"Feed the horse, then, charioteer,"--This the Master told while at Jetavana about a monk who at that time was a co-resident junior under the Minister of Righteousness, but who had formerly been a goldsmith.
For the knowledge of hearts and motives belongs to the Buddhas only, and to no one else; and hence it was that even the Minister of Righteousness prescribed corruption as a subject of meditation for the monk under his rule, through ignorance of his true character.
Now the monk derived no benefit from that religious exercise--for the following reason. He had come to life in five hundred successive births in a goldsmith's house. From the continual sight through so long a period of the purest gold, the idea of impurity was difficult for him to grasp. Four months he spent without being able to get the faintest notion of it.
As the Minister of Righteousness was unable to bestow salvation (Arhatship) on his co-resident junior, he said to himself, "He must be one of those whom only a Buddha can lead to the Truth! We will take him to the Tathagata." And he led him to the Master.
The Master inquired of Sariputta why he brought the monk before him. "Lord! I prescribed a subject of meditation for this brother, but in four months he has failed to get the most elementary notion of it; so I presumed he was one of those men whom only a Buddha can lead to the Truth, and I have brought him to you."
"What was the particular exercise you prescribed for him, Sariputta?"
"The Meditation on Impurity, O Blessed One!"
"O Sariputta! you don't understand the hearts and motives of men. Do you go now; but return in the evening, and you shall take your co-resident with you."
Thus dismissing Sariputta, the Teacher had the monk provided with a better suit of robes, kept him near himself on the begging-round, and had pleasant food given to him. On his return with the monks he spent the rest of the day in his apartment, and in the evening took that brother with him on his walk round the monastery. There, in a mango-grove, he created a pond, and in it a large cluster of lotuses, and among them one flower of surpassing size and beauty. And telling the monk to sit down there and watch that flower, he returned to his apartment.
The monk gazed at the flower again and again. The Blessed One made that very flower decay; and even as the monk was watching it, it faded away and lost its color. Then the petals began to fall off, beginning with the outermost, and in a minute they had all dropped on the ground. At last the heart fell to pieces, and the center knob only remained.
As the monk saw this, he thought, "But now this lotus-flower was exquisitely beautiful! Now its color has gone; its petals and filaments have fallen away, and only the center knob is left! If such a flower can so decay, what may not happen to this body of mine! Verily nothing that is composite is enduring!" And the eyes of his mind were opened.
Then the Master knew that he had attained to spiritual insight; and without leaving his apartment, sent out an appearance as of himself saying:
"Root out the love of self,
As the stanza was over the monk reached to Arhatship; and at the thought of now being delivered from every kind of future life, he gave utterance to his joy in the hymn of praise beginning--
"He who has lived his life, whose heart is fixed,
"The utter darkness of delusion.
And he returned to the Blessed One, and paid him reverence. The Elder also came; and when he took leave of the Teacher, he took his co-resident junior back with him.
And the news of this was noised abroad among the brethren. And they sat together in the evening in the Lecture Hall, extolling the virtues of the Sage, and saying, "Brethren, Sariputta the Venerable, not possessing the knowledge of hearts and motives, ignored the disposition of the monk under his charge; but the Master, having that knowledge, procured in one day for that very man the blessing of Arhatship, with all its powers! Ah! how great is the might of the Buddhas!"
When the Teacher had come there and had taken his seat, he asked them what they were talking about. And they told him.
"It is not so very wonderful, O monks," said he, "that I now, as the Buddha, should know this man's disposition; formerly also I knew it."
And he told a tale.
"Once upon a time Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, and the Bodhisattva was his adviser in things spiritual and temporal.
"Now somebody took a common hack to be rubbed down at the ford where the king's state charger used to be bathed. The charger was offended at being led down into the water where a hack had been rubbed down, and refused to step into it.
"The horse keeper went and said to the king, 'Your majesty! the state charger won't enter the water.'
The king sent for the Bodhisattva, and said, 'Do you go, Pandit, and find out why the horse won't go into the water when he is led down to the ford.'
"'Very well, my Lord!' said he; and went to the ford, and examined the horse, and found there was nothing the matter with it. Then, reflecting what might be the reason, he thought, 'Some other horse must have been watered here just before him; and offended at that, be must have refused to enter the water.'
"So he asked the horse keepers whether anything had been watered at the ford just before.
"'A certain hack, my Lord!' said they.
"Then the Bodhisattva saw it was his vanity that made him wish not to be bathed there, and that be ought to be taken to some other pond. So be said, 'Look you, horse keeper, even if a man gets the finest milky rice with the most delicious curry to eat, he will tire of it sooner or later. This horse has been bathed often enough at the ford here, take him to some other ford to rub him down and feed him.' And so saying, he uttered the verse--
"'Feed the horse, then, O charioteer,
"When they heard what he said, they took the horse to another ford, and there bathed and fed him. And as they were rubbing down the horse after watering him, the Bodhisattva went back to the king.
"The king said, 'Well, friend! has the horse had his bath and his drink?'
"'It has, my Lord!'
"'Why, then, did it refuse at first?'
"'Just in this way,' said he; and told him all.
"The king gave the Bodhisattva much honor, saying, 'He understands the motives even of such an animal as this. How wise he is!' And at the end of this life be passed away according to his deeds. And the Bodhisattva too passed away according to his deeds."
When the Master had finished this discourse in illustration of his saying ("Not now only, O mendicants, have I known this man's motive; formerly also I did so"), he made the connection, and summed up the Jataka, by saying, "The state charger of that time was this monk, the King was Ananda, but the wise minister was I myself."