Tales of rebirth

Doctrines and rituals

Tales of rebirth (Pa. jataka, ‘belonging to birth’) refer to stories about the previous lives of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. In these earlier forms of existence, he appears as an animal, a man, an ascetic, a prince, a woman, and a god. In most of the tales, which often revolve around an entertaining and humorous plot, he brings one or the other virtue to perfection. The largest and best-known collection of these tales, numbering a total of 547 stories, is included in the Pali canon and are known as Jataka Tales. The Jataka Tales feature in all traditions of Buddhism and have even been adapted into pictures and stage plays.