Today's Beautiful Gem: Matakabhatta jaataka story retold by me.

         When I was a kid, on a holiday afternoon, when there was nothing to do,
I used to curl myself with an issue of "chandamaama". I was always fascinated
by the jaataka stories. These are naarrations of the great teacher, Gautama
Buddha about his experiences in his past lives and hence the name, the jaataka
stories. Dover company has an English version fit for the young and the old.
         Let me narrate one such story. Animal slaughter to propitiate the
souls of the dead was prevalent during the days of the Buddha. It was
called the "dead men's food". On one such occasion, when a goat was being
readied for the killing, the shishhyaas (disciples) of the Buddha asked Him
whether any progress has been made in the prevention of such cruelty to
animals. The reverend Teacher said, "In olden days, seers taught the danger
and heinousness in such acts of violence. For a long time Jambudveepa was
rid of this practice. Unfortunately, again this ugly custom has raised its
head." Then He began to tell the following story. Those were the days when
Brahmadatta was ruling the kingdom of Kaashi. A brahmin wanted to sacrifice
a goat as dead men's food. He asked his disciples to ready the goat by bathing
it in the river, garland it, and apply the holy marks on it. They obeyed their
master and set the goat on the river bank. Suddenly, the goat began to laugh
loudly. After a while, it began to cry. The young brahmins asked the goat.
"O Aja (goat), why are you laughing and weeping?" "I will tell the reason
before our master." They took the goat to the older brahmin. When the master
repeated the question, the goat went on thus: "Once upon a time, I was also
a brahmin like you. I also killed a goat like what you are about to do. The
result was I was born five hundred times as a goat for my sins and each time,
I was killed. This is my five hundredth birth and I will be liberated to-day.
I am happy and I laughed. Then, I became sad and cried as you are going to
undergo what I had gone through all these years." The master brahmin said,
"I am not going to kill you, I am releasing you." But the goat told him,
"It is not possible to alter the fate." Later on, when it was grazing on a
hill-side, lightning struck and a piece of mountain rock cut its throat and
it was released from the cycle of birth and death as a goat. During those
days, the Bodhisatva (previous incarnation of the Buddha) was born as a spirit
of the tree. By his power, he taught the people the ills of violence and
cruelty. After finishing the story, the Buddha informed his disciples that
it was He who was born as the tree-spirit. Thus the message of nonviolence
and compassion to animals was propagated by the compassionate One.

Om shaantih: Peace! - J. K. Mohana Rao