The Bodhisatta was once a forester. A merchant leading a large caravan hired him to guide them through the forest. While they were in the midst of it, a huge band of thieves armed with swords and bows attacked them, and all the men in the caravan lay down in surrender, except for the Bodhisatta, who charged forward and fought them off all by himself. He got the caravan across the forest safely, and after they set up camp, the merchant rewarded him with a fancy meal of all the best meats and asked why he felt no fear taking on so many thieves. The Bodhisatta answered that he felt a mighty joy staring death in the face and was resolved to die if necessary because being the hero to protect them was his duty then.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One of the Buddha’s disciples lost his motivation. To help him recover, the Buddha told him this story as an example of how in the past he himself had given his all, even to matters that did not lead to salvation.
The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.