The Bodhisatta was once an ox who, along with his younger brother, was owned by a village family. One day a daughter got engaged and the family began to fatten up their pig to serve at her wedding. The young ox noticed the pig was being fed rice while the two oxen, who did all the work, got nothing but grass and straw. The Bodhisatta explained to him that he should not be envious because rice was the food of death. In a short while, he told him, the pig would be converted into curry – their humble food was a sign of a long life. What the Bodhisatta said came true and the young ox never bemoaned his food again.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The daughter was an earlier birth of a plump, lascivious young woman who had no suitors for marriage. Her mother decided to entice one of the Buddha’s disciples into falling for her. That morning, as she offered alms to the disciples walking past her house, she looked for one who could be tempted by a craving for good food. Eventually she saw one who had not given up his concern with his appearance: the corners of his eyes were anointed with oil, some hair hung down, his robes were of fine fabric and immaculately clean, and his bowl was colored like a precious gem. The pig was an earlier birth of this disciple. The mother knew she could corrupt him, so when he came to the door she took his bowl and invited him into the house to eat the best food she could provide. When he was done, she told him to come by again anytime. He took up her offer and they got to know each other well.
When she thought it was the right time, the mother took the next step in her plan by telling the disciple that theirs was a happy household, but the problem was she had no son or son-in-law to maintain it. The next time he came, she had her daughter adorn herself and begin seducing him with womanly tricks and wiles – and it worked. The disciple fell under her power and decided to leave the monkhood. The Buddha told him this story to let him know that this same woman had harmed him in the past.
The young ox was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.