佛教的故事:King Banyan Deer

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编辑点评: Once upon a time, an unusual and beautiful deer wasborn in the forests near Benares, in northern India.Although he was as big as a young colt, it was easy for hismother to give birth to him.

Chapter 1. Compassion

Once upon a time, an unusual and beautiful deer wasborn in the forests near Benares, in northern India.Although he was as big as a young colt, it was easy for hismother to give birth to him. When he opened his eyes,they were as bright as sparkling jewels. His mouth was asred as the reddest forest berries. His hoofs were as blackas polished coal. His little horns glistened like silver. Andhis color was golden, like a perfect summer's dawn. As hegrew up, a herd of 500 deer gathered around him, and hebecame known as King Banyan Deer.

Meanwhile, not far away, another beautiful buck deerwas born, just as splendidly golden in color. In time, aseparate herd of 500 deer came to follow him, and he wasknown as Branch Deer.

The King of Benares at that time, was very fond ofeating venison. So he regularly hunted and killed deer.Each time he hunted, he went to a different village andordered the people to serve him. They had to stop whatthey were doing, whether plowing or harvesting orwhatever, and work in the king's hunting party.

The people's lives were upset by these interruptions.They grew less crops, and other businesses also had lessincome. So they came together and decided to build alarge deer park for the king, at Benares. There he couldhunt by himself, with no need to command the services ofthe villagers.

So the people built a deer park. They made pondswhere-the deer could drink, and added trees and grassesfor them to eat from. When it was ready, they opened thegate and went out into the nearby forests. Theysurrounded the entire herds of Banyan and Branch deer.Then,.with sticks and weapons and noise makers, theydrove them all into the deer park trap, and locked thegate behind them.

After the deer had settled down, the people went tothe king and said, "Our crops and income have sufferedbecause of your hunting requirements. Now we have madeyou a pleasant safe deer park, where you can hunt byyourself as you like. With no need of our aid, you canenjoy both the hunting and the eating of deer."

The king went to the new deer park. There he waspleased to see the vast herds. While watching them, hiseye was caught by the two magnificent golden deer, withlarge fully grown antlers. Because he admired theirunusual beauty, the king granted immunity to these twoalone. He ordered that they should be completely safe. Noone could harm or kill them.

Once a day the king would come and kill a deer forhis dinner table. Sometimes, when he was too busy, theroyal cook would do this. The body would then be broughtto the chopping block to be butchered for the oven.

Whenever the deer saw the bow and arrows, theywent into a panic, trembling for their lives. They ranaround wildly, some being injured and some wounded,many suffering great pain.

One day, King Banyan Deer's herd gathered aroundhim. He called Branch Deer, and the two herds joined fora meeting. King Banyan Deer addressed them. "Althoughin the end, there is no escape from death, this needlesssuffering due to injuries and wounds can be prevented.Since the king only wishes the meat of one deer per day,let one be chosen by us each day to submit himself to thechopping block. One day from my herd, and the next dayfrom Branch Deer's herd, the victim's lot will fall to onedeer at a time."

Branch Deer agreed. From then on, the one whoseturn it was, meekly surrendered himself and laid his neckon the block. The cook came each day, simply killed thewaiting victim, and prepared the king's venison.

One day, the turn fell by chance to a pregnant doein Branch Deer's herd. Caring for the others as well asherself and the unborn one, she went to Branch Deer andsaid, "My lord, I am pregnant. Grant that I may live untilI have delivered my fawn. Then we will fill two turnsrather than just one. This will save a turn, and thereby asingle life for one long day."

Branch Deer replied, "No, no, I cannot change therules in midstream and put your turn upon another. Thepregnancy is yours, the babe is your responsibility. Nowleave me."

Having failed with Branch Deer, the poor motherdoe went to King Banyan Deer and explained her plight.He replied gently, "Go in peace. I will change the rules inmidstream and put your turn upon another."

And the deer king went to the executioner's block,and laid down his own golden neck upon it. A silence fell in the deer park. And some who tellthis story even say, that silence also fell in other worldsnot seen from here.

Soon the royal cook came to kill the willing victim onthe block. But when he saw it was one of the two goldendeer the king had ordered spared, he was afraid to killhim. So he went and told the King of Benares.

The king was surprised, so he went to the park. Hesaid to the golden deer, still lying on the block, "Oh kingof deer, did I not promise to spare your life? What is thereason you come here like the others?"

King Banyan Deer replied, "Oh king of men, thistime a pregnant doe was unlucky enough to be the one todie. She pleaded for me to spare her, for the sake ofothers as well as her unborn baby and herself. I could nothelp but feel myself in her place, and feel her suffering. Icould not help but weep, to think the little one wouldnever see the dawn, would never taste the dew. And yet,I could not force the pain of death on another, relieved tothink it was not his turn today. So, mighty king, I offer mylife for the sake of the doe and her unborn fawn. Beassured there is no other reason."

The King of Benares was overwhelmed. Powerful ashe was, a tear rolled down his cheek. Then he said, "Ohgreat lord, the golden king of deer, even among humanbeings, I have not seen any such as you! Such greatcompassion, to share in the suffering of others! Such greatgenerosity, to give your life for others! Such greatkindness and tender love for all your fellow deer! Arise.I decree that you will never be killed by me or anyone elsein my kingdom. And so too, the doe and her babe."

Without yet raising his head, the golden one said,"Are only we to be saved? What of the other deer in thepark, our friends and kin?" The king said, "My lord, Icannot refuse you, I grant safety and freedom to all thedeer in the park." "And what of the deer outside the park,will they be killed?" asked Banyan. "No my lord, I spareall the deer in my whole kingdom."

Still the golden deer did not raise up his head. Hepleaded, "So the deer will be safe, but what will the otherfour-footed animals do?" "My lord, from now on they tooare safe in my land." "And what of the birds? They toowant to live." "Yes, my lord, the birds too will be safe fromdeath at the hands of men." "And what of the fish, wholive in the water?" "Even the fish will be free to live, mylord." So saying, the King of Benares granted immunityfrom hunting and killing to all the animals in his land.

Having pleaded for the lives of all creatures, theGreat Being arose.

[Chapter 2. Teaching]

Out of compassion and gratitude, King Banyan Deer—— the Enlightenment Being, taught thc King of Bcnares.He advised him to climb the five steps of training, inorder to purify his mind. He described them by saying, "Itwill benefit you, if you give up the five unwholesomeactions. These are:

—— destroying life, for this is not compassion;—— taking what is not given, for this is not generosity;—— doing wrong in sexual ways, for this is not loving- kindness;—— speaking falsely, for this is not Truth;—— losing your mind from alcohol, for this leads to falling down the first four steps."

He further advised him to do wholesome actions,that would bring happiness in this life and beyond. ThenKing Banyan Deer, and both herds, returned to the forest.

In the fullness of time, the pregnant doe, who hadstayed with Banyan's herd, gave birth to a fawn. He wasas beautiful as a lotus blossom given as an offering to thegods.

When the fawn had grown into a young buck deer,he began playing with Branch Deer's herd. Seeing this, hismother said to him, "Better to die after a short life withthe great compassionate one, than to live a long life withan ordinary one." Afterwards, her son lived happily in theherd of King Banyan Deer.

The only ones left unhappy, were the farmers andvillagers of the kingdom. For, given total immunity by theking, the deer began to fearlessly eat the people's crops.They even grazed in the vegetable gardens inside thevillages and the city of Benares itself!

So the people complained to the king, and askedpermission to kill at least some of the deer as a warning.But the king said, "I myself promised complete immunityto King Banyan Deer. I would give up the kingship beforeI would break my word to him, No one may harm a deer!"

When King Banyan Deer heard of this, he said to allthe deer, "You should not eat the crops that belong toothers." And he sent a message to the people. Instead ofmaking fences, he asked them to tie up bunches of leavesas boundaries around their fields. This began the Indiancustom of marking fields with tied up leaves, which haveprotected them from deer to this very day.

Both King Banyan Deer and the King of Benareslived out their lives in peace, died, and were reborn asthey deserved.

The moral is: Wherever it is found, compassion is asign of greatness.

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