Buddhist Studies Review, Vol 32, No 1 (2015)

Chiastic Structure of the Vessantara Jātaka: Textual Criticism and Interpretation Through Inverted Parallelism

Shi Huifeng
Issued Date: 26 Nov 2015

Abstract


The Vessantara Jātaka is not only the most popular of all the Buddhist Jātaka tales, but is important in the tradition as a whole, generally considered by the Theravādin tradition to display the epitome of the Bodhisatta’s perfection of giving (dānapāramī). While most studies have focused on philological approaches, numerous questions as to the text’s structure and how to interpret individual parts within that structure have remained unresolved (§1. The received tradition of the Vessantara Jātaka). My study shall employ the theory of ‘chiasmus’ (inverted parallelism) to shed new light on both the key message of the story and also the sub-themes within it (§2. Chiastic structures as textual approach). In terms of textual criticism, I shall first elucidate the chiastic structure of the text and discuss how this structure can provide insights on text-critical readings (§3. Textual criticism: Chiastic units and structure). In terms of interpretation, I shall then see how the structure clearly demarcates the text’s scope through its prologue and conclusion with surrounding framework, its paired parallel sub-themes, and its central climax point, all in the light of its chiastic structure (§4. Interpretation: A chiastic reading). Finally, considering broader implications, on comparison with other recently discovered Buddhist textual chiasmi I shall present a tentative hypothesis as to the origins of such structures in the ‘bodhisatt(v)a’ literary genre (§5. Conclusions: Critical and interpretive implications).

Download Media

PDF

DOI: 10.1558/bsrv.v32i1.25056

References


Appleton, Naomi. 2010. Jātaka Stories in Theravāda Buddhism: Narrating the Bodhisatta Path. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing.


Brockington, John. 2000. ‘The Textualization of the Sanskrit Epics.’ In Textualization of Oral Epics, edited by Lauri Honko, 193–216. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/9783110825848.193


Collins, Steven, 1998. Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities: Utopias of the Pali Imaginaire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511520655


Cone, Margaret, and Gombrich, Richard Francis. 1977. The Perfect Generosity of Prince Vessantara. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Cowell, E. B. and W. H. D. Rouse. Trans. 2005 [1907]. The Jātaka: Or, Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births. Vol. VI, edited by E. B. Cowell. London: The Pali Text Society.


Dorsey, D. A. 1999. The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis-Malachi. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.


Douglas, Mary. 2007. Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.


Fausbøll, V. Ed. 2004 [1896]. The Jātaka, Together with its Commentary, Being Tales of the Anterior Births of Gotama Buddha. Vol. V. London: The Pali Text Society.


Gombrich, Richard. 1985. ‘The Vessantara Jātaka, the Rāmāyaṇa and the Dasaratha Jātaka.’ Journal of the American Oriental Society 105(3): 427–437. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/601519


Hinüber, Oskar von. 1998. Entstehung und Aufbau der Jātaka-Sammlung. Studien zur Literatur des Theravāda-Buddhismus I. Abhandlungen der Geistes-und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.


Hudson, Dennis. 2001. ‘The Barley-Corn Pattern of Bhagavad-Gītā 12–16’. Journal of Vaishnaiva Studies 9(2): 181–195.


Jackson, Peter, director. 2003. The Return of the King. New Line Cinema.


Leavitt, Guy. Forthcoming. The Poetics and Cosmology of Narrative Time in Sanskrit Literature. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Chicago.


Lord, Albert B. Eds. Stephen Mitchell and Gregory Nagy. 2000 [1960]. The Singer of Tales. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Lund, Nils Wilhelm. 1942. Chiasmus in the New Testament: A Study in Formgeschichte. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.


Nakamura, Hajime. 2000. Gotama Buddha: A Biography Based on the Most Reliable Texts, Vol. 1. Translated by G. Sekimori. Wada: Kosei Publishing Company.


Orsborn, Matthew Bryan = Shì Huìfēng. 2012. Chiasmus in the Early Prajñāpāramitā: Literary Parallelism Connecting Criticism and Hermeneutics in an Early Mahāyāna Sūtra. Dissertation, The University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong).


Pali-English Dictionary. 1925. Eds. William Stede, and Thomas William Rhys Davids. Chippenham: The Pali Text Society.


Penner, Hans H. 2009. Rediscovering the Buddha: The Legends and Their Interpretations. New York: Oxford University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195385823.001.1


Rao, Ajay K. 2015. Re-figuring the Ramayana as Theology: A History of Reception in Premodern India. London: Routledge.


Safavi, Seyed Ghahreman, and Weightman, Simon. 2010. Rumi’s Mystical Design: Reading the Mathnawi, Book One. Albany: State University of New York Press.


Seuss, Doctor and Adrian Edmondson. 1988 [1960]. Green Eggs and Ham. New York: Random House.


Shì Huìfēng. Forthcoming. Vimalakīrti’s Aporia: Chiasmus & Apophasis in the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa.


Tolkien, J. R. R. 1954, 1954, 1955. The Lord of the Rings. (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King). London: Allen and Unwin.


Van Gennep, Arnold. 2011 [1909]. The Rites of Passage. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.


Welch, John W. 1981. Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures, Analysis, Exegesis. Provo, UT: Research Press.


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.



Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email:
info@equinoxpub.com

Privacy Policy