Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Shakyamuni Buddha - Jataka (previous lives)

ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ། 释迦牟尼佛
(item no. 50194)
Origin Location Mongolia
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Buddha

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Shakyamuni Buddha, Previous Life Stories (Sanskrit: jataka. Tibetan: kye rab): from the famous Indian text presenting 34 morality tales drawn from the previous life stories of the historical buddha, Shakyamuni.

#4 The Merchant

A Tale of Diligent Resolve.

Born into a noble family and possessing great fortune, the young bodhisattva grew to be a successful merchant. Eventually becoming the head of his guild, he acquired a large estate, earned deep respect from all who knew him, and even was honored by the king. Devoted to the precept of giving, he constantly shared his wealth with the less fortunate. It was impossible for him to witness any sort of suffering and refuse to offer aid.

One day, while the bodhisattva was sitting down to partake of a magnificent feast, a seemingly poor and hungry man appeared at the front gate of his home. Although appearing as a beggar, this old man was actually a Pratyekabuddha whose only motive to receive alms was to increase the merit of the bodhisattva.

Witnessing this, Mara, the Wicked One, became intent on dissuading the Bodhisttva from all charitable actions. He created a deep hell several fathoms wide separating the bodhisattva's front gate and the mendicant. As the bodhisattva stood pondering the meaning of such a phenomenon, Mara appeared before him disguised as a powerful god. Mara attempted to convince the bodhisattva that what he saw before him was the hell of those lured by the praise of beggars. A hell realm solely for those who indulge in the vicious passion of charity, and who give away their hard earned wealth. The Bodhisattva however, knowing that anybody saying such things must be evil, boldly stepped into the fire. Lotuses suddenly appeared at his feet as he passed through. Upon reaching the other side he gave the food to the old man who, to show satisfaction, revealed his true form as a Pratyekabuddha and magically flew up into the air. Mara, disheartened and vanquished, disappeared along with his hell.

Monty McKeever 2-2005

Key Events in the Story

1. A generous merchant.

2. Mara plays tricks.

3. The merchant is unperturbed.

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: Four.

Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: bzhi pa.

View other items in the Thematic Set: Collection of Zanabazar: Jataka Stories