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Of Beggars and Buddhas: The Politics of Humor in the Vessantara Jataka in Thailand.


Of Beggars and Buddhas: The Politics of Humor in the Vessantara Jataka in Thailand

Katherine A. Bowie

University of Wisconsin Press


357 pages



New Perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies


The 547 Buddhist jatakas, verse parables, each recount a previous life of the Buddha and how he achieved a particular virtue, says Bowie, and the most popular of these is the Vessantara Jataka, about how, in his last incarnation before the historical Gautama, he learned about generosity. She says the original purpose of the story about how he ended up giving away his wife and children was to encourage people to give their sons to religious orders and think of kings as future Buddhas. But she shows how characterizations of the beggar Jujaki in various regions and eras have also brought ribald humor and sly anti-royalist themes to the story. ([umlaut] Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR)

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Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2017
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