Inspirations behind the Billion Trees and Beyond - "Banashankarigondu Bana" - A day dream in year 2014

Photo Meaning: There are troubles and dark times ahead. Lighting a lamp is a hope for the breakthrough towards avoiding or weathering them.  The lamp one lights is a hope for the individual.  But, when the millions light the lamp together, the darkness and the troubles could vanish easily. 

A bit of right action is more powerful than lighting a lamp. Planting a tree is one such action, every individual on this planet deserves to do. Once one learns to plant one tree, it is not difficult to repeat it even thousands of time, as it is quite easy.  So, like lighting a lamp, let us plant a tree, and repeat it so many times towards inspiring the millions out there to do the same. Let the spirit catch up globally around our repeated actions with faith, passion, love and determination!


Disclaimer: This article is not religious in nature though it may refer to such elements. Also, this note has multiple points, not just one, so it is bit long and begs your patience to go through the details.

Goddess Devi or Durga is an important icon of Bengaluru, Annamma Devi and BanaShankari are two main such avatars, but there are more like Gangamma, Plaegamma, RajaRajeshwari, Bhuvaneshwari etc. etc.

Godess Devi is the most sacred symbol of feminine and nature. BanaShankari or Vanashankari or VanaDurge very specifically represent the jungle, the forest, an important element of balance on this earth. There is another acronym called Shakambari, which literally represents vegetables and plants (can be a Goddess of OTGians).

Please refer to this link for more details around the in-depth meanings of Banashankari.

Deeper meanings of Banashankari

Banashankari temple in South Bengaluru is the source of the name Banashankari for our localities, and there are many stages formed around this name. I live at Banashankari 3rd stage.  Bengaluru Banashankari temple was formed in the last century, and originated from the similar bigger temple in Badami, Karnataka. One will find scores of Banashankari temples all over India, as people were quite sane to equate the sanctum sanctorum of nature, the forests with the ultimate feminine, the Devi.

This blog narrates the story of my own inspirations around the theme of Banashankari (as it is easier for me to relate to the divine through nature), and a powerful day dream I was granted as a grace in year 2014. With my corporate professional background, I narrated this day dream as a project plan with specific details, but at the end of the day, though my plans were powerful enough to turn the day dream into a well articulated dream, my being was not ready to even embrace it as my personal dream. So, the day dream went into storage as neither I was ready to embrace it fully nor I was capable of selling it to be some one else's dream (though the write up has the pitch for the same, thanks to my consulting mindset prevalent then!).

But, day dreams have a role to play, after the genesis in our being, they play their havoc, influencing a slow and steady transformation towards realization, not necessarily at par with the original day dream, but a lot coming from it.

A day dream acts as a source of spirit that guides the heart, mind and body during this transformation. I recognized this aspect, so continued to honor the spirit behind this day dream. In fact, I also made a presentation as to the wisdom of day dreams one can benefit from.

It is OK to Day Dream!

This day dream was the genesis of my engagements of creating multiple areas-wise OTGs starting from the Basavanagudi OTG. It is nice to see that individuals like Noor Fhathima are spreading that light to many more areas. The launch of "Paint Bengaluru Green and More! (ಬೆ೦ಗಳೂರಿಗೆ ಹಸಿರು ಓಕುಳಿ)" in 2017 was inspired by the success of activism through such OTG groups, especially the Basavanagudi OTG.  I may have to thank at least two dozen dedicated OTGians behind this success, but the main credit goes to the two leaders, Vaijayanthi K M (one who headed Bsavanagudi OTG  earlier) and Anu Chhabra (One who is heading it now).  Their individual success and the group success of many OTGs fueled my spirit ahead!

Things have not gone smooth with the ambitious plans of the project "Paint Bengaluru Green and More", they are bit on hold due to lack of inspirations that could be generated by me to sign up critical mass of online volunteers to do the necessary magic city-wide.  So, I knew that I need to leverage my own inspirations to multiply them city-wide, then my thought was why limit the inspirations to a city, so I chose a global theme, that is how "Billion Trees and Beyond" took shape as a dream in 2018. The credit of genesis of Billion Trees and Beyond goes to the "Paint Bengaluru Green", genesis of which goes to originally to the Basavanagudi OTG and also to many other OTGs that I could interact with.

When I launched Billion Trees and Beyond in Aug 2018, I knew that my original inspirations were from the day dream I had, which I had titled it as "Banashankarigondu Bana" meaning we need to build a jungle that fits the  goddess Banashankari (totally neglected in nature terms), so it starts from Bengaluru, but will spread to the whole world, only then the Devi is fully honored.

It is bit ironic that we have loss of vegetation around the sanctum sanctorum of Banashankari, the Banashankari temple next to the Banshankari bus stand.  Though it is ironic, it is symbolic as to what is going wrong in Bengaluru, or in the world in general. There is nothing wrong in having concrete jungles, but no one said that they have to come at the cost of evergreen jungles, in fact we have all the know how and technologies to build effective evergreen jungles on our concrete structures with no issue to the concrete structures. But, there is a level of bankruptcy in our body, mind, heart and spirit. We need to address this bankruptcy in the first place, hence as a revolt to this bankruptcy, I started the urban evergreen jungle project in 2012 (though I had started the terrace garden in 2010, and have been a gardener since 1998). I also started engaging the OTG movement from 2012, the urban jungle and my involvement in OTG fueled each other, and then I had this day dream in 2014.

I also want to talk about a bit of my background leading to this day dream in 2014.  Relative riches during my initial stint in the US as a software engineer pushed me into Vedanta Society (US version of the Ramakrishna Mutt) in Kansas City. What really attracted me were two things. 1. The society openly embraced that there is only one universal truth, while each religion uses a unique approach to discover it, only through the path of mysticism one can uncover it easily, transcending the confusions of religious doctrine and rituals. Coming from a aesthetic background, this appealed to me as a honest statement, also I discovered that the society was able to draw parallels from different mystic backgrounds of the world towards unification. 2. To make things further interesting, I got to read Swami Vivekananda, who wrote most of his books in his thirties, and I was reading in my thirties, it sounded like one rebel is getting inspirations from the writings of another rebel. But, I never understood why such a rebel was towing a particular line with a religious discipline, I knew it was the influence of Ramakrishna Paramahansa, neither I understood him or his influence on Swamy Vivekananda.  This, now I can relate, as I was approaching the whole thing at the intellectual level, while the intellect of both Swamy Vivekananda and Vedanta Society appealed to me, its influence was pretty much limited to it, one needed something beyond intellect to approach Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, neither I had it or desired to decode it.  So, when my enthusiasm and progress culminated in a formal invite to become a friend of the society, I declined as I knew there is a gap here though I could not make out what it is.

There is a particular incident during these days that caught my attention. We had many non-Indian persons coming to the society which included people from all races, but the white American pretty ladies drew my attention, not for their color or prettiness alone, there was an extra shining around their true devotion. Some of these ladies, aged anywhere between 40-70 years took a pilgrimage to India, then they returned and gave a briefing around their experiences.  All of them were clad in white sarees, they were wearing the Bindi that day, and they were sitting and narrating in turns their once in life time kind of India experience with all passion and gratitude. I was totally bowled by their presence, the energies around them that day was like a Devi, so this was my Devi encounter for the first time.

In my second visit to the US during 1999-2002, I learned that there is more to intellect, but I understood it more as a concept, could not master the rest, though I made significant progress in the realm of heart. I did get some glimpse of such possibilities briefly through my Vipasana meditation course in 2002, built on the wisdom of Buddha, but I was pretty much heading with my intellect as a main theme. Engagements with Landmark Education Forum helped to ease the heart a bit, but the intellect remained a main theme.

Only after I resigned from my corporate career in 2008, I took it as a challenge to master the heart completely, so I took the path of volunteer work for two years in different contexts, the pilgrimage paid off with vivid clarity bestowed through morning dreams on the first day of 2011, which was to engage with all four realms fully, body, mind, heart and spirit.  Such a journey allowed me to implement the spirit of such clarity in my personal life ahead. I had an opportunity to experience total surrender in the presence of a mystic and around all ladies, in a workshop I was conducting for ladies at home. This surrender helped me to experience the realm of heart fully pointing me towards new possibilities beyond the gate towards spirit realm. I somehow felt that my journey in spirit needs to be driven beyond me, so I dint pursue much though I met many folks who were playing with spirit, just out of curiosity and surrender, what I gained was a sense of completion within me, at the end of 2014.

In 2014, I decided that I need to complete this journey with a sense of union with God, and I chose Devi as the ultimate icon for the same, it also made sense as I could relate Devi as nature and vice versa. I was anyway fully engaged with nature by then, the urban ever green jungle was almost at its peak. I was living in a jungle, was filled with the heart and spirit of Devi, and no wonder this day dream materialized though I was also dabbling with returning to the corporate life through entrepreneurial path.  But, within an year, there was a kind of confirmation that I need to go down further towards the common people and street, and my journey even today is to imbibe more common sense and compassion against the very past background of mine wrt. intellectualism, aristocracy, esoterism and irresponsible materialism/ consumerism. My struggles in this regard remain, but I have gained significantly on common sense and suppling my ego further in the last three years.  I believe, the movements like Paint Bengaluru Green and Billion Trees and Beyond will culminate my personal journey on this earth, hopefully with more maturity and contributions, before its my time to leave the body here.  But, I do have a sense of full satisfaction, meaning I will bring my ego and intellect to my personal aspect of these journies alone, but it is the spirit of others and the rest of the nature, that will dictate the journey ahead. In that sense, now I am in surrender to the spirit too, let the spirit guide, while I dedicate my being and expression in its honor, if not in its service!

That is how, the Billion Trees and Beyond is in the hands of those who think it belongs to them too!

When I documented the day dream, I was full with corporate thinking, hence there is a statement of confidentiality, but I have grown to become a bigger idiot since then. For me, an idiot means one who does not think too much of self, is child like with all energy, enthusiasm, curiosity, passion and benevolence, most importantly playfulness. This day dream does not put me as an idiot I am today, please bear with that disconnect. Now, I want to grow to become a perfect idiot and want to move with more such ones, though I will honor everyone, love everyone, as it is easy for me being an idiot.

Please look at this day dream from the inspiration angle for this context. You may learn something also, whether it is needed or not!  Thank you for your time!  Now, I am relaxed as I do not see myself  responsible for all these dreams to happen, my job is to create a ripple, and I am doing it. , the spirit will find a way to make it happen, beyond what is dreamed here, if it is necessary, and in right time, engaging right people. The question is, are you one of such right persons, answer likely is yes, if you had patience to read up to this point.


Nataraja Upadhya


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