Beauty And Gray – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[A Wise Leader]
Once upon a time, there was a deer who
was the leader of a herd of a thousand. He had
two sons. One was very slim and tall, with bright
alert eyes, and smooth reddish fur. He was called
Beauty. The other was gray in colour, also slim
and tall, and was called Gray.
One day, after they were fully grown, their
father called Beauty and Gray to him. He said, “I
am now very old, so I cannot do all that is neces-
sary to look after this big herd of deer. I want you,
my two grown up children, to be the leaders,
while I retire from looking after them all the time.
We will divide the herd, and each of you will lead
500 deer.” So it was done.
In India, when the harvest time comes, the
deer are always in danger. The rice is at its tallest,
and the deer cannot help but go into the paddies
and eat it. To avoid the destruction of their crops,
the human beings dig pits, set sharp stakes in the
ground, and build stone traps – all to capture and
kill the deer.
Knowing this was the season, the wise old
deer called the two new leaders to him. He ad-
vised them to take the herds up into the mountain
forest, far from the dangerous farm lands. This
was how he had always saved the deer from being
wounded or killed. Then he would bring them
back to the low lands after the harvest was over.
Since he was too old and weak for the trip,
he would remain behind in hiding. He warned
them to be careful and have a safe journey. Beauty
set out with his herd for the mountain forest, and
so did Gray with his.
The villagers all along the way knew that
this was the time the deer moved from the low ly-
ing farm lands to the high countryside. So they
hid along the way and killed the deer as they
passed by.
Gray did not pay attention to his father’s
wise advice. Instead of being careful and travel-
ling safely, he was in a hurry to get to the lush
mountain forest. So he moved his herd constantly,
during the night, at dawn and dusk, and even in
broad daylight. This made it easy for the people to
shoot the deer in Gray’s herd with bows and ar-
rows. Many were killed, and many were wounded,
only to die in pain later on. Gray reached the for-
est with only a few deer remaining alive.
The tall sleek red-furred Beauty, was wise
enough to understand the danger to his moving
herd. So he was very careful. He knew it was safer
to stay away from the villages, and from all hu-
mans. He knew it was not safe in the daytime, or
even at dawn or dusk. So he led his herd wide
around the villages, and moved only in the middle
of the night. Beauty’s herd arrived in the mountain
forest safe and sound, with no one killed or in-
The two herds found each other, and re-
mained in the mountains until well after the har-
vest season was over. Then they began the return
to the farmland country.
Gray had learned nothing from the first
trip. As it was getting cold in the mountains, he
was in a hurry to get to the warmer low lands. So
he was just as careless as before. Again the people
hid along the way and attacked and killed the
deer. All Gray’s herd were killed, later to be eaten
or sold by the villagers. Gray himself was the only
one who survived the journey.
Beauty led his herd in the same careful way
as before. He brought back all 500 deer, com-
pletely safe. While the deer were still in the dis-
tance, the old chief said to his doe, “Look at the
deer coming back to us. Beauty has all his follow-
ers with him. Gray comes limping back alone,
without his whole herd of 500. Those who follow
a wise leader, with good qualities, will always be
safe. Those who follow a foolish leader, who is
careless and thinks only of himself, will fall into
troubles and be destroyed.”
After some time, the old deer died and was re-
born as he deserved. Beauty became chief of the
herd and lived, a long life, loved and admired by all.
The moral is: A wise leader puts the safety of
his followers first.