Tales of Buddha Shakyamuni’s past lives are well-known in Himalayan culture. They are often presented in series of paintings, with each painting illustrating several of the 108 stories.
Buddha Shakyamuni is seated on a lotus, holding a begging bowl in his left hand and making the gesture of giving with his right hand. Landscape elements separate the narrative scenes arranged around the central image. The scenes illustrate his teaching stories about principles of causality (karma) and depict episodes from his previous lives and his last human life in which he became the Buddha. The narrative scenes begin in the lower right section and move in clockwise direction. They include an explanation of cause and effect regarding building stupas, an account of King Punyabala’s generosity, and the story of the trials of Kunala, King Ashoka’s son. These stories correspond to tales fifty-seven through fifty-nine of the 108.