My thoughts on the oak tree in the courtyard

I found an oak tree while looking through the window of self-awareness. I was planning to live in the present moment when through the window of my mind, I saw this picture of a gigantic oak tree planted deep inside my mind decades ago.

This giant tree took me back to that state of mind when I was looking for meaning in my life. I was rejected, denied and contradicted for so many lesser reasons. They say I am not good with words but the reality is that words are just words they can’t fully express your deepest emotions. Attached emotions to words and we are back to fantasy. This is how we lose reality.

The oak tree in the courtyard symbolised many things for it’s strength and longevity. This is a sacred tree which pays attention to whatever is happening in the present moment and experiencing it without judgement and conclusion.

An oak tree is a symbol of biological and spiritual nourishment, spiritual growth and transformation.

When a monk asked Zhaozhou, an extraordinary Zen master, about the living essence of zen. His answer was simply remarkable and full of wisdom. He replied by pointing towards an oak tree there in the garden.

“A monk asked Zhaozhou, “What is the living meaning of Zen?.”

Zhaozhou said, “The oak tree in the courtyard.”

Quote source: Case 37 from the Mumonkan (Wumenguan) Collection of Zen Koans
The Oak Tree in the Courtyard.

Here, I would like to mention that the Oak tree is believed to be connected to the movements of the planet Mars. It is determined that when the plant Mars comes close to the Earth, it’s supposed to stimulate the roots of the oak. It’s rightly said to be the symbol of fertility and spiritual growth.

Coming close to Mars strengthen the secret connection of the oak tree with the forest where it is growing. Similarly, when Mars went far away, it is the Sun that promotes upward growth causing the Oak to be one of the largest, most influential trees of the world.

Photo credits: Pexels

There is another anecdote from the tales of the oak tree in the courtyard which is worth mentioning here.

A monk asked Chao-chou, “Has the oak tree Buddha nature?”

Chao-chou said, “Yes, it has.”

The monk said, “When does the oak tree attain Buddhahood?”

Chao-chou said, “Wait until the great universe collapses.”

The monk said, “When does the universe collapse?”

Chao-chou said, “Wait until the oak tree attains Buddhahood.

Quote source: The Gateless Barrier, The Wu-Men Kuan (Mumonkan),
Translated by Robert Aitken, Case 37

In both of these anecdotes what does an oak tree stands for? Let’s figure it out.

The oak tree in the Zhaozhou’s yard stands tall and nourishes the ground underneath. It is clearly understood that one should sit like an oak tree with it’s branches truly lost in the sky and it’s roots deeply spread into the ground.

Standing under a mighty shade of an oak tree in the courtyard doesn’t represent our deflecting feelings and beliefs. It teaches us how to overcome hardship in our lives. The awareness about a problem is not a problem itself. But obsession over what we cannot change is the real problem.

Listen closely and you will find out that the monk asked a very profound question from his master. He was seeking an answer of what is the meaning of zen and the master carefully teaches him about mindfulness, living in the present moment. The oak tree here represents the entire universe. When the whole universe is the oak tree, there is no beginning or no end.


Also read: The angel oak tree & The oak tree and the myth


Sources: The oak tree in the garden and Koan website.


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