Long ago, Phoenix Mountain in Shandong Province was home to a secluded spiritual follower and his guard wolf. Through his Buddhist cultivation, the spiritual follower had already become a mountain deity. The two lived in a stone house inside a large cave in the mountain. The mountain deity was deeply fond of his wolf.
Every day, the mountain deity watched over the mountain and read Buddhist scriptures, while his guard wolf paid careful attention to him as he worshiped the Buddha and chanted the scriptures.
The wolf knew it could not undertake spiritual cultivation because it did not have a human body. However, it still memorized the scriptures by heart and was determined not to kill any more humans but rather to do good deeds. It did so in hopes of earning enough “de” (virtue) to obtain a human body in its next life, so that it would have the opportunity to cultivate and attain Buddhahood.
‘Please Be Kind’
One morning, the hungry wolf asked the mountain deity for food. The mountain deity said: “Go to the dried river at noon today. There will be something for you to eat.”
The wolf went to the dried river at noon and saw a blind man walking with a bamboo pole. In its hunger, it ran over and pushed the blind man to the ground.
The blind man pleaded with the wolf, saying: “Please be kind to me. I have an elderly mother at home waiting for me to bring her food. If you eat me, my poor mother will die of hunger. Please don’t eat me.”
Upon hearing that, the wolf could not bear to eat the blind man. It turned away and went to a nearby village. After a great deal of effort, it found a few chicken bones. Then it went back to the cave, still hungry.
Two weeks later, the wolf was extremely hungry again. It again went to the mountain deity to ask for food. The mountain deity told his wolf, “Go to that dried river again at noon today. You will find food there.”
It was snowing and freezing at noon. The wolf went to the dried river and saw an old lady carrying a baby in her arms. In its hunger, it ran over, pushed the old lady down, and snatched the baby in its mouth.
The wolf was just starting to run away when the old lady knelt down on the ground and pleaded: “Please be kind. He is the only grandson in my family. If you eat him, our family lineage will cease. Please don’t eat him.”
After hearing the old lady’s plea, the wolf no longer had an appetite. It put the baby down and went to a nearby village to look for food. Snow blanketed everything, and it hunted for a long time without finding any food. Hungry and cold, the wolf dragged its tired body back to the cave.
After that, the weak wolf did not go out anymore and soon died of hunger.
The Temple Host and the Cub
The wolf reincarnated as a son in a family in the same village. The little boy enjoyed going to a local temple and often went with his family to burn incense for the Buddha statue.
When the boy was 13, he went to Phoenix Temple on Phoenix Mountain and became a monk. Phoenix Temple was near the cave where the old stone house used to be, where he, as a wolf in his previous life, had lived with the mountain deity.
The boy sincerely studied Buddhist teachings and cultivated his character. Then when he was 20 years old, he became the host of the temple.
As for the mountain deity, he had been very attached to the wolf, and after the wolf died, he lost all interest in watching over the mountain and reading Buddhist scriptures. Whenever he thought about the wolf starving to death, he lost his appetite and could not sleep. Then a few years later, he also died in the cave.
The mountain deity reincarnated as a yellow wolf cub in a litter of cubs on Phoenix Mountain. It started out growing well on its mother’s milk. However, when its mother stopped nursing, it had great difficulty getting enough food to eat, since it had a clear idea of its previous life and did not want to kill. So the cub mainly ate leftovers from the other cubs and often went hungry.
The cub knew that people left food and fruit at Phoenix Temple, and it frequently went to the temple to find food and fruit to eat.
One day, while the cub was at the temple stealing fruit, the host of Phoenix Temple entered the hall. Upon seeing the cub, the host exclaimed in surprise, “Buddha Amitabha!” and welcomed the cub, saying, “Good, good, very good!”
The yellow cub looked at the host and knew right away that he was the guard wolf in their previous lives.
The mountain deity had become a wolf, and the wolf had become the temple host.
Feeling great shame, the cub ran out of the temple to the other side of the mountain. It no longer wanted to live. Its only wish was to have a human body again so that it could cultivate Buddhahood.
Thus, the cub rammed itself into a big rock, bounced off the rock, and fell to its death in the valley.
This story illustrates how precious a human body is for a spiritual cultivator. Lifetime after lifetime, many people aspire to attain Buddhahood, but few succeed.
Translated by Dora Li into English, this story is reprinted with permission from the book “Treasured Tales of China,” Vol. 1, available on Amazon.