The Bodhisatta was once a royal treasurer. He was close friends with a treasurer from another kingdom, named Piliya, and both were very wealthy. When Piliya met with misfortune and lost everything, he was forced to beg. He traveled to the Bodhisatta’s home and when he heard of his friend’s terrible situation, the Bodhisatta gave Piliya half of his fortune: money, property, livestock, and slaves. Soon after, the Bodhisatta suffered the same ruin and went to seek help from Piliya, but he only gave the Bodhisatta a bit of rice bran and then told him to leave and never return. This led the Bodhisatta’s wife to tears.
One of the Bodhisatta’s former slaves, who had been given to Piliya, saw his former masters and fell at their feet asking what had happened. Hearing their story, he took them to his home and prepared meals and baths. He informed the other former slaves what had happened and they all marched to the palace, demanded to see the king, and told him about their ingrate master and mistreated former master. The king and his advisor decided Piliya should give the Bodhisatta everything he owned, but the Bodhisatta insisted on only taking as much as he had previously given.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
Piliya was an earlier birth of Devadatta, a disciple of the Buddha who became his nemesis. One day the disciples were discussing Devadatta’s ingratitude and folly and the Buddha told this story to let them know that Devadatta had been this same way in the past.