Introduction to the Revised Translation

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu

History of the Text and Translation

In 1877 the great Danish scholar Viggo Fausböll began the publication of the Jātaka commentary, a task which would take him another 20 years to complete. The dates for the publications were Vol 1, 1877; Vol. 2, 1879; Vol 3, 1883; Vol 4, 1887; Vol 5, 1891 and Vol 6, 1896. These were based on manuscripts of the Sinhalese tradition, and only latterly included variants from the Burmese and Thai traditions, which Fausböll came to regard as being different recensions of the Jātaka text.

Meanwhile a translation was begun, even before all the volumes of the text were published. The intention at the beginning was to have T.W. Rhys Davids make the complete translation, but after translating the Nidānakathā, which is the Introduction to the main collection, and a small collection of Jātakas, he made way for a team of translators led by Prof. E.B. Cowell, who took over and translated the Jātaka stories proper.

Volumes then appeared in the following order Vol 1, trans. by Robert Chalmers in 1895; Vol 2, translated by W.H.D. Rouse, also in 1895; Vol 3 trans. by H.T. Francis and R.A. Neil, 1897; Vol 4, again by W.H.D. Rouse, 1901; Vol 5, by H.T. Francis, 1905; Vol 6 by E.B. Cowell and W.H.D. Rouse, 1907. The translation was finished before the Tipiṭaka had been completely published in Latin script, let alone translated into English.

I mention this because the translation of the Jātaka itself was a pioneer work, and one of the utmost importance, but the scholars who worked on it were often at a great disadvantage when it came to undertaking the task. The fact that they did it so well, under such difficult circumstances, is a testament to their great scholarly acumen and judgement.

Nevertheless, the translation left much to be desired, and now, well over a hundred years on, that lack is felt even more acutely. Many times over the years I have been asked to provide a new translation of the text, but felt unable to undertake a work which, given my age, I may not be able to complete.

I am very happy to say that a new generation of scholars are at present working on such a project, and the early fruits can be judged by the excellent new translation of the last ten birth stories, in The Ten Great Birth Stories of the Buddha, by Naomi Appleton and Sarah Shaw (Chiang Mai, 2015). However, these efforts may still take a while to complete, and may not be freely available even then, but tied in copyright, and not be posted to the internet.

I therefore felt that although a completely new translation was not possible for me, a revision and an improvement of the old one was, and it is that which I present in this work. The changes that have been made to the original translation can be summarised under the following headings.

Revised Vocabulary

The revision of the translation has been made in a number of ways. Wherever possible, I attempted to update the language from Late Victorian English to a more modern usage. I have revised the vocabulary, especially in regard to technical terminology regarding doctrine and cosmology, which was quite unestablished at the time of the original translation, and for which the translators often struggled to find adequate English terms. I have also tried to impose a certain consistency regarding the vocabulary throughout, something which was lacking in the original translation.

To give just a small idea of some of the problems that were in the original translations. Abhiññā was variously translated as Higher Knowledges, Supernatural or Higher Faculties (which I here translate as Super Knowledges); both jhāna and vipassanā were translated as Insight (while jhāna was elsewhere given as Ecstatic Meditation and Mystic Meditation) (here translated as Absorption and Insight); mettā (here translated as Loving-Kindness) was sometimes translated as Generosity (which is here reserved for Dāna)!

Besides this doctrinal vocabulary, the translators often struggled to find English equivalents for the supernatural beings mentioned in the Buddhist texts, and used such forms as gods and angels to translate the terms Brahmā and Devas, fairies for Devas and Devatās, goblins and ogres for Yakkhas and Rakkhasas, spirits and sprites for Devatās, titans for Asuras, and nymphs for Devaccharā and Accharā, etc.

As such terms do not seem to be helpful now, I have thought it better to use the normal Pāḷi terms, which include Mahābrahmā, Brahmā, Deva, Devaputta, Devī, Devadhītā, Devaccharā, Accharā in the heavens; and more earthbound supernatural beings as Devatā, Nāga, Supaṇṇa and Garuḷa, Amanussa, Yakkha, Rakkhasa, Pisāca, Kinnara and Kimpurisa.

Reconstruction of the Stories

Another way the present translation differs from the original is that I have reconstructed the text for the reader wherever it was necessary to complete the story. Many times both the text and the original translation would refer the reader to other parts of the text, or to outside texts, for the story to be completed. For a bhāṇaka (reciter) this may have been within his or her abilities to do, and they may have used their knowledge to reconstruct the text when they were reciting it.

For the ordinary reader, however, this presents a formidable obstacle, and many of the stories are difficult to follow owing to the reader’s inability to find the correct passages to make up the complete story. In this edition I have done the work of the bhāṇaka and identified the passages, included them at the relevant spot, and made whatever other changes were suitable, such as when changes in names were required.

On occasion I have also included materials from outside the Jātaka, when this is referred to by the commentary as being essential to the story. These include quotations from other commentaries, as well as extracts from the suttas, and vinaya materials. Some of these materials I have translated myself, some of which I have translated for the first time; sometimes I have used standard translations, slightly modified for consistency.

Such an approach has the advantage of making each story now complete in and of itself, but it also means that some stories, which were reused many times, now reccur many times in this translation. These reconstructions add around 10%, or nearly 300 pages, to the translation. I have therefore marked the resused passages in italic, so if the story is remembered, it can be easily identified and skipped through, but if it is new, or is in a new context, it can be read again.

Occasionally the original translators felt unable to give a translation into English, and instead either translated a story into Latin (see Ja 273 Kacchapajātaka), or omitted passages from a story (see e.g. Ja 12 Nigrodhamigajātaka, Ja 227 Gūthapāṇajātaka, Ja 526 Naḷinikājātaka), usually because of their explicit sexual content. In such cases I have included an English translation of the whole passage or story.

As part of the reconstruction I have also included the Nidānakathā, which Cowell and his translation team had omitted from the translation. They did so because there was an existing translation by Rhys Davids, which had been published before the Cowell work. Here I have revised Rhys Davids’ translation and added it in at the beginning of the work, as I regard it as integral to the commentary.

The Component Parts

There are three basic component parts of the Jātaka stories: first there is a Story of the Present (Paccuppannavatthu), in which some incident presents an occasion for the Buddha to tell a Story of the Past (Atītavatthu), this is then followed by the Connection (Samodhāna) in which the relationships between the people in the present and the past are explained.

The verses usually occur in the Story of the Past, but occasionally in the Connection, and sometimes in both. Verses do occur in the Story of the Present, but these are never considered canonical Jātaka verses, rather they are non-Jātaka verses that are recited in the course of setting the story. Verses sometimes also occur in the Story of the Past, or the Connection, which are not considered Jātaka verses.

The rule is: if it is numbered it is a verse from the canonical Jātaka collection, if it is not numbered it is simply being quoted by the commentary.

Sometimes a story deviates from this structure, as when we are referred to another Jātaka for the story, and no Present Story or Connection is given. In Jātaka 428 Kosambījātaka, only one short paragraph summarises the Story of the Past, and the rest of the story which precedes and follows this summary is the Story of the Present.

The Titles and Overviews

The original translation did not provide a translation of the titles of the Jātakas, which made for difficulties when trying to identify a particular Jātaka, especially when titles recur, as they often do.

For instance there are three Jātakas called Vaṭṭakajātaka (Ja 35, 118, and 394). Here I have not only translated the title, but added information in to make identifying each story easier: Ja 35 The Story about the (Young) Quail; Ja 118 The Story about the (Starving) Quail; Ja 394 The Story about the (Fat) Quail.

Again, the four Jātakas called Tittira (Ja 37, 117, 319, 438) are here identified as Ja 37 The Story about the (Elder) Partridge; Ja 117 The Story about the (Noisy) Partridge; Ja 319 The Story about the (Decoy) Partridge and Ja 438 The Story about the (Wise) Partridge.

At the beginning of each Jātaka I provide an overview of the story, giving alternative titles where available, either as noted in the commentary, or as found in other traditions. A synopsis of the present and past stories; a list of characters; a list of cross references for the stories, which are either quoted verbatim elsewhere, or have the story in a parallel version; and a short list of keywords.

In the online edition of this work the Overview sections have been extracted and collected into a searchable Table (which in PDF format would span 60 pages). This makes researching relevant information, as well as searching for particular stories easier. There is also a custom search engine for the work – these facilities are to help the student quickly find the story or the material they are looking for.

Annotation and Page Numbers

As mentioned previously, the original translations were pioneering works, and made before all the texts in the canon or commentary were known, and in many cases, before they were even published. The annotation therefore oftens relied on incomplete appraisals of the Buddhist texts, and which are no longer considered good guides to the Buddhist doctrine. In most cases I have removed these notes.

On the other hand some of the notes contained mistakes, or non-standard references, these I have corrected and updated, sometimes replacing them with more reliable information, and sometimes silently modifying them for consistency. I have also added explanatory notes of my own, all of which are marked in square brackets.

As I give all references to other Jātakas, and other canonical and commentarial sources, as well as a few to those in early Sanskrit sources, in the Overview section of each Jātaka, I have also removed notes that included these references in the original translation, while keeping a few I haven’t covered myself.

I have by no means tried to be comprehensive in the list of parallels, believing a select list is more useful in most cases than any attempt to be comprehensive would be. For those who want an exhaustive list of parallels I suggest using A Concordance of Buddhist Birth Stories by Leslie Grey, M.D. (PTS, Oxford, 2000).

Some quotations in the notes were given in Greek and Latin, and wherever I have been able to, I have translated these into English also, as we can no longer presume familiarity with these languages amongst a general readership.

The page numbers of both the Pāḷi edition and the original translation have been supplied in the form {Vol.Page} for the edition and [Vol.Page] for the translation. So for example {3.126} = Text, Vol III, page 126; while [5.114] = Translation, Vol V, page 114.

Studies

The Number of Jātakas

It should be noted that the number of the Jātakas is usually given as being 547, and in round figures is elsewhere said to be 500. This is rather misleading, however, as many Jātakas are simply quotations from other Jātakas, and many of them lack an introductory story, or a connection.

The Ja 546 Mahā-ummagga, for instance, is the source for 12 Jātakas: Ja 110 Sabbasaṁhārakapañha, Ja 111 Gadrabhapañha, Ja 112 Amarādevīpañha, Ja 170 Kakaṇṭaka, Ja 192 Sirikāḷakaṇṇi, Ja 350 Devatāpañha, Ja 364 Khajjopanaka, Ja 452 Bhūripañha, Ja 471 Meṇḍaka, Ja 500 Sirimanda, Ja 508 Pañcapaṇḍita, Ja 517 Dakarakkhasa.

Ja 545 Vidhurapaṇḍita gives us Ja 441 Catuposathika, Ja 413 Dhūmakāri and Ja 495 Dasabrāhmaṇa. Ja 464 Cullakuṇāla is extracted from Ja 536 Kuṇāla; Ja 470 Kosiya from Ja 535 Sudhābhojana; Ja 502 Haṁsa from Ja 533 Cullahaṁsa. Ja 477 Cullanāradakassapa gives us the story found in Ja 106 Udañcani and Ja 435 Haliddirāga. When this is taken into consideration, it means that the number of Jātakas found in this collection is closer to 527.

On the other hand, a number of Jātaka stories contain secondary Jātaka stories within the main one, so the number would go back up again. For instance Ja 536 Kuṇālajātaka, tells a total of eight other Jātaka stories within its own Story of the Past, where the Bodhisatta is named as having been:

Ajjuna,
an unnamed goldsmith,
a Garuḷa,
the youth Chaḷaṅga,
an unnamed narrator,
king Pañcālacaṇḍa,
king Baka
and king Brahmadatta.

This is apart from being the bird Kuṇāla, who is the main character for the Bodhisatta in this life.

The Sections

The Jātaka collection was organised roughly according to the number of verses in each section starting with one verse (150 stories) two verses (100 stories) three etc up to the final book the Mahānipāta which contain more than 100 verses the longest being the Vessantarajātaka which has 786 verses

However at present the number of verses in each section often varies from the stated number as will be shown in the table below and in most cases it is hard to identify where this has been done so seamless is the integration of the new verses

It is thought that the prose sections which would have been told in the vernacular during transmission were not as fixed as the verses which would have been remembered in the original Pāḷi It may be however that the recitors took the liberty to include more verses on occasion

Here is a table listing the number of verses together with the exceptions and the number of stories in each section

Numbers of Verses

Exceptions

Number of Stories

1 verse

no exceptions

150

2 verses

159 (4) 203 (5).

100

3 verses

no exceptions

50

4 verses

no exceptions

50

5 verses

352 (8) 354 (10) 358 (6) 371 (6) 372 (7) 374 (7) 375 (6).

25

6 verses

376 (7) 380 (8) 382 (17) 383 (7) 385 (8) 389 (8) 391 (7) 392 (7).

20

7 verses

400 (10) 402 (8) 405 (8) 408 (8) 410 (9) 415 (12).

19

8 verses

417 (9) 419 (9) 420 (9) 421 (9) 422 (15) 423 (9) 425 (11).

10

9 verses

428 (10) 429 (10) 430 (10) 432 (11).

11

10 verses

440 (13) 441 (11) 443 (13) 447 (11) 448 (11) 452 (9) 454 (15).

15

11 verses

455 (12) 456 (13) 458 (22) 461 (13) 463 (13).

9

12 verses

472 (14) 473 (11).

10

13 verses

477 (14) 479 (16) 480 (21) 482 (17) 483 (18)

10

The 13 Jātakas of the Pakiṇṇaka (Miscellaneous) section have no fixed number of verses but vary widely from 15 verses to 48 One might have expected to find seven of these in the 20s section and one in the 40s section They are as follows

484 (17) 485 (25) 486 (18) 487 (15) 488 (24) 489 (25) 490 (16) 491 (17) 492 (20) 493 (23) 494 (20) 495 (48) 496 (20).

After the Pakiṇṇaka section more of The Story of the Past is carried by the verses which indeed accounts for the high verse count in these Jātakas but it still seems to me that the prose is integral and necessary for a proper comprehension of the story.

Numbers of Verses

Exceptions

Number of Stories

20 verses

499 (31) 506 (44) 507 (31).

14

30 verses

514 (41) 515 (40) 516 (45).

10

40 verses

524 (51) 525 (51).

5

50 verses

527 (67).

3

60 verses

no exceptions

2

70 verses

531 (92) 532 (94).

2

80 verses

534 (103) 535 (96) 537 (123).

5

The Mahānipāta has 10 Jātakas with 100 verses counted as follows 538 (117) 539 (170) 540 (125) 541 (167) 542 (168) 543 (199) 544 (193) 545 (324) 546 (302) 547 (786).

The Verses

One of the most difficult choices the original translators had to make was in the form they chose to translate the verse part of the texts. In the early volumes, where there are fewer verses, this was less problematic than in the later ones. Here is how the various translators approached this problem:

Nidānakathā: Rhys Davids (prose, divided into lines),
Vol I: Robert Chalmers (decasyllabic, blank verse, with some rhyming verse),
Vol II: W.H.D. Rouse (rhyming verse),
Vol III: H.T. Francis & R. A. Neil (rhyming verse),
Vol IV: W.H.D. Rouse (rhyming verse),
Vol V: H.T. Francis (rhyming verse),
Vol VI: E.B. Cowell & W.H.D. Rouse (rhyming verse, and undivided prose).

It should be noted that Pāḷi verses do not rhyme, but are normally divided into syllabic length, with 4x8 syllables being the most popular form for a verse (the Siloka form); and 4x11 syllables being the second most popular form (the Tuṭṭhubha form).

While making the changes in vocabulary I have always respected the way the translators had chosen to translate the verses. So if the verse was 8 syllables long and rhyming before the changes in vocabulary, I maintained the length and rhyme after the changes.

In the Kuṇālajātaka (Ja 536) we find a verse form, the Veḍha metre, which is unique in the Pāḷi texts, and which went unnoticed by Fausböll and the translator. It was identified by Bollée in his edition of the text, first published in 1970. In the present work I have identified the verse parts working from Bollée’s edition, and formatted the text accordingly.

In the original translation the numbers for the verses were omitted, but I have included them here, as it certainly makes referencing much easier; but also when we come to the last book of the translation, it shows how many verses were omitted, or abbreviated, which in some of the Jātakas was substantial.

For example, in Ja 539 Mahājanakajātaka, vs. 25-115 were compressed into just 7 verses, something which only becomes apparent when the verses are numbered. In the last book so much abbreviation of this kind was done that in most cases I have had to leave the translation as it is, without trying to reconstruct all the missing verses.

Again in the last book of the original translation large parts of the verse translations were presented as though they were prose. Here I have divided the text and identified it as verse, with the numbers that it corresponds to included.

Having the numbers also helps identify which are actually canonical Jātaka verses, and which are from the commentarial text. This makes it easy to see which are the actual Jātaka verses as they have been numbered, while other verses that occur are not.

In the text there was an additional section which provided a word commentary on the verses, which was sometimes quite extensive, amounting to roughly 20% of the work. The word commentary, however, was not translated by Cowell’s team, and, although a translation of these passages is a desideratum, it has not been possible to include it in this revised translation.

Reuse of the Verses

Many of the verses have been reused elsewhere in a variety of ways. Sometimes a verse in one Jātaka recurs in other Jātakas, sometimes with small variations, such as a change of name, or a change of one word.

For instance, the verse from Ja 8 Gāmanijātaka also appears much later in the collection in a Ja 538 Mūgapakkhajātaka vs. 30 and 41; the verse from Ja 41 Losakajātaka is also found in Ja 42 Kapotajātaka, Ja 43 Veḷukajātaka and Ja 378 Darīmukhajātaka vs. 3. The verse in Ja 51 Mahāsīlavajātaka is also found in Ja 52 Cullajanakajātaka, Ja 124 Ambajātaka, Ja 483 Sarabhamigajātaka and Ja 539 Mahājanakajātaka.

Sometimes a verse appears in other parts of the Tipiṭaka. So the verse from Ja 35 Vaṭṭakajātaka is also found in the retelling of the same story in the Cariyāpiṭaka, Cp 29:10; Ja 10 Sukhavihārijātaka can also be found in Thag 11.1 vs. 4; and the Ja 31 Kulāvakajātaka verse is found at SN 11.6 vs. 1, etc.

And we also find verses that occur both within and outside the Jātaka collection. For instance the verse from Ja 12 Nigrodhamigajātaka occurs again in the Jātakas at Ja 445 Nigrodhajātaka, vs. 10, and in the Apadāna at Tha-ap 537, vs. 17. The verse from Ja 55 Pañcāvudhajātaka is also found in the following story Ja 56 Kañcanakkhandhajātaka, as well as one of the verses at Ja 156 Alīnacittajātaka, and outside the Jātakas it occurs at Iti 17 vs. 3 and Thag 16 vs. 7.

As there are nearly 7,000 verses in this collection, I didn’t think it was necessary to examine all of them. The results for the first book are shown in the table below. Only those Jātakas where verses recurred are shown, and only whole verses, not partial matches, but this should give an idea of how widespread reuse has been:

Jātaka Number and Name

Verse Parallels

Ja 8 Gāmanijātaka The Story about (Prince) Gāmani

Ja 538:30 ≠ Ja 538:41

Ja 10 Sukhavihārijātaka The Story about the One who lives Happily

Thag 11.1:4

Ja 12 Nigrodhamigajātaka The Story about the Deer (named) Nigrodha

Ja 445:10 ≠ Tha-ap 537:17

Ja 30 Muṇikajātaka The Story about (the Pig) Muṇika

Ja 286:1

Ja 31 Kulāvakajātaka The Story about the Nest

SN 11.6:1

Ja 35 Vaṭṭakajātaka The Story about the Young Quail

Cp 29:10

Ja 36 Sakuṇajātaka The Story about the Bird

Ja 432:7

Ja 37 Tittirajātaka The Story about the Partridge

Vin Cv 6

Ja 41 Losakajātaka The Story about (the Unfortunate Monk) Losaka

Ja 42 ≠ Ja 43 ≠ Ja 378:3

Ja 42 Kapotajātaka The Story about the Pigeon

Ja 41 ≠ Ja 43 ≠ Ja 378:3

Ja 43 Veḷukajātaka The Story about (the Viper) Veḷuka

Ja 41 ≠ Ja 42 ≠ Ja 378:3

Ja 46 Ārāmadūsakajātaka The Story about Spoiling the Park

Ja 47

Ja 47 Vāruṇijātaka The Story about Spoiling the Drinks

Ja 46

Ja 51 Mahāsīlavajātaka The Story about One with Great Virtue

Ja 52 ≠ Ja 483:1 ≠ Ja 539:14

Ja 52 Cullajanakajātaka The Short Story about (King) Janaka

Ja 51 ≠ Ja 124 ≠ Ja 483:1 ≠ Ja 539:14

Ja 55 Pañcāvudhajātaka The Story about (Prince) Pañcāvudha

Ja 56 ≠ Ja 156 Iti 17:3 Thag 16:7

Ja 56 Kañcanakkhandhajātaka The Story about the Block of Gold

Ja 55 ≠ Ja 156 Iti 17:3 Thag 16:7

Ja 57 Vānarindajātaka The Story about the Lord of the Monkeys

Ja 224:1

Ja 59 Bherivādajātaka The Story about the Drummer

Ja 60

Ja 60 Saṅkhadhamanajātaka The Story about the Conch Blower

Ja 59

Ja 61 Asātamantajātaka The Story about the Disagreeable Charms

Ja 536:47

Ja 64 Durājānajātaka The Story about what is Difficult to Know

Ja 519:26 ≠ Ja 536:59

Ja 65 Anabhiratijātaka The Story about Discontent

Ja 464:9 ≠ Ja 536:34

Ja 71 Varaṇajātaka The Story about the Temple Tree

Thag 3.3:1 ≠ Thag 3.15:1

Ja 72 Sīlavanāgajātaka The Story about the Virtuous Elephant

Ja 438:1

Ja 73 Saccaṅkirajātaka The Story about the Assertion of Truth

Ja 482:7 ≠ Ja 547:516

Ja 74 Rukkhadhammajātaka The Story about the Way of Trees

Ja 492:18

Ja 75 Macchajātaka The Story about the Fish

Cp 30:7

Ja 82 Mittavindajātaka The Story about (the Merchant) Mittavindaka

Ja 369:2

Ja 86 Sīlavīmaṁsanajātaka The Story about the Enquiry into Virtue

Ja 290:1 ≠ Ja 330:1

Ja 87 Maṅgalajātaka The Story about the Omens

Snp 2.13:2

Ja 90 Akataññujātaka The Story about Ingratitude

Ja 409:5

Ja 91 Littajātaka The Story about what is Smeared (with Posion)

DN 23:1

Ja 94 Lomahaṁsajātaka The Story about the Bristling Hair

MN 12:1

Ja 95 Mahāsudassanajātaka The Story about (King) Mahāsudassana

DN 16:23 ≠ DN 17:1 ≠ SN 6.15:2 ≠ SN 15.20:2

Ja 96 Telapattajātaka The Story about the bowl of Oil

MNidd 16.:28

Ja 99 Parosahassajātaka The Story about More than a Thousand (Fools)

Ja 99 ≠ Ja 101

Ja 100 Asātarūpajātaka The Story about the Form of the Disagreeable

Ud 2.8:1

Ja 101 Parosatajātaka The Story about More than a Hundred (Fools)

Ja 99

Ja 102 Paṇṇikajātaka The Story about the Greengrocer

Ja 217:2

Ja 103 Verijātaka The Story about Enemies

Ja 404:1

Ja 104 Mittavindajātaka The Story about (the Merchant) Mittavindaka

Ja 369:4 ≠ Ja 439:4

Ja 124 Ambajātaka The Story about the Mangoes

Ja 51 ≠ Ja 52 ≠ Ja 483:1 ≠ Ja 539:14

Ja 136 Suvaṇṇahaṁsajātaka The Story about the Golden Goose

Vin. Bhikkhunī Pāc. 1:1

Ja 138 Godhajātaka The Story about the Iguana

Ja 325 ≠ Dhp 394

Ja 141 Godhajātaka The Story about the Iguana

Ja 397:3

The translators made no attempt to harmonize their translations across books, so it is sometimes difficult to see they are even translating the same verse. For instance, the verse that occurs in Ja 36 Sakuṇajātaka in Pāḷi reads like this:

Yaṁ nissitā jagatiruhaṁ vihaṅgamā,
sv-āyaṁ aggiṁ pamuñcati,
disā bhajatha vakkaṅgā, jātaṁ saraṇato bhayan-ti.

and is translated by Rouse thus:

You denizens of air, that in these boughs
Have sought a lodging, mark the seeds of fire
This earthborn tree is breeding! Safety seek
In flight! Our trusted stronghold harbours death!

The verse recurs in Ja 432 Padakusalamāṇavajātaka (vs 7) in essentially the same form, where Francis and Neil translate it:

Flame issues from the tree where we have lain:
Scatter, you birds. Our refuge proves our bane.

It has not of course been possible to harmonize these readings across books, as reuse is too common.

Characters in the Jātakas

The Bodhisatta’s Roles

I have made a survey of the roles that are played by the Bodhisatta and other people close to him in the Jātakas, and the findings are below.

The most popular epithet for the Bodhisatta in these stories is as a paṇḍita, a wise man, animal or god (1, 3, 5, 22, 25, 27, 33, 36, 37, 39, 44, 46, 49, 63, 70, 74, 80, 89, 91, 92, 98, 107, 108, 110, 111, 112, 138, 158, 170, 176, 183, 184, 186, 189, 192, 195, 215, 223, 242, 247, 272, 280, 305, 316, 317, 324, 331, 332, 333, 336, 345, 350, 364, 452, 367, 368, 387, 396, 401, 402, 404, 413, 438, 440, 446, 454, 461, 463, 466, 467, 471, 473, 480, 481, 495, 497, 498, 500, 508, 510, 515, 517, 530, 532, 538, 540, 542, 546). He is also named in a similar role, as a teacher (ācariya, sattha), in the following stories: 8, 41, 43, 61, 64, 65, 71, 81, 97, 117, 119, 123, 124, 130, 161, 169, 175, 182, 185, 197, 200, 203, 245, 252, 271, 287, 353, 373, 453, 522.

Another role that is similar to that of the wise man is that of an ascetic, of various sorts, tāpasa: 17, 76, 77, 87, 106, 144, 154, 162, 166, 167, 173, 207, 234, 244, 246, 251, 259, 273, 281, 284, 285, 293, 301, 313, 319, 328, 334, 337, 338, 346, 348, 376, 392, 411, 414, 418, 425, 426, 431, 433, 435, 436, 440, 444, 488, 490, 496, 511, 526, 532, 538); sometimes he is an ājivaka (94); or a wanderer (paribbājaka) (235, 408, 443, 528); or a sage (isi): 66, 362, 523.

He also appears as the family priest (purohita) 34, 86, 120, 214, 216, 241, 310, 330, 377, 487. A purohita is, of course, a brahmin, and besides these occasions the Bodhisatta is also named as a brahmin (brāhmaṇa) in the following Jātakas: 65, 71, 155, 163, 174, 237, 290, 299, 354, 389, 403, 405, 422, 432, 442, 479, 481, 509. He is also mentioned as a brahmin student (māṇava) a number of times: 163, 305, 356, 398, 405, 432, 467, 478.

The Bodhisatta is often a khattiya, and is named as a king or a prince (rājā, kumāra) 52, 62, 67, 73, 95, 96, 100, 126, 132, 151, 156, 160, 181, 191, 193, 194, 229, 230, 233, 240, 248, 257, 258, 260, 262, 263, 269, 276, 282, 289, 302, 303, 304, 326, 327, 343, 347, 349, 351, 355, 358, 371, 378, 406, 415, 416, 420, 421, 424, 428, 445, 459, 460, 461, 465, 468, 472, 494, 499, 504, 505, 507, 513, 519, 525, 527, 529, 531, 537, 539, 541, 542, 543, 544, 547. And many times he is named as a minister (amacca): 25, 26, 27, 79, 92, 107, 108, 158, 176, 183, 184, 186, 195, 215, 218, 223, 226, 247, 306, 320, 331, 332, 333, 336, 345, 396, 409, 462, 473, 495.

He also appears as a wealthy man (seṭṭhi): 4, 40, 45, 47, 53, 83, 84, 93, 103, 125, 127, 131, 164, 171, 232, 238, 261, 315, 340, 363, 382); a merchant (vāṇija) = 3, 44, 98, 249, 324, 365; a caravan leader (satthavāha): 1, 2, 54, 85, 256, 366, 493; a landlord (kuṭumbika): 39; or a valuer (agghāpanika): 5. He features also as a salesman: 63; horse-dealer: 254; mariner: 463; doctor: 69, farmer: 56, 189, watchman: 265.

Rarely he also appears as an outcaste (caṇḍāla): 179, 309, 373, 497, 498; or in low-caste jobs, as a mahout: 182; potter: 178; stone cutter 137; smith: 387; carpenter: 466; barber: 78; acrobat: 212; drummer: 59; conch-blower: 60. He is also a gambler: 91; and a thief: 318.

Some roles are either quotes from other Jātakas, or the same character appearing in more than one Jātaka: the Bodhisatta appears as the wise Mahosadha in 111, 112, 170, 192, 350, 364, 452, 471, 500, 508, 517 as well as this being the lead character in 542.

Many times the Bodhisatta appears as Sakka, Lord of the Gods: 31, 202, 228, 264, 291, 300, 344, 372, 374, 386, 391, 393, 410, 417, 450, 458, 469, 470, 489, 512, 535; he is Mahābrahmā: 99, 101, 134, 135, 545; or a Deva or Devatā of some sort or other, often simply as a witness to the action of the story: 18, 19, 38, 74, 82, 102, 104, 105, 109, 113, 121, 139, 146, 147, 187, 190, 205, 209, 217, 227, 243, 272, 283, 294, 295, 296, 297, 298, 307, 311, 360, 361, 369, 400, 412, 419, 437, 439, 475, 485, 492, 506, 518, 520, 524.

The Bodhisatta appears as an animal quite frequently, often as a king, and sometimes simply as a wise member, of the species. He is found as a lion 143, 152, 153, 157, 172, 188, 322, 335, 397, 486; elephant 72, 122, 221, 267, 357, 455, 456, 457, 514; monkey 20, 57, 58, 177, 208, 219, 222, 224, 342, 404, 407, 516; deer 11, 12, 15, 16, 21, 206, 359, 385, 482, 483, 501; bull: 28, 29, 278: buffalo: 88, ox, 30, 88, 286; horse 24, 196, 266; dog 22; jackal 142; pig 388; rat 128; mouse 129; iguana 138, 141, 325; and frog 239.

Many times he is a bird, either generic: 36, 115, 133, 308, 321, 384, 521; or specifically, as a goose: 32, 136, 270, 370, 434, 451, 502, 533, 534; quail: 33, 35, 118, 168, 394: partridge: 37, 438; pigeon: 42, 274, 275, 277, 375, 395; parrot: 145, 198, 255, 329, 429, 430, 484, 503; crow: 140, 204, 292; peacock: 159, 339, 491; vulture: 164, 381, 399, 427; chicken: 383, 448; cuckoo: 464, 536; or a woodpecker: 210; and in three stories he is a fish 75, 114, 236.

Other People’s Roles

We can see that there are several stock roles that are assigned to people known from Buddha Gotama’s life. Some are unsurprising: Suddhodana and Mahāmāyā often play the Bodhisatta’s parents in his previous lives, either separately: 428, 500, 508; or together: 7, 35, 156, 163, 201, 452, 461, 509, 542, 547; his wife, Rāhulamātā (mostly named as such in the Jātakas), very often plays the same role in the stories: 11, 95, 194, 201, 276, 281, 292, 328, 340, 387, 397, 408, 411, 415, 421, 424, 434, 443, 451, 458, 459, 461, 485, 506, 513, 525, 531, 539, 544, 546, 547, and she is once named as Bimbā in 542; Rāhula himself is often his son in a previous life: 9, 16, 95, 173, 188, 201, 250, 319, 354, 408, 444, 486, 525, 529, 539, 544, 546, 547.

Others are perhaps less obvious: as noted above, Sakka is quite often assigned to the Bodhisatta himself, but when it is not the Bodhisatta, it is usually Anuruddha: 194, 243, 316, 347, 429, 430, 441, 480, 485, 494, 499, 537, 540, 541, 546, 547, although on one occasion Moggallāna plays this role: 78.

Ānanda is very often designated as the king in the story, and most times as the king of Benares (often named as Brahmadatta): 12, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 66, 70, 77, 78, 107, 120, 140, 149, 155, 158, 159, 164, 171, 176, 182, 183, 184, 195, 214, 215, 226, 243, 251, 254, 259, 284, 292, 309, 310, 334, 346, 368, 376, 377, 388, 391, 396, 398, 403, 409, 418, 425, 431, 443, 455, 465, 473, 474, 476, 478, 482, 483, 512, 521, 524, 540; though sometimes he is king of the Kurus (where named, he is Dhanañcaya): 441, 495, 496, 515, 546; the king of Pañcāla: 323, 503; the king of Kosala: 385; or a king of thieves: 282. For other male disciples who often appear in these Jātakas, but in no specific roles, look up Sāriputta, Moggallāna, Kassapa.

Of the female disciples, Uppalavaṇṇā often gets to be a goddess: 382, 392, 414, 442, 470, 511, 535, 538, 539, 540; though she plays a variety of roles other than this also: as a sister (15, 397, 488, 513, 543), mother (16), an old woman (29), a queen (66), a courtesan (276), a daughter (354, 408, 527, 547), an iguana (438), a deer (501), a mynah (521), a wise woman (542), a princess (544), and as a Nāga queen (546). Khemā, who was known for her wisdom, appears in 354, 397, 501, 502, 534, 539, in various roles. Khujjuttarā, who remembered the collection known as the Itivuttaka, appears as a nurse in 354, 488, 525, 531.

One character who appears quite often is the Buddha’s brother-in-law and cousin, Devadatta. Again, he plays various roles, but always as someone in opposition to the Bodhisatta: 1, 3, 11, 12, 20, 21, 33, 51, 57, 58, 72, 73, 113, 122, 131, 142, 143, 160, 168, 174, 184, 189, 193, 199, 204, 206, 208, 209, 210, 220, 221, 222, 224, 231, 233, 240, 241, 243, 277, 294, 295, 308, 313, 326, 329, 335, 342, 353, 357, 358, 367, 389, 397, 404, 407, 416, 422, 438, 445, 448, 455, 457, 466, 472, 474, 482, 485, 492, 503, 505, 506, 514, 516, 518, 542, 543, 544, 545, 547. Another villain who appears quite often is Devadatta’s follower, Kokālika: 117, 172, 188, 189, 272, 294, 331, 466, 481.

Jātakas Outside of this Collection

Sometimes stories in the Jātaka collection have parallels in other places in the canon, for instance, most of the stories of the Cariyāpiṭaka are retold in the Jātaka book: 9, 35, 75, 95, 224, 276, 278, 303, 316, 442, 443, 444, 455, 457, 460, 480, 482, 488, 497, 499, 505, 506, 510, 513, 524, 532, 537, 538, 540, 541, 543, 544, 547. Cp 28 Saccasavhayapaṇḍitacariya, and the last story in the Cariyāpiṭaka, Cp 35 Mahālomahaṁsacariya, have no parallel in the collection. And contrarily, some Jātakas are not found in this collection, for instance, Mahāgovinda’s story which is found in DN 19 Mahāgovindasutta and Cp 5 Mahāgovindacariya.

We find some of the stories also told in the Vinaya: 10, 28, 37, 88, 183, 203. Mahāsuddasana’s story is told in the Dīghanikāya (DN 17), and appears also in Jātaka 95. As to how these stories probably came into being and developed their final form, please see Rhys Davids’ essay which follows this Introduction.

Buddhavaṁsa

The Buddhavaṁsa details the twenty-four Buddhas prior to our Buddha Gotama, and mainly focuses on who they were, their lifespans, their disciples and other items that parallel the life of Gotama. The first of these Buddhas is Dīpaṅkara, and it is under him that Sumedha makes his aspiration to become a Buddha himself. As the Bodhisatta has to renew his aspiration under each Buddha, he also appears in these stories.

In these stories the Bodhisatta is named as:

1. the brahmin Sumedha (brāhmaṇa)
2. the noble Vijitāvī (khattiya)
3. the brahmin Suruci (brāhmaṇa)
4. the king of the nāgas Atula (Nāgarājā)
5. the brahmin Atideva (brāhmaṇa)
6. the brahmin Sujāta (brāhmaṇa)
7. a Yakkha of great spiritual power (Yakkho mahiddhiko)
8. a lion (sīha)
9. a matted-haired ascetic (jaṭila)
10. the district governor Jaṭila (raṭṭhika)
11. the brahmin student Uttara (māṇava)
12. the lord of four continents (catudīpamhi issaro)
13. the brahmin Kassapa (brāhmaṇa)
14. the matted-haired ascetic Susīma (jaṭila)
15. Sakka Purindada
16. the ascetic Maṅgala (tāpasa)
17. the noble Sujāta (khattiya)
18. the noble Vijitāvī (again) (khattiya)
19. the king of the nāgas Atula (again) (Nāgarājā)
20. the noble Arindama (khattiya)
21. the noble Sudassana (khattiya)
22. the noble Khema (khattiya)
23. the noble Pabbata (khattiya)
24. the brahmin Jotipāla (brāhmaṇa) (see MN 81 below).

Cariyāpiṭaka
The Basket of Conduct

In 33 out of 35 of these stories which were written to illustrate the Perfections (Pārami) there is a parallel found in the larger collection. Two, Cp 28 and Cp 35, have no parallel.

Cp 1 Akitticariya (see Ja 480 Akittijātaka, Jm 7 Agastya)
Cp 2 Saṅkhacariya (see Ja 442 Saṅkhajātaka)
Cp 3 Kurudhammacariya (see Ja 276 Kurudhammajātaka)
Cp 4 Mahāsudassana (see Ja 95 Mahāsudassanajātaka, DN 17 Mahāsudassanasutta)
Cp 5 Mahāgovindacariya (see DN 19 Mahāgovindasutta)
Cp 6 Nimirājacariya (see Ja 541 Nimijātaka)
Cp 7 Candakumāracariya (see Ja 542 Khaṇḍahālajātaka)
Cp 8 Sivirājacariya (see Ja 499 Sivijātaka, Jm 2 Śibi)
Cp 9 Vessantaracariya (see Ja 547 Vessantarajātaka, Jm 9 Viśvantara)
Cp 10 Sasapaṇḍitacariya (see Ja 316 Sasajātaka, Jm 6 Śaśa)
Cp 11 Mātiposakacariya (see Ja 455 Mātiposakajātaka)
Cp 12 Bhūridattacariya (see Ja 543 Bhūridattajātaka)
Cp 13 Campeyyanāgacariya (see Ja 506 Campeyyajātaka, Mvu ii p 225 Campaka Mvu ii p 225 Campaka)
Cp 14 Cullabodhicariya (see Ja 443 Cullabodhijātaka, Jm 21 Cullabodhi)
Cp 15 Mahisarājacariya (see Ja 278 Mahisajātaka, Jm 33 Mahiṣa)
Cp 16 Rurumigarājacariya (see Ja 482 Rurujātaka, Jm 26 Ruru)
Cp 17 Mātaṅgacariya (see Ja 497 Mātaṅgajātaka)
Cp 18 Dhammadevaputtacariya (see Ja 457 Dhammajātaka)
Cp 19 Alīnasattucariya (see Ja 513 Jayaddisajātaka)
Cp 20 Saṅkhapālacariya (see Ja 524 Saṅkhapālajātaka)
Cp 21 Yudhañjayacariya (see Ja 460 Yuvañjayajātaka)
Cp 22 Somanassacariya (see Ja 505 Somanassajātaka)
Cp 23 Ayogharacariya (see Ja 510 Ayogharajātaka, Jm 32 Ayogha)
Cp 24 Bhisacariya (see Ja 488 Bhisajātaka, Jm 19 Bisa)
Cp 25 Soṇapaṇḍitacariya (see Ja 532 Soṇanandajātaka)
Cp 26 Temiyapaṇḍitacariya (see Ja 538 Mūgapakkhajātaka)
Cp 27 Kapirājacariya (see Ja 57 Vānarindajātaka, Mvu iii p 40 Vānara (II))
Cp 28 Saccasavhayapaṇḍitacariya (no parallel. Only one verse, he is said to have protected the truth)
Cp 29 Vaṭṭapotakacariya (see Ja 35 Vattakajātaka, Jm 16 Vartakāpītaka)
Cp 30 Maccharājacariya (see Ja 75 Macchajātaka, Jm 15 Matsya)
Cp 31 Kaṇhadīpāyanacariya (see Ja 444 Kaṇhadīpāyanajātaka)
Cp 32 Sutasomacariya (see Ja 537 Mahāsutasomajātaka, Jm 31 Sutasoma)
Cp 33 Suvaṇṇasāmacariya (see Ja 540 Sāmajātaka)
Cp 34 Ekarājacariya (see Ja 303 Ekarājajātaka)

The last one, Cp 35 Mahālomahaṁsacariya, The Great Hair-Raising Conduct, has no parallel in the main collection, but the Bodhisatta is there described as an ascetic who lives in a cemetery, and is unaffected by derision or praise.

DN 5 Kūṭadantasutta, section entitled Mahāvijitarājayaññakathā
The Long Story of King Mahāvijita’s Sacrifice

The brahmin Kūṭadanta and his friends go to see the Buddha and ask about sacrifices, and the Buddha tells of a great sacrifice made by a righteous king of old, Mahāvijita, in which no animals were killed, and no one was forced to contribute in any way.

The Bodhisatta = an unnamed family priest (purohita).

DN 19 Mahāgovinda
The Story of Mahāgovinda

cf. Cp. 4 Mahāgovindacariya

The story of a King’s steward who inherited his father’s title, and became the greatest steward of his age, dividing up much of the Middle Country. After going into seclusion and meditating on compassion, he meets with the Great Brahmā, and decides to go forth. Many follow his example and attain high states of being.

The Bodhisatta = the great steward, Mahāgovinda.

MN 81 Ghaṭikārasutta
The Story of Ghaṭikāra (and Jotipāla)

cf. Bv 24, also Ap 39.10.1

Two friends living in the time of the Buddha Kassapa, one of them, the potter Ghaṭikāra, is full of faith, and takes his friend the brahmin student Jotipāla, who is sceptical and speaks bad of the Buddha, to meet him. After listening to a Dhamma talk, Jotipāla gains faith and goes forth. The Buddha praises his friend Ghaṭikāra to Kiki, the king of Kāsi.

The Bodhisatta = the brahmin student, Jotipāla (brāhmaṇa)

SN 22.96 Gomayapiṇḍasutta
A Lump of Cow Dung

The Bodhisatta was once a great king with 84,000 of everything, but he and all he possessed passed away, such is the power of impermanence.

The Bodhisatta = an unnamed king (rājā).

AN 3.15 Pacetanasutta
The Story of (King) Pacetana

A story of a chariot-maker who builds two wheels for King Pacetena, one in six months and another in six days. The one taking longer being of good quality, while the one made quickly being defective.

The Bodhisatta = the chariot-maker (rathakāra).

AN 9.20 Velāmasutta
The Story of (the Brahmin) Velāma

The story tells of a brahmin who gave a most magnificent gift, but there was no one worthy to receive and purify the gift.

The Bodhisatta = the brahmin Velāma (brāhmaṇa).

Ap 39.10 Pubbakammapilotika-Buddhāpadāna
The Traditions about the Buddha (known as) the Connection with Previous Deeds

Ten lives and stories explaining why the Buddha suffered in his last life as a result of bad deeds in previous lives.

In four of these lives the Bodhisatta is named as:

1. the brahmin student Jotipāla (brāhmaṇamāṇava)
2. the scoundrel Munāḷi (dhutta)
3. the scoundrel Munāḷi (again) (dhutta)
4. the brahmin Sutavā (brāhmaṇa)

in others he is unnamed, but appears as:

5. a younger brother (kaniṭṭhabhātā)
6. a young man of family (kula)
7. an elephant’s groom (hatthigopaka)
8. a king in a border country (paccantadese rājā)
9. a fisherman (kevaṭṭa)
10. a young man of family (kula)
11. a wrestler (malla)
12. as a physician (vejja).

Acknowledgements

The original transcription of this work was made by a team working at sacred-texts.com from 2006-2010; these were then collected and converted into epub files by Ven Khemaratana. The present revision was made by first proof-reading these files, then modifying them as explained in the Introduction.

At the beginning of the revision I often had to make document-wide find and replace operations on a 3,000 page plus document. The dangers of this will be understood by anyone who has tried it! I am very grateful indeed, therefore, to the people who read it through and helped me iron out many of the mistakes.

First of all, I should mention my long time helper, Donny Hacker, who read through the early revisions of this work, and picked up many mistakes that had crept in. Latterly, Dr. Ari Ubeysekara read through the entire work, in a very short time, and made many corrections and intelligent suggestions.

I am grateful to Ven Dhammika who read through the Introduction and helped me improve it in many places. Over the years we have had many interesting conversations about the Jātakas, and about India at the time of the Buddha, which has helped me understand the text and its context better.

The work is more consistent, and lacks many faults, because of the generosity of these helpers. If any mistakes or inconsistencies remain, I would be very grateful if you would take the time to point them out, so I can improve on what I now present in this first edition of the revised translation.

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu
November, 2021