The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic who lived in bliss on the banks of the Ganges River. One of the royal treasurer’s daughters was a terrible person who beat and berated her servants and slaves. One afternoon while she was at the river, a great storm arose, and her servants pushed her into the river to die. She was swept downstream in the swollen waters until, deep into the night, the Bodhisatta heard her cries and pulled her out. He took care of her for a few days as she recovered. During this time, she successfully seduced him, causing him to lose his insight. The couple moved to a remote village and made a living selling dates and telling fortunes, so he became known as the Date Sage.
One day a gang of thieves from the mountains raided the village and not only took away all the valuables, but their chief also kidnapped the treasurer’s daughter. The Bodhisatta continued his life in the village, hoping his wife would return someday. But she became very happy with her new life and feared that the Bodhisatta would take her back, so she schemed to have him killed. She sent a loving message asking the Bodhisatta to come rescue her, and he did. She told him to hide in her house until the night, then they could flee safely.
When the chief thief returned, the woman told him that her former husband was hiding in the next room, and he went in to beat him. During the merciless attack, the Bodhisatta did not cry out, he only said “Ungrateful wretch” over and over. The thief tied him up, and in the morning beat him once more; and again the Bodhisatta’s only reaction was to repeat, “Ungrateful wretch.” The thief was puzzled by this response and asked the Bodhisatta to explain himself. He related his tale, and the thief realized if she could kill a man who had done so much for her, he himself was not safe from her wickedness. So he sliced the woman in half with his sword. In thanks for saving him, the thief bathed the Bodhisatta from head to foot and fed him all the fine food he could eat. Eventually the Bodhisatta returned to a holy life in the forest, and the thief went with him. They lived out their years with the joy of insight and entered heaven after they passed.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One of the Buddha’s disciples could not overcome the attachment of being attracted to women, and the Buddha told him this story to remind him that women were ungrateful, unreliable, dishonest, wrathful, and quarrelsome and that religion was the only path to happiness.
The chief thief was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.