The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic who lived alone in the Himalayas. One time he went down to a city to get salt and vinegar, and he slept in the royal park. The next morning, the king saw the Bodhisatta out collecting alms and, impressed by his demeanor, invited him into the palace for a big meal. After they talked, the king told the Bodhisatta he could stay in the park as long as he liked and all his needs would be met.
Later, in appreciation of the Bodhisatta’s excellent teachings, the king told him he could have anything he wanted, but the Bodhisatta asked for nothing. Because so many other people asked the king for things, he was perplexed by the Bodhisatta’s refusal and asked him to explain it. When he said begging in this manner could create problems between people, the king replied that it would not be a problem if done in the right way and at the right time, and he repeated his offer. The Bodhisatta agreed this was correct for regular people, but religious men should live pure, simple lives without worldly desires. The king, insisting the Bodhisatta should take some gift, offered him a thousand of his best cows, and again the Bodhisatta explained that he preferred to live a simple life without possessions. The Bodhisatta’s message inspired the king, and for the rest of his life he was thoroughly righteous and generous.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
Some of the Buddha’s disciples needed new quarters, and they were so demanding and persistent that they greatly annoyed the townspeople. Whenever they saw disciples approaching, people would go away. Because of this, Maha Kassapa, one of the Buddha’s top disciples, could not get alms when he visited the town. At mealtime, other disciples explained to him why this had happened, and he went to discuss the matter with the Buddha.
The Buddha called an assembly and criticized these thoughtless disciples. He told them this story as an example of how in the past he had not asked for anything from a generous and willing king, even though many others did.
The king was an earlier birth of Ananda, another of the Buddha’s top disciples.