The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic living alongside the Ganges River outside a big city. A clever nomadic pilgrim came to town and asked if there was anyone he could debate. People told the nomad to talk with the Bodhisatta, and they followed him to the Bodhisatta’s leaf hut to listen. The nomad greeted the Bodhisatta, who asked, “Will you drink the water of the Ganges?” The wanderer thought he could trip up the Bodhisatta and answered, “What is the Ganges? It may be sand, water, the near or far banks.” The Bodhisatta replied, “Besides the sand, water, the near and far banks, what other Ganges can you have?” The nomad could not answer, so he walked away defeated.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
A wandering ascetic loved to debate, but in the whole of India he could not find anyone to match him. Once after arriving in the city near the Buddha’s monastery, he asked if there was anyone he could debate, and the people told him to talk with the Buddha. He asked the Buddha a question and got a correct answer. But he could not answer the Buddha’s question in return, so he got up and left. The Buddha told this story to the people who had just watched the short debate so they knew that in the past he had defeated an earlier birth of this same man in the same way.