The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. The king was quite lazy, and the Bodhisatta wanted to find a way to motivate him. One day, while they were in the king’s park, the king saw a turtle for the first time. He asked the Bodhisatta about it, and he explained that even though they walk all day long, turtles are so lazy they only move a couple of inches. The king asked the turtle what he would do if a forest fire broke out, and he answered that he would try to get to a hole in the ground or in a tree. Then the Bodhisatta explained that those who rush when they should rest and tarry when they should hurry are harming their well-being. After the king heard these words, he stopped being lazy.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The turtle was an earlier birth of one of the Buddha’s disciples who became quite lazy after taking his vows. He no longer studied or preached and spent most of his days just lounging around. When the Buddha heard some of his other disciples discussing this disciple’s laziness, he told them this story so they knew that the disciple was also lazy in the past.