The Jātaka tales, or stories of the Buddha’s previous lives as a bodhisatta, are included in the Pāli Canon and have for centuries been a rich source of inspiration in Theravada Buddhism. In addition to these classical Jātaka, a number of other non-canonical Jātaka tales emerged in Southeast Asia and were widely circulated throughout the region. Collections of these tales are conventionally referred to as the Paññāsa Jātaka, or the “Fifty Jātaka”. Once considered minor and apocryphal, the Paññāsa Jātaka are now recognized as the lifeblood of the region’s literature and an important source of traditional culture.
and Pasuk Phongpaichit
have translated twenty-one of the best-known tales from the Thai collection of the Paññāsa Jātaka in their recently published book From the Fifty Jātaka: Selections from the Thai Paññāsa Jātaka
(Silkworm Books, 2019). In addition to the elegant and approachable translations, Baker and Phongpaichit have included an insightful introduction on the Paññāsa Jātaka and have also provided synopses of all sixty-one tales. Both an entertaining and informative book, “From the Fifty Jātaka” will be appreciated both by the layman as well as the scholar.
Please join us as we explore these fascinating tales and the origins of some risqué Thai tree names on today’s podcast.
Alex Carroll studies Buddhist Studies at the University of South Wales and is primarily interested in Theravāda and early Buddhism. He lives in Oslo, Norway and can be reached via his website here.