There is an animal that is called deer, known for its swiftness, the delicacy of its limbs, and especially its marvelous horns, for so the Greeks named it keraós. While it is commonly assumed that deer are fearful prey, they are extremely keen observers from both close and long distances. Deer can be found camouflaging themselves amongst the naked branches of autumn and winter, or even proudly making appearances in the middle of one’s backyard. Deer seem fearful, yet through both camouflage and public appearance, their gaze will be directed towards us, in other words, Mankind.

No matter how well they hide themselves amongst the woods in one’s garden and no matter how far away they may be, Man feels exposed under those black eyes. Man might be tempted to draw the curtains to avoid their gaze, yet their appearances in his own territory fascinates him enough to forget such an option. The sight of their horns and delicate body provokes Man’s inexplicable desire to keep looking at them, while being tormented that he is under watch. The immense glass window of his living room separating his world from their fluctuating territory appears nonexistent in such turmoiled truth. This is especially a constant reminder for a Buddhist Man that no matter how well concealed his evil deeds seem, the Heavens are looking over what he does.

There is a saying in Japanese Buddhist traditions, that when Man hides himself in the shade for a long time and hopes to remain in darkness forever, it is only a matter of time until the sun will eradicate the entirety of the shade and expose this Man to the world. This is because the Heavens see through the shade and know the right time to expose him. When one walks around an immense statue of the Buddha in Nara, he will realize the statue’s gaze always follows wherever he goes. The gaze of the deer resembles this. Whether Man encounters deer in a backyard, or within the peripheries of the Buddhist temples in Nara where they follow humans around, their silent gaze will reinforce Man’s awareness of being watched by the Heavens and of the consequences of his attempt to get away with whatever scheme he plans to do. That is perhaps the reason why Man feels tormented under the watch of those deer, becoming overly conscious of what he is doing even if it is not necessarily a bad deed. Man may sometimes wonder why he questions the judgements in the deer’s eyes, for they may only be blankly gazing at him without the knowledge of right and wrong. However, the Buddhist reminder and saying are so powerful that Man cannot make himself indifferent towards the deer looking at him, nor even prevent himself from looking at them in return.