Lessons from the peepal tree and the people of Peepal Farm.
Yesterday, an Ethiopian friend made a Facebook post asking about the meaning of “baaghi.” I hadn’t heard that word in a long time.
Baaghi, in Hindi/Urdu, means rebel.
Having that brief exchange on the public thread brought to the fore the necessity of rebels in current times. Rebels, not necessarily, at the scale of antiestablishment, but rebels against established/accepted norms, behaviours, conditioning.
“Until they become conscious, they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled, they cannot become conscious.” ~ George Orwell, 1984
There are various ways we rebel.
There is, of course, the classic street activism, then there are those who reject the status quo, those who choose to live alternative lives; even those who choose to break family traditions—a small act of rebellion, yet an agent of change, for themselves, and maybe an example for others around.
Rebels can exist in every realm of the universe, in the plant kingdom too. In the world of trees, it is the “peepal tree,” aka the Bodhi Tree—yes, the same tree that Buddha sat under when he got enlightened.
More about the peepal tree in a bit. First, about a change-making community that I’ve found home in, and a feeling of shared purpose—Peepal Farm. Anyone who’s met me even once knows how much I respect them and the space I hold for them in my heart and life.
Peepal Farm is a stray animal rescue, a no-till organic farm, and a women-powered small-scale social enterprise in the Himalayan foothills. In the words of the Peepal people, “It started out as a home that we built, with space for injured stray animals to heal and be heard, for people who wanted to help, and for us to be able to organically farm, while reducing our harm.”
Apart from all the good work they do, the story of their name is also remarkable.
Robin, one of the co-founders shares how the name Peepal Farm came about:
“Just as the peepal tree doesn’t need to be planted—it grows by itself from walls of old buildings, their roots spreading and creating cracks in the walls, and then in those cracks, more plants and grass grow—the same way, no one invited us, ‘commissioned’ us to do this work. We want to create cracks in the regressive ways of life and create space for new thought processes. Also, just as the peepal tree seeds spread everywhere, we aspire that our thoughts, values, and message should reach widely and create more such movements everywhere.”
“The peepal tree sprouts in the most unfertile climates, including in the sides of buildings. If left there, it will eventually grow so large it will break down the structure it rests on until it reaches the ground. Like the peepal tree, we are breaking down the societal structures that cause the oppression and suffering of beings.”
These are some powerful lessons that the people of Peepal Farm are sharing through their work and very existence:
>> We don’t need to wait to be told or to join an organization or for a leader to bring about change. Don’t wait to be invited. Start where you are. Go where the need is. Go. Do. Start.
>> Challenge the status quo. Be disruptive. Change is not easy—not even good change. Sometimes, we don’t need to push our values or cause, but question and break into existing mindsets, making space for new ideas to enter.
>> Finally, change limited to oneself could be self-serving. Actively strive to spread the seeds of compassion and inspire others too.
No one leaves untouched and without being seeded with a new outlook, new life when they come in contact with Peepal Farm, just as nothing stays the same where the peepal tree sprouts.
Oh yeah, more about the peepal tree.
The peepal tree also referred to as the Tree of Life, is considered sacred in the Indian subcontinent, especially among Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says, “I am the Peepal tree among the trees, Narada among the sages, Chitraaratha among the Gandharvas, and sage Kapila among the Siddhas.”
Also called the bodhi tree, Buddhists consider it the Tree of Wisdom, under which Buddha sat in meditation and contemplation, and where he attained enlightenment.
More than the spiritual significance, its way of existing is what is purposeful in bringing change through disruption.
Wiki has this to say: “Their roots penetrate inside the stem of the support, eventually splitting it from within. Ficus religiosa has been listed as an ‘environmental weed’ or ‘naturalised weed’ by the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012).”
When we say, “What can I do, I am just an individual,” remember—the peepal tree’s origin is from the droppings of a bird, and yet, it holds the power to disrupt whatever is around it.
Come be a part of Peepal Farm. Or find a “Peepal Farm” near you (there are many change-makers around us, we just need to look). Or create your own Peepal Farm.
“Recall how often in human history the saint and the rebel have been the same person.” ~ Rollo May, The Courage to Create
Read Peepal Farm Co-founder Robin’s story here: From Suicide to Success: How He Gave Meaning to his Life.