The Bodhisatta was once a royal treasurer. He was close friends with a treasurer, named Piliya, from another kingdom, and both were very wealthy. When Piliya met with misfortune and lost everything, he had to beg. Piliya 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 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 their problem was. 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 what their ingrate master had done. The king and his advisor ordered Piliya to 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 some of the Buddha’s disciples were discussing Devadatta’s ingratitude and folly, and the Buddha told this story so they knew that Devadatta had been the same way in the past.