Once upon a time there lived a merciless hunter in the heart of a forest, terrorizing birds and animals. Because of his cruel nature he had no friends or relatives. The hunter went out into the forest every morning with a stick and net. One day, he threw his net and trapped a female dove in it. Soon, thick and black clouds appeared in the sky and it began raining cats and dogs. Scared and shivering, the hunter looked for shelter and found it under a huge banyan tree. The rain and wind stopped suddenly. The skies became clear with stars shining. The hunter said loudly,
"If there is anyone on the tree, I seek shelter and food from him. I am hungry and may faint any moment. Please save me."
At the same time, a dove that had his nest on the same tree was worried that his wife who had gone out had not come back. He prayed to Gods that his wife should not come to any harm in this wind and rain. The wife trapped in the hunterís net heard her husbandís sorrowful words and, happy that her husband loved her so much. Later, addressing her husband, the female dove said, "Listen to me, my dear. Even at the cost of your life, you must come to the rescue of someone seeking shelter. This hunter is suffering from cold and hunger and has sought shelter under our tree. You must serve him with devotion. Donít hate him because he has trapped your beloved wife. In reality, the strings of destiny have bound me. Give up all thoughts of revenge and serve the hunter with care."
In accordance with his wifeís desire, the dove suppressed grief and told the hunter, "Sir, you are welcome to our modest home. Please let me know what I can do for you. Treat this as own home and feel free to command me."
The hunter told the dove that he was suffering from cold and needed relief. The dove flew out, brought fire from somewhere and a lit a small fire with dry twigs and asked the hunter to warm himself.
The dove told the hunter, "Because of my past deeds, I am born poor and unfortunate and do not have enough to feed myself. What is the point in a host living if he cannot entertain a guest? It is better he renounce this world."
Yet he thought that it was better to die than say no to a host. Determined to die, the dove told the hunter to wait for a while and that soon he will have food. Then circling over the fire, the dove jumped into the fire he lit for the benefit of the hunter.
Moved by this sacrifice, the hunter told himself, "I am responsible for this tragedy. I will no doubt go to hell. This dove is a great soul, he has shown me the right path. Hereafter, I will give up all wants and desires and slowly destroy this body. Nothing, neither cold nor sun nor wind, matters to me. I will fast and see my slow end."
The hunter then threw his net and stick and released the female dove from the net.
The wife then saw how her husband had jumped into the fire to provide food for the hunter. She thought that life without her husband was worse than death and at once jumped into the same fire that consumed her husband. After her death, she saw her husband in the heaven wearing royal regalia.
On seeing her, the husband said, "O my darling, you have done well to follow me into the fire. Women like you live happily with their husbands for 35 million years."
The dove couple lived happily ever after. The hunter, shunning worldly pleasures, went to a forest for realising God. As penance had cleansed him of all desires, the hunter burnt himself in a forest fire and attained nirvana.
Sacrifice is the real heaven.