This blog is for a British Academy post-doctoral research project being carried out by Naomi Appleton in the Centre for the History of Religions in Asia at Cardiff University. The project is intended to run for three years beginning in September 2009. It is my intention to upload bibliographical and discursive material on the project theme for the use of other scholars who may be interested in this area. I welcome all forms of feedback - comments, additions, corrections, criticisms, and questions.
Buddhism and Jainism share the concepts of karma, rebirth, and the possibility (and desirability) of escape from rebirth, though each has a different interpretation of these. Within the literature of both traditions we find many stories about remembered past births, illustrating progress on the path to awakening, the workings of karma, or the jumbled nature of rebirth that makes renunciation the only way to avoid incest. These stories have much to reveal about Buddhist and Jain attitudes towards the mechanisms of rebirth and the pursuit of long-term (multi-life) religious goals.
This project will compare birth stories from the different traditions in relation to: the role of karma in rebirth; the key religious paths and goals; and the role of birth stories in the teaching careers of awakened beings. The project will help to ascertain the distinctively Buddhist and Jain uses of this genre, thereby illuminating both the significance of the stories within each tradition, and the extent of interaction between Buddhist and Jain schools during their formative periods.