The Antelope and the Hunter (Jataka Tales – 13)

Once on a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as an antelope, and used to live on fruits in his haunts in the forest.

At one period he was subsisting on the fruit of a sepanni-tree. And there was a village hunter, whose method was to build a platform in trees at the foot of which he found the track of deer, and to watch aloft for their coming to eat the fruits of the trees. When the deer came, he brought them down with a Javelin, and sold the flesh for a living.

This hunter one day marked the tracks of the Bodhisatta at the foot of the tree, and made himself a platform up in the boughs. Having breakfasted early, he went with his Javelin into the forest and seated himself on his platform

The Bodhisatta, too, came abroad early to eat the fruit of that tree; but he was not in too great a hurry to approach it. “for,” thought he to himself, “sometimes these platform building hunters build themselves platforms in the boughs. Can it be that this can have happened here?” And he halted some way off to reconnoiter.

Finding that the Bodhisatta did not approach, the hunter, still seated aloft on his platform, threw fruit down in front of the antelope.

Said the antelope to himself, “Here’s the fruit coming to meet me; I wonder if there is a hunter up there.” So he looked, and looked, till he caught sight of the hunter in the tree; but, feigning not to have seen the man, he should, “My worthy tree, hitherto you have been in the habit of letting your fruit fall straight to the ground like a pendant creeper; but to- day you have ceased to act like a tree. And therefore, as you have ceased to behave as becomes a tree, I too must change, and look for food beneath another tree.”

Then the hunter form his platform hurled his javelin at the Bodhisatta, crying, “Begone! I’ve missed you this time.” Wheeling round, the Bodhisatta halted and said, “You may have missed me, my good man; but depend upon it, you have not missed the reward of your conduct, namely, the eight large and the sixteen Lesser hells and all the five forms of bonds and torture.”

With these words the antelope bounded off on its way; and the hunter, too, climbed down and went his way.

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