Undergraduate Course: Lives of the Buddha: Jataka Stories and Early Buddhism (DIVI10085)
|School||School of Divinity
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This course uses jataka stories - stories of the past lives of the Buddha - as a way to explore key themes and concerns in early Indian Buddhism, including the role of the Buddha, the workings of karma and rebirth, the place of women, and the path to awakening. Through studying this particularly rich and influential genre of early Indian literature, we will come to a better understanding of Buddhist values and attitudes, as well as of the ways in which narrative forms a crucial expression of religious ideas.
This course explores jataka stories - stories of the past lives of the Buddha - and their place within early Indian Buddhism. We will read a range of stories in English translation, and relate them to key themes and questions such as the role of the Buddha, the workings of karma and rebirth, the place of women, and the path to awakening. From stories of vows to future Buddhahood, to tales of talking animals, jatakas offer a fascinating lens through which to view developments in Buddhist ethics and ideology. Through studying this particularly rich and influential genre of early Indian literature, we will come to a better understanding of Buddhist values and attitudes, as well as of the ways in which narrative forms a crucial expression of religious ideas.
The course will proceed through key themes in early Buddhism, drawing on appropriate primary readings as we go. Themes include animal and human ethics; the role of the Buddha as teacher; karmic consequences and karmic communities; the path to Buddhahood and the perfections required for that attainment; the Buddha's good and bad karma; stories of extraordinary generosity or self-sacrifice; and the role of women in the stories.
Student Learning Experience Information:
The course will be delivered through a weekly two-hour class. The first hour will consist of student-led discussion of readings from primary texts (in translation). In some weeks this will involve student presentations. The second hour will be a discussion, led by the lecturer, of key themes and concepts that will enable full comprehension of the following week's readings; depending on covid-related restrictions on room capacity this hour may be replaced with pre-recorded online materials. Assessment is through class presentations (20%), a 2,000-word essay (30%) consisting of a close analysis of a primary source text, and a final 3,000-word essay (50%) that explores a key theme in relation to both primary and secondary scholarship. Formative feedback will be offered on class presentations and essay plans.
Information for Visiting Students
|Pre-requisites||This course is open to visiting students, though it is recommended that students have some prior study of Buddhism.
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Not being delivered|
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Explain the key features of the jataka genre and how these vary across a range of South Asian Buddhist texts and contexts.
- Analyse and interpret individual jataka stories in the context of both the wider genre and the broader landscape of early Buddhism.
- Assess the role of jataka stories in exploring and presenting key Buddhist ideals, including morality, karma, and the nature of Buddhahood.
- Evaluate key issues in South Asian Buddhism through reference to relevant primary and secondary sources.
Resource lists will be used to ensure sources are available, and most readings will draw on existing library stock. Many primary sources are available in copyright-free translations online and others will be provided as scanned extracts.
Appleton, Naomi. Jataka Stories in Therav'da Buddhism: Narrating the Bodhisatta Path. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010.
Appleton, Naomi. 'In the Footsteps of the Buddha? Women and the Bodhisatta Path in Therav'da Buddhism', Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 27/1 (2011): 33-51.
Appleton, Naomi. Narrating Karma and Rebirth: Buddhist and Jain Multi-life Stories. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Appleton, Naomi and Sarah Shaw (trans.) The Ten Great Birth Stories of the Buddha. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Press, 2015.
Appleton, Naomi. 'The Buddha as Storyteller: The Dialogical Setting of Jataka Stories'. In Dialogue in Early South Asian Religions: Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain Traditions, edited by Laurie Patton and Brian Black, 99-112. Farnham: Ashgate, 2015.
Collins, Steven. Nirvana: Concept, Imagery, Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Collins, Steven (ed.) Readings of the Vessantara Jataka. Columbia University Press 2016.
Cone, Margaret, and Gombrich, Richard F. 1977. The Perfect Generosity of Prince Vessantara. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Cowell, E. B. (ed. - several translators) The Jataka, or Stories of the Buddha's Former Births. 6 vols. Cambridge University Press, 1895-1907.
Derris, Karen. 'When the Buddha was a Woman: Reimagining Tradition in the Therav'da', Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 24/2 (2008): 29-44.
Gombrich, Richard. F. 'The Significance of Former Buddhas in the Therav'din Tradition'. In Buddhist Studies in Honour of Walpola Rahula, edited by S. Balasooriya, A. Bareau, R. Gombrich, S. Gunasingha, U. Mallawarachchi and E. Perry, 62-72. London: Gordon Fraser, 1980.
Horner, I. B. (trans.) The Minor Anthologies of the Pali Canon, Part III: Chronicle of Buddhas (Buddhava'sa) and Basket of Conduct (Cariy'pi'aka). Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1975.
Jaini, Padmanabh S. 'Indian Perspectives on the Spirituality of Animals'. In Collected Papers on Jaina Studies, by Padmanabh S. Jaini, 253-66. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2000.
Jaini, Padmanabh S. 'Pad'pad'naj'taka: Gautama's Last Female Incarnation'. In Collected Papers on Buddhist Studies, by Padmanabh S. Jaini, 367-74. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2001.
Jayawickrama, N. A. (trans.) The Story of Gotama Buddha. Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1990.
Jones, J. J. (trans.) The Mah'vastu. 3 vols. London: Luzac & co, 1949-56.
Khoroche, Peter (trans.) 1989. Once the Buddha was a Monkey: 'rya ''ra's J'takam'l'. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.
Lopez Jr., Donald S. 'Memories of the Buddha'. In In the Mirror of Memory: Reflections on Mindfulness and Remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, edited by Janet Gyatso, 21-45. Albany NY: State University of New York Press, 1992.
McDermott, James P. 'S'dh'na Jataka: A Case Against the Transfer of Merit'. Journal of the American Oriental Society, 94/3 (1974): 385-7.
McDermott, James P. 'Is there Group Karma in Therav'da Buddhism?' Numen 23/1 (1976): 67-80.
McDermott, James P. 'Animals and Humans in Early Buddhism'. Indo-Iranian Journal 32 (1989): 269-80.
Mellick Cutler, Sally. 'Still Suffering After All These Aeons: The Continuing Effects of the Buddha's Bad Karma'. In Indian Insights: Buddhism, Brahminism and Bhakti, edited by Peter Connolly and Sue Hamilton, 63-82. London: Luzac Oriental, 1997.
Ohnuma, Reiko. 'The Story of R'p'vat': A Female Past Birth of the Buddha', Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 23/1 (2000): 103-45.
Ohnuma, Reiko. Head, Eyes, Flesh, and Blood: Giving Away the Body in Indian Buddhist Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.
Ohnuma, Reiko. Unfortunate Destiny: Animals in the Indian Buddhist Imagination. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Reynolds, Frank E. 'The Many Lives of Buddha: A Study of Sacred Biography and Therav'da Tradition'. In The Biographical Process: Studies in the History and Psychology of Religion, edited by Frank E. Reynolds & Donald Capps, 37-61. The Hague: Mouton & Co, 1976.
Reynolds, Frank E. 'Rebirth Traditions and the Lineages of Gotama: A Study in Therav'da Buddhology'. In Sacred Biography in the Buddhist Traditions of South and Southeast Asia, edited by Juliane Schober, 19-39. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997.
Samuels, Jeffrey. 'The Bodhisattva Ideal in Therav'da Buddhist Theory and Practice: A Reevaluation of the Bodhisattva-'r'vaka Opposition'. Philosophy East and West 47/3 (1997): 399-415.
Shaw, Sarah (trans.) The Jatakas: Birth Stories of the Bodhisatta. New Delhi: Penguin, 2006.
Shaw, Sarah. 'And that was I: How the Buddha Himself Creates a Path between Biography and Autobiography'. In Lives Lived, Lives Imagined: Biography in the Buddhist Traditions edited by Linda Covill et al., 15-47. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2010.
Sheravanichkul, Arthid. 'Self-Sacrifice of the Bodhisatta in the Paññ'sa Jstaka'. Religion Compass 2/5 (2008): 769-87.
Simpson, B. 'Impossible Gifts: bodies, Buddhism and bioethics in contemporary Sri Lanka'. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 10/4 (2004): 839-59.
Skilling, Peter. 'Jataka and Paññ'sa-jataka in South-East Asia'. The Journal of the Pali Text Society 28 (2006): 113-73.
Strong, John S. 1997. 'A Family Quest: The Buddha, Ya'odhar', and R'hula in the M'lasarv'stiv'da Vinaya'. In Sacred Biography in the Buddhist Traditions of South and Southeast Asia, edited by Juliane Schober, 113-28. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997.
Strong, John S. The Buddha: A Short Biography. Oxford: Oneworld, 2006.
Strong, John S. 'The Buddha as Ender and Transformer of Lineages'. Religions of South Asia 5/1-2 (2011): 171-88.
Walters, Jonathan S. 'The Buddha's Bad Karma'. Numen 37/1 (1990): 70-95.
Walters, Jonathan S. 'St'pa, Story, and Empire: Constructions of the Buddha Biography in Early Post-A'okan India'. In Sacred Biography in the Buddhist Traditions of South and Southeast Asia, edited by Juliane Schober, 160-92. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997.
Walters, Jonathan S. 'Communal Karma and Karmic Community in Therav'da Buddhist History'. In Constituting Communities: Therav'da Buddhism and the Religious Cultures of South and Southeast Asia, edited by John Clifford Holt et al, 9-39. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2003.
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
Explain the key features of the jataka genre and how these vary across a range of South Asian Buddhist texts and contexts.
Analyse and interpret individual jataka stories in the context of both the wider genre and the broader landscape of early Buddhism.
Assess the role of jataka stories in exploring and presenting key Buddhist ideals, including morality, karma, and the nature of Buddhahood.
Evaluate key issues in South Asian Buddhism through reference to relevant primary and secondary sources.