Ja 184 Giridantajātaka
The Story about (the Horse Trainer) Giridanta (2s)
Alternative Title: Giridattajātaka (Cst)
In the present a monk ordained under the Buddha is easily persuaded to partake of Devadatta’s good food, rather than go on almsround. He is brought to the Buddha who tells a story about a war horse who imitated his lame trainer. When a fit trainer was brought for him he stopped being lame himself.
The Bodhisatta = the wise minister (amaccapaṇḍita),
the hostile monk = the horse (assa),
Devadatta = (the horse trainer) Giridanta.
Present Source: Ja 26 Mahilāmukhajātaka,
Quoted at: Ja 141 Godhajātaka, Ja 184 Giridantajātaka, Ja 186 Dadhivāhanajātaka, Ja 397 Manojajātaka.
Keywords: Example, Imitation, Animals.
“Thanks to the groom.”
This story was told by the Teacher while at the Bamboo Grove, about Devadatta, who, having secured the adherence of prince Ajātasattu, had attained both gain and honour. Prince Ajātasattu had a monastery built for Devadatta at Gayāsīsa, and every day brought to him five hundred pots of perfumed three-year-old rice flavoured with all the choicest flavourings. All this gain and honour brought Devadatta a great following, with whom Devadatta lived on, without ever stirring out of his monastery.
At that time there were living in Rājagaha two friends, of whom one had taken the vows under the Teacher, while the other had taken them under Devadatta. And these continued to see one another, either casually or by visiting the monasteries. Now one day the disciple of Devadatta said to the other, “Sir, why do you daily go round for alms with the sweat streaming off you? Devadatta sits quietly at Gayāsīsa and feeds on the best of fare, flavoured with all the choicest flavourings. There’s no way like his. Why create misery for yourself? Why should it not be a good thing for you to come the first thing in the morning to the monastery at Gayāsīsa and there drink our rice-gruel with a relish after it, try our eighteen kinds of solid victuals, and enjoy our excellent soft food, flavoured with all the choicest flavourings?”
Being pressed time after time to accept the invitation, the other began to want to go, and thenceforth used to go to Gayāsīsa and there eat and eat, not forgetting however to return to the Bamboo Grove at the proper hour. Nevertheless he could not keep it secret always; and in a little while it came out that he used to go to Gayāsīsa and there regale himself with the food provided for Devadatta. Accordingly, his friends asked him, saying: “Is it true, as they say, that you regale yourself on the food provided for Devadatta?” “Who said that?” said he. “So-and-so said it.” “It is true, sirs, that I go to Gayāsīsa and eat there. But it is not Devadatta who gives me food; others do that.” “Sir, Devadatta is the foe of the Buddhas; in his wickedness, he has secured the adherence of Ajātasattu and by unrighteousness got gain and honour for himself. Yet you who have taken the vows according to this dispensation which leads to safety, eat the food which Devadatta gets by unrighteousness. Come; let us bring you before the Teacher.” And, taking with them the monk, they went to the Dhamma Hall.
When the Teacher became aware of their presence, he said: “Monks, are you bringing this monk here against his will?” “Yes, sir; this monk, after taking the vows under you, eats the food which Devadatta gets by unrighteousness.” “Is it true, as they say, that you eat the food which Devadatta gets by unrighteousness?” “It was not Devadatta, sir, that gave it me, but others.” “Raise no quibbles here, monk,” said the Teacher. “Devadatta is a man of bad conduct and bad principle. Oh, how could you, who have taken the vows in the Buddha’s dispensation, eat Devadatta’s food, while living in the Teacher’s presence? But you have always been prone to being led away, and have followed in turn every one you meet.”
Again, as before, the Teacher said: “In former days this monk kept bad company just as he does now.” Then he told a story of the past.
In the past, there was a king named Sāma [Blackie], reigning in Benares. In those days the Bodhisatta was one of a courtier’s family, and grew up to be the king’s temporal and spiritual adviser. Now the king had a state horse named Paṇḍava, and one Giridanta was his trainer, a lame man. The horse used to watch him as he tramped on and on in front, holding the halter; and knowing him to be his trainer, imitated him and limped too.
Somebody told the king how the horse was limping. The king sent surgeons. They examined the horse, but found him perfectly sound; and so accordingly made report. Then the king sent the Bodhisatta. “Go, friend,” said he, “and find out all about it.” He soon found out that the horse was lame because he went about with a lame trainer. So he told the king what it was. “It’s a case of bad company,” said he, and went on to repeat the first verse:
1. “Thanks to the groom, poor Paṇḍava is in a parlous state:
No more displays his former ways, but needs must imitate.”
“Well, now, my friend,” said the king, “what’s to be done?” “Get a good groom,” replied the Bodhisatta, “and the horse will be as good as ever.” Then he repeated the second verse:
2. “Find but a fit and proper groom, on whom you can depend,
To bridle him and exercise, the horse will quickly mend;
His sorry plight will be set right; he imitates his friend.”
The king did so. The horse became as good as before. The king showed great honour to the Bodhisatta, being pleased that he knew even the ways of animals.
The Teacher, when this discourse was ended, identified the Jātaka, “Devadatta was Giridanta in those days; the monk who keeps bad company was the horse; and the wise counsellor was I myself.”
last updated: November 2021