Cave No. 17

Identification: Schlingloff (1971, p. 61–67).—

In a forest contoured by a rivulet lived a śaśa (hare), who had an exemplary demeanour and devout character. He always led by example. An otter, a jackal, and a monkey had a soft spot for him. One evening, the hare pointed out to them that the religious custom of food offerings should be followed on a full moon night. The hare soon realised that his food habits would not allow him to offer any food; instead, in his mind he decided to offer his own body. Heaven and earth were shaken by this thought and the hare even grabbed the attention of Indra, the king of gods, who decided to check him out. So, on the following day, Indra appeared in the forest disguised as a hungry brahman. Mindful of the hare’s teachings, the otter offered him seven fishes, the jackal offered a lizard and a pot of curdled milk left by someone; the monkey offered him ripe mangoes and cool water. The hare offered himself and asked the brahman to roast him over a fire, as he could not offer anything else. Indra then ignited a fire, into which the hare flung himself. Filled with admiration, Indra assumed his original form and personally carried the hare to heaven, praising his magnanimity. He immortalised the hare by adorning the gable of his palace, the hall of gods and the disk of the moon with the hare’s image, thenceforth named ‘The One Bearing the Hare’s Mark.’—The hare was none other than the Buddha in a former existence.

—Source: Singh 2019, 31-33;

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