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THE HARE THAT WAS NOT AFRAID TO DIE
AND it came to pass that the Buddha was born a Hare and
lived in a wood; on one side was the foot of a mountain,
on another a river, on the third side a border village.
And with him lived three friends: a Monkey, a Jackal, and
an Otter; each of these creatures got food on his own hunting
ground. In the evening they met together, and the Hare
taught his companions many wise things: that the moral
law should be observed—that alms should be given
to the poor, and that holy days should be kept.
One day the Buddha said: "To-morrow is a fast day. Feed
any beggars that come to you by giving from your own
store of food." They all consented.
The next day the Otter went down to the bank of the
Ganges to seek his prey. Now a fisherman had landed
seven red fish and had buried them in the sand on the
riverís bank while he went down the stream catching more.
The Otter scented the buried fish, dug up the sand till
he came upon them, and he called aloud: "Does any one
own these fish?" And, not seeing the owner, he laid the
fish in the jungle where he dwelt, intending to eat
them at a fitting time. Then he lay down, thinking how
virtuous he was.
The Jackal also went off in search of food, and found
in the hut of a field watcher a lizard, and a pot of milk-curd.
And, after thrice crying aloud, "To whom do these
belong?" and not finding an owner, he put on his neck
the rope for lifting the pot, and grasping the spits
and lizard with his teeth, he laid them in his own lair,
thinking, "In due season I will devour them," and then
he lay down, thinking how virtuous he had been.
The Monkey entered the clump of trees, and gathering a
bunch of mangoes, laid them up in his part of the jungle,
meaning to eat them in due season. He then lay down and
thought how virtuous he had been.
But the Hare (who was the Buddha-to-be) in due time came
out thinking to lie (in contemplation) on the Kuca grass.
"It is impossible for me to offer grass to any
beggars who may chance to come by, and I have no oil or
rice or fish. If any beggar come to me, I will give him
(of) my own flesh to eat."
Now when Sakka, the King of the Gods, heard this thing,
he determined to put the Royal Hare to the test. So he
came in disguise of a Brahmin to the Otter and said:
"Wise Sir, if I could get something to eat, I would
perform all my priestly duties."
The Otter said: "I will give you food. Seven red fish
have I safely brought to land from the sacred river of
the Ganges. Eat thy fill, O Brahmin, and stay in this wood."
And the Brahmin said: "Let it be until to-morrow, and
I will see to it then."
Then he went to the Jackal, who confessed that he had
stolen the food, but be begged the Brahmin to accept it
and remain in the wood; but the Brahmin said: "Let it be
until to-morrow, and then I will see to it."
And he came to the Monkey, who offered him the mangoes,
and the Brahmin answered in the same way.
Then the Brahmin went to the wise Hare, and the Hare
said: "Behold, I will give thee of my flesh to eat. But
thou must not take life on this holy day. When thou hast
piled up the logs I will sacrifice myself by falling into
the midst of the flames, and when my body is roasted thou
shalt eat it and perform all thy priestly duties."
Now when Sakka heard these words he caused a heap of
burning coals to appear, and the Wisdom Being, rising
from the grass, came to the place, but before casting
himself into the flames he shook himself, lest perchance
there should be any insects in his coat who might suffer
death. Then, offering his body as a free gift, he sprang
up, and like a royal swan, lighting on a bed of lotus in
an ecstasy of joy, he fell on the heap of live coals. But
the flame failed even to heat the pores of the hair on the
body of the Wisdom Being, and it was as if he had entered
a region of frost. Then he addressed the Brahmin in these
words: "Brahmin, the fire that thou hast kindled is icy
cold; it fails to heat the pores of the hair on my body.
What is the meaning of this?"
"O most wise Hare! I am Sakka, and have come to put your
virtue to the test."
And the Buddha in a sweet voice said: "No god or man could
find in me an unwillingness to die."
Then Sakka said: "O wise Hare, be thy virtue known to all
the ages to come."
And seizing the mountain he squeezed out the juice and
daubed on the moon the signs of the young hare.
Then he placed him back on the grass that he might
continue his Sabbath meditation and returned to Heaven.
And the four creatures lived together and kept the moral law.