Seeking Perfection on the Path to Buddhahood: Jātaka Stories and Buddhist Ethics
Jātaka stories, or stories of the past lives of the Buddha, have long been associated with a list of qualities known as the “perfections” that are pursued by the Buddha-to-be over countless lifetimes as he readies himself for the attainment of buddhahood. In Theravāda Buddhism these traditionally number ten, and each is mapped onto one of the final ten stories of the great Pāli jātaka book. These ten stories, the longest and most complex of the 550 in the collection, are believed to represent the final ten lifetimes of the Buddha-to-be before his buddhahood, and thus are understood to represent the peak of his perfection. These particular stories are therefore often selected for illustration in temples and manuscripts, as demonstrated in this exhibition. This talk will explore how these tales celebrate the incomparable perfection of the Buddha while sometimes pushing audiences to the limits of Buddhist ethics.
Free, no booking required.
Dr Naomi Appleton Senior Lecturer in Asian Religions at the University of Edinburgh
Dr Naomi Appleton is Senior Lecturer in Asian Religions at the University of Edinburgh. Her primary research interest is the role of stories in the construction, communication and challenge of religious ideas in South and Southeast Asia, and she has published a range of monographs, articles and translations relating to this area. A major strand of her work has been exploring jātaka stories, or stories of the past lives of the Buddha, and their role in the history of Buddhist ideas about karma and rebirth, the path to buddhahood, and Buddhist values and ethics. Publications relevant to this exhibition include her exploration of Jātaka Stories in Theravāda Buddhism (Ashgate 2010), a translation, with Sarah Shaw, of The Ten Great Birth Stories of the Bodhisatta (Silkworm Press, 2015), and, with Sarah Shaw and Toshiya Unebe, lluminating the Life of the Buddha: An illustrated chanting book from eighteenth-century Siam (Bodleian Libraries, 2013), which showcases and explores a manuscript not dissimilar to some of those exhibited here.
The exhibition is supported by The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation