The Vessantara Jātaka tells the story of a bodhisattva's final incarnation before being born as Siddhartha Gautama. The Buddha-to-be, Prince Vessantara, gives away everything he owns, dramatically displaying the virtue of perfect generosity. In Thailand, the story has regularly been recited in thirteen chapters. In the fifth, Jujaka is introduced; he is a Brahmin mendicant, who, hearing of Vessantara's generosity, is persuaded to ask for the prince's children. Jujaka succeeds in taking them and plays a major role in the following three chapters. Finally, in chapter 11 he returns the children unharmed, pocketing a large reward. He does not enjoy his wealth for long, dying when his stomach explodes from overeating.

In Of Beggars and Buddhas, by taking note of changes over time as well as regional variations, Katherine Bowie focuses on the role that Jujaka plays in the Vessantara recitation in Thailand. She leads us on a complex...

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