The Bodhisatta was once a thief. A man had died before recovering a loan of one thousand coins. Later, as this man’s wife lay on her deathbed, she told her son to go collect the debt. And just after he picked up the money, his mother died. She loved her son so dearly that immediately after her death she was reborn as a jackal in a forest along the road he was heading home on. The Bodhisatta and his crew were lying in wait there to kill travelers and take their money. The mother ran up to her son and tried to tell him to take a different route home, but he could not understand her howls and he threw sticks and clods of dirt to drive her off.
After his mother left, a crane flew over the forest and told the Bodhisatta that the man coming had one thousand coins and should be robbed and killed. The son also could not understand the bird’s calls. Thinking that the sound was a good omen, he shouted thanks to the bird. The Bodhisatta had heard both the jackal and the crane, and he did understand their messages, so he knew that the son was a fool, unable to recognize friend and foe. When he caught the son, the Bodhisatta told him the real meanings of the jackal and the crane’s cries, and then let him go without robbing him.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
Two disobedient disciples of the Buddha openly questioned his doctrine and encouraged their friends to do the same. When the Buddha confronted them, he said the wicked pair were like the crane who exposed a good man and told this story to explain. Then he advised being careful when choosing who to take advice from.
The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.