The Bodhisatta was once a king. He had previously planned that in the future his daughter would marry his nephew, the crown prince. And when the Bodhisatta died, they would become king and queen. But when they reached marrying age, the Bodhisatta changed his mind and chose to be practical by giving his daughter to another king’s family and bringing in a woman from another kingdom to marry his nephew. Knowing the two were in love and planning to wed, he moved his nephew to a house outside the palace.
The nephew immediately started scheming to get the princess out of the palace so they could run away together. He gave one of his fingernails to her servant and told her to discuss the matter with the princess. When they next met, the servant picked insects out of the princess’s hair, and while doing so, she scratched her scalp with the prince’s fingernail. The princess recognized it, and now knowing that the prince wanted to help her escape, she gave a cryptic message for the servant to pass on to the prince: “A soft hand, a well-trained elephant, and a black rain cloud give you what you want.”
Understanding her message, the prince bribed the state elephant’s mahout and hired a soft-handed page boy to help him. The next time that rain fell from a thick black cloud, the prince rode the elephant to the palace and waited outside the Bodhisatta’s bedchamber. Since changing his mind about the marriage, the Bodhisatta had not let his daughter out of his sight, and she slept on a small bed in his room. Hearing the rain, she told him she wanted to bathe in it. So the Bodhisatta stood inside the room and held one of her hands while she stepped out onto the balcony. She held out her free hand to the prince, who removed her bangles and put them on the arm of the page boy. Then she put the page’s hand in her father’s and left with the prince. The Bodhisatta took the boy to the princess’s bed, not noticing it wasn’t his daughter until the morning. When he discovered he’d been tricked, the king was dejected, but he understood that women cannot be controlled and he forgave the pair, let them marry, and kept his nephew as the crown prince.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One of the Buddha’s disciples became distracted by desire and could no longer concentrate on his studies or meditation. To get him back on track, the Buddha told him this story to explain that even exceptionally wise men cannot stop women from pursuing their cravings.
The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.