Religions of South Asia, Vol 12, No 1 (2018)

Contemplating the Buddha in the Jātakas

Eviatar Shulman
Issued Date: 13 Nov 2018

Abstract


This study takes a fresh look at the ideology of (semi-)canonical Jātakas assembled in the Jātaka-aṭṭhakathā, arguing that they are rather un-interested in biography. Although this notion is normally at the centre of the study of Jātaka in modern scholarship, these texts are not driven by an historical approach and do not attempt to relate the Buddha’s path to enlightenment in linear, logical fashion. Rather, Jātakas are interested in what a Buddha actually is, in an inquiry into his very nature, and thus offer a contemplation of his unique form of being. Most specifically, they strive to depict Buddha’s omniscience, which is evident in the narrative framework of the genre, in which Jātakas appear as explanations provided by the Buddha for events in the present. Omniscience is also present as a motivation behind some of the Bodhisatta’s great acts; much of his action can be interpreted as an opening of his mind to its full omniscient potential. Jātakas focus on the conditioning between lives, which the Bodhisatta is often aware of, and which the Buddha observes through his unique knowledge, thereby offering an observation on the patterning of consciousness that develops over time. This includes the very nature of the awakened mind, whose omniscience is shaped by actions carried out in previous existences.

Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/rosa.37510

References


Allon, M. 1997. Style and Function, a Study of the Dominant Stylistic Features of the Prose Sections of Pāli Canonical Sutta Texts and their Mnemonic Function. Tokyo: International Institute for Buddhist Studies.

Anālayo, Bhikkhu. 2007. ‘Oral Dimensions of Pāli Discourses: Pericopes, other Mnemonic Techniques, and the Oral Performance Context.’ Canadian Journal of Buddhist Studies 3: 5–33.

—2011. A Comparative Study of the Majjhima-nikāya, Vols. 1 and 2. Taiwan: Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation.

Appleton, N. 2010. Jātaka Stories in Theravāda Buddhism: Narrating the Bodhisatta Path. Farnham: Ashgate.

—2015a. ‘The Buddha as Storyteller: The Dialogical Setting of Jātaka Stories.’ In Black and Patton 2015: 99–112.

—2015b. ‘The “Jātaka-Avadānas” of the Avadānaśataka—an Exploration of Indian Buddhist Narrative Genres.’ JIABS 38: 9–31.

Appleton, N., and S. Shaw. 2015. The Ten Great Birth Stories of the Buddha: The Mahānipāta of the Jātakatthavaṇṇanā, Vols. 1 and 2. Chiang Mai: Silkworm, and Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University Press.

Black, B. 2011. ‘Ambaṭṭha and Śvetaketu: Literary Connections between the Upaniṣads and Early Buddhist Narratives.’ Journal of the American Academy of Religion 79 (1): 136–61. https://doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/lfq058

Black, B., and L. Patton (eds.). 2015. Dialogue in Early South Asian Religions: Hindu Buddhist and Jain Religions. Dorchester: Ashgate.

Brown, R. L. 1997. ‘Narrative as Icon: The Jātaka Stories in Ancient Indian and Southeast Asian Architecture.’ In Schober 1997: 64–109.

Carrithers, M. 1983. The Forest Monks of Sri Lanka: An Anthropological and Historical Study. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Collins, S. 1990. ‘On the Very Idea of the Pali Canon.’ Journal of the Pali Text Society 15: 89–126.

—1992. ‘Notes on some Oral Aspects of Pali Literature.’ Indo-Iranian Journal 35: 121–35. https://doi.org/10.1163/000000092794742682

Cousins, L. 1983. ‘Pali Oral Literature.’ In P. Denwood and A. Pitiagorsky (eds.), Buddhist Studies Ancient and Modern: 1–11. London: Curzon.

—2013. ‘The Early Development of Buddhist Literature and Language in India.’ Journal of the Oxford Center for Buddhist Studies 5: 89–135.

Cowherds, The (ed.). 2011. Moonshadows: Conventional Truth in Buddhist Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press.

Cox, M. Roalfe. 1967 [1892]. Cinderella: Three Hundred and Forty-five Variants of Cinderella, Catskin, and Cap o’Rushes, Abstracted and Tabulated, with a Discussion of Mediaeval Analogues and Notes. Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint Limited.

Davis, R. 1974. ‘Tolerance and Intolerance of Ambiguity in Northern Thai Myth and Ritual.’ Ethnology 13 (1): 1–24. https://doi.org/10.2307/3773125

Deegalle, M. 2003. ‘Preacher as a Poet: Poetic Preaching as a Monastic Strategy in Constituting Buddhist Communities in Modern Sri Lanka and Thailand.’ In J. C. Holt, J. N. Kinnard and J. S. Walters (eds.), Constituting Communities: Theravada Buddhism and the Religious Cultures of South and Southeast Asia: 151–69. Albany, NY: State University of New York.

—2006. Popularizing Buddhism: Teaching as Performance in Sri Lanka. Albany, NY: State University of New York.

—2012. ‘Jātaka Narratives in Buddhist Preaching and their Contested Popular Imagination in Sri Lanka.’ In P. Skilling and J. McDaniel (eds.), Buddhist Narrative in Asia and beyond, in Honour of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on her Fifty-Fifth Birth Anniversary: 127–46. Bangkok: Institute of Thai Studies, Chulalongkorn University.

Derris, K. A. 2000. ‘Virtue and Relationships in a Theravadin Biography of the Bodhisatta: A Study of the Sotatthakīmahādnidāna.’ PhD Harvard University.

Dundes, A. (ed.). 1983. Cinderella: A Casebook. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Edel, L. 1981. ‘Biography and the Science of Man.’ In Friedson 1981: 1–11.

Friedson, A. M. 1981. New Studies in Biography. Honolulu: The Biographical Research Center, University of Hawai’i Press.

Garfield, J. 1995. The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gethin, R. 1992. ‘The Matikas: Memorization, Mindfulness, and the List.’ In J. Gyatso (ed.), In the Mirror of Memory: Reflections on Mindfulness and Remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism: 149–72. New York: State University of New York.

Gombrich, R. 1985. ‘The Vessantara Jātaka, the Rāmāyaṇa and the Dasaratha Jātaka.’ Journal of the American Oriental Society 105 (3): 427–37. https://doi.org/10.2307/601519

Gummer, N. Forthcoming. ‘Sūtra Time.’ In L. Gomez and N. Gummer (eds.), The Language of the Sūtras.

Hallisey, Ch. 1988. ‘Devotion in the Buddhist Literature of Medieval Sri Lanka.’ PhD dissertation, University of Chicago.

Hallisey, Ch., and A. Hansen. 1996. ‘Narrative, Sub-Ethics, and the Moral Life: Some Evidence from Theravāda Buddhism.’ The Journal of Religious Ethics 24: 305–25.

Harrison, P. 1978. ‘Buddhānusmṛti in the Pratyutpanna-Buddha-Saṃmukhāvasthita-Samādhi-Sūtra.’ Journal of Indian Philosophy 6: 35–57. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00207333

—1990. The Samādhi of Direct Encounter with the Buddhas of the Present: An Annotated Translation of the Tibetan Version of the Pratyutpanna-Buddha-Saṃmukhāvasthita-Samādhi-Sūtra. Tokyo: The International Institute for Buddhist Studies.

—1992. ‘Commemoration and Identification in Buddhānusmṛti.’ In J. Gyatso (ed.), In the Mirror of Memory: Reflections on Mindfulness and Remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism: 215–38. New York: State University of New York.

Harvey, P. 1995. The Selfless Mind: Personality, Consciousness and Nirvana in Early Buddhism. Richmond: Curzon.

Jory, P. 2002. ‘Thai and Western Buddhist Scholarship in the Age of Colonialism: King Chulalongkorn Redefines the Jatakas.’ Journal of Asian Studies 61 (3): 891–918. https://doi.org/10.2307/3096350

Lamotte, E. 1970. ‘Le Buddha insulta-t-il Devadatta?’ Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 33 (1): 107–15. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0041977X00145173

Levi, G. 2014. ‘The Uses of Biography.’ In Renders and de Hann 2014: 61–74.

Lopez, D. S. 1995. ‘Authority and Orality in the Mahāyāna.’ Numen 42: 21–47. https://doi.org/10.1163/1568527952598800

—2013. From Stone to Flesh: A Short History of the Buddha. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Lord, A. B. 1960. The Singer of Tales. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

MacQueen, G. 1981. ‘The Conflict between External and Internal Mastery: An Analysis of the “Khantivādi Jātaka”.’ History of Religions 20 (3): 242–52. https://doi.org/10.1086/462870

McDaniel, J. T. 2008. Gathering Leaves & Lifting Words: Histories of Buddhist Monastic Education in Laos and Thailand. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press.

Obeyesekere, R. 1992 [1991]. Jewels of the Doctrine: Stories of the Saddharma Ratnāvaliya. Delhui: Sri Satguru Publications.

Ohnuma, R. 2007. Head, Eyes, Flesh and Blood: Giving out the Body in Indian Buddhist Literature. New York: Columbia University Press.

Pierce, D. C. 1969. ‘The Middle Way of the Jātaka Tales.’ The Journal of American Folklore 82/325: 245–54. https://doi.org/10.2307/538711

Ramanujan, A. K. 1994 [1991]. ‘Three Hundred Rāmāyaṇas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation.’ In P. Richman (ed.), Many Rāmāyanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Ray, R. 1994. Buddhist Saints in India. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Renders, H., and B. de Hann. 2014. Theoretical Discussions of Biography: Approaches from History, Microhistory, and Life Writing. Leiden and Boston: Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004274709

Reynolds, F. E. 1976. ‘The Many Lives of the Buddha.’ In F. E. Reynolds and D. Capps (eds.), The Biographical Process: Studies in the History and Psychology of Religion: 37–66. The Hague, Paris: Mouton.

—1997. ‘Rebirth Traditions and the Lineages of Gotama: A Study in Theravāda Buddhology.’ In Schober 1997: 19–39.

Rhys Davids, T. W. 1903. Buddhist India. London: T. Fisher Unwin/New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Rorty, R. 2016. ‘Getting Rid of the Appearance-Reality Distinction.’ New Literary History 47 (1): 67–81. https://doi.org/10.1353/nlh.2016.0006

Schober, J. (ed.) 1997. Sacred Biography in the Buddhist Traditions of South and Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Schopen, G. 2004. Buddhist Monks and Business Matters: Still more Papers on Monastic Buddhism in India. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Shaw, S. 2006. The Jātakas: Birth Stories of the Bodhisatta. New Delhi: Penguin.

Shulman, E. 2012 [2013)]. ‘Early Buddhist Imagination: The Aṭṭhakavagga as Buddhist Poetry.’ Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 35: 363–411.

—2014. Rethinking the Buddha: Early Buddhist Philosophy as Meditative Perception. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

—2017a. ‘The Buddha as the Pole of Existence, or the Flower of Cosmos.’ History of Religions 57 (2): 164–96. https://doi.org/10.1086/693680

—2017b. ‘The Early Buddhist Discourses of the Buddha as Literature.’ The Journal of Religion 97 (3): 360–87. https://doi.org/10.1086/691979

—Forthcoming. ‘Orality and Creativity in Early Buddhist Discourses.’ In L. Gomez and N. Gummer (eds.), The Language of the Sūtras.

Silk, J. A. 2003. ‘The Fruits of Paradox: On the Religious Architecture of the Buddha’s Life Story.’ Journal of the American Academy of Religion 71 (4): 863–81. https://doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/lfg102

Skilling, P. 2006. ‘Jātaka and Paññāsa-Jātaka in South-East Asia.’ The Journal of the Pāli Text Society 28: 113–73.

Spencer, R. F. 1966. ‘Ethical Expression in Burmese Jātaka.’ The Journal of American Folklore 79/311: 278–301. https://doi.org/10.2307/537499

Strong, J. S. 1997. ‘A Family Quest: The Buddha, Yaśodharā, and Rāhula in the Mūlasarvāsitivāda Vinaya.’ In Schober 1997: 113–28

—2001. The Buddha: A Beginner’s Guide. Oxford: Oneworld.

—2004. Relics of the Buddha. Princeton: Princeton University Press 

Thomas, E. J. 1927. The Life of Buddha, as Legend and History. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Todorov, T. 1975. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Unebe, T. 2012. ‘Not for the Achievement of a Sāvaka or Paccekabuddha: The Motive behind the Bodhisatta’s Self-sacrifice in the Paññāsa-Jātaka.’ Buddhist Studies Review 29 (1): 35–56. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.v29i1.35

Wongthet, P. 1989. ‘The Jataka Stories and Laopuan Worldview.’ Asian Folklore Studies 48 (1): 21–30. https://doi.org/10.2307/1178532

Woodward, M. W. 1997. ‘The Biographical Imperative in Theravāda Buddhism.’ In Schober 1997: 39–63.

Wynne, A. 2004. ‘The Oral Transmission of Early Buddhist Literature.’ JIABS 27 (1): 97–127.

Zipes, J. D. 1991 [1983]. Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion: The Classical Genre for Children and the Process of Civilization. New York: Routledge.


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