The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic who had many followers studying with him in the Himalayas. One rainy season when the group came to stay in the city, they stayed in the royal park and were taken care of by the king. When the rains had ceased and it was time to return to the wilderness, the Bodhisatta, having grown quite old, announced he would bid his disciples farewell and remain behind to live out his final days in the city.
One day the eldest of the ascetics, who had been a king before pursuing the religious life, decided to visit the Bodhisatta, so he returned to the city. While the two talked, the king arrived to see the Bodhisatta. The other ascetic did not rise when the king entered, he just lay on his mat uttering, “Oh, happiness, oh happiness…” The king criticized him for this disrespect, but the Bodhisatta explained that this ascetic was also once a king. And now, unrestrained by his former life of luxury, with royal pomp and armed guards around him at all times, he had true happiness that only insight can provide. He was free from being slave to lusts. The king listened to the Bodhisatta’s lesson and returned to his palace with new understanding.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The disciple who visited the Bodhisatta in the city was an earlier birth of one of the Buddha’s disciples who had been a king before ordaining. In those days, he lived in a perpetual state of fear, even when in his private chambers deep inside the palace, despite being constantly surrounded with guards.
Now as an arahant, he roamed widely through dangerous wilderness with no fear at all. Thinking back to his past, he felt overwhelming joy and exclaimed, “Oh, happiness, oh happiness…” Some other disciples overheard him saying this and mentioned it to the Buddha. The Buddha told them this story so they knew it was not the first time this disciple had been filled with happiness after adopting a religious life.