The Bodhisatta was once a monkey. The king of his troop feared being overthrown and so castrated all newborn males with his teeth. Because of this, when the Bodhisatta’s mother got pregnant by the king, she fled the troop and raised her son alone. When the Bodhisatta grew up, he asked about his father. His mother told him why she left the troop and said that even now his father would still kill him to protect his leadership. But the Bodhisatta was confident in himself and told his mother they need not be afraid. So they went.
When the monkey king saw his son, he feigned happiness and hugged him. Really though, he attempted to crush the life out of him. But the Bodhisatta was too strong and didn’t even get hurt. So the king hatched another plan. He told the Bodhisatta that, because he was now old, it was time to pass on the throne to his son. In preparation for the coronation, he sent the Bodhisatta to a nearby lake to collect lotuses and water lilies.
When the Bodhisatta reached the lake, he noticed that the footprints on its bank only went down to the water, none came back. Surely an ogre lived in the lake, and this was another assassination attempt by his father. But the Bodhisatta came up with a plan to get the flowers. He went to a spot narrow enough to jump over and was able to grab some flowers during each leap, landing safely on the opposite bank.
The ogre watched the Bodhisatta picking flowers and had never seen anyone, human or animal, so clever. He rose out of the water and said that anyone mastering dexterity, bravery, and resourcefulness like this could never be defeated. Since hauling flowers was beneath a being so great, the ogre believed, he offered to carry them.
When the monkey king saw the Bodhisatta return with the ogre at his service, his heart burst into seven pieces, and he died. The other monkeys made the Bodhisatta their new king.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The monkey king was an earlier birth of Devadatta, a disciple of the Buddha who became his nemesis. When he was advised that Devadatta had made plans to kill him, the Buddha told his disciples this story so they knew that Devadatta had also tried to kill him in the past.