Self-sacrifice for a tiny teaching: Hearing and knowing in the 'Verse of Dharma' Jātaka stories

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Abstract / Description of output

This paper offers a comparative study of a cluster of stories in which the Buddha-to-be makes a sacrifice – of flesh, family members or wealth – in exchange for a single verse of teaching. The exploration of these stories seeks to establish neither a chronology nor the reasons for variation between versions, though some such analysis is integral to the paper. The aim is rather to explore the themes and concerns that might explain the remarkable prevalence of these stories overall, and their place within early ideas about the Buddha, Bodhisattva and dharma. The paper argues that these tales reveal new perspectives on the oft-studied relationship between Buddha and dharma, and between the Buddha’s physical body and his body of teachings. In addition, they encourage audiences to value the dharma as both a universal truth and a set of teachings available to us; teachings that are worth hearing but – more than that – worth understanding.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 7 Dec 2022

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