The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic who lived with his wife in the Himalayas. She was as beautiful as a nymph and just as righteous as the Bodhisatta. They had been married by their families against their will, and even before they gave away their vast wealth and renounced the world they lived a pure, celibate life completely free of desire and sin.
One time while down in the city to get salt and seasoning they took up residence in the royal park. When the king went there, he saw the Bodhisatta’s wife and fell in love at first sight. The king asked the Bodhisatta what their relationship was and he answered, “In the past she was my wife, but she is nothing to me now.” The king was skeptical of the Bodhisatta’s detachment from her, but nevertheless, he had his men seize her and take her back to the palace. He showered her with honor, but she resisted by yelling about the wicked king’s lawlessness and her disdain for extravagance. The Bodhisatta heard her cries, but did nothing.
Unable to win her favor, the king decided that the Bodhisatta must be plotting against him, so he returned to the park to confront him. The Bodhisatta sat calmly sewing his cloak and did not address the king when he approached. The king accused him of having anger festering quietly inside his heart. But the Bodhisatta denied it and explained how anger brings nothing but ruin and misery, and by cherishing kindness he had learned to rise above anger’s influence.
The king was impressed by this lesson and set the woman free. He asked for forgiveness and told them they could stay in his park as long as they wished; he would provide for all their needs. They remained until she died, then the Bodhisatta returned to live out his final years in the Himalayas.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One of the Buddha’s disciples was stubborn and filled with anger. The Buddha told him this story as a lesson about the problems caused by anger and the benefits of learning to overcome it. Upon hearing the story, the disciple’s state of mind greatly improved.
The Bodhisatta’s wife was an earlier birth of the Buddha’s wife and the king was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.