The Pansiyapanas Jathaka Potha is a great canon of sacred Buddhist literature which was translated in to Sinhala from Jathaka Atuwawa in Kurunegala period. This collection of some 550 anecdotes and fables depicts earlier incarnations of Siddhartha Gautama. Traditional birth and death dates of Gautama are 563-483 BC. The Jataka tales are dated between 300 BC and 400 AD
Before attaining Buddha-hood, the Bodhisatta, “the aspirant for Buddha-hood”, has to pass through many births assuming different bodily forms, sometimes that of different species. In all these Buddha Gotama practiced the Dhamma most sincerely; he overcame all difficulties, achieved victory over his adversary and finally attained the supreme status of the Fully-Enlightened One. The Vessantara-Jataka, is the last and longest birth story of the Bodhisatta before he was born Prince Siddhatha. In this life, he practiced Dana Parama, the perfection of generosity. Paramitas, perfections, the essential factors for attainment of the Buddha-hood, which he had been practicing for many lives, reach their fruition only in this Vessantara life.
The ten most popular Jatakas, in each of which the Bodhisatta is traditionally believed to practice each of the ten perfections. In the first birth of these Jatakas, Temiya-jataka, the Bodhisatta appears as a prince who avoids being called to the throne and pretends to be dumb. Second life, Janaka-jataka, he is the son of a monarch killed in a war against a younger brother, and is born in exile. In the third Jataka, Suvabba jataka, he is born of blind parents, leading an ascetic life. The fourth Jataka, Nemi-jataka, deals with his life as the teacher Nemirāja. The fifth Jataka, Mahosadha-jataka, concerns his birth as a wise counselor and judge. In the sixth Jataka, Bhuridatta-jataka, he is a Nāga king who comes on earth to practice Sīla, precepts. In the seventh Jataka, Chandakumāra-jataka, he is born as prince Chandakumāra, the son of a great king. In the eighth birth, Nemi-jataka, the Bodhisatta is a king who gives away all he had in alms and then, leaving the throne, goes to the forest where he lived as a hermit. In the ninth birth, Vidhura-jataka, the Bodhisatta is born as Vidhūrapandita. He is popular and wise and acts as a teacher and adviser to the king. In the tenth Jataka, Vessantara-jataka, being born as Vessantara, he typifies man reaching the zenith of his evolutional march towards moral and intellectual perfection and fits to cross the last gap that separates him from Buddha-hood. This last birth before he was reborn in Tusita is called Great Birth (Pannyawamsa, Ven. Sengpan, 2007, The Tham Vessantara-jataka, PhD Dissertation, Published online).
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