The Bodhisatta was once a king. He had great riches and supernatural powers. When he clenched his left hand and touched it with his right, jewels would rain down from the sky knee-deep. He was a prince for eighty-four thousand years, helped rule the kingdom for another eighty-four thousand, and was supreme king for eighty-four thousand more; but still not all his desires were satisfied. So he decided to travel to the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. There he was met by the four kings and a host of gods who gave him rule over them.
A long time passed, but the Bodhisatta still felt discontent from unsatisfied cravings and so ascended higher to the heaven of Indra, king of the gods, where another throng of gods greeted him and Indra gave him half his realm. The two of them ruled together until Indra was thirty-six million years old and it was time for him to be reborn on Earth. Another god became the new Indra and the Bodhisatta reigned alongside him for his entire lifetime and then again with others, thirty-six Indras in all.
But the Bodhisatta remained unfulfilled and his passions grew stronger. Wanting to rule the entirety of heaven, he decided to kill Indra, but he was unable to do so. And then he fell from heaven and landed in a park near his former palace. Now back on Earth, his body was suddenly seized by old age and he remained in the park, too weary to move.
The present royal family came to see him as he lay dying and asked if he had a final message to share with the people. The Bodhisatta said that even after the tremendous glory he’d had in life, he was now dead: everybody dies eventually.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
A disciple of the Buddha out on his morning alms round saw a beautifully dressed woman and fell in love at first sight. The Buddha told him this story as example of how worldly desires cannot be satisfied and the only path to happiness is a religious life.
The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.