Saturday, March 5, 2022

The Jataka Tales

THE JATAKA TALES (Indian, 300 BCE-400 CE)

In Buddhism, the Jataka Tales are considered to be stories of the previous lives of the Buddha (Jataka means "birth"), with around 550 of them in one collection. Whenever the Buddha tells one, he identifies who he was (always a virtuous figure), and which characters in the story were which of his disciples. But the stories are, for the most part, more like Aesop, the 1,001 Nights, or the Indian Panchatantra. One of the most famous tells of a prince giving his body to feed a dying tiger, saving both her and her seven cubs. The prince, of course, is the Buddha-to-be. In another, he is captain of a ship who--as the lesser of two evils--kills a robber who plans to kill 500 merchants, even though this will be a setback to his attainment of enlightenment.


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