Tales and Teachings of the Buddha : the Jātaka stories in relation to the Pāli Canon [rev. ed.] 9781877275227, 1877275220

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Tales and Teachings of the Buddha : the Jātaka stories in relation to the Pāli Canon [rev. ed.]
 9781877275227, 1877275220

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Tales and Teachings of the Buddha T he Jataka Stories in relation to the Pali Canon Revised Edition X-

John G arrett Jones


C ybereditionj Corp. www.cyberedidons.com 2001

Copyright © 2001 John Garrett Jones

The author asserts his moral right. Purchasers of this electronic book may make one and only one paper copy of it for their own personal use. Permission must be sought from Cybereditions to make any additional copy of the book or of any part of it in any medium.

ISBN 1-877275-22-0

Thefirst edition o f this book was published by George Allen & Unwin in 1979

Contents Preface for Cybereditiions Foreword Introduction Acknowledgements Abbreviations P a rt I: T h e Sources 1: T he Jitaka Stories 2: T he Four Nikayas P a rt IL T h em es 3: Karma and Rebirth 4: Ethical leaching: Non-Injury 5: Sex and Marriage: Love and Friendship 6: Social leaching 7: Doctrinal leaching 8: Mythological Elements Appendix: English translation o f JS 273 Bibliography General Index Index to the JStaka Stories

7 8 9 11 11 15 33 39 50 66 99 120 137 155 157 160 166

Preface for Cybereditions W ith a book o f this nature, there is little need for revision but I have welcomed the opportunity to correct one or two minor errors in the original, to do a little judicious pruning and to incorporate some material occasioned by reviews and by personal letters to the author from scholars of Theravada Buddhism. T h e Acknowledgements, Foreword and Introduction which appeared in the original edition are reproduced below as they first appeared, except that the Introduction has been revised here and there. T he Indexes have been revised for the new edition, but I would remind readers of the electronic version that, by using the F ind facility from the Edit menu, it is very easy to locate all the passages where a particular word or reference occurs. T he narrower the search, the more comprehensive the find. For instance, if I search for JS 5 4 7 ,1 get 6 references; if I simplify the search to 5 4 7 ,1 get 16 references. If I want to locate a tale in which the bodhisatta was a golden peacock, and I search for golden peacock, I get only a single reference; if I search for peacock, I get 4. It is easier to exclude irrelevant references than to have to go on searching for ones that have been missed. Another change necessitated by the electronic format is that footnotes, instead o f being relegated to the end o f the book, now occur in square brackets at the relevant point in the text. J.G.J.


Foreword It gives me much pleasure to present to the English speaking and English reading world both a new book in the field of Pali Buddhist studies and a new author who obviously is in perfect command o f his subject H e writes in a fluent and relaxed style, eschews all padding, and is never pretentious, tedious, confused o r confusing. All is plain sailing for the reader. T he 547Jataka Stories form ‘the oldest, most complete and most important collection of folk-lore extant’, as T.W. Rhys Davids had said. Vast in extent, with the verses regarded as canonical and the narratives connected with them as commentarial, they have aroused the attention, often the enthusiasm, of listeners and learners down the centuries. M r Jones compares the doctrinal and ethical content of these stories with that of the Four NikSyas - the principal doctrinal source for canonical Psli Buddhism, but he also makes occasional reference to the Vinaya, or book o f monastic discipline. In this book, The Tales and Teachings o f the Buddha, very interesting and balanced comparisons, principally between the standpoint taken by the Psli Jataka Stories and the Four NikSyas on the aspects o f Buddhist teaching of most relevance and concern to the layman, are here made for the first time. M r Jones is well-versed in both JStaka and Canon, and is thus able to draw on both not only with apparent ease but also with aptness and accuracy and dependable documentation. T he results of M r Jones^ findings on the discrepant attitudes that may be taken by the J5taka and the NikSyas are always revealing and sometimes surprising. For example, the difference between the canonical teaching and the JStaka view regarding an enduring atta, or 'self*, and its rebirth is here fully examined for the first time and squarely faced with no difficulties shirked. This alone is a most valuable and original contribution. O r again, though the disparaging sentiments to be found in some o f the JStakas on ‘the wickedness o f women’ are fairly common knowledge, this wickedness has never been pinpointed before, any more that there has been collected the complete number o f examples of it contained in the Jatakas. Here each is investigated and assessed on its own merits with astringency or compassion as the case may be. M r Jones has found new facets to present both of the ancient JStaka tales where, in his former births, Gotama was still the Bodhisam striving for his final enlightenment, and also of the ancient PSli Nikayas. I much hope that this book will find the place it deserves in contemporary Jitaka literature where it should act as a stimulus, an adornment and a delight. I. B. H o r n e r President of the Pali Text Society 8

Introduction A great deal o f interest has, in recent years, centred upon various attempts to investigate the actual practice o f Thera v5da Buddhists in relation to their theoretical beliefs (see R. Gombrich, Precept and Practur, M E . Spiro, Buddhism and Society; S. Tambiah, Buddhism end the Spirit Cults m North-East Thailand). T h e Therav3da attracts particular attention because its theory is so uncompromisingly otherworldly. Inevitably the question arises: How is it possible for people to adopt views so inhospitable to ordinary worldly standards, yet continue to live so comfortably in the world? T he question obviously has more force when applied to the lay Buddhist since the monk is expected to have renounced worldly pleasures. W hat the present work attempts is similar to the field studies cited in that it too investigates the relationship between the outlook of the stricter minority and that o f the laxer majority within the Thera vida community. But instead o f comparing scriptural precept with a lay practice still much influenced by local animistic beliefs, it compares the core scriptural teaching found in the Four NikSyas of the S u m Pitaka with the teaching conveyed through the medium of the popular Jdtaka stories. There are many reasons for attempting this. T he most pressing is the need to gain a more realistic perspective on the Theravada world. Too often it has been assumed that a careful study of the Pali Canon would give an accurate indication of the beliefs, values and aims o f the average Southern Buddhist. This is as likely to be reliable as the assumption that reading the New Testament gives one a fair idea of die oudook and lifestyle of the average churchgoer! It has also to be remembered that many lay Buddhists are semi-literate at best and have almost no direct access to their scriptures. They may have heard monks chanting passages from the scriptures and may have received some instruction based on scripture at home or school or occasional visits to a monastery. The fact remains that the lay Buddhist is most unlikely even to have seen his voluminous scriptures except in the form of brief anthologies. Thus, although the scriptures are highly venerated as imparting the true Dbamma, the very words o f Lord Gotama himself, they remain closed books to the average lay person. Only monks can be expected to have the refinement of mind and the long hours of leisure required for their study. It is the Jataka stories which, over the centuries, have provided lay Buddhists with their main source of guidance and instruction. These stories are close enough to the Canon to enjoy something o f its awe and veneration, but sufficiently different in their style and content to enjoy enormous popularity. These are tales that can be passed on orally from parent to child, can be used in school for practice in reading, can be acted out at village festivals, can 9



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become subjects for murals and paintings, can live in a people's imagination. In the day-to-day life o f the village, these stones are a constant reminder o f the price to be paid for succumbing to greed or passion on the one hand and of the rewards attaching to the path o f virtue on the other. In view of the influence they have had at grass-roots level, it may seem strange that the non-Buddhist world has heard so little about the JStaka stories. One reason for this reticence is what W inston King has described as “export Buddhism" (King, 1964, pp.42ff.) Asian Buddhists writing for an Englishspeaking readership have wanted to emphasise the cool rationality and the intellectual candour of their founder. They could be forgiven for thinking that to direct much attention to die content and influence o f the JStakas would be to seriously dent that impression. Western scholars, on the other hand, have primarily been concerned to track Buddhism down as nearly as possible to its source in die life and teaching o f the historical Gotama. A nodding acquaintance with the Jatakas has convinced them that these can throw little light on their quest, so they have largely passed them by. Another problem is that, in its written form, the Jataka corpus is extremely unwieldy, running to six volumes in its original Pili Text Society edition (18771896) and to three bulky double volumes in the current form o f its English translation (1973). If one is on an historical rather than a sociological or phenomenological quest, its more than a million closely-printed words is not very inviting. In spite of this, the veteran Buddhist scholar, T.W. Rhys Davids, did translate the Nidanakatba, the very popular introduction to the Jataka, together with a scholarly introductory essay, under the tide BiuUbist Birtb Stories (originally published in London in 1880 and re-issued in Varanasi, India, in 1973). T he aim of the present work is to look closely and analytically at the Jataka stories, paying special attention to the ethical and doctrinal message they usually convey and comparing this with the ethic and doctrine found in the Four NikSyas o f the Sutta Pitaka themselves. As we shall see, the majority of the stories are simply folk tales which have been cleverly adapted by Buddhists in order to purvey a kind of Buddhist teaching suitable for lay men and women. We shall also see that, in the process of popularizing, there has also been a considerable shift in emphasis and even at some points in doctrine. After a preliminary section dealing with the primary sources, the main body of the work examines the canonical and Jataka material, grouped according to theme. T he notes in the text usually refer to other sources simply by author and date of first publication; further details are available from the Bibliography found at the end of the book. References to the Pali Canon and the JStakas are to the English translations published by the Pali Text Society unless otherwise indicated (see the abbreviations used in the references listed below).

Acknowledgements T he author is heavily indebted to those self-efiacing scholars who have, over the years, made available to us the Pali texts in English translation. He would also like to thank the Rev. Y. Dhammapala of the University of Sri Lanka (Peradeniya) for helpful conversation and for access to his draft thesis; Dr Marrison, Curator of Oriental Books at the British Library, for his helpfulness; Miss LB. Homer, President of the Pali Text Society, for her encouragement at the inception of this work, much help during its writing and a very generous Foreword on its completion, D r Robin Bond, a colleague at the University of Canterbury, for assistance with translation, M r John Hardy, the publisher’s editor, for his great care and patience in steering a difficult manuscript through the press whilst its author was on the other side of the globe. H e is also indebted to the Council of the University of Canterbury for granting the study leave which made the final research for this work and its actual writing possible. T he author also wishes to thank Schocken Books Inc. for permission to quote from A n Understanding ofthe Buddha by Oscar Shaftel; E J. Brill, Leiden for permission to quote from Tht Paccekabuddha by Ria Kloppenborg; and theUaiversity of Hawaii Press for permission to quote from Causality: The Central Philosophy ofBuddhism by D.J.Kalapahana.

Abbreviations References to primary sources use the following abbreviations. Full details of these sources are given in the Bibliography. A: Anguttara NikOya (Pali text; for English translation, see GS) D: Digba Nikaya (Pali text; for English translation, see DB) DB: Dialogues o f the Buddha (English translation o f D) GS: Gradual Sayings (English translation o f A) J: Jataka (Pali text; for English translation, see JS(S)) JS(S): Jataka Story (Stories) (English translation o f J) KS: Kmdrtd Sayings (English translation o f S) M: Majjbhna Nikaya (Pali text; for English translation, see MLS) MLS: Middle Length Sayings (English translation of M) S: Samyutta Nikaya (Pali text; for English translation, see K)



1 H ie Jataka Stories

ORIGIN T here are many uncertainties about the origin o f the Jataka Stories. T he verses which accompany the stories proper were eventually admitted into the Canon as the tenth o f the fifteen ‘minor* discourses which constitute die Kbuddaka-NikSya, which is in turn the fifth and final part of the Sutta PHaka (‘Sermon' or ‘Dialogue’ collection). This is generally agreed to be a later and less reliable compilation than the preceding Four NikSyas, which form the subject of the next chapter. [An exception has to be made o f the section o f the Kbuddaka-Nikdya known as the Sutta Ntp&ta, which shows many signs of being genuinely early.] At a number o f points in the Ahgvttara-Nibfya, the JStaka is included as one o f the nine ahgas (divisions) of the Buddha’s teachings, but these passages are o f later provenance than most of the material in the earlier NikSyas and in any case leave open the question of which material was included under the heading of ‘JStaka’. (See, for example, GS I I 6 ,1 1 0 ,193ft HI 71, 133,257; IV 75.) W hatever their canonical status, a number o f JStaka stories date back to at least the third century BC since they are the subject-matter o f some o f the bas-reliefs at Sanchi, AmarSvati and Bharhut. Fa Hsien, visiting Sri Lanka in the fifth century AD, reported that, between AnurSdhapura and Mahintale, both sides of the road were lined with pictures depicting the five hundred different births of the Buddha. These were in colour and ‘executed with such care as to make them appear living’. [Malalasekera, 1928, p.l 19, quotingGiles] From this period onwards, the JStaka collection, much as we know it now, 15



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became a strong influence in Ceylonese a n and literature, particularly so after a Singhalese version of the stories became available in the fourteenth century a d . [See Wickramasinghe, 1864, pp.90f, 96, 101, 112, 122, 178, 182, 198200; cf. comment by M rs C.A.F. Rhys Davids in KS III x]. Much the same is true of other Theravada countries. W riting about Burma, M.E. Spiro quotes Professor G. Luce as saying: ‘it would scarcely be an exaggeration to say that they [the JStaka] have formed the basis o f half our art and literature1. [Spiro, 1971, p. 19; see also Khaing, 1962, pp. 151 ff.] We shall never know how the Jataka stories emerged in their present form or how much, if anything, Gotama himself had to do with the first telling of them. A pious Buddhist who has been bred on these stories would like to believe that they, or at least some of them, originated with the Buddha, but may concede 'that the present collection contains some fables, fairy-tales, “Joe Millers”, and records o f everyday experiences, such as are in no way peculiar to Buddhism, but are the common property of the world, floating down the ages’. [Malalasekera, 1928, pp.l20f.] Supporting the case for Gotama's being the first teller o f at least some of the Jatakas is the presence within the Four NikSyas o f other passages which clearly have the form of Jatakas although they are not found in the official collection. [See D B I 175-181, H 199ff. (cf J S 95, also KS IE 122-124), 259ff.t 364-6 (cf. JS 1), 368 (cf. JS 91), ID 21f. (cf. JS 335), 60 (cf. JS 168 and KS V 1250; MLS 1388ff. (cf. JS 405 and KS 1179ff.), D 243-250 (which is alluded to in Nidanakatba at J i 43; for E T see T.W. Rhys Davids, 1880, p. 138), 268ff. (cf. JSS 9,541); KS 1 194-196; GS 195-97, IV 54f.t 262-265. This last passage - GS IV 262-265 - is, incidentally, almost certainly the Vetamaka Sutta alluded to in the Introduction to JS 40, where a footnote on p.234 tells us that it is


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