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 tortoise for the first time ever. He asked the Bodhisatta what it was and he answered not only the name, but explained that even though they walk all day long they are so lazy they only move a couple of inches. The king asked the tortoise 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 tortoise was an earlier birth of one of the Buddha’s disciples who had become 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 disciples discussing this disciple’s laziness he told them this story so they knew the disciple was slothful in the past too.