Chapter 4: Don’t Throw Responsibility
Gautam Buddha became enlightened sitting under a tree. You have said that Socrates was standing under a tree when he became enlightened and a similar story is told about Krishnamurti. You yourself left your house and went and sat under a tree on the night of your enlightenment. Is there any esoteric relationship between trees and the phenomenon of enlightenment?
Could you also explain how, if enlightenment is a sudden phenomena, you came to realize that it was about to happen and left your house to go and sit under a tree?
Enlightenment is not related in any way to any external object. It cannot be; enlightenment is an inner happening. It happens in you, and it happens because of you. Even its not happening is because of you. That it has not happened so far is also because of you. No one else is responsible for your ignorance; likewise, no one and nothing else can be the cause of your enlightenment.
And remember, if anything could be a hindrance, then the same thing could also be a help. No tree is responsible for your unenlightenment. The bodhi tree is not a hindrance to Buddha’s enlightenment, so it cannot be a catalyst either. The tree has no responsibility. What relationship can Buddha have with a tree? That buddhahood did not happen was due to Buddha, and that it did happen was also due to Buddha.
So first of all understand that this is a fundamental truth, because it is in the very nature of our minds to throw the responsibility on someone else. If something bad happens, we think it is because of someone or something other than ourselves - perhaps the stars, the planets, the constellations, or somebody else, or certain circumstances; and if something good happens, then too we think that its source is somewhere else other than ourselves.
There is a reason for this habit of the mind. If the responsibility is someone else’s, then your own responsibility is at an end, and the mind can rest. So some talk of fortune, others of destiny or of the will of existence; some say that it will happen whenever it is destined. As a result, the question of you doing something, of you making an effort, of you moving in a certain direction, does not arise; it will happen when existence wills it. In fact, except for your own will no one’s will can either assist or oppose.
Still, the fact remains, Buddha came to his self-realization sitting under a tree, Socrates was standing against a tree at the time of his enlightenment, and Mahavira too was close to a tree. What could be the reason? It cannot all be dismissed as coincidence. The reason is just this, as I was telling you yesterday: the first, the outer layer of the individual, is of culture, society, conditioning. The second layer is of nature. And the third, the innermost layer, is the basic divine being. So you can understand the phenomenon in this way: culture is the outer layer, nature is the deeper inner layer, and the being, the self, is the base. Or it can be seen in this way: the being, the self is the center, nature is the circumference, and covering the circumference is the web of conditionings.