Jataka Stories in Theravada Buddhism: Narrating the Bodhisatta Path

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Routledge, May 6, 2016 - Religion - 186 pages
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Jataka stories (stories about the previous births of the Buddha) are very popular in Theravada Buddhist countries, where they are found in both canonical texts and later compositions and collections, and are commonly used in sermons, children's books, plays, poetry, temple illustrations, rituals and festivals. Whilst at first glance many of the stories look like common fables or folktales, Buddhist tradition tells us that the stories illustrate the gradual path to perfection exemplified by the Buddha in his previous births, when he was a bodhisatta (buddha-to-be). Jataka stories have had a long and colourful history, closely intertwined with the development of doctrines about the Buddha, the path to buddhahood, and how Buddhists should behave now the Buddha is no more. This book explores the shifting role of the stories in Buddhist doctrine, practice, and creative expression, finally placing this integral Buddhist genre back in the centre of scholarly understandings of the religion.
 

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Contents

1 What is a Jātaka?
1
2 The Bodhisatta in Jātaka Stories
21
3 The Creation of a Jātaka Genre
41
4 Generic Conventions Embraced and Ignored
65
5 Jātakas and Buddhology
85
6 Jātakas and Biography
109
7 Jātaka Ideology in Practice
123
8 The Perfection of Storytelling
147
Bibliography
159
Index
171
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About the author (2016)

Naomi Appleton is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Centre for the History of Religion in Asia, Cardiff University, Wales. She began her studies of Buddhist birth stories as an undergraduate, and has pursued this area of research since that time, producing two theses (M.Phil. Cardiff, 2004 and D.Phil. Oxford, 2008) as well as several articles. She is now beginning a new project funded by the British Academy into the uses of birth stories in Buddhist and Jain literature.

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