The Sharabha Deer – from Jataka Tale #25

Once the Buddha was born as a bodhisattva in the form of a Sharabha Deer. This sharabha was magnificent in all respects. He lived in the deep forest content to subsist on leaves and grace. Although he was the shape of an animal, his mind was as steadfast as any human.

One day the king entered the forest on a hunt and decided to kill the sharabha. He spurred his horse in pursuit. Recognizing the king’s intentions the bodhisattva deer took flight. Racing after the sharabha, the king’s horse stopped suddenly at the edge of a cliff, throwing the king into the abyss below.

Approaching the edge of the precipice, the bodhisattva found the king covered in dust and racked with pain. He kindly said to the king, “Great King, I hope your pain isn’t too great. Please place your trust in me and I will come to your rescue.”

Addressing the sharabha, the king said, “My pain is nothing compared to the pain of realizing the offense I have committed against such a pure being as you. I was blind to your true nature. Please forgive me.”

With strength and agility the sharabha swiftly carried the king to the top of the cliff. He reunited the king with his horse and told him the way back to the capital. The king was overcome with gratitude.

The bodhisattva said, “If you wish to do something for me, refrain from hunting. All creatures desire happiness and freedom from suffering. Harmful actions lead to suffering. Virtuous actions bring dignity. Be generous. Increase your merit. Seek guidance from the wise. Cultivate right action. Treat all creatures as you would yourself like to be treated.”

The king thanked the bodhisattva for his words and watched with respect as he sped away to his home in the forest.

~Thus the compassionate show pity even to those who to harm them and never abandon their desire to help even wrong doers in distress, regardless of their evil intentions. ~

The point of this teaching, when you use the Lam Rim teachings, is more about how to show respect and following the path of the guru. The bodhisattva deer was compassionate and taught the king and the king understood and respected the deer’s teaching. That is also a part of this teaching. It shows a lack of essence of the samsaric way of life. This teaching also clearly shows that the cause of being born in unpleasant realms is non-virtue. The cause of samsara is negative emotions and the cause of refusing the bodhisattva practice is selfishness.

– Demo Rinpoche, Jewel Heart Ann Arbor, Jataka Tales June 5, 2022

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