Dr. Naomi Appleton

Narrative Buddhology: Explorations of Indian Buddhist Literature

“Indian Buddhist texts contain a complex fabric of narratives interweaving the Buddha’s past lives, his final life, his encounters with others and their past-life encounters with other buddhas. In this lecture I ask: What makes such stories so powerful as ways of exploring and communicating Buddhist ideas? I will touch upon narrative’s role in Buddhology in the wide sense of that term as referring to the field of Buddhist Studies, but my main focus will be the narrower sense of Buddhology. What can narrative sources tell us about the nature of the Buddha, buddhas as a category, and the path to the achievement of buddhahood? I will suggest that the narrative genres of jātaka and avadāna in particular might hold the key to understanding the emergence of different Buddhist ideas about paths and goals that were crucial to developments in both Mahāyāna and non-Mahāyāna thought.”