Endless Path: Awakening Within the Buddhist Imagination: Jataka Tales, Zen Practice, and Daily Life

Overview

***WINNER, 2011 Storytelling World Resource Award – Best Storytelling Collection

The jataka tales—stories of the Buddha’s past lives (in both human and animal form)—were first said to have been told by the Buddha himself 2,500 years ago. Five hundred and fifty jataka tales comprise part of the oldest Buddhist text, the Pali Canon. From this wealth of folklore, award-winning author and storyteller Rafe Martin has chosen ten tales that illustrate the ideals of the Buddhist ...

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Endless Path: Awakening Within the Buddhist Imagination: Jataka Tales, Zen Practice, and Daily Life

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Overview

***WINNER, 2011 Storytelling World Resource Award – Best Storytelling Collection

The jataka tales—stories of the Buddha’s past lives (in both human and animal form)—were first said to have been told by the Buddha himself 2,500 years ago. Five hundred and fifty jataka tales comprise part of the oldest Buddhist text, the Pali Canon. From this wealth of folklore, award-winning author and storyteller Rafe Martin has chosen ten tales that illustrate the ideals of the Buddhist paramitas, or “perfections” of character: giving, morality, forbearance, vitality, focused meditation, wisdom, compassionate skillful means, resolve, strength, and knowledge. Artist and designer Richard Wehrman helps bring the spirit of these stories alive with rich illustrations that open each chapter.

Endless Path presents these ancient stories, usually reduced to children’s tales in the West, for adults, reconnecting modern seekers with the more imaginative roots of Buddhism. The jatakas help readers see their own lives, their failures and renewed efforts, in the same light as the challenges the Buddha faced—not as obstacles but as opportunities for developing character and self-understanding. Endless Path demonstrates the relevance of these tales to Buddhist lay practitioners today, as well as to those more broadly interested in Buddhist teaching and the ancient art of storytelling.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Endless Path:

“Oh, such stories and commentaries! They stand side by side with the koans, the words and doings of the Zen masters of old and new, and together with them help us rise above narrowness and know a life of greater selflessness and affection, bringing peace to ourselves and the world. Svaha! Nine bows to Rafe Martin.”
—Danan Henry Roshi, founder and spiritual director of the Zen Center of Denver

“Rafe Martin’s retelling of the ancient jataka tales, and his insightful commentaries that relate the stories to our daily lives and the paramitas, is an inspiration. We hear a new voice here from the old storyteller and it brings great joy!”
—Susan Ji-on Postal Sensei, teacher and spiritual director of the Empty Hand Zen Center, New Rochelle, NY

Endless Path is a gem. Martin’s enthusiasm for the jatakas leaps off each page, bringing the reader into a realm where the deepest truths are revealed by even the most humble creatures. This book should be required reading for all Buddhist practitioners—actually, for everyone!”
—Sunyana Graef Sensei, Zen teacher and spiritual director of the Vermont Zen Center

“Reading Endless Path, I can actually hear a familiar voice coming alive, telling me stories of the Buddha’s lives. The world I enter is vast, wonderful, inspiring! I love this book!!”
—Hogen Bays Roshi, leader of Zen Community of Oregon and co-abbot of Great Vow Zen Monastery

Endless Path is a treasure for all seekers of the Way! Rafe Martin relates wondrous ancient Buddha stories and then unravels them, delivering meaning for today’s Western lay practitioners. A much-needed integration of the awesome past and our perplexing present. And a delightful read.”
—Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara, abbot of The Village Zendo, guiding spiritual teacher for the New York Center for Contemplative Care, and co-spiritual director of the Zen Peacemaker Family

“[Endless Path] aptly describes Zen Practice—the cultivating of the field of the mind: coming to Awakening and bringing that realization to manifest in our behavior, thought and speech… It is a book worth reading no matter where you are in your practice.”
—Ven. Mitra Bishop, Abbot of Mountain Gate in Northern New Mexico, Spiritual Director of Hidden Valley Zen Center in San Marcos CA, and contributing editor of The Oak Tree in the Garden

“As I work with designing the final pages done for Endless Path, I am struck with how much this book is a book of inspiration—a book to inspire others on the Buddhist path. … So many, many fine Buddhist books instruct, teach, even offer enlightened glimpses into the teachings. But Endless Path will be a truly helpful book, in the sense of Avalokiteshvara’s thousand outstretched hands, to fill those who read it with real heart’s yearning, rededicated commitment, and excitement for the possibility—the endless path—it offers.”
—Richard Wehrman, illustrator and designer

“Zen practitioner and storyteller Rafe Martin’s Endless Path casts jatakas in a contemporary vernacular style. Describing the book as a ‘kind of Zen take’ on the jatakas, he organizes it into chapters focusing on the ten paramitas, or Buddhist practices of perfection, presenting each tale in relation to a particular paramita. His commentaries on each story interweave quotes from sutras and a wide range of other sources such as Gary Snyder, Dogen, William Blake, Ikkyu, and even Wikipedia. Martin brings to the discussion an important awareness of how jatakas help cultivate a Buddhist vision of the universe.”
Buddhadharma

"Endless Path is for students of Buddhism, Dharma teachers, and anyone with an interest in viewing one’s journey through life as an opportunity for spiritual awakening. … With humor and elegance, [Rafe Martin] invites his readers to use the stories as a mirror. He shows us the dangers of self-centeredness and how making a commitment to morality is the foundation of practice. … He reminds us that we can take responsibility both for our formal practice of sitting meditation and for the ‘ongoing actualization of the precepts and paramitas in the ordinary events of our lives.’”
Parabola

“As a skilled Zen practitioner and teacher, Martin is in an ideal position to help bring the truths of Buddhism alive, which he does with admirable ease. He also acknowledges the role played by many different communities of listeners in refining how he tells the tales and reveals the insights that he and others have gained from each one… Endless Path is a truly insightful work… Accessible, inspired, and clearly marked by a generosity and foresight of spirit, it is a work well worth obtaining and keeping in one’s own private collection.”
—BookPleasures.com
 
“With Endless Path, Martin has found 10 Jataka tales that relate directly to the 10 paramitas (also known as the 10 perfections)… he brings them off the children’s shelf and into the lives of every modern-day Buddhist, young and old… Rafe Martin breathes fresh new life into these wonderful old tales, and in doing so, provides us with a much-needed perspective into our individual lives and practice… I wholeheartedly recommended this book to any practitioner out there.”
—Adam, Fly Like a Crow
 
Endless Path weaves together story, myth, and meaning to reveal the practical power of imagination in our spiritual development and everyday life.”
Spiritual Media Blog

“Martin retells each [jataka] tale, keeping the general story line, and often adding a Zen twist… After the story, Martin presents a teisho, a formal presentation of the teachings, expounding on how this particular tale bears on one of the ten paramitas. Each teisho is chock full of nondual wisdom, references to Zen koans and indigenous storytelling traditions and classical Buddhist teachings… Really energetic, living Dharma here.”
The Big Old Oak Tree

“Rafe’s ability to retell the [jataka] stories draw the reader into an almost ‘round the fire’ type of feeling. I can picture numerous folks, throughout the years, passing these stories around. His mastery of storytelling transports one into this very setting, cozy and comfortable… If you are looking to take a break from the academic books on Buddhism you have your nose buried in, then Endless Path is not only the book to read, it’s a great one! Each story represents an opportunity to contemplate the true meaning of compassion and kindness in a way that is not only fun, but truly enjoyable.”
Precious Metal

“Imagine this book morphing into a real-life friend: it will make for an earnest and sincere Buddhist companion… For it is a book that comes to life, made accessible to modern (in particular, Western) readers by its affable readability, honest humour and grounded sentiments… Martin’s retelling of the Jataka tales is engaging and accessible, while importantly preserving the stories’ elemental guiding inspirations… The commentaries fluidly connect the dots between the paramitas, and are markedly grounded in the reality of daily living.”
Moonpointer

“Read this book. You'll be glad you did… In each chapter, Martin retells a jataka and then explores how the tale illuminates and exemplifies one of the paramitas. This approach reminds me a somewhat of the way in which John Tarrant, Roshi, works with koans, turning and examining them from different perspectives, seeing where they are clear and where opaque. Through meticulous examination, Martin reveals how the paramitas and the jatakas function to support an upright, wholesome life… Not many Buddhist authors incorporate, as Martin does, references to Lady Gaga, The Talking Heads, Jack Kerouac, and Elvis into their commentaries… Endless Path provides a fine guidebook.”
Ox Herding

“Rafe Martin’s book, Endless Path, is a continuation of Martin’s decades-long immersion in storytelling and the Jataka tales. … Each of the ten stories, one for each of the paramitas (perfections), is accompanied by an illustration and an engaging commentary on both the story and the paramita. … The stories in [Endless Path] are like returning to the enchantment of childhood, where anything and everything is possible, except that here we see the possibility of mature wisdom and kindness, in the world and in ourselves.”
Inquiring Mind

“Rafe Martin is an exquisite story-teller, not only for his transmission of the story itself but for his magical ability to turn us into the storyline. … And, the amazing artwork by Richard Wehrman is captivating and fires the imagination.”
108 Zen Books

Also by Rafe Martin:

The Banyan Deer:

“The Banyan Deer shows that the lives of all living beings are equally important.”
—His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

“A sweet and sensitive story of courage, sacrifice, and kindness.”
—Dan Millman, author of The Way of the Peaceful Warrior

Birdwing:

“Extraordinary … The marvelous thing about Birdwing is that, given its highly literary origins, it is so tough, colloquial, funny and moving.”
—A Washington Post Year’s Best Books

“Martin deftly weaves fairy tale into fiction … The many original characters and unusual adventure scenes ensure that readers will remember this well-paced fantasy.”
—Booklist

The Rough-Face Girl:

“A welcome rediscovery of an American Indian Cinderella variant whose heroine is both a religious mystic and a seeker after true love.”
—Newsweek on The Rough Face Girl


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556439322
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books
  • Publication date: 9/28/2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.96 (w) x 11.28 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Rafe Martin maintains an active schedule of appearances at libraries, schools, and Zen centers across the country. His works have been cited in Time, Newsweek, and USA Today. He was the 2008 recipient of the Empire State Award from the New York Library Association. The author of over 20 books including Birdwing, The Rough-Face Girl, and One Hand Clapping, he lives in Rochester, NY.

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  • Posted December 25, 2010

    Insightful Stories about Buddha from Which We Can All Learn

    Jataka tales are the stories that reveal the Buddha's previous births as a bodhisattva (one who has attained enlightenment, but who chooses not to pass into Nirvana [the state of supreme bliss, tranquility, and purity, when the fires of desire are extinguished], opting to remain in the world to help lesser beings attain enlightenment) working towards the goals of Buddhahood. Martin naturally relates to stories, having children of his own. Interest in stories is with us from an early age, with tales being used in most religions to exemplify the principles propagated by the different belief systems concerned (just think of the Parables in the Bible, for example, in terms of Christianity). In Endless Path, Martin shares with the reader original telling of the jataka stories, "versions created to speak in a lively colloquial, vernacular voice to contemporary readers." He himself has "gained strength from an ongoing connection with the jatakas and the life of the Buddha, enough to begin to trust his own way and then to find it." The commentaries for each story offer a Zen "take" on the jatakas and on their relevance to our daily lives and practice. Extolling qualities of generosity, morality, patient forbearance, limitless vigor, meditation, wisdom, skillful means, resolve, strength, and knowledge, the jatakas, together with their commentaries, are intended to "help us rediscover the endless path unfolding even now beneath our feet." Clearly told in fluent and flowing English that is clearly that of an English First Language speaker, the tales are powerfully written and conveyed in such a way that we can gain the most from them. As a skilled Zen practitioner and teacher, Martin is in an ideal position to help bring the truths of Buddhism alive, which he does with admirable ease. He also acknowledges the role played by many different communities of listeners in refining how he tells the tales and reveals the insights that he and others have gained from each one. Accompanying each jataka is a full-page illustration by renowned artist Richard Wehrman, who is also a firm believer in the Buddhist faith, moving, in 1973, to Rochester, New York, to study and practice Zen Buddhism at the Rochester Zen Center. Endless Path is a truly insightful work, which has already received numerous accolades from other leading Buddhist practitioners. Accessible, inspired, and clearly marked by a generosity and foresight of spirit, it is a work well worth obtaining and keeping in one's own private collection.

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