Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as a young stag, and grew up a beautiful and graceful creature, of the colour of gold. His fore and hind feet were covered, as it were, with a preparation of lac. His horns were like a silver wreath, his eyes resembled round jewels, and his mouth was like a ball of crimson wool. The doe that was his mate was also a handsome creature, and they lived happily and harmoniously together. Eight myriads of dappled deer followed in the train of the Bodhisatta. While they were thus living there, a certain hunter set a snare in the deer drives. So one day the Bodhisatta, while leading his herd, entangled his foot in the snare, and thinking to break the noose he tugged at it and cut the skin of his foot. Again he tugged it, and hurt the flesh, and a third time and injured the tendon. And the noose penetrated to the very bone. Not being able to break the snare, the stag was so alarmed with the fear of death that he uttered a succession of cries. On hearing it the herd of deer fled in a panic. But the doe, as she fled, looking amongst the deer, missed the Bodhisatta, and thought, “This panic must certainly have something to do with my lord,” and flying in haste to him, with many tears and lamentations she said, “My lord, you are very strong. Why can you not get the better of the snare? Put forth your strength and break it.” And thus stirring him up to make an effort, she uttered the first stanza:–
O Golden-foot, no effort spare
To loose thyself from thonged snare.
How could I joy, bereft of thee,
To range amidst the woodland free?
The Bodhisatta, on hearing this, responded in a second stanza:–
I spare no effort, but in vain,
My liberty I cannot gain.
The more I struggle to get loose,
The sharper bites the thonged I noose.
Then the doe said: “My lord, fear not. By my own power will I entreat the hunter, and by giving up my own life I will gain yours in exchange.” And thus comforting the Great Being, she continued to embrace the blood-stained Bodhisatta. But the hunter approached, with sword and spear in hand, like to the destroying flame at the beginning of a cycle. On seeing him, the doe said, “My lord, the hunter is coming. By my own power I will rescue you. Be not afraid.” And thus comforting the stag; she went to meet the hunter, and standing at a respectful distance, she saluted him and said, “My lord, my husband is of the colour of gold, and endued with all the virtues, the king of eight myriads of deer.” And thus singing the praises of the Bodhisatta, she begged for her own death, if only the king of the herd might remain intact, and she repeated the third stanza:–
Let on the earth a leafy bed,
Hunter, where we may fall, be spread:
And drawing from its sheath thy sword,
Slay me and afterwards my lord.
The hunter, on hearing this, was struck with amazement and said, “Even human beings give not up their lives for their king; much less the beasts. What can this mean? This creature speaks with a sweet voice in the language of men. This day will I grant life to her and to her mate.” And gratly charmed with her, the hunter uttered the fourth stanza:–
A beast that speaks with voice of men,
Ne’er came before within my ken.
Rest thou in peace, my gentle deer,
And cease, O Golden-foot, to fear.
The doe seeing the Bodhisatta set at his ease, was highly delighted and returning thanks to the hunter, repeated the fifth stanza:–
As I to-day rejoice to see
This mighty beast at liberty,
So, hunter, that didst loose the gin,
Rejoice with all thy kith and kin.
And the Bodhisatta thought, “This hunter has granted life to me and this doe, and eight myriads of deer. He has been my refuge, and I ought to be a refuge to him.” And in his character of one supremely virtuous he thought, “One ought to make a proper return to one’s benefactor,” and he gave the hunter a magic jewel which he had found in their feeding ground and said: “Friend, henceforth take not the life of any creature, but with this jewel set up a household and maintain a wife and children, and give alms and do other good works.” And thus admonishing him, the stag disappeared in the forest.
The Master here ended his lesson and identified the Birth: “At that time Channa was the hunter, this female novice was doe, and I myself was the royal stag.”