Gift from Doris Duke’s Southeast Asian Art Collection
For a:Vessantara’s first great act of generosity involves the giving away of the magical white ele(…)
For a:Vessantara’s first great act of generosity involves the giving away of the magical white elephant that brings rain to the kingdom. Concerned that the loss of the white elephant will bring drought and despair, the people pressure King Sanjaya to banish his son Vessantara. Before and during his exile, Vessantara continues to give away his possessions, including his children, to anyone who asks for them. Finally, the eight Brahmins who had requested the white elephant return it to King Sanjaya. Then the king, mounted on the white elephant and accompanied by his army, set out into the Himavanti forest to find Prince Vessantara and his wife and welcome them back to the kingdom, where they are reunited with their children. For b:The most popular of the jataka tales in Thailand is that of the Buddha’s former life as Prince Vessantara, whose selfless giving first leads to a series of hardships, including being banished into exile along with his wife and children, then to the giving of his children to the evil Jujaka, who then ransoms them back to the king. Despite these tests Vessantara’s generosity never wavers and he eventually returns in triumph to his father’s kingdom and to reunion with his children. In the prelude to Vessantara’s story, Indra, king of the gods, asks a celestial woman to be born on earth and to give birth to a bodhisattva. In return, she receives ten blessings from Indra, including having great beauty, becoming a revered queen, and giving birth to a glorious and noble son, Vessantara.