Le ‘vite passate’ e l'esercizio alla vita ideale a venire nella letteratura agiografica sul Buddha in lingua pāli
What does it mean to ‘know’ the life of the Buddha? Starting from this question, the paper explores how various developments in the Buddha’s biographies have led to enlarge the meanings that the whole hagiographic corpus intends to convey. Focusing on the structure of the jātaka texts, the epistemic perspectives and practical reasons conveyed by these stories are examined. The analysis of the jātakas’ narrative frames reveals the construction of an ‘ethical sense of time’ which provides the framework for the shaping of identities. The open-ended architecture of these tales engenders and arranges a double-faced ‘cognition-position’ structure that one needs to recognize and perform through the medium of the text. These narratives combine the monastic and secular spheres so as to provide cohesion and regulate the social relations of the whole Buddhist community. As powerful cognitive tools, jātakas trigger inferences about episodes, characters, and actions in order to establish a world-knowledge and the means to act through it.