A long time ago, Maha-Dhanaka, son of a rich merchant from the city of Varanasi, had, after the death of his parents, led a happy life, gambling a lot, surrounding himself with profiteers and good-for-nothings. Covered with debts and pursued by his creditors, he decided to end his life by throwing himself into the river. But just as he was about to drown, the thirst for life suddenly took hold of him again and he began to struggle against the current that was carrying him, calling for help.
At that time the Bodhisattva was a deer with a magnificent golden coat, living recluse in the depths of the woods. His eyes were the color of the azure sky. Its hooves and antlers seemed carved from precious stones. Endowed with great wisdom and infinite compassion, he knew how to express himself in the language of men. But not ignoring the duplicity and cruelty of the latter, he avoided crossing their path.
As he frolicked peacefully in a wood bordered by the Ganges, he heard the desperate cries of a man struggling in the tumultuous waves. Moved by his distress and listening only to his good heart, the generous animal rushed to his aid and, at the risk of his own life, managed to bring him back to shore. Still shaken by his adventure, Maha-Dhanaka – for it was of course he who it was – thanked his savior with eagerness and formally undertook, in accordance with his request, not to speak to anyone about their encounter and never to reveal the location of his hiding place.
A deer with a sumptuous golden coat
However, some time later, the king's wife had a dream in which a deer appeared to her with a sumptuous golden coat which, sitting on the throne, delivered edifying lessons in a disturbing human voice. From then on, she had only one desire: to see this remarkable creature with her own eyes and to hear it. Anxious to please him, the sovereign made promise, in a public proclamation, a large reward to whoever would allow the capture of the animal.
A man quickly showed up at the palace, saying he knew where the deer was and even offering to serve as a guide to the king and his troops. It was none other, one suspects, than Maha-Dhanaka, unable to resist the lure of money.
Having convinced the sovereign and his people of the virtues of compassion, the deer found his way back to freedom and returned to his forest.
A troop of powerfully armed archers led by the king himself set off. Arrived at the edge of the forest, the men dismounted, hidden by the branches and the bushes. "Behold the beast," whispered Maha-Dhanaka in the king's ear. And to raise his arm to point more precisely to the deer, but his barely sketched gesture, his hand fell to the ground, as if sliced by an invisible sword. Alerted by the murmurs of amazement and fear, the stag turned its head, and realized that it was surrounded, without the slightest chance of escaping. Showing an astonishing serenity in such circumstances, he advanced towards the sovereign with great dignity to address him directly: “Powerful monarch! Stop here. And tell me, please, how you discovered my hiding place. »
The king lowered his bow and without a word pointed at Maha-Dhanaka with the tip of his arrow.
Looking pained, the deer then said in a soft voice: "Better, in truth, to take a log out of the deluge than to save an ungrateful one", before telling the king how he allowed Maha-Dhanaka to escape. to drowning.
Mad with anger at such ingratitude, the king ordered his men to seize Maha-Dhanaka and execute him on the spot. But the deer intervened, imploring the pity of the sovereign.
Deeply touched by this mark of compassion that he would never have thought to see in an animal, the king granted his pardon against the promise that the deer would agree to follow him to his palace to meet his wife who so desired to see him. The noble animal having acceded to his request, the dream of the queen became reality and, in the largest hall of the palace, sitting on the throne, the deer delivered his teachings before the assembled court. Then, having convinced the sovereign and his people of the virtues of compassion, he found the way to freedom and returned to his forest, certain that henceforth the animals of the kingdom would know peace and security.