Jataka is an uncommon book of Khuddhakanikaya of Sutta Pitaka. In this article, different events and stories of Gautam Buddha’s previous births are narrated. The stories of Jataka are rich with the stories of moral teachings. As a reference, the politics, economics, society, culture, literature, and archeology of ancient India have been discussed in Jatakas. That’s why Jatakas have been considered as a source of ancient Indian history. In the case of writing the ancient history of India, the importance of Jataka is limitless. In order to develop the literature of the Asian continent, Jataka has got a deep influence. In this post, we shall read the origin and style of Jataka and shall read some Jatakas also.
Origin and style of Jataka:
According to Buddhism, one cannot be a Buddha by the result of action of one birth. Bodhisattva was born in many families in different shapes. After performing Dana, Sila, Parami etc, he developed his character. In every birth, he did many welfare activities and gradually he enhanced himself from high position to the highest position. At 550 births Bodhisattva became Buddha.
After enlightenment Buddha received the knowledge eye, through which he could see the events of his previous births. After getting enlightenment he possessed this supernatural power. At the time of his religious discourses to the disciples, he told many stories, events of his previous birth as a reference. The disciples heard those stories attentively and stored them in their memory. In a later period these were compiled in the sangeet (council). These stories are known as Jatakas.
Generally, the meaning of the word Jataka means ‘Who has born”. But in Buddhism, the word Jataka has been termed as special meaning. In Buddhist literature, the stories of Buddha’s previous birth is known as Jataka. All the stories of Jataka are advisable. The aim of Jataka is to inspire men for the performance of good deeds. So it can be said that in order to inspire people to moral education from the Buddha’s birth story as Bodhisattva Jataka has been originated.
If we analyze the style of Jataka it is found that Jataka is divided into three parts:
- Atitabastu or main story
First part of the Jataka is Pratutpannabastu. It is considered a present story. In this part there is a narration about whom and for which purpose Buddha told the story.
The second part of Jataka is Atitabastu. In this part the past story of Buddha and the events at that time has been narrated. This part is the real Jataka story. Therefore it is called as the main story.
This is the third part of Jataka. In this part it is shown that Buddha and the related person of the Jataka are the same. This part is also known as the solution.
Importance of Jataka lesson
Gautama Buddha in Lucid language narrated the deep message of religion through Jataka stories. That’s why it is not only a story but also the advice of Buddha. In each Jataka he presented a subject of moral lesson. That’s why by reading Jataka moral education can be obtained.
Jataka is the unlimited storehouse of ancient history. In Jataka there are many information of the Social Condition, Education, Literature, Culture, Trade and Commerce, Politics, Religion, Philosophy, Archeology, History of Buddha’s time. Therefore in order to know the history of ancient India reading Jataka is essential.
Buddhists believe in the result of action. In Jataka there are many examples of the result of action. Reading Jataka one can know the consequence of the good and bad action. As a result, people avoid the bad deeds and encouraged to do good deeds. After reading Jataka superstitions are eliminated. In Nakkhatra Jataka we find people faced bad situation due to superstition. In Jataka there is the good result for good deeds and bad result for bad deeds. From Kalakarni Jataka we can learn that how one should help his friend at his days of danger. In absence of Bodhisattva his childhood friend Kalakarni saved Bodhisattva’s property from the hands of a gang of dacoits.
In Jataka stories there are good advices on good conduct, compassion towards living beings, glory of charity, development and utility of world life. These are the stories of Buddha’s fulfillment of perfection through birth to birth. There virtues are helpful to build moral and ideal life. Through Jataka teaching, misguided friends can be diverted to the right way. For that reason for the making of healthy family life and social life as well as for the development of personal life, one should study the Jataka stories.
Here some Jataka stories are narrated.
During the reign of Brahmadatta, the king of Benaras, Bodhisattva was, Once born as a monkey. In his full growth, he was very strong. Every day he used to roam lonely on the bank of a river. On the other bank of the river, there was a mango and Jackfruit island. In which bank Bodhisattva was living in the midst of the river there was a stone hill. Bodhisattva everyday Jumped over the hill from the bank of the river and by another jump reached the island. In this island, he would eat mango and jackfruit with full and in the same way, he returned back in the evening. On the river, there lived a crocodile with his wife. The pregnant wife of crocodile saw Bodhisattva was crossing the river in the evening and desire to eat the heart of him. She expressed her desire to the crocodile. In order to fulfill the desire, the crocodile for catching the Bodhsattva sat on the hill in the evening.
Bodhisattva in every day evening before returning observed attentively how much water of the river increased and how much stone wake up. One day after whole days roaming in the evening, became astonished to look at the hill. He observed that the water of the river neither not increased nor decreased where as the upper portion of the hill was a bit high. Confusion arose in his mind, definitely the crocodile in order to catch me sat on the hill. To be more sure he called the hill with loud voice. ‘Oh hill’ Not getting any response he called again. This time also he did not get any response then said, “Brother hill! Why are you not giving any answer?”
Crocodile thought this hill definitely used to response by the call of the monkey every day. Today I would response in lieu of the hill. In response he replied “Who is there, are you not monkey?”
Bodhisattva asked “who are you?” He replies “I am crocodile”.
“Why are you sitting on the hill?”.
“My pregnant wife has a desire to eat your heart that’s why I have come to catch you”
“Brother crocodile I am going to surrender to you. You open your mouth I am going to jump inside of your mouth then you will catch me.”
When crocodile opens the mouth it can not see anything with two eyes. As Bodhisattva with this tut tried to save his life the crocodile could not understand. He according to the direction of Bodhisatta opened his mouth then his eyes were closed. In this condition he in one jump sat on his head and in another jump very quickly reached the other bank of the river. Seeing dlis event the crocodile became mum and said to the monkey- “oh! Monkey with the fmr virtues all enemies can be conquered.” The four virtues are- Truth, Patience, Sacrifice and promptness. You possess these four virtues. I salute you. Thus praising the Bodhisattva in disguise of monkey, the crocodile disappeared.
Deva Dharma Jataka
In ancient time in the kingdom Benaras there was a king named Brahmadatta. At that time Bodhisattva was born as a prince. His name was Mahingshasa Kumar. After three years of his birth another younger brother was born. His name was Chandra Kumar. Queen died when Chandra kumar was grown up a little bit. King Brahmmadatta married again. After some time younger Queen gave birth to another son. His name was Surjakumar. The king became happy and requested his Queen for any blessing. Queen did not receive any blessing at that time. The Queen said “Oh king leave it now, in future I will pray for blessing.”
Surja Kumar became adult. The Queen then asked at the time of Surja Kumar’s birth you wanted to give me blessing. Please give it now. Please make my son King. Brahmadatta replied “My eldest two sons are vigorus like fire. Keeping them aside I cannot make younger Kumar King. The Queen was not satisfied with king’s reply. She started to disturb the king on this issue. The King became worried. He apprehended that the Queen might harm to his two eldest sons.
Thinking this the King called his two eldest son and said “Oh! my dear son, at the time of birth of your younger brother I wanted to give blessing to the younger Queen. Now she wants to make Surjakumara King in turns of blessing. But I don’t want that he becomes King. I apprehend for this reason the Queen may do harm to you. You please take shelter in the forest. After my death as per law the eldest son will get the thrown. At that time you take all measures in that way. Saying this he gave farewell to his eldest sons. ”
As per father’s order two Kumars came out from the palace. Outside of the palace Surja Kumar was playing. Hearing from the two brothers of their mission to the forest, he also accompanied them. Three bothers reached up to Himalayas. There sitting under a tree Bodhisattva asked Surjakuamar to take bath near a pond and to drink water. At the time of coming back bring some water for us on lotus leaves.
On that pond a water demon lived. Water demon received the pond from a Kuber (Hindu god of wealth). At the time of donation Kuber told him you would be able to eat a man if he goes down into water and devoid of Devadharma. If busybody does not go down into water you cann’t eat him Suöakumar was not aware of it. He got into water then water demon caught him and asked do you know Devadharma? Surjakumar replied, yes I know. People Sun and Moon as Devata (God). Demon said, its false. You dont know Devadharma, by saying this he took him to his own house and chained Suiakumar.
As Surjakumar getting late in returning back, Bodhisattva sent Chandra kumar for enquiring of younger brother. Water demon also asked question to Chandra kumar, what is Devadharma ? Water demon could not satisfied with the answer of Chandra kumar. So he chained Chandra Kumar in his house too.
While Chandra kumar was not returning, Bodhisattva thought his two broülers were in danger. He suspected that definitely there lived a water demon. Readily he was waiting for the water demon on the bank of the pond with arch, arrow and sword. Demon saw that Bodhisattva was not going down into the water. Then he in disguise of resident of a forest came to him and said ‘Brother you are tired. There is a nice pond in front, please go and take bath going down into water. Drink water. With this your boredom will be over.’
Bodhisattva could realize the water demon. Water demon too finding no other alternative confessed everything. Then Bodhisattva said, I know what is Devadharma. Do you like to know from me.
The demon said yes, I want.
Bodhisattva said ‘I am very tired now. Let me take rest first, then I will tell.’ Then the demon allowed him to bath, supplied food and drink. Decorated a seat and allowed him to sit. Bodhisattva sat on that seat. The Demon sat at his feet. Then Bodhisattva said “Who works pious deed gently, truthfully and with the pure heart, he is attached to Devadharma. He who feels shame when thinks that there is sin in his mind he is attached to Devadharma.
Hearing this explanation the Demon became very happy and said “You are learned. I am satisfied with your talk. I am paying respect to you. Now I am returning back one of your brothers. Tell whom I will bring.” Bodhisattva replied “Bring my younger brother.
Demon said “you know Devadharma but not working in accordance with it. Why are you not wanting middle brother in lieu of younger brother.
Bodhisattva replied “I know Devadharma and working in accordance with it. The youngest brother is my stepbrother. For him, we are the resident in the forest. My stepmother wanted to make him king. But our youngest brother accompanied us to the forest. He did not think even a day to return back to the palace without us. In this situation after returning back if I say that the Demon has eaten him, then anybody will believe. That’s why I am demanding him.”
Being satisfied, the Demon returned his two brothers. Then Bodhisattva said to the Demon ‘IAS a result of your sinful actions in the previous birth you are demon today. Still, you are not purified. In this birth also you are committing a sin. For that, you will be born in hell after death. and Face difficulties. Therefore fry to do good work from now and lead your life in a pure way. Then you will get salvation. ”
In this way, Bodhisattva turned the demon to the right path and began to live in the forest. One day he got the news of his father’s death and returned to the kingdom. He became the king of Baranasi. He appointed Chandra Kumar as Uparaj (viceroy) and appointed Surjakumar as commander-in-chief. He also built a beautiful house for the Demon to live. In this way, after performing the Rajadharma he died. Due to the merit of his virtuous deed, he was born in heaven after death.
In ancient times during the reign of King Brahmadatta of Baranasi, Bodhisattva was born as a son of Sresthi. Then inside the city, Lotus bloomed in a pond. A man was the caretaker of this pond. He had a cut nose.
One day in Varanasi the news of a festival spread out. Bodhisattva along with the Sresthi (Richman) determined to go to the festival wearing the garland of Padma (Lotus). They appeared to the pond in the greed of lotus (Padma).
The keeper of Padma was plucking Padma at that time. They started to praise the Padma keeper.
First Sresthi (Richman) son said “How many times you cut hair and bore, if again grown up after two days, brother Podmakeeper, your cut nose also will become full shape being grown up like born please so kindly give me some
Lotus. Hearing this the Parma keeper became angry. He did not give any Padma (Lotus) to him.”
The second son of the Sresthi (Richman) said “in Autumn if anybody sows seed from this seed grows a sapling. So also your cut nose in one time will take full shape. Brother Padma keeper became angry and did not give any Padma. ”
The third son of Sresthi as Bodhisattva said, these are the dialogue of a fool. For getting Padma they are requesting you humbly. A Cut nose will not be born again nor it will grow up. I have told you the truth. Brother Padmakeeper please give me some Padma.
Listening to the word of the third Sresthi’ s son the Padmakeeper became happy and said- “This two persons have told a lie. They made flattery with me. You have told the fruth. Hence you should get Padma (Lotus). The Padma Keeper awarded the third son of the Sresthi with a big garland of Padma.
In ancient time Bodhisattva was born in a family of elephant and became the leader of the eighty thousand elephants. At that time an Iatukik bird laid eggs on the roaming place of the elephants. Once birdling came out from the eggs. Still, then the birdling was featherless, that’s why they could not fly. At that time Bodhisattva appeared there. Then the mother of the latukik bird became restless to save the life of her birdlings. She thought, right now the life of the birdlings would be trodden under the feet of the elephant. That’s why she appeared before the elephant from Bodhisattva. She appeared to Bodhisattva to save his birdlings by covering with two wings. She said, Oh! the king of elephant, “You are sixty years old, you are talented, you can roam over the plain land of the hill«. I am paying my respect to you my two wings.
Please don’t kill my birdlings. Bodhisattva replied, “Oh! the mother of lotukik bird, don’t be afraid, I shall protect your children, saying this he protected the birdlings under the space of his legs. ” After the passing away of eighty thousand elephants, one by one went aside. Before leaving the place he informed the mother of latukik bird that “In our back, there is a separated elephant. He is alone. He does not hear us and does not obey in command. So pray for saving the life of your birdlings.” Latu.klk bird thanked him and gave him farewell. Thereafter the groupless elephant arrived. Mother lotukika bird combined her two wings made cordial prayer to him to save his sons. She said “Oh! an alone resident of forest, famous king of the elephant. You are sixty years old, you roam over plain land of the hill. I am respecting you with my two wings united. Please save my feeble birdlings.” Then elephant said “Latukika bird I will uead your birdlings. You are weak, you cannot do anything to me. I can finish hundreds of Iatukika like you by my left leg.” Uttering this he pressed the birdlings by his leg and len the place by shouting.
Mother Latukika sat on the branch of a tree said “Oh! king of elephant, you are going today by shouting. After some day you will feel what I can do. You don’t know that the strength of knowledge is greater ran that of the body. I shall teach you a good lesson.”
Then the Latukika bird made friendship with a crow. The crow was happy with his friends and said “Friend tell me what can I do for you. “Latakia bird said, “Friend will it be possible for you to put out the eyes of the elephant lonely roaming in the forest with your sharp beak?” The crow hearing the miserable story of the latukika bird replied yes.
Then Latukika bird established a friendship with a blue mosquito. Mosquito too hearing the sad story of Latukika like crow got pain. Latukika bird said ” When brother crow will put out the eyes of the elephant then you will lay eggs over there. This is my request. ” The blue mosquito approved it. The frog too heard the story of latukika. Then Lutikika said “Oh! brother frog! When the elephant the lone resident of the forest will be restless by the pain of the eyes then he will roam here and there for drinking water, then you will make sound going over the hill. When he will climb the hill then you will make the sound coming down from the hill. Then the elephant will fry to get down from the hill. At the time of coming down, his legs will slip, he will fall down to a ravine and will die. This is my only request.” The frog agreed.
Then the crow plucked out two eyes of the elephant. Blue mosquito laid eggs there. The elephant became restless from eyes pain and started roaming. The frog started to call, from the top of the hill the elephant with much trouble reached on the top of the hill. Then the frog started to call from the ravine. The elephant started to get down, but a blind elephant fell down to the ravine and died.
In this way latukika bird defeated the big elephant by intelligence. That helpless elephant was Devadatta.
Moral advice :- Knowledge is more powerful than physical strength.
In ancient time Brahmadatta was ruling in Benaras. At that time Bodhisattva was born in a Brahmin family. Gradually he was grown up. When he was young his parents wanted to chain into family life. But his indifferent mind to worldly affairs did not attract him. He wanted to renounce the world. After endeavor, he received the knowledge of previous memory and merit of meditation.
He had many disciples. He used to live in the province of Himabanta through practice and meditation with his disciples. One of his disciples was nursing a motherless baby of an elephant. Because ferocious animal cannot be believed. They will bite if they get a chance.
The baby elephant gradually grew up. He used to roam in the forest in quest of food. In the evening return back. One day being angry he fled away to the forest after killing his fosterer. He never came back.
Other hermits after cremating his dead body came to Bodhisattva. Appeared before he asked “Oh preceptor! What is the method of determining the idea of friendship and idea of enmity?
Bodhisattva in reply said “Who comes to see but does not laugh, does not a response to the felicitation, keeps himself aloof, speaks one thing does another. These people are inimical.”
On the other hand who helps, wishes for benefit, sweet spoken, helps in the days of distress, he is known as a good friend. He who works seeing the faults of the foes and seeing the virtues of the friends is intelligent.
Bodhisattva in this way explained the nature of friends and the foes. He inspired his disciples to lead a life in a true way. Moral advice:- It is the duty of an intelligent man to determine