Jataka Tales

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Jataka Tales

Postby cooran » Fri Feb 20, 2009 5:40 am

Hello all,

I thought you may find some Jataka Tales of interest. Always remembering that the Jataka verses are in the Pali Canon, but not the Tales.

No. 180 - Duddada-Jataka (p59 The Jataka or Stories of the Buddha's Former Births - E.W. Cowell. ISBN 81-206-1489-0 (set)

"'Tis hard to do as good men do," etc. - This story the Master told whilst in Jetavana, about alms given in common. Two friends at Savatthi, young men of good position, made a collection, providing all the necessaries to give the Buddha and his followers. They invited them all, provided bounty for seven days, and on the seventh presented them with all their requisites. The eldest of these saluted the Master, and said, sitting beside him, "Sir, amongst the givers some gave much and some gave little; but let it bear much fruit for all alike". Then he offered the gift. The Master's reply was: "in giving these things to the Buddha and his followers, you, my lay friends, have done a great deed In days of old wise men gave their bounty thus, and thus offered their gifts." Then at his request he told a story.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta was born into a brahmin family of Kasi. When he grew up, he was thoroughly educated at Takkasila; after which he renounced the world, and took up the religious life, and with a band of disciples went to live in Himalaya. There he lived a long time.

Once having need to procure salt and seasoning, he went on pilgrimage through the country-side, and in course of it he arrived at Benares. There he settled in the king's park; and on the following morning he and his company went a-begging to some village outside the gates. The people gave him alms. Nex day he sought alms in the city. The people were all glad to give him their alms. They clubbed together and made a collection; and provided plenty for the band of anchorites. After the presentation their spokesman offered his gift with the same words as above. The Bodhisatta replied, "Friend, where faith [1] is, no gift is small." And he returned his thanks in these verses following:

"'Tis hard to do as good men do, to give as they can give,
Bad men can hardly imitate the life which good men live.

"And so, when good and evil go to pass away from earth,
The bad are born in hell below, in heaven the good have birth."

This was his thanksgiving. He remained in the place for the four months of the rains, and then returned to Himalaya; where he practised all the modes of holy meditation, and without a single interruption continued in them until he joined the hosts of heaven.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
When the discourse came to an end the Master identified the Birth: "At that time," said he, "the Buddha's company was the body of ascetics, and I myself was their leader."

[1] Citta-pasado

metta
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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby SeerObserver » Tue Apr 07, 2009 8:12 pm

Jataka tales are quite interesting. Some of the moral concepts within them are relatively difficult to grasp due to the surrounding circumstances.

    Giving over children to someone else. (Detachment...?)
    Sacrificing of one's own life in order for a tiger to have sustenance. (Detachment from "self"?)
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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby Mawkish1983 » Tue Apr 07, 2009 9:56 pm

Chris wrote:... the Jataka verses are in the Pali Canon, but not the Tales.

I'm dumb (sorry), can you explain to me what the Jataka verses are/are about? What's the difference between the tales and the verses?

Thanks :)
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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Apr 07, 2009 11:39 pm

Greetings Mawkish,

The Jatakas are "birth stories" about the former lives of the Buddha and other stars of the Pali Suttas.

As far as I'm aware, the only difference between the Tales and the Verses is their canonical status.

In many respects, the Jatakas are classical Indian fables that promote virtuous wholesome activity, albeit with little regard for the Buddha's teachings on kamma. However, simply because they misrepresent the workings of kamma, does not make them useless... something need not be factual to have a positive impact on someone's thinking and behaviour (think "To Kill A Mockingbird" for example)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby SeerObserver » Wed Apr 08, 2009 12:17 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mawkish,

The Jatakas are "birth stories" about the former lives of the Buddha and other stars of the Pali Suttas.

As far as I'm aware, the only difference between the Tales and the Verses is their canonical status.

In many respects, the Jatakas are classical Indian fables that promote virtuous wholesome activity, albeit with little regard for the Buddha's teachings on kamma. However, simply because they misrepresent the workings of kamma, does not make them useless... something need not be factual to have a positive impact on someone's thinking and behaviour (think "To Kill A Mockingbird" for example)

Metta,
Retro. :)
Excellent synopsis, Retro. Thanks.

It wasn't until fairly recently that I was aware that there were verses. In what manner do the verses cover the former lives of the Buddha and the others as opposed to the tales?
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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby gavesako » Wed Apr 08, 2009 6:15 am

Some Jatakas have been added to the canonical collections of the various early schools, others have been written much later (e.g. in Gandhara, or as recently as 17th century Thailand). Because they are more like fables, it is a very popular literary genre which gives the writer a greater freedom to expand the story at length.
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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby Mawkish1983 » Wed Apr 08, 2009 7:11 am

retrofuturist wrote:... the only difference between the Tales and the Verses is their canonical status ... they misrepresent the workings of kamma

I see, thanks retro :) is it both the tales and the verses that misrepresent kamma or is it just the 'tales'?
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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Apr 08, 2009 10:22 am

Greetings Mawkish,

Mawkish1983 wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:... the only difference between the Tales and the Verses is their canonical status ... they misrepresent the workings of kamma

I see, thanks retro :) is it both the tales and the verses that misrepresent kamma or is it just the 'tales'?


I don't know... whenever I've read a Jataka, I've never really made the effort to check whether it was a "verse" or a "tale".

Generally speaking, I'd say don't get your Dhamma from a Jataka, take it from the suttas. Look to Jatakas for inspiration and Dhammic Stories.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby robertk » Thu Apr 09, 2009 3:00 am

I have never found any jataka commentary that misrepresented kamma, could you give us an example.
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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Apr 09, 2009 3:29 am

Greetings Robert,

An example...

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tml#jat018

Matakabhatta Jataka
The Goat That Laughed and Wept
Jat 18

One day, while the Buddha was staying in Jetavana, some bhikkhus asked him if there was any benefit in sacrificing goats, sheep, and other animals as offerings for departed relatives.

"No, bhikkhus," replied the Buddha. "No good ever comes from taking life, not even when it is for the purpose of providing a Feast for the Dead." Then he told this story of the past.

Long, long ago, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Baranasi, a brahman decided to offer a Feast for the Dead and bought a goat to sacrifice. "My boys," he said to his students, "take this goat down to the river, bathe it, brush it, hang a garland around its neck, give it some grain to eat, and bring it back."
"Yes, sir," they replied and led the goat to the river.

While they were grooming it, the goat started to laugh with a sound like a pot smashing. Then, just as strangely, it started to weep loudly.

The young students were amazed at this behavior. "Why did you suddenly laugh," they asked the goat, "and why do you now cry so loudly?"

"Repeat your question when we get back to your teacher," the goat answered.

The students hurriedly took the goat back to their master and told him what had happened at the river. Hearing the story, the master himself asked the goat why it had laughed and why it had wept.

"In times past, brahman," the goat began, "I was a brahman who taught the Vedas like you. I, too, sacrificed a goat as an offering for a Feast for the Dead. Because of killing that single goat, I have had my head cut off 499 times. I laughed aloud when I realized that this is my last birth as an animal to be sacrificed. Today I will be freed from my misery. On the other hand, I cried when I realized that, because of killing me, you, too, may be doomed to lose your head five hundred times. It was out of pity for you that I cried."

"Well, goat," said the brahman, "in that case, I am not going to kill you."

"Brahman!" exclaimed the goat. "Whether or not you kill me, I cannot escape death today."

"Don't worry," the brahman assured the goat. "I will guard you."

"You don't understand," the goat told him. "Your protection is weak. The force of my evil deed is very strong."

The brahman untied the goat and said to his students, "Don't allow anyone to harm this goat." They obediently followed the animal to protect it.

After the goat was freed, it began to graze. It stretched out its neck to reach the leaves on a bush growing near the top of a large rock. At that very instant a lightning bolt hit the rock, breaking off a sharp piece of stone which flew through the air and neatly cut off the goat's head. A crowd of people gathered around the dead goat and began to talk excitedly about the amazing accident.

A tree deva had observed everything from the goat's purchase to its dramatic death, and drawing a lesson from the incident, admonished the crowd: "If people only knew that the penalty would be rebirth into sorrow, they would cease from taking life. A horrible doom awaits one who slays." With this explanation of the law of kamma the deva instilled in his listeners the fear of hell. The people were so frightened that they completely gave up the practice of animal sacrifices. The deva further instructed the people in the Precepts and urged them to do good.

Eventually, that deva passed away to fare according to his deserts. For several generations after that, people remained faithful to the Precepts and spent their lives in charity and meritorious works, so that many were reborn in the heavens.

The Buddha ended his lesson and identified the Birth by saying, "In those days I was that deva."


Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Apr 09, 2009 3:47 am

Hi Retro,

I'm having difficulty seeing the difference between the message of that tale and Suttas such as:
MN 135: Cula-kammavibhanga Sutta, The Shorter Analysis of Action
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Does that Sutta also mis-represent kamma?

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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Apr 09, 2009 7:41 am

Greetings Mike,

The problems lie with the:

* Fixed results corresponding to fixed actions (1 goat sacrifice = 500 decapitations)
* The inevitability of kammic fruition (Whether or not you kill me, I cannot escape death today)
* Other niyamas co-ercing specifically to bring kamma to fruit (i.e. the lightning, the rock)
* Talking goat (I mean, really)

In relation to MN 135, which does not suffer from any of these problem, I'll point you to a post I made recently in the Study Group - viewtopic.php?f=25&t=832#p10275

The point of the Jataka is to teach a lesson... don't harm sentient beings and live by the precepts... again, it's a fable providing a good moral lesson.... but it's a "tall story"... bending a few truths along the way.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby Mawkish1983 » Thu Apr 09, 2009 9:11 am

retrofuturist wrote:it's a fable providing a good moral lesson.... but it's a "tall story"... bending a few truths along the way.
Thank you very much for sharing this, retro. Today I have learnt something :)

Metta to you
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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby gavesako » Thu Apr 09, 2009 11:05 am

The overly simplistic representation of kamma is not limited to the Jataka tales but also to the Vimanavatthu and Petavatthu, as well as the Apadana texts (later additions to the Pali Canon which nevertheless continue to exert a strong influence on the popular understanding of kamma in SE Asia).
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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Apr 09, 2009 9:36 pm

retrofuturist wrote:* Fixed results corresponding to fixed actions (1 goat sacrifice = 500 decapitations)

Yes, but the Buddha doesn't really directly teach that in the tale, it's what the participants assume.

I agree that MN135 isn't particularly problematical either. Like the Jakata tale is may depend on how you read it. In both cases the message is that doing bad stuff will lead to bad stuff in future lives.

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Re: Jataka Tales

Postby cooran » Mon May 25, 2009 6:29 am

Jataka No. 502 - Hamsa-Jataka

"There go the birds," etc. - This story the Master told while dwelling in the Bamboo Grove, about Elder Ananda's renunciation of life. Then also the Brethren were talking in the Hall of Truth about the Elder's good qualities, when the Master came in and asked them what they sat talking of there. He said, "This is not the first time, Brethren, that Ananda has renounced his life for my sake, but he did the same before." And then he told them a story of the past.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Once upon a time, there reigned in Benares a king named Bahuputtaka, or the Father of Many Sons, and his Queen Consort was Khema. At that time the Great Being dwelt on Mount Cittakuta, and he was the chief of ninety thousand wild geese, having come to life as a golden goose. And at that time, as already recounted, the queen saw a dream, and told the king she had conceived a woman's craving to hear a Golden Goose discourse of the Law. When the king enquired, were there any such creatures as golden geese, he was told yes, there were on Mount Cittakuta. Then he had made a lake which he called Khema, and caused to be planted all manner of food-corn, and daily in the four quarters made proclamation of immunity to be cried, and sent forth a hunter to catch geese. How this man was sent forth, and his watching of the birds, and how news was told the king when the golden geese came, and in what manner the snare was set and the Great Being was caught in the snare, how Sumukha chief captain of the geese saw him not in the three divisions of the geese, and returned, all this will be set forth in the Mahahamsa Birth. Now as then the Great Being was caught in the noose and stick; and even as he hung in the noose at the end of the stick, he stretched forth his neck looking along the way that the geese had gone, and espying Sumukha as he came, thought, "When he comes I will put him to the test." So when he came, the Great Being repeated three stanzas:


There go the birds, the ruddy geese, all overcome with fear:
O golden-yellow Sumukha, depart! what want you here?

My kith and kin deserted me, away they all have flown.
Without a thought they fly away: why are you left along?

Fly, noble bird! with prisoners no fellowship can be:
Sumukha, fly! nor lose the chance while you may yet be free."

To which Sumukha replied, sitting on the mud –

“No, I’ll not leave you, Royal Goose, when trouble draweth nigh:
But stay I will, and by your side will either live or die.”

Thus Sumukha, with a lion’s note; and Dhatarattha answered with this stanza:

“A noble heart ,brave words are these, Sumukha, which you say:
‘Twas but to put you to the test I bade you fly away.”

As they were thus conversing together, up comes the huntsman, staff in hand, at the top of his speed. Sumukha encouraged Dhatarattha, and flew to meet the man, respectfully declaring the virtues of the royal bird. Immediately the hunter’s heart softened; which Sumukha perceiving went back, and stood encouraging the king of the geese. And the hunter approaching the king of the geese, recited the sixth stanza:

“They foot it by unfooted ways, birds flying in the sky:
And did you not, O noble Goose, afar the snare espy?”

The Great Being said:

“When life is coming to an end, and death’s hour draws anigh,
Though you may close upon it come nor trap nor snare you spy..

The hunter, pleased with the bird’s remark, then addressed three stanzas to Sumukha.

“There go the birds, the ruddy geese, all overcome with fear:
And you, O golden-yellow fowl, are still left waiting here.

“They ate and drank, the ruddy geese: uncaring, they are flown’
Away they scurry through the air, and you are left alone.

What is this fowl, that when the rest deserting him have flown,
Though free, you join the prisoner – why are you left alone?”

Sumukha replied:

“He is my comrade, friend, and king, dear as my life is he:
Forsake him – no, I never will, until death calls for me.”

On hearing this the hunter was much pleased, and thought within him
-“If I should harm virtuous creatures like these, the earth would gape open and swallow me up. What care I for the king’s reward? I will set them free.” And he repeated a stanza:

“Now seeing that for friendship’s sake you are prepared to die,
I set your king and comrade free, to follow where you fly.”

This said, he drew down Dhatarattha from the stick, and loosed the noose, and took him to the bank, and pitifully washed the blood from him, and set the dislocated muscles and tendons. And by reason of his
Kindness of heart, and by the might of the Great Being’s Perfections, on the instant his foot became whole again, and not a mark showed where he had been caught. Sumukkha beheld the Great Being with joy, and gave thanks in these words:

“With all your kindred and your friends, O hunter, happy be,
As I am happy to behold the King of birds set free.”

When the hunter heard this, he said, “Now you may depart, friend.”

Then the Great Being said to him, “Did you capture me for your own purposes, my good sir, or at the bidding of another?” He told him the facts. The other wondered whether it were better to return to Cittakuta, or go to the town. “If I go to the town,” he thought, “the hunter will be rewarded, the queen’s craving will be appeased, Sumukha’s friendship will be made known, then also by virtue of my wisdom I shall receive the lake Khema, as a free gift. It is better therefore to go to the city.” This determined, he said, “Huntsman, take us on your carrying pole to the king, and he shall set me free if he will.”

_ “My lord, kings are hard; go your ways.”

_“What! I have softened a hunter like thee, and shall I not find favour with a king? Leave that to me; your part, friend, is to convey us to him.” The man did so.

When the king set eyes on the geese, he was delighted. He placed both the geese on a golden perch, gave them honey and friend grain to eat, and sweetened water to drink, and holding his hands out in supplication prayed them to speak of the Law. The king of the geese seeing how eager he was to hear first addressed him in pleasant words. These are the stanzas expressing the converse of king and goose one with another.

“Now has his honour health and wealth, and is the kingdom full
Of welfare and prosperity, and does he justly rule?”

“O here is health and wealth, O Goose, and here’s a kindom full
Of welfare and prosperity, with just and righteous rule.”


Is there no blemish seen amid your court, and are your foes
Far off, and like the shadow on the south, which never grows?

“There is no blemish seen amid my courtiers, and my foes
Far off are like the shadow on the south, which never grows.

“And is your queen of equal birth, obedient, sweet of speech,
Fruitful, fair, famous, waiting on your wishes, doing each?”

“O yes, my queen’s of equal birth, obedient, sweet of speech,
Fruitful, fair, famous waiting on my wishes, doing each.”


O fostering ruler! Have you sons a many, nobly bred
Quickwitted, easy men to please whatever thing be sped””

“O Dhatarattha! Sons I have of fame, five score and one:
Tell them their duty: they’ll not leave your good advice undone.”

On hearing this, the Great Being gave them admonition in five stanzas:

He that puts off until too late the effort to do good,
Though noble bred, with virtue dowered, yet sinks beneath the flood.

“His knowledge fades, great loss is his; as one moonblind at night
Sees all things swollen twice their size with his imperfect sight.

“Who sees the truth in falsity no wisdom gains at all,
As on a rugged mountain-path the deer will often fall.

“If any strong courageous man loves virtue, follows right,
Though but a low-born churl, he burns like bonfires in the night.

“By using this similitude all wisdom’s truths explain,
Cherish your sons till wise they grow, like seedlings in the rain.”

Thus did the Great Being discourse to the king the livelong night. The queens’s craving was appeased. By sunrise he established him in the virtues of kings, and exhorted him to be vigilant, then with Sumukha flew out of the northern window and to Cittakuta away.


After this discourse, the Master said, “Thus, Brethren, this man offered his life for me before,” and then he identified the Birth: “At that time Channa was the huntsman, Sariputta the king, a sister was Queen Khema, the Sakiya tribe was the flock of geese, Ananda was Sumukha, and I was the Goose King myself.”
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