speaking at the close of The Tree of Life Project
Ballarat Botanical Gardens
23 November 2013
Dignity, Australian Trees and the Interfaith Tree
Dignity as a human value is action that includes self-worth, self-regard and self-respect. What we think, feel and do with regard to ourselves, are the foundation of our integrity in encountering and interacting with others. In this manner, dignity is built on self discipline, self respect, self confidence, self sacrifice and self
satisfaction. Dignity becomes a path toward the goal of life.
If I think, feel and act with dignity, then I will think, feel and interact with others with dignity also. Where my life is sacred unto myself, then I will have regard for rights, and I will also have regard to the sacredness of others and their rights. Dignity is not only something I have for myself, dignity is something that I also confer on the other. In doing so, I am recognising and honouring the true humanness of each and every other person. Living dignity builds the dignity of the other.
The Trees of Faith Stories
The Bodhi Tree
Every tree, every growing thing as it grows, says this truth:
You harvest what you sow.
With life a short as a half taken breath, don't plant anything but love.
The Banyan TreeIn the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna said,
"There is a banyan tree which has its roots upward and its branches down, and the Vedic hymns are its leaves. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas."
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. (Mt 7:15-19)The Trees of Australia
That one dead branch suggests to us that life and death, hope and loss, always coexist in the world. The gum tree, our Eucalyptus, is a unique living symbol of hope and survival.
The Eucalyptus and its gum weeping variants suggest the cycle of creation, preservation and destruction. This cycle of Generation, Organisation, Destruction
(GOD) spells the process of divine creation, maintenance and receiving – renewal of all life energy.
So we must fly a rebel flagSeeds from the Lone Pine cones have been planted at the Shrine of Remembrance and the Australian War Memorial. These have been successfully propagated and presented as living war memorials to schools and ex-service and other organisations throughout Australia and New Zealand.
As others did before us.
And we must sing a rebel song,
And join a rebel chorus.
We’ll make the tyrants feel the sting
O’those they would throttle.
They needn’t say the fault was ours
If blood should stain the wattle.
Trees as symbols suggest the marriage of heaven and earth. Like the Banyan of India, we may emulate a tree in meditation and reach up to heaven to breathe in the divine love. Our feet become the roots as we reach down and breathe the sustenance of Mother Earth.
Trees are also symbolic of the growth of faith. When we plant a sapling, we put a fence around it to protect it, we put manure or fertiliser on it, and we water it and protect it as it grows into a great tree, giving shade and shelter to many. It takes discipline and time to give that shade and shelter.
No one throws stones at bare trees;
only the fruit-laden trees attract the stones.
The Interfaith Tree of Australia accommodates all. We have striven as a nation to protect freedom of religion and worship in Australia. The work of the Australian Human Rights Commission and its collaboration with the Australian Multicultural Foundation and educational institutions produced the keystone reference document, Freedom of Religion and Belief in 21st Century Australia.
The foundation of our Interfaith Tree is dignity and respecting the rights of the other. As interfaith networks, we welcome the other and enter into dialogue with the goal of understanding, cooperation and harmony.
Interfaith Networks are not about syncretism where religions are merged; no, no: this is not the goal. Interfaith Networks respect and honour the boundaries of all religions.
It is from within these boundaries of faith and discipline, prayer and practice, that we encounter the other and experience points of contact in experience of the divine, with whatever name we honour and worship the Divine.
Our Interfaith Tree has many branches accommodating people of faith, and people of no faith. Often, people of no faith have profound values which they espouse and practice in the public domain. These values, truth, right conduct, love, peace and non-violence, are also human values. It is these values which we share in common as Australians that highlight interfaith activities as important to community well-being, respect and understanding. It is culture and values that bind our Australian society together.
Please note: The photos and links in the above speech were inserted by the editor of this blog.