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Sometimes the Buddha is a deer

In the Jataka stories, sometimes the Buddha appears in other forms.  In one story the Buddha appears as the king of the deer who offers his life to save a doe.

I’ve had a few unusual deer experiences since living here, but the most phantasmagorical occurred the day I returned from CA.

I was opening up the cabin after draining it for my 6 week absence.  A friend, G__. and his dog were helping me.  We’d been at it for a few hours, starting around noon, heating the cabin, turning the water and propane on, getting the water heater filled.  The two dogs were outside. It was a nice day, clear and cold, with a recent soft snow pack of around a foot or more.

The dogs began barking at something.  Usually if its just my dog, he barks but sticks around, but with the two dogs they tend to run after things.  My friend and I went outside.  We certainly didn’t want the dogs running after wolves or coyotes.  Sadie, G__’s dog, was really worked up and running into the nearby meadow, barking towards the forest.  We both saw nothing, but, as my friend noted “We’re not dogs.”

He came out of the forest and deliberately walked up to the front door as we watched

We called the dogs under control, and watched the forest for a few moments.  Nothing moved nor stirred.

“Couldn’t be deer because Sadie doesn’t bark at deer.”

I wasn’t so sure of that.

After a few minutes, out of the forest came a 2 1/2 year old buck.  The forest is a few 100 yards from the house and the buck strode slowly, every so slowly and deliberately out of the woods and into the little meadow between my house and the forest.  We were all mesmerized, as if in a trance, watching that buck, who with measured steps and struggling a bit in the deep snow, strode directly towards us.  The dogs were going wild and it took everything to control them.  But as the deer approached closer and closer, the dogs too calmed down, transfixed as the buck walked through my open gate, into the front yard, stopping 10 feet away from us.   We all stood in the front of the house, 2 dogs and 2 humans, looking eye to eye with the buck.  He just stood and stared at us.

Beautiful eye guards

G__ put the dogs in the house while I continued to stare at the buck.  He never took his eyes off me.  I couldn’t figure if he was just curious, saying hello, or displaying a bit of hubris (I suspected the later).  G__ came back out with his cell phone.

“Turn around and get over a bit.  I want to take a photo.”

Something about that broke the magic, because as soon as the photo was taken, that buck walked away as slowly and deliberately as he had come.

G__, who is a great hunter and has lived around here all his life said he’d never seen anything like that before.  “He was welcoming you back from California and wanted to see what you brought him,” he joked.

In India there is a word that describes the sighting of the Master or Teacher–Darshan.  I like to think of this beautiful buck, so fearless and calm, so regal and deliberate, as coming to give me his Darshan, the Buddha of the forest deer.

The Buddha buck, Young Prince of the Forest Deer

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