The Bodhisatta was once a landowner. When the Bodhisatta’s grandfather died, his father was overwhelmed with grief and stopped eating, bathing, and attending to his business. The Bodhisatta knew he was the only one who could get him over his sorrow, so he went out of the city and found a dead ox. He placed grass and water in front of it and loudly encouraged it to eat and drink, making sure many people saw him doing this.
As the Bodhisatta had hoped, word got back to his father that his son had lost his mind and the father’s worry now turned to his ailing son. He rushed out to see the Bodhisatta and asked what was wrong with him. The Bodhisatta answered that this ox still has its body, unlike his grandfather who had been cremated, and so it was more likely the ox would come back to life. The father got the message and praised his son for helping him remember the truth of impermanence. His happiness was restored.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One day the Buddha divined that a certain landowner, depressed over the death of his father, was ready for a spiritual breakthrough. The Buddha went to the man’s house and told him that people who understood all things are impermanent do not grieve. Then the Buddha told him this story as an example, and the man did reach a breakthrough.
The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.