The Bodhisatta was once a spirit of the air. A poor couple planned to attend their city’s large, elaborate night festival, but the wife was upset they had only old, coarse clothes. She wanted to wear a safflower-dyed cloth, but there was no way for poor people like them to afford it. The wife didn’t care what it took, she demanded safflower, telling her husband to sneak into the royal park to steal some. They knew this was a very foolish, dangerous thing to do, but the man could not convince his wife to be happy with what they had. And since he loved her very much he agreed to do it.
Under cover of night he broke down a fence and got into the park. But the guards heard him and took him away in chains. Brought before the king in the morning, he was sentenced to death and was led out of the city to the execution grounds where he was impaled alive. As he slowly died in intense agony, with crows pecking out his eyes, he muttered to himself that his greatest pain was not being able to see his wife in beautiful new clothes. Then he died and was reborn in hell. The Bodhisatta saw all of this happen.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One of the Buddha’s disciples began longing for his wife from his lay life. The husband and wife seeking the safflower-dyed clothes were earlier births of this disciple and his wife, and the Buddha told him this story from his past so he knew she was harmful to him and he should not crave her.