Stories of the Buddha's Former Births
Book 2: Dukanipāta
Translated from the Pāli by
W.H.D Rouse, M.A., Sometime Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge
Under the Editorship of Professor E. B. Cowell
Published 1969 For the Pāli Text Society.
First Published by The Cambridge University Press in 1895
This work is in the Public Domain. The Pali Text Society owns the copyright."
"Tis hard to do as good men do," etc. This story the Master told whilst in Jetavana, about alms given in common. Two friends at Sāvatthi, young men of good position, made a collection, providing all the necessaries to give the Buddha and his followers. They invited them all, provided bounty for seven days, and on the seventh presented them with all their requisites. The eldest of these saluted the Master, and said, sitting beside him, "Sir, amongst the givers some gave much and some gave little; but let it bear much fruit for all alike." Then he offered the gift. The Master's reply was: "In giving these things to the Buddha and his followers, you, my lay friends, have done a great deed. In days of old wise men gave their bounty thus, and thus offered their gifts." Then at his request he told a story.
Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta was born into a brahmin family of Kāsi. When he grew up, he was thoroughly educated at Takkasilā; after which he renounced the world, and took up the religious life, and with a band of disciples went to live in Himalaya. There he lived a long time.
Once having need to procure salt and seasoning, he went on pilgrimage through the country-side, and in course of it he arrived at Benares. There he settled in the king's park; and on the following morning he and his company went a-begging to some village outside the gates. The people gave him alms. Next day he sought alms in the city. The people were all glad to give him their alms. They clubbed together and made a collection; and provided plenty for the band of anchorites. After the presentation their spokesman offered his gift with the same words as above. The Bodhisatta replied, "Friend, where faith is, no gift is small." And he returned his thanks in these verses following: 
"'Tis hard to do as good men do, to give as they can give,
Bad men can hardly imitate the life which good men live.
"And so, when good and evil go to pass away from earth,
The bad are born in hell below, in heaven the good have birth."
This was his thanksgiving. He remained in the place for the four months of the rains, and then returned to Himalaya; where he practised all the modes of holy meditation, and without a single interruption continued in them until he joined the hosts of heaven.
When this discourse came to an end the Master identified the Birth: "At that time," said he, "the Buddha's company was the body of ascetics, and I myself was their leader."