The tree is the symbol of nature. All these people going into the wilderness, casting off society and their conditioning – take the tree as a symbol. All these people dropped their conditioning and went to the forest. The happening took place amid nature. It could not happen in the so-called civilization; it happened somewhere that was free of man’s imprint, where there was nothing that had been touched by man’s rules and customs, where man’s artificial web did not exist. Yes, the event happened under a tree, but the reason is not hidden in the tree. It is just that these people left society and went to nature.
Once in nature, these people disciplined themselves to withdraw from nature; they dropped nature also. You can leave civilization for the forest, but where will you go from the forest? Both nature and civilization are outer, external, so you can move from society to nature and from nature back to society. But if you have to drop both, then where will you go? On the outer there is nowhere left to go; the only way now is inward. Leave society and go to the Himalayas; leave the Himalayas and return to society – but both are on the outside. The one who has left society for nature and now wants to go onward from nature will have to turn inward.
So the first journey is from the so-called civilization to nature, and the second is from the outer to the inner. The enlightenment of these people took place in nature because the second journey can only begin from that place.
Nature is a stage between conditioning and being, and there is a need to rest awhile in that place. The myth that buddhas attain under trees reflects the stories of people who, having put aside the so-called civilization and their conditioning, have been at peace in nature. From this resting place begins another journey – inward. Buddhahood does not happen under a tree, it happens only within the self. The tree was just a stage on the way.
If you understand it in this way you will find it easier to travel through the difficulties of your own journey. First your slate has to be cleared of all that man has written on it in the name of culture. When it is cleared you find yourself under the tree, in nature. To come to nature means to enjoy pure childhood, to live in an innocent simplicity, empty of all calculation, of all the cleverness that society has given you. What arises then is flawless and sacred. Now you are neither good nor bad. No tree is good or bad. You cannot make any distinction between trees – that these are sacred trees and these are profane trees. If you are sitting under a tree and a fruit falls from the tree and injures your head, you don’t say that the tree is wicked. Even if the whole tree falls on you and kills you, nobody will say the tree is a murderer, because the consciousness of trees is not yet divided into good and bad. Even if you die under a tree, it is only a matter of coincidence; the tree is not responsible because it harbored no wish to kill you.
To enter into nature is to withdraw from the concept of good and bad and to live in the realm of pure, unhindered nature – where there is no duality, where there is no choice, where whatever happens is accepted, where we float with no attempt to control. This is the tree, and it is under such a tree as this that we find Buddha’s enlightenment happening.