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Articles > The Tree Question

The Tree Question (Telugu)

The Tree Question (Hindi)

Who do we give it to?  This offering in my hand.  This desire to express myself to someone or something when I am alone; a desire to express myself to someone when I am in a crowd.  Who do I express it to?  Is my talk to this Being, is my desire to give to this Being, is my desire to be with this Being simply a deception?  Am I really alone? Is all that exists “I am?”


The Rig Veda speaks of the desire of man to give to God.  But asks, “Who shall I revere with the oblation?”[1] In poetic verse this question is repeated as the echo of the soul.  It answers the question of man by telling of the Golden Embryo as the Lord of every being.  This Lord is obeyed by all beings, “Who by his might has ever been the One King of all that breathes and blinks the eye…by Whom the heaven and earth are held in place, by whom the sun is given a firm support…”  This Being is the one to Whom we give sacrifice and oblation.  This is the Being to Whom we give thanks and to Whom we talk when we are alone. 


This answers the age-old question, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?”  This has caught the fascination of many.  One of the questions within this question is, “If I don’t hear it, does it exist?”  This is probably the most fascinating part of the question for us.  If I don’t know about something, if this something (a sound in this case) does not exist in my sensual perception and mind, is it real?  Some answer that it cannot be real to the self, therefore it does not exist for that person.  But this is evading the question. The question essentially asks, if it is not known to one creature, is it real or not?  A part of this question is asking, “Am I God?”  In other words, “Is reality determined by what I hear, see, think?” If I don’t hear the tree fall, how can it be real?  Expanded, what if no man hears the tree fall? This then asks the same question in the plural form: “If no man hears the tree fall, is there anyone else to hear it?”  Is experience and reality decided and created by man, or is experience and reality received and enjoyed as the creation of another Being?  Are we God or are we God’s creatures?  Is this world determined by what we think or dream, or is this world created by God and perceived by man either correctly or incorrectly?  Simply put, the answer to the tree question will be determined by who is God.  If you are the great “I am,” then the tree does not make a sound unless you hear it.  If you are God, then when you are alone…well you are alone.  There is no use trying to talk to anyone.  The desire to revere and to give and to commune with Someone is merely wishful thinking at best.


But if there is another, the Lord of every being, then the tree is real and it makes a real sound, and the Lord hears it.  And this God is revealed as the great “I AM,” the ground of all being, the creator of the world.  A slight variation of the question helps to clarify what is at issue in the question.  ‘If God makes a sound, and man does not hear Him, does He still exist?’  The question is very like the tree question.  If it is you who are the “I am,” then all things wait to be real by your mind and presence.  All creation waits to be known by you.  Apart from you they have no existence.  If there is a great “I AM,” existence comes from Him and all things are perceived by Him.  The Lord reveals Himself as the ground of all being, the King of Creation, the Sustainer of the Universe.  When a man cries out from the depth of his being,   though we seem lost and alone in a forest, the cry is true and real.  The sound is heard by God. 

by Wyatt Robertson

[1] Goodall, Dominic Hindu Scriptures University of California Press, Berkely, CA, 1996, Rig Veda, X, cxxi, p. 15.

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