24 Gurus - The Tree
In the ancient classic Srimad-Bhagavatam, we find a captivating narration between a king and a wandering holy man. Upon seeing the saintly person the king could immediately recognise his spiritual advancement and inquired as to who his teacher (guru) was. The holy man explained that his great fortune in life was to have the instruction of 24 different gurus. His gurus, however, were quite unconventional - they consisted of objects and entities that we find in the world around us.
The first guru the holy man talks of is the tree. Trees are exploited and maltreated in so many ways. Animals relieve themselves around trees, humans forge their signatures in trees and then cut them down for various purposes, while numerous insects take their residence in the tree and feed off them for their sustenance. Despite all such inconvenience, the tree still indiscriminately provides cooling shelter to all, life giving fruits, fragrant flowers and essential medicinal extracts.
In this way we see the great qualities of tolerance, selflessness and unmotivated service to others. Ultimately, we earn our living by what we receive, but we earn a life by what we give to others. The tolerant tree yields a wonderful example to us of how to always serve despite all obstacles and seeming lack of appreciation from others. It is this selfless service that will bring us deep satisfaction and fulfilment, and such an approach will certainly bring about a spiritual transformation in the lives of those we come in contact with.