The Bodhisatta was once a son of a village householder. A poor, elderly doctor saw a snake coiled up asleep in the fork of a banyan tree under which the Bodhisatta and his friends were playing. Wanting the boys to get bitten by the snake so he could make money curing them, he told the Bodhisatta there was a hedgehog in the tree, and he should catch it. Not taking even a moment to look, the Bodhisatta climbed up the tree and grabbed it by the neck. Once he realized it was a snake, he immediately flung it away. It fell on the doctor’s neck and bit him; and he dropped dead instantly.
When the doctor’s friends learned his fate, they blamed the boys for causing the man’s death. They were arrested and led in chains to be judged by the king. The Bodhisatta told the other boys to act happy and not show any fear; he would save them. The boys did as they were told, and when the king saw them calm and content, he wanted to know the reason for their carefree attitude. The Bodhisatta told the king that resisting fate is pointless and that the only people who benefit from grieving are a person’s adversaries, since they delight in others’ pain. After the king heard their story, he not only judged them innocent but also made the Bodhisatta one of his advisors and gave the other boys jobs in the palace.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One time while talking with some of his disciples about perfecting wisdom, the Buddha told them this story so they knew that he had also been wise in the past. The king was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples, and the other boys were earlier births of some of the Buddha’s other disciples.