The Bodhisatta was once Senaka, counsellor to Janaka, king of Bārāṇasī. He taught the Dhamma once a fortnight, on fast days, and large numbers of people, including the king, went to hear him.
An old brahmin, begging for alms, was given one thousand pieces. He gave these to another brahmin to take care of, but the latter spent them, and when the owner came to ask for them, he gave his young daughter as wife, instead of the pieces. This girl had a lover, and, in order to be able to see him, she asked her husband to go begging for a maid to help her in the house. She filled a bag of provisions for the journey. On his way home, having earned seven hundred pieces, the brahmin opened his bag, and after having eaten some of the food, went to a stream to drink, leaving the bag open. A snake crept into the bag and lay there. A tree sprite, thinking to warn the brahmin, said, “If you stop on the way you will die, if you return home your wife will die,” and then disappeared. Much alarmed, the brahmin went towards Bārāṇasī, weeping along the way, and, as it was the fast day, people going to hear Senaka, directed the brahmin to him. Senaka, hearing the brahmin’s story, guessed the truth, and had the bag opened in front of the people. The snake crept out and was seized. To show his gratitude, the brahmin gave Senaka his seven hundred pieces, but Senaka gave them back with another three hundred, warning the brahmin not to take the money home. He buried the money under a tree, but could not keep the secret from his wife. She told her lover, and the money was stolen. The brahmin again sought Senaka, who told him of a plan for discovering the lover, and when he was found, Senaka sent for him and made him confess his guilt.
The story was related in reference to the Buddha’s wisdom. Ānanda was the brahmin and Sāriputta the tree sprite (J.iii.341‑51). The story is often referred to as exemplifying the Buddha’s practice of the perfection of wisdom (paññā-