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The Sentience of Trees

In the latest edition of the book, Trees of North America by the Audubon Society, a new section has been added called "Plant Communication". The Audubon Society says,

"Trees appear to have multiple networks for sharing resources and information with one another."

When the roots of one tree have direct contact with the roots of another, their vascular systems can actually merge. These trees then share water, carbon, nutrients and chemical messages through these root grafts. Recent research suggests that trees are communicating through these grafts and through their mycorrhizal fungi connections, which has been christened the wood-wide-web. Trees also communicate through airborne chemicals through the use of pheromones and other scents. If an insect attacks one tree, that tree sends chemical signals to the trees in a circle around it and all those trees change the chemistry of their leaves to make the leaves less palatable for that insect.

Additionally, "Studies have shown that trees can recognize if their neighbors are family." They even nurture their own seedlings and often form alliances with trees from different species.

Forests capture and store the largest amount of carbon on the planet, second only to oceans. They provide habitat for over half the species on the planet, they help regulate the rain, clean the air and bring us a sense of peace and majesty in their presence.

In Amma’s booklet, Man and Nature, published by the Amritapuri ashram decades before the current research on the benefit of trees, Amma said,

"Science has yet to understand the various benefits that forests bestow on nature. They are indispensable. They purify and prevent the overheating of the atmosphere, they keep the soil moist, they protect and preserve wildlife. You may feel that destroying a tree or a plant is less wrong than killing a human being. This concept is wrong. In order to meet the necessities of life, it is not wrong to cut down trees and collect medicinal plants from the forests. But we must not exploit and destroy the forests. When the ancient sages encouraged us to worship trees, they were teaching the world the importance of preserving and protecting nature. Trees purify the atmosphere absorbing the carbon we exhale. They greatly assist the harmony of nature. Even mentally worshiping and protecting the trees, that bring us so much good, is beneficial."

Urban forests, too, are now being acknowledged as vital planetary ecosystems that have been overlooked for the benefits they have selflessly given us for thousands of years. Towns and cities, at this moment in history, house more than half the worlds’ population. And the importance of urban forests for the health of the people in these cities, and for planetary health, is beginning to be recognized.

Replenishing trees in both the worldwide traditional forests as well as in all urban forest environments, plays a vital role in healing the planet and reducing the effects of climate change. Amma has been encouraging us for many years to grow and plant trees.

"Everyone should grow trees and plants in their yard. Planting a tree is a selfless service to society. Plant trees. It is a blessing to do so. Trees outlive us and provide fruit and shade to coming 1 generations. Just as we enjoy the presence of trees planted by people in the past, we too should plant for future generations. If we haven’t done any selfless acts, we should plant a tree or sapling, that would be a truly selfless deed, benefiting others and ourselves."

Trees cool and reduce the 'heat island effect' in cities, reducing the temperature produced by so much hardscape (such as cement and asphalt) by up to as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Celsius). Trees provide habitat for numerous birds, animals and insects, absorb CO2, reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality and have even been shown to improve physical and mental health for residents by reducing blood pressure and stress.

Urban nut and fruit trees have also helped reduce city food insecurity. In the city where I live, for example, Food is Free Albuquerque (a nonprofit group) collects ripe fruit and/or nuts, if residents don’t want the harvest, or have too much of a harvest, and they give the surplus to families in need, food banks and shelters. Approximately 25,000 pounds of food was harvested in 2022 alone.

Amma has said, "Mother earth is serving us; the sun, the moon and the stars all serve us. What can we do in return for their selfless service? Let us take from nature only what we really need and try to give back to some extent. Mother Nature has now begun withdrawing her blessings. It is the urgent duty of all human beings to please her by performing selfless actions endowed with love, faith and sincerity. Only then will she flow again and bless humanity with endless resources."


Amma’s Embracing the World initiative is a member organization of the United Nations Billion Tree Campaign and has planted more than a million trees globally since 2001. Addressing the Trillion Tree Campaign, Amma said, "Forests play the most important role in maintaining nature’s harmony. Each country should try to protect its remaining forests and plant as many trees as possible."

Swami Jnanamritananda, who wrote an online pdf Nature is Love, said that Amma began GreenFriends so that we could see that we have the same relationship with nature that Amma has. There are numerous opportunities through GreenFriends and worldwide to learn how to grow, plant and care for trees. Swamiji said that with all of the GreenFriends Initiatives, many of the people they connected with wanted to learn how to take action and address issues like global warming, pollution, recycling and tree-planting. Taking care of nature is one way to involve many people in spiritual practices.

Amma has said, "Everything is permeated with God-consciousness. The earth, trees, plants, and animals are all manifestations of God. We must have love and concern for nature as well as for each other. Everything relies on nature to live, we are an interdependent part of nature. Our lives depend on the wellbeing of the whole. It is one of our foremost duties to lovingly care for all living things. The progress and prosperity of humanity depend solely on the good that people do for nature. By establishing a loving bond between humanity and nature, we ensure both the balance of nature and the progress of humanity."

Dr. Priya Nair in Amritapuri shared a story of one of Amma’s visits at the French ashram prior to the pandemic. She said that Amma walked over to a tree and touched the leaves on the lower branches, and the water from the dewdrops streamed down Amma’s hand.

"See," Amma said, "the movement of the water down my hand, the feel of the grass on my feet, the coolness of the leaves on my skin, all this is the form of God. When God has provided us with such a brilliant manifestation, why look to anything more for inspiration? Why do we need any other form?"

In one of Amma’s youtube videos in the Amma’s Heart series, she talks about a few ways in which we can start to give back to nature.

"People have to plant flowering trees and also install bee hives. Thousands of Amma’s children are doing this, but even more children should get involved and plant more trees and beehives with focus and sincerity. Earth cannot be changed for the better unless the consciousness of individuals changes first. Only through love and respect of nature will we become spiritually awakened. Our goal is to feel life everywhere. Nature is a huge flower garden. Let us work together to prevent these diverse flowers from withering away, so that the garden may remain eternally beautiful. For that, we should first make a resolve within our heart to make all possible efforts. Amma prays to the Supreme to grace us with the blessings to do so."

May we all make the resolve to honor Amma’s words and requests to honor Mother Nature by planting and caring for more trees. May we find ways to have more love and concern for nature and may we take expedient actions within our own sphere of life to bring Mother Nature back to harmony and wellbeing.

Divya Nancy Griffiths - Albuquerque, New Mexico

Read about the Plessis Ecovillage in the Q4 2023 Newsletter >>

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