When the shadow of a tree is bent, straighten the tree not the shadow.
This proverb is asking us to tackle problems from their sources, and not from the surface.
Literarily, if a tree’s shadow looks bent but you want it to be straight, the solution would be to straighten the tree, instead of trying to straighten the shadow. Straightening the tree automatically straightens the shadow. When we try to address problems from the surface (by trying to straighten shadows), we either make no progress at all, or have the problem persistently recur.
Note: This interpretation is our opinion. We encourage you to agree, disagree, or provide an alternate interpretation.