Explore this second volume of translations, in vivid prose, from one of the most celebrated collections of ancient Buddhist stories.
Actions never come to naught, even after hundreds of millions of years. When the right conditions gather and the time is right, then they will have their effect on embodied beings.
Ancient Buddhist literature is filled with tales of past lives. The Buddha, surrounded by his followers, is asked how it came to be that a certain person has met a particular fate. With his omniscience, the Buddha looks into eons past and uncovers the events that led to the present outcome and foretells the future as well. With stories of wicked wives, patricidal princes, and shape-shifting serpents, Divine Stories offers a fascinating illustration of the law of karma—the truth that the power of good and bad deeds is never lost. These are some of the oldest Buddhist tales ever committed to writing, illuminating the culture of northern India in the early centuries of the common era and bringing to life the Buddhist values of generosity and faith.
Andy Rotman’s evocative translation combines accuracy with readability, with detailed editorial notes comparing readings in various Sanskrit, Pali, and Tibetan sources. Divine Stories is a major contribution to Indian and Buddhist studies.
Andy Rotman is a professor in the Religion Department and Buddhist Studies program at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. He received his PhD in South Asian languages and civilizations from the University of Chicago in 2003. His research concerns the ways in which narratives and images in South Asia function as a part of social history and material culture. He is the translator of the inaugural volume in Wisdom’s Classics of Indian Buddhism series, Divine Stories: Divyavadana Part 1, and of Divine Stories: Divyavadana Part 2.
“The Buddha was a skillful and inveterate storyteller who understood the enduring power of narrative to entertain, engage, and enlighten. In his beautiful translation, Andy Rotman ensures the transmission of these divine and very human stories to a new generation of readers.”
– Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being
“These stories are vivid reminders that Buddhism is much more than a collection of philosophical abstractions or a bare-bones meditative technique for altering our neurobiology. Here we see the Buddha’s teachings firmly anchored in their natural habitat, shaping lives by opening us up to the sorrows and joys of others. In pondering the depths of the human soul, they invite us to examine our assumptions about the hidden springs of desire and fear, what motivates us to think, speak, and act in the way we do.”
– C. W. Huntington Jr., author of Maya
“The Divyavadana interrupts our assumptions that Buddhist literature is technical and devoid of drama. The Divine Stories are full of the big questions—of choice and consequence, love and power, harrowing events, and unexpected turns. These Buddhist texts reveal storytelling and teaching at its narrative best, and in this second volume of the Divine Stories, Andy Rotman has translated them with unparalleled love and dedication.”
– Akincano M. Weber, guiding teacher, Atammaya Cologne
“Those who devoured volume one of Divine Stories will delight in this fresh batch of adventures and misadventures, each illustrating the twisting karmic bonds of a host of comic, tragic, evil, mundane, and divine characters throughout the three times. Pairing profundity with playfulness, Rotman’s precise translations of these historically important tales not only captivate, they also remind us of the power of stories to shape humans and the worlds they inhabit. An exhilarating storytelling tour de force!”
– Sara McClintock, Associate Professor of Religion, Emory University