There is a story from India of a farmer who longed to have a great mango tree – he goes to the market and buys a small plant, then for years he tends his tree, nourishing it, watering its roots, tending it with all his love. Slowly the tree grows and flourishes, and finally begins to flower with its promise of the first mangos. Later on, the tree at last begins to bear fruit – but to his great surprise the fruit turns out to be apples – it was an apple tree, not the mango tree he had hoped for! He could have been upset and cursed the tree for having lavished all his care on the wrong tree, but instead he said, ‘Well, it is the same tree that I cared for, why would I not love it because it turned out to bear a different fruit?’
The story reminds me of the recent passing of an acquaintance of mine who never accepted the life path his child had chosen, how far away it had been from his expectations and how, right up until his death, he had harbored and even shared his disappointment with his child.
He was about to farewell forever a beautiful and exceptional daughter who had veered away from her father’s ambitions and expectations for her, and chosen a path of her own. The mango tree turned out to be a tree that bore a different fruit. But human love is often quite conditional like this, and fails to achieve an unconditional love that is wider and free of expectation, unburdening those we care for of our own ambitions and allowing and accepting the children’s freedom to choose their own life path.
At the funeral of my disappointed acquaintance, I read out some writings from the wisdom teachings of the late spiritual master Sri Chinmoy. His words would console the saddened daughter, and remind us that one of the secrets of life is that there is no real death, and that although the body is cast aside, the soul journeys on, birthless and deathless like an eternal traveler. They describe life and death as only like two rooms in a house – they are adjoining, and in one room we move about and play and work, in the other we take rest. But life is there in both rooms, and both rooms are needed. Sri Chinmoy writes:
‘We are all like passengers on a single train. The destination has come for one particular passenger. He has to get off at this stop, but we still have to go on and cover more distance. Now we have to know that this hour of death has been sanctioned by God, who is infinitely more compassionate than any human being, infinitely more compassionate than we who want to keep our dear ones. Even if the dying person is our son, or our father or mother, we have to know that she is infinitely dearer to God than she is to us.
So if we really accept and understand this, then this understanding will truly bring peace, an abiding peace, both to us and to the soul that is leaving the earth-scene.
‘We come from the infinite Life, but our stay here on earth is only for a short span of time, perhaps sixty or seventy years. But inside this earth-bound life is the boundless Life. The soul leaves the body for a short or long rest and goes back to the soul’s region, where it regains the Eternal Life, which existed before birth, which exists between birth and death, and which proceeds on beyond death.’
The daughter would eventually find the strength to free herself from her late father’s failure to accept her for who she was, the tree of a different fruit, and the truths about the impermanence and fragility of both life and love are unavoidable ones and finally bring both compassion and liberation.