Jataka Tales: Grandma’s Blackie
Once upon a time, when King Brahmadatta was ruling in Benares, there was an old woman who had a calf. This calf was of a noble dark color. In fact, he was jet black without a spot of white. He was the Bodhisatta – the Enlightenment Being.
The old woman raised the little calf just as though he were her own child. She fed him only the very best rice and rice porridge. She petted his head and neck, and he licked her hand. Since they were so friendly, the people began calling the calf, “Grandma’s Blackie’.
Even after he grew up into a big strong bull, Grandma’s Blackie remained very tame and gentle. The village children played with him, holding onto his neck and ears and horns. They would even grab his tail and swing up onto his back for a ride. He liked children, so he never complained.
The friendly bull thought, “The loving old woman, who brought me up, is like a kind mother to me. She raised me as if I were her own child. She is poor and in need, but too humble to ask for my help. She is too gentle to force me to work. Because I also love her, I wish to release her from the suffering of poverty.” So he began looking for work.
One day a caravan of 500 carts came by the village. It stopped at a difficult place to cross the river. The bullocks were not able to pull the carts across. The caravan leader hooked up all 500 pairs of bullocks to the first cart. But the river was so rough that they could not pull across even that one cart.
Faced with this problem, the leader began looking for more bulls. He was known to be an expert judge of the qualities of bulls. While examining the wandering village herd, he noticed Grandma’s Blackie. At once he thought, “This noble bullock looks like he has the strength and the will to pull my carts across the river.”
He said to the villagers standing nearby, “To whom does this big black bull belong? I would like to use him to pull my caravan across the river, and I am willing to pay his owner for his services.” The people said, “By all means, take him. His master is not here.”
So he put a rope through Grandma’s Blackie’s nose. But when he pulled, he could not budge him! The bull was thinking, “Until this man says what he will pay for my work, I will not move.”
Being such a good judge of bulls, the caravan leader understood his reasoning. So he said, “My dear bull, after you have pulled my 500 carts across the river, I will pay you two gold coins for each cart – not just one, but two!” Hearing this, Grandma’s Blackie went with him at once.
Then the man harnessed the strong black bull to the first cart. He proceeded to pull it across the river. This was what all one thousand bulls could not do before. Likewise, he pulled across each of the other 499 carts, one at a time, without slowing down a bit!
When all was done, the caravan leader made a package containing only one gold coin per cart, that is, 500 coins. He hung this around the mighty bullock’s neck. The bull thought, “This man promised two gold coins per cart, but that is not what he has hung around my neck. So I will not let him leave!” He went to the front of the caravan and blocked the path.
The leader tried to push him out of the way, but he would not move. He tried to drive the carts around him. But all the bulls had seen how strong he was, so they would not move either!
The man thought, “There is no doubt that this is a very intelligent bull, who knows I have given him only half-pay.” So he made a new package containing the full one-thousand gold coins, and hung it instead around the bull’s neck.
Then Grandma’s Blackie re-crossed the river and walked directly towards the old woman, his ‘mother’. Along the way, the children tried to grab the money package, thinking it was a game. But he escaped them.
When the woman saw the heavy package, she was surprised. The children told her all about what happened down at the river. She opened the package and discovered the one thousand gold coins.
The old woman also saw the tired look in the eyes of her ‘child’. She said, “Oh my son, do you think I wish to live off the money you earn? Why did you wish to work so hard and suffer so? No matter how difficult it may be, I will always care for and look after you.”
Then the kind woman washed the lovely bull and massaged his tired muscles with oil. She fed him good food and cared for him, until the end of their happy lives together.
Moral of the Story: Loving-kindness is the greatest treasure.