As we all know, King Brahmadutta of Benaras was extremely fond of hunting. Luckily for him, on the outskirts of the city was a huge forest filled with deer and a mighty stag.
One fine day, when he was out hunting, he warned his courtiers not to allow a single deer to escape or he would have them severely punished. So the courtiers formed a tight circle and decided to send the deer in the direction of the King. The courtiers surrounded a thicket and beat their sticks on the ground until they saw a stag escape. But as their circle was so tight the only escape route that the stag could see was towards the King who was standing alone at the end of the path.
So the stag looked him straight in the eye and made a dash towards him. The King was taken aback and shot an arrow towards him hurriedly. Of course it missed the mark. Now there is one thing that you must know about the stag. It has excellent instincts and is extremely good at dodging arrows, whether shot at from the back, front or even the top. If an arrow is aimed at its belly, it pretends to roll over and then jumps up and runs once the danger has passed.
So when this stag rolled over the King assumed that his arrow had found its mark. But the stag suddenly jumped up and shot passed the men. When the courtiers realised that the King had been mistaken they started to ridicule him.
Now the King thought himself to be an excellent marksman and could not bear the taunts of his men. He grabbed his sword and set off into the forest in order to catch the stag. He chased the stag for quite a while and covered a long distance.
The stag came upon a hole in the ground that was covered by a rotting tree and filled with slime. From a distance it could smell the dirty water and so was careful not to run over it. But the King could not sense the pit and fell right into it. After awhile the stag realised that he was not being followed any longer and realised that the King could have fallen into the pit.
So he went back to the pit and saw the King struggling for his life. He felt very sorry for him and decided to save his life even though the King was following him with the intention to kill him. He told the King not to worry and to be brave for awhile longer. He then caught a huge rock with his hind legs and lowered himself into the pit. The King caught hold of his neck and the stag climbed out onto the level ground and carried the King to safety.
The King thanked the noble stag profusely and asked him to return with him to Benaras, where he could rule beside him. But the stag had no interest in a kingdom and simply requested the king to rule his kingdom wisely and well, with kindness and compassion. And then the noble stag disappeared into the forest.
With a grateful heart the King returned to Benaras and announced that from this day on all his subjects were to live a life of goodness, kindness and generosity. That night he went to bed a changed man and woke up singing praises of the stag. When he was chanting the hymn in praise of the stag, his priest was approaching to check on the King’s well being. On hearing the hymn, he pieced the facts together and realised that the King had been saved by the stag.
He entered the King’s chamber and told him what had occurred on the previous day. The King was surprised and asked the priest whether he could read minds, but the priest answered that as he had heard the King singing he had managed to piece the facts together. The King was very impressed and gave him a big reward. He also promised to live a virtuous and generous life and give alms regularly to the poor. All his subjects also followed this good example set by the King and the city of Benaras witnessed a golden period.
All of a sudden there was an influx of good souls in heaven. Sakka, the King of heaven began to wonder where all these new sons and daughters were coming from. He then recalled the incident when King Brahmadutta’s life was transformed by the stag and realised that all his subjects had been transformed too. That explained the influx of good souls in heaven. Sakka now decided to test the goodness of the King. So he made himself invisible and came down to earth.
On that very morning the King was in the royal park with his priest and was doing his routine target practice. Just as the King was about to shoot the target, Sakka made a stag appear before the target and the King immediately put his bow and arrow down. Then Sakka spoke through the priest and encouraged the King to shoot the stag saying that his meat was very tasty and fit for the kings.
But the virtuous King refused to kill the stag saying that he had once saved his life and he would not perform such a dastardly deed. And then the priest said that if the King were to kill the stag he would be made king of gods. But if he did not do so, he would be sent to hell along with all his children and his queen.
But the virtuous King chose hell and sure death over hurting the beloved friend who had saved his life. Sakka was highly impressed and appeared in his real form to bless the King. He blessed him with a long life and happiness and promised him that when he came to heaven he would reign among the gods.
He said that after a long and wonderful rule on earth, heaven would be his final reward. Saying this, Sakka returned to his heavenly abode.