Ja 25 Titthajātaka
The Story about the Ford (1s)

In the present Ven. Sāriputta has a co-resident monk whom he has difficulty teaching, so he takes him to the Buddha, who, understanding the monk’s disposition, gives him a suitable subject, so that he easily attains. The Buddha then tells a story of a horse who wouldn’t allow himself to be washed. The Bodhisatta realised that the horse needed both clean water and variety, and he had him washed elsewhere.

The Bodhisatta = the wise minister (paṇḍitāmacca),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā),
a certain monk = the auspicious horse (maṅgala-assa).

Keywords: Pride, Insight, Animals.

“Change you the spot.” This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about an ex-goldsmith, who had become a monk and was co-resident with (Sāriputta) the Captain of the Dhamma.

Now, it is only a Buddha who has knowledge of the hearts and can read the thoughts of men; and therefore through lack of this power, the Captain of the Dhamma had so little knowledge of the heart and thoughts of his co-resident, as to prescribe impurity as theme for meditation. This was no good to that monk. The reason why it was no good to him was that, according to tradition, he had invariably been born, throughout five hundred successive births, as a goldsmith; and, consequently, the cumulative effect of seeing absolutely pure gold for so long a time had made theme of impurity useless. He spent four months without being able to get so much as the first inkling of the idea. Finding himself unable to confer Arahatship on his co-resident, the Captain of the Dhamma thought to himself, “This must certainly be one whom none but a Buddha can convert; I will take him to the Tathāgata.” So at early dawn he came with the monk to the Teacher.

“What can it be, Sāriputta,” said the Teacher, “that has brought you here with this monk?” “Sir, I gave him a theme for meditation, and after four months he has not attained to so much as the first inkling of the idea; so I brought him to you, thinking that here was one whom none but a Buddha can convert.” “What meditation, Sāriputta, did you prescribe for him?” “The meditation on impurity, Fortunate One.” “Sāriputta, it is not yours to have knowledge of the hearts and to read the thoughts of men. Depart now alone, and in the evening come back to fetch your co-resident.”

After thus dismissing the elder, the Teacher had that monk clad in a nice under-robe and a robe, kept him constantly at his side when he went into town for alms, and saw that he received choice food of all kinds. Returning to the monastery once more, surrounded by the monks, the Teacher retired during the daytime {1.183} to his perfumed chamber, and at evening, as he walked about the monastery with that monk by his side, he made a pond appear and in it a great clump of lotuses out of which grew a great lotus-flower. “Sit here, monk,” he said, “and gaze at this flower.” And, leaving the monk seated thus, he retired to his perfumed chamber.

That monk gazed and gazed at that flower. The Fortunate One made it decay. As the monk looked at it, the flower in its decay faded; the Petals [1.65] fell off, beginning at the rim, till in a little while all were gone; then the stamens fell away, and only the pericarp was left. As he looked, that monk thought within himself, “Even now, this lotus-flower was lovely and fair; yet its colour is departed, and only the pericarp is left standing. Decay has come upon this beautiful lotus; what may not befall my body? Transitory are all compounded things!” And with the thought he won Insight.

Knowing that the monk’s mind had risen to Insight, the Teacher, seated as he was in his perfumed chamber, emitted a radiant semblance of himself, and uttered this verse:

“Pluck out self-love, as with the hand you pluck
The autumn water-lily. Set your heart
On naught but this, the perfect Path of Peace,
And that Nibbāna which the Buddha taught.”

At the close of this verse, that monk became an Arahat. At the thought that he would never be born again, never be troubled with existence in any shape hereafter, he burst into a exalted utterance beginning with these verses:

“He who has lived his life, whose thought is ripe;
He who, from all defilements purged and free,
Wears his last body; he whose life is pure,
Whose subject senses own him sovereign lord;

He, like the moon that wins her way at last
From Rāhu’s jaws, Rāhu was a kind of Asura who was thought to cause eclipses by temporarily swallowing the sun and moon. has won supreme release.

The foulness which enveloped me, which wrought
Delusion’s utter darkness, I dispelled;
– As, tricked with thousand rays, the beaming sun
Illumines heaven with a flood of light.”

After this and renewed exalted utterance, he went to the Fortunate One and saluted him. The elder, too, came, and after due salutation to the Teacher, went away with his co-resident.

When news of all this spread among the monks, {1.184} they gathered together in the Dhamma Hall and there sat praising the virtues of the One with Ten Powers, and saying: “Sirs, through not knowing the hearts and thoughts of men, the elder Sāriputta was ignorant of his co-resident’s disposition. But the Teacher knew, and in a single day bestowed on him Arahatship together with analytic knowledges. Oh, how great are the marvellous powers of a Buddha!” Entering and taking the seat set ready for him, the Teacher asked, saying: “What is theme of your discourse here in a meeting, monks?” “Naught else, Fortunate One, than this – that you alone had knowledge of the heart, and could read the thoughts, of the co-resident of the Captain of the Dhamma.” “This is no marvel, monks; that I, as Buddha, should now know that monk’s disposition. Even in bygone days I knew it equally well.” And, so saying, he told this story of the past.

In the past Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares. In those days the Bodhisatta used to be the king’s director in things temporal and spiritual. [1.66]

At this time folk had washed another horse, a sorry beast, at the bathing-place of the king’s state-charger. And when the groom was for leading the state-charger down into the same water, the animal was so affronted that he would not go in. So the groom went off to the king and said: “Please your Majesty, your state-charger won’t take his bath.”

Then the king sent the Bodhisatta, saying: “Do you go, sage, and find out why the animal will not go into the water when they lead him down.” “Very good, sire,” said the Bodhisatta, and went his way to the waterside. Here he examined the horse; and, finding it was not ailing in any way, he tried to divine what the reason could be. At last he came to the conclusion that some other horse must have been washed at that place, and that the charger had taken such umbrage thereat that he would not go into the water. So he asked the grooms what animal they had washed first in the water. “Another horse, my lord – an ordinary animal.” “Ah, it’s his self-love that has been offended so deeply that he will not go into the water,” said the Bodhisatta to himself, “the thing to do is to wash him elsewhere.” So he said to the groom, “A man will tire, my friend, of even the daintiest fare, if he has it always. And that’s how it is with this horse. He has been washed here times without number. Take him to other waters, {1.185} and there bathe and water him.” And so saying, he repeated this verse:

1. “Change you the spot, and let the charger drink
Now here, now there, with constant change of scene.
For even milk-rice cloys a man at last.”

After listening to his words, they led the horse off elsewhere, and there watered and bathed him all-right. And while they were washing the animal down after watering him, the Bodhisatta went back to the king. “Well,” said the king, “has my horse taken his drink and bath, my friend?” “He has, sire.” “Why would he not do so at first?” “For the following reason,” said the Bodhisatta, and told the king the whole story. “What a clever fellow he is,” said the king, “he can read the mind even of an animal like this.” And he gave great honour to the Bodhisatta, and when his life closed passed away to fare according to his deeds. The Bodhisatta also passed away to fare likewise according to his deeds.

When the Teacher had ended his lesson and had repeated what he had said as to his knowledge, in the past as well as the present, of that monk’s disposition, he showed the connection, and identified the Jātaka by saying: “This monk was the state-charger of those days; Ānanda was the king and I myself the wise minister.”