One day I was out on a walk when I noticed this very unique pine tree. I stopped and contemplated it quietly for a minute.
At some point, the trunk of this pine tree had been cut. Afterward, a part of the tree that used to be no more than a branch became the trunk. It grew and produced many smaller branches, which grew leaves and bore pine cones.
What do you feel when you look at this pine tree?
When I look at it, I feel all of life embodied in it.
This tree’s particular situation reminds me of the principle of how love is passed on and grows. Most of the time, we first learn love from our family. Even if we weren’t born to a particularly loving family, the absence of love still teaches us lessons about love and faith.
Like the original trunk that grew the tree, our parents began our family firmly rooted in the earth. With willpower and love, they worked hard to build a solid foundation, and did their best to give us what they could and teach us what they knew. Because of everything they did, even if the trunk of the family is cut, the rest is able to live on and grow. We make our own families based on the foundation our parents gave us. We may feel a sense of responsibility for carrying on our family. And the next generation blooms even more.
As our lives bloom, we may feel compelled to go one step further than our parents. From the foundation of family love, wider love can develop. Just like branches on a tree, our love can grow to encompass our community and nation. Eventually, it can extend to the entire earth—the physical planet, and all of the life on it. Once we can truly love everything, we will have achieved a state of spiritual awakening and completion. That’s the meaning of Tao. Tao is divine love—unconditional love for everything.
To reach a state in which Tao fills your awareness and you express it in every part of your life is actually the purpose of most spiritual traditions, even if they use different words. Because of this ultimate love, we take care of our families, we do good work in our communities, we serve our country, and we strive to help the earth. That divine love is what helps us to move beyond differences in nationality and culture, and recognize that we are all Earth Citizens—at the same time both loyal parents, and loyal children, of the earth. In a state of Tao, we recognize that the same life is embodied in everything, and so deserves our reverence and respect.
Knowing Tao is the ultimate gift we can give to our children. Through our example, and what we teach them, we can feed them the love of Tao so that their lives can bloom abundantly and widely. Just like the tree I met that day, each generation can take one step further in love and consciousness, and still be supported even if the trunk is cut. Then one day, when our collective consciousness and love grows large enough, enough people will be giving back to the earth all of the love it gave us to grow, and the path of humanity will shift to a brighter future.