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German Jatakas

1993 Der Papagei und der Feigenbaum. Illustrationen von Michael Harman. Paperbound. Berkeley/Muenster: Reihe Jataka Geschichten: Dharma Publishing. $6.36 from the publisher, March, '05. Dh15G.

This is the German version of The Parrot and the Fig Tree, which appeared in 1990. Where other volumes used gold lines to outline the figures, Harman here uses black. As I wrote of the English version, quoting the LC blurb, "A parrot who dwells happily in a fruitful fig tree is tested for his loyalty to the tree by Shakra, king of the gods, who causes the tree to dry up." The parrot proves himself, and the tree is restored at his request. The art is simple and rich. Again, the Jataka tales are outspokenly altruistic. There is a double-page at the end for children to color.

2001 Goldstuecke: Eine Jataka Geschichte. Uebersetzerteam der Nyingma Gemeinschaft. Illustriert von Emily Jan. Paperbound. Berkeley, CA/Muenster, Germany: Reihe Jataka Geschichten: Dharma Press. $6.37 from the publisher, Dec., '04.  Dh22G. 

Here is the German version of Pieces of Gold, done by Dharma in the same year. Let me repeat my comments from there. This booklet presents yet another style for Dharma's Jataka Tales Series. The emphasis here lies on elements like dimensionality, fluidity, and contour. Two rich brothers are traveling. The younger substitutes a bag of gravel for his brother's sack of gold coins. The younger brother thinks then that he is throwing the bag of gravel overboard when he appears to stumble and drop it. It is really the bag of coins that goes overboard; the river goddess watches over it and has a big fish swallow it. When the younger brother at home discovers his mistake, he is disconsolate. The big fish is caught and up for sale; it goes to the older brother. His wife cuts it open and finds the sack, and he recognizes it as his. The river goddess hovers in his home and lets him know that this is a reward for the generosity he showed in feeding the fish of the Ganges. Against her advice, the older brother gives his younger brother half of the money; the latter, "filled with shame for his selfish and dishonest action," resolves to change his ways and to practice generosity from that time on. This is one of many booklets in the Jataka Tales Series that I purchased directly from the publisher. See also the French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish versions.

2002 Der Weise mit dem Spaten: Eine Jataka Geschichte. Vom Herausgeberteam von Dharma Publishing adaptiert. Illustriert von Sherri Nestorowich. Paperbound. Berkeley: Tales of the Buddha: Dharma Publishing. From the publisher, Dec., '04. Dh2G 

This is the German version of The Spade Sage (1976). Let me repeat my comments from there. In this story the Buddha has been born as a gardener called the Spade Sage. He has only his one spade, and he sells vegetables for a living. Unhappy, he goes into the forest to become a hermit. Once there, he thinks only about his dear old garden. He returns, but is still not happy. The rhythm goes on as he leaves his garden and returns to it seven times. Finally, to make a clean break, he throws his spade into the river. This is the freeing gesture, and he can rejoice, because he has overcome his desire. "I have conquered," he shouts. A great king who has just conquered in battle comes riding by on an elephant and hears this statement. Asked by the foreign king, the gardener explains that he exults to have conquered his desire. He rises into the air and calls people to follow him and learn, especially how to conquer their desires. The Buddha then explains that he was the sage. See also the French, Portuguese, and Spanish versions.

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