The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. Many hundreds of goats lived in a cave on the slopes of the Himalayas. A pair of jackals lived in a nearby cave and over time ate all the goats except one wise she-goat who they tried and failed to kill many times. So they devised a plan to have the she-jackal befriend the goat and when they shared a confidence the husband would pretend to be dead. She would cry and ask the goat, her only friend, to help her bury his body. And when she came, he would leap up and bite the goat’s neck.
The she-jackal succeeded in befriending the goat and when the time was right, they faked his death. But the goat was afraid and would not help with the burial since he had killed her whole family. But with further prodding, the goat changed her mind, figuring what could he do if he was dead. But she remained suspicious and approached his body slowly and carefully, making the she-jackal walk in front. When the jackal heard the two approaching him he lifted his head to have a look. The goat saw this and fled back to her home.
The jackal was angry with his wife for failing to bring the goat to him and she was angry with him for foolishly raising his head. But she promised to find another way to bring the goat to him. She visited the goat at her home and thanked her for helping her husband regain consciousness. And she invited the goat to come chat with him, but instead of rejecting the offer, the goat decided to deceive the she-jackal. She promised to bring four of her dog friends and two thousand of their guard dogs – and if there was not enough food to feed them all, the dogs would eat the two jackals. Fearing this, the pair of jackals quickly fled, never to return.
The Bodhisatta observed this happen.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The Buddha had many disciples who failed to subdue their senses, so he called an assembly to criticize them and warn them that focusing on their appearance was a path to hell. Then he told this story as an example of how straying from the proper path causes failure.
The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.