The Divyāvadāna (Sanskrit: दिव्यावदान, "Divine narratives") is an anthology of Buddhist tales, many originating in the Mūlasarvāstivāda vinaya texts. It may be dated to 2nd century CE. The stories themselves are therefore quite ancient and may be among the first Buddhist texts ever committed to writing, but this particular collection of them is not attested prior to the eighteenth century. Typically, the stories involve the Buddha explaining to a group of disciples how a particular individual, through actions in a previous life, came to have a particular karmic result in the present. A predominant theme is the vast merit (puṇya) accrued from making offerings to enlightened beings or at stupas and other holy sites related to the Buddha.
The anthology contains 38 stories in all, including the well-known Aśokāvadāna, or Legend of King Aśoka, which was translated into English by John Strong (Princeton, 1983). The collection has been known since the dawn of Buddhist studies in the West, when it was excerpted in Eugène Burnouf's history of Indian Buddhism (1844). The first Western edition of the Sanskrit text was published in 1886 by Edward Byles Cowell and R.A. Neil. The Sanskrit text was again edited by P. L. Vaidya in 1959. Under the title “Heavenly Exploits", Joel Tatelman has provided in 2005 the Clay Sanskrit Library with one volume containing the original text and the English translation of the stories no. 1 (Koṭikarṇāvadāna), 2 (Pūrṇāvadāna), 30 (Sudhanakumārāvadana ) and 36 (Mākandikāvadāna).The first seventeen stories, including the story of the Buddha's famous miracles at Śrāvastī that are so commonly depicted in Buddhist art, have been translated by Andy Rotman and published in 2008 as the inaugural volume of Wisdom Publications' Classics of Indian Buddhism series. The remaining stories will be published in a subsequent volume.
The collection also contains the story of Buddha creating the famous depiction of the wheel of life, which illustrates the twelve links of dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda) and the cycle of saṃsāra, for King Rudrāyaṇa (a.k.a. Udrāyana).
List of Stories
This is the list of stories contained in the Divyāvadāna:
- Prātihārya-sūtra (The miracles at Śrāvastī)
- "Fables in the Vinaya-Pitaka of the Sarvastivadin School" by Jean Przyluski, in The Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol.V, No.1, 1929.03
- Neil, Robert Alexander; Cowell, Edward B.: The Divyâvadâna: a collection of early Buddhist legends, now first edited from the Nepalese Sanskrit mss. in Cambridge and Paris; Cambridge: University Press 1886.
- Vaidya, P. L. (1959). Divyāvadāna, Darbhanga: The Mithila Institute of Post-Graduate Studies and Research in Sanskrit Learning (romanized)
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