Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Shakyamuni Buddha - Jataka (previous lives)

ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ། 释迦牟尼佛
(item no. 50204)
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.

#14 Suparaga

Depending on the virtuous as friends

In one of his many lifetimes, the bodhisattva became a great ships captain. He had extensive knowledge of the constellations so he was never lost. He was known as Suparaga, meaning "Good Passage".

Even as an old man in retirement, a group of merchants still wanted him to captain their vessel. Out of compassion he agreed, and as they set off they rejoiced, trusting that their journey would be successful. Yet on the first night, after they had lost sight of the shore and began to travel into a deeper part of the ocean inhabited by strange sea creatures, they ran into a terrible storm. They were not able to control the ship in the fierce winds.

No matter how much they struggled, they were unable to maintain their course. They were blown through many seas. They passed through the Sea of the Hoof Garlands, the Milk Ocean, the Sea of Fire Garlands, the Sea of Grass, and eventually the Sea of Reeds at the end of the world. Suparaga had been warning them to turn back the whole time but no matter how much they tried, the wind was too strong.

After passing through the Sea of Reeds they heard a tremendous noise. It was like the sound of thunder. They looked ahead and saw the ocean falling into a seemingly infinite chasm, stretching to the horizon in both directions. They still could not turn the boat around. They were doomed. Suparaga looked sadly at the men as he explained that they had reached the end of the world known as the Mare's Mouth, the mouth of the lord of death, the place where no one returns. The merchants began to cry and wail, begging various gods for aid as they continued on towards the deep abyss. At that point, Suparaga told the men to harness their courage and then bowed down, proclaiming to the men as well as the sky and ocean gods that he had never harmed a single being. He then asked the gods, by the power of his virtue, to turn the ship around and not let them fall into the Mare's Mouth. So great was the power of his truth that the current and winds immediately changed direction. The sky began to clear.

The ship moved smoothly across the seas. The gods told the merchants to lower their nets at a certain location and when they pulled them back up they saw that they had been filled with treasure, silver, gold, sapphires, and beryl. They reached their destination safely.

Monty McKeever 9-2005

Key Events in the Story

1. Suparaga is a famous ship captain.

2. Ship gets blown off course into danger.

3. The Bodhisattva proclaims his virtue and they are saved.

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