The tenth book of Khuddaka Nikāya of the
Sutta Pitaka containing tales of the former births of the Buddha. The Jātaka
also forms one of the nine angas or divisions of the Buddha's teachings, grouped
according to the subject matter (DA.i.15, 24).
The canonical book of the Jātakas (so far unpublished) contains only the
verses, but it is almost certain that from the first there must have been handed
down an oral commentary giving the stories in prose. This commentary later
developed into the Jātakatthakathā.
Some of the Jātakas have been included in a separate compilation, called the
Cariyā Pitaka. It is not possible to say
when the Jātakas in their present form came into existence nor how many of these
were among the original number. In the time of the
Culla Niddesa, there seem to have been five hundred Jātakas, because
reference is made to pañcajātakasatāni (p.80; five hundred was the number seen
by Fa Hsien in Ceylon (p.71)). Bas-reliefs of the third century have been found
illustrating a number of Jātaka stories, and they presuppose the existence of a
prose collection. Several Jātakas exist in the canonical books which are not
included in the Jātaka collection. For a discussion on the Jātakas in all their
aspects, see Rhys Davids Buddhist India, pp.189ff.
The Dīghabhānakas included the Jātaka
in the Abhidhamma Pitaka. (DA.i.15;
the Samantapāsādikā (i.251) contains a reference to a Jātakanikāya).
The Jātaka consists of twenty-two sections or nipātas.