Once on a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as a drummer, and dwelt in a village. Hearing that there was to be a festival at Benares, and hoping to make money by playing his drum to the crowds of holiday makers, he made his way to the city, with his son. And there he played, and made a great deal of money. On his way home with his earnings he had to pass through a forest which was infested by robbers; and as the boy kept beating away at the drum without ever stopping, the Bodhisatta tried to stop him by saying, “Don’t behave like that, beat only now and again, as if some great lord were passing by.”
But in defiance of his father’s bidding, the boy thought the best way to frighten the robbers away was to keep steadily on beating away at the drum.
At the first notes of the drum, away scampered the robbers, thinking some great lord was passing by. But hearing the noise keep on, they saw their mistake and came back to find out who it really was. Finding only two persons, they beat and robbed them. “Alas!” cried the Bodhisatta, “by your ceaseless drumming you have lost all our hard earned takings!” And, so saying, he repeated this stanza:-
Go not too far, but learn excess to shun;
For over drumming lost what drumming won.