The Buddha was once an acetic who had many followers studying with him in the Himalayas. One rainy season when his group went to stay in the city, they resided in the royal park and were taken care of by the king. When the rains had ceased and it was time to return to the wilderness, the Bodhisatta, having grown quite old, bid his disciples farewell and remained behind to live out his final days in the city.
One day the eldest of the ascetics, who had been a king before pursuing a religious life, returned to the city to visit the Bodhisatta. While the two talked, the king arrived to see the Bodhisatta. The other ascetic did not rise when the king entered: he just lay on his mat uttering, “Oh, happiness, oh happiness . . .” The king criticized him for this disrespect, but the Bodhisatta explained that this ascetic was also once a king. And now, unrestrained by his former life of luxury, with royal pomp and armed guards around him at all times, he had true happiness that only insight can provide. He was free from being a slave to lust. The king listened to the Bodhisatta’s lesson and returned to his palace with new understanding.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The disciple who visited the Bodhisatta in the city was an earlier birth of one of the Buddha’s disciples who had been a king before ordaining. In his royal days, he lived in a perpetual state of fear, even while in his private chambers deep inside the palace, despite being constantly surrounded by guards.
Now as an arahant, he roamed widely through dangerous wilderness with no fear. Thinking back to his past, he felt overwhelming joy and exclaimed, “Oh, happiness, oh happiness . . .” Some other disciples overheard him saying this and mentioned it to the Buddha. The Buddha told them this story so they knew that it was not the first time this disciple had been filled with happiness after adopting a religious life.