The Bodhisatta was once a student. He studied with a master in Taxila, and when his education was done he traveled around seeking alms to pay his teacher. Gold was in very short supply because the king had taken most of it for himself, but eventually the Bodhisatta honorably obtained a few ounces and went to see his teacher. While crossing the Ganges River, the Bodhisatta’s boat swayed to and fro and he dropped his gold in the water.
Rather than go around begging again, the Bodhisatta devised a plan to get gold from the king. He sat on the riverbank and neither talked nor ate. People came to ask what he was doing, but he did not answer them. As time went by, word of the Bodhisatta’s strange behavior spread and people came from far away to see him, and they felt bad seeing him in such an exhausted condition. After a week the king heard about him and sent his advisors to ask why he was doing this, but still he would not speak. So, as the Bodhisatta had predicted, the king came to inquire himself.
The Bodhisatta finally broke his silence and told the king he had not spoken because there was no point in discussing his sorrow with someone who could not relieve it; then he explained his plight. Hearing what the Bodhisatta had done, the king gave him twice as much gold as he’d lost and the Bodhisatta went to pay his teacher’s fee. And from then on the king was generous giving alms and ruled in righteousness.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One time the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing his resourcefulness in teaching lessons to people. The Buddha said that he was also wise and clever in the past and told them this story as an example.
The king and the Bodhisatta’s teacher were earlier births of Ananda and Sariputta, two of the Buddha’s top disciples.