Moreover: It is difficult to obtain the privilege of hearing the Law of the Buddha. In times past, when the Tathagata was yet a Future Buddha, he spared not his life when it was a matter of finding the Law. Accordingly, one should listen to the Law with heart full of zeal.
"I have heard related the parable of the pigeon:
"There was an heretical teacher who expounded his false doctrine to Indra [king of the gods]. This heretical teacher, destitute of true knowledge, pretended to possess omniscience, and denied the existence of a being possessed of Perfect and Supreme Enlightenment. When Indra heard these words, he experienced displeasure, and became very sad. Then Indra proceeded to explore the universe, to discover whether there was an ascetic who had arrived at omniscience, at the end of his desires,--even as it is said in the stanzas of the Sutras of the Questions of Indra:
"'My spirit seeks, but cannot find contentment;
"'From afar am I come
"'I know not in what place
"Vishva-Karman [Vulcan] said to Indra: 'A denizen of heaven should not give himself over to sadness. In the world of men, in the kingdom of Kushi-Nagara, dwells a king named Shibi. He devotes himself with zeal to macerations and to the quest of Supreme Enlightenment. Men of intelligence who have watched him, believe that this king will presently attain the condition of a Buddha. Let us approach him!' Indra replied: 'Is it perfectly certain that he will not be shaken in his resolution?' Then he uttered these stanzas:
"'Although the little fishes
"'So also is it with Future Buddhas:
"'Those who practice austerities
"Vishva-Karman said: 'Let us make a journey and find out for ourselves. If, in reality, he has formed an unshakable resolution, we will pay our respects to him.'
"Then Indra, with the intention of sounding the heart of the Future Buddha, changed himself into a hawk, and said to Vishva-Karman: 'Change yourself into a pigeon!' Immediately Vishva-Karman changed himself into a pigeon with a body as blue as the sky and eyes like red pearls, and took his place near Indra. At this moment Indra, filled with pity, said to Vishva-Karman: 'Why do we seek to increase the troubles of the Future Buddha? We shall cause the king of the Shibis to endure sufferings; it is true that he will suffer. But when one is selecting a precious jewel, one examines it repeatedly in order to make sure that it is not artificial. The way to examine a jewel is to cut it, to break it, to expose it to the fire, and to strike it; then alone does one know whether it is not artificial.'
"Then the pigeon, pursued by the hawk, displayed great fear, and in the presence of a great crowd, came and sought refuge under the arm-pit of the king of the Shibis. The pigeon had the blue color of a lotus-leaf, and his brightness shone like a rain-bow in the midst of a dark cloud; he gleamed with pure luster. Thereat all the people were filled with wonderment, and uttered these stanzas:
"'In truth, he ought to be full of mercy,
"'Thus [the birds], when the sun disappears,
"'But at this moment the hawk says:
"The king heard the words of the hawk, and saw the fright of the pigeon. Straightway he pronounced these stanzas:
"'This pigeon, seized with fear,
"'Although his mouth cannot speak,
"'It becomes me, therefore,
"Then the great king, in order to reassure the pigeon, uttered these stanzas further:
"'Have no fear!
"'Even should it become my duty to save you at the risk of my life,
"'Not only will I give you aid and help,
"'For the good of all living beings
"'The inhabitants of my kingdom pay heavy taxes to me;
"'Upon me [in return] rests the obligation, towards all living beings
"'It is just for me to protect them,
"Then the hawk said again to the king: 'Great king! Deign to release the pigeon, for he is my food!' The king replied to the hawk: 'Long ago I conceived pity towards all living beings, and I owe them all the assistance and protection I can give them.' The hawk asked the king: 'Why did you conceive long ago [pity towards all living beings]?' The king replied to him by pronouncing these stanzas:
"'When I uttered the vow to attain Enlightenment,
"The hawk replied with these stanzas:
"'If your words are true,
"When the king had heard that, he reflected thus: 'I am in an extremely difficult position. What expedient ought I to employ?' Having thus thought, he replied to the hawk and said: 'Then you have no other meat to sustain your life?' The hawk replied to the king: 'I can sustain my life only with fresh flesh and with blood.' Then the king said to himself: 'What means ought I to employ?' Then he pronounced these stanzas:
"'Towards all creatures
"'Blood and fresh flesh
"Having thus reflected, he found that it would be very easy to give his own flesh to feed the hawk. And he pronounced these stanzas further:
"'I will cut a piece of my own flesh
"'Even if it becomes my duty to sacrifice myself,
"When the great king had pronounced these verses, he said to the hawk: 'Will my flesh be proper food for you?' The hawk said: 'Yes! let the king deign to cut out of his body a piece of flesh equal [in weight] to that of the pigeon! Let him give it to me, and I will eat it.' When the great king had heard these words, he became joyful. He ordered a servant: 'Bring quickly a pair of scales! I am going to cut a piece of my flesh to redeem this pigeon. It is a fortunate day for me to-day! And why is it a fortunate day?' He uttered these stanzas:
"'This flesh is the seat of old age and of maladies,
"'It is fitting that for the good of the Law
"In the meantime the king's servant had executed the order, and brought a pair of scales. When the king saw the pair of scales coming, he showed no feeling. Immediately he bared the white flesh of his thigh, smooth as a tala-leaf. He called the servant and recited these stanzas to him:
"'Take a sharp knife, and cut the flesh of my thigh!
"'For without submitting oneself to severe austerities,
"'Never, without sufficient cause,
"At this moment the servant's eyes were filled with tears. Joining the palms of his hands, he spoke thus: 'Have mercy on me! I cannot do it! I have always received good things from the king. How could I, with a knife, cut a piece of flesh from the thigh of the king?' He uttered these stanzas:
"'The king is the savior and protector of all.
"Then the great king took the knife in his own hand to cut the flesh from his thigh. The ministers and the great dignitaries, lamenting and weeping, made remonstrances to him without being able to stop him. All the inhabitants of the city pressed close to him. But he heard them not, and cut the flesh from his thigh. Those who were near him, turned their eyes away and dared not look. The Brahmans turned their eyes away and dared not look. The women of the palace uttered cries and wept. The deities, the dragons, the demons, the heavenly minstrels, the spirits, the fairies, and the great serpents said to each other throughout space: 'It is not probable that the like of this deed has ever been done before.' The king had a body that was feeble and tender. Born and reared at the palace, he had never been able to endure any pain. Now his body was tortured with pains, and he suffered intensely. But he exhorted himself, and pronounced these stanzas:
"'O my Heart, preserve thy firmness
"'Why art thou cast down?
"'Is entangled in hundreds and thousands of evils!
"'They have no shelter and protection;
"'THOU ALONE, O MY HEART,
"'Art thou not ashamed of thyself
"Then Indra reflected thus: 'Will the great king preserve his constancy in the midst of the greatest sufferings?' And desiring to put him to the test, he said: 'You have just endured sufferings difficult to endure. Why do you not stop torturing yourself? You have suffered enough. Leave off, and release the pigeon!' The Future Buddha smiled feebly, and replied to him: 'Never will sufferings make me break my word. Even if I am destined to suffer yet more, I will not flinch. These insignificant sufferings cannot be compared with the sufferings of hell. Therefore it is incumbent upon me that I lift up my thought, and that even in the midst of these sufferings I increase my compassion [for living beings].' When he had made this reflection, he pronounced these stanzas:
"'I suffer now from my bodily wound.
"'Let it know the extent to which the irresolute and the heedless
"'Tortures which never cease,--
"'Who would wish to endure them?
"'I must make haste
"'All those who suffer from these miseries,--
"Then Indra made this further reflection: 'What the great king has just done, is not yet sufficiently painful. Will he preserve his constancy if I cause him to increase his sufferings? I will put him to the test!' Having made this reflection, he preserved silence and left off speaking.
"In the meantime the great king had taken the piece of flesh which he had cut, and had placed it on one pan of the scales; he placed the pigeon on the other pan. It so happened that the pigeon made the scales tip. Then the king cut the two pi and placed this flesh in the scales. But it was still lighter than the pigeon. At this the great king was much surprised, and failed to understand what was the cause. Immediately he arose to place himself in the scales.
"At this moment the hawk asked him: 'Why do you fidget? Are you beginning to have regrets?' The great king replied to him: 'I regret nothing. I wish to place myself whole and entire in the scales to save this pigeon.' When the great king was on the point of ascending the scales, his face remained calm. The servants and the assistants dared look no more; all the members of his entourage turned their eyes away.
"At this moment the king said: 'Look freely!' He cut off all of his flesh. There remained no more anything but his bones and his joints. He was like a statue, which, when exposed to the rain, becomes dismembered and difficult to recognize.
"Then cried aloud the great king as follows:
"'IF I SACRIFICE MY BODY, IT IS NOT TO OBTAIN TREASURES, NOR FOR PLEASURE, NOR FOR LOVE OF MY WIFE AND MY CHILDREN AND MY KINSFOLK. WHAT I COVET IS ENLIGHTENMENT, THAT THEREBY I MAY BE ABLE TO PROCURE SALVATION FOR ALL LIVING BEINGS!'
"Then he pronounced these stanzas:
"'Deities and spirits, heavenly musicians and ogres,
"'Seeing me in this state,
"'Because I covet Supreme Enlightenment,
"'He that would win Enlightenment,
"'If one does not possess constancy that is proof against everything,
"At the instant when the great king, sacrificing his body, ascended the scales, the great earth trembled six times, like a blade of grass or a leaf, agitated in all the directions. In the sky, the deities expressed their wonderment at this extraordinary spectacle, and cried out: 'Bravo! bravo! Thou dost deserve to be called zealous and of resolution unshakable.' And the great king uttered these stanzas:
"'To save the life of this living being,
"'I have acted from a heart that is sincere and full of compassion,
"'The whole company of the deities
"At this moment the hawk expressed his wonderment at the sight of this extraordinary act: 'His resolution is firm and sincere; he will soon become a Buddha; all living beings will put their confidence in him.' Then Indra showed himself to the king under his true form, and told Vishva-Karman to resume his true form also. And he added: 'Let us pay him our respects! For this Future Buddha is imbued with resolution firm and unshakable, like Mount Sumeru, which lies in mid-ocean without ever being shaken. Such is the heart of this Future Buddha.' Then he added these stanzas:
"'Let us pay our respects to this valiant and resolute man!
"'He has planted in the ground of Compassion
"Vishva-Karman then addressed himself to Indra and said: 'The great king has shown his compassion for all living beings. His body should be restored as it was before. May all living beings be able to seek after Enlightenment without faltering [as the king has done]!' Then Indra asked the king: 'Had you no regret over sacrificing yourself for a pigeon?' The king replied to him with these stanzas:
"'This body is destined to perish;
"'If, then, by means of this worthless body,
"'Where, then, is the prudent man,
"Indra said to the king: 'Such words are difficult to believe. Never has an act equal to it been seen. Who could give credence to it?' The great king replied: 'I know myself. Were there in the world a great sage capable of fathoming my heart, he would see that it is pure and without duplicity.' Indra replied: 'You have spoken the truth.' At this moment the great king made this declaration: 'If I have no regret [for having done what I have just done], may my body become once more as it was before!' And the king surveyed his mutilated body and uttered these stanzas:
"'When I mutilated my body,
"'IF THIS BE TRUE,
"When the great king had pronounced these stanzas, his mutilated body was transformed, and became as it was before. Here follow the stanzas:
"'The mountains, and the great earth as well,
"'The deities sang with joy,
"The deities expressed their joy,
"'All living beings were affected;
"'The sky was full of flowers
"'The celestial nymphs, assembled in heaven,
"'Garments of all colors,
"'In everybody's dwelling
"'No cloud covered the heavens;
"'A gentle wind exhaled perfumes;
"'The demons, ardently desirous to obtain the Law,
"'All the heavenly musicians
"'"Soon he will obtain the condition of a Buddha;
"Then Indra and Vishva-Karman paid their respects to the Future Buddha, and returned in their heavenly mansions."