The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. One time after the king returned from putting down a rebellion in a border region, he had his men feed the five hundred war horses some grape wine because they were exhausted. They all drank it and then went to their stalls and stood quietly. The horses made a lot of droppings and the stable boys asked the king what they should do with it all. He told them to mix the dung with water, strain it, and give it to the donkeys who had pulled the wagons with the horses’ food. This wretched stuff made the donkeys drunk, and they ran around the palace grounds braying loudly. The king asked the Bodhisatta why thoroughbreds that drank strong alcohol were calm and quiet, while the weak drink made the donkeys go wild. The Bodhisatta answered that the low-born lack self-control.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
A group of five hundred people became dedicated lay followers of the Buddha, and they all lived together. Each of them had a servant who ate their masters’ leftover food. While the lay followers were always quiet and peaceful, the servants would run around wrestling and shouting.
The horses and donkeys were earlier births of these disciples and servants respectively, and the Buddha told this story so people knew that both groups had been the same way in the past.
The king was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.