A Treasury of Wise Action: Jataka Tales of Compassion and Wisdom
Dharma had already published many Jatakas stories individually in large format for younger children. Here they turn to an anthology of Jataka tales suitable particularly for older children between the ages of 9 and 12. As the Introduction says, Story after story encourages us to listen to our hearts, to deeply admire acts of wisdom, and to act, like the heroes of these stories, with love, compassion, and joy (viii). There are twenty-two stories here in all. As is clear in the first story, King Banyan Deer, admiration for selfless action is very strong here (3). The king stag, whose life had already been assured by the king, offers himself in the place of a pregnant doe. When the king has spared his life, the deer king bargains with the human king first for his herd, then for other deer, and finally for all living things. These stories are touching. A king besieged by seven kings and their armies asks his best knight to go out on his own horse. The knight captures six kings from their camps, one by one, but the horse is wounded in the sixth attack. The horse generously volunteers for the seventh attack, which only he can make succeed. After its success, he pleads for the lives of the captured kings and dies (19). The familiar story of The Crocodile and the Gorilla (45) has the gorilla return to the tree to get his heart for the crocodile. At the story's end here, the wise gorilla convinces the crocodile not to envy others but to be content with the strength within her own heart. The stories do not include the usual conclusion identifying one or more of the characters with the Buddha. There is one full-page red-and-yellow line drawing per story by the same artist who had collaborated on the earlier large-format books, Rosalyn White. The illustrations are contemplative rather than realistic.