Once the Bodhisatta was an ascetic in the Himavā, leader of five hundred ascetics. His chief disciple was away at the time of his (the Bodhisatta’s) death, and when his other disciples asked him, just before his death, what excellence he had won, he answered “Nothing,” meaning, “insight into the nothingness of things.” However, they did not understand, and therefore neglected to pay him the customary honours at his cremation. When the chief disciple returned and heard of this, he tried to explain matters to them, but they would not pay heed until the Bodhisatta himself appeared from the Brahma world and convinced them of their folly.
“Far better than a thousand fools,” he said, “is one who, hearing, understands.”
The story was told in reference to Sāriputta’s great wisdom. He is identified with the chief disciple (J.i.406 ﬀ). See also Sarabhaṅga Jātaka.