Ja 359 Suvaṇṇamigajātaka Compare Tibetan Tales, xli: The Gazelle and the Hunter.
The Story about the Golden Deer (5s)

In the present one faithful young woman manages to convert her new family to the Buddha’s teaching, and later, together with her husband, goes forth. The Buddha tells a story of how a doe had saved her lord when he had been trapped by a hunter.

The Bodhisatta = the king of the deer (migarājā),
the young nun = the doe (migī),
Channa = the hunter (luddaka).

Keywords: Faith, Self-sacrifice, Women, Animals.

“O golden foot.” This was a story told by the Teacher while in residence at Jetavana, about a maiden of gentle birth in Sāvatthi. She was, they say, the daughter in the household of a servitor of the two chief disciples at Sāvatthi, and was a faithful believer, fondly attached to Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha, abounding in good works, wise, and devoted to generosity and such like deeds of piety. Another family in Sāvatthi of equal rank but of heretical views chose her in marriage. Then her parents said: “Our daughter is a faithful believer, devoted to the Three Jewels, given to alms and other good works, but you hold heretical views. And as you will not allow her to give alms, or to hear the Dhamma, or to visit the monastery, or to keep the moral law, or to observe the fast days, as she pleases, we will not give her to you in marriage. Choose you a maiden from a family of heretical views like yourselves.” When their offer was rejected, they said: “When she comes to our house let your daughter do everything of this kind, as she pleases. We will not prevent her. Only grant us this boon.” “Take her then,” they answered. So they celebrated the marriage [3.121] festivity at an auspicious season and led her home. She proved faithful in the discharge of her duties, and a devoted wife, and rendered due service to her father-in-law and mother-in-law.

One day she said to her husband, “I wish, my lord, to give alms to our family monastics.” “Very well, my dear, give them just what you please.” So one day she invited these monastics, and making a great entertainment, she fed them with choice food, and taking a seat apart from them she said: “Venerable sirs, this family is heretical and unbelieving. They are ignorant of the value of the Three Jewels. Well then, sirs, until this family understands the value of the Three Jewels, do you continue to receive your food here.” The monastics assented and continually ate their meals there. Again she addressed her husband, {3.183} “Sir, the monastics constantly come here. Why do you not see them?” On hearing this he said: “Very well, I will see them.”

On the morrow she told him when the monastics had finished their meal. He came and sat respectfully on one side, conversing affably with the monastics. Then the Captain of the Dhamma preached the Dhamma to him. He was so charmed with the exposition of the faith, and the behaviour of the monastics, that from that day forward he prepared mats for the elders to sit on, and strained water for them, and after the meal listened to the exposition of the faith. By and by his heretical views gave way.

So one day the elder in expounding the faith declared the Truths to the man and his wife, and when the sermon was ended, they were both established in the fruition of the First Path. Thenceforth all of them, from his parents down to the hired servants, gave up their heretical views, and became devoted to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha.

So one day this young girl said to her husband, “What, sir, have I to do with the household life? I wish to adopt the ascetic life.” “Very well, my dear,” he said: “I too will become an ascetic.” And he conducted her with great pomp to a nunnery, and had her admitted as a novice, and himself too went to the Teacher and begged to be ordained. The Teacher admitted him first as a novice and afterwards to full monastic orders. They both received clear spiritual vision, and shortly became an Arahat.

One day they raised a discussion in the Dhamma Hall, saying: “Sirs, a certain woman by reason of her own faith and that of her husband became a novice. And both of them having adopted the ascetic life, and gained clear spiritual vision, became Arahats.” The Teacher, when he came, inquired what was the topic the monks were sitting in council to discuss, and on hearing what it was, he said: “Monks, not only now, did she set her husband free from the bonds of passion. Formerly too she freed even sages of old from the bonds of death.” And with these words he held his peace, but being pressed by them he related a story of the past.

In the past 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. {3.184} 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 [3.122] being able to break the snare, the stag was so alarmed with the fear of death that he uttered the cry of capture. 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 verse:

1. “O golden foot, no effort spare
To loose thyself from thongéd snare.
How could I joy, bereft of you,
To range amidst the woodland free?” {3.185}

The Bodhisatta, on hearing this, responded in a second verse:

2. “I spare no effort, but in vain,
My liberty I cannot gain.
The more I struggle to get loose,
The sharper bites the thongéd 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 verse:

3. “Let on the earth a leafy bed,
Hunter, where we may fall, be spread:
And drawing from its sheath your 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. {3.186} This day will I grant life to her and to her mate.” And greatly charmed with her, the hunter uttered the fourth verse:

4. “A beast that speaks with voice of men,
Ne’er came before within my ken.
Rest you in peace, my gentle deer,
And cease, O golden foot, to fear.” [3.123]

The doe seeing the Bodhisatta set at his ease, was highly delighted and returning thanks to the hunter, repeated the fifth verse:

5. “As I today rejoice to see
This mighty beast at liberty,
So, hunter, that did loose the trap,
Rejoice with all your kith and kin.”

And the Bodhisatta thought: “This hunter has granted life to me and this doe, and to eight myriads of deer. He has been my refuge, and I ought to be a refuge to him.” {3.187} 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 Teacher here ended his lesson and identified the Jātaka, “At that time Channa A monk who was suspended for siding with heretics. [I am not sure this gives an accurate picture of this complex personality: he was Prince Siddhattha’s charioteer, and later ordained. He seems to have been a little obstinate, and is recorded as blaming the Chief Disciples. Also the last disciplinary act of the Buddha was in regard to this monk. I do not find anywhere though where he sided with heretics.] was the hunter, this female novice was the doe, and I myself was the royal stag.”