The Bodhisatta was once Indra, king of the gods. At midnight, a wizard used his magic powers to sneak into a king’s palace and rape the chief queen. To catch him if he returned, the king gave the queen a bowl of vermillion to put a mark on him; and the next night, after he had his way with her again, she made a handprint on his back. The king sent his men around the city looking for the rapist, and found out that by day he was a sun-worshipping ascetic living in the cemetery. They surrounded him, but he flew away.
Following this, the king banished all holy men from the kingdom. With no religious teachers around, people became savage, no longer giving alms or following the precepts, and they went to hell after they died.
The Bodhisatta noticed fewer people were being born in his heaven, and when he looked down on earth and saw the reason, he knew that only he could destroy the king’s heresy and reverse the religious decay. He summoned the eldest private Buddha (those who reach enlightenment on their own and do not teach the path to others) living in Nandamula Cave deep in the Himalayas, and together they went and stood in the air outside the palace, the Bodhisatta taking the form of a handsome disciple.
The king went to meet the pair, and asked why the handsome young man venerated the ugly old priest. The Bodhisatta revealed himself as Indra and said respecting religious teachers brings great merit and puts people on the path to heaven. The Bodhisatta and the private Buddha preached to the king about respecting the wise and told him that the wizard who raped his wife was a false ascetic, so he should invite real religious men back to the kingdom. Realizing the error of his ways, the king did so, announcing it by drum around the city. And from then on, the king did many virtuous deeds.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One day some of the Buddha’s disciples were discussing how great the Buddha was because he always acted for the benefit of the world. When the Buddha heard their discussion, he told this story so they knew that he had also acted in the interest of others in the past.
The king was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.