Jataka Tales/Verses and the Vesantara Jataka

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Jataka Tales/Verses and the Vesantara Jataka

Postby cooran » Sat Apr 18, 2009 7:31 am

Hello all,

The Jatakas verses are part of the Sutta Pitaka (The Khuddaka Nikaya) of the Pali Canon ...... Jatakas were touched on in a discussion elsewhere, and Jim Anderson (Pali Scholar) supplied the following information there:

"The Jataka (jaataka.m) is part of the Tipitaka and occupies two volumes in print. It consists of verses uttered by the Buddha and would have been recited at the great rehearsals. The Jataka commentary (jaataka.t.thakathaa) which contains the stories that go with the verses take up 10 volumes in a Thai edition. It is traditionally ascribed to Buddhaghosa (as translator & editor). All the verses in the Jataka are also included in the Jataka commentary.

.... some people are under the impression that the Jataka stories are part of the Tipitaka but upon closer examination one will find that the stories in fact belong to the commentary. The Jataka proper is only made up of verses like in the Dhammapada."


When I read this I was relieved - having first felt rather horrified by the Vesantara Jataka. I even read the whole thing p. 246 to p.305 (59 pages!) in "The Jaataka or Stories of the Buddha's Former Births" translated by E.W. Cowell and W.H.D. Rouse (Prof Cowell was formerly Prof. of Sanskrit in the Univ. of Cambridge) - in the hope that my initial repugnance might be attenuated by something else in the tale. Not so. The Tale in full is, if anything, more appalling than the excerpt one can read.

I am thankful I live in an age when the whole crew would have wound up before the Children's Court and received the consequences they deserved for child abuse and failing to provide protection to defenceless minors. That other beings could be regarded by the Buddha-to-be as objects to be used and disposed of in order to gain his own spiritual advancement is unbelievable.

I see nothing in this story that could even qualify it to be regarded as a Morality Tale. I think quoting such stories as if they are authoritative teachings is unwise.

Thankfully Jim Anderson did the research to show the Tales are NOT part of the Tipitaka. One is told that the disappearance of the Vesantara Jataka is one of the predicted signs of the Disappearance of the Sasana. I am sure there are those who will be concerned by this.

It was also such a relief to me to read Maurice Walshe's remarks (trans. of the Digha Nikaya) in this excerpt from "Giving from the Heart": "In point of fact, one of the true benefits to the giver is precisely that the act of spontaneous giving is a very fine way of helping to overcome attachment. And that is the intended point of the Vesantara story. We Westerners think of the unfortunate wife and family the Bodhisatta "sacrificed" (though of course there was happy ending and they came back to him, in the story!), but the intention is to regard them as objects of attachment, to be given up as such.

As a matter of fact, despite the popularity of this particular story, modern scholars consider that it was not originally a Buddhist tale at all, and was somewhat unskillfully adapted to provide a "Buddhist" moral."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/bps/ ... html#heart

metta
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Re: Jataka Tales/Verses and the Vesantara Jataka

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Apr 18, 2009 8:08 am

Greetings Chris,

Chris wrote:I think quoting such stories as if they are authoritative teachings is unwise.


Thank you very much for sharing your findings with us.

Metta,
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Re: Jataka Tales/Verses and the Vesantara Jataka

Postby cooran » Sun Feb 09, 2014 4:16 am

Hello all,

The Jatakas have been mentioned in a couple of threads lately, so I thought I'd bump up this thread so not too much credence is placed on the Tales rather than the Verses.

With metta,
Chris
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Re: Jataka Tales/Verses and the Vesantara Jataka

Postby robertk » Sun Feb 09, 2014 5:54 am

Ah this is the classical forum and as the Commentary , including the story associated with each Jataka, was edited by Buddhaghosa at the Mahavihra they are certainly considered authentic.
Personally I find the Vesantara story wonderful and have no doubt about its truth.
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Re: Jataka Tales/Verses and the Vesantara Jataka

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Feb 09, 2014 7:02 am

cooran wrote:I am thankful I live in an age when the whole crew would have wound up before the Children's Court and received the consequences they deserved for child abuse and failing to provide protection to defenceless minors. That other beings could be regarded by the Buddha-to-be as objects to be used and disposed of in order to gain his own spiritual advancement is unbelievable.

You must be kidding :stirthepot: I think you misunderstood something about the context. They didn't have social welfare services in those days.
Within these forums the Pali Tipitaka and its commentaries are for discussion purposes treated as authoritative.

We are living in an age when the bodhisatta's kids might be taken into care, where they would be subjected to child abuse by their carers, when they were quite safe under the care of their parents and grand-parents.
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Re: Jataka Tales/Verses and the Vesantara Jataka

Postby cooran » Sun Feb 09, 2014 8:16 am

It would be worthwhile for those interested, and who have the time, to read the Vesantara Jataka themselves:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/j6/j6013.htm

With karuna,
Chris
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Re: Jataka Tales/Verses and the Vesantara Jataka

Postby Zom » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:59 am

Interesting is the opinion of Ven. Sujato. He says that Jataka stories can be real words of the Buddha, but the stories in themselves are fictional and allegoric. There are some similar stories in SN with "monkey and hunter", "hawk and quail" and so on, but in the suttas they clearly come as allegory, not as real thing happened some long time ago. Probably later buddhists modified those allegoric stories into "previous bodhisatta lives" under the pressure of popular mahayana movement.
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Re: Jataka Tales/Verses and the Vesantara Jataka

Postby Sokehi » Sun Feb 09, 2014 12:43 pm

Good posting, cooran! Thanks for sharing
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