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Jataka talesThe Ja-taka Tales refer to a voluminous body of folklore-like literature concerning the previous births (ja-ti) of the Buddha. The word most specifically refers to a text division of the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism, included in the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Sutta Pitaka. Jataka also refers to the traditional commentary on this book.
The canonical book itself comprises 547 poems, arranged roughly by increasing number of verses. According to Professor von Hinüber, only the last 50 were intended to be intelligible by themselves, without commentary. The commentary gives stories in prose that it claims provide the context for the verses, and it is these stories that are of interest to folklorists. Alternative versions of some of the stories can be found in another book of the Pali Canon, the Cariyapitaka, and a number of individual stories can be found scattered around other books of the Canon.
Many of the stories found in the Jataka have been found in numerous other languages and media - many of them being translations from the Pali but others are instead derived from vernacular traditions prior to the Pali compositions. Sanskrit (see for example the Jatakamala) and Tibetan Jataka stories tend to maintain the Buddhist morality of their Pali equivalents, but re-tellings of the stories in Persian and other languages sometimes contain significant amendments to suit their respective cultures
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