Long, long ago in the days of early Buddhism, India was in a most prosperous condition. The Aryan inhabitants of the country were highly civilised, and the great cities were centres of industry, commerce, and learning.
It was in those olden times that Pandu, a wealthy jeweller of the Brahman caste, travelled in a carriage to Baranasi, which is now called Benares. He was bent on some lucrative banking business, and a slave who attended to the horses accompanied him.
The jeweller was apparently in a hurry to reach his destination, and as the day was exceedingly pleasant, since a heavy thunderstorm had cooled the atmosphere, the horses sped along rapidly.
While proceeding on their journey the travellers overtook a samana, as the Buddhist monks were called, and the jeweller observing the venerable appearance of the holy man, thought to hiniself "This samana looks noble and saintly. Companionship with good men brings luck; should he also be going to Baranasi, I Will invite him to ride with me in my carriage."
Having saluted the samana the jeweller explained whither he was driving and at what inn he intended to stay in Baranasi. Learning that the samana, whose name was Narada, also was travelling to Baranasi he asked him to accept a seat in his carriage. "I am quite obliged to you for your kindness" Said the samana to the Brahman, "for I am quite worn out by the long journey.. As I have no possessions in this world, I cannot repay you in money; but it may happen that I can reward you with some spiritual treasure out of the wealth of information I have received while following Shakyamuni, the Blessed One, the Great Buddha, the Teacher of gods and men."
They travelled together in the carriage and Pandu listened ,with pleasure to the instructive discourse of Narada. After about an hours journey, they arrived it a place where the road had been rendered impassable by a washout caused by the recent rain, and a farmers cart heavily laden with rice prevented further progress. The loss of a linchpin had caused one of the wheels to come off, and Devala, the owner of the cart, was busily engaged in repairing the damage. He, too, was on his way to Baranasi to sell his rice, and was anxious to reach the city before the dawn of the next morning. If he was delayed a day or two longer, the rice merchants might have left town or bought all the stock they needed.
When the jeweller saw that he could not proceed on his way unless the farmer's cart was removed, he began to grow angry and ordered Mahaduta, his slave, to push the cart aside, so the jeweller could pass by. The farmer remonstrated, because, being so near the slope of the road, it would jeopardise his cargo; but the Brahman would not listen to the farmer and bade his servant overturn the rice-cart and push it aside. Mahaduta, an unusually strong man, who seemed to take delight in the injury of others, obeyed before the samana could interfere. The rice was thrown on the wayside, and the farmer's plight was worse than before.
The poor farmer began to scold, but when the big, burly Mahaduta raised his fist threateningly, he ceased his remonstrances and only growled his curses in a low undertone.
When Pandu was about to continue his journey the samana jumped out of the carriage and said: "Excuse me sir, for leaving you here. I am under obligations for your kindness in giving me an hours ride in your carriage. I was tired when you picked me up on the road, but now, thanks to your courtesy I am rested, and recognising in this farmer an incarnation of one of your ancestors, I cannot repay your kindness better than by assisting him in his troubles."
The Brahman jeweller looked at the samana in amazement: "That farmer, you say, is an incarnation of one of my ancestors? That is impossible!"
"I know," replied the samana, "that you are not aware of the numerous important relations which tie your fate to that of the farmer; but sometimes the smartest men are spiritually blind. So I regret that you harm your own interests, and I shall try to protect you against the wounds which you are about to inflict upon yourself."
The wealthy merchant was not accustomed to being reprimanded, and feeling that the words of the samana, although uttered with great kindness, contained a stinging reproach, bade his servant drive on without delay.