27. The King And The Tree Spirit
From the time he was thirty-five years old, Buddha gave his teachings toeveryone who was interested. For the next forty-five years he travelledaround India bringing people peace of mind. Sometimes when he wanted toteach people about love and kindness, he would tell them stories that wouldcatch their imagination. Here is one of those stories he told.
A long, long time ago there lived a proud King. He wanted to build a verylarge palace for himself, so he told his ministers, "Go out into the forestand find the tallest tree there. This I shall use for my palace."
Deep in the forest the ministers found such a tree. It was magnificentand stood surrounded by many other smaller trees. That night they reportedback to the King and announced, "You Majesty, we have found just what youwanted. Tomorrow we shall return to the woods and chop it down."
The King was very happy and went to sleep. That night he had a very strangedream. He dreamt that a spirit, which lived in that great tree, appearedbefore him. "O King," it said, "please do not cut down the home in whichI live. If you do so, each cut will hurt me very much and I shall die."
But the King answered, "Yours is the finest tree in all the forest. I mustuse it for my palace."
The spirit pleaded, but the King was very stubborn and insisted the treewould be cut down. Finally the tree spirit said to him, "Alright, you maycut it down. But please do it like this. Do not cut it down from the bottom,as people usually do. Instead, have your men climb to the top of the treeand cut it down little by little. First have them cut off one piece, thenanother, until they have cut down the whole tree."
The King was very surprised by this and said, "But if I have my men doas you say and through your tree many times, it will cause you much morepain than if they cut it down just once from the bottom."
The spirit answered, "Yes, this is true. But it is better for the othercreatures in the forest if you do as I suggest. You see, my tree is verylarge. If it falls down in one big piece, it will crash into the othersmaller trees around it and kill many small animals. Many birds and insectswill lose their homes and many smaller trees will be destroyed. But ifyou cut it down piece by piece, it will not do so much damage."
Then the King awoke. He thought, "That spirit would have let itself becut a hundred times so that the small animals of the forest would not suffer.How brave and kind it is! And how selfish of me to want to cut that treedown for my own pleasure and pride. Instead, of cutting it down, I shouldhonour it! This dream has taught me that I should also be kind and gentleto everyone."