The Bodhisatta was once a king’s chaplain. The king showed favor to new soldiers and slighted the older 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. 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. Feeling 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 he 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 who recently arrived in the kingdom and became soldiers, and in doing so, he neglected his older 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 that 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 an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.