Dr Naomi Appleton

Senior Lecturer in Asian Religions


Naomi Appleton has been working at the University of Edinburgh since 2012 when she arrived as a Chancellor's Fellow. Before that she held a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at Cardiff University. She works on the areas of early Indian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism) and Buddhist Studies more broadly.


DPhil (University of Oxford, 2008)

MPhil (Cardiff University, 2004)

BA (Hons) (Cardiff University, 2003)

Responsibilities & affiliations

School of Divinity Equality and Diversity Officer

Convenor, Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions

Chair, Khyentse Foundation Prize Committee for the European Award for Outstanding Dissertation in Buddhist Studies

Editorial Board member: Buddhist Studies Review (journal), Asian Literature and Translation (journal), Lexington Books monograph series Feminist Studies and Sacred Texts.

Undergraduate teaching

REST08015 Global Religions A: Judaism, Buddhism, Islam

REST08020 Religions of Ancient India: Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism

REST10048 Theravada Buddhism

REST10051 The Hindu Epics: Mahabharata and Ramayana  

Postgraduate teaching

REST11012 Theory and Method in the Study of Religion

REST11021 Theravada Buddhism from Benares to Bangkok

REST11022 Understanding the Hindu Epics: Mahabharata and Ramayana

I have been a Fellow of the Higer Education Academy since 2011.

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I welcome enquiries from students interested in researching aspects of early Indian religion or Buddhist Studies more broadly.

Research summary

My primary research interest is the role of narrative in the construction, communication and negotiation of ideas in Indian religions, including Buddhism, Jainism and early Hindu traditions. I work mostly with texts in Sanskrit and related languages, and am involved in translation projects as well as publishing analytic articles and monographs.

Current research interests

I am currently working with an international team of scholars on a translation of the Sanskrit narrative collection called Avadānaśataka (One Hundred Stories), which has never been fully translated into English. It contains ten chapters of ten stories each, about the workings of karma and vows. I have already published draft translations of the two chapters that contain jātaka stories (tales of the past lives of the Buddha) and am working on a third decade. I am also working on a number of articles primarily relating to Buddhist narrative, and beginning to think seriously about the next big project, which I hope will address the different ways in which jātaka stories were used and interpreted in different schools of early Indian Buddhism.

Past research interests

I have a long-standing interest in the jātaka genre, an important genre of stories relating the past lives of the Buddha. My doctoral work, which was published as Jātaka Stories in Theravāda Buddhism (Ashgate 2010), explored the role of this type of narrative in the development of Buddhist ideas about the nature of the Buddha and his multi-life path to buddhahood. Jātaka stories remain a key part of my research agenda, and I have published translations of selected stories from Pāli and Sanskrit narrative collections. As my British Academy post-doctoral research project I explored the role of multi-life stories in Buddhist and Jain traditions, asking how and why the two sister religions used stories of karma and rebirth. My main findings were published as Narrating Karma and Rebirth (CUP 2014). Moving on from this comparative project, I recently completed an AHRC-funded research project, jointly with James Hegarty of Cardiff University, on shared elements in the narrative traditions of early Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, resulting in my third monograph Shared Characters in Jain, Buddhist and Hindu Narrative (Routledge 2017).

Knowledge exchange

Along with Dr Alison Jack, I am involved in the creation of resources for school teachers of RME based on some of the narrative materials with which I work. I am passionate about the role of story in learning, and the ways in which stories can encourage exploration and questioning, rather than simply communicating a set teaching. I co-founded the School of Divinity's Story and Religion Network, which brings together colleagues with a similar interest. I have also worked with professional storytellers in bringing Buddhist narrative to life.

Affiliated research centres

Research activities

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View all 22 publications on Research Explorer