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The Perfect Generosity of Prince Vessantara Essay

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Updated: Aug 20th, 2019

Jataka describes Prince Vassantara as one of the reincarnations of Buddha. It is possible to note that Prince’s all actions are driven by his desire to give away. This desire makes him give away his treasures, his kingdom and even his family. More so, he is ready to give away his self if it is necessary.

This is seen as the highest manifestation of virtue and Jataka describes last reincarnation of Buddha in this way to stress one of the major values of the religion. Admittedly, liberality is seen as one of the most important characteristics of a righteous man. Jataka tells the story of Prince Vassantara to give people the model to follow.

The desire to give away appeared in Prince Vassantara when he was in his mother’s womb making his mother crave “to have six almshouses built” and give a lot of gifts, “every day to give six hundred thousand gold coins” (Cone & Gombrich 8). Jataka stresses that it is a very virtuous desire as the king and all his advisors understand that the queen has the future deity in her womb. The king is ready to give lots of gifts as well.

The king’s advisors claim that the deity in the queen’s womb “will never be sated with giving” (Cone & Gombrich 8). This is a great blessing for the king who is happy to have such a righteous child. The Prince lives up to the advisors’ words from the very first years of his life.

The Prince tends to give away his possessions from his early years. For instance, when he is only four or five, he takes the ornaments from his rooms and gives them away to his nurses. Again, the king is fascinated with this and claims that the nurses should keep the gifts as those are “holy” gifts and what is given by the Prince “is given well” (Cone & Gombrich 10).

The child does the same nine times and makes his parents and the whole kingdom even happier (Cone & Gombrich 10). However, these gifts cannot be compared to what Prince Vassantara is ready to give away.

At the age of eight, the Prince understands that it is not enough to give away things which are “external” to him (Cone & Gombrich 10). He is surrounded by beautiful and valuable things which can be abandoned. Admittedly, the Prince understands that he does not need things and valuables to be happy and enlightened.

Thus, he does not consider those gifts to be enough. His idea of liberality goes beyond the world of material values. He claims, “I want to give something of my very self” (Cone & Gombrich 10). Jataka depicts Prince Vassantara as the most giving man who is ready to give literally everything.

The Prince becomes a symbol of liberality and, at the same time, the symbol of rightfulness. Describing the Prince’s determination, Jataka stresses that this is the way to live in the world as “Sakka, the king of the gods, snapped his fingers in approval” (Cone & Gombrich 10).

Jataka also describes the manifestation of the god’s approval as “the sky . rained down a sudden shower” (Cone & Gombrich 10). Notably, rain has always been seen as a symbol of the gods’ approval and gods’ blessing. Thus, the idea of complete selflessness is primary as the gods approve of such attitude towards life.

It is necessary to note that Jataka describes Prince Vassantara in the way he does to give people the model to follow. In other words, Jataka provides an example of a holy and righteous life. Clearly, Jataka addresses people and stresses that they should try to follow the example given.

Jataka teaches people to be selfless and focus on spiritual development rather than material values. Jataka states that the Prince manages to live a righteous way and to give everything away. For this, he is blessed and deities help him to reach his major goal in life and remain a righteous man.

The Prince gives everything away to people who are in need. This story should be regarded as a model and everyone is supposed to try to give something ‘external’ and even more when there are people in need. Jataka’s story teaches people to strive for spiritual development. Those who strive for enlightenment should follow the Prince’s example and to be ready to give away their own selves.

To sum up, Jataka tells a story of one of Buddha’s reincarnations. Prince Vassantara is led by his desire to give away everything he can (e.g. his treasures, his kingdom, his children, his wife and even more).

This desire is seen as one of the greatest virtues and all people as well as deities bless the prince. Jataka tells the story to give an example of a rightful life which all people should lead. Prince Vassantara is an example of a person who understands what liberality really means. Those who want to achieve enlightenment should try to be as righteous as the Prince.

Works Cited

Cone, Margaret and Richard F. Gombrich. The Perfect Generosity of Prince Vessantara. Oxford: Claredon Press, 1977. Print.

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