The King and the Spirit Tree
From the time he was thirty five years old, Buddha gave his teachings to everyone who was interested. For the next forty five years he traveled around India bringing people peace about love and kindness, he would tell them stories that would catch their imagination. Here is one of those of stories he told.
A long, long time ago there lived a proud King. He wanted to build a very large palace for himself, so he told his ministers, "Go out into the forest and find the tallest tree there. This I shall use for my palace.
Deep in the forest the ministers found such a tree. It was magnificent and stood surrounded by many other smaller trees. That night they reported back to the King and announced, "your Majesty, we have found just what you wanted. 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 strange dream. He dreamt that a spirit, which lived in the great tree, appeared before him. "Oh, King!" it said, "please do not cut down the home in which I 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 must use it for my palace." The spirits pleaded, but the King was very stubborn and insisted the tree would be cut down. Finally the tree spirit said to him, "Alright, you may cut 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 tree and cut it down little by little. First have them cut off one piece, then another, until they have cut down the whole tree."
The King was very surprised by this and said, "But if I have my men do as you say and cut through your tree many times, it will cause you much more pain than if they cut it down just once from the bottom."
The spirit answered, "yes, this is true. But it is better for the other creatures in the forest if you do as I suggest. You see, my tree is very large. If it falls down in one big piece, it will crash into the other smaller trees around it and kill many small animals. Many birds and insects will lose their homes and many smaller trees will be destroyed. But if you 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 be cut 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 tree down for my own pleasure and pride. Instead, of cutting it down, I should honor it ! This dream has taught me that I should also be kind and gentle to everyone."
And so the King went to the forest the next day and decorated the tree. And he was a kind and just ruler from that day onwards.