Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Shakyamuni Buddha - Jataka (previous lives)

ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ། 释迦牟尼佛
(item no. 50208)
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.

#18 The Wealthy Prince

The Virtue of Detachment from Worldly Concerns

In this lifetime, the Bodhisattva was born into a family of great wealth. Renowned for virtue and good conduct and esteemed by the people, his scholarly interests led him top study all the branches of the usual sciences, but as he got older he began to study more esoteric arts. His studies eventually led him to think only of renunciation. After his parents died, he moved to a forest plateau near a small town to live the rest of his life as an ascetic.

As an ascetic, the Bodhisattva became known among all the villagers for his clear demeanor, modesty, and selflessness. Uninterested in any gain, he was a skillful teacher and was precise when explaining spiritual concepts to whomever asked. When people became aware that he once held a high rank, their admirations grew even more. Ultimately, his behavior was a perfect example of what is expected from a virtuous and homeless ascetic.

After a few years, a close friend of his late father heard of his new dwelling and went to visit. The old man expressed concern for the health and wellbeing of the Bodhisattva. The man stated that the Bodhisattva was ignoring the needs of his family as well as the importance of continuing his family line. The Bodhisattva did not succumb to the man's pleas for his return to civilization, stating that although it is possible for one living the life of a householder to live in accord with the Dharma, it is much more difficult. He explained that the householder's life is in conflict with tranquility and is bound by many concerns far removed from the Dharma. The Bodhisattva did not want to be engaged with the busyness and distraction of civilization. He thanked the old man for his concern but remained in the woods as an ascetic.

Monty McKeever 9-2005

Key Events in the Story

1. Wealthy prince becomes an ascetic

2. Family friend pleads for him to return to family

3. The bodhisattva refuses

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