Ken & Visakha Kawasaki [info icon]
Jātaka Tales of the Buddha, retold by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki

The Jātaka, one of the books in the Khuddaka Nikaya, contains 550 stories the Buddha told of his previous lifetimes as an aspiring Bodhisatta. The Jātaka stories are classic Buddhist morality tales, often witty, and filled with a host of colorful characters: clever monkeys, wise elephants, brave princes, wicked ogres, and the occasional benign tree spirit. Although they have sometimes been compared to the West's Grimms' fairy tales, they are not simply amusing diversions from "serious" Dhamma literature. Unlike Grimms', whose moral lessons are often ambiguous and occasionally even downright sinister, the Jātaka tales are replete with important lessons woven from the unmistakable threads of heightened virtue and liberating wisdom, twin hallmarks of the Buddha's legacy of transcendent freedom.

In this series the authors have breathed new life into Cowell's classic compilation[1] of 19th c. translations of the Jātaka by adapting them into lively English for a contemporary audience. The clarity of the retellings, coupled with the authors' selection of the stories themselves, makes this series a valuable introduction to this important body of Theravada canonical literature. These retellings will appeal not only to experienced students of Buddhism, but also to parents looking for engaging stories of upright morality to share with an inquisitive young child.

Jātaka Tales of the Buddha: Part I, retold by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki (1995; 11pp./32KB)
Four Jātaka Tales: Apannaka Jātaka (Crossing the Wilderness; Jat 1), Serivavanija Jātaka (The Traders of Seriva; Jat 3), Matakabhatta Jātaka (The Goat that Laughed and Wept; Jat 18), and Kuhaka Jātaka (The Straw Worth More Than Gold; Jat 89).
Jātaka Tales of the Buddha: Part II, retold by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki (1998; 12pp./35KB)
Three Jātaka tales: Illisa Jātaka (The Miserly Treasurer; Jat 78), Kalakanni Jātaka (What's in a name?; Jat 83), and Mahasara Jātaka (The Queen's Necklace; Jat 92).
Jātaka Tales of the Buddha: Part III, retold by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki (1998; 11pp./34KB)
Four Jātaka tales: Kumbha Jātaka (The Fifth Precept; Jat 512), Silanisamsa Jātaka (A Good Friend; Jat 190), Duddubha Jātaka (The Sound the Hare Heard; Jat 322), and Mahakapi Jātaka (The Great Monkey King; Jat 407).
Jātaka Tales of the Buddha: Part IV, retold by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki (2005; 13pp./40KB) [PDF icon]
Three Jātaka tales: Mahasupina Jātaka (The Sixteen Dreams; Jat 77), Manicora Jātaka (The Virtuous Wife; Jat 194), and Dabbhapuppha Jātaka (The Jackal's Judgment; Jat 400).
Jātaka Tales of the Buddha: Part V, retold by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki (2005; 10pp./30KB) [PDF icon]
Four Jātaka tales: Nalapana Jātaka (The Case of the Hollow Canes; Jat 20), Vattaka Jātaka (The Baby Quail; Jat 35), Pañcavudha Jātaka (Prince Five-weapons; Jat 55), and Alinacitta Jātaka (The Elephant Who Saved a Kingdom; Jat 156).


The Jātaka, or Stories of the Buddha's Former Births (Translated from the Pali by Various Hands), six volumes, E.B. Cowell ed. (Delhi: Motilala Banarsidass, 2001). First published in 1895 by Cambridge University Press.