The Mahāvastu is a text of the Lokottaravāda school of Early Buddhism. It describes itself as being a historical preface to the Buddhist monastic codes (vinaya). Over half of the text is composed of Jātaka and Avadāna tales, accounts of the earlier lives of the Buddha and other bodhisattvas.
The Jātakas are a voluminous body of literature native to South Asia which mainly concern the previous births of Gautama Buddha in both human and animal form.
Some of these works are also considered great works of literature in their own right.
In these stories, the future Buddha may appear as a king, an outcast, a deva, an animal—but, in whatever form, he exhibits some virtue that the tale thereby inculcates.
Often, Jātaka tales include an extensive .
Early Buddhist texts (EBTs), early Buddhist literature or early Buddhist discourses are parallel texts shared by the early Buddhist schools.
The most widely studied EBT material are the first four Pali Nikayas, as well as the corresponding Chinese Āgamas.
However, some scholars have also pointed out that some Vinaya material, like the Patimokkhas of the different Buddhist schools, as well as some material from the earliest Abhidharma texts could also be quite early.
Besides the large .