Self-Acceptance - A Jodo Shinshu Parable (Based on Tannisho, IX)
This story can be used for both adults and children. I have used it three times in church services. The younger children are fascinated by a tree that refuses to grow and the older ones going through their teenage years find it a cause for reflection.

Once, there was a giant oak tree. It stood in the middle of a park so it had never felt the touch of axe or saw. It grew to full size with great out-stretched branches, larger than most trees. Many animals and birds made their homes in the tree. They ate the acorns that dropped onto the grass beneath. What fun it was for the to romp in the piles of colourful autumn leaves. Some of the acorns eventually grew into trees as well.

The neighbours who lived near the park planted the acorns in their own yards because they admired the oak tree so much.

One of the most promising of the acorns in the park resisted growing into an oak tree. It had overheard stories of the massive felling of trees and of lightening. so, it lay passive in the soil of the park for two whole winters. The acorn said, “I’m now planted in the earth, but I refuse to grow. I intend to stay an acorn forever.”

Even a park attendant’s kindly attentions, the rain, and the sun did cause the acorn to sprout.

Soon, in the third year, a small green sprout poked up through the grass. The green shoot said, “So now, I’m growing. But I will not grow any higher than two meters”

But, again, the park attendant's kindly attentions, the rain and the sun did their work and the shoot grew more than two meters in height.

The shoot had become a young sapling. The sapling said, “Ok, so now I’m a small tree, but I will not put on leaves.”

The park attendant came every day to attend to the tree. He bound it against the wind and pruned its branches when needed.

Again the seasons passed, buds appeared and then leaves. The leaves were full and beautiful. The oak tree said, “ So now I have leaves. But, I will not allow them to change colors in the autumn and fall to the ground like other trees. I refuse to let it happen.”

Still the park attendant came and fertilized the tree He watered it in the dry seasons and even put up a birdhouse. He noticed that small acorns were developing on the branches.

The seasons changed so that autumn came to the park. The leaves did change in to wonderful purple, brown, red and yellow. The tree was a beautiful sight for all to behold.

Then there was a great windstorm. It came icy and sharp from the North. The park attendant went to see the oak after the storm. Some of the great branches were broken and sagging. He cut away the broken branches and gave the tree some tree medicine.

After the storm the leaves fell in big piles around the tree trunk. Children came to play in the leaves. The park attendant roasted some of the acorns for the children. A few of the acorns nestled deep in the grass. They would later become future trees themselves.

Animals of all kinds came to make their homes in the spreading branches. Squirrels and birds made winter nests. Spiders and insects found places to hide from the winter cold. One day it was bitter cold. The park attendant came to prop the branches up against the weight of the ice. He piled leavers up against the trunk and placed a wire grate around the trunk to protect it.

As the park attendant was working patiently he happened to turn his face up towards the tree. The oak looked down into a face that was full and round, the face of a Buddha. In spite of the winter cold, the face had a slight glow about it. This was the light of acceptance and deep wisdom. Looking into that face gave the oak tree an inner peace it had never known before. For the first time in its life the oak tree understood the deep mystery of simply being an oak tree.

May 23, 2002

READ MORE OF SENSEI ULRICH'S DHARMA TALKS..