The Bodhisatta was once a king’s appraiser. He alone determined the cost of everything the palace bought, and sellers had no choice but to accept his prices. The king was a greedy man and did not appreciate that the Bodhisatta paid fair prices, so he decided to replace him. Since he sought like-mindedness rather than competence, he chose a random peasant walking by his window to take the job. The man was a complete fool and he chose prices for things based entirely on whims rather than their true value. Once he decided that five hundred horses were worth only one measure of rice.
The horse dealer was beside himself and asked the Bodhisatta what could be done. He told the man to offer the appraiser a bribe if he would agree to answer in front of the king the question, “If five hundred horses are worth one measure of rice, then what is the value of a measure of rice?” The appraiser accepted the seller’s money and at his next audience with the king, the appraiser answered that one measure of rice is worth “all of the city and its suburbs.” The assembled advisors broke out in laughter and applause, exclaiming how the king and the appraiser were so well suited for each other. Made to look like a fool, the king restored the job to the Bodhisatta.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The foolish appraiser was an earlier birth of Laludayi, an elder disciple of the Buddha who was quite stupid and often said one thing when he meant another. Each morning at the monastery rice was distributed to the disciples, with the elders getting the best rice and the inferior rice going to the younger disciples. As Laludayi was in a middle rank, sometimes he got good rice and sometimes not. When he did not get it, he complained. Eventually the steward told him to do the distribution himself, but he failed miserably at the task and was quickly relieved of the duty.
When the Buddha heard about it, he told this story so people knew this disciple had been a dullard in the past too.