Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Shakyamuni Buddha - Jataka (previous lives)

ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ། 释迦牟尼佛
(item no. 50222)
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.

#32 Prince of the Iron House

A Tale of Renunciation

There was once a king of who wanted an heir, but every time he conceived a male son, the child would die at a young age. The deaths were attributed to malicious demons. He resolved to build a house entirely of iron in which to raise a prince, so that the prince would be protected from anything that would harm him. A child was born, this prince was the Bodhisattva, and although isolated, he excelled in learning and cultivated virtue.

The Bodhisattva spent his entire youth in the iron house until one spring when he ventured out into the city to attend the yearly flower festival. Although the festivities were beautiful and full of joyous people, the prince, due to his knowledge that everyone suffers and dies, became quite sad. Because of his knowledge that being attached to worldly life only brings suffering, he decided that he must become an ascetic.

When he told his father he was going to leave home to start a life of ascetic meditation in the forest, the king was stricken with grief. Yet after conversing about the nature of true virtue, the king accepted that his son was not leaving out of bitterness and that he truly believed he was acting for the benefit of all. This story shows how even wealth and royalty will not draw the virtuous away from the path of goodness once they have glimpsed the inherent suffering of existence.

Monty McKeever 9-2005

Key Events in the Story

1. A prince is raised in an iron house.

2. He witnesses the sufferings of others.

3. ... and enters a forest to become an ascetic.

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