A few months before Śrīla Prabhupāda’s first visit to ISKCON Dallas, a strong windstorm hit the area, felling trees. A tall, valuable shade tree in the courtyard of the temple also fell over and remained leaning against an adjoining building, the children’s prasādam hall. The tree still had its roots in the ground, but its heavy weight, with dangling branches, now lay in a sharp angle right across the walkway, leaving barely enough room to walk under it. Satsvarūpa dāsa, the temple president, took no immediate action, but different devotees approached him and said that the tree had to be removed right away or it might cause collapse of the building it was leaning against. Satsvarūpa agreed, and one of the devotees climbed the tall tree with a power saw and gradually dismantled the upper branches and trunk, until nothing remained but the lower ten feet of tilted trunk.
And thus the tree appeared when Śrīla Prabhupāda came there in September 1972. As soon as he walked into the courtyard, accompanied by temple leaders and trailed by the whole assembly of gurukula children and teachers, Prabhupāda saw the remains of the big tree, and his face expressed trouble. He walked off the cement path and went up to the tree, and so did everyone else behind him.
“Who has done this?” he demanded. Prabhupāda’s eyes showed anger and his voice too. Satsvarūpa admitted responsibility and explained the reason the tree had been destroyed. Prabhupāda shook his head angrily. “That was no reason to kill it,” he said. Satsvarūpa tried to explain the dangerous condition and pointed to the dent in the roof of the building. He also said that the fallen tree would probably have soon died.
“No, it is not dead,” Prabhupāda challenged. “Look. There is a green twig growing out of it.”
Prabhupāda walked away, disgusted, and the devotees remained shocked at what they now saw as a brutal, unnecessary act. In his room, Prabhupāda continued to criticize the killing of the tree. He said this was the typical American attitude—when something is wrong, immediately cut it down and destroy it, with no understanding or compassion for the presence of the soul.
Later, feeling repentant, Satsvarūpa asked if he had committed an offense.
“Not offense,” said Śrīla Prabhupāda. “You are ignorant.”
The cutting of trees is generally prohibited. In particular, trees that produce nice fruit for the maintenance of human society should not be cut. In different countries there are different types of fruit trees. In India the mango and jackfruit trees are prominent, and in other places there are mango trees, jackfruit trees, coconut trees and berry trees. Any tree that produces nice fruit for the maintenance of the people should not be cut at all. This is a śāstric injunction.