« The Tale of Prince Vessantara », until 09 September 2018, Ashmolean Museum (University of Oxford)
The Buddha is believed to have had many lives before being born as Siddhartha Gautama. Stories of his past lives are known as jatakas (‘birth stories’). They play an important role in teaching Buddhist values.
The Vessantara Jataka is the last and most popular of the jataka tales. Here the Buddha was born as Prince Vessantara of the Sivi Kingdom, a very generous man who gave away everything, including his wife and children, to help others. His actions demonstrate the virtue of generosity, which in Buddhism is one of the ‘perfections’ required to achieve enlightenment.
The tale is often illustrated in Southeast Asian and Sri Lankan art. Buddhists can gain merit by making and commissioning these images. This display, drawn from the Ashmolean’s own collection, highlights a selection of Burmese and Sri Lankan drawings, paintings and woodcarvings of the story dating to the 19th century.
Curator : Dr Farouk Yahya
Voir : https://www.ashmolean.org/event/the-tale-of-prince-vessantara
Of Beggars and Buddhas : The Politics of Humor in the Vessantara Jataka in Thailand, University of Wisconsin Press, 2017,
An exploration of the subversive politics of humor in the most important story in Theravada Buddhism
The 547 Buddhist jatakas, or verse parables, recount the Buddha’s lives in previous incarnations. In his penultimate and most famous incarnation, he appears as the Prince Vessantara, perfecting the virtue of generosity by giving away all his possessions, his wife, and his children to the beggar Jujaka. Taking an anthropological approach to this two-thousand-year-old morality tale, Katherine A. Bowie highlights significant local variations in its interpretations and public performances across three regions of Thailand over 150 years.
The Vessantara Jataka has served both monastic and royal interests, encouraging parents to give their sons to religious orders and intimating that kings are future Buddhas. But, as Bowie shows, characterizations of the beggar Jujaka in various regions and eras have also brought ribald humor and sly antiroyalist themes to the story. Historically, these subversive performances appealed to popular audiences even as they worried the conservative Bangkok court. The monarchy sporadically sought to suppress the comedic recitations. As Thailand has changed from a feudal to a capitalist society, this famous story about giving away possessions is paradoxically being employed to promote tourism and wealth.
is a professor of anthropology and the director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of Rituals of National Loyalty: An Anthropology of the State and the Village Scout Movement in Thailand.
Voir : https://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/5446.htm