Kul Bhushan interviews Prem Parivartan for World Environment Day, June 5, 2015.
Twelve million is a humungous number. When this number represents new trees planted all over India, it becomes very significant. This change has been made possible by Parivartan, who is living up to his sannyas name but is more popularly known as Peepal Baba who has been planting trees since the age of ten.
He has planted over 12 million shade trees in the past 39 years and is the founder trustee of Give Me Trees Trust, an environmental charity devoted to planting trees. He considers planting trees as a celebration of life and an essential part of his spiritual journey, inspired by his master, Osho. Following are excerpts from his conversation with Kul Bhushan.
Planting trees is my way of bringing people across the country to listen and understand Osho. It is my meditation camp for those who understand the language of trees. It is an introduction to Osho and his message of connecting us to nisarga or nature.
The start: My romance with Osho started when I was 10 years old. I had the first glimpse of my master in 1977, when I first visited the Pune commune along with some relatives.
A master crafts his disciple in miraculous ways. Osho destroyed a lot of things around me and re-engineered my life. Sannyas changed my gears from within and gave me the strength to take steps to pursue my hobby of planting trees across the country.
Early life: I was born as Azad Jain in 1966 in Chandigarh. My father was serving in the Indian Army as a doctor which meant moving from one military station to another every two years. At a very young age I got to travel a lot and understand my country and the environment around me.
At school: When I was at school in Kirkee Military Station, near Pune, I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Williams who taught us geography. She inspired me to plant trees. In 1977, at the age of 10, I started planting trees and planted my first tree on Range Hills Road at Kirkee Military Station. Today, I am 49 years old and have planted over 12 million trees across the country.
Journalist: I completed my post graduation in English Literature in 1988 and a post graduation program in Mass Communications and Journalism in 1989. For 13 years, I worked with newspapers, media agencies and corporate communications with multinational companies. I left the corporate sector on July 31, 2003 to take to planting trees as a full time work.
Why Peepal? I had been planting Peepal trees in large numbers and gradually came to be popularly known as Peepal Baba. My focus is on planting shade trees instead of ornamental or landscaping trees. Our work is totally managed by volunteers. Our network of friends across the country helps us plant and maintain saplings even in remote corners of India.
Osho Camps: I started conducting Osho Meditation Camps in 2003 for the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir. For nearly four years, I travelled through the state interacting with soldiers and civilians. But it was my work of planting trees in the state that gave me the breakthrough.
People easily connect with trees. It is a secular subject. It does not bring any god or religion into discussion. I started talking of trees and gradually introducing Osho into the lives of thousands of my friends and followers. My camps came to be popularly known as ‘Tree Meditation Camps’.
Environment push: I made Mayur Vihar in Delhi as my base. Here, I established a small plant nursery and started teaching children, college students and families who came visiting about tree planting, environment, soil preservation, waste management, recycling, water harvesting, composting, organic farming through an organization named ‘Osho Paryavaran Paathshala’ (Osho Environment School).
Social media helped me to reach out to more people across the country. Today, I have more than 9,000 people connected with me in the digital world. I have volunteers from remote mountain villages to Dalal Street in Mumbai. We connect with our volunteers through our website.
Osho and Environment: The environment has been a much neglected area of positive action. As an Osho’s disciple, I always felt that if I have to do justice to my master I have to plant trees and get other people to do likewise, for the rest of my life. Whenever I visit Oshodham or Pune Commune, the trees ask me if I am doing what I should be doing. They talk to me and after some rest at these meditation facilities I return to enrol more and more nature lovers to plant along with me.
Positive action: It is high time for Osho’s disciples to take charge of positive social action. We have to bring Osho into the lives of people with positive action like a tree planting movement across the country and the message to reconnect with our roots by serving nature.
Article by Kul Bhushan
Related discourse excerpt by Osho
The Peepal Tree and the Third Eye