The Bodhisatta was once a king. He ruled over eighty-four thousand cities, of which Kusavati was his capital. When he announced that he was going to die soon, his queen, his harem, and his courtiers wept and wailed. But he told them to stop and remember that nothing in life is permanent, that growth and decay are the natural order. Then, just before passing away to heaven, he preached to them to be charitable, obey the precepts, and observe the holy days.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
Two of the Buddha’s top disciples, Sariputta and Moggallana, had recently died, and so the Buddha felt it was time he die too. After his morning alms round, he walked to the city of Kusinara and lay down, never to rise again. Ananda, another of his top disciples, urged the Buddha to leave this rough little town and die in a proper city.
The Buddha told this story so Ananda knew he had dwelled here in a past life when it was the glorious royal city of Kusavati, surrounded by jeweled walls twelve leagues long—so dying here now was an opportunity to teach a lesson on impermanence.
The king’s queen and eldest son were earlier births of the Buddha’s wife and son, and the courtiers were earlier births of the Buddha’s disciples.