Kim OHara wrote:Jataka stories? Dhammapada? They are the kinds of things I would have expected.
Ah yes, forgot to mention that in Burma, selected portions of the Jataka is part of the grade school curriculum. Just about everyone aged 15 or older knows at least four out of the ten lives of the bodhisattas: Mahosadha, Suwanasam, Vessandon, and Mahajanaka. In each of the ten lives, the bodhisatta fulfills each of the ten paramis
My favorite is the story of Mahosadha the clever young sage in his childhood days, where he fulfills the parami
(wisdom). The stories details his many battles of wits and cunning against perpetrators of his father's kingdom. It's a very exciting read compared to the others which are relatively dry.
Vessandon was the last human life of the bodhisatta, and the only one where he took robes and went to the forest in seclusion. In this life he fulfilled the dāna
parami by giving up all his possessions and even his wife and child to anyone who requested them. That was his last life as a human bodhisatta, and when he died he went to Tusita heaven, to be reborn as Gotama the Buddha in his next life.
The Dhammapada isn't nearly as popular, as far as I know.
It's rare to find a Christian who hasn't read the Bible. On the contrary, in Buddhist countries it's rare to find a Buddhist who has
read the suttas. For most Buddhists in Burma, the Jataka is the only part of the Pali canon they will ever have read.