"Follow the Banyan deer"--This the Master told while at Jetavana, about the mother of the Elder named Kumara Kassapa. She, they are told, was the daughter of a rich merchant of the city of Rajagaha; she was deeply rooted in virtue, and despised all transient things; she had reached her last birth, and in her heart the destiny of future Arhatship shone like a lamp within a translucent pitcher. From the time when she knew her own mind she had no pleasure in a lay life, but was desirous to take the vows. And she said to her parents,--
"Mother, dear! my heart finds no pleasure in house-hold life. I want to take the vows according to that teaching of the Buddha which leads to Nirvana. Let me be ordained!"
"What is it you are saying, dear? This family is of great wealth, and you are our only daughter. You cannot be allowed to take the vows."
When, after repeated asking, she was unable to obtain her parents' permission, she thought, "Let it be so. When I get to another family, I will make favor with my husband, and take the vows."
And when she grew up, she entered another family as wife, and lived a household life as a virtuous and attractive woman. And in due time she conceived, but she knew it not.
Now in that city they proclaimed a feast. All the dwellers in the city kept the feast, and the city was decked like a city of the gods. But she, up to the time when the feast was at its height, neither anointed herself nor dressed, but went about in her every-day clothes. Then her husband said to her,--
"My dear! all the city is devoted to the feast; yet you adorn yourself not."
"The body, Sir, is but filled with its thirty-two constituent parts. What profit can there be in adorning it? For this body has no divine, no angelic attributes: it is not made of gold, or gems, or yellow sandal-wood; it springs not from the womb of lotus-flowers, white or red; it is not filled with the nectar-balm of holiness. But verily it is born in corruption: it springs from father and mother: its attributes are the decomposition, the wearing away, the dissolution, the destruction, of that which is impermanent! It is produced by excitement; it is the cause of pains, the subject of mournings, a lodging-place for all diseases. It is the receptacle for the action of Karma; foul within, without it is ever discharging: its end is death: and its goal is the charnel-house,--there, in the sight of all the world, to be the dwelling-place of worms and creeping things!"
"Dear Lord! what should I gain by adorning this body? Would not putting ornaments on it be like painting the outside of a sepulcher?"
"My dear!" replied the young nobleman, "if you think this body so sinful, why don't you become a nun?"
"If you grant me leave, dear husband, I will take the vows this day!"
"Very well, then; I will get you ordained," said he. And giving a donation at a great cost, he took her, with a numerous retinue, to the nunnery, and had. her admitted into the Order of Nuns--but among those who sided with Devadatta. And she was overjoyed that her wish had been fulfilled, and that she had become a nun.
Now, as she became far gone with child, the nuns noticed the alteration in her person,--the swelling of her hands and feet and back, and the increase in her girth; and they asked her, "Lady, you seem to be with child. How is this?"
"I don't know how it is, ladies; but I have kept the vows."
Then the nuns led her to Devadatta, and asked him, "Sir! this young lady, after with difficulty gaining her husband's consent, was received into the Order. But now it is evident that she is with child; and we know not whether she became so when she was a laywoman or when she was a nun. What shall we do now?"
Devadatta, not being a Buddha, and having no forbearance, kindness, or compassion, thought thus: "If people can say, 'A nun of Devadatta's side is carrying about a child in her womb, and Devadatta condones it,' I shall be disgraced. I must unfrock this woman!" And without any inquiry, he answered with eagerness, "Go and expel this woman from the Order!'"--just as if he were rushing forwards to roll away a mere piece of stone!
When they heard his decision, they arose, and bowed to him, and returned to the nunnery. But the young girl said to the nuns, "Ladies! the Elder, Devadatta, is not the Buddha. Not under him did I enter the religious life, but under the Buddha himself, who is supreme among men. What I obtained with such difficulty, O, deprive me not of that! Take me, I pray you, and go to the Master himself at Jetavana!"
And they took her; and passing over the forty-five leagues of road which stretched from Rajagaha to that place, they arrived in due course at Jetavana, and saluting the Master, told him the whole matter.
The Teacher thought, "Although the child was conceived when she was still in the world, yet the heretics will have an opportunity of saying, 'The mendicant Gautama has accepted a nun expelled by Devadatta!' Therefore, to prevent such talk, this case ought to be heard in the presence of the king and his ministers."
So the next day he sent for Pasenadi the king of Kosala, Anatha Pindika the Elder, Anatha Pindika the Younger, the Lady Visakha the influential disciple, and other well-known persons of distinction. And in the evening, when all classes of disciples had assembled, he said to Upali the Elder, "Go and examine into this affair of the young nun in the presence of the church!"
The Elder accordingly went to the assembly; and when he had seated himself in his place, called the Lady Visakha before the king, and gave in charge to her the following investigation: "Do you go, Visakha, and find out exactly on what day of what month this poor child was received into the Order, and then conclude whether she conceived before or after that day."
The Lady agreed; and having had a curtain hung, made a private examination behind it of the young nun; and comparing the days and months, found out that in truth she had conceived while she was yet living in the world. And she went to the Elder, and told him so; and the Elder, in the midst of the assembly, declared the nun to be innocent.
Thus was her innocence established. And she bowed down in grateful adoration to the assembly, and to the Master; and she returned with the other nuns to the nunnery.
Now, when her time was come, she brought forth a son strong in spirit--the result of a wish she had uttered at the feet of Padumuttara the Buddha. And one day, as the king was passing near the nunnery, he heard the cry of a child, and asked his ministers the reason. They knew of the matter, and said, "O king! that young nun has had a son, and the cry comes from it."
"To take care of a child. Sirs, is said to be a hindrance to nuns in their religious life. Let us undertake the care of it," said he.
And he had the child given to the women of his harem, and brought it up as a prince. And on the naming-day they called him Kassapa; but as he was brought up in royal state, he became known as Kassapa the Prince.
When he was seven years old, he was entered in the noviciate under the Buddha; and when he attained the necessary age, received full orders; and, as time went on, he became the most eloquent among the preachers. And the Master gave him the pre-eminence, saying, "Mendicants! the chief of my disciples in eloquence is Kassapa the Prince." Afterwards, through the Vammika Sutta, he attained to Arhatship. His mother, the nun, too, obtained spiritual insight, and reached Nirvana. And Kassapa the Prince became as distinguished in the religion of the Buddhas as the full moon in the midst of the vault of heaven.
Now one day the Successor of the Buddhas, when he had returned from his rounds and taken his meal, exhorted the brethren, and entered his apartment. The brethren, after hearing the exhortation, spent the day either in their day-rooms or night-rooms, and then met together at eventide for religious conversation. And, as they sat there, they exalted the character of the Buddha, saying, "Brethren, the Elder Prince Kassapa, and the Lady his mother, were nearly ruined by Devadatta, through his not being a Buddha, and having no forbearance or kindness; but the Supreme Buddha, being the King of Righteousness, and being perfect in kindness and forbearance and compassion, became the means of salvation to them both!"
Then the Master entered the hall with the dignity peculiar to a Buddha, and seating himself, asked them, "What are you sitting here talking about, mendicants?"
"Lord," said they, "concerning your excellences!" And they told him the whole matter.
"Not now only, mendicants!" said he, "has the Successor of the Buddhas been a source of salvation and a refuge to these two; formerly also he was the same."
Then the monks asked the Blessed One to explain how that was; and the Blessed One made manifest that which had been hidden by change of birth.
"Long ago, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisattva 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 bright and hard as lacquer-work, his tail as fine as the tail of a Tibetan ox, and his body as large in size as a foal's.
"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 Benares at that time 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 now in the park we were to sow food and provide water for the deer, and drive a number of deer into it, and close the entrance, and deliver them over to the king.'
"So they planted in the park grass for the deer to eat, and provided water, and tied up the gate; and calling the citizens, they entered the forest, with clubs and all kinds of weapons in their hands, to look for the deer. And thinking, 'We shall best catch the deer by surrounding them,' they encircled a part of the forest about a league across. And in so doing they surrounded the very place where the Banyan Deer and the Monkey Deer were living.
"Then striking the trees and bushes, and beating on the ground, with their clubs, they drove the herd of deer out of the place where they were; and making a great noise by rattling their swords and javelins and bows, they made the herd enter the park, and shut the gate. And then they went to the king, and said to him:
"'O king! by your constant going to the chase, you put a stop to our work. We have now brought deer from the forest, and filled your park with them. Henceforth feed on them!' And so saying, they took their leave, and departed.
"When the king heard that, he went to the park; and seeing there two golden-colored deer, he granted them their lives. But thenceforth he would sometimes go himself to shoot a 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 the fear of death, and take to their heels; but when they had been hit once or twice, they became weary or wounded, and were killed.
"And the herd of deer told all this to the Bodhisattva. He 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 the arrows. Let the deer take it by turns to go to the place of execution. One day let the lot fall upon my herd, and the next day on yours. Let the deer whose turn it is go to the place of execution, put his head on the block, and lie down. If this be done, the deer will at least escape laceration.'
"He agreed: and thenceforth the deer whose turn it was used to go 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 herd of 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 turn 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 Bodhisattva, and told him the matter. He listened to her, and said, 'Be it so! Do you go back. I will relieve you of your turn.' And he went himself, and put his neck upon the block of execution, and lay down.
"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 this 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 Bodhisattva, 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 it was impossible for me to transfer her miserable fate to any one else. So I, giving my life to her, and accepting death in her place, have lain down. Harbor no further suspicion, 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 two be safe, what shall the rest do, king of men?'
"'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 also shall be free from fear.'
"'Great king! even though the quadrupeds are in safety, what shall the flocks of birds do?'
"'Well, I 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.'
"And so the Great Being, having interceded with the king for all creatures, rose up and established the king in the Five Precepts, and said, 'Walk in righteousness, great king! Doing justice and mercy to fathers and mothers, to sons and daughters, to townsmen and landsmen, you shall enter, when your body is dissolved, the happy world of heaven!'
"Thus, with the grace of a Buddha, he preached the Truth to the king; and when he had dwelt a few days in the park to exhort the king, he went away to the forest with his attendant herd.
"And the roe gave birth to a son as beautiful as buds of flowers; and he went playing about with the Monkey Deer's herd. But when its mother saw that, she said, 'My son, henceforth go not in his company; you may keep to the Banyan Deer's herd!' And thus exhorting him, she uttered the verse--
"'Follow the Banyan Deer:
"Now after that the deer, secure of their lives, began to eat men's 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 king's palace, and told the matter to the king.
"'When I was well pleased, I granted to the leader of the Banyan Deer a boon,' said he. 'I may give up my kingdom, but not my oath! Begone with you! Not a man in my kingdom shall be allowed to hurt the deer.'
"When the Banyan Deer heard that, he assembled the herds, and said, 'Henceforth you are not allowed to eat other people's 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 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 the Bodhisattva.
"And the Bodhisattva continued thus his life long to instruct the deer, and passed away with his herd according to his deeds.
"The king, too, hearkened to the exhortations of the Bodhisattva, and then, in due time, passed away, according to his deeds."
The Master, having finished the discourse in illustration of his saying, "Not only now was I the protector of the nun and of Kassapa the Prince; in a former birth I was the same," he fully expounded the Four Truths. And when he had told the double story, he made the connection, and summed up the Jataka by saying, "He who was then the Monkey Deer was Devadatta, his herd was Devadatta's following, the roe was the nun, her son was Kassapa the Prince, the king was Ananda, but the royal Banyan Deer was I myself."