The Bodhisatta was once a lizard. A deeply respected ascetic lived nearby and the Bodhisatta often went several times a day to hear him preach. The ascetic decided to move elsewhere, and soon after, a new ascetic arrived to dwell in his hut. The Bodhisatta gave him the same respect he gave to the previous ascetic. After a rare dry season storm, many ants left their hill. Lizards came to eat the ants and villagers came to catch the lizards. Someone gave the ascetic one to eat, served with vinegar and sugar, and he thought it tasted so good he decided to kill and eat the Bodhisatta.
The ascetic prepared his pot for cooking and some condiments for eating and then sat at the door of his hut with a mallet hidden under his robe waiting for the Bodhisatta to arrive. When the Bodhisatta went to pay his respect, he noticed that something about the ascetic was not right. Then he smelled the aroma of the ascetic’s lizard meal from earlier in the day and knew what he planned to do. So the Bodhisatta walked past the hut without stopping. When the ascetic saw this, he knew his plot had somehow been uncovered. Not giving up, he threw his mallet, but it hit just the tip of the Bodhisatta’s tail. No worse for wear, the Bodhisatta dashed off into his burrow. He popped his head out a hole other than the one he went in and hurled insults at the wicked ascetic. Now that his true nature was exposed, the false ascetic went away.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The false ascetic was an earlier birth of one of the Buddha’s disciples who had been exposed as a hypocrite. The Buddha told this story so the other disciples knew that the hypocritical disciple had been the same way in the past.
The good ascetic who came before him was an earlier birth of Sariputta, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.