Jataka 24

Ājañña Jātaka

The Thoroughbred War Horse

as told by Eric Van Horn

originally translated by Robert Chalmers, B.A., of Oriel College, Oxford University

originally edited by Professor Edward Byles Cowell, Cambridge University

It is noteworthy that so many of these stories are about encouraging people not to give up on following the path. Modern day meditators probably sympathize with how discouraging it can be to put in so much effort and yet feel like you are not getting anywhere.

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu says that once he went back through his teacher Ajahn Lee’s discourses, and 80% of them were words of encouragement. Then as now, attaining awakening is not easy.

No matter when or where.” This story was told by the Master while at Jetavana. It is about another monk who gave up persevering. But, in this case, he addressed that monk and said, “Monk, in bygone days the wise and good still persevered even when wounded.” And, so saying, he told this story of the past.

Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, there were seven kings who surrounded the city, just as in the previous story.

So a warrior who fought from a chariot harnessed two thoroughbred horses who were brothers. He left the city, broke down six of the camps, and captured six kings. But in the sixth sortie, the elder horse was wounded. The charioteer drove on until he reached the King’s gate, where he took the elder brother out of the chariot. After unfastening the horse’s armor as he lay upon one side, he started to put armor on another horse. Realizing the warrior’s intent, the Bodhisatta had the same thoughts pass through his head as in the foregoing story. He sent for the charioteer, and repeated this stanza as he lay:

No matter when or where, wounded or distressed,

The thoroughbred fights on; the weak give in.

The Cavalryman and the Wounded War Horse

Figure: The Cavalryman and the Wounded War Horse

The charioteer had the Bodhisatta set on his feet and harnessed. Then he broke down the seventh camp and took the seventh king prisoner. He drove to the King’s gate, and there took out the noble horse. As he lay upon one side, the Bodhisatta gave the same advice to the King as in the previous story, and then he died. The King had the body cremated with all respect. He lavished honor on the charioteer, and after ruling his kingdom in righteousness, he passed away to fare according to his karma.

His lesson ended, the Master taught the Four Noble Truths, after which that monk won Arahatship. He identified the birth by saying, “The Elder Ānanda was the King, and the Perfect Buddha was the horse of those days.”