The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy, and he saw the following occur. A dung beetle walked past a caravan way station out in a border region and drank some liquor that had spilled on the ground. He was drunk when he returned to his lump of dung to sleep. The dung was still a bit moist, and when he lay down, it gave way. He thought this happened because of his great strength. At that very moment, an angry elephant walking by smelled the dung and turned around in disgust. But the impaired dung beetle believed the elephant had fled in fear of him and challenged him to a fight. The elephant came back saying, “I will not fight you with my feet, hands, or tusks. I will use what is appropriate for you—dung.” Then he dropped a large dung ball on the beetle, and urinated on him too. The dung beetle died.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The dung beetle was an earlier birth of an obnoxious lout who used to bother the Buddha’s disciples so much when they went collecting morning alms that they stopped visiting his village. One day a new disciple (he was the elephant in an earlier birth) asked about this village, and when told about the insufferable man there, he said he would stop him from pestering people.
When this lout saw the disciple, he rushed up and started asking questions; but the disciple told him he would not answer until after he finished collecting alms. The man waited, and when the disciple was done, he led the man outside the village. When the man asked his first question, the disciple hit him in the head, knocked him to the ground, beat him, threw dirt in his face, and told him that if he ever asked another disciple any questions he would come back and do it again. After this, the man fled any time he saw one of the Buddha’s disciples.
When the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing this incident, he told them this story so they knew that the pair had a similar encounter in the past.