The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic with many followers. A great drought came to the forest where he lived, so one of his companions cut down a tree, carved out a trough, and filled it with water for suffering wild animals to drink. The need was so great he spent all his hours keeping the trough full and went hungry because he had no time to gather fruit for his meals. The animals noted his sacrifice and agreed that any creature who went to drink from his trough should take some fruit as thanks. Together the animals brought so much food it was more than enough to feed all five hundred ascetics living there. The Bodhisatta held this up to the others as an example of why a person should never waver from doing the right thing; good deeds are rightly rewarded.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The generous ascetic was an earlier birth of one of the Buddha’s disciples who was so diligent about his duties at the monastery that its reputation among lay followers grew and donations increased. When the Buddha heard other disciples discussing this diligent disciple’s greatness, he told them this this story so they knew that through his dedication the disciple had earned honor and donations in the past too.