Narrating Karma and Rebirth book

Today I sent off the final (final final) typescript for my book Narrating Karma and Rebirth: Buddhist and Jain Multi-life Stories, which will be published by Cambridge University Press early in 2014. The review process has been rigorous and very beneficial, but I am of course delighted to see it now go off to production. To give a flavour of the book, which is the culmination of my 2009-12 research project into how karma and rebirth are portrayed in early Buddhist and Jain narrative texts, here is the contents page:

1. Introduction 

Setting the Scene

Fatalism and Karma



Gods and Hell Beings

Multi-life Stories in Teachings

2. Karma and the Realms of Rebirth

The Animal Realm

– In and Out of the Animal Realm

– Plants and Other Single-Sensed Beings

The Hell Realms

The Heaven Realms

Spirit Deities

– The Realm of the Pretas

Life as a Human Being

3. Karma and Human Potentiality

Human Men and Human Women

Human Actions and Their Results

– Taking Life

– Sexual Impropriety

– Lying and False Teachers: Makkhali Gosāla and Devadatta

– Giving and Renunciation

Happy Endings

– Heavenly Rewards

– Mokṣa / Nirvāṇa

– The Halfway House: Mahāvideha and Maitreya


4. Jinas and Buddhas

Moral Exemplars

Ideal Paths and Ideal Goals

– The Doctrinal Context: Perfections, Predictions and Progress

– A Lesson in Contrast: Gautama Buddha and Mahāvīra

– Escaping Karma: Negative Forces and the Ultimate Goal

– Heaven and Mokṣa: The Pārśva Jātaka

The Past and the Future

– The Universal History

– The Time to Come


5. Karma and Community 

Merit Transfer

Interpersonal Karmic Bonds

– Shared Merit

– Bonds of Love

– Bonds of Hate

– Bonds of Contrast or Confusion


6. Memory and Omniscience

Who can remember their past lives?

– Superhumans

– Gods and hell beings

– Animals

What does the memory prompt?

– Being good again

– Avoiding bad actions

– Quitting the world

The limits of memory

– The advantages of not remembering

– The perils of incomplete memory

– Omniscience

– ‘Remembering’ the future


7. Conclusion


Karma and Rebirth

– The Moment of Death

– The Role of Intention

– Good Karma?

Buddhist and Jain Traditions

Appendix: List of Primary Source Texts


About naomiappleton

I work in the Divinity School at the University of Edinburgh, where I research and teach subjects related to South and Southeast Asian religions.
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One Response to Narrating Karma and Rebirth book

  1. Pingback: Death And Rebirth As A Person Continuation Post #2 | The Journey To Wellness

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