Talk:Buddhist mythology

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Mara (demon) and Phra Mae Thorani should be included. The encounter between the two was THE pivotal moment making possible enlightenment of the Buddha, according to what's in this on-line study guide by Dr. Richard M. Cooler (Last updated: 11/02/09). "The Enlightened Buddha" (Illustrated study guide). The art and culture of Burma, Chapter III The Pagan period : Burma's classic age - 11th To 14th centuries, Part 4 §D Sculpture, ¶2a. SEAsite, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University. Retrieved 6:17 PM 1/20/2011. The purpose of this on-line study-guide and course-outline is to make text and visual materials on the arts of Burma readily and inexpensively available, in particular to students and teachers.  Check date values in: |access-date=, |date= (help)

Google Books references:

--Pawyilee (talk) 04:28, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

This article has nothing to do with mythology. It should be deleted and started again.[edit]

With due respect to the people who put the effort to make the page, this really has nothing to do with mythology. All it does is list some things that some Buddhists believe that are not accepted by science. That's not mythology.

A myth is a sacred story. The study of mythology is the study of sacred stories, their nature and role within the cultures that tell the stories. Any Wikipedia page on mythology should relate in a meaningful way to how mythology is treated elsewhere on Wikipedia, such as:

As for the page as it is now, the information on deities should be moved to the relevant page on Tibetan deities, the info on cosmology should be moved to cosmology. That's all there is, so it should be started again.

The article is rated as a stub and of little importance. This is appropriate for how the article is currently, but it is not how it should be. It has long been recognized that Buddhist mythology is among the world's great mythic corpuses. TW Rhy Davids said that the Jatakas are the oldest, largest, and best preserved collection of folk tales in the world. CF Rhys Davids said that the Jatakas collectively made up the greatest account of the ascent of man ever told. Campbell included the life of the Buddha prominently in his Hero with a Thousand Faces, which is not only the most influential book on mythology in the twentieth century, but one of the most influential books ever of any kind. And yet the Buddhist and scholarly community can collectively think of approximately nothing to say about Buddhist myth here on Wikipedia. It's embarrassing.

Here are some of the things that a proper article on Buddhist mythology should include. Buddhist mythology is chronically understudied and primitive, so finding decent sources for many of these things will be hard. But some of them are available. I'm sorry that I'm just complaining rather than contributing, but hopefully this is a start.

Survey of mythic corpus[edit]

  • The life of the Buddha in the early texts.
  • The life of the Buddha as expanded in later Indian texts, and as received by the traditions.
  • The extended life of the Buddha, i.e. the Jatakas and prohecies, in Pali and other traditions.
  • The creation myth of the Agganna Sutta and similar.
  • Myths in Mahayana texts.
  • Other


  • Renunciation and Awakening.
  • Psychological themes, defilements and purification.
  • Geography (Mountains, rivers ...)
  • Animals (Talking and otherwise, characters like the lion and the jackal ...)
  • Politics (the role of the Cakkavatti ...)
  • Gender (portrayal of masculinity and femininity, gender change across lives, intersex ...)
  • Adoption and inversion of Brahmanical myth. (Sakka in the Sagathavagga)
  • Relation of Buddhism to other religions (compare the classic Buddhist yakkha conversion tale, where the vicious deity is peacefully converted, with the typical Greek rape/abduction version of the same story.)
  • Survey of classic mythic themes (cf. the Christian mythology page), as found in Campbell, etc. giving Buddhist sources and where relevant special Buddhist takes on the themes (eg. Creation is not really creation)

Historical context[edit]

  • Sources of Buddhist myth (Brahmanical, folk, shared with Aesop)
  • Creative myth (What is new?)
  • Famous myths found in Buddhist versions (Ramayana, etc.)
  • Mythic vision of society (static society portrayed in Jatakas, Mahabharata, compare Western fantasy of imaginary medieval)
  • Storytellers: who were the gatekeepers of story? How did they influence what was told? What counternarratives are there?
  • Regional variations and developments, in India and elsewhere.
  • Myth as propaganda in establishing Buddhist schools and authenticating traditions (See my Sects & Sectarianism)

Forms of myth[edit]

  • Literary styles and development (Asvaghosa)
  • Art (Sanchi, etc)
  • Performance of myth: drama, song, etc.

Interpretations of Buddhist myth[edit]

  • In Buddhist traditions of the past
  • Contemporary emic (See 'White Bones Red Rot Black Snakes' by Sujato. That's me!)
  • Contemporary etic (Campbell, Calasso ...)
  • Relation between myth and history as seen in traditions (do Buddhists believe the stories?)
  • Denial of myth in Buddhist Modernism (which is why, I believe, this page is so poor. Modernist Buddhists essentially deny the fact that they have a mythology, and hence, don't understand it.)

Myth in Buddhist societies[edit]

  • Forms of mythmaking in Buddhist cultures (eg. telling of Vessantara in Thailand, relation to both dana and child abuse)
  • Enduring power of symbols (tooth relic)
  • Political and other cultural use of myth (eg. the Thai king regularly told Jatakas, which always contained some contemporary message.)
  • Revision of myth (modernist tendencies)
  • Sacred holidays, stories told on them and their role in culture.
  • Non-Buddhist myths and their place in Buddhist culture (eg. Ramayana in SE Asia, churning of milk-ocean sculpture in Suvannabhumi airport.)

Contemporary Buddhist myths[edit]

  • Hagiographies of Buddhist saints (Thai forest tradition, Empty Cloud, Tibetan tulkus). How these relate to the Buddha's life, etc.
  • Film (Little Buddha...)
  • TV ( Monkey! Recent Indian series on the life of the Buddha)
  • Comic books (
  • Narrative retellings (Old Path White Clouds)
  • Buddhist themes in contemporary myths (Star Wars, Matrix ...)
  • Incorporation of modern motifs in Buddhist myth (Neo in Thai temple ...)
  • Invented myth as modern propaganda (Dhammakaya as the primordial Adi-buddha)
  • Technological change and effect on myth
  • Use of Jatakas and life of the Buddha in Buddhist education, especially for children.

Sujato (talk) 00:47, 13 September 2015 (UTC)