Karmic retribution, the force of human action that fuels the stream of continuous personal rebirths in the various realms of existence throughout the multitiered, conditioned cosmos of saṃsāra, is a bedrock principle of the classical Buddhist world view. Karma is a notion that is not just an archaic and quaint belief of past Buddhist times; it is also a continuing concept of pivotal contemporary importance for almost all Buddhists (and Hindus) in the modernizing cultural contexts of both South and Southeast Asian societies. Though literally volumes of Buddhist apologetic and Western scholarly literature have been devoted to karma's elucidation over the centuries, and while it continues to attract serious and copious academic attention in the present, karma basically remains a profound yet very simple doctrine: the quality of actions in the present determines the quality of existence in the future. The reason that the 547 jātaka stories of the Pali Theravada Buddhist canon have been, and remain, so popular with the Buddhist laity is that they recount the lessons of karmic retribution so clearly and in such a positive light. That is, they constitute the Buddha's own karma.
The jātaka stories recount actions of the bodhisatta's past rebirths, actions that eventually led to his final rebirth, which culminated in the experience of enlightenment and the attainment of nibbāṇa. These are stories about how the bodhisatta perfected various human qualities of a