A Story From Buddha's Other Lives Retold by Sharon

     There was a deer who lived so deep in the forest jungle that he was almost never seen. For many generations the men and women of the villages surrounding the forest had called the elusive deer Sarabha. Stories were told of the whispers of Sarabha being heard by those brave enough to venture into the forest.

     One day a king was hunting in the forest and penetrated the forest so deeply that he caught a glimpse of Sarabha's golden form. "Who are you, you beautiful creature?" Said the prince. But Sarabha ran quickly and disappeared into the trees. "No one has ever dared run away from me before" exclaimed the king. And off he ran after Sarabha on his horse shooting arrows which fel all around Sarabha but did not harm him because he could dart here and there like the wind. The king in his greed and haste to catch Sarabha forgot all about his hunting companions so fixed was his attention on catching his prize. His companions became frightened of nightfall and turned back for the palace.

     The hooves of his horse scarcely touched the ground as he flew through the jungle at great speed. Suddenly Sarabha reached the rim of a great chasm which he jumped effortlessly. The king did not see the chasm, but his horse did, and not daring to jump stopped abruptly at the edge of the chasm. The king was flung over the horses head deep into the chasm below.

     Sarabha looked behind him and saw the riderless horse running here and there and instantly knew what had happened. Sarabha felt a great compassion well up from within himself. "The king has fallen in the chasm" he thought to himself. "Surely he is suffering terribly and all alone with his armies, hunting companions and servants far behind. No matter how the king calls out for help they will not hear him. I will save him."

     Such were the thoughts of Sarabha as he turned back in the direction of the chasm that he had so easily leaped. On reaching the brink, he looked down and saw his enemy lying in the dust moaning. And bending over he spoke to him in a gentle voice."King of men, do not fear me. I will not harm you even though you meant to take my life. I drink the same water that you drink and eat of the same fruits we are brothers. I am able to help you and to bring you out of this chasm. Trust me, I will come."

     "Do my eyes truly see," thought the king. "Is this not my enemy who comes to save me?" The king looked up at Sarabha, his heart full of shame.

     "Beautiful deer" said the king, "I am not hurt much at all for my armor has protected me. But the thought that I have been your enemy hurts me more than my wounds.. Forgive me, blessed one."

     Hearing these words Sarabha knew that the king loved and trusted him. He descended into the chasm, and taking the king on his back, climbed the high walls with strength greater than that of an elephant and brought him into the forest.

     The king threw his arms around Sarabha. "How can I thank you. My palace and my country are yours. Please return with me." Great King', said Sarabha, do not ask me to go to your palace. The forest is my home, the forest is my palace and my country. If you wish to make me happy, grant me one wish. Please do not hunt anymore in the forest, so that those who live beneath these trees may live happily and free from fear."

     The king gave his promise gladly and returned to his palace to the great joy of his people who greeted him as a hero. The king published a decree that no one should ever hunt in the forest again. For ever after the king, his people and the animals in the forest lived happily.

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