In this second volume of the Garland of Past Lives, Aryashura applies his elegant literary skill toward composing fourteen further stories that depict the Buddha’s quest for enlightenment in his former lives. Here the perfection of forbearance becomes the dominant theme, as the future Buddha suffers mutilations from the wicked and sacrifices himself for those he seeks to save. Friendship, too, takes on central significance, with greed leading to treachery and enemies transformed into friends through the transformative effect of the future Buddha’s miraculous virtue. The setting for many such moral feats is the forest. Portrayed as home for the future Buddha in his lives as an animal or ascetic, the peaceful harmony of this idyllic realm is often violently interrupted by intrusions from human society. Only the future Buddha can resolve the ensuing conflict, influencing even kings, in the stories but also throughout Asian history, to express wonder and devotion at the startling demonstrations of virtue they encounter.
“If the theological concepts can be complicated, the language and the stories that illustrate them are simple and direct, full of dramatic incident and studded with metaphors that made the world of old India as palpable and romantic as the Baghdad of the Arabian Nights . . .”-Harper’s Magazine