Readings of the Vessantara Jataka

Paperback | March 29, 2016

EditorSteven Collins

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The Vessantara Jataka tells the story of Prince Vessantara, who attained the Perfection of Generosity by giving away his fortune, his children, and his wife. Vessantara was the penultimate rebirth as a human of the future Gotama Buddha, and his extreme charity has been represented and reinterpreted in texts, sermons, rituals, and art throughout South and Southeast Asia and beyond. This anthology features well-respected anthropologists, textual scholars in religious and Buddhist studies, and art historians, who engage in sophisticated readings of the text and its ethics of giving, understanding of attachment and nonattachment, depiction of the trickster, and unique performative qualities. They reveal the story to be as brilliantly layered as a Homeric epic or Shakespearean play, with aspects of tragedy, comedy, melodrama, and utopian fantasy intertwined to problematize and scrutinize Theravada Buddhism's cherished virtues.

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The Vessantara Jataka tells the story of Prince Vessantara, who attained the Perfection of Generosity by giving away his fortune, his children, and his wife. Vessantara was the penultimate rebirth as a human of the future Gotama Buddha, and his extreme charity has been represented and reinterpreted in texts, sermons, rituals, and art ...

Steven Collins is Chester D. Tripp Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago, where he teaches in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and in the Divinity School. His books include Selfless Persons: Imagery and Thought in Theravada Buddhism and Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities: Utopias of the P...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:232 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.68 inPublished:March 29, 2016Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231160399

ISBN - 13:9780231160391

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Table of Contents

PrefaceIntroduction, Dramatis Personae, and Chapters in the Vessantara Jataka, by Steven Collins1. Readers in the Maze: Modern Debates About the Vessantara Story in Thailand, by Louis Gabaude2. Emotions and Narrative: Excessive Giving and Ethical Ambivalence in the Lao Vessantara Jataka, by Patrice Ladwig3. Blissfully Buddhist and Betrothed: Marriage in the Vessantara Jataka and Other South and Southeast Asian Buddhist Narratives, by Justin McDaniel4. Jajaka as Trickster: The Comedic Monks of Northern Thailand, by Katherine Bowie5. Narration in the Vessantara Painted Scrolls of Northeast Thailand and Laos, by Leedom Lefferts and Sandra Cate6. A Man for All Seasons: Three Vessantaras in Premodern Myanmar, by Lilian Handlin7. Vessantara Opts Out: Newar Versions of the Tale of the Generous Prince, by Christoph EmmrichIndex

Editorial Reviews

The central figure in the Buddhism of Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, and even parts of Nepal is, as this book demonstrates, Prince Vessantara as much as it is the Buddha himself. This book is highly recommended not only for scholars interested in Buddhism as it is practiced but also for courses on Buddhism and society, religious studies, and anthropology and religion.