaga Vriksham sits again. He is the true desire of the heart above all other desires - the eternal unfading Truth - the One the heart truly wants. So we can come to the Wishing Tree asking for a thousand petty temporal things which will pass away and which will cause us to desire other things... OR we can take our eyes off the Tree of Wishes, and see Him seated there! Then the Wishing-Fulfilling Tree with all its temporary promises disappears and the soul remembers what it has lost, what it seeks, what it desires above all else. Then what else remains? Only Him we seek. The One desire that burns up all other desires!
O Arunachala, O Shiva, O Love Eternal, my heart’s One True Desire - here you sit, under my Karpaga Vriksham, the tree of the false “I” with its illusory desires born from thousands of births. You I see beneath it all. You I desire. Now the tree fades away. It’s just you! I am in you and you are in me! And I am no more! Shivoham Shivoham, Shivoham…
- Written by Fr Kumeran on the day of Karpaga Vriksham in Thiruvannamalai 2019 -