The Nine-Colored Deer Sutra

"Long ago, the Bodhisattva was a Nine-Colored Deer. Its fur has nine colors; its horns are as white as snow. It usually stays at the riverbank of Ganges River to eat grass and drink water; made friend with a crow.

One day, there was a man who fell in the water, floating up and down by the current. Luckily, he was able to grab on a piece of wood.

The man raised his head and cried out for help:

'Mountain spirits, tree spirits, gods and dragons! Why do you not have pity on me?'

When the deer heard someone cried out for help, immediately it ran swiftly to the riverbank. It tells the drowning man:

'Don't be afraid! You can climb onto my back and grab tight of my horns. I will carry you to the shore.'

When it reached the shore, the deer was exhausted.

The drowning man then climbs down, circumambulate three times, facing the deer, lowering his head and said:

'I will be your servant, to cut grass and fetch water for you.'

The deer said:

'No need for that! Return to where you're from. If you would like to repay my kindness, please do not tell others that you met me here. Worldly people are very greedy for my skin and my horns, thus they will come to kill me.'

After that, the drowning man promised and left.

At that time, the queen of the kingdom where the man lives had a dream that night. In her heart, she wished to have deer skin and its horns. So, she pretends to be sick and not get up.

The king asks:

'Why are you not getting up?'

The queen replies:

'Last night, I had a strange dream and saw an unusual deer. Its fur has nine colors and its horns are as white as snow. I want its skin to make a coat and its horns to make a holder of the whisk. O Great King, please catch it for me. If you can't find it then I'll die of a broken heart.'

The king said to the queen:

'Please get up, my queen! I'm the king and how can I not able to find it?'

So the king sent an imperial order throughout the country:

'If anyone can catch a deer of nine colors, that person will rule the kingdom with me and will be given a golden bowl filled with grain of silver; will be given a silver bowl filled with grain of gold.'

The drowning man heard the award notice from the king, and evil thought arise in his mind and thinks to himself:

'If I tell them the whereabouts of the deer, then I'll be rich. The deer is an animal, dead or alive is not really a difference.'

Then he spoke to the official:

'I know of the Nine-Colored Deer whereabouts.'

The official took that man to see the king and said:

'Your Majesty! This person know of the deer whereabouts.'

After listening, the king was so delight and said:

'If you can bring its skin and its horns here, I will give you half of my kingdom. This is my truthful word.'

The downing man replied:

'I will able to find it.'

At that time, the face of the drowning man was filled with scabies.

The downing man replied:

'O Great King! Though this deer is an animal but it has great magical power. Your Highness must send lots of troops in order to catch it.'

So, the king led his troops to the riverbank along the Ganges River.

At that time, the crow on the tree see the troops of the king coming from a far and thought they came to kill his friend, the deer, and immediately it calls the deer:

'My friend, please quickly wake up, the king is coming to catch you!'

The deer was in a deep sleep thus was unknown of the situation.

The crow calls out again:

'My friend, please quickly wake up, the troops of the king are coming.'

But the deer still did not wake up.

The crow then from the tree flying down, landed on the deer's head, calling out aloud into the deer's ears:

'My friend, please quickly wake up, the king’s troops are surrounding you everywhere.'

Upon waking up, the deer was afraid, looking in all four directions and there was no way to escape, so it walk towards the king's chariot. At that time, the king's archers were about to shoot.

The deer speaks to the king's archers:

Please don't shoot me! I will come to the king’s place by myself and I have something to say.

The king commands:

'Do not shoot this deer! This deer is very unusual. Are you a divine being?'

The deer then speaks:

'Please don't kill me! I had gratitude with your kingdom.'

The king asked:

'What gratitude?'

'I had saved a person that lives in your kingdom.'

At that time, the deer knelt with two knees and asked the king again:

'Who showed you the way of where I am?'

The king replied:

'It is the scabies faced one, standing next to the chariot.'

The deer raises its head and look that person and tears ran down nonstop.

The deer then said:

'Great King! That is the drowning man who fell in the water, floating up and down by the current. Luckily, he was able to grab on a piece of wood.

That man raised his head and cried out for help:

"Mountain spirits, tree spirits, gods and dragons! Why do you not have pity on me?"

At that time, I was not afraid to lose my life and went into the water to carry out that man. That man vowed not to tell about this place. That man repays kindness with ingratitude, if that then just let him grab on a piece of wood and carried away by the current.'

When the king heard the deer finish speaking, he felt shameful.

'My citizens are deceitful.'

Then the king shout at that man:

'Why have you received a great help but forget the gratitudes and even want to kill the one who saved you?'

The king then give an imperial order to his kingdom:

'From now on, if anyone captures this deer, their five-branch of family will be executed.'

From that day onward, there were thousands of deer in that country, all come to gather around the Nine-Colored Deer to take refuge. To the end of their life, no one kills or harms them. They all eat grass and drink water, and stay away from the vegetable or rice fields of people. From that day onward, rain and wind are harmonious; the five grains thrive, citizens are without diseases, the country was safe and peaceful, and people are living long and healthy."

The Buddha told disciples:

"The Nine-Colored Deer at that time is my past lives. The crow at that time, now is Bhikṣu Ānanda. The king at that time, now is King Suddhodana. The queen at that time, now is Lady Sundharī. The drowning man is Bhikṣu Devadatta.

Life after life, Devadatta always has hatred towards me. Although I always had kind-hearted towards him, but he still tries to harm me. From long ago, Ānanda already has such kind-hearted; therefore he will attain the supreme enlightenment.

Bodhisattva always diligently practice the Perfection of Endurance like such."

The Nine-Colored Deer Sūtra
(T03n0181a)

Translated by Lay Bodhisattva Precepts, Upāsaka Mark Nguyen