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Religious Studies
Joe Larose

Oct.29.2012 RELIGION TEST #2 – STUDY NOTES Corresponding reading: Nuns’ Tales: The Acceptance of Women into the Community & Online Sources Buddhist Narratives of Renunciation: Jātaka Tales -we’ll spend a few more minutes talking about the jātaka tales -at the end of last class, I asked the question whether the acts attributed to the bodhisattva (the Buddha to be) were meant to inspire imitation, or something different? -if not imitation, were they meant to inspire devotion? -let’s consider a few more phrases from the four stories -we’ve already read part of this phrase: -read p125, from The Tigress: “Already in his previous incarnations the Lord was wont to lavish disinterested affection on all beings, identifying himself with every living creature.” (And that is why one should have complete faith in the Lord Buddha.) -repeated at the end of the story -what would be a good way of summarizing the moral of this story? “the Buddha would do anything for you” or maybe, “a good person will do anything to help another in distress” -read p128, from Śibi: “Since the Lord suffered hundreds of hardships to acquire the good Teaching for us, we should listen to it with respect.” -again, repeated at the end of the story -how could you summarize this story in one sentence? “a king gives away everything and is rewarded” -read p131, from Śibi, in the words of the king: “What is more rewarding than generosity, born of modesty and compassion? See how once I parted with my mortal sight and have, already in this life, been rewarded with sight that is superhuman and divine. Take note of this, my people, and make your wealth bear fruit by giving it away and spending it. This is the way to fame and happiness, in this world and the next. Money is in itself a meaningless trifle; only when someone bent on being of use to the world gives it away does ot come into its own. Oct.29.2012 Giving money away is like laying up treasure-hoarding it spells ruin.” -read p132, from The Hare: “Even when born as animals the noble-hearted show a bent for generosity, as far as they are able. What excuse, then, can a human being have for not being generous?”-read p134, from The Hare: “See how he has just now unselfishly sacrificed his body out of kindness to a guest, while irresolute people cannot even throw away a faded garland without dithering over it.” -read p136, from Viśvaṃtara: “Viśvaṃtara could not bear that distress should hold proud sway over his people, and he engaged it, in all the fury of battle, with a shower of arrows in the form of gifts from his broad bow of compassion. Every day he delighted the gathering of petitioners by giving them more even than they asked for, stinting nothing and adding to their pleasure.” -can you give away too much? can you be too generous? -is Viśvaṃtara too generous? what does the text say? -this text, the Jātakamālā, is usually understood to have been composed in a court environment, in part for the purpose of procuring patronage -the stories have either been carefully picked from a larger collection, or composed to fit the work -there are many royal characters (king of the Śibis, prince Viśvaṃtara) whose generous natures are extolled -in this reading the text says something like this: “Look at how generous the bodhisattva was. You can at least give us something.” -in this reading, we would not say that the bodhisattva’s acts of extreme generosity are not meant to be directly emulated -they might be meant to inspire monetary or political generosity, but not the actual practice of giving up one’s life in order to be generous -but this does not mean that examples like we just read were not emulated, especially in China where a number of practices developed that were centred on what we might call
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