The Bodhisatta was once a thief. A man had died before recovering a loan of one thousand coins, and as his wife lied on her deathbed she told her son to go collect the debt. Just after he picked up the money, his mother died. She loved her son so dearly that immediately after her death she reincarnated as a jackal along the road he walked. The son headed for home through a forest where the Bodhisatta and his crew were lying in wait to kill travelers and take their money. His mother ran up to him and tried to tell him to take a different route home, but he could not understand her howls. 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 the man coming had one thousand coins and should be robbed and killed. The son also could not understand the bird’s calls, and thinking that hearing it was a good omen, shouted thanks to the bird. The Bodhisatta had heard both the jackal and the crane and he understood their words; so he knew the son was a fool, unable to recognize friend and foe. When he caught the son he 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 told this story so they knew he had dealt with a similar situation in the past. Comparing the disobedient disciples to the crane, he told the others they needed to carefully choose who they took advice from.
The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.