Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta ruled as king in benares, and observed the Ten Royal Virtues, he thought to himself: “All over India the kings live in palaces supported by many a column. There is no marvel, then, in a palace supported by many columns; but what if I make a palace with one column only to support it? Then I shall be the chiefest king of all kings!” so he summoned his builders, and told them to build him a magnificent palace supported on one column. “Very good,” said they, and away they went into the forest.
There they beheld many a tree, straight and great, worthy to be the single column of such a palace. “Here are these trees,” said they, “but the road is rough, and we can never transport them; we will go ask the king about it.” When they did so, the king said, “By hook or by crook you must bring them, and that quickly.” But they answered, “Neither by hook nor by crook can the thing be done.” “Then,” said the king, “search for a tree in my park”.
The builders went to the park, and there they espied a lordly sal tree, straight and well grown, worshipt by village and town, and to it the royal family also were wont to pay tribute and worship; and they told the king. Said the king, “In my park ye have found me a tree: good-go and cut it down.” “So be it,” said they, and repaired to the park, with their hands full of perfumed garlands and the like’ then hanging upon it a nosegay of flowers, and kindling a lamp, they did worship, explaining, “On the seventh day from now we shall cut down this tree: it is the king’s command so to cut it down. Let the deities who dwell in this tree go else whither, and no unto us be the blame.:
The god who dwelt in the tree hearing this, thought to himself: “These builders are determined to cut down this tree, and to destroy my place of dwelling. Now my life only lasts as long as this my abiding place. And all the young sal trees that stand around this, where dwell the deities by kinsfolk, and they are many, will be destroyed. My own destruction does not touch me so near as the destruction of my children: therefore I must protect their lives.” Accordingly at the hour of midnight, adorned in divine splendor, he entered into the magnificent chamber of the king, and filling the whole chamber with a bright radiance, stood weeping beside the king’s pillow. At sight of him the king, overcome by terror, uttered the first stanza:
“Who art thou, standing high in air, with heavenly vesture swathed:
On hearing which the king of the gods repeated two stanzas:
“Within thy realm, O King, they know me as the Lucky Tree:
“Though many a town and house they made, and many a king’s dwelling,
Then the king repeated two stanzas:
“But such another mighty trunk I never yet did see,
“A lovely palace I will build, one column for support;
On hearing this the king of the gods repeated two stanzas:
“Since thou art bent to tear my body from me, cut me small,
“Cut first the top, the middle next, then last the root of me:
Then the king repeated two stanzas:
“First hands and feet, then nose and ears, while yet the victim lives,
“O Lucky Tree! O woodland king! What pleasure couldst thou feel,
Then the Lucky Tree answered by repeating two stanzas:
“The reason (and a reason ‘tis full noble) why piecemeal
“My kith and kin all prospering round me well-sheltered grow:
The king, hearing this, was much pleased: “’Tis a worthy god this,” thought he, “he does not wish that his kinsfolk should lose their dwelling-place because he loses his; he acts for his kinsfolk’s good.” And he repeated the remaining stanza:
“O Lucky Tree! O woodland king! Thy thoughts must noble be:Thou wouldst befriend thy kindred, so from fear I set thee free.”
The king of the gods, having discoursed to this king, then departed. And the king being established according his admonition, gave gifts and did other good deeds, till he went to fill the hosts of heaven.
The Master having ended this discourse said: “Thus it is, Bretheren, that the Tathagata acts so as to do good to his kith and kin;” and then he identified the Birth: “At that tie Ananda was the king, the followers of the Buddha were the deities which were embodied in the young saplings of the sal tree, and I was myself Lucky Tree, the king of the gods.”