The Complete Jataka Tales – Edward Byles Cowell
The Pali work, entitled ‚the Jataka‘, the first volume of which is now presented to the reader in an English form, contains 550 Jatakas or Birth-stories, which are arranged in 22 nipatas or books. This division is roughly founded on the number of verses (gathas) which are quoted in each story; thus the first book contains 150 stories, each of which only quotes one verse, the second 100, each of which quotes two, the third and fourth 50 each, which respectively quote 3 and 4, and so on to the twenty-first with 5 stories, each of which quotes 80 verses, and the twenty-second with 10 stories, each quoting a still larger number. Each story opens with a preface called the paccuppannavatthu or ’story of the present‘, which relates the particular circumstances in the Buddha’s life which led him to tell the birth-story and thus reveal some event in the long series of his previous existences as a bodhisatta or a being destined to attain Buddha-ship. This is volume 1, comprising the ‘Ekanipata.’
The Jataka Tales Volume 1.
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History of the Jakatas (from wikipedia.com)
The Jātakas were originally amongst the earliest Buddhist literature, with metrical analysis methods dating their average contents to around the 4th century BCE. The Mahāsāṃghika Caitika sects from the Āndhra region took the Jātakas as canonical literature and are known to have rejected some of the Theravāda Jātakas which dated past the time of King Ashoka. The Caitikas claimed that their own Jātakas represented the original collection before the Buddhist tradition split into various lineages.
According to A. K. Warder, the Jātakas are the precursors to the various legendary biographies of the Buddha, which were composed at later dates. Although many Jātakas were written from an early period, which describe previous lives of the Buddha, very little biographical material about Gautama’s own life has been recorded.
The Jātaka-Mālā of Arya Śura in Sanskrit gives 34 Jātaka stories. At the Ajanta Caves, Jātaka scenes are inscribed with quotes from Arya Shura, with script datable to the sixth century. It had already been translated into Chinese in 434 CE. Borobudur contains depictions of all 34 Jatakas from Jataka Mala.
(The text of the last section was taken from a Wikipedia entry and is available under the the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)
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