The Bodhisatta was once Indra, king of the gods. Seven brothers had gone to the wilderness to live as ascetics, but they enjoyed various amusements and were not diligent in their practice. The Bodhisatta wanted to shame them, so he went to earth in the form of a parrot. He perched on a tree near their home and said out loud, “Praise to those who live on the remnants of charity. They will have happiness in this world and the next.” One of the brothers proudly told the others the tribute was about them, but the Bodhisatta corrected him, saying he was speaking about true ascetics, not carrion-eaters like them. To be proper ascetics, they should rely on people who want to give alms, not the refuse left behind by lions, tigers, and other wild beasts.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The flawed ascetics were earlier births of some of the Buddha’s disciples who engaged in various amusements. One day Moggallana, one of the Buddha’s top disciples, frightened these unserious disciples by shaking their quarters. When the Buddha heard some other disciples discussing this, he told them this story so they knew that these disciples had a similar demeanor in the past.