The Bodhisatta was once a son of a wealthy merchant. After his parents died, his elder brother managed the family estate and took care of him. When this brother died, his friends and relatives were distraught and wept loudly, but the Bodhisatta showed no sorrow. People criticized him, assuming he was glad his brother was dead because he would inherit his money. The Bodhisatta replied that his critics were ignorant of the reality of the world. Since everybody has to die, people should weep for the living, who are doomed, rather than the dead, who are already gone. With this lesson about impermanence, everybody realized the Bodhisatta was right and they overcame their sorrow.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One morning, the Buddha divined that a certain landowner, who was so distraught over the death of his brother that he stopped eating and bathing, was ready for a spiritual breakthrough, and only he could end this man’s grief. Later that day, the Buddha went to the man’s house and taught him that all things are impermanent and people should not worry about what is lost. Then the Buddha told him this story as an example from his own past, and the man did have a breakthrough in understanding.
The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.