Jataka Stories and Paccekabuddhas in Early Buddhism


  • Naomi Appleton University of Edinburgh




Apadāna, Bodhisatta, Buddha, jātaka, paccekabuddha, Sutta-nipāta


This article explores the role of paccekabuddhas in stories of the Buddha’s past lives (jataka tales) in early Buddhist narrative collections in Pali and Sanskrit. In early Buddhism paccekabuddhas are liminal figures in two senses: they appear between Buddhist dispensations, and they are included as a category of awakening between sammasambuddha and arahat. Because of their appearance in times of no Buddhism, paccekabuddhas feature regularly in jataka literature, as exemplary renouncers, teachers, or recipients of gifts. This article asks what the liminal status of paccekabuddhas means for their interactions with the Buddha and his past lives as Bodhisatta.


Author Biography

Naomi Appleton, University of Edinburgh

Naomi Appleton is Senior Lecturer in Asian Religions at the University of Edinburgh. Trained in Buddhist Studies, her interests now span Buddhist, Jain and early Hindu narrative traditions. She has published extensively on Buddhist and early Indian narrative, including: Jātaka Stories in Theravāda Buddhism (Ashgate 2010), Narrating Karma and Rebirth (CUP 2014) and Shared Characters in Jain, Buddhist and Hindu Narrative (Routledge 2017). She was lucky enough to have Pāli reading classes with Lance Cousins during her time as a doctoral student in Oxford, and continued visiting him for reading groups after moving on in her career.


Primary Sources

Apadana: references to volume and page of Lilley:

Lilley, Mary E. ed. 1925–1927. The Apadana of the Khuddaka Nikaya. 2 vols. London: The Pali Text Society.

Avadanasataka: references to story number:

Speyer, J. S. ed. 1958. Avadanaçataka: A century of edifying tales belonging to the Hinayana. The Hague: Mouton.

Jatakamala of Aryasura: references to story number:

Khoroche, Peter, trans. 1989. When the Buddha Was a Monkey: Arya Sura’s Jatakamala. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Speyer, J. S. ed. 1895. The Jatakamala: Garland of Birth-Stories of Arya-Sura. Sacred Books of the Buddhists vol. 1. London: Henry Frowde.

Jatakatthavannana: references to story number:

Appleton, Naomi and Sarah Shaw, trans. 2015. The Ten Great Birth Stories of the Buddha: The Mahanipata of the Jatakatthavannana. 2 vols. Chiang Mai: Silkworm.

Cowell, E. B. ed. (several translators). 1895–1907. The Jataka, or Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births. 6 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fausbøll, V. ed. 1877–1896. The Jataka Together with its Commentary being Tales of the Anterior Births of Gotama Buddha. 6 vols. London: Trübner.

Mahabharata: references to book, chapter and verse of Critical Edition:

Sukthankar, Vishnu Sitaram, Sripad Krishna Belvalkar, Parashuram Laksman Vaidya et al., eds. 1933–1966. The Mahabharata for the First Time Critically Edited. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.

Mahavastu: references to volume and page of Senart:

Jones, J. J. trans. 1949–1956. The Mahavastu. 3 vols. London: Luzac.

Senart, Émile, ed. 1882–1897. Mahavastu. 3 vols. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale.

Paramattha-jotika: references to volume and page of Smith:

Smith, Helmer. ed. 1916–1918. Paramattha-jotika. 2 vols. London: The Pali Text Society.

Sutta-nipata: references to page of Andersen and Smith:

Andersen, Dines and Helmer Smith. eds. 1913. Sutta-Nipata. London: The Pali Text Society.

Uttarajjhaya: references to chapter and verse as in Charpentier:

Charpentier, Jarl. ed. 1922. Uttaradhyayanasutra. Uppsala: Appelbergs Boktryckeri Aktiebolag.

Jacobi, Hermann. trans. 1895. Jaina Sutras Part II. The Sacred Books of the East volume 45. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.

Secondary Sources

Appleton, Naomi. 2017. Shared Characters in Jain, Buddhist and Hindu Narrative: Gods, Heroes and Kings. Abingdon: Routledge.

———. 2019. ‘Dialogues with Solitary Buddhas’. In In Dialogue with Classical Indian Traditions: Encounter, Transformation, and Interpretation, edited by Brian Black and Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, 37–50. Abingdon: Routledge.

Fujita, Kotatsu trans. Leon Hurvitz. 1985. ‘One Vehicle or Three?’ Journal of Indian Philosophy 3(1–2): 79–166.

Gombrich, Richard F. 1979. Review of Kloppenborg 1974, in Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, 74(1): 78–80

Jones, Dhivan Thomas. 2014. ‘Like the Rhinoceros, or Like its Horn? The Problem of the Khaggavisana Revisited’. Buddhist Studies Review 31(2): 165–178. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.v31i2.165

Katz, Nathan. 1982. Buddhist Images of Human Perfection: The Arahant of the Sutta Pitaka Compared with the Bodhisattva and Mahasiddha. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Kloppenborg, Ria. 1974. The Paccekabuddha: A Buddhist Ascetic. Leiden: Brill.

Norman, K. R. 1983. ‘The Pratyeka-Buddha in Buddhism and Jainism’. In Buddhist Studies: Ancient and Modern, edited by Philip Denwood and Alexander Piatigorsky, 92–106. London: Curzon.

Poolsuwan, Samerchai. 2016. ‘Iconography and Symbolism of the Pacceka Buddhas in the Art of Pagan’. Artibus Asiae 76(1): 37–80.

Ray, Reginald A. 1994. Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Walters, Jonathan. 1990. ‘The Buddha’s Bad Karma: A Problem in the History of Theravada Buddhism’. Numen 37(1): 70–95.

Wiltshire, Martin G. 1990. Ascetic Figures Before and in Early Buddhism: The Emergence of Gautama as the Buddha. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110858563




How to Cite

Appleton, N. (2018). Jataka Stories and Paccekabuddhas in Early Buddhism. Buddhist Studies Review, 35(1-2), 279–292. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.36764