The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. One time the king set off for war in the wrong season. At their camp, an owl flew into a bamboo thicket to hide from some crows. The crows surrounded the owl and, determined to kill it, sat waiting it out. The impatient owl did not wait until the evening to make its escape, and when it flew away the crows pecked it to death.
The king had watched this happen and asked the Bodhisatta why the crows attacked the owl. He replied, “Those who leave their home before the right time are bound to fall into misery. The wise who do things in the correct manner will have success over their foes.” The king accepted the Bodhisatta’s wisdom and returned home.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One rainy season there was a rebellion in a border region. The king’s troops stationed there had fought a few battles, but were not victorious, so they requested assistance. Despite the difficulty of travel on the wet roads, the king mustered troops to go fight. But then he began to doubt himself, so he went to consult the Buddha. When the king told the Buddha where he was going and why, the Buddha told him this story so he knew he should cancel the journey. The outlaws, however, had already fled because they heard that reinforcements were on the way.
The king of the past was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.