The Wind-deer and The Honey-grass – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[The Craving for Taste]
Once upon a time, the King of Benares had
a gardener who looked after his pleasure garden.
Animals sometimes came into the garden from the
nearby forest. The gardener complained about this
to the king, who said, “If you see any strange
animal, tell me at once.”
One day, he saw a strange kind of deer at
the far end of the garden. When he saw the man,
he ran like the wind. That is why they are called
‘wind-deer’. They are a rare breed, that are ex-
tremely timid. They are very easily frightened by
human beings.
The gardener told the king about the wind-
deer. He asked the gardener if he could catch the
rare animal. He replied, “My lord, if you give me
some bee’s honey, I could even bring him into the
palace!” So the king ordered that he be given as
much bee’s honey as he wanted.
This particular wind-deer loved to eat the
flowers and fruits in the king’s pleasure garden.
The gardener let himself be seen by him little by
little, so he would be less frightened. Then he be-
gan to smear honey on the grass where the wind-
deer usually came to eat. Sure enough, the deer
began eating the honey-smeared grass. Soon he
developed a craving for the taste of this ‘honey-
grass’. The craving made him come to the garden
every day. Before long, he would eat nothing else!
Little by little, the gardener came closer
and closer to the wind-deer. At first, he would run
away. But later, he lost his fear and came to think
the man was harmless. As the gardener became
more and more friendly, eventually he got the deer
to eat the honey-grass right out of his hand. He
continued doing this for some time, in order to
build up his confidence and trust.
Meanwhile, the gardener had rows of cur-
tains set up, making a wide pathway from the far
end of the pleasure garden to the king’s palace.
From inside this pathway, the curtains would keep
the wind-deer from seeing any people that might
scare him.
When all was prepared, the gardener took a
bag of grass and a container of honey with him.
Again he began hand-feeding the wind-deer when
he appeared. Gradually, he led the wind-deer into
the curtained off pathway. Slowly, he continued to
lead him with the honey-grass, until finally the
deer followed him right into the palace. Once in-
side, the palace guards closed the doors, and the
wind-deer was trapped. Seeing the people of the
court, he suddenly became very frightened and
began running around, madly trying to escape.
The king came down to the hall and saw
the panic-stricken wind-deer. He said, “What a
wind-deer! How could he have gotten into such a
state? A wind-deer is an animal who will not re-
turn to a place where he has so much as seen a
human, for seven full days. Ordinarily, if a wind-
deer is at all frightened in a particular place, he
will not return for the whole rest of his life! But
look! Even such a shy wild creature can be en-
slaved by his craving for the taste of something
sweet. Then he can be lured into the centre of the
city and even inside the palace itself.
“My friends, the teachers warn us not to be
too attached to the place we live, for all things
pass away. They say that being too attached to a
small circle of friends is confining and restricts a
broad outlook. But see how much more dangerous
is the simple craving for a sweet flavour, or any
other taste sensation. See how this beautiful shy
animal was trapped by my gardener, by taking ad-
vantage of his craving for taste.”
Not wishing to harm the gentle wind-deer,
the king had him released into the forest. He never
returned to the royal pleasure garden, and he never
missed the taste of honey-grass.
The moral is: “It is better to eat to live, than to live to eat.”