Growing out from the earth near the middle of the Mountain Of Attention Sanctuary, in northern California, is a towering oak tree, upon whom many years ago Adi Da Samraj bestowed the title “The Tree of Life”. This large old tree, now bearing heavy trunk rot and lost limbs, is one of the great-grandfather oaks of the area. Adi Da talked about how the Tree of Life is related in his role as wisdom and energy keeper to another old oak further down the valley.
When Adi Da first walked past the Tree of Life, in the early 1970s, he commented that this was a sacred tree and should always be regarded as such. Some years later, he formally established the Skyway Temple, with the Tree of Life rising at its center. Many who daily serve this Holy Site describe how, through their service to the great oak, they have been taught about the psycho-physical “conductivity” of bodily and etheric energy. Their relationship of service to the Tree of Life instructs and deepens them in deepening contemplation of the Divine.
Seeing trees as sacred
Adi Da Samraj asked that all the oak trees, the acorns, the deer, and other non-humans native to the Mountain Of Attention Sanctuary and environs be understood and related to as sacred. The native tribes of this area also regarded them as such for centuries. In many traditional cultures, trees were always held highly among the signs of life and abundance, and significant trees were related to and called upon to provide health, prosperity and wisdom to the tribe. It was understood that if the trees were healthy then the tribe and culture would prosper also.
All the trees on all the Adidam Sanctuaries worldwide are highly regarded. Adi Da has given names to many of them. Humpback Mama was an old gnarly pine tree at the Mountain Of Attention, who, he said, was a great devotee of the Divine. Her remaining stump is now marked with a sign bearing her name. There is the Tree of Life at Skyway Temple, Wind Keeper and Baptized Each One at Adidasamrajashram in Fiji, Grace Straightens at Da Love-Ananda Mahal in Hawaii, and others. All of these are trees for whom Adi Da has a deep regard. There are also the giant banyan trees at Banyan Bay at Adidasamrajashram. Adi Da Samraj has asked that no trees on any of the Sanctuaries (not even dead ones) be removed without cultural agreement and approval.
The Sacred Groves of Adidam
At the Mountain Of Attention there is a forested park-like area called “All True Things Park”. Adi Da has instructed that this forest of oaks, with the Tree of Life at its center, be regarded and served as a sacred grove in perpetuity. At Adidasamrajashram (Naitauba Island) during the early 1990s, Adi Da established several special sacred groves following the same ancient patterns of sacred groves found throughout India. In many Indian villages, a huge banyan tree often occupies the central square. These groves were intended to be places for meditation. Each species of tree has special characteristics and healing properties that contribute to the overall Spiritual quality of the grove. The Indian name “Panchavati” indicates a grove of five main trees, and there are usually two others planted in association with the five. The “bat” and the “peepul” (or “bodhi tree”–the famed tree species beneath which Gautama Shakyamuni meditated) are both very large banyan trees, which form the axis and polar ends of the groves. Around these trees are planted the “ashok” tree, the “amla” tree (or Indian gooseberry), and the “bel” tree. The additional two, usually planted with these five, are the mango and the neem tree.
There also exists, out on one of the most remote parts of Adidasamrajashram, a great old-growth forest, named “Wailagilala”, which Adi Da considers a special sacred forest that he says should never be interfered with by human beings in any way. Wailagilala has never been timbered because it is so inaccessible, with steep limestone cliffs all around the area. Adi Da once walked through these giant trees and declared that the place should always be kept as a sanctuary. He suggested that, at some point, provision could be made for the careful creation of a small camp there for quiet, secluded meditation.