Seeking Understanding, Insight, and Solace from Content of the Jātaka

Perhaps to understand what I write below, acknowledge I am speaking of the Jātaka, from the Khuddanikāya, and its subsection of the itthivagga. Thank-you.

I have been here before, merely with one post, and I am very sorry to return once more to sing the same song, with different wording. But tonight, I am more distraught than is healthy to be, and I still do-not-yet know where else to turn. It was last time I sought the words of those here, that i did receive words and perspectives that granted me some serenity, solace, and clarity that helped me dearly. I suppose I am hoping I will find this peaceful guidance once-more.

I am easily brought to my fearful, doubtful, discouraged,and beat-down mindset by reading but a single passage, a paragraph, a sentence, a line, that reinforces the ideals which have always consumed me and haunted me. It is not a good trait to foster, to nurture, but it is not a quick-process to get-over. Please be patient with me.

I am distraught over a particular passage, or rather, grouping of passages, I happened-upon tonight. I have been working diligently in my free-time to take-in and read, and reflect on, any passage which I feel calls to me. It was my first time treading the territory of what is written in the Jātaka, when I could not pry my desire away from reading what I knew would only bring distress.
These group of texts are of the Jātaka, in its ekanipāta, itthivagga. There is texts from Ja 61 through Ja 70 in this category, but I could only bring-myself to read “Asātamantajātaka”, Ja 61.

In a matter of minutes of reading, I have allowed what I have found and read to completely and entirely demolish my sense of solace I found within the path, to tear-down that trust I had finally re-established in the Buddha’s teachings. I do not say this to attack or portray the Buddha and his teachings in an ill light, for I know my distrust and fear is not placed in him, but in the facts that I potentially refuse to accept, or in the reality that things have been influenced by ancient culture’s to be different from their original message. Yet even knowing this, I feel deeply betrayed, scared, discouraged, and alone. I did not want to be reminded of these feelings while exploring the path that was for some-while showing me peace.

For some time, I was ignoring the words I knew were the product of societal influence seeping its way into the transcriptions and translations. But I cannot fool myself into believing an entire segment of stories was a misrepresentation or byproduct of cultural influence, I cannot bring myself to try and reflect deeply and see a different perspective on my own accord. I am afraid. I am afraid because I cannot grow within the Buddha’s teachings, in the path, when I am trapped within a cycle of self-torment and despair from passages like these.

I know, with the logical part of my brain, that I am once-more allowing myself to fall to the self-originating, destructive and predatory thoughts that eat-away at me incessantly. I know I am taking out-of-proportion words which were written in a text not found within the prime canon of the literature for Buddhists, allowing them to re-write and dictate-over the entire doctrine and teaching.

I suppose I am asking two things, for whomever will be patient-enough or feel it in their capability to soothe my frantic thoughts and show me the path taught by the Buddha was more than what I am currently interpreting.

How…important, valid, is what is written in the Jātaka, compared to other Buddhist canonical texts…?

What…exactly was this passage trying to communicate, that was so crucial to the teaching it was included amongst the texts…?

If I have offended anyone whilst communicating this, I am deeply, truly, sorry. It is not my intention to speak words of negativity or slandering, to twist and distort the path we follow. I only intend to seek perspective and wisdom, that tonight, I desperately need. Please do forgive me if I have spoken something wrong. Thank-you for your time.

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Vast majority if not all of Jataka is useless, most are ancient stories repurposed for Buddhism, almost certainly not Buddhavacana. They should be understood as overeager buddhist community to confiscate and repurpose old stories. Their messages and tone do not reflect the coherence of the bulk of suttas or vinayas. Some, indeed seem to have no real moral point at all.

I wouldn’t put much faith in them, or pay much attention.

Just the mention of Taxilla in the story you read should be enough to understand that this story cannot possibly be an authentic account from the time of the Buddha nor can the story be authentically Buddhist. Taxilla is located a thousand miles away from the Buddha’s hometown and came into prominence during the Mauryan empire which was established a few hundred years after the Buddha’s death.
Its like reading something that purports to be written by Shakespeare, but which mentions Harvard University within! Dead give away of its inauthentic nature!! :joy:

What the story is very unskillfully trying to demonstrate is the defiling nature of Lust, especially sexual desire, which can drive sentient beings to extreme actions if not properly understood and controlled. This is of course, not specific to any particular biological/ sexual orientation. However, since this particular story is written with a patriarchal mindset it sees “women” as the “enemy”. That is a byproduct of the historical time in which it was actually written - much the same as for any literature - see for example the portrayal of coloured people as ‘Golliwogs’ in the writing of Enid Blyton.

If you are interested in a a Sutta that illustrates the same point, look to AN5.55, but please read in conjunction with AN1.1 - 1.10.

In the jātaka that you reference, along with all the others that are deprecatory of women, you will find a pointer to the answer to your question in the very opening sentence. Every single one of these jātakas begins by stating that the teaching in question was given for the benefit of “a passion-tost brother”.

This archaic-sounding phrase (it first appears in the 17th century in Milton’s Paradise Lost) is a translation of ukkaṇṭhita bhikkhu. A more modern translation would be “[sexually-] frustrated monk”.

Taken contextually, we can see that the term refers to monks whose sexual desire has led to their becoming dissatisfied with the brahmacariyā and whose present intent is to give up the training and return to the household life.

Now in contrast with popular modern attitudes, in early Buddhist ascesis such a course was deemed a most lamentable one. The Dhammapada, for example, compares disrobing to an escaped prisoner running back into captivity. One sutta in the SN states that “death” for a bhikkhu means giving up the training, while another in the MN warns that disrobing is conducive to rebirth in the vinipāta. Unsurprisingly then, a quite substantial body of texts has been authored with the explicit aim of dissuading a dissatisfied and wobbling monk from taking such a step.

This is achieved by a variety of means, of which the two commonest are teachings aimed at evoking perception of the repulsive (asubha) and gyno-deprecation. The asubha approach is the one usually taken where the wobbling monk has already become besotted with some particular woman, as in the well-known case of Nanda. Upon being shown a group of celestial nymphs by the Buddha, Nanda comes to regard his human lover as repulsive and resolves to remain a monk.

As for the gyno-deprecation approach, this tends to be used when the wobbling monk doesn’t yet have any particular woman in mind but intends to look for one after he’s disrobed. In such a case, it’s likely that he will have in mind some pleasing fantasy about what his future wife or partner will be like. The function of gyno-deprecation is to reorient the monk’s thinking and get him to attend to aspects of womanhood that are presently very remote from his thoughts.

When taken in this way, the gyno-deprecatory jātakas may be viewed as a more specialized sub-genre within the broader genre of texts concerned with “the peril of sense-pleasures and the advantages of renouncing them.”

Which brings me to my main point: unless you happen to be a sexually frustrated monk yourself, I suggest that your dismay is likely to be the consequence of attending to texts that weren’t actually meant for you. The jātakas of the Itthīvagga are really monks-only stuff. They are not part of the 200 or so jātakas that constitute the basic repertoire of preaching material for the laity, still less of the two dozen or so jātakas one finds depicted in temple murals. If you were living in a pre-modern Buddhist society it’s highly unlikely that you would even have heard of them.

The solution, then, would be to exercise greater circumspection in your choice of your reading matter and to skip any jātaka that’s aimed at “a passion-tost brother”.