The Mahavastu (great story)

by J. J. Jones | 1949 | 305,330 words | ISBN-10: 086013041X

This page describes deer park (mrigadaya or mrigadava) which is Chapter XXXII of the English translation of the Mahavastu (“great story”), dating to the 2nd-century BC. This work belongs to the Mahasanghika school of early Buddhism and contains narrative stories of the Buddha’s former lives, such as Apadanas, Jatakas and more..

Chapter XXXII - The deer park (Mṛgadāya or Mṛgadāva)

Now the Śākyans had a town named Devaḍaha, where there lived a Śākyan chieftain named Subhūti.[1] And he took to wife a Koliyan maiden from a certain town, who bore him seven daughters, namely, Māyā, Mahāmāyā, Atimāyā, Anantamāyā, Cūlīyā, Kolīsovā,[2] and Mahāprajāpatī.

The history of Māyā.

The Śākyan king Siṃhahanu had four sons and one daughter. The sons were Śuddhodana, Śuklodana, Dhautodana and Amṛtodana, while the daughter was Amitā. When King Siṃhahanu died (356), Śuddhodana succeeded to the throne. And King Śuddhodana bade his ministers bring him a maiden who was lovely and of good birth. The ministers at once sent out brāhmans who were clever, learned and adept in assessing the qualities of women, men and maidens. “Go,” said they, “discover a maiden worthy to be a consort to King Śuddhodana.”

As these brāhmans scoured the villages, towns, cities and provinces, they saw in the Śākyan town of Devaḍaha the seven daughters of the Śākyan Subhūti, and of the seven Māyā was outstanding. A maiden like her it would be very hard to find in the whole of Jambudvīpa.

They reported this to the king, saying, “In the town of Devaḍaha the Śākyan Subhūti has seven lovely and beautiful daughters, and one of them is pre-eminent among all the seven sisters in beauty, radiance, and wisdom. She is gifted with all good qualities, and her name is Māyā. In all the villages, cities, towns,[3] and provinces that we searched, we did not see before we came to Devaḍaha anyone like Māyā, the daughter of the Śākyan Subhūti.”

Śuddhodana sent a message to Subhūti, saying, “Give me your daughter Māyā to wife, and she shall become my chief queen.” But Subhūti replied to the messengers, “Māyā has six sisters older than she. When these are married, then shall Māyā be given to his majesty.”

The messengers reported this to king Śuddhodana and said, “Your majesty, thus says the Śākyan Subhūti, ‘When her six elder sisters are married, then will Māyā be given to his majesty

King Śuddhodana sent a further message to Subhūti the Śākyan, saying, “Give me all your seven daughters.” The messengers took this message back to Subhūti the Śākyan and said to him, “Thus says king Śuddhodana, ‘Give me all your seven daughters And Subhūti the Śākyan complied with king Śuddhodana’s request, and said, “Your majesty, let them be given you.”

And so with great royal magnificence, pomp and splendour all the seven maidens(357) were led forth by King Śuddhodana from the town of Devaḍaha to Kapilavastu. The king established two of them, Māyā and Mahāprajāpatī, in his own harem, and gave the other five to his five brothers.[4]

“In twelve years the Bodhisattva will leave his abode in Tuṣita.” So did the Śuddhāvāsa devas proclaim[5] to the Pratyekabuddhas in Jambudvīpa, “The Bodhisattva is about to descend. Quit the field of the Buddha.”

The Great and Glorious One, endowed with infinite knowledge and insight, is about to come down from his abode in Tuṣita. Quit the field of the Buddha [the Master],[6] who bears the marks of excellence.

When the Pratyekabuddhas heard the Buddha proclaimed by these great lords, they passed away, emancipated in heart, independent, masters of their hearts.

Now Pratyekabuddhas pass away after they have each recited his own verse.[7]

In a great wood a yojana and a half from Benares there dwelt five hundred Pratyekabuddhas. They too recited each his own verse and passed entirely away.

Strenuous, constantly devoted, sublime in heart, alert, firm, and courageous, endued with strength and energy, they live in loneliness like a rhinoceros.[8]

They rose up in the air and having at their command the element of fire,[9] they passed completely away. Their flesh and blood were consumed in their own fire. Their corpses fell to earth.

In due time developing equanimity and pity, cultivating sympathy[10] with others, with love in one’s heart, friendly and compassionate, let one live in loneliness like a rhinoceros.[11]

(358) Discarding the use of the scourge against all creatures, causing hurt to none of them; discarding the use of the scourge against the timid as well as the bold,[12] let one live in loneliness like a rhinoceros.

Throwing off the marks of a householder, like the pāripātra[13] tree denuded of leaves, and going forth from home clad in the yellow robe, let one live in loneliness like a rhinoceros.

Tearing off the marks of a householder, let one go forth from home clad in the yellow robe, like a solitary flame that rises from the ashes,[14] and live in loneliness like a rhinoceros.

If one associates with one’s fellows, there is the risk of too great affection. And the pain in this world is the result of affection. Therefore, one should avoid society, and live in loneliness like a rhinoceros.

If one associates with one’s fellows, there is the risk of too great affection. And the pain in this world is the result of affection. Therefore one should avoid too great affection for those who are dear, and live in loneliness like a rhinoceros.

If one associates with one’s fellows, there is the risk of too great affection. And the pain in this world is the result of affection. Therefore although one is loth to part from friends, one should live in loneliness like a rhinoceros.

If one associates with one’s fellows, there is the risk of too great affection (359). And the pain in this world is the result of affection. Therefore, thoroughly grasping the peril that lies in having friends, one should live in loneliness like a rhinoceros.

If one associates with one’s fellows, there is the risk of too great affection. And the pain in this world is the result of affection. Therefore, thoroughly grasping the peril that lies in having sons, one should live in loneliness like a rhinoceros.

He who takes thought of sons and friends, and whose heart is bound by the ties of affection, loses his own good. One should not, then, desire sons, much less friends, but live in loneliness like a rhinoceros.

He who takes thought of relatives and friends and whose heart is bound by the ties of affection, loses his own good. One should not, then, desire relatives, much less friends, but live in loneliness like a rhinoceros.

All the stanzas of the Khaḍgaviṣāṇa[15] are to be supplied here in full, namely the stanzas pronounced by each one of the Pratyekabuddhas.

Ṛṣipatana was so named from the falling of the seers.[16]

Now in a forest at that place there was a king of deer named Rohaka who looked after a herd of a thousand deer. He had two sons, Nyagrodha and Viśākha.[17] And the king gave five hundred deer to each son.

Brahmadatta, the king of Kāśi, was continually hunting in all parts of that forest ánd killing deer. But not all the deer he shot found their way to his table, for many of them escaped wounded into the bushes and thickets of the forest, into the clumps of grass, reeds and brambles, and died, and were devoured by ravens(360) and vultures.

The deer-king Nyagrodha said to his brother Viśākha, “Let us, Viśākha, appeal to the king and say to him, “You do not feed on all the deer you shoot, for many of them escape wounded to their lairs, where they die and are devoured by ravens and vultures. Now we shall give your majesty one deer daily which will come of its own will to your kitchen. In this way disaster and destruction will not befall this herd of deer

His brother Viśākha replied, “Very well, let us appeal to him.”

Now the king was out hunting, and the kings of the herds of deer saw him coming from a distance, with an army and accompanied by men carrying knives, bows, spears and lances. When they saw the king, they went up to him without fear or trembling, although it was at the risk of their lives.

The king of Kāśi saw the deer-kings coming when they were still some way off, and he gave an order to his army. “Let no one molest these deer which are coming. Who knows what significance it has that they do not flee at the sight of the army, but come to meet me?” So the army made way for those deer, parting to the left and to the right. And the two deer came up to the king and fell at his knees.

The king asked the deer-kings, “What do you ask for? Make known what you want done.” And they, in a human voice, appealed to the king and said, “Your majesty, this is what we beg for. We two were born and grew up in your dominion in the forest here, together with many a hundred other deer as well. We two are brothers, and kings of these herds of deer, and we dwell here in your majesty’s domain. Now, just as your majesty’s cities, towns, villages and provinces are graced by people, kine, oxen and many thousands of other living creatures, two-footed and four-footed, so are these forest glades, fastnesses, rivers and streams graced by these herds of deer. And this, your majesty, is what adorns sovereignty, that all the two-footed and four-footed creatures which dwell in your majesty’s domain, (361) in village, forest or mountain, come to your majesty for protection and all of them are cared for and protected by you. Your majesty and no other is their sovereign.

“But when your majesty goes hunting many hundreds of deer come by disaster and destruction. Not all the deer hit by arrows reach your majesty’s table, for some escape into the thickets and brushwood of the forest, and into clumps of grasses and reeds, where they die and are devoured by ravens and vultures. Thus your majesty is tainted with wrongdoing.

“Now, if it is your majesty’s pleasure, we two kings of deer will send you each day one deer which will come of its own free will to your kitchen. From one herd on one day and from the second the next, each day will we send one deer to your majesty, so that there will be no break in the provision of venison for the king, while these deer will not come by disaster and destruction.”

The king granted this appeal of the kings of the herds of deer, saying, “Let it be as you wish. Go, and live without fear or trembling, and send me one deer daily.”

And when he had granted this appeal the king instructed his ministers that no one was to molest the deer. Having given this order he returned to the city.

The kings of the herds of deer gathered all the deer together and comforted them. “Be not afraid,” said they, “for we have appealed to the king not to go hunting any more, and no one will molest deer. But each day one deer is to be sent to the king’s kitchen, from one herd on one day and from the other the next

And they counted the numbers in both herds and decided the order[18] in which they should be taken from each. From one herd on one day, and from the other the next day, one deer was to go daily to the king’s kitchen.

One day, it being the turn of Viśākha’s herd, it fell to the lot of a doe which was with young to go to the king’s kitchen. And the deer which acted as crier[19] called her and said, “To-day it is your turn. Go (362) to the king’s kitchen.” But she replied, “I am pregnant, and have two young ones in my womb. Therefore order another to go, and when I am delivered, then will I go. If I go now we shall be three going instead of one. But if these two young ones are born, the time of you all will be so much lengthened.”[20]

The crier reported this matter to the king of the herd, who replied, “Bid another deer to go, the one due to go next after the doe, and she will go afterwards when she is delivered.” The crier thus passed over the doe, and ordered the deer whose turn it was next after her to go to the king’s kitchen. But that deer said, “It is not my turn to go to-day; it is that doe’s turn. I have, therefore, yet a while to live.”

In the same way others were called, but they would not go out of their turn. They all said, “It is that doe’s turn. Let her go.”

So the doe was called again. “Good doe,” she was told, “no one is willing to go out of his turn. It is really your turn, so do you go to the king’s kitchen.” Then, as they would not give her respite, the doe, out of love for her young, knowing that if she were slain[21] they also would be destroyed, went to the other herd. And when she had come thither, she prostrated herself before the king of the herd. He asked her, “Good doe, what is this? What do you want? What is to do?” The doe replied, “To-day it is my turn to go from my herd to the king’s kitchen. But I have two young ones in my womb. So I appealed to Viśākha, the king of my herd, and said to him, ‘To-day it is my turn, but I have two young ones in my womb. Send others in my place, and when I am delivered I shall go.’ But those others who have been ordered by the king of the herd to go are not willing, and say, ‘It is not our turn, but that doe’s. Let her go.’ Thus they will not release me from my turn, but call me and say, ‘Go, it is your turn.’ Now this is what I desire, that a deer from this herd be sent by the king of the herd, and then, when I am delivered (363), I shall go.”

The king of the deer said to her, “Now be not afraid. I shall send another.” And he instructed the crier, saying, “Command the deer in this herd, whose turn it is, to go. I have granted immunity to this doe.”

So the crier ordered the deer, whose turn it was, to go to the king’s kitchen. But that deer replied, “It is not the turn of our herd to-day, it is the turn of Viśākha’s herd.” The crier answered and said, “Yes, to-day it is the turn of Viśākha’s herd, but the doe whose turn it is, is pregnant with two young ones in her womb. But they will not give her respite, and say, ‘It is your turn, go.’ And thus, as she was not relieved, she came to this herd, and appealed to Nyagrodha, the king of the herd. Nyagrodha granted her immunity, and gave orders that the deer in this herd whose turn it was should go. Now, that turn is yours, so go.” But that deer replied, “To-day is the turn of the other herd. I shall not go out of my turn.” And in the same way all who were ordered were unwilling to go out of their turn.

So the crier reported to Nyagrodha, the king of the deer, and said, “No one at all is willing to go out of his turn; they say that it is not the turn of this herd to-day, but of the other.” The king of the herd replied, “Go to![22] I have granted immunity to this doe, and therefore she cannot be sent to the king’s kitchen. I shall go myself.”

The king of the herd came down the track that led from the forest and went towards Benares. All men who saw him going followed him, for he was a deer of striking comeliness, brightly speckled, with red hoofs, and bright and lovely jet-black eyes.

Followed by a great crowd of people he went on his way until he entered the city. And when he was seen by the citizens he was recognized by the great throng as the king of the deer. When they saw him they were sore distressed. (364) For they thought that the whole herd of deer had dwindled away, and that now the king himself was coming. “Let us go to our king,” said they, “and appeal to him and ask that this king of the deer be set free and not killed. For this deer will be an eye-delighting adornment of this capital city as he runs about in the gardens and parks, and when people see him they will enjoy a pleasing sight.”

So the nobles, accompanied by the great multitude, entered the king’s palace on the heels of the king of the deer. And while the king of the deer proceeded to the kitchen, the citizens approached the king where he sat on the seat of judgment and petitioned him. “O great king,” said they, “all that herd of deer is destroyed. Though they feed inoffensively on dried and fresh grass, molesting no one, yet have they all been destroyed, and here is the king of the herd himself come. Hard would it be, your majesty, to find such a lovely, beautiful deer, such a delight to the eye of man, as this king of deer is. As the people strolled out of the city among the gardens, parks, pleasure-grounds and lotus-ponds, they could see this king of deer, and would be glad that he had become an adornment of the city’s pleasaunces. Therefore, if it is your majesty’s pleasure, let this king of deer go free with his life.”

Then the king bade his ministers go and bring that king of deer from the kitchen. The ministers went and brought the deer into the king’s presence. The king asked him, “Why did you come yourself? Is there no longer any other deer that you come yourself?”

The king of deer replied, “Your majesty, it is not that there are no other deer. Moreover, to-day it was really the turn of the other herd. But the doe in that herd, whose turn it happened to be, was pregnant with two young ones in her womb. That doe was called and bidden: ‘Go to the king’s kitchen. To-day is your turn.’

“Now the king of that other herd is Viśākha. The doe went to him and said, ‘To-day, it is my turn to go to the king’s kitchen, but I am pregnant with two young ones in my womb. I wish, therefore, that another be sent, and then, when I am delivered, I will go.’ But the other deer that was ordered to go in her stead was not willing, saying that it was the doe’s turn and that she should go. In short, all those deer would not excuse her but kept saying, ‘To-day is your turn. Go.’

“And as she was not relieved by them she came and appealed to me, saying, (365) ‘To-day it is my turn to go from my herd, and I have two young ones in my womb. But they will not let me be. What I desire is that the king of the deer should order a deer from this herd to go to the king’s kitchen. When I am delivered I will go myself.’

“I gave immunity to that doe. But the deer that I ordered to go in her place was not willing and said, ‘It is not the turn of our herd, but of the other.’ And in the same way all who were ordered were unwilling to come hither out of their turn. Then I reflected that, since I had given immunity to the doe, I should go myself. And so here am I come myself.”

When the king heard the deer he was amazed, and all the people with him, exclaiming, “Ah! What a righteous king of deer!” And the king of Kāśi thought, “It is not this deer which lays down his life for another and knows what is dharma, that is the beast. We are the beasts, who know not dharma and inflict harm on such beautiful, sterling, and inoffensive creatures.” To the king of deer he said, “I am delighted with your presence. You are compassionate and magnanimous, since, though only a deer, you gave immunity to that doe who bore life within her. On your account and as a result of what you have said, I also grant immunity to all deer. From this day forth I grant immunity to all deer in the land. Go, and dwell here all of you without fear or trembling.”

And the king caused a proclamation to be made in the city by bellmen: “No one is to molest deer in my realm, because of the grant of immunity that I have bestowed on this king of deer.”

In time the rumour of this reached the devas, and Śakra, the lord of devas, in order to test the king, created several hundred thousand deer. The whole land of Kāśi swarmed with them; there was not a field without deer. The people of the country appealed to the king.

Nyagrodha, the king of deer, called the doe and said to her, “Good doe, return to the herd of Viśākha.” But she replied, “O king of deer, I will not go. I had rather die with you than live with Viśākha.” And she recited this verse:—

(366) Men should follow Nyagrodha and not seek Viśākha. It is better to die with Nyagrodha than live with Viśākha.[23]

The people of the country appealed to the king, saying,

“The land is being despoiled; this rich realm is being ruined. Deer devour the crops. O king, put an end to this.”

“Let the land be despoiled and this rich realm ruined. I will not call it a wrong that I have given this boon to the king of deer.”

From this bestowing of a gift on the deer the wood at Ṛṣipattana[24] was named Mṛgadāya.[25]

“In twelve years the Bodhisattva will leave his existence among the Tuṣitas.” And the Śuddhāvāsa devas, assuming the guise of brāhmans, recited the Vedas and Mantras, and told the thirty-two marks of a Great Man, as they proclaimed the coming of the Bodhisattva into the world.

Footnotes and references:

1.

In Mhv. 2. 17 Māyā’s father is Añjana of Devaḍaha; in ThīgA. 140 he is called Mahā-Suppabuddha.

2.

A corrupt form. The general tradition, also, knows of only one sister of Māyā’s, viz. Mahāprajāpatī. The second, third and fourth names here were obviously in origin appellatives of Māyā. Possibly the fifth, also, is so, being formed from the Pali culla or cūla, “younger.”

3.

See note p. 14.

4.

pp. 298 and 301, he is said to be one of four brothers.

5.

See p. 95.

6.

Lacuna in text.

7.

Literally “made their proclamations” or “manifestoes,” vyākaraṇāni vyākaritvā.

8.

See note p. 250.

9.

Tejodhātum samāpadyitvā. This expression is rendered in the Pali Dictionary by “converting one’s body into fire.” The same rendering is found in S.B.E. XIII. 120 for the passage at V. 1. 25, where it is said bhagavāpi tejodhātum samāpajjitvā pajjali—“and the Blessed One converting his body into fire sent forth flames.” But samāpadyati (samāpajjati) has no passive or middle force here, but literally means “to attain,” “win mastery over.” The idea then is that the Pratyekabuddhas in the passage in the Mahāvastu summoned up fire, over which they had command, to achieve their own parinibbāna, just as Dabba at V. 2. 76 called up fire (tejodhātum samāpajjitvā) to light the way for the monks. (Note: S.B.E. XX. 7, translates the phrase here “caught up fire.”)

(The translator owes this interpretation to a suggestion by Miss I. B. Horner.)

10.

Muditā, Pali id., a by-form of Pali mudutā (Sanskrit mṛdutā) in the special sense of sympathising in the joys of others.

11.

This begins a version of the Khaggaviṣāṇa Sutta (Sn. 35 ffḍ. The second stanza, however, is based on Dhammapada, 405.

12.

Nikṣiptadaṇḍo trasasthāvareṣu, cf. Dhp. 405, nidhāya daṇḍam bhūtesu tasesu thāvaresu ca, “whoso has laid aside the rod of force, concerning creatures cowed or truculent.” (Mrs. Rhys Davids’ translation.)

13.

See p. 221.

14.

Reading, on Senart’s suggestion, bhasmavivekacārī for bhasmani ekacārī.

15.

The Khaggavisāṇa Sutta in Sn. (35-75) contains only 41 stanzas. But it is implied here that there were 500 stanzas, i.e. the number of the Pratyekabuddhas.

16.

The form of the name of this place in the Mahāvastu, however, is generally Ṛṣivadana.

17.

This story is Nigrodhamiga Jātaka (No. 12).

18.

Literally, “made or fixed the turn,” osaram (= avasaram) kṛtam.

19.

Āṇāpaka (Pali), “giving an order,” “one who calls out orders.”

20.

I.e. “the turn of each will be longer in coming.”

21.

Mama sannipātena, “by the death of me.” For this sense of sannipāta Senart refers to Böhtlingk and Roth who cite Nīlakanṭha as giving this sense to the word in the Mahābhārata XII. 7408.

22.

? millehi. Senart doubtfully suggests that this is a simpler orthographical form of the imperative of mell, “to drive away,” and compares the Greek ἄπαγε.

23.

Cf. Jātaka 1.152, 4. 43.

24.

So spelt here.

25.

Elsewhere in the Mahāvastu and in Buddhist Sanskrit the name of this park is Mṛgadāva. Here it is called Mṛgadāya in order to fit the etymology suggested by the above story (Mṛga + ). In the Pali texts, also, the name is almost always Migadāya.