Five aeons ago, in the kingdom of Kasi, in India, lived two traders who bartered odds and ends in exchange for pots and pans that they sold at a fair profit. Both traders were known by the name, Serivan, one being the Bodhisatt and the other somewhat unscrupulous.
One day they agreed to go to the city of Andhapura located by the river Telavaha and having arrived, they decided on two sections of the city where each would ply their wares. In the event one failed in an attempt the other would have the right to barter in that area as well.
In the area of the latter there lived a little girl and her grandmother, both very poor. Their family had once been wealthy merchants. They all had perished and all their wealth with them. The two survivors earned a pittance hiring themselves as servants to rich folk. The unscrupulous one, then went towards the house of these people to try to strike a good bargain, even a dishonest one. On seeing the man, the little girl, being the little girl she was, asked her grandmother to have her get her a trinket. The grandmother aware of their parlous estate told her sorrowfully, they did not have anything of any value to trade it for.
Thereupon the little girl on seeing a grimy, soot laden bowl lying among the few pots and pans in the house asked her grandma to exchange it for the trinket. The grandma though doubting at all its value, tremulously offered it to the trader. Serivan, on handling it and realising its weight, scratched the surface of it unseen by the poor girl and her granny. The trader realised the bowl was made of genuine gold!
Greed, having got the better of the trader and being unscrupulous and through thought of playing a trick on the two. He thereupon, feigning anger, threw a temper tantrum and dashing the bowl on the ground exclaimed to the couple they were wasting his time and that the bowl was not of any use to him.
Serivan, the trader, got on his feet and in a seeming huff, stalked off. He of course meant to come back! The grandmother took fright and the little girl ever so disappointed!
Now, in terms of the agreement between the two Serivans, the one who was the Bodhisatt, came plying his wares on the street where the poor couple lived. The little girl never lost hope of owning a trinket summoned the Serivan, the Bodhisatt, this time, to their humble abode. Her hopes began to rise having gazed on the placid demeanour of the trader. So she pleaded with her grandma and this time with all the confidence she could muster. The grandmother, somewhat nervous after her previous attempt took heart, by the kindly disposition of the trader, offered the bowl to Serivan, the Bodhisatt. The trader taking no time at all realised it’s true value and in full honesty, explained to the two, that the bowl was worth one hundred thousand pieces and that he did not have that much of money or goods to give in exchange!
The couple was indeed taken aback! So much so that the poor grandmother exclaimed to the trader that his goodness was the reason for the dirty bowl to have turned into gold! It was after awhile that it dawned upon the old woman that this was the golden bowl from which the head of their family, the great merchant, had once had his meals in. After the family having perished leaving the two in despair, the bowl had remained among the pots and pans, over the years, without either or them being any the wiser!
The grandmother, seeing the eagerness of the little girl and having not the heart to displease her once more, told the honest trader to give anything at all that he might please, for the bowl. Thereupon the Bodhisatt, gave the old woman and the little girl 500 pieces of money and also all of the stock he had with him after all which he was left with only his scales, his bag, and eight pieces of money. The little girl and the granny weren’t poor any more!
The honest trader, then having bade the two goodbye hastened to the Telvaha river. He came upon the river boatman gave him the eight pieces of money that remained with him and asked the boatman to take him to the further shore. The grandmother and the little girl did not have the time to savour their good fortune for very long, when Serivan, the unscrupulous, returned seeking the bowl once again and this time offering a measly sum for it. The grandmother did not take long to get wise, as to his intentions.
It was the grandmother’s turn to show anger! She berated the dishonest trader and related to him, how she and her grandchild, had been rewarded well enough, by the gilt edged honesty and compassion of the honest one. Perhaps, she remarked he had been the leader of all the traders!
The evil trader on hearing this lost his mind in an instant. He began to feel the loss of one hundred thousand pieces so badly, that he flung all his money, his clothes, having torn them away, and rushed off in hot pursuit of the honest trader, who, as all know was none other than the Bodhisatt himself.
On approaching the riverbed, he witnessed the Bodhisatt being rowed away at a distance. Becoming frantic, he threw his arms all about and hollered for the honest trader to be brought back to him. The boatman, perceiving the dishevelled state of the man on the other shore continued to row the Bodhisatt to the opposite shore! Witnessing his receding figure, the dishonest trader grew hot with rage. His anger turned into such intense hatred for the Bodhisatt, that he collapsed that very instant, and perished on the riverbed.
While at Savatti, a monk was brought before the Noble One for having given up striving. The Buddha admonished the monk and citing the above tale explained the reason the dishonest trader lost the opportunity to earn a hundred thousand pieces, as of being his intense greed.
The Illustrious- One pointed out the hapless trader to possess of such greed as being the result of having given up perseverance on the Noble Path.
The Buddha also revealed, the dishonest trader as having been, none other than Devadatta, his cousin, who had in all manner, tried, to harm the Noble one and it was as, Serivan, the unscrupulous, that Devadatta had for the first time, conceived this ugly hatred, for the Illustrious One.
The reluctant monk, being all ear, was encouraged by the soothing words of the Buddha, and by and by, having resumed striving, attained the Incomparable State!
— Contributed by Mahendra Siriwardene