The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. The king conquered a neighboring kingdom and hauled off its vast riches, burying it all in iron pots in his royal park. The defeated king’s son had escaped and became an ascetic, leading a band of five hundred others. Eventually he led them on an alms pilgrimage to the Bodhisatta’s city. The king was unaware of the prince’s identity and, respecting their knowledge and behavior, gave the ascetics gifts and invited them to stay in his park for as long as they wanted.
The prince knew a spell for locating buried treasure and he used it to find his father’s stolen riches. He thought he could use the treasure to recover his father’s kingdom, so he revealed his true identity to the other ascetics and asked if they wanted to join him in his new quest. They all agreed. That night they dug up the pots, inserted grass in place of the treasure, and fled.
Soon after he stole the treasure, the prince seized his father’s kingdom and used the money to boost the city’s fortifications, making it impregnable. When the Bodhisatta’s king was told about the prince stealing the treasure, he went to check the pots in his park and saw that it was true. The king grew depressed and wandered about murmuring, “Grass, grass, grass.” The Bodhisatta knew he was the only one who could free the king’s troubled mind, so he asked the king the significance of the word grass. When he heard the full story, the Bodhisatta told him the money he lost was not really his to begin with, so he should let his sorrow go. The king took his advice and ruled righteously.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The prince was an earlier birth of an obstinate disciple of the Buddha. The Buddha told him this story of his past life to help him improve.