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The Banyan Tree


My husband and I spent some time on Maui, Hawaii, this spring. The courthouse square has an amazing banyan tree covering two thirds of an acre that was imported from India and planted in 1873 to mark the 50th anniversary of Christian missionary work in Lahaina. 

The banyan tree has an amazing and unique root system. Like most trees, banyans have roots that live underground. But unlike most trees, banyans also have roots that begin their life above ground. Thin twine-like cords drop horizontally from the branches. When the cords reach the ground they automatically connect and root into the earth. In time, after a bundle of thin chords roots into the earth, the bundle grafts to form a single, solid and thick root. This root supports the branch it originally grew from, allowing that branch to grow longer and wider. A mature root looks like a tree trunk so that a single tree can look like a small forest or group of trees.

It is no wonder that in many cultures and faith traditions, the banyan tree is considered sacred and representative of eternal life. In Hinduism the leaf of the banyan tree is said to be the resting place for the god Krishna and Buddha is believed to have achieved enlightenment while meditating under a banyan tree. The wood, bark and sap of the tree have many practical and medicinal uses.

Standing under that banyan tree was a tangible symbol for me of how all of life is interconnected. All of us at times are like those branches that need extra nourishment and nurture to grow and thrive. My prayer is that we all might find those sources of support in our daily lives and find new life under a sheltering tree.

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