"Though fallen on his side,"--This the Teacher told when at Jetavana, concerning a monk who had lost heart in the struggle after holiness. For the Master then addressed the monk, and said, "Formerly, O mendicants, the wise were wont to exert themselves unremittingly, and did not give up when they received a check." And he told a tale.
"Long ago, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisattva was born into the family of a thoroughbred Bhoja horse, and became the state charger of the king of Benares. He fed out of a priceless golden dish on the most delicious fine old rice; and he stood in a fragrant perfumed stall, hung round with curtains embroidered with flowers, covered with a canopy painted with golden stars, decked with garlands of sweet-smelling flowers, and furnished with a lamp of fragrant oil that was never extinguished.
"Now there was no king who did not covet the kingdom of Benares. On one occasion seven kings surrounded the city, and sent a letter to the king of Benares, saying, 'Either give us up the kingdom, or give us battle!'
"The king called a council of his ministers, and told them this, and asked them what was to be done.
"'You ought not yourself, O king, to go out to battle at once,' was the reply. 'Send such and such a knight to give battle; and if he fails, we shall know what to do afterwards.'
"The king sent for him, and said, 'Can you give battle, well beloved, to these seven kings?'
"'O king,' said he, 'if I may have the thoroughbred Bhoja charger, I shall be able to fight, not only the seven kings, but the kings of all the continent of India.'
"'Take the Bhoja or any other charger you like, my trusty friend, and give them battle,' said the king.
"'Very good, my lord,' said he, and took his leave, and went down from the palace, and had the Bhoja brought, and carefully clad in mail. And himself put on all his armor, girt on his sword, mounted the horse, issued from the city, charged like lightning against the first entrenchment, broke through it, took one king alive, galloped back, and delivered him over to the city guard.
"Then he started again, broke through the second, then the third, and so took five kings alive; and had broken through the sixth, and had just taken the sixth king--prisoner, when the Bhoja thoroughbred received a wound, and blood gushed forth, and he began to be in severe pain.
"When the horseman saw the Bhoja was wounded, he made him lie down at the king's gate, loosened his mail, and began to harness another horse.
"Whilst the Bodhisattva lay there as best he could, he opened his eyes, and saw the knight, and said to himself, 'He is harnessing another horse. That horse won't be able to break through the seventh line, or take the seventh king. What I have already done will be lost. The knight, too, who has no equal, will be killed; and the king, too, will fall into the enemy's power. No other horse, save I alone, can break through that remaining line and take the seventh king.' And lying there as he was, he sent for the knight, and said--
"'O friend! O knight! no other horse, save I alone, will be able to break through the remaining line and take that last king. And I will not myself destroy the deeds I have already done. Have me helped up, and put the armor on to me.' And so saying, he uttered this stanza:
"'Though fallen on his side,
"Then the knight helped the Bodhisattva up, bound up his wound, put on all his harness, seated himself on his back, broke through the seventh line, took the seventh king alive, and delivered him over to the king's guard.
"They led the Bodhisattva, too, to the king's gate, and the king went out to see him. Then the Great Being said to the king--
"'O Great King! slay not those seven kings. Take an oath from them, and let them go. Let the honor due to me and to the knight be all given to him alone. It is not right to let a warrior come to ruin when he has taken seven kings prisoners and delivered them over to you. And do you give gifts, and keep the commandments, and rule your kingdom in righteousness and equity!'
"And when the Bodhisattva had thus exhorted the king, they took off his harness. And as they were taking it off, piece by piece, he breathed his last.
"Then the king had a funeral performed for him, and gave the knight great honor, and took an oath from the seven kings that they would not rebel against him, and sent them away each to his own place. And he ruled his kingdom in righteousness and equity, and so at the end of his life passed away according to his deeds."
The Teacher added, "Thus, O mendicants, the wise, even in former times, exerted themselves unremittingly, and did not give in when they received a check. How then can you lose heart, after being ordained according to a system of religion so adapted to lead you to salvation!" And he then explained the Truths.
When his exhortation was concluded, the monk who had lost heart was established in the Fruit of Arhatship. Then the Teacher made the connection, and summed up the Jataka by saying, "The king of that time was Ananda, the knight was Sariputta, but the Bhoja thoroughbred was I myself."