Summarising Jātaka Stories

I have been thinking a lot recently about the art of summarising stories. There are four reasons this is on my mind:

– I finally reached number 100 on my mission to tweet all 547 stories of the Jātakatthavaṇṇanā. It is slow work as it is always bottom of the list, but I am gradually creating a searchable resource of really short summaries (which has its own page on this blog).

– I was asked, again, to try to identify an image that may or may not depict a jātaka story. This happens often enough to make me wish I had a proper searchable database (a long held ambition). In response to the last query I did get as far as scanning a typed paper summary of the first 454 stories of the Jātakatthavaṇṇanā that I made during my doctoral research but long ago lost the digital file for (oops). A kind colleague used his text-recognition software to transfer my scan into a searchable file again. (Thank you Alex you are a wonder!) Though I still couldn’t identify the story…

– I have been working on an article on how jātakas are conceived of in different Sanskrit texts, in the process of which I have created summaries of the jātakas in the Mahāvastu, as well as revisiting previous summaries of the Avadānaśataka and Jātakamālā…

– I was paid a visit by an intern working to increase awareness of the University’s “DataShare” service, which is a platform for storing and sharing research data.

Tying together these experiences I think I have decided it is time to get myself a DataShare account and start to tidy up some of the story summaries I have produced over the years, ready to share them with others. When it’s up and running I’ll make sure to link to it from this blog.

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About naomiappleton

I work in the Divinity School at the University of Edinburgh, where I research and teach subjects related to South and Southeast Asian religions.
This entry was posted in Academia, Buddhism, Buddhist texts, Jataka. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Summarising Jātaka Stories

  1. Jataka are basically the literature that describes the previous births of Lord Buddha.
    What is the reason of summarising these jataka stories.

    • Thanks for your question. I summarise the stories as a research tool. Trying to navigate the different versions, motifs, themes, characters, and so on is tricky given such a large volume of literature. Summaries of various kinds help me to see at a glance what types of jataka stories are contained in a given text. Hopefully these summaries may also help other scholars who do not have the time to read all these texts from end to end themselves.

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