Plants talk to each other and we can talk to the plants
by Jayasree Saranathan on 10 Oct 2018 5 Comments

Study after study has revealed that plants ‘talk’ among themselves, particularly in times of distress. When a plant faces a threat, it emits a gas which acts as a warning to neighbouring plants. The neighbouring plants react to this warning and keep themselves ready and protected from a similar possible threat.


This brings to my mind how our ancestors steeped in Vedic knowledge have so thoughtfully handled plants when they had no option other than harming them under inevitable circumstances. There can be no doubt about their sincere intentions in protecting all life that included plants, the two-legged and the four legged beings.


Swasthir Maanushebhya

Urdhwam jigathu bheshajam

sam no asthu DwipathE

sam chathush pathE


They even prayed for peace in outer space. Imagine how such people could have cut a tree for very basic needs such as making space for a house or for making a murti. The kind of rituals they followed on such occasions show that they indeed showed care and respect for plants.


The foremost reason for such respect is that all beings, living or non-living, are part of Brahman – the one and Only God who has pervaded them all. A special reason in the case of plants is that plants also have atman. The same jiva or atman can be born as a plant, an animal, man or deva. That we are in human form now does not negate a probability that we could have once lived in a plant’s body.


When such a thought comes to mind, an extreme sense of kinship develops towards them. Suppose we have to pluck a leaf or cut a branch, does it not amount to harming a life which is similar to us? When a situation arises that we have to cut a tree or harm a plant, what must we do?


This question finds answers in the Brihad Samhita at three places:

(1) in cutting trees for making an image of God

(2) in clearing an area for building a house and

(3) in cutting a tree for making a flag post for a temple.


The foremost meaning conveyed here is that one should not cut tress or plants for purposes other than the above three. The other rules are as follows:


One shall not cut any tree growing in flower gardens, in temples, on public roads, on sacrificial fire sites or trees where birds live, or trees with holes where creatures would reside or trees surrounded by creepers. A tree that is giving shelter to other life forms must not be disturbed at all.


Before cutting a tree, a mental communion must be made with the tree. Certain worshipping methods are recommended which seem to be aimed at calming down the plant from sending “distress” or “warning” signals to neighbouring plants. Scientific studies show that some gas is let out by the plant when it is cut. The worshiping methods and the ways of cutting seem to douse the spread of this signal so that other plants are spared the agony. Let us see how this was done.


The tree to be cut must first be worshiped with rice cooked in milk, sweetmeat balls, curdled milk, sweetmeats made of sesame, sugar and the like, juices, scented smoke and sandal paste. All these emit some fragrance which can mix up with the gas emitted by the tree when it is cut.


Then the tree must be touched by the hand and the following mantras pronounced if the purpose of cutting the tree is to make the image of a deity:

“O tree, thou has been selected for the image of such and such a God. Salutation to thee. I request thee to accept the Puja performed by me.


The Bhuthas that might dwell in this tree are requested to accept the presents offered and depart and dwell in other places: “Kindly bear the troubles we subject you to. Salutation to thee.” (Brihad Samhita, Chapter 60 – verses 10 & 11).


Then, early next morning water shall be poured over the root of the tree; the axe shall be rubbed over with honey and ghee and the tree cut on the north eastern side; other parts must be cut round the tree from left to right.


The tree to be used for making the flag post of a temple or for a king must also be worshiped the previous day with a request that the being present in that tree shall go out and dwell in some other place. The reason for cutting the tree is told as a prayer and the tree is praised as being honoured to become the sacred Flag post. The prayer is as follows:


“May it be well with the beings that dwell in this tree; salutation to you all; accept these presents and be pleased to dwell in some other place.

O excellent tree, the king wants thee for the construction of the Flag post. May it be well thee. I entreat thee to accept this honour.”


The tree is cut and put in water. This practice shows that whatever gas the cut-edge is emitting will not spread in the atmosphere.


The same kind of worship is to be done when many trees and plants are cut for making space for building a house.


The Hindu way of life is very thoughtful and concerned about every kind of life around us. Harvesting is done with worship. The time in terms of lunation must be seen for plucking leaves or vegetables so that least damage is done to the plant life. Only ripe fruits at the verge of falling must be taken for eating. One must not take more fruits than needed by him. Fruits must be left in the trees for birds to eat and for further germination.


One may ask whether plucking vegetables and eating them is justified on this principle of respecting life. This can be answered in two ways.


One is that Hindu dharma does prohibit killing for food but does not consider vegetarianism as an assault on life. As told above, only those parts of the plant that are detached and do not cause harm to the plants while plucked, are eaten. Formal cultivation for food also was considered a sin. In Krutha Yuga, naturally occurring food in the form of plants were in plenty that there was no need for cultivation. Cultivation required tilling the soil or boring the earth. That causes harm to the creatures on the ground and the land itself. In Krutha Yuga when people did not do these activities, it was said that Dharma was existent in full strength. With cultivation, dharma suffered a decline. From this, we come to know that the plant life that is consumed is something that is done without harming the life inside it. It is because of this underground tubers were not acceptable to the people of Vedic life because when they are plucked the entire plant is killed.


Another reason is that the human life is formed through a process in which plant life plays an important role.


The birth of human life happens through a process called Panchangni Vidya. The Jiva that is preparing itself to be born goes through five stages before it is born as a baby. In the first stage it comes down to earth along with the rain. It mixes with soil in the second stage. It enters a plant in the third stage where it gets fixated in a vegetable or a fruit. This is eaten by a man in whom the jiva gets fixated in his sperm. The man’s body is the fourth stage for the jiva. In the fifth stage it enters the womb of the woman. The entry into this fifth stage is considered as birth.


Thus the very birth of human life is dependent on plant life! The eating of a plant product is inevitable in the process of human birth. However this is paid back by a daily austerity of watering a plant. One of the five compulsory activities for a man in everyday life is to offer food to plants which is nothing but watering a plant and keeping up its life energy.


With so much thought enshrined in activities such as cutting a tree or plant, it is obvious our ancestors knew much and made suitable remedials to tone down the ‘anguish’ felt by plants when they were harmed. When something cannot be prevented, make sure that least harm is caused, seems to be the guiding word.

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