The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. The king conquered a neighboring kingdom and hauled off its vast riches, burying everything in iron pots in his royal park. The defeated king’s son had escaped the attack 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, reburied them, and fled.
Soon after he stole the treasure, the prince seized his father’s former kingdom and used the money to boost the city’s fortifications, making it impregnable. When the Bodhisatta’s king learned about the prince stealing the treasure and taking the throne, he 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 whole story, the Bodhisatta told him that what he’d lost was not really his to begin with, so he should let his sorrow go. The king took his advice and ruled righteously from then on.
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 his attitude.