Vessantara And Maddi

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Vessantara And Maddi

Postby yawares » Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:44 pm

Dear Members,

After beautiful Vesakha Day, I proudly present the great love jataka of Vessantara And Maddi.


The Twelfth Of Never: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNuB9h-63xg

********************

Vessantara And Maddi
[Translated from the Pali by Dr.C.B.Varma,D. Litt]

The lineage of the Sivis is best known for its charity and sacrifices in the Indian traditions since time immemorial. Once, the Bodhisatta was born as Vessantara (Sanskrit: Vishvantara) in the dynasty of the Sivi in the kingdom of Jetuttara. King Sanjaya was his father; and Queen Phusati was his mother. He appeared to be a child prodigy because he spoke on the very day when he was born. Interestingly, on the same day a white elephant was also born. This elephant, who was given the name Pacchaya, was gifted with the supernatural power to make the rain fall.

Vessantara’s passion for charity was so intense that the earth trembled when he pledged to make a great gift at the young age of eight. At sixteen he married Maddi (Sanskrit: Madri). He had two children: Jali and Kanhajina.

At that time there was a great draught in Kalinga. So, eight Brahmins from Kalinga came to Vessantara to beg for his white elephant to make the rain fall in their country. Vessantara acceded to their request and donated the elephant. When the people of Jetuttara heard of this news they were terribly disturbed. Agitatingly, they went to the king and asked him to punish the prince by banishing him to the forest of Vankagiri. The will of the people eventually prevailed and Vessantara had to go on exile much to the unwillingness of the king. Before setting out he obtained the king’s consent to hold an alms-giving ceremony called the “Gifts of Seven Hundreds (Sattasataka). On the occasion he gave away seven hundred pieces of seven hundred kinds of things to the needy people.

When Vessantara took leave of his parents and was preparing to depart, his wife Maddi insisted to accompany him with her children Jali and Kanhajina.

They left the palace in a royal chariot drawn by four horses. On the way four brahmins met him and begged for his four horses. After giving the four horses to the brahmins when he began to fasten the girth tightly round his waist to put himself under the yoke and to drag the carriage there appeared four yakkhas in the form of red deer. They put their shoulders under the yoke like well-trained excellent horses and drew his carriage. When Maddi was staring at them with joy and surprise the Bodhisatta said,

"Lo! the influence

of the benevolent forest

Of the hermitage

That the best of the deer

Extend hospitability

To the forest-guests

So ardently."


The queen, however, remarked,

"You may conceal your merits, and say so

I call this to be your influence.

Like the laughing lotuses,

which surpass the beauty of the stars mirrored in the water,

Exposing so fully

To the curious gaze of the radiant Moon

With its groping rays

For the delightful titillation."

When they were thus involved in the pleasant conversation they encountered one more brahmin beggar, who begged for the carriage. So, Vessantara had to part with his carriage, too. He then lifted his son Jali in his arms, and Maddi lifted Kanhanjana; and thus they continued their jouney on foot. The sun was scorching. So, The cloud overspread overhead to act as a canopy. The trees extended their branches to offer them delicious fruits as an offering to their virtue of charity. When they longed for water the lotus ponds appeared before them to quench their thirst. Further, the yakkhas shortened their path to protect them from exertion. Thus, treading through Suvannagiritala, Kantimara, Mount Aranjagiri, Dunnivittha, the capital of Cheta (where his uncle ruled), Gandhamadana, the foot of Mount Vipula to the river Ketumati (where a forester offered them food) and then by crossing the river Nalika along the bank of lake Muchalinda and further crossing a dense forest they finally reached Vankagiri.

Vissakamma, the Engineer of Sakka had already built two hermitages for them in the forest. One was for Vessantara and the other was for the rest of the family. The power of Vessantara was so strong that no wild animal came near their hermitages. Happily, they spent four months.


One day, one old Brahmin named Jujaka came to the hermitage when Maddi had gone to the forest to bring some fruits for the family. Accosting Vessantara he begged for his two children because Amittatapana, his wife had demanded for two slaves for herself. As Vessantara was widely known for his dana-paramita (perfection of charitability) the greedy Brahmin was intent on exploiting the situation. Vessantara tried to convince the Brahmin to change his mind in several ways. Yet, he insisted on accepting nothing but the two children. Knowing Jujaka’s mind the children were extremely terrified and ran away to a nearby pond and hid themselves. They, however, re-appeared when their father called them. And by then Vessantara had finally agreed to the shrew demand of Jujaka. The brahmin, then chanting some phrases of benediction to the donour ordered the children to accompany him. The children, who did not want to leave glued to the feet of their father to ask Jujaka to wait at least until the arrival of their mother. But shrewd and mean Jujaka without wasting time fastened the hands of the two delicate children with a creeper and forcibly dragged them to his destination. The bleeding and bewailing children, however, screamed,

"Oh! the mother will certainly cry like the chataka (bird) upon return

Whose little ones are killed.

How would she act

When she comes back with many roots and fruits

Gathered from the forest

But finds the hermitage empty.

Oh father! I have many toys –

Horses, elephants and chariots –

Give half to mother to assuage her grief."

When Maddi returned late in the evening and did not find her children around, she asked Vessantara of their whereabouts. But Vessantara kept silence. She then repeated the same question several times, yet Vessantara did not utter a single word. So, she again went inside the forest and looked for the children for whole night. Next morning, when she returned she fainted. Vessentara then helped her regain consciousness. That was the time he apprised her of the whereabouts of the children and narrated the story. By then Maddi had mustered up the courage to endure the trauma. Surprisingly, she praised Vessantara’s great act of dana-sila (Conduct of charity).

Their sacrifice trembled the earth. And so did mount Sineru with all its resplendent gems. Surprised, Sakka, the lord of the devas inquired into the cause. When he learnt the cause of the quakes owing to the sacrifice of Vessantara he visited the hermitage next morning to test the firmity of his vow in the guise of a mendicant and begged him for his wife. Even then Vessantara did not lose the firmness of his mind and nodded to donate Maddi as well. Besides, no anger sprang even in the heart of Maddi. She did not wail. She rather looked stupefied and stood like a statue with her eyes fixed on her husband with a fresh load of suffering.

Admiringly, Sakka then said,

"Though a house-holder

Yet giving up the most beloved children and wife in charity

With such detachment;

Can there be a greater exemplification of magnanimity?"

Now, it was the time for Sakka to reveal his identity. He gave Maddi back to Vessantara. Furthermore, he offered eight boons to the great donor, which included the reunion of his family; his recall to the father’s kingdom; and his ability to benefaction.

In the meanwhile, Jujaka had traveled sixty leagues and having lost his way he reached Jetuttara, though he intended to reach Kalinga. His rugged appearance and harsh behaviour with the two delicate children attracted the royal guards, who brought him before the king. King Sanjaya, when saw his grand-children and learnt their story he bought them back from the cruel brahmin in lieu of handsome gifts and seven-storeyed palace. But Jujaka could hardly enjoy those riches as he died of over-eating in a few days. The king along with Phusati, Jali and his army then marched to Vankagiri to bring back his son and the daughter-in-law.

The white elephant Pacchaya also joined the procession as he had just returned from Kalinga as no one could subdue him there.

Finally, after a month of merry-making in the forest they all returned to the kingdom, happily.


(Devadatta is identified with Jujaka and his wife Amittapana as Chincha; Sanjaya as Suddhodhana and Phusati as Mahamaya; Rahula with Jali, Uppalavanna as Kanhajina, Rahulamata as Maddi; and Vessantara as the Bodhisatta).
***************
Love Buddha's dhamma,
yawares/sirikanya
:heart:
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby SDC » Tue Jun 05, 2012 7:12 pm

Excellent story!
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby yawares » Tue Jun 05, 2012 7:20 pm

SDC wrote:Excellent story!

Dear SDC,

Thank you very much for reading my story.
yawares
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby Hanzze » Wed Jun 06, 2012 5:07 am

Dear Yawares,

you put so much effort in sharing Jatakas incl. links and even videos. Did you think of making a topic and with it a kind of collection that we can find all this stories more easily. In the stream of topics, they would easily get lost.

Just an idea and thanks for your work.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby yawares » Wed Jun 06, 2012 1:16 pm

Hanzze wrote:Dear Yawares,

you put so much effort in sharing Jatakas incl. links and even videos. Did you think of making a topic and with it a kind of collection that we can find all this stories more easily. In the stream of topics, they would easily get lost.

Just an idea and thanks for your work.

Dear Hanzze,

Thank you for your comment. I don't mind to put much effort into something or someone I truly love, I love Buddhas, Jatakas and Dhammapada stories very much. I also post these stories @ SD/JTN/Mult/DSG.

yawares
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby perkele » Wed Jun 06, 2012 7:17 pm

This Jataka is weird. How did the Bodhisatta think of the welfare of his children and wife when he gave them away? If there is supposed to be a moral lesson to be drawn from this Jataka I really wonder who is getting it. In that case I'd kindly ask for an explanation. The message I'm getting is "Sacrifice the welfare of others and you will be rewarded." One might imagine cases where giving away children and wife might be for their best. But in this way? That's seems just perverse to me. I'd really appreciate an explanation from anyone who finds this story nice and inspiring.
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby yawares » Wed Jun 06, 2012 7:51 pm

perkele wrote:This Jataka is weird. How did the Bodhisatta think of the welfare of his children and wife when he gave them away? If there is supposed to be a moral lesson to be drawn from this Jataka I really wonder who is getting it. In that case I'd kindly ask for an explanation. The message I'm getting is "Sacrifice the welfare of others and you will be rewarded." One might imagine cases where giving away children and wife might be for their best. But in this way? That's seems just perverse to me. I'd really appreciate an explanation from anyone who finds this story nice and inspiring.

Dear Perkete,

This Vessantara Jataka is loved by most Thai people. I first read this jataka when I was in 5th grade and still love it even much more now...to me it is a great story!

Thank you for your comment,
yawares
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby gavesako » Wed Jun 06, 2012 8:34 pm

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vessantara_Jataka

Some scholars have written about the ethical problems surrounding the excessive giving in this story:

http://gcraighobbs.com/theory_technics.html
http://gcraighobbs.com/gcraighobbs_tech ... lities.pdf

Of course, we need to be aware of the cultural and social background when reflecting on the meaning of it.
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby perkele » Thu Jun 07, 2012 11:39 am

gavesako wrote:See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vessantara_Jataka

Some scholars have written about the ethical problems surrounding the excessive giving in this story:

http://gcraighobbs.com/theory_technics.html
http://gcraighobbs.com/gcraighobbs_tech ... lities.pdf

Thanks, Bhante. I've skimmed through that article. I wonder if the gist of it could be translated to plain English, but I suspect that's not the purpose of academic writing. It leaves me unsatisfied and wondering what the twisted moral of this story has to do with Nietzsche's Zarathustra and whatnot, and what those academic guys are swaggering about.
Of course, we need to be aware of the cultural and social background when reflecting on the meaning of it.

I don't want to be offensive. But that sounds like a vain apology. I can't get my head around what social and cultural background has to do with right and wrong on such a basic level. On another note I also don't get many of the "moral messages" of common German folk tales.

To put it very simply, the problem that I have with this Jataka is:
The giving away of one's children to an obviously cruel and mean person without any reason and necessity in my eyes is clearly not an act of charity but an act of cruelty. Same with the giving away of one's wife, with the only distinction that the mendicant didn't seem to be such a wicked person in that case.

@yawares: Thanks for your answer. But can you explain why you like this story? And do you think the Bodhisatta in this story acted in a good and charitable manner? What do you think about the giving away of his children? It seems he gave them to a bad person and he had no reason for it. Don't you think that was cruel of him? I just would like to understand and to know what you think about that.
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby yawares » Thu Jun 07, 2012 3:34 pm

perkele wrote:
gavesako wrote:See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vessantara_Jataka

Perkete :
@yawares: Thanks for your answer. But can you explain why you like this story? And do you think the Bodhisatta in this story acted in a good and charitable manner? What do you think about the giving away of his children? It seems he gave them to a bad person and he had no reason for it. Don't you think that was cruel of him? I just would like to understand and to know what you think about that.

yawares:
Dear Perkete, since you want my explanation, I'll explain to you but please do 2 things for me:

1) listen to this Youtube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LE2jmW9XdY

2) please read THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BRIDE that I posted@ Dhammic stories.

I"LL GIVE YOU EXPLANATION THIS AFTERNOON...right now I 've something important to do.

I'll be back(The Terminator,movie),
yawares
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby perkele » Thu Jun 07, 2012 7:19 pm

Dear Perkete, since you want my explanation, I'll explain to you but please do 2 things for me:

1) listen to this Youtube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LE2jmW9XdY

2) please read THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BRIDE that I posted@ Dhammic stories.

I"LL GIVE YOU EXPLANATION THIS AFTERNOON...right now I 've something important to do.

I'll be back(The Terminator,movie),
yawares[/b][/color]

Dear yawares,
thank you that you want to take the time to give me an explanation. I am really looking forward to it.
yawares wrote:but please do 2 things for me:

1) listen to this Youtube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LE2jmW9XdY

I could not watch the video, because it is blocked in my country. But I get the message. I did not mean to offend you. Please believe me that. I am just asking sincerely, because I do not understand the meaning of the Jataka. If anything I wrote has offended you, please accept my apology. It really was not my intention. If what I write seems provocative it is only because I want to make the point very clear that I am having trouble with, so that everyone understands what I am asking about. So the Bodhisatta as depicted in that story seems to act in a cruel and selfish manner in my eyes. That is what I find quite unbelievable and difficult to accept. And so I ask myself naturally why this story is so popular among other people? What is the inspiring message they get from this? I don't mean to blame anyone who likes this story. I just would like to understand how they see this difficult point. Obviously you seem to have a different perspective on this. And I only want to know. I don't want to blame you. And I would be most grateful for any explanation you can give me.
yawares wrote:2) please read THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BRIDE that I posted@ Dhammic stories.

I read this story. It was nice. Thank you. So I can see maybe a little bit where you are coming from. The devotion and moral firmness of Yasodhara in her previous life as depicted throughout the Jataka's is a shining and inspiring example. She has sacrificed a lot which has enabled her to reach Nibbana in such a glorious manner. And similarly all the other great disciples of the Buddha had to make great sacrifices and develop virtue over uncountable lifetimes, including Rahula and Uppalavanna who were identified in this Jataka as the Bodhisatta's children. So they would have endured this abandonment in line with their built-up virtue and character. Good for them.
So should the act of the Bodhisatta only be judged in that context? Without that context and the assumption that he is sure about their long-term well-being it would seem quite impossible from my perspective not to blame him. Should one assume that he knew what would happen? For me that seems to be the only possible way to not blame him. But this context and this assumption is not usually presented with the story.

But anyway, your thoughts on the story as a whole might be completely different and from a completely different angle without even touching the issues that I have. In any case I would be most grateful to know about that.

Again, I apologize if I have offended you with my previous posts. It was not my intention.
Also for completeness @Bhante Gavesako: I did not mean to be offensive. I just wanted to be clear. I did not mean to criticize your kind intention of trying to give me an explanation but only to point out my dissatisfaction with that explanation. I hope and assume you understood that anyway.

It is often difficult to ask difficult questions and staying clear and to the point without incurring offence.
Also I want to make clear that I don't expect or demand an answer from anyone. But if anyone can provide one that makes things clearer to me I will be grateful.

Thanks for reading. So now I won't say anything anymore and just listen.
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby Dhammanando » Thu Jun 07, 2012 7:34 pm

perkele wrote:I wonder if the gist of it could be translated to plain English, but I suspect that's not the purpose of academic writing. It leaves me unsatisfied and wondering what the twisted moral of this story has to do with Nietzsche's Zarathustra and whatnot, and what those academic guys are swaggering about.


For a very unacademic and down-to-earth poke at the Vessantara Jataka, see Matsii, a short story by the Thai feminist writer Sri Dao Ruang (link below). The title is the Thai pronunciation of the Sanskrit form of Maddi, the name of Vessantara's wife. But Sri Dao Ruang's Matsii isn't a princess, but a single mother who dumps her young children at a Bangkok bus stop so that she can go and become a mae chii. When arrested she defends herself on the grounds that she's just following Vessantara's example. As with most of Sri Dao Ruang's parodies, Matsii provoked quite a storm when it was first published.

http://www.seasite.niu.edu:85/thai/literature/sridaoruang/matsii/default.htm


To put it very simply, the problem that I have with this Jataka is:
The giving away of one's children to an obviously cruel and mean person without any reason and necessity in my eyes is clearly not an act of charity but an act of cruelty. Same with the giving away of one's wife, with the only distinction that the mendicant didn't seem to be such a wicked person in that case.


That people find the story hard to stomach is a very old problem, but luckily Nagasena solved it. Though it was no easy undertaking. Unlike with most of the Milindapanha's dialogues, where Milinda is very quickly convinced by Nagasena's arguments, here he is not. In fact he goes on badgering Nagasena with objections for 25 pages before throwing in the towel, making this dialogue the longest in the whole text.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/sbe36/sbe3606.htm

If there is supposed to be a moral lesson to be drawn from this Jataka I really wonder who is getting it.


I take it from Nagasena's exposition that it's essentially a story in the "pearl of great price" genre. It indirectly extols buddhahood and those who attain it by stressing what such an attainment will demand of a man.

Though there's also a more pedestrian moral that might be drawn from it (suggested by my friend Ralph Flores), namely, that responsible Buddhist parents ought to think twice before hiring a Bodhisatta as a babysitter. (Extreme Giving: The Vessantara Jātaka and Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life http://www.sunypress.edu/p-4559-buddhist-scriptures-as-literatu.aspx )

.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby yawares » Thu Jun 07, 2012 10:36 pm

perkele wrote:
Dear Perkete, since you want my explanation, I'll explain to you but please do 2 things for me:

1) listen to this Youtube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LE2jmW9XdY

2) please read THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BRIDE that I posted@ Dhammic stories.

I"LL GIVE YOU EXPLANATION THIS AFTERNOON...right now I 've something important to do.

I'll be back(The Terminator,movie),
yawares[/b]

Dear yawares,
thank you that you want to take the time to give me an explanation. I am really looking forward to it.
yawares wrote:but please do 2 things for me:

1) listen to this Youtube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LE2jmW9XdY

I could not watch the video, because it is blocked in my country.

Dear Perkele,
1) Yes you can listen to the Youtube I gave you....you should apply for free membership, so easy a cave man can do it.Youtube is great you'll love it!!
What I gave you(YOUTUBE) is the cute/playful song TREAT ME NICE by Elvis Presley.

2) please read THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BRIDE that I posted@ Dhammic stories.

I read this story. It was nice. Thank you. So I can see maybe a little bit where you are coming from. The devotion and moral firmness of Yasodhara in her previous life as depicted throughout the Jataka's is a shining and inspiring example. She has sacrificed a lot which has enabled her to reach Nibbana in such a glorious manner. And similarly all the other great disciples of the Buddha had to make great sacrifices and develop virtue over uncountable lifetimes, including Rahula and Uppalavanna who were identified in this Jataka as the Bodhisatta's children. So they would have endured this abandonment in line with their built-up virtue and character. Good for them.
So should the act of the Bodhisatta only be judged in that context? Without that context and the assumption that he is sure about their long-term well-being it would seem quite impossible from my perspective not to blame him. Should one assume that he knew what would happen? For me that seems to be the only possible way to not blame him. But this context and this assumption is not usually presented with the story.

yawares:According to the story:

The relationship between princess Yasodhara and prince Siddhattha was long and
deep-rooted. It had started long, long time ago at the time of the Dipankara
Buddha. At that time, the Prince (Bodhisatta) was born as an ascetic by the name
of Sumedha. After an exceedingly long period of practising the ten virtues, the
Bodhisatta Sumedha had finally completed the eight requirements to receive the
definite proclamation of Buddhahood from the Dipankara Buddha. Yasodhara, at
that time, was born as a noble lady by the name of Sumitra. She saw Sumedha give
eight handfuls of white jasmine flowers to the Buddha Dipankara , and the Buddha Dipankara
proclaimed that Sumedha would be a Buddha by the name of Gotama, of the
Sakyan caste, in the distant future. Cutting off her hair, she aspired to be His
consort and helpmate and to support Him actively in His quest for Buddhahood.
This strong aspiration and the meritorious deeds that she performed over a long
period of time resulted in her being the Bodhisatta's consort and supporter
throughout many births. During this very long period in which the Bodhisatta completed
the virtues she actively supported His quest for perfection.
--------
Dear Perkele,
You can see that Maddi in her past life as Sumitra, wanted to be the Bodhisatta's wife and helpmate and to support Him actively in His quest for Buddhahood:

Cutting off her hair, she aspired to be Hisconsort and helpmate and to support Him actively in His quest for Buddhahood.
This strong aspiration and the meritorious deeds that she performed over a long period of time resulted in her being the Bodhisatta's consort and supporter throughout many births. During this very long period in which the Bodhisatta completed
the virtues she actively supported His quest for perfection.

***The Buddha. Dípankara, in declaring that Sumedha would ultimately become the future Buddha Gautama, added that Sumitra would be his companion in several lives.


***************************
Perkele: Should one assume that he knew what would happen? For me that seems to be the only possible way to not blame him.
yawares: Yes the Bodhisatta and Sumitra knew what would happen because the Buddha Dipankara proclaimed that Sumedha would be a Buddha by the name of Gotama, of the Sakyan caste, in the distant future.

***I love this jataka because I admire their true love/loyalty/faith/courage....and the happy ending!
When Prince Siddhartha became the Gotama Buddha, he preached to his wife, his son and Theri Uppalavanna, and they all attained arahantship plus etadagga. So they all reaped the ultimate reward!

Dear Perkele, to appreciate and love the Buddha without doubt in your heart you have to read all jataka/dhammapada/sutta stories.


I hope I answer all your questions,
yawares
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby perkele » Fri Jun 08, 2012 7:18 pm

Dhammanando wrote:That people find the story hard to stomach is a very old problem, but luckily Nagasena solved it. Though it was no easy undertaking. Unlike with most of the Milindapanha's dialogues, where Milinda is very quickly convinced by Nagasena's arguments, here he is not. In fact he goes on badgering Nagasena with objections for 25 pages before throwing in the towel, making this dialogue the longest in the whole text.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/sbe36/sbe3606.htm

Thank you very much, Bhante. The argument put forth by the Venerable Nagasena, in which one can see his intention to stay sincere and honest and to the point, provides some worthwhile food for reflection.

yawares wrote:I hope I answer all your questions,
yawares

Yes, you did. Now I understand your perspective on this. Thank you very much.

yawares wrote:Dear Perkele, to appreciate and love the Buddha without doubt in your heart you have to read all jataka/dhammapada/sutta stories.

I'm not sure about this. It is true that the Jatakas are difficult to understand in isolation but when one looks at them in the greater context of the other stories and of the Buddha's last life as well they are clearer to understand.
Many people, probably much more in the West as in traditional Buddhist countries like Thailand, are very skeptical of the Jatakas. Many don't believe they are all completely made up. I am also skeptical. But I have read a lot of Jatakas, because I wanted to understand what is the meaning of these stories.
But what is this meaning? For me there are two general possibilities which may both be mixed with each other.
1) In so far as they tell the truth then that is their meaning. Then there does not even have to be much dramaturgic effect or anything to be suspicious of. Then this is just the truth of the past as the Buddha remembered, and the lesson to be drawn comes directly from the truth, unpalliated and pure.
2) In so far as they do not tell the truth someone has made them up. If they are all made up that would be a big-time fraud, putting words into the Buddha's mouth telling strange stories. In that case that person could not have had much regard or much understanding for right and wrong, not much intelligence or not much sincerity in his faith in the Buddha's teaching, and that would clearly show in one place or another. However I don't see any of this.
What I find most interesting is that in the Jatakas there is not such a clear-cut, solidified morality as in the Dhamma later taught by the Buddha, but also nothing that clearly flies in the face of it. There are ambiguities and difficulties and the Bodhisatta comes off as a stranger in a strange world, with no real home and no real identity, but always with a goal. By that I mean the stories are not as perfect as the Dhamma in making so convincingly clear what is right and wrong, which would also be in line with the fact that the Bodhisatta is not a Buddha yet, he is not perfect. And one really sees the point of the stories better or maybe even at all when read in the context of the occasion where the Buddha supposedly told the story. It would be hard to make such things up if only having the intention to put the Dhamma into a story. So that's why I find it hard to imagine how anyone could make all these stories up.

But with all that said, for skeptical people like me it might be better to concentrate on the Dhamma that the Buddha taught after his enlightenment, which is clear and unambiguous. Maybe the greatest benefit that I derive from the Jatakas is to see the horror that comes from identifying with any story character in samsara. :P
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby gavesako » Fri Jun 08, 2012 7:48 pm

There is of course the question of hermeneutics, or how to read and interpret the Jataka stories. If one approaches this kind of literature as a historical (scientific) report of events that have actually happened so and so many years ago, then one will interpret them literally and -- like with the Matsii story -- end up with some ethically unacceptable conclusions.

But there are other ways of reading it:

A myth, especially in Buddhism, is an expression of the Dharma in a non-intellectual way, such as
using the language of images and intuition. Such a myth appeals directly to our feelings rather than to our
intellect. Very often, we might know the Dharma or some aspects of it, or at least we think we know.
However, if we are observant or mindful enough, we will notice that over time, we often change our views,
and often enough we mature in our understanding of the Dharma and knowing ourselves. Myths inspire us
to feel more and in a wholesome way, strengthening our being as a whole.
A myth, in other words, looks directly into our hearts, using words but in a literary or artistic way, that
is, expressing or pointing beyond the words themselves. Like great literary works (such as a poem, a painting or a musical piece), a myth is meant to be enjoyed. Yet, unlike a work of art (often enjoyed for its own sake), we can and must also learn from a myth, but in a pleasant way, filling in or even seeing what conventional words usually fail to convey.
The person-centred specific theory of Buddhist myth also
deals with places or spaces. Our spiritual journey may not always be on level ground or along a straight
line. If we are well-prepared for the journey and navigating rightly, we might soon be spiralling up the
mountain to the ancient city. Otherwise, we could be gyrating downhill into a dark valley, a deep mire,
wild beasts, or a bottomless chasm. The traveller has to be constantly mindful of his path, the terrain and
other travellers.


Piya Tan: Myth in Buddhism

http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-con ... m-piya.pdf
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

ajahnchah.org - Teachings of Ajahn Chah in many languages
Dhammatube - Videos on Buddhist practice
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby yawares » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:00 pm

perkele
[quote="yawares wrote:
I hope I answer all your questions,
yawares

Yes, you did. Now I understand your perspective on this. Thank you very much.

yawares wrote:Dear Perkele, to appreciate and love the Buddha without doubt in your heart you have to read all jataka/dhammapada/sutta stories.

I'm not sure about this. It is true that the Jatakas are difficult to understand in isolation but when one looks at them in the greater context of the other stories and of the Buddha's last life as well they are clearer to understand.
Many people, probably much more in the West as in traditional Buddhist countries like Thailand, are very skeptical of the Jatakas. Many don't believe they are all completely made up. I am also skeptical. But I have read a lot of Jatakas, because I wanted to understand what is the meaning of these stories.
But what is this meaning? For me there are two general possibilities which may both be mixed with each other.
1) In so far as they tell the truth then that is their meaning. Then there does not even have to be much dramaturgic effect or anything to be suspicious of. Then this is just the truth of the past as the Buddha remembered, and the lesson to be drawn comes directly from the truth, unpalliated and pure.
2) In so far as they do not tell the truth someone has made them up. If they are all made up that would be a big-time fraud, putting words into the Buddha's mouth telling strange stories. In that case that person could not have had much regard or much understanding for right and wrong, not much intelligence or not much sincerity in his faith in the Buddha's teaching, and that would clearly show in one place or another. However I don't see any of this.
What I find most interesting is that in the Jatakas there is not such a clear-cut, solidified morality as in the Dhamma later taught by the Buddha, but also nothing that clearly flies in the face of it. There are ambiguities and difficulties and the Bodhisatta comes off as a stranger in a strange world, with no real home and no real identity, but always with a goal. By that I mean the stories are not as perfect as the Dhamma in making so convincingly clear what is right and wrong, which would also be in line with the fact that the Bodhisatta is not a Buddha yet, he is not perfect. And one really sees the point of the stories better or maybe even at all when read in the context of the occasion where the Buddha supposedly told the story. It would be hard to make such things up if only having the intention to put the Dhamma into a story. So that's why I find it hard to imagine how anyone could make all these stories up.

But with all that said, for skeptical people like me it might be better to concentrate on the Dhamma that the Buddha taught after his enlightenment, which is clear and unambiguous. Maybe the greatest benefit that I derive from the Jatakas is to see the horror that comes from identifying with any story character in samsara. :P[/quote]
Dear Perkele,
It's Up To You: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Alf4PpcoqQ

My favorite song,
yawares
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby cooran » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:04 pm

perkele wrote:This Jataka is weird. How did the Bodhisatta think of the welfare of his children and wife when he gave them away? If there is supposed to be a moral lesson to be drawn from this Jataka I really wonder who is getting it. In that case I'd kindly ask for an explanation. The message I'm getting is "Sacrifice the welfare of others and you will be rewarded." One might imagine cases where giving away children and wife might be for their best. But in this way? That's seems just perverse to me. I'd really appreciate an explanation from anyone who finds this story nice and inspiring.

Hello perkele,

You may feel a little happier to know from this discussion of esteemed Buddhist scholars that only the Jataka Verses are regarded as Buddhavacana .... not the stories attached to the verses.

[dsg] Re: Dating of texts, [...] (Jaataka)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastu ... sage/23011

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby yawares » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:10 pm

[quote="gavesako"]
Dear Bhikkhu Gavesako,
Mickey Mouse appreciates your answer.
yawares
:candle:
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Re: Vessantara And Maddi

Postby perkele » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:20 pm

@gavesako:
Thank you, Bhante. But I am a bit stubborn in this regard. I cannot accept the Jatakas as myths, because that is not how they are presented, and the supposed speaker is the Buddha. If someone else made them up that would mean to me that they are just elaborate lies. If the Buddha actually told these stories then I cannot accept them as anything else but the truth. By the latter, however, I don't mean a historical (scientific) report by all means, but just a truthful account of the Bodhisatta's previous lives in his real experience. Such outwardly little things as speaking in terms of ancient India (which could probably hardly have existed in the same way eons ago) I have no problem with in this case. The important truth that should be preserved in the story to be a truthful account in my eyes is about the intentions of the characters, mainly the main character, the Bodhisatta. All the other things are quite arbitrary. All things in this conditioned world can change in such strange ways that it is probably quite impossible to tell stories about them if not presenting them in familiar terms. But the only thing that bears any long-lasting meaning is the intention, that is, the kamma, of the characters, and the results they experienced on account of that, and so it is the only thing really worth preserving when telling a story truthfully. Of course, in order to depict the intentions most precisely and clearly, it is usually the best to stick with the dry facts of the outward reality, because intentions cannot be depicted directly but only in the form of the actions of characters in relationship with an outward reality, and so these outward things just in the way they are are usually the most reliable anchors to spin the story around. But in the case that this outward reality is utterly unfamiliar and undescribable I think it to be allowable to use familiar terms if possible in such a way that the intentions of the characters are well-presented in their qualities and in their results. This is of course extremely difficult. And if that is not possible then such a story should not be told. I also believe that the Buddha did not tell any such stories if that kind of truthfulness was not possible. That is for example my explanation why there is no story of his earlier tortures in hell and the evil intentions which brought him there, because these things would be too horrible and twisted to imagine and to convey much meaningful content about. Also he had done away with that evil kamma in the past and not let any significant results of it carry over into the present which might have given occurrence for him to tell a story about it. There is only a short mention that he had been a king before and had had some people punished in an unjust and cruel way, and after being in hell, he was born again in that same kingdom as the prince and heir to the throne, but he played stupid and renounced, and put many things in order and to justice. That is simple truthfulness. No big drama about what went wrong. There was unjust punishment and as a result hell, and then renunciation.
So these are the allowances which I make in telling a story truthfully. And if and in so far as the Jatakas were told by the Buddha, then these are things which I believe he would have adhered to when telling them. A myth, for me, is something else.

I would very much appreciate any thoughts and comments on my way of thinking about these matters.


cooran wrote:You may feel a little happier to know from this discussion of esteemed Buddhist scholars that only the Jataka Verses are regarded as Buddhavacana .... not the stories attached to the verses.

[dsg] Re: Dating of texts, [...] (Jaataka)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastu ... sage/23011

with metta
Chris


Thank you, Chris. But that does not change very much. The verses tell quite the same story.
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