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The Legend of the New Year Tree

Once upon a time, the devils ruled the earth. Mankind worked days and nights for them but had almost nothing to eat because the devils seized everything, thanks to the rule “the root of the rice plant belongs to the farmers, and the rest belongs to the devil.”

The suffering of the people came to the Buddha’s notice. He told them to grow sweet potatoes for the next crop. Following Buddha’s advice, the farmers grew sweet potatoes and took the potato root; the devils got nothing.

Knowing that they had been fooled, the devils gave a new order: “From the next crop onwards, both roots and grown plants will belong to the devil and the rest to the farmers”.

In the next crop, the Buddha advised the farmers to grow corn and took all the cobs. The devils got nothing one more time. But the devil was outsmarted. They finally made up their mind to take all of the lands back.

Because of the people’s misfortune, the Buddha appeared again and told people to ask the devil to rent his land for gold as a trade-off, just a small lot of land enough for a single bamboo’s shadow. How much the bamboo’s shadow covers, it would be the land of mankind. Tempted with the gold and believing that mankind would just get a very little land, the devil agreed.

When the bamboo had been raised, thanks to the Buddha’s influence as an Enlightened One, the bamboo tree became taller and taller and the shadow bigger and bigger incredibly. At last, there was no more land for the devil, eventually, they were driven out to sea. Since then, people have been free to plant any kind of crop they want.

This is the reason why traditionally, every year when Tet comes, Vietnamese people raise a bamboo tree with a flag pinned on top, named it “Neu’’ in front of their house to remind the evils of man’s right to own the land.

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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