Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Shakyamuni Buddha - Jataka (previous lives)

ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ། 释迦牟尼佛
(item no. 50201)
Origin Location Mongolia
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Gelug
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.

#11 Shakra

A Tale of Bravery

After countless lifetimes of performing virtuous actions the Bodhisattva was born as Shakra, the Lord of Gods. As Shakra, the Bodhisattva displayed greater majesty than all of his predecessors. His greatness created tremendous jealousy among the Demi-gods, who were willing to face his legion of mighty world conquering war horses to challenge his rule. Gathering an enormous army, the Demi-gods marched towards Shakra's palace.

Shakra decided to take his army of gods and meet the Demi-gods in battle. A tremendous fight erupted, with both sides taking heavy losses.

Shakras army began to lose. The Demi-gods were advancing. Only Shakra and his charioteer, Metali, remained in their path. As they were preparing to make their last stand, they saw that directly in the path of the approaching Demi-gods was an eagle nest. Overcome with compassion for the eagles and the unborn eggs, Shakra told Metali to swoop down so they could save them. Metali resisted, for surely if they were to attempt to save the eagles they would make themselves vulnerable to an attack from above and would not survive. Shakra proclaimed that dying by the weapons of the Demi-gods was nobler than letting innocent terror-stricken creatures be killed.

As they flew down and rescued the birds and their eggs, the army of Demi-gods watched in amazement. They became confused and fearful. As Shakra's chariot turned towards them, in their confused state they did not know what to do and they broke their ranks. Seeing this, the army of gods returned to battle and before long, the Demi-gods were vanquished.

Monty McKeever 9-2005

Key Events in the Story

1. Bodhisattva born as Shakra, the great god.

2. There is a conflict with Demi-gods.

3. Heroic compassion wins out.

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