The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. A poor man began tending the Bodhisatta’s Judas tree: sweeping the ground below it; pulling grass around its roots; and offering flowers, perfumes, and incense. Every day he greeted the tree and wished it “Peace be with thee” as he departed. The Bodhisatta appreciated the attention and wanted to know why the man worshipped him.
The next time the man came to sweep, the Bodhisatta took human form and asked why he prayed to this tree. The man answered that he deeply respected tree spirits and assumed they guarded treasures. The Bodhisatta was so pleased with this answer that he identified himself as the spirit of the tree and said he would give the man his buried treasure. And, not wanting to inconvenience the man, he magically transported it to his home. The Bodhisatta bid him farewell with a reminder to live a moral life and be generous giving alms.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The poor man was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples. While the Buddha was on his deathbed, Ananda felt that the twenty-five years of service he had given to the Buddha would be fruitless because he had not yet achieved arahantship, and he broke down crying. When the Buddha heard about this, he sent for Ananda and assured him that his support had not been for naught and told him this story of how his own efforts in the past were eventually rewarded.