BY REV S. BEAL.
There is, perhaps, no fable so frequently met with in Buddhist books, and also depicted on coins and in sculptures, as the story of Buddha when he was the king of the Deer. It is possible that this very story is that called the Miga-Jâtaka at Bharhut, at any rate it is one that carries interest with it, both as it exemplifies the duty of wife-like devotion, and also exbibits in the simplest way the mode of instruction adopted by the founder of the Buddhist religion, to impress on the minds of his followers the moral lessons it was his aim to inculcate.
The Story of the Deer-king.
I remember, in years gone by, there was in the neighbourhood of Banâras a certain enclosure (district: arâ.nya), in which a Deer-king with his herd had found a place of pasture, and lived in contentment. At this time a hunter, having discovered the spot where these deer congregated, set a snare to entrap one or more of them, and as it happened he caught the king of the herd himself. At this time a certain hind, the wife of the Deer-king, big with young, seeing the Deer-king thus in the snare of the huntsman, stopped in the neighbourhood, and would not leave the spot where he was. Meantime, all the other deer having fled from the spot, the Deer-mother spake as follows in Gâthâs which she addressed to the king:--
| "Deer-king! exert your strength,|
Push with your head and your heel,
Break in pieces the trap which man
Has set to catch you, and escape."
Then the Deer-king answered in the following Gâthâs, and said:--
| "Although I used all my strength,|
Yet I could not escape from this trap,
Made as it is with thongs of skin, sewed with silk,
In vain should I struggle to get away from such a snare.
Oh! ye mountain dells and sweetest fountains!
May none of your occupants henceforth,
Meet with such a misfortune as this!"
And the Gâthâs continue as follows:--
| "At this time those two deer,|
Filled with alarm, and shedding bitter tears,
p. 254 Beheld the wicked hunter approaching the spot.
With his knife and club in his hand (ready to slay)."
Then the Deer-king, seeing the hunter thus armed approaching the place, said to the mother-deer:--
| "This is the hunter, coming here,|
His face dark and forbidding, his doublet of skin.
He will come and strip off my hide,
Cut up my flesh in joints, and depart."
Then the female deer, gradually approaching the hunter, addressed him and said:--
| "Most illustrious hunter! listen!|
You may arrange your seat of grass and prepare
First of all to kill me, and skin my hide from my body.
Then go and kill your prisoner--the Deer-king."
At this time the huntsman addressed the hind as follows: "Is this Deer-king related to you?" Then the hind answered and said, "He is my husband. I love and revere him with all my heart, and therefore I am determined to share his fate; kill me first, then, hunter! and afterwards do as you list to him!"
Then the huntsman reflected and said: "What a faithful and exemplary wife is this! seldom indeed is such a one to be found!" Then he addressed the hind and said, " Most respectable one! your conduct is very commendable; I will let your lord go!"
Then there was great joy, and the huntsman said:--
| "Seldom have I seen such faithfulness.|
Go, then! Oh, Deer-king!
And as you owe your life to your mate,
Cherish and nourish her as you ought."
Then the huntsman loosed the snare, and let the Deer-king go, on which the hind overjoyed, addressed the huntsman, and said:--
| "Most virtuous and illustrious huntsman!|
May all your friends and relations,
As you have caused me to rejoice,
Seeing my husband escape, likewise so rejoice."
Then Buddha said, "This Deer-king was myself, and the hind was Yasodharâ, who, on my account, experienced much sorrow, so much indeed, that for six years she carried Rahûla in her womb, till at last hearing that I was about to return and assume the dignity of a universal monarch (whereas my kingdom is of a spiritual character), overcome with joy she brought forth her son, Rahûla, and clothed and adorned him as became the child of a queen."
[1. From The Oriental, Nov. 6, 1875.]