The Bodhisatta was once a god in heaven. On Earth before this he was the son of a wealthy brahmin and he died as a teenager. His father lamented his son’s death deeply, choosing to walk around his son’s ashes in the cemetery instead of doing his duties. The Bodhisatta saw his sorrow and decided to console him, so he went down to the cemetery in the form of a young man and began crying loudly.
The father asked the Bodhisatta why he was mourning and he answered that he had lost the wheels to his golden chariot. The father said he would find him a new set of wheels, but the Bodhisatta said he wanted the moon and the sun to be his wheels. The father said he was a fool for wanting something that cannot be attained, but the Bodhisatta replied that at least he longed for something that can be seen, nobody sees the ghost of a dead person. The father understood the Bodhisatta’s message and thanked him for quenching the pain of his desire and ending his grief. Then the Bodhisatta revealed his true identity and urged his father to be virtuous for the rest of his days. And this he did.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
When a landowner’s son died, he was so depressed he stopped eating, bathing, and visiting the Buddha. One day the Buddha divined that this man was ready for a spiritual breakthrough, so the next morning, after completing his alms round, he went to the man’s house and told him this story so he understood that nothing can bring back what is lost, and thus grieving is pointless. Understanding the message, the father did have a breakthrough of understanding and overcame his sorrow.
The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.