The Bodhisatta was once a householder. While walking in a park, he saw the gardener up in a tree collecting large leaves to use as bowls. As the gardener dropped the leaves to the ground, a monkey was destroying them. The Bodhisatta assumed the monkey foolishly thought he was being helpful and told him to stop. The monkey replied that he wasn’t trying to help anyone; destroying things was simply the nature of monkeys. The Bodhisatta, noting that the monkey was in the odd position of acting both properly and improperly at the same time, told him to go away.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The monkey was an earlier birth of a gardener’s young son. While they were being served a meal in a park, some of the Buddha’s disciples saw the gardener up in a tree collecting large leaves to use as bowls and his son destroying them as they fell to the ground. When they told the Buddha what they had seen, he told them this story so they knew that the boy had also destroyed leaf bowls in the past.