The Bodhisatta was once a king, and he ruled righteously by following the ten royal virtues. The people of his city used to make animal sacrifices to the gods. While he was still the crown prince, the Bodhisatta started a scheme to end the practice. He began joining the crowds who prayed to a tree fairy residing in a holy banyan tree outside the city, offering perfumes and flowers, sprinkling the tree with water, and walking around its trunk. Later, after the Bodhisatta took the throne, he assembled his advisors and told them that while he was still a prince, he had promised the tree fairy that he would make a great offering if he became king. He ordered them to go forth throughout the city and proclaim by the beat of a drum that the king had vowed to give the tree fairy the flesh and blood of one thousand subjects who broke the precepts and lived in sin. From this point forward, all evildoers would be slayed and sacrificed. And as the Bodhisatta had predicted, not a single person was caught doing any bad things, including sacrificing animals.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One day some of the Buddha’s disciples sat around discussing how great the Buddha was: how he kept a simple life, was kind to all (even nagas and garudas), converted many people, and always lived for the benefit of the world. When the Buddha heard their discussion, he told them this story so they knew that he had also acted in the interest of others in the past.
The king’s advisors were earlier births of the Buddha’s disciples.