Giridanta Jataka (#184)

temple painting of Giridanta Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. The king’s warhorse started to limp, so the king sent surgeons to examine it and they found there was nothing physically wrong with its leg. Then the king sent the Bodhisatta to investigate. He saw that the horse was imitating its trainer, who was disabled and walked with a limp. “It’s a case of bad company,” he told the king. “Get a good trainer and the horse will be as good as ever.” The king replaced the horse’s trainer and the problem went away.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The horse was an earlier birth of one of the Buddha’s disciples who had been persuaded by his friend, after being invited time and time again, to skip his alms rounds and eat fancy morning meals at the monastery of Devadatta (the trainer of the story), a disciple of the Buddha who became his nemesis and whose teachings differed from those laid down by the Buddha. The Buddha told this story to the traitorous disciple and those who had reported his misbehavior to let them know this disciple also kept bad company in the past.

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