The Bodhisatta was once a king’s chaplain. The king fell under the sway of some counselors who were very quarrelsome. They made the king get angry with the Bodhisatta and banish him from the city. Later, remembering the Bodhisatta’s virtue, the king regretted his decision. He felt it inappropriate to send a messenger to ask the Bodhisatta to return, so he wrote a poem about crows (because of the superstition about a crow’s caw signaling the return of a friend) and had it delivered, along with cooked crow meat, to the village where the Bodhisatta and his family had gone. Because the Bodhisatta was wise, the king was confident he would figure out the message.
That which can drink when rivers are in flood; That which the grain will cover out of sight; That which foretells a traveler on the road– O wise one, eat and read my riddle right.
The Bodhisatta did grasp the meaning, and he assumed that because his return was requested, he would be treated well, so he went. When he got back to the city, the king reinstated him as chaplain, and everything was good again.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One time when the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing his immense wisdom, he told them this story to remind them he was also very wise before becoming the Buddha.
The king was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.