Vessantara Jātaka

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A story in the Jātaka collection extolling the virtue of generosity (dāna). The story is one of the most widely known in the Buddhist world and tells of the great generosity of Prince Vessantara. The prince, son and heir of King Sañjaya, lives in the capital city with his wife Maddī and their small children. His generosity is unrivalled, but when he gives away the magic elephant which ensures adequate rainfall to his country his citizens become enraged, and force Sañjaya to banish him. His wife chooses to share his exile with the children. After giving away all his possessions, Vessantara and his family make a long journey through mountains and forests until they reach a valley, where they settle down. While his wife is away, Vessantara gives his children to a brahmin who wants them as slaves and it is only through the intervention of the king of the gods that Vessantara is prevented from giving her away as well. Finding his grandchildren working as servants, Sañjaya ransoms them and full of remorse he invites Vessantara and Maddī to return. Once the family is reunited, Vessantara becomes king and all live happily ever after.

Subjects: Buddhism.

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