6. Book of the Sixes
In ancient times when seafaring merchants put to sea in ships, they took with them a bird to sight land. When the ship was out of sight of land, they released the bird; and it flew eastward and westward, northward and southward, upward and all around. And if the bird saw no land, it returned to the ship; but if the bird sighted land nearby, it was truly gone.
Once upon a time there was a royal fig tree called Steadfast, belonging to king Koravya, whose five outstretched branches provided a cool and pleasing shade. Its girth extended a hundred miles, and its roots spread out for forty miles. And the fruits of that tree were indeed great: As large as harvest baskets—such were its succulent fruits—and as clear as the honey of bees.
One portion was enjoyed by the king, along with his household of women; one portion was enjoyed by the army; one portion was enjoyed by the people of the town and village; one portion was enjoyed by brahmans and ascetics; and one portion was enjoyed by the beasts and birds. Nobody guarded the fruits of that royal tree, and neither did anyone harm one another for the sake of its fruits.
But then a certain man came along who fed upon as much of Steadfast’s fruits as he wanted, broke off a branch, and wandered on his way. And the deva who dwelled in Steadfast thought to herself: “It is astonishing, it is truly amazing, that such an evil man would dare to feed upon as much of Steadfast’s fruits as he wants, break off a branch, and then wander on his way! Now, what if Steadfast were in the future to bear no more fruit?” And so the royal fig tree Steadfast bore no more fruit.
So then king Koravya went up to where Sakka, chief among the gods, was dwelling, and having approached said this: “Surely you must know, sire, that Steadfast, the royal fig tree, no longer bears fruit?” And then Sakka created a magical creation of such a form that a mighty wind and rain came down and toppled the royal fig tree Steadfast, uprooting it entirely. And then the deva who dwelled in Steadfast grieved, lamented, and stood weeping on one side with a face full of tears.
And then Sakka, chief among the gods, went up to where the deva was standing, and having approached said this: “Why is it, deva, that you grieve and lament and stand on one side with a face full of tears?” “It is because, sire, a mighty wind and rain has come and toppled my abode, uprooting it entirely.”
“And were you, deva, upholding the dhamma of trees when this happened?” “But how is it, sire, that a tree upholds the dhamma of trees?”
“Like this, deva: Root-cutters take the root of the tree; bark-strippers take the bark; leaf-pickers take the leaves; flower-pickers take the flowers; fruit-pickers take the fruits—and none of this is reason enough for a deva to think only of herself or become morose. Thus it is, deva, that a tree upholds the dhamma of trees.”
“Then indeed, sire, I was not upholding the dhamma of trees when the mighty wind and rain came and toppled my abode, uprooting it entirely.” “If it were the case, deva, that you were to uphold the dhamma of trees, it may be that your abode might be as it was before.” “I will indeed, sire, uphold the dhamma of trees! May my abode be as it was before!”
And then Sakka, chief among the gods, created a magical creation of such a form that a mighty wind and rain came down and raised up the royal fig tree Steadfast, and its roots were entirely healed.