THE BANYAN DEER
LONG ago the Bodisat came to life as a deer. When he was born
he was of a golden color; his eyes were like round jewels;
his horns were white as silver; his mouth was red as a
cluster of kamala flowers; his hoofs were as bright and
hard as lacquer-work; his tail as fine as the tail of a
Thibetan ox; and his body as large in size as a foalís.
He lived in the forest with an attendant herd of five
hundred deer, under the name of the King of the Banyan
Deer; and not far from him there dwelt another deer,
golden as he, under the name of the Monkey Deer, with a
like attendant herd.
The King of that country was devoted to hunting, never
ate without meat, and used to summon all the townspeople
to go hunting every day to the destruction of their
ordinary work. The people thought, "This King puts an
end to all our work. Suppose we make a park, provide
food and drink for the deer. Then we will drive them into
the park, close the entrance and deliver them to the King."
This they did, surrounding the very place where the
Banyan Deer and the Monkey Deer were living. When the
King heard this, he went to the park, and seeing there
the two golden-colored deer, he granted them their lives.
But henceforth he would go himself to shoot the deer and
bring it home. Sometimes his cook would go and shoot one.
The deer, as soon as they saw the bow, would quake with
fear of Death, and run away; but when they had been hit
once or twice, they became weary or wounded and were killed.
And the herd told their King, who sent for the Monkey Deer
and said: "Friend, almost all the Deer are being destroyed.
Now, though they certainly must die, yet henceforth let them
not be wounded with arrows. Let the deer take it by turns
to go to the place of execution. One day let the lot fall
on my herd, and the next day on yours."
He agreed, and thenceforth the deer whose turn it was used
to go down and lie down after placing his neck on the block
of execution. And the cook used to come and carry off the
one he found lying there.
But one day the lot fell upon a roe in the Monkey Deer who
was with young. She went to the Monkey Deer and said: "Lord!
I am with young. When I have brought forth my son, we will
both take our turn. Order the bows to pass me by."
"I cannot make your lot," said he, "fall upon the others.
You know well enough it has fallen upon you. Go away!"
Receiving no help from him, she went to the Bodisat and
told him the matter. He listened to her quietly and said:
"Be it so! Do you go back. I will relieve you of your turn."
And he went himself and laid his head on the block of execution.
The cook, seeing him, exclaimed: "The King of the Deer
whose life was promised to him is lying in the place of
execution. What does it mean?" And he went hastily, and
told the King.
The King no sooner heard it than he mounted his chariot
and proceeded with a great retinue to the place, and
beholding the Bodisat, said: "My friend, the King of the
Deer! Did I not grant you your life? Why are you lying here?"
"O great King! A roe with young came and told me that the
lot had fallen upon her. Now I could not ask another to take
her place, so I, giving my life for her, have lain down.
Harbor no further suspicion, O great King!"
"My Lord, the golden-colored King of the Deer! I never yet
saw, even among men, one so full of forbearance, kindness
and compassion. I am pleased with thee in this matter! Rise
up. I grant your lives, both to you and to her!"
"But though we be safe, what shall the rest do, O King of
"Then I grant their lives to the rest, my Lord."
"Thus, then, great King, the deer in the park will have
gained security, but what will the others do?"
"They also shall not be molested."
"Great King! even though the deer dwell secure, what shall
the rest of the four-footed creatures do?"
"They shall also be free from fear."
"Great King, even though the quadrupeds are in safety,
what shall the flock of birds do?"
"Well, Iíll grant the same boon to them."
"Great King! the birds then will obtain peace; but what
of the fish who dwell in the water?"
"They shall have peace as well."
Then the Great Being having interceded with the King for
all creatures, said:
"Walk in righteousness, O great King! Doing justice to
fathers and mothers, to townsmen and landsmen, you shall
enter, when your body is dissolved, the happy world of Heaven."
The roe gave birth to a son as beautiful as buds of
flowers; and he went to playing about with the Monkey
Deerís herd. But when its mother saw that, she said, "My
son, henceforth go not in his company. You may keep to the
Banyan Deerís herd."
Now after that, the deer, secure of their lives, began to
eat menís crops. And the men dared not strike them or drive
them away, recollecting how it had been granted to them that
they should dwell secure. So they met together in front of the
Kingís palace, and told the matter to the King.
"When I was well pleased, I granted to the leader of the
Banyan herd a boon," said he. "I may give up my kingdom
but not my oaths! Begone with you! Not a man in my kingdom
shall be allowed to hurt the deer."
When the Banyan King heard that, he assembled his herd,
"Henceforth you are not allowed to eat other peopleís
crops." And so forbidding them, he sent a message to the
men: "Henceforth let the husbandmen put up no fence to
guard their crops: but let them tie leaves round the edge
of the field as a sign."
From that time, they say, the sign of the tying of the
leaves was seen in the fields, and from that time not a
single deer trespassed beyond it: for such was the
instruction they received from (their King) the Bodisat.
And the Bodisat continued thus his life long to instruct
the deer, and passed away with his herd, according to his deeds.