The king’s carpenter asks if one of the trees wants to become a table

1001 Tales told by the Master

“Now this is a totally different approach… There is no fight between the man and the tree, there is a friendship. This is absurd for a Western mind,” states Osho.


Once a scientist was staying with me. I love my garden to be a jungle, so I had a beautiful jungle around my house. The scientist said to me, ‘Are you aware of what you are doing? If you allow these trees to grow so close to the house they will run over the house. These are dangerous things. There is a constant fight between man and trees. If you don’t keep them away, within years their roots will enter into your walls and they will destroy your house.’ He said, ‘I hate trees.’

That has been the attitude of man: destroy. If you take that attitude then everything becomes inimical – even poor trees, innocent trees. And there is some fact to it, so you can base your reasoning on it. Yes, it is true that if trees are left to grow completely in freedom, then they will run over your towns and your houses. That’s true, it is factual. But to base your whole life on that small fact and make it a philosophy, is wrong.

The other thing is as much a fact as this – we exist with the trees. Destroy all the trees and you will die. You breathe oxygen in, trees exhale oxygen. You exhale carbon dioxide, trees inhale carbon dioxide. So when you are surrounded by trees you are more alive. It is not just poetry. ‘When you go into a jungle and a great jubilation comes to your heart, you suddenly feel more alive – as if the greenery makes you also green.’ It is not just poetry, it is pure science. It is because there is more oxygen, more life throbbing all around, more vitality. And when you breathe that oxygen in, your blood is purified; you can throw the toxins out more easily and you live at the maximum.

So there is a partnership with the trees: they take your poison in and purify it and create oxygen for you; you take oxygen in, you use the oxygen and throw the carbon dioxide outside. Trees use carbon dioxide as their food. So there is an absolute partnership. Man cannot live without trees and trees cannot live without man.

Animals are needed for trees and trees are needed for animals. They are not separate; they are part of one rhythm. This too is a fact. And life should not avoid this. One has to understand the totality of it; and one has to live in such a way that no one fact becomes, or pretends to become, the whole. There is no need to destroy. There is no need to fight. That is the approach of Tao, the approach of Sufism, Zen.

There is a famous Zen story….

A king told his old carpenter that he would like a certain table. The old man said, ‘I am very old and my son is yet not ready. He is learning by and by. But I will try, I will do my best. Give me time.’

For three days the old man disappeared in the forest. After three days he came back.

The king asked, ‘It takes three days to bring a little wood for the table?’

The old carpenter said, ‘Sometimes it takes three days, sometimes three months. And sometimes you may not find wood for three years. It is a difficult art.’

The king was puzzled. He said, ‘Explain it. ‘What do you mean? Explain in detail.’

And the man said, ’First I have to go on a fast – because only when I am on a fast does my mind, by and by, slow down. When my mind slows down, all thoughts disappear, all aggression disappears. Then I am no longer violent, then there is pure compassion and love – a different vibe.

‘When I feel that vibe of no-mind, then I go into the forest, because only through that vibe can I find the right tree. With aggression, how can you find the right tree? And I have to ask the trees themselves whether one of them is willing to become a table. I go, I look around, and when I feel that this tree is willing….

‘That willingness can be felt only when I have no mind. So there is fasting, meditating – and when I become absolutely empty, I simply roam around with the trees to have a feel. ‘When I feel that this tree fits, I sit by its side and ask its permission – “I am going to cut a branch from you. Are you willing?” If the tree says yes wholeheartedly only then do I cut – otherwise who am I to cut its branch?’

Now this is a totally different approach. There is no fight between the man and the tree, there is a friendship. The man tries to fall en rapport with the trees, and he asks their permission. This is absurd for a Western mind. The Western mind says, ‘What nonsense are you talking about? Asking a tree? Have you gone crazy? And how can the tree say yes or no?’ But now even Western science is gradually becoming aware that the tree can say yes or no. Now sophisticated instruments exist which can detect the moods of a tree – whether the tree is willing, whether the tree is unwilling, whether the tree is happy or unhappy? Now subtle instruments have been developed – just like a cardiogram. You can have a cardiogram of the tree. Electronic instruments can detect the moods of the tree.

When a woodcutter comes around the tree the tree is shaken with fear, is sad, is afraid, clings to her life. No Taoist will cut a tree in that state, no, not at all. If the tree is not willing, then who are we? When the tree on its own is ready to share, then only can it be cut.

Now this table will have a different quality to it. It has been a gift from the tree; it has not been taken away. The tree has not been robbed, it has not been conquered. It will not be difficult to understand that this table will have a different vibe to it. It will have something sacred about it. If you put this table in your room you will create a certain kind of space around the table which will not be possible with other tables. It will be there befriending you because you befriended it. It will be there as part of your family, not as a limb cut from an enemy.

The Western mind has been too aggressive against itself and against nature. It has created schizophrenia against people, it has created politics, war, and it has created the ecological crisis.

But things have gone now to the extreme. Either man has to turn back and drop the Western aggressive attitude or man has to get ready to say goodbye to this planet. This planet cannot tolerate man any more; it has already tolerated him for long enough.

Osho, Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol 2, Ch 4, Q 1 (excerpt)

Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

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