The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. One day someone washed an ordinary horse in the regular bathing spot of the king’s warhorse. Later, when the mighty thoroughbred’s caretaker took it to bathe, it would not get in the water and nobody understood why. The king sent the Bodhisatta down to solve the problem. He examined the warhorse and saw that nothing physically ailed it. Pondering the problem further, he guessed that the warhorse was acting spoiled and vain because another horse had used its regular bathing spot. The caretaker confirmed the Bodhisatta’s assumption about another horse bathing there not long before. To please the haughty warhorse, the Bodhisatta told the groom to wash it elsewhere because change can be beneficial.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The king’s warhorse was an earlier birth of one of the Buddha’s disciples, an ex-goldsmith, who after four months of effort was unable to grasp the meditation on impurity. Even Sariputta, one of the Buddha’s top disciples, couldn’t help him. The struggling disciple had been a goldsmith in his previous five hundred lives, and spending so much time around pure gold had caused a mental blockage on the subject of impurity. The Buddha was able to divine this as the cause of his impasse, so he made a pond appear and told the struggling disciple to stare at the magnificent lotus flower in the middle of it. The Buddha made the flower decay while the disciple watched, and this allowed him to have a breakthrough in understanding and become an arahant.
When the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing this perfect lesson, he told them this story so they knew that this was not the first time he had understood the struggling disciple’s state of mind.
The king was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.