The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. When buying horses, the king used to follow the Bodhisatta’s advice and let the dealers set their own prices. But the king was greedy at heart and decided to stop being generous like this. He replaced the Bodhisatta with another man and had a savage horse of his released among the horses for sale. This beast ran around attacking and biting the other horses, as the king knew it would; then he demanded the dealers reduce their prices since the horses were injured. The dealers were very angry and informed the Bodhisatta what had happened. He told them to bring a horse of similar nature with them the next time they came to the city to sell.
When the dealers returned, the king again released his vicious horse among theirs, but this time it went right to the dealers’ savage horse and the pair stood licking each other, paying no attention to the other horses. The Bodhisatta explained to the upset king that they were friendly because they were so similar in personality: “Birds of a feather flock together.” The Bodhisatta used this as a lesson that the king should control his greedy nature, and from then on he once again paid the horse dealers a fair price.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The savage horses were earlier births of two violent, hot-tempered disciples, one who lived in the city and the other in the country. When the country disciple came to the town one time, some of the Buddha’s young disciples thought it would be entertaining to watch the two quarrel, so they brought him to the quarters of the city disciple. But when they met, they embraced, and were friendly and affectionate to each other.
When the Buddha heard what had happened, he told the young disciples this story so they knew that these men had similar temperaments in the past.
The king was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.