Creative tensions in the past lives of the Buddha

Naomi Appleton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

What happened to the Buddha-to-be between his vow at Dipankara Buddha’s feet and his birth in his final existence? The intervening period is said to have lasted a vast number of lifetimes, and many of these lifetimes are recounted in the form of “jataka” or past-life stories, a genre hugely popular in Buddhism. In particular, there are two tensions in understandings of the jataka genre: first, between the idea that the stories demonstrate the long path to buddhahood, and the fact that many stories exhibit far more worldly concerns; and second, between the stories’ role in building up a community around the Buddha and their role in emphasizing the necessity of the Buddha eventually transcending all ties. These tensions offer creative opportunities for storytellers and audiences, going some way toward explaining the enduring presence of the genre.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Buddha
Subtitle of host publicationA Storied Life
EditorsVanessa R. Sasson, Kristin Scheible
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780197649503
ISBN (Print)9780197649466
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Buddha
  • community
  • ethics
  • jataka
  • perfection
  • story


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