As the Buddha sat one day surrounded by an ever-growing crowd of disciples he told them to listen closely and this is what he said...

     "My children, I have not come now among you for the first time; I have come many times before. Sometimes as a child among the little children. Sometimes among the animals as one of their kind, loving them as I love you now. Sometimes in nature, among the flowers, I traced a way for you and you new it not.

     Thus your Buddha came once as a monkey amid the monkeys, as a deer amid the deer, and he was their chief and guide."

     The Buddha then commenced to tell his followers many incredible stories of his many lives as creatures other than man and they sat transfixed as he spoke to them.

     Thus begin the Jataka Tales, scriptural treasures of Buddhism. The Jatakas consist of over five hundred stories about the previous incarnations of the Buddha in both human animal form. The Jataka stories are told by the Buddha himself. At the end of each story he would often identify the role that he himself played, and sometimes the roles of others as well, particularly his disciples. The Jataka collections were transmitted orally for centuries, and when written down they took a form combined of verse, story, and moral commentary. The traditional belief is that they form part of the canon of Buddhist scriptures established in 483 B.C., at the council that his disciples held shortly after his death. The next few pages of this section of articles contain a few of Sharon's favorite Jataka tales.

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