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 they ate all the goats, except one wise she-goat who they tried and failed to kill many times. Taking a new tack, they devised a plan to have the she-jackal befriend the goat, and when they reached a degree of confidence, her husband would pretend to be dead. She would cry and ask the goat, her only friend, to help her bury his body. And when the goat 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 her husband’s 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 he couldn’t hurt her if he was dead. But she remained suspicious and approached his body cautiously, making the she-jackal walk in front. When the reclining jackal heard the two approaching, 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 moving. But she promised to find another way to lead 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 chat with him, but instead of rejecting the offer, the goat deceived 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 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.