The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. Before this, he was a wealthy brahmin who gave away everything he owned and forsook the world in the hope that he would go to heaven after death. He went off to the Himalayas, where he lived alone as an ascetic without compromise—he slept under a tree without a hut; took just one meal a day; and ate nothing but uncooked fruits, flowers, leaves, and bark picked from his tree. He developed great powers and lived in pure bliss without any desires.
By the power of the Bodhisatta’s virtue, the throne of Indra, king of the gods, became warm. When he divined the reason, Indra decided to go listen to the Bodhisatta preach, then reward him with a wish and by making his tree bear fruit endlessly. But he began by testing the Bodhisatta’s integrity. He appeared out of sight behind the Bodhisatta and insulted him for having such ugly dark skin. But the Bodhisatta, knowing it was Indra without even turning around, explained that his blackness came from sins of the past; in this life he was pure of heart and thus began a discourse in praise of virtue.
The Bodhisatta had few needs, so for his wish, he asked to be free from malice, hatred, desire, and lust. Indra was impressed by his dedication and gave him two more wishes; the Bodhisatta asked for good health and that all creatures might live free of harm. Indra returned to heaven after saluting the Bodhisatta, who never once broke his ecstasy for the rest of his life.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One time while the Buddha and a band of disciples were out walking, the Buddha smiled. Ananda, one of his top disciples, asked why he smiled, and the Buddha answered that he had once lived in this exact spot as an ascetic so resolute that Indra’s throne grew warm. And then he told this story.
Indra was an earlier birth of Anuruddha, another of the Buddha’s top disciples.