Explicating the Buddha’s Final Illness in the Context of his Other Ailments

the Making and Unmaking of some Jataka Tales


  • John S. Strong Bates College




Sūkaramaddava, Anavatapta, kammapiloti, negative karma, afflictions of the Buddha, jātakas


The Buddha’s final illness, brought on by his last meal prior to his death, was traditionally seen as one of a set of ailments suffered by him at various points during his lifetime. This paper looks at different Buddhist explications of the causes of these ailments and applies them to the episode of the Buddha’s final illness. In both instances, three explanatory strategies are detected: the first stresses the causative importance of the Buddha’s own negative karmic deeds in past lives; the second looks to the negative deeds and karma of others than the Buddha; the third offers non-karmic explanations. The first two engendered two rather different kinds of jataka stories; the last did not involve any jatakas but highlighted various kinds of ‘natural’ explanations.

Author Biography

  • John S. Strong, Bates College
    John Strong is Charles A. Dana Professor of Religious Studies at Bates College (USA)


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How to Cite

Strong, J. S. (2012). Explicating the Buddha’s Final Illness in the Context of his Other Ailments: the Making and Unmaking of some Jataka Tales. Buddhist Studies Review, 29(1), 17-33. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.v29i1.17