"Would you he saved"--This the Teacher told while at Jetavana, about making offerings under a vow to the gods.
At that time, they are told, men about to go on a trading journey used to kill animals, and lay an offering before the gods, and make a vow, saying, "When we have returned in safety and success, we will make an offering to you," and so depart. Then when they returned safe and successful, thinking, "This has happened by the power of the God, they killed animals, and made the offering to release themselves from the vow."
On seeing this, the mendicants asked the Blessed One, "Lord! is there now any advantage in this?" And he told a tale.
"Once upon a time, in the land of Kasi, a landed proprietor in a certain village promised an offering to the Genius of a Banyan-tree standing by the gate of the village. And when he had returned safely, he slew a number of animals; and saying to himself, 'I will make myself free from my vow,' he went to the foot of the tree.
"But the tree-god, standing in a fork of the tree, uttered this stanza:
"'Would you be free, you first must die!
"Thenceforward men refrained from such life-destroying deeds, and living a life of righteousness filled the city of the gods."
The Teacher, having finished this discourse, made the connection, and summed up the Jataka: "I at that time was the Genius of the Tree."