Thursday, December 15, 2011

Indonesian Extras II

Here are pictures of two panels from Borobudur illustrating the famous Sasa Jataka (No.316). Four friends, a monkey, a jackal, an otter and rabbit (for reasons I cannot understand sasa is always translated as hare) vow that during the coming Uposatha they will be especially generous. Sakra, king of the gods, hears their resolution and to test them transforms himself into a wandering brahmin begging for alms. Each of the first three animals give him food but as the rabbit has nothing to offer other than grass, inedible to humans, he asks the Brahman to kindle a fire, then jumps into it, intending to provide the brahman with a roast dinner (note the fire in the second panel). Having passed the test Sakra makes the flames burn cool and the rabbit is saved. It’s a charming story but with slightly troubling implications. It is the only story in the Pali tradition of someone voluntary giving his life as an offering, as opposed to giving it to actually save the life or lives of others. Mahayana took this idea to its most illogical, not to say grotesque extreme, with stories of bodhisattvas giving their skin, limbs, blood and lives at the drop of a hat (or perhaps better, a turban), sometimes for the most trivial reasons and where some less dramatic alternative could easily have been thought of.

Here are a few more photos of Borobudur panels and of less commonly visited temples around Yogjakarta.


Blogger said...

Dear Venerable,

Great pictures.
I remember reading somewhere that The Bhagava said we should help others but not at the cost of our own well-being,is it true?
Is the being in the second photo from the last a Mahayana Bodhisattva?


Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Blogger,
The statue you ask about is of Manjusri. It is from Plaosan Candi. The saying of the Buddha you refer to is from Dhammapada. However your interpretation is not really what the Buddha meant. Sometimes others, often parents, try to make us do what they want or what is good for them, rather than what we want or what is good for us. At some point we have to go our own way, even if others don’t like it. This is the meaning of this verse. Concerning helping others, the Buddha said; “There are these four people in the world, those who help themselves but not others, those who help others but not themselves, those who help neither themselves or others, and those who help both and themselves and others. Of these four one who help themselves and others it the highest, the supreme, the topmost and the best” (Anguttara Nikaya II, 94)

3b3fabd4-c99e-11e1-86f9-000bcdca4d7a said...

Reading this makes me feel fascinated. Its the first time I heard about Sakra, the king of Gods.
Its truly amazing the someone can give his own life :). Very nice story.

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