KUKKURA JĀTAKA ~ The Dog who turned Preacher
Once upon a time, when Brahma-datta was reigning in Benares, the Bodisat, in consequence of an act which would have that effect, came to life as a dog, and lived in a great cemetery attended by a troop of several hundred dogs.
Now, one day the king mounted his state-chariot, drawn by milk-white steeds, went to his park, amused himself there the rest of the day, and after sunset returned to the city. And they put the carriage harness, just as it had been used, in the courtyard.
There was rain in the night, and the harness got wet. The royal dogs, too, came down from the flat roof of the palace, and gnawed at the leather work and straps. The next day the servants told the king, “Dogs have got in, O king, through the sliding door, and have eaten the leather work and the straps.”
The king, enraged at the dogs, gave orders that dogs should be killed wherever they were seen. So there ensued a wholesale destruction of dogs: and finding there was no safety for them anywhere else, they escaped to the cemetery, and joined themselves to the Bodisat.
The Bodisat asked them the reason of their coming in such numbers together. “People say,” was the answer, “that the leather work and the straps of a carriage in the harem have been gnawed by dogs. The king in his anger has commanded all dogs to be destroyed. Extreme is the danger we are in!”
The Bodisat said to himself, “There’s no opportunity for dogs from outside to get into a place so guarded. It must be the royal dogs from within the palace that have done this thing. And now nothing happens to the thieves, and the innocent are punished with death. What if I were to make the king see who the real culprits are, and so save the lives of my kinsfolk?”
And he comforted his relations with the words, “Don’t you be afraid! I will restore you to safety. Wait here whilst I go and see the king.”
Then guiding himself by thoughts of love, he called to mind his Perfections, and uttered a command; saying, “Let none dare to throw a club or a clod at me!” and so unattended he entered the city. And when they saw him, not a creature grew angry at the sight of him.
Now the king, after issuing the order for the destruction of the dogs, sat himself down in the seat of judgment. The Bodisat went straight up to the place, and rushing forwards, ran underneath the king’s throne. Thereupon the king’s attendants were about to drive him away, but the king stopped them.
After he had rested awhile, he came out from under the throne, and made obeisance to the king, and asked him, “Is it you who are having the dogs slain?”
“Yes; it is I,” was the reply.
“What is their fault, O king of men?”
“They have eaten the leathern coverings and straps of my chariot.”
“Do you know which ones did it?”
“That we don’t know.”
“To have all killed wherever they may be found, without knowing for certain who are the culprits that gnawed the leather, is not just, O king!”
“I gave orders for the destruction of the dogs, saying, ’Kill them all wherever they may be found,’ because dogs had eaten the carriage leather.”
“What then! Do your men kill all dogs, or are there some not punished with death?”
“There are some. The royal dogs in our house are exempt.”
“Great king! only just now you were saying you had given orders to kill all dogs, wherever found, because dogs had eaten the carriage-leather; and now you say that the well-bred dogs in your own house have been exempted. Now this being so, you become guilty of partiality and the other shortcomings of a judge.Now, to be guilty of such thing is neither right, nor kingly.It behoves him who bears the name of king to try motives as with a balance. Since the royal dogs are not punished with death, whilst the poor dogs are, this is no sentence of death on all dogs, but slaughter of the weak.”
Then the Great Being further lifted up his pleasant voice, and said, “Great king! That which you are doing is not justice;” and he taught the king the Truth in this stanza:
When the king heard what the Bodisat said, he asked, “O Wise One, do you then know who it is has eaten the carriage leather?”
“Yes; I know it,” said he.
“Who are they then?”
“It is the thoroughbreds living in your own house.”
“But how can we know they are the guilty ones?”
“I will prove it to you.”
“Prove it then, O sage!”
“Send for the thoroughbreds, and have a little buttermilk and Dabba grass brought in.”
The king did so; and the Great Being said, “Have the grass crushed in the buttermilk, and give the dogs to drink.”
The king did so; and each of the dogs, as they drank it, vomited it up,—and bits of leather with it.
Then the king was delighted as with a decision by the all-wise Buddha himself; and gave up his sceptre to the244 Bodisat. But the Bodisat preached the law to the king in the ten verses on righteousness, from the story of the Three Birds, beginning—
And confirming the king in the Five Commandments, and exhorting him thenceforward to be unweary (in well doing), he returned to the king his sceptre.
And the king listened to his exhortation, and granted security to all living creatures; and commanded a constant supply of food, like the royal food, for all the dogs from the Bodisat downwards. And he remained firm in the teaching of the Bodisat, and did works of charity and other good deeds his life long, and after death was reborn in the world of the gods.
Now the Exhortation of the Dog flourished for tens of thousands of years. But the Bodisat lived to a good old age and passed away according to his deeds.