About the Book
In India recollection of previous lives is a common feature in the histories of the saints and heroes of sacred tradition. The doctrine of transmigration, since the later Vedic period, has played such an important part in the history of the national character and religious ideas that even Buddhist literature has included the ages of the past as an authentic background to the founder's historical life as Gautama. Jataka stories or birth-legends were widely known in the third century BC. The Pali work, entitled The Jataka contains 537 Birth-stories of the Buddha's former births. Each story, narrated by the Buddha, opens with a preface relating the particular circumstance in the Buddha's life, revealing some events in the long series of his previous existences as a bodhisattva. At the end the Buddha identifies the different actors in the story in their present births. These stories magnify the glory of the Buddha and illustrate Buddhist doctrines and precepts by appropriate examples. The foremost interest of these legends lies in their relation to folklore giving a vivid picture of the social life and customs of ancient India.
About the Author
Edward Byles Cowell (1826-1903) educated at Ipswich, early attracted to Sir W. Jones' works: studied Persian, went to Magdalen Hall, Oxford, studied from 1853, under H.H. Wilson (q.v.), joined the Education Department and became Professor of History and Political Economy at the Presidency College, Calcutta, 1856, also Principal of the Sanskrit College in 1858, left India, 1864, was the first Professor of Sanskrit at Cambridge, 1867, Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, LLD of Edinburgh, DCL of Oxford. After he was elected Professor of the study of Oriental languages increased at Cambridge, he taught Sanskrit, Indian Philosophy, comparative philology, Persian, Pali, Zend, etc., his publications were Numerous.