THE SPIRIT THAT LIVED IN A TREE
AND it came to pass that the Buddha was re-born as a
Tree-Spirit. Now there reigned (at Benares) at that time
a King who said to himself: "All over India, the kings live
in palaces supported by many a column.
I will build me a palace resting on one column
only—then shall I in truth be the chiefest of all kings."
Now in the King's Park was a lordly Sal tree, straight and well
grown, worshiped by village and town, and to this tree even the
Royal Family also paid tribute, worship, and honor. And then
suddenly there came an order from the King that the tree should
be cut down.
And the people were sore dismayed, but the woodmen, who dared
not disobey the orders of the King, came to the Park with hands
full of perfumed garlands, and encircling the tree with a
string, fastened to it a nosegay of flowers, and kindling a
lamp, they did worship, exclaiming: "O Tree! on the seventh
day must we cut thee down, for so hath the King commanded.
Now let the Deities who dwell within thee go elsewhither,
and since we are only obeying the King’s command, let no
blame fall upon us, and no harm come to our children because
And the Spirit who lived in the tree, hearing these words,
reflected within himself and said: "These builders are
determined to cut down this tree, and to destroy my place
of dwelling. Now my life lasts only as long as this tree.
And lo! all the young Sal trees that stand around, where
dwell the Deities my kinsfolk—and they are many—will
be destroyed! My own destruction does not touch me so near
as the destruction of my children: therefore must I protect
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 the sight of him,
the King, overcome with terror, said: "Who art thou,
standing high in the air, and why do thy tears flow?"
And the Tree-God made answer: "Within thy realm I am
known as the Lucky-Tree. For sixty thousand years have
I stood, and all have worshiped me, and though they have
built many a house, and many a town, no violence has been
done to me. Spare thou me, also, O King."
Then the King made answer and said: "Never have I seen so
mighty a trunk, so thick and strong a tree; but I will
build me a palace, and thou shalt be the only column on
which it shall rest, and thou shalt dwell there for ever."
And the Tree said: "Since thou art resolved to tear my
body from me, I pray thee cut me down gently, one branch after
another—the root last of all."
And the King said: "O Woodland Tree! what is this thou
askest of me? It were a painful death to die. One stroke
at the root would fell thee to the ground. Why wouldst
thou die piecemeal?"
And the Tree made answer: "O King! My children, the young
Sal trees, all grow at my feet: they are prosperous and
well sheltered. If I should fall with one mighty crash,
behold these young children of the forest would perish also!"
And the King was greatly moved by this spirit of sacrifice,
and said: "O great and glorious Tree! I set thee free
from thy fear, and because thou wouldst willingly die
to save thy kindred, thou shalt not be cut down. Return
to thy home in the Ancient Forest."
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