The Bodhisatta was once a king’s chaplain. The king showed favor to new soldiers and slighted the old ones. One time he went to put down a rebellion in a frontier province, but neither the new nor the old soldiers would fight because each group thought the other would do it. The king was defeated and he realized it was because he favored the new soldiers. The king asked the Bodhisatta if any other kings had ever been defeated after making the same mistake and he said a goatherder had once suffered much greater misery from similar behavior.
During the rainy season, some golden-hued deer began to dwell in the forest around the goatherder’s home and he gave them all his attention. But when the rains ended and the deer moved back to the mountain heights, the goats were all dead from neglect. Felling sorrow for his mistake, the goatherder suffered jaundice and died.
Hearing this story made the king feel much better. He thanked the Bodhisatta with a donation of great wealth and from then on showed favor to his own people.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The goatherder was an earlier birth of King Pasenadi, a righteous ruler and devoted supporter of the Buddha. He had once shown great hospitality to some strangers newly arrived in the kingdom and neglected his old soldiers. When King Pasenadi needed to put down a disturbance out in a frontier province neither the new soldiers nor the old would fight because each thought the other would. The king knew his mistakenly favoring the newcomers had caused his defeat and when he asked the Buddha if any other king had ever been defeated for a similar reason the Buddha told him this story.
The king of the past was Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.