A new book on Buddhist Jātaka Stories
Posted on January 21st, 2017

Rolf B. Gainer, PhD Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.A

I read Doctor Ruwan Jayantunge’s latest book, Psychological Aspects of Buddhist Jātaka Stories, with great interest. As a person with a longstanding interest in Buddhism and as a psychologist I found that the Jakata tales address the dynamics of the human mind and a broad range of psychological themes which encompass mental states, feeling and emotions, motives, behaviors, thinking and actions. As Dr. Jayatunge helps the reader to understand, the Jakata tales were developed from the 3rd Century B.C. to the 5th Century A.D. to teach people about human nature and to assist with the development of insight. The Jakata tales were the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of their time and were designed to help people achieve moral and personal growth without the stigmatizing effect of diagnosis.

In modern psychological thought we recognize patterns of thinking and behavior which impair functioning, cause distress and produce disability. While these the patterns of distressed  human behavior are richly described in the Jakata Stories, through Doctor Jayatunge’s comparison with past and present psychological theories the reader is given an opportunity to examine human behavior through a different lens and to consider an alternative perspective on change through insight.

In our efforts to categorize human behavior, we may have lost some of the relationship of the person’s everyday behavior to their lives. The Jakata Stories are moral teaching tales which can be an important instrument of change for people. Dr. Jayatunge has done a masterful job of bringing these tales into a contemporary point of view.

 

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