The Bodhisatta was once born as stag. The king of Bārāṇasī went out hunting with his courtiers, who contrived to drive the stag near the king; he shot, the stag rolled over as hit, but soon got up and ran away. The courtiers laughed and the king set off in pursuit of the stag. During the chase he fell into it a pit, and the stag, feeling pity for him, drew him out and taught him the Dhamma. On the king’s return, he decreed that all his subjects should observe the five virtues. The king told no one of what had befallen him, but the chaplain, hearing him repeat six stanzas, divined what had happened. He questioned the king, who told him the story.
Many men and women, following the king’s instructions, were reborn in heaven, and Sakka, realising the reason for this, appeared before the king, who was practising shooting, and contrived that he should proclaim the Bodhisatta’s nobility.
The story was told in reference to Sāriputta’s wisdom. It is said that, when the Buddha descended from Tāvatiṃsa after teaching the Abhidhamma, wishing to demonstrate the unique wisdom of Sāriputta, he propounded certain questions before the multitude at Saṅkassa, which none but Sāriputta could answer. What the Buddha asked in brief Sāriputta answered in detail.
Ānanda is identified with the king and Sāriputta with the chaplain (J.iv.263‑75). The story is also included in the Jātakamālā (No.25) as the Sarabha Jātaka.