The ascetic Kesava lived in Himavā with five hundred pupils. The Bodhisatta, having been born as Kappa, a brahmin of Kāsī, joined him and became his senior pupil. When the ascetics went to Benares for salt and vinegar, the king lodged them in his park and fed them, and when they returned to Himavā, persuaded Kesava to stay behind. Kesava fell ill of loneliness, and the five physicians of the king could not cure him. At his own request he was taken to the Himālaya by the king's minister, Nārada, and there, on seeing again his familiar haunts and his pupil Kappa, he immediately recovered, though his medicine was but the broth of wild rice.
The king of the Jātaka is Ananda, Nārada is Sāriputta, and Kesava, Baka Brahmā.
The story was related to Pasenadi. Having discovered that Anāthapindika daily fed five hundred monks in his house, the king gave orders that the same should be done in his palace. One day he discovered that the monks would take the food from the palace, but would eat that which was given to them elsewhere by those who served them because they loved them. When the king reported this to the Buddha, the Buddha pointed out to him that the best food was that which was given in love; love was the best flavouring for food (J.iii.142-5; iii.362; S.i.144; SA.i.165).
According to the Dhammapada Commentary (DhA.i.342ff), the king personally looked after the monks for seven days, after which he forgot about them and they were uncared for. Thereupon they omitted to go to the palace.
The story of the past as given in this Commentary differs considerably from the Jātaka-version. Here Kesava is described as a king who had left the world and become an ascetic. The ascetics left the royal park, disliking the noise there, but they left Kappa with Kesava. Soon after, Kappa went away, and it was then that Kesava fell ill.
Kesava is identified with the Bodhisatta, Kappa with Ananda, the king of Benares with Moggallāna, and Nārada with Sāriputta.
It was this reluctance of the Sākyan monks to accept Pasenadi's hospitality which led him to seek marriage with a Sākyan maiden; but the Sākyans gave him Vāsabhakhattiyā (q.v.).