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Jataka Mala or A Garland of Birth Stories

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Jataka Mala or A Garland of Birth Stories

Jataka Mala or A Garland of Birth Stories

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Item Code: NAC443
Author: Marie Mesaeus-Higgins
Publisher: Sri Satguru Publications
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 8170301602
Pages: 275 (Illustrated In B/W)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.8 Inch X 5.8 Inch
weight of the book: 570 gms
From the Jacket

This is a necklace of peals, and the string is the one life that runs as a golden thread through all; and the pearls are each one a life of the Exalted One, the Brother of man, the Bodhisatva. As he passes along our path of in volution and evolution. He is a symbol of man’s life, progressing of falling back again, gathering diverse experience until he needs no further births. And what is this unknown force thus symbolised? In the mineral It sleps and stirs not, in the plants it dreams and feebly moves, and in the animal. It wakes and gans the senses bone by one, till in the man is more than man. In these stories moral teachings are put in the mouth of an animal, to show that they too have a share in our animals. In this unity of life out fates are interlinked with all living beings. These stories are being trans late from The Sanskrit and hot from the Pali. The Plates to the stories are taken from BoroBudur Temple. The Notes are provided in the end.

Foreword

This is a necklace of pearls, and the string is the One Life that runs as a golden thread through all; and the pearls are each one life of the Exalted One, the Brother of man, the Bodhisatva. As He passes along our path of involution and evolution, He is a symbol of man’s life, progressing or falling back again, gathering divers experience until He needs no further births. And what is this unknown Force thus symbolism? In the mineral 1t sleeps and stirs not, in the plant It dreams and feebly moves, and in the animal It wakes and gains the senses one by one, till in the man the spark becomes a flame, and at last the Man is more than man. “Beings arise,” said the Buddha, “from previous happenings. Tanha, desire of existence, is the cause. Rise and fall is the natural law. But this round of birth and death may end. Cut off desire of life and be born no more!”

We are not left without a Teacher. There are always Masters in the world, some steps in advance of the common herd of men; and it must be so in the lower grades of life as well. Thus, the elephant is the sage of animals, the lion is the king of beasts of prey, the whale the mammoth of the sea, and the eagle rules the haunters of the sky. Embodied in turn as each of these, and then again as man, The Teacher of gods and men performs His work. So also tell the Puranas; they speak of the One Life as tortoise, as fish, as boar, as half-man, as warrior, as sage. And so tell these ancient tales, recalling times, as we learnt at our nurses’ knee, “when animals had power of speech, in the good old times, when Brahmadatta ruled at Benares, long ago.” Thus moral teachings are put in the mouth of an animal, to show that they too have a share in our evolution, and there are lessons that we men can learn from animals; wisdom from the elephant, devotion from the dog, caution from the tortoise, fickleness of mind from the monkey and how to avoid all that, and so through many tales. In this unity of life our fates are linked with theirs. We rise and lift them too; they too in the lapse of ages will be men like us. ‘When the poor shell can no longer hold the mighty power within, it bursts, and He is released and is an embodied thing no more.

The sacrifice of the Bodhisattva is that He willing{y limits Himself, and stays to turn the wheel of life that men may not be utterly disheartened by the task. And so when He had found and conquered He sang triumphantly:

Aneka jatisamsaram sandhavissam anibbisam
Gahakaram gavesanto, dukkha jati punappunam.
Gahakaraka dittho si, puna geham na kahasi,
Sabba te phasuka bhagga, gahakutam visamkhitam.

Thro’ many a round of birth and death I ran,
Nor found the builder that I sought. Life’s stream Is birth and death and birth, with sorrow filled.
Now, house builder, thou’rt see! No more shalt build!
Broken are all thy rafters, split thy beam!

Introduction

Wesak Day of the year 2455 of the Buddhist Era had dawned over tile Island of Ceylon. The Sinhalese Buddhists were rejoicing. They were preparing early in the morning to go to the Temples with their flower offerings to be laid at the feet of the Statues of the Lord Buddha, in memory of Him, who taught the Dhamma. The temples were adorned with flags and graceful arches of young cocoanut leave.

Women and men clad in white, thus marking their vow of taking Attha-Sila and carrying on their heads flat baskets, filled with sweet-smelling white and yellow flowers, walked in procession to the nearest temples. Here, small heaps of flowers, strewn before the statues, indicated that other devout Buddhists had already preceded them in their devotion to their religion and to the memory of their Lord.

The greatest crowds of Buddhists had gathered in the old holy city of Anuradhapura, where more than two thousand years ago, Buddhism had been introduced into Lanka by Mahinda, the son of the Indian Buddhist Emperor Asoka. Mahinda had preached the first sermon on Buddhism to the Sinhalese King Devanampiya-Tissa, who reigned at that time in Lanka. King Tissa had been so much impressed with what he heard that he dedicated his kingdom to Buddhism, taking the shafts of the golden State plough’ in his own hands he drew a circle with it round Anuradhapura. Mahinda had given his blessing and from that time Buddhism had begun to spread rapidly over the Island.

At the present day, Buddhists gather again from all parts of the Island and place flowers before the temple ruins of the old city of Anuradhapura.

On this special Fullmoon-Day of Wesak, 2455 A. B., thousands of devoted Buddhists had come to Anuradhapura and from early morning they made pilgrimages to the Isurumuniya-Temple the Ruanweli-Dagaba and the Holy Bodhi-Tree, the oldest historical tree in the world, still standing and preaching as it were to the young generation, of the glories of ancient Buddhist Lanka, All these white-clad people look so solemn and feel so happy and move around so quietly and so orderly. Surely they must still he full of devotion to their ancient faith!

Such are the sights seen on Wesak-Day all over Buddhist Ceylon. “And how are we to celebrate Wesak-Day, children?” said the white mother to her dark- eyed maidens, who had gathered round to give her the greetings of the Day.

“Oh, mother dear “said Leelawatti, “let us ‘first go to the Temple together and offer flowers and then please tell one of of the Buddha’s former births, which you promised you would tell us. We are only a few girls- here just now in the holidays and we ought to have some reward for staying here, instead of going home like the other girls.”

“Yes, little one” answered the mother. I too think that this day is the best day for making a beginning to tell the Buddha’s Birth-stories So after we return from the Temple, let Us sit down in the Bamboo-grove in our garden, near our little Shrine-Room and then we will commence our garland of Birth- stories.”

The sun was just sinking behind the coconut palms, flooding the garden with its red and golden hues, when the little group of Sinhalese girls gathered round their white mother in the Bamboo-grove eager to hear the story which she had promised to tell.

And the mother said: “Children, my stories, this time, are of a different kind from the former ones. They are not at all like the Stories from the History of Ceylon; they are tales of the former births of the Lord Buddha, when he was a Bodhisattva when he was still on the road to Perfection, to Buddhahood.

They are called ‘Jatakamala, or a Garland of Birth-stories,’ because, the original writer of these Stories said that: He would devoutly worship the ‘wonderful exploits which the 2Uunj performed in previous births, by a poem, the Verses of which would be like the lowers in a garland.’ My stories are front the Sanskrit, not front the Pali. And the old Scribe of these Jatakamala writes about them thus: They teach the way leading to Buddhahood. They are the landmarks of that Path. Even the hard-hearted may be softened by them. For the benefit of mankind these stories are written and they are in accordance with the course of facts as recorded by Scripture Tradition.’

The pictures to the stories are from a very famous Temple in Java, the Boro-Budhur Temple (9), which was re-discovered from under the earth and jungle, about sixty years ago, and on its terraces many Jataka-stories are illustrated by carvings on rock.

But, children, before I begin my Jatakamala, I would like you to understand fully, what is meant by a “ Buddha” and I will quote front Col. H. S. Olcott’s vel1-known Buddhist Catechism the following explanation of that word. ‘A Buddha is not a God, but. He is the wisest, noblest and most holy being. who has developed Himself in the course countless births far beyond all other beings.’

The One, who has resolved to become a Buddha-strives in each of His births to become better and wiser, till at last He becomes perfect, He becomes illuminated, He becomes a, Buddha ; for “ Buddha “ means the “ Perfect,” the “All Wise “ the “ Enlightened.”

Before He reaches this high state of perfection, He is called “Bodhisattva,” that means as I have just told you :- “ He, who is on the load to Perfection.” And so in all these stories, the future Buddha will be called Bodhisattva,” till He reaches Buddhahood in His last earthlife, as Prince Siddhartha, the son of King Suddhodana and Queen Mahamaya of Kapilavastu in India.”

The Jatakamala has been translated from the original Sanskrit by Professor J.S. Speyer, Dr. Phl., of Leyden, who published them in English in a Dutch Magazine, which was kindly lent me by another Dutch Professor of Batavia Java. Dr. Speyer has very kindly allowed me to use his translation in my own way and to make it popular, which I hope to accomplish. The matter for the last story of the Jatakamala is not from Prof. Speyer’s translation. I consulted Edwin Arnold’s “Light of Asia,” Dr. Paul Carus’ “Gospel of Buddha” and Dr. Pleyte’s German translation of the “Lalitavishtara,” so as to give, if possible, a more complete account of the life story of Prince Siddhartha, the last life on earth of the Bodhisattva.

The illustrations to the Jatakas are from Photographs of the carvings of the Boro-Budhur Temple in Java. The photos were kindly sent me by Major van Erp, who had been deputed by the Dutch Government to restore this Temple. He gave Inc permission to use them iii illustrating this little book.

Content

I – The Story of the Hare 1
II – The Story of the Wonderful Fish8
III – The Story of the Bird which could not be burnt11
IV – The Story of the Buffalo13
V – The Story of the Woodpecker17
VI – The Story of the Kuru-Deer22
VII – The Story of the Great Ape28
VIII – The Story of the Golden Swans35
IX – The Story of the Carabha Deer45
X – The Story of the Great Monkey49
XI – The Story of the While Elephant55
XII – The Story of the Head of a Guild61
XIII – The Story of the Hungry Tigress65
XIV – The Story of the Small Portion of Gruel71
XV – The Story of the Ajastya75
XVI – The Story of the Ummadayanti82
XVII – The Story of the Inhabitant of the Brahma-Loka88
XVIII – The Story of the Sacrifice93
XIX – The Story of the Sakra99
XX – The Story of the Brahman102
XXI – The Story of the Jar105
XXII – The Story of the Avishahya110
XXIII – The Story of the Cuddabodhi116
XXIV – The Story of the Sutasoma121
XXV – The Story of the Supparaka135
XXVI – The Story of the Maitribala145
XXVII – The Story of the King of the Cibis154
XXVIII – The Story of the Mahabodhi161
XXIX – The Story of the Kshantivadin171
XXX – The Story of the Vessantara178
Part II:
The Story of Prince Siddhartha: The Last Birth on Earth of the Bodhisattva 197
I – Maya’s Dream 198
II – The Birth of the Prince 201
III – Prince Siddhartha 206
IV – Prince Siddhartha’s Marriage 210
V – THE Renunciation 216
VI – The last Ride on Kanthaka 225
VII – The Pilgrim 228
VIII – Under the Bodhi-Tree 235
IX – Lord Buddha’s First Sermon 239
X – New Disciples 243
XI - Yasodhara 246
XII - Rahula 249
XIII – The Jetavana 251
XIV – The Buddha attains Pari Nirvana 252
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