The People Who Saw the Judas Tree

Once on a time Bramadatta, the King of Benares, had four sons.

One day they sent for the charioteer and said to him, “We want to see a Judas tree [butea frondosa]. Show us one!”

“Very well, I will,” the charioteer replied.

But he did not show it to them all together. He took the eldest at once to the forest in the chariot, and showed him the tree at the time when the buds were just sprouting from the stem. To the second he showed it when the leaves were green. To the third at the time of blossoming. And to the fourth when it was bearing fruit.

After this it happened that the four brothers were sitting together and someone asked, “What sort of a tree is the Judas tree?”

Then the first brother answered, “Like a burnt stump!”

And the second cried, “Like a banyan tree!”

And the third, “Like a piece of meat!”

And the fokuth said, “Like the acacia!”

They were vexed at each other’s answers, and ran to find their father. “My Lord,” they asked, “what sort of a tree is the Judas tree?”

“What did you say to that?” he asked.

They told him the manner of their answers.

Said the king, “All four of you have seen the tree. Only when the charioteer showed you the tree, you did not ask him, ‘What is the tree like at such a time, or at such another time?’ You made no distinctions, and that is the reason of your mistake.”

And he repeated the first stanza:

All have seen the Judas tree.
What is your perplexity?
No one asked the charioteer
What its form the livelong year!”