The Flower of Intoxication
I have had a strange relationship with the sampige flower right through my life. It is called “shenbagam” in Tamil. It is a yellowish flower; in some places, it is slightly reddish. It is very fragrant to a point where it will intoxicate you. If you keep a few flowers in the house, you will feel dizzy in the head. It was my mother’s favorite flower; she always made sure to have at least one flower in the home during the season.
Before Vijji and I moved to the ashram, we had been traveling like gypsies for twelve years. When we moved into the house, she took it upon herself to plant a sampige tree. She said, "This was your mother’s favorite flower, this should be the first plant in our house." Six or eight months later, the plant had grown, but there was no flower. But on the morning of Pournami, a flower came up. Vijji said she wanted to pluck it and put it to my mother’s picture. I said, “Don’t bother, let it be in the tree, it is the first flower.” She was all excited that the first flower came on Pournami. It was on that night that she had prepared to leave and she did.
There have been many other incidents for me and this sampige tree. There is a hill called “Biligiri Ranganabetta” in Karnataka, it is known as “BR Hills.” It is one of the most fantastic places in terms of nature and wildlife. I have had a certain relationship with these hills because I cycled up when I was very young. I camped and trekked there; it is absolutely wild - full of elephants, buffalo, tigers and bears. At one point, even Veerappan chose to be there. There is a place in the BR Hills called “Dodda Sampige” which means “big sampige.” The sampige tree is distorted with age, all knotted up and huge. Normally, sampige trees do not last very long, but they say this one is over 6,000 years old, and that Agastya Muni planted it. He sat there 6,000 years ago, meditated and blessed the tree; that is the legend.
Somehow, things happened between me and the sampige tree on many occasions. I have had a little bit of romance with this tree.