The Bodhisatta was once a son of a wealthy merchant. He and three wealthy friends once saw a hunter hauling a deer to sell in town, and they wanted some of the meat. The first boy went up to the hunter and said, “Hey you, give me a piece of meat.” The hunter, believing that beggars ought to be polite, gave the boy what his words deserved: just skin and bone. Another boy approached the hunter and said, “Oh brother, give me some meat,” and got a cut of venison on the bone, while the third said, “Dear father, give me some meat,” and got the heart. Lastly, the Bodhisatta went to beg and said, “My friend, give me some meat.” The hunter thought about how lonely a world without friends would be, so he gave the Bodhisatta the rest of the deer. The Bodhisatta was so grateful he had the hunter and his family come live on his land, and they became dear friends for the rest of their lives.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The hunter was an earlier birth of Sariputta, one of the Buddha’s top disciples. One of the Buddha’s disciples got sick and ate some oil as a laxative, and the disciples who were caring for him went to town to get some fancy food to help him recover. But they were unsuccessful. When they told Sariputta about it, he took them back to the same street and received plenty of fancy food for the ill disciple.
Later, the Buddha heard some other disciples discussing how Sariputta got the fancy food after the others could not, and he told them this story so they knew that in the past he himself had also known just what to say to obtain good food when others could not.