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Kalpataru: My Hindu Holiday Tree That Spreads Joy Through Selfless Giving

Kalpataru: My Hindu Holiday Tree That Spreads Joy Through Selfless Giving

  • When a human aligns all mind, body, emotion, and prana (life force) for the betterment of others, all their own wishes get elevated beyond the base desires and eventually become true.

For many Hindu families in the United States, there is a dilemma during the Christmas holiday season. The children see Christmas trees in the homes of their friends and insist that they should also have a Christmas tree in their own homes. For some parents, exhibiting Christmas decorations in a Hindu household may cause some consternation.

A few years ago, I implemented an idea that satisfied the children’s wishes and inculcated a great moral lesson into the kids. We started having a Kalpataru (wish-granting tree from Hindu mythology) representation in our house during the holiday season. The evergreen tree is decorated with ornaments collected during our extensive travels, unusual ornate holiday baubles, and other ornaments our children made in school when they were young. This tree serves as the focal point during the winter holiday season, stretching the festive mood that started from the September Ganesh puja and November Diwali to the new year. The tree also gives me the chance to narrate the legend of the Kalpataru.

The story of Kalpataru, the wishing tree, starts in prehistoric times. The good and the evil forces churn the ocean of the cosmos. One of the unique objects that the divine grant to the churners is a wish-granting tree that is appropriately planted. One day, a traveler comes across this tree and sits down in the shade, not knowing the special nature of the tree. While admiring the dense shade of the foliage, he wishes that he had a bed to take a nap in. Suddenly, a bed manifests. After his nap, he wishes for food, which then materializes in front of him. Then, he desires a drink, and an assortment of libations are presented. After his immediate needs are satisfied, he wonders where all the goodies came from, and whether there are ghosts in the tree. Immediately, ghosts appear. He then gets scared and starts worrying that the ghosts will eat him, and they do!

We are constantly under a wishing tree. Our conscious mind, body, emotion, and prana (life force), when aligned together, will grant us our wishes, whether they are successful in profession, academics, or relationships. However, for most of us, these forces conflict with each other. We hamper our own progress by placing obstacles of self-doubt, false comparison, and blaming others. Frequently, we hear someone say, “But I am only a human.” This is an extremely tragic misconception that the highest life form is used as an epitome of weakness. As a human, we can achieve what we truly want. But what do we want?

People who were begging the tree for boons now want to cut the tree and burn it to the ground. Everybody blames the tree. Nobody realizes that all their misery is due to their own desire and fear.

In a small village, there is a young boy who cannot walk. He watches other kids play, and since he cannot join them, he holds their stuff, brings them water, and feels joy simply from being part of the group. One day, he hears of the wishing tree and decides to ask it to cure his legs. He reaches the tree and instead of going directly to the tree, waits and watches from a small distance.

First, a group of children comes to the tree and asks for candy and toys. The tree showers them with lots of delicious candy and fun toys. However, gobbling the candy gives them a tummy ache, and they get bored with the toys. The kids come back and ungratefully throw the remaining candy at the tree. An old man then comes to ask for a beautiful young bride. After a few weeks, the man gets tired from being suspicious that his young wife may be more interested in the younger neighbor than him. Other men come to the tree and ask for fame, fortune, and power. Fame is followed by jealousy, fortune is followed by greed, and power is followed by enemies. If asking for freedom, the risk of getting lost is inherent.

In a short amount of time, people who were previously begging the tree for boons now want to cut the tree and burn it to the ground. Everybody blames the tree. Nobody realizes that all their misery is due to their own desire and fear. The quest to satisfy a desire is like throwing gasoline to extinguish a fire. Similarly, fear results in suspicion, cowering for safety, and the inability to advance due to a fear of failure. The boy then realizes that the only way to make the tree work is to wish for somebody else’s benefit. He walks away smiling without asking anything for himself, satisfied with the knowledge.

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The joy of enabling someone else to become happy is the true satisfier of desires and overcomer of fears. This is the secret of the Kalpataru.

When a human aligns all mind, body, emotion, and prana (life force) for the betterment of others, all their own wishes get elevated beyond the base desires and eventually become true. The next human you meet today, just smile, and truly wish him well. If you are going to ask, “How are you,” then plan to wait, listen, and care as to how they are really feeling and think about how you can help in any way. When you say goodbye, do truly wish the person the best of everything. Over time, you will not only get your wishes granted by the Kalpataru, but you will become a Kalpataru.


Mandar Pattekar is a radiologist by profession. His service interest is in the basic education of children in underserved urban areas of America as well as improving urban food deserts. He likes to share the universally applicable Hindu Dharma principles with interested people.

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