The Bodhisatta was once a king. One night, he walked around the city in disguise, and a band of thieves stole his upper robe. His father’s former chaplain, who the Bodhisatta did not know, happened to be outside at the time and he saw in the constellations that the king had fallen into the hands of enemies, but was set free soon after. The king was very near the retired chaplain’s home during his brief encounter with the thieves, and he overheard him telling his wife about it as it happened.
The next day, the Bodhisatta called his astrologers to the palace and asked if they had been observing the skies that night. They said they had, and they determined that it was a lucky period; so the Bodhisatta dismissed them all. Then the Bodhisatta sent for the retired chaplain and offered him a reward for his stargazing skill. The chaplain wanted to check with his family before deciding what to request, so he returned home and asked what they wanted. His wife asked for one hundred dairy cows, his son desired a chariot drawn by lily-white thoroughbred horses, his daughter-in-law wanted fancy jewelry, and their maid suggested a mortar and pestle and a winnowing basket. The retired chaplain wanted to control the revenue from a village. Back at the palace, he said his family could not agree on any one thing. The Bodhisatta said it was no problem; they could each have what they wished for. And the Bodhisatta also hired him as an advisor.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The retired chaplain was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples. For twenty years, various people served as the Buddha’s personal attendant, but one day the Buddha asked his disciples to choose one of them to look after him full-time. Ananda was nominated, and he said he would do it under eight conditions, four negative and four positive. “I will attend to the Buddha if he will not give me any of his robes, not give me any of his food, not allow me to sleep in his private chamber, and not bring me to places he is invited; but will go with me when I am invited somewhere, will let me introduce foreigners who come to visit, will allow me to discuss my doubts when they arise, and will repeat his teachings if I miss them because I am away.” The Buddha agreed to them all, and Ananda served him faithfully for the next twenty-five years, until the Buddha entered nirvana.
After Ananda was chosen, the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing the matter and he told them this story so they knew that he had also granted wishes to Ananda in the past.