The 20th Horse

This parable, one of my favorites, was told by my teacher Manoj Chalam during a yoga retreat in 2018. I hope you enjoy it.

A householder, having lived a long life raising horses on a quiet farm, had passed away. Their 3 children, after laying them to rest, read their parent’s will. The will specified how all the householder’s possessions were to be divided, including the 19 valuable horses they had cared for.

The will stated that the oldest child was to have 1/2 the horses, the middle child 1/4 of the horses, and the youngest child 1/5 of the horses. As 19 cannot be divided equally along these fractions, the 3 children argued about how to divide the horses. No amount of negotiation would satisfy any of them.

At that moment, a traveler was riding past the farm on their horse. Upon learning of their predicament, the traveler offered to help. The traveler dismounted their own horse, and offered to add it to the group of horses. There were now 20 horses in total.

10 horses were given to the oldest child (1/2 of 20). 5 to the middle child (1/4 of 20). And 4 for the youngest child (1/5 of 20).

10 + 5 + 4 = 19 horses.

The traveler then took the reins of their own horse – the 20th horse that had been added, and was no longer needed – bowed to the 3 children, and departed.