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Avadana (Skt. avadāna; Tib. རྟོགས་པར་བརྗོད་པའི་སྡེ་, Wyl. rtogs par brjod pa’i sde) is a genre of Buddhist literature, denoting a narrative or tale of an individual's significant deeds. Often these narratives constitute full-fledged biographies, sometimes of eminent monastics, sometimes of ordinary lay disciples. The avadanas portray, frequently with thematic and narrative complexity, concrete human actions that embody the truths propounded in the dharma, and the vinaya.

In the Buddhist context, avadana is traditionally specified as the tenth of a twelvefold categorization of Buddhist scripture, classified according to content, thematic structure, and literary style. Although this class of works is as varied as it is voluminous, the stories typically illustrate the results of good and bad karma, indicating how past deeds have shaped present circumstances. In this vein, many avadanas set out to show how the exemplary lives of the Buddha, or more often of his followers, have resulted from their meritorious deeds in past lives. Avadanas may also, in certain cases, include prophecies of future spiritual attainments.

Translations of the Term Avadana

  • testimonies of realization
  • parables

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