The Bodhisatta was once a king. He was righteous, generous, and beloved by all his subjects. But it irritated him that worthless, greedy people received his alms, so he wanted to make a huge donation to some private Buddhas (those who reach enlightenment on their own and do not teach the path to others). Following his wise queen’s advice, the king ordered everyone in the city to keep the precepts, and he took a gold box full of jasmine flowers to the palace’s courtyard. He got down on the ground and threw seven handfuls of flowers in each direction, inviting private Buddhas to come. The flowers magically traveled to the Himalayas and fell on five hundred private Buddhas living in Nandamula Cave. Seven of them flew through the air to the palace, where the king and queen gave them great honor and grand gifts for a whole week. When it was time to leave, each expressed their gratitude by speaking about the importance of charity before flying back to their mountain home.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One time King Pasenadi, a righteous ruler and devoted supporter of the Buddha, gave him alms and invited the city’s citizens to watch. The next day, the people arranged to give even more alms to the Buddha, and they invited the king to watch. Not wanting to be outdone, the king made another alms offering, and then again the people gave one larger than the last. Six times the people bested the king, but then Queen Mallika, his exceptionally wise chief queen, took charge of creating an almsgiving that the people could not surpass. She arranged for five hundred disciples to sit in a wooden pavilion with golden boats in the center. Five hundred elephants held white parasols over each disciple, and high-caste girls waved fans and spread fragrance. The king gave the Buddha everything in his alms hall plus four priceless objects: a white parasol on a jeweled stand, a couch, a stool, and a footstool.
The day after King Pasenadi and Queen Mallika presented what became known as the incomparable gift,1The story of the incomparable giving is referenced in three Jatakas, but it is not told in any of them. I have added the details to make this Jataka’s story complete. The full story of the incomparable giving can be read here. the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing it, and he told them this story so they knew that, in the past, he himself had also given an incredible gift after having thought carefully about almsgiving.
The Bodhisatta’s queen was an earlier birth of the Buddha’s wife.