The Bodhisatta was once a bird living in the Himalayas. His nest kept him dry, even in the rainy season. One day, when he saw a cold, wet monkey sitting nearby, he asked why, since he had hands like a human, he didn’t build a home for himself. The monkey answered that he had body parts like humans, but lacked their wisdom. The Bodhisatta told him he should give it a try, which the envious monkey felt was an insult. So he tried to catch the Bodhisatta and smashed up his nest.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The monkey was an earlier birth of a wicked novice who lived in a forest with the elder Maha Kassapa, one of the Buddha’s top disciples. He and another novice were there to care for the elder, but only the other one took his duties seriously. When the responsible novice did something, the bad one took credit for it. Tired of this, the good novice decided to expose the bad one. He heated water for Maha Kassapa’s bath and hid it in a back room so that when the bad novice called the elder to come bathe, he found no water. Then the good novice brought the water he had heated into the room. Maha Kassapa now knew what the bad novice had been doing, and after bathing, he scolded him and told him not to lie again.
The boy was furious at his master for calling him out, and the next day he refused to go on the morning alms round. Instead, he visited a family who supported the three of them and said Maha Kassapa was sick, so he would take food back to him. The next day, the elder visited this family and heard about the bad novice’s ruse, so after returning home, Maha Kassapa scolded him again.
After Maha Kassapa went out for alms again the next day, the bad novice smashed all the cooking utensils with a hammer and burned down the elder’s leaf hut. Not long after, the bad novice died and was reborn in hell.
When some of the Buddha’s disciples living near Maha Kassapa visited the Buddha at his monastery, they told him what this bad novice had done. The Buddha told them this story so they knew that the boy had also once destroyed his home.