Buddhist Tales for Young and Old

Volume 1 - Prince Goodspeaker

Dirty Bath Water [Cleanliness]

Once upon a time, there was a very famous priest in a very old religion. He decided it was the right day to perform the ritual sacrificing of a goat. In his ignorance, he thought this was an offering demanded by his god.

He obtained an appropriate goat for the sacrifice. He ordered his servants to take the goat to the holy river and wash him and decorate him with flower garlands. Then they were to wash themselves, as part of the purification practice.

Down at the riverbank, the goat suddenly understood that today he would definitely be killed. He also became aware of his past births and deaths and rebirths. He realized that the results of his past unwholesome deeds were about to finally be completed. So he laughed an uproarious goat-laugh, like the clanging of cymbals.

In the midst of his laughter, he realized another truth that the priest, by sacrificing him, would suffer the same terrible results, due to his ignorance. So he began to cry as loudly as he had just been laughing!

The servants, who were bathing in the holy river, heard first the laughing and then the crying. They were amazed. So they asked the goat, “Why did you loudly laugh and then just as loudly cry? What is the reason for this?” He replied, “I will tell you the reason. But it must be in the presence of your master, the priest.”

Since they were very curious, they immediately took the sacrificial goat to the priest. They explained all that had happened. The priest, too, became very curious. He respectfully asked the goat, “Sir, why did you laugh so loudly, and then just as loudly cry?”

The goat, remembering his past lives, said, “A long time ago, I too was a priest who, like you, was well educated in the sacred religious rites. I thought that to sacrifice a goat was a necessary offering to my god, which would benefit others, as well as myself in future rebirths. However, the true result of my actions was that in my next 499 lives I myself have been beheaded!

“While being prepared for the sacrifice, I realized that today I will definitely lose my head for the 500th time. Then I will finally be free of all the results of my unwholesome deeds of so long ago. The joy of this made me laugh uncontrollably.

“Then I suddenly realized that you, the priest, were about to repeat the same unwholesome action, and would be doomed to the same result of having your head chopped off in your next 500 lives! So, out of compassion and sympathy, my laughter turned to tears.”

The priest was afraid this goat might be right, so he said, “Well, sir goat, I will not kill you.” The goat replied, “Reverend priest, even if you do not kill me, I know that today I will lose my head and finally be released from the results of my past unwholesome action.”

The priest said, “Don’t be afraid, my fine goat. I will provide the very best protection and personally guarantee that no harm will come to you.” But the goat said, “Oh priest, your protection is very weak, compared to the power of my unwholesome deed to cause its necessary results.”

So the priest cancelled the sacrifice, and began to have doubts about killing innocent animals. He released the goat and, along with his servants, followed him in order to protect him from any danger.

The goat wandered into a rocky place. He saw some tender leaves on a branch and stretched out his neck to reach them. All of a sudden a thunderstorm appeared out of nowhere. A lightning bolt struck an over-hanging rock, and cut off a sharp slab, which fell and chopped off the goat’s head! He died instantly, and the thunderstorm disappeared.

Hearing of this very strange event, hundreds of local people came to the place. No one could understand how it had happened.

There was also a fairy who lived in a nearby tree. He had seen all that had occurred. He appeared, gently fluttering in the air overhead. He began to teach the curious people, saying, “Look at what happened to this poor goat. This was the result of killing animals! All beings are born, and suffer through sickness, old age and death. But all wish to live, and not to die. Not seeing that all have this in common, some kill other living beings. This causes suffering also to those who kill, both now and in countless future rebirths.

“Being ignorant that all deeds must cause results to the doer, some continue to kill and heap up more suffering on themselves in the future. Each time they kill, a part of themselves must also die in this present life. And the suffering continues even by rebirth in hell worlds!”

Those who heard the fairy speak felt that they were very lucky indeed. They gave up their ignorant killing, and were far better off, both in this life, and in pleasant rebirths.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: The moral is: Even animals value cleanliness.