• Call: (65) 6287 6268

Enjoying the fruits of trees planted by others

Chiu-Nan Lai, Ph.D.

At a farming class organized by Lapis Lazuli Light in the U.S. last summer, Bob Cannard made this profound remark: “Many people tell me they cannot grow fruit trees because they rent their homes. In our society, many people indeed rent their houses. They may move every few years, so they feel that if they plant fruit trees, they do not get to taste the fruits of their effort. However, think of it another way: if every tenant of a house grows fruit trees in his backyard, then he will enjoy fruits even if he moves to another home later. In our modern society, this narrow perspective is the sickness of our cultural ailments.” Bob elaborated further: “I am also renting this farm to grow vegetables and fruit trees, and I’ve been here over twenty years. One day, I too will leave this land. I can’t bring these fruit trees with me, but I can bring along my experiences to another piece of land. If I hadn’t originally grown fruit trees merely because the farm land was rented, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy so many fruits now!”

A friend living on the U.S. east coast was preparing to sell her house, and engaged a contractor to repair the floor. This friend is particular about using non-toxic materials, and, this time, she also asked the contractor to look for non-toxic glue and paint. Because this involved a lot of time, the contractor was very unwilling to do so, and said: “You are selling your house and not living in it. Why are you so particular about the materials? Other people use cheap materials when they sell their houses.” Carpenters I know also commonly utter the following phrase: “Can’t see it from my house.” It means that when you are building a house for someone else, you can be a little sloppy because you will not live in it.

In our daily life, what we wear, eat, live in, and use are all dependent on others. If we want to raise the quality of our lives, and improve what we wear, eat, live in, and use, we need to change our perspective of life. Our teachers in school teach us this motto: “All for one, one for all”. If we can actualize this motto when we grow up, the earth can be transformed into a paradise. Not only will our living conditions be improved, but so will our lives.

Here’s another true story. Walter Russell was an American genius. Born in 1871 in Boston, he made significant contributions to the arts, music, philosophy, and science. He was twice invited to the White House by the first President Roosevelt to draw portraits of the President’s family. He also made a bust portrait of the second President Roosevelt.

Walter started working to support himself when he was ten years old. At the age of thirteen, he entered the art school, supporting himself on a part-time job. One summer, he was working as a bellboy in a hotel. He was very special in that he enthusiastically served the guests, but never accepted a tip or gratuity. In fact, he would wake up at 5 a.m. to get fresh milk for an infant staying in the hotel. At that time, his salary was only US$6 per month, and income from tips generally could be as high as US$100 over the entire summer. The first time a guest offered him a tip, Walter extended his hand to receive it, but then retracted it. This was because an inner voice told him that he should not take it. He murmured hesitantly: “I am already drawing a salary, and shouldn’t receive a tip.” He then hid in his room to reflect on his feelings just experienced. He had a sudden inspiration: “I want to be the one and only bellboy in the world who doesn’t accept a tip, and who offers the best customer service.”

After that, Walter joyfully and wholehearted served every guest. All the guests were pleasantly surprised by such a spirited bellboy who offered such good services, and yet refused to accept any tip. They invited him to attend their dinner functions and cruises, but the hotel manager told them that this was against hotel regulations because hotel employees are not allowed to socialize with their guests. In response, these guests made it clear that if an exception was not made for him, they would stop patronizing the hotel. So he had a wonderful summer.

Walter paint in his spare time. The hotel guests were very interested in his paintings so much so that during the entire summer, he made US$850 from selling his paintings even though he didn’t receive any tips. In addition, five wealthy families wanted to adopt him as a godson. After Walter’s work became famous, these guests also introduced many people to purchase his paintings. Later, he also attended the wedding of that infant who had, many years ago, needed fresh milk at dawn. Walter deeply felt that the universe’s laws are fair: when we give it all we’ve got, we will naturally get our rewards, so all of us should joyfully do our jobs well. He realized the universal law that we will get back what we offer. Being overly greedy will lead to losses in other areas. Joy is the manifestation of a heart in balance and equanimity, and genius comes from inner joy. A person immersed in joy does not feel tired, nor will his body create toxins.

If what we can give more than expected, our lives will naturally be successful. Walter’s wonderful life story illustrates this universal truth. If we can all internalize and apply this work attitude during this period of economic recession, we would surely see a change for the better. Dr. Mitchell May (featured in the October-December 2003 issue of the Lapis Lazuli Light newsletter), who is himself a living medical miracle, also discovered that the universe transcends three-dimensional space and time. He found that to overcome difficulties within one’s body, life, and finances, one needs to transcend narrow restrictive thinking and living conditions. Faith or trust is one key factor to transcending three-dimensional constraints.

Walter’s creative genius originates from beyond time and space. When he had to do his first-ever life portrait bust (of Edison), he had never received any training or instruction in this area. During the flight to see Edison, he entered into deep meditation that transcended time and space. When he arrived before Edison, he had already acquired the skill to do the sculpture.

In his younger days, Walter also used a similar method to transcend challenges in his life. When he was fifteen, he was drawing a weekly pay of US$12. His girlfriend wanted him to bring her to attend opera performance that was coming to town, and he readily said yes, thinking that it was just for one show. He didn’t realize that she wanted to attend every show of the series, costing a princely US$79.60. He said it was impossible to do so, and she retorted “You are the last person in the world that I would ever expect to hear say that word” Walter reflected, and thought that she was right. On the night before the ticket sales, he lined up behind a long queue, with only US$6 in his pocket. However, he believed that by the time he reached the ticket counter, he would have enough money to buy the entire series of shows. The next morning, a man behind the queue asked him: “Do you want to earn five dollars?” Walter said: “Of course.” The man said: “Only if you can offer your place to me so that I can get to work by 9 a.m.” Walter had instinctive thought: “I have a better idea. Give me the money, and I’ll deliver the ticket to your office.” Walter recorded the man’s address in his notebook. Shortly after, other people also sought his help. By the time he reached the ticket counter, he not only had enough money to purchase the entire series of shows, but he had also earned US$110, an amount that was enough to civer his school fees over the next few months. The strange thing was that none of the people who entrusted him to purchase the tickets had asked for his name or address. When he completely trusted on the forces of the universe, it also enabled others around him to trust him.

Because people do not believe in the generosity and fairness of the universe, they engage in unbounded greed. Regardless of whether the targets of this greed are the resources of nature or of the commercial world, excessive greed inevitably leads to poverty and damage. During Bob Cannard’s farming class, he continually emphasized that nature is generous, but we must repay what we get in order for these resources to keep coming. Twenty years ago when he first started farming on this ecologically-damaged turkey farm, all the plants and vegetables needed his daily attentive care to supply liquid fertilizers. After the land had recovered, he could leave it unattended for two weeks, and the plants and vegetables would still grow very well. Long ago, Bob’s farm was originally a place where spring water gushed out everywhere. However, a hundred years of deforestation and damage by cattle grazing led to the hardening of the land around the mouth of the spring water. Furthermore, the water level sank, causing the spring water to dry up. After Bob took over the farm, he used rocks and wood to slow down the flow of creek water. He also used twigs and branches to cover the hardened land around the spring water’s mouth so that the land will soften. After a short four years, the spring water came back again.

From these examples drawn from nature, we can see that when we naturally pay back to nature what we have received, nature will offer its unabated generosity manifested in our daily lives, work, businesses, and interpersonal relationships. Believe in the universe’s generosity and its fairness. Be concerned only in cultivating and planting virtuous seeds, and ask not about the rewards. In this way, we can be sure to create a wonderful world filled with joy.

Extracted from Lapis Lazuli Light Magazine 2003 Nov Issue
Translated by Lapis Lazuli Light Singapore