The Compassionate Deer-king

A Song for Children
by former Bhikshuni Heng Yin (Loni Baur)

From the November 1975 issue of Vajra Bodhi Sea

Listen, for I have a story for you to hear
About two handsome herds of deer.
The leader of one was the Buddha-to-be,
And the leader of the other was his enemy.

Now everyday at the crack of dawn,
The King assembled his knights on the lawn,
And off they rode into the hills in search of meat,
And slaughtered many deer for the King to eat.

Soon the herds grew very small;
Soon there would be no deer left at all'.
So the two deer leaders went to see the big king man,
To present him with a logical plan.

They arrived and said, "May we see the King please?"
"My gosh;" said the guard, "these deer can speak:"
The human king thought it strange indeed;
"Show them in," he said, and asked them, "What do you need?"

"Great King, you are kind and brave," they said,
"But soon our herds shall all be dead.
"Why don't you let us offer you each day one deer,
"And then every day you'll have fresh meat and we won't disappear?"

How could the King say no to talking deer?
"Every day you can send one of your members here."
"Thank you," said the deer, most truly pleased,
And after that all was well, and their herds increased.

Then one day a pregnant doe
Drew her name from the box, it was her turn to go.
"No!" she pleaded, with tears in her eyes,
"Just wait until my baby's born, then I'll take my turn to die."

"No! No! No!" came the stern reply.
"What other deer would want to take your turn to die?"
So she ran to the other King, the Buddha-to-be,
And he said, "Okay, I will go; I hereby set you free."

The King was taking his morning walk
When the Deer-king appeared and began to talk,
"I am here, Your Majesty, to be your royal meal."
"But you're the leader," said the King.
"Now that's a rotten deal."

Then the Deer-king told him of the Mother deer so mild.
And told him that he took her place so she could have her child.
The King's heart pained him; "Can it really be true?
"Who would have guessed that deer have feelings, just like people do?"

"You are a person with a deer's head," he cried.
"And 'tho I have a person's head, I'm just a deer inside.
"But from this day forward, only vegetables I'll eat;
"I will never ever eat another living being's meat."

(repeat last verse)

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