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The Divyāvadāna or "Divine narratives" is a Sanskrit anthology of avadāna tales, many originating in Mūlasarvāstivādin vinaya texts.[1] It may be dated to 2nd century CE. The stories themselves are therefore quite ancient[2] and may be among the first Buddhist texts ever committed to writing, but this particular collection of them is not attested prior to the seventeenth century.[3] Typically, the stories involve the Buddha explaining to a group of disciples how a particular individual, through actions in a previous life, came to have a particular karmic result in the present.[3] A predominant theme is the vast merit (puṇya) accrued from making offerings to enlightened beings or at stupas and other holy sites related to the Buddha.[3]


List of stories

The anthology contains 38 stories. The complete list is:

  1. Koṭikarṇa-avadāna
  2. Pūrṇa-avadāna
  3. Maitreya-avadāna
  4. Brāhmaṇadārikā-avadāna
  5. Stutibrāhmaṇa-avadāna
  6. Indrabrāhmaṇa-avadāna
  7. Nagarāvalambikā-avadāna
  8. Supriya-avadāna
  9. Meṇḍhakagṛhapativibhūti-pariccheda
  10. Meṇḍhaka-avadāna
  11. Aśokavarṇa-avadāna
  12. Prātihārya-sūtra (The miracles at Śrāvastī)
  13. Svāgata-avadāna
  14. Sūkarika-avadāna
  15. Cakravartivyākṛta-avadāna
  16. Śukapotaka-avadāna
  17. Māndhātā-avadāna
  18. Dharmaruci-avadāna
  19. Jyotiṣka-avadāna
  20. Kanakavarṇa-avadāna
  21. Sahasodgata-avadāna
  22. Candraprabhabodhisattvacaryā-avadāna
  23. Saṅgharakṣita-avadāna
  24. Nāgakumāra-avadāna
  25. Saṅgharakṣita-avadāna
  26. Pāṃśupradāna-avadāna
  27. Kunāla-avadāna
  28. Vītaśoka-avadāna
  29. Aśoka-avadāna
  30. Sudhanakumāra-avadana
  31. Toyikāmaha-avadāna
  32. Rūpāvatī-avadāna
  33. Śārdūlakarṇa-avadāna
  34. Dānādhikaraṇa-mahāyānasūtra
  35. Cūḍāpakṣa-avadāna
  36. Mākandika-avadāna
  37. Rudrāyaṇa-avadāna
  38. Maitrakanyaka-avadāna


The collection includes the well-known Aśokāvadāna "Legend of Aśoka", which was translated into English by John Strong (Princeton, 1983). The collection has been known since the dawn of Buddhist studies in the West, when it was excerpted in Eugène Burnouf's history of Indian Buddhism (1844). The first Western edition of the Sanskrit text was published in 1886 by Edward Byles Cowell and R.A. Neil.[4] The Sanskrit text was again edited by P. L. Vaidya in 1959.[5]


Sahasodgata-avadāna, in the opening paragraphs, describe the Buddha's instructions for creating the bhavacakra (wheel of life).[6]


Rudrāyaṇa-avadāna explains how the Buddha gave the first illustration of the Bhavacakra to King Rudrayaṇa. According to this story, at the time of the Buddha, King Rudrayana (a.k.a. King Udayana) offered a gift of a jeweled robe to King Bimbisara of Magadha. King Bimbisara was concerned that he did not have anything of equivalent value to offer as a gift in return. Bimbisara went to the Buddha for advice, and the Buddha gave instructions to have the first drawing of the Bhavacakra made, and he told Bimbisara to send the drawing to Rudrayana. It is said that Rudrayana attained realization through studying this drawing.[7]

Selected English translations

Author Title Publisher Notes Year
Joel Tatelman Heavenly Exploits (Buddhist Biographies from the Dívyavadána), ISBN 978-0-8147-8288-0 New York University Press English translation of stories 1, 2, 30 and 36 with original Sanskrit text 2005
Andy Rotman Divine Stories, ISBN 9780861712953 Wisdom Publications English translation of the first seventeen stories 2008
Andy Rotman Divine Stories, Part 2 , ISBN 9781614294702 Wisdom Publications English translation of stories eighteen through thirty seven 2017

Original Sanskrit

Title Publisher Notes Year
दिव्यावदानम्, http://www.dsbcproject.org/canon-text/book/364 Digital Sanskrit Buddhist Canon Sanskrit original in Devnāgri script 2007


  1. "Fables in the Vinaya-Pitaka of the Sarvastivadin School" by Jean Przyluski, in The Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol.V, No.1, 1929.03
  2. Winternitz, Moriz (1993). A History of Indian Literature: Buddhist literature and Jaina literature. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 273. ISBN 9788120802650. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Buswell, Jr., Robert; Lopez, Jr., Donald S. (2013). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton University Press. p. 262. ISBN 9781400848058. 
  4. Neil, Robert Alexander; Cowell, Edward B.: The Divyâvadâna: a collection of early Buddhist legends, now first edited from the Nepalese Sanskrit mss. in Cambridge and Paris; Cambridge: University Press 1886.
  5. Vaidya, P. L. (1959). Divyāvadāna, Darbhanga: The Mithila Institute of Post-Graduate Studies and Research in Sanskrit Learning (romanized)
  6. Bhikkhu Khantipalo (1995-2011). The Wheel of Birth and Death Access to Insight
  7. Dalai Lama (1992). The Meaning of Life, translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins. Wisdom, p. 45

External links

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