The Bodhisattva was once born as an ascetic. He would wander from place to place, meditating, seeking inner peace and becoming one with God’s creation. Like all ascetics, he led a life of simplicity. In the course of his wanderings, he came to Benaras. It was the rainy season then, and the Bodhisattva was welcomed as the king’s royal guest. He was treated with great respect and every care was taken so that he may spend his time peacefully. He stayed in the royal park and spent his time in meditation.
Now, the king had been blessed with a son but there was a very big problem. The prince was an ill-natured boy. He was named Dutthakumara. The king tried his best to improve his son’s nature. He gave his son everything he desired, all the riches of the world were his for the taking. But alas, all efforts failed. The king was heartbroken. He had an heir to his throne, but who would tolerate an ill-tempered king? So he requested the Bodhisattva to help him.
One day, the ascetic and the prince were strolling in the royal garden. The ascetic asked him to taste the leaf of a nearby plant. The moment the prince tasted the leaf, he spat it out as it was bitter. Seeing this, the Bodhisattva said, It is the leaf of a young plant, but yet it is so bitter. Imagine how bitter it would taste when the tree grows up. Hearing him, the young prince realized what the Bodhisattva meant. He was still a young boy and he had the most terrible temper. If his own father could not tolerate this, how bad must other people feel about it! And what would happen when he matured into a man? His bad qualities would grow manifold, just like the bitterness of the tree leaves. The prince felt truly humbled by the lesson that the Bodhisattva had taught him so gently. From that day onwards, the young prince tried to mend his ways and become a better person.