The Bodhisatta was once a young son of a wealthy merchant. When a holiday was declared, he and his two brothers wanted to wear floral wreaths and go about having fun. So they went to a pond where lotuses grew and asked the caretaker, who had lost his nose, if they could have some. Trying to flatter him, the first two boys said if he gave them lotuses, his nose would grow back. This lie angered the caretaker, and he gave them nothing. The Bodhisatta, on the other hand, said, “My brothers are fools; noses cannot grow back. I simply ask politely for a lotus?” Pleased with his honesty, the caretaker gave him a bunch.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
Some of the Buddha’s disciples who lived in the countryside came to his monastery and wanted to make an offering under Ananda’s Bodhi Tree (explained in the Kalinga-Bodhi Jataka (#479)). They went to Lotus Street in the city to get garlands but could find none. They told Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples, that because of bad luck they were unable to make their offering. Ananda said he would get some lotuses for them and went off to Lotus Street, returning with many handfuls. Then the disciples made their offerings.
When the Buddha heard some other disciples discussing Ananda’s success in finding flowers, he told them this story so they knew that he himself had once done something similar in the past.
The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.