Buddhist Tales for Young and Old, volume 1, Prince Goodspeaker, Stories 1-50
Once upon a time, in a kingdom in India, the finest of the royal horses was taken down to the river to be bathed. The grooms took him to the same shallow pool where they always washed him.
However, just before they arrived, a filthy dirty horse had been washed in the same spot. He had been caught in the countryside and had never had a good bath in all his life.
The fine royal horse sniffed the air. He knew right away that some filthy wild horse had bathed there and fouled the water. So he was disgusted and refused to be washed at that place.
The grooms tried their best to get him into the water, but could do nothing with him. So they went to the king and complained that the fine well-trained royal stallion had suddenly become stubborn and unmanageable.
It just so happened that the king had an intelligent minister who was known for his understanding of animals. So he called for him and said, “Please go and see what has happened to my number one horse. Find out if he is sick or what is the reason he refuses to be bathed. Of all my horses, I thought this one was of such high quality that he would never let himself sink into dirtiness. There must be something wrong.”
The minister went down to the riverside bathing pool immediately. He found that the stately horse was not sick, but in perfect health. He noticed also that he was deliberately breathing as little as possible. So he sniffed the air and smelled a slight foul odour. Investigating further, he found that it came from the unclean water in the bathing pool. So he figured out that another very dirty horse must have been washed there, and that the king’s horse was too fond of cleanliness to bathe in dirty water.
The minister asked the horse grooms, “Has any other horse been bathed at this spot today?” “Yes,” they replied, “before we arrived, a dirty wild horse was bathed here.” The minister told them, “My dear grooms, this is a fine royal horse who loves cleanliness. He does not wish to bathe in dirty water. So the thing to do is to take him up river, where the water is fresh and clean, and wash him there.”
They followed his instructions, and the royal horse was pleased to bathe in the new place.
The minister returned to the king and told what had happened. Then he said, “You were correct your majesty, this fine horse was indeed of such high quality that he would not let himself sink into dirtiness!”
The king was amazed that his minister seemed to be able to read the mind of a horse. So he rewarded him appropriately.
The moral is: Even animals value cleanliness.
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