Parable: Looking for the Tree of Immortality

by Paulo Coelho

An 1847 depiction of the Norse Yggdrasil as described in the Icelandic Prose Edda by Oluf Olufsen Bagge (Wikipedia image).

The famous Persian poet Rumi tells us that one day, in a village in the north of what is now Iran, there appeared a man who told marvelous stories about a tree whose fruit made whoever ate of it immortal.

The news soon reached the ears of the king, but before he could ask the exact location of  such a prodigy of nature, the traveler had already departed.

Nonetheless, the king was determined to become immortal, for he wanted to have enough time to turn his kingdom into an example for all the peoples of the world. When he was a young man he had dreamed of making poverty disappear, teaching justice, feeding every single one of his subjects, but soon realized that this was the work of more than one generation. Still, life had given him a chance and he was not going to let it slip through his fingers. He called the bravest man in his court and entrusted him to find the tree.

The man left the following day carrying enough money to obtain information, food and all that was necessary to attain his objective. He traveled through many towns and over plains and mountains, asking questions and offering rewards. The honest people told him that such a tree did not exist; the cynics treated him with ironic respect, and some crooks sent him off to remote places just to get some coins for their information.

After many disappointments, the man decided to give up his search.

Although he admired his sovereign immensely, he would return empty-handed. He realized that this meant he would lose his honor, but he was tired and convinced that such a tree did not exist.

On his way back, on climbing a little hill, he remembered that a wise man lived there, and thought: “I have lost all hope of ever finding what I wanted, but at least I can ask for his blessing and beg him to pray for my destiny.”

On reaching the wise man’s house, he could bear it no more and burst into tears.

“Why are you in such despair, my son?” asked the holy man.

“The king charged me to find a tree that was unique in the world, one whose fruit makes us live for ever. I have always fulfilled my duty with loyalty and courage, but this time I am returning home empty-handed.”

The wise man began to laugh:

“What you are looking for exists, and it is made of the Water of Life that comes from God’s infinite ocean. Your mistake was to try to find a form with a name.

“Sometimes this is called “tree,” other times “sun,” or “cloud,” we can call it anything that exists on the face of the Earth. However, to find this fruit, one must renounce form and seek content.

“Anything that has the presence of the Creation is in itself eternal, nothing can be destroyed. When our heart stops beating, even so our essence transforms into nature around us. We can become trees, raindrops, plants, or even another human being.

“Why dwell on the word ‘tree’ and forget that we are immortal? We are always reborn in our children, in the love that we show to the world, in each and every gesture of generosity and charity that we practice.

“Go back and tell the king that he need not worry about finding a fruit from some magic tree. Each attitude and decision that he makes now will endure for many generations. So ask him to be fair and just to his people, and if he does his work with dedication, no-one will ever forget him. His example will influence the history of his people and stimulate his children and grandchildren always to act in the best possible way.”

And the wise man added:

“All those who look for just a name will always be stuck to appearance without ever discovering the hidden mystery of things and the miracle of life.

“All the fighting that goes on is on account of names: property, jealousy, wealth, immortality. But when we forget the name and look for the reality hiding behind the words, we will have all that we desire – and peace of mind too.”

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Parable reproduced from: Paulo Coelho’s Blog. Mr. Coelho is the author of The Alchemist and The Zahir. In an interview he noted:

Sufism has inspired me a lot throughout my life and I refer to this tradition in some of my books.  Rumi is of course the first figure that springs to mind. His teachings and visions are incredibly subtle and clear. Another figure that I am very fond of is Mulla Nasrudin (aka Nasr Eddin Hodja). I really enjoy how he managed to get to the core of things with such irreverence and simplicity. The path of wisdom too often appear as foolishness to the world.

Please visit  Parables  for more stories including those of Mulla Nasruddin.

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Other Notes:

The Book of One Thousand and One Nights has a story, “The Tale of Buluqiya,” in which the hero searches for immortality and finds a paradise with jewel-encrusted trees. Nearby is a Fountain of Youth guarded by Al-Khidr. Unable to defeat the guard, Buluqiya has to return empty-handed.

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4 thoughts on “Parable: Looking for the Tree of Immortality

  1. Excellent! The selection and publication of parables such as this one is a life-line to me, personally. May you have a healthy and a long life to serve Allah as you do by serving mankind created by Him. Al-Hamdudillah!

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