Memory of a Seed (Self-remembering)

Home » Memory of a Seed (Self-remembering)

Editor’s note: In the Chandogya Upanishad, we come across a story of Uddalaka showing his son Shvetaketu the Truth of the Brahman, of the Self, of That knowing which all is known. This is done through a series of experiments. He first asks Shvetaketu to break open a seed; the conversation goes something like this:

Uddalaka: “Bring me a fruit from the banyan tree.”
Shvetaketu: “Here is one, Father.”
Uddalaka: “Break it open.”
Shvetaketu: “It is broken, Father.”
Uddalaka: “What do you see there?”
Shvetaketu: “These tiny seeds.”
Uddalaka: “Now break one of them open.”
Shvetaketu: “It is broken, Father.”
Uddalaka: “What do you see there?”
Shvetaketu: “Nothing, Father.”
Uddalaka: “My son, you know there is a subtle essence which you do not perceive, but through that essence the truly immense banyan tree exists. Believe it, my son. Everything that exists has its Self in that subtle essence. It is Truth. It is the Self, and you, Shvetaketu, are That (tattvamasi).”

Enjoy the following reflection which is reminiscent of the Upanishadic story.

~ Beloo Mehra

Take a seed; break it apart; look for some answers in it. Nothing? There is in a simple word ‘nothing’ in it.

These seeds, they sit in the soil – some for months, others days. The sun shines, the wind blows and the rain drenches the earth. But nothing appears to even so much stir for a long time.

Then some movement is discerned: the soil shifts, worms hold their breath for there is this hint of a beginning. Then the seed is moved enough to remember what it had been once – the seed, not the tree.

All the secrets held within that seed – the memory of the fragrance of jasmines; colours of lilies they would bear; their symmetrically shaped petals, their stems, roots; the bark the palms the solace the memory the dream the tree.

All it takes is the breaking apart and courage to be wind-blown buoyant in the bitter-sweet joy of separation.

Then the tree, she is on her own: the shaping of her sensibility; her intelligent rootedness; her abundant hours of fruiting and dreaming of old ways and days.

Experts say that there are approximately 100,000 types of trees all around the whole world. You can see millions of trees flourish on this planet; self-shape their destiny – knowing they’ve been around for millions of human years – ornamenting the planet – their heartbeats and songs heard above the honking cabs and chattering of birds. They bend if they have to – arching towards the sun in an elegant surya namaskar.

Seeds remember trees and trees remember how they can magically green the eye; clutching one another with branches and roots, fanning the winds and storms, renewing their vows year after year; shedding the dead to make way for the fresh springy ones.

Canopies for the tired and restless, birds, bees, butterflies and everything else feed on them, many nest and others rest. Others chop them for fire or log them for profit.

Trees do not wander; they hardly have the need to do so. They possess other powers to wander as if magically. Trees simply adapt even if it means that they have to cut through the concrete of cityscapes, intertwining across fences and walls, skirting the thick smog and sorrow flourishing and nourishing the planet.

Trees are found abundant everywhere spreading the good news: guys, everything you need to live is here.

In seeds, every morsel of grain, shape of leaf, bents of roots and branches are already designed and as if compressed. So when the structure takes shape; the tree emerges exactly the way it was meant to – nothing taken, nothing added: growing from a tentative seed is perfect and unique and where it is meant to be supported by what it needs to dance – birdsongs, a lake in the twilight, the slow whirring of the planet around its luminaries, dying ochre leaves.

So what are we looking at – the tree or the seed? Look again. This then is the suchness of things.

The tree does not explain the seed, nor the seed the tree; cosmos explains both and God explains cosmos. 

~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 21, p. 148

Trees listen to prayers and complaints of night creatures and withstand several hurricanes. Animals keep vigil from their highest of branches, and the faithful tie red and yellow prayer threads around their hearts.

They bear fruits and medicine for the troubled, but never have the need to consume the fruits of their labour. They clear the air for those less fortunate and inhale the toxins themselves. We lie and sit under them after a chaotic day; they are used to burn the dead.

They are least worried about what may or may not happen; they have no stock portfolios for an ‘uncertain’ future. They know they have everything they need right now; and what they don’t have, they can do without.

If logged away in the dead of night, or burnt on a cold morning, they never mind. For they have left some precious stuff behind – seeds.

And seeds remember. Always.

Author’s Note: This idea originated following a conversation with BudhaCharan Budhacharan, Director of Amaravati Ashram (a Vedic Vastu Ashram) who teaches Sanskrit, holds Satsang and facilitates TM Meditation in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and whom I met in Pondicherry.

Also read:
In the Playhouse of Infinite Forms

~ Design: Beloo Mehra

Scroll to Top