The Greedy Antelope(VĀTA-MIGA JĀTAKA)
Once upon a time Brahma-datta, the king of Benares, had a gardener named Sanjaya. Now a swift antelope who had come to the garden took to flight as soon as it saw Sanjaya. But Sanjaya did not frighten it away; and when it had come again and again it began to walk about in the garden. And day by day the gardener used to pluck the various fruits and flowers in the garden, and take them away to the king.
Now one day the king asked him, “I say, friend gardener, is there anything strange in the garden so far as you’ve noticed?”
“I’ve noticed nothing, O king! save that an antelope is in the habit of coming and wandering about there. That I often see.”
“But could you catch it?”
“If I had a little honey, I could bring it right inside the palace here!”
The king gave him the honey; and he took it, went to the garden, smeared it on the grass at the spot the antelope frequented, and hid himself. When the deer came, and had eaten the honey-smeared grass, it was bound with the lust of taste; and from that time went nowhere else, but came exclusively to the garden. And as the gardener saw that it was allured by the honey-smeared grass, he in due course showed himself. For a few days the antelope took to flight on seeing him. But after seeing him again and again, it acquired confidence, and gradually came to eat grass from the gardener’s hand. And when the gardener saw that its confidence was gained, he strewed the path right up to the palace as thick with branches as if he were covering it with mats, hung a gourdful of honey over his shoulder, carried a bundle of grass at his waist, and then kept sprinkling honey-smeared grass in front of the antelope till he led him within the palace.
As soon as the deer had got inside, they shut the door. The antelope, seeing men, began to tremble and quake with the fear of death, and ran hither and thither about the hall. The king came down from his upper chamber, and seeing that trembling creature, said, “Such is the nature of an antelope, that it will not go for a week afterwards to a place where it has seen men, nor its life long to a place where it has been frightened. Yet this one, with just such a disposition, and accustomed only to the jungle, has now, bound by the lust of taste, come to just such a place. Verily there is nothing worse in the world than this lust of taste!” And he summed up the lesson in this stanza:
“There’s nothing worse than greed, they say,Whether at home, or with one’s friends.Through taste the deer, the wild one of the woods,Fell under Sanjaya’s control.”
And when in other words he had shown the danger of greed, he let the antelope go back to the forest.
When the Master had finished this discourse in illustration of what he had said (“Not now only O mendicants! has this monk, caught by the lust of taste, fallen into her power; formerly also he did the same”), he made the connexion, and summed up the Jātaka as follows: “He who was then Sanjaya was this slave-girl, the antelope was the monk, but the king of Benares was I myself.”