Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Shakyamuni Buddha - Jataka (previous lives)

ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ། 释迦牟尼佛
(item no. 50221)
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.


#31 Sutasoma

A Tale of Salvation

The Bodhisattva was once born a prince in a royal family of Kauvaras. Known for his beauty, virtue, and learning, he was well liked and respected among the people of the kingdom.

One spring day, while the prince was in one of his family's pleasure gardens waiting to meet with a great poet, he was informed that the man-eater Kalshapada was on his way to eat him. Kalmashapada was said to have once been a prince himself, conceived by a king and a lion. It was said that Kalmashapada was a good prince up until he took one taste of human flesh. Upon his first taste of blood he became badly addicted, casting away virtue and his royal rank, condemned to a life of murder and cannibalism. When local townspeople were about to put the man-eater to death, he made a deal with demons that if they could free him, he would sacrifice one hundred princes to them. He was now on his way to take the Bodhisattva and add him to his collection of abducted royalty.

The Bodhisattva told his guards to let Kalmashapada enter. When the man-eater approached, the Bodhisattva did not flee. He confronted the cannibal and convinced him to let him meet with the great poet he had invited to the capitol first, and then he would return to be eaten. Kalmashapada was skeptical but let him go. The bodhisattva paid the poet well for his work and set off the return to Kalmashapada. When he returned, the man-eater was impressed that he kept his word and his esteem for the bodhisattva grew. The virtuous prince spoke of the beautiful verses he had just heard. Kalmashapada was intrigued and wanted the Bodhisattva to recite the poems for him, but he replied that a murderous cannibal would not be able to understand the beauty of such work. Kalmashapada was upset, but the prince continued to reason with him. His words touched Kalmashapada deeply, and he convinced him to stop eating flesh and work to regain his virtue. Kalmashapada agreed and set the princes he was holding captive free.

Monty McKeever 9-2005


Key Events in the Story

1. A cannibal kidnaps a prince.

2. The prince reasons with the cannibal.

3. The cannibal releases the prince.


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