The Buddha was meditating. Some bhikkhus approached Him and asked if there was any benefit in sacrificing goats, sheep or other animals as offerings for departed near and dear ones.
The Buddha replied: “No good ever comes from taking life, not even when it is for the purpose of providing a feast for the Dead.”
He then told the story of The Goat That Laughed and Wept:
Long ago, a Brahman living in Varasi decided to offer a feast for the Dead and bought a goat to sacrifice. He then told his students to take the goat down to the river, bathe it, brush its coat, hang a garland around its neck, give it some grain to eat and bring it back.
The students led the goat to the river. While they were grooming it, the goat suddenly began to laugh loudly. Then, just as strangely, it started to weep.
The students were astonished. “Why did you suddenly laugh,” they asked the goat, “and why do you now cry?”
“Ask this question again when we get back to your master,” the goat replied.
The students hurriedly took the goat back to their master and told him what had happened at the river. Wondering, the master asked the goat why it had laughed and why it had wept.
“In a past life,” the goat began, “I was a Brahman who taught the Vedas like you. I too sacrificed a goat as an offering for a feast for the Dead. Because of killing that single goat, I have had my head cut off 499 times.
“I laughed aloud today when I realized that this is my last birth as an animal to be sacrificed. Today I will be freed from my misery. But I cried when I realized that, because of killing me, you too will be doomed to lose your head five hundred times. It was out of pity for you that I cried.”
The Brahman understood. “In that case, O goat, I am not going to kill you,” he said gratefully.
“Brahman!” exclaimed the goat. “Whether or not you kill me, I cannot escape death today.” “Do not worry,” the Brahman assured the goat. “I will safeguard you.”
“You do not understand,” the goat told him. “Your protection cannot forestall my fate. The force of my evil deed is too strong.”
The Brahman untied the goat and told his students not to allow anyone to cause it harm. They obediently followed the animal to protect it.
The goat began to graze. It stretched out its neck to eat the leaves of a bush growing at the top of a large rock. At that instant, a bolt of lightning hit the rock, breaking off a sharp piece of stone which flew through the air and cut off the goat’s head.
A crowd of people at once gathered and began to talk excitedly. A tree deva, which had observed everything from the goat’s purchase for sacrifice to its amazing death, drew a lesson from the incident and admonished the crowd: “If people only knew that the pelty would be rebirth into sorrow, they would cease from taking life. A terrible doom awaits the one who kills.”
Identifying himself as the tree deva in a previous birth, the Buddha ended his story. But the bhikkhus had learnt about the Law of Kamma. Their Master had attained Buddhahood after a succession of enlightened lives as bodhisattvas. Whatever is done, with mind, speech or body, will have its corresponding result. Each action, even the smallest, will have its consequence.
Through good intent and good deeds, good kamma and future happiness is built up, while bad intent and bad deeds lead to bad kamma and future suffering. This eterl, infallible law will play itself out in life, and in successive lives too if necessary — until the cycle is complete.
— the harbinger