The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic who had many followers living with him in the Himalayas. While his chief disciple was away, the Bodhisatta became ill, and just before he died, the people at the monastery asked him what his spiritual attainment was. He told them, “I have won nothing,” so they did not pay him the customary honors at his cremation. When the chief disciple returned and heard what had happened, he explained that they misunderstood. The Bodhisatta meant that he had attained insight into the nothingness of things, one of the highest attainments. But none of the other disciples believed this. Looking down from heaven, the Bodhisatta saw what was happening and went down to tell his disciples they were fools and his chief disciple was correct and wise. After criticizing them, he returned to heaven.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The Bodhisatta’s chief disciple was an earlier birth of Sariputta, one of the Buddha’s top disciples. One day the Buddha heard some of his disciples praising Sariputta’s wisdom and skill at explaining things clearly, and the Buddha told them this story so they knew that Sariputta also had this ability in the past.