The Bodhisatta was once a monkey. A pair of crocodiles lived near him. The female crocodile got an intense urge to eat the Bodhisatta’s heart and told her mate to get it for her. He promised he would, and went to talk to him. The crocodile offered to carry the Bodhisatta over the Ganges River on his back so he could eat fruit on an island, and the Bodhisatta accepted the ride.
As he swam, the crocodile sank down, plunging the Bodhisatta into the water. “What are you doing?” he asked, and the crocodile explained his wife’s request and the real reason for carrying him. The Bodhisatta told the crocodile his plan was flawed because monkeys remove their hearts when they jump through treetops, and he pointed to a fig tree with red, ripe fruit. The Bodhisatta promised to climb up and get his heart for the crocodile, who took him back to the shore. He climbed up the tree to safety and mocked the crocodile for being stupid.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The male crocodile 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 but couldn’t even make him afraid.