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1. Susan Andrews (Mount Allison University): Teaching Economic Practices and Beliefs: A Study of North American Buddhist Dharma School Curriculum
This presentation explores depictions of wealth in Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) Dharma School curriculum. Founded at the end of the nineteenth century by Japanese immigrants to San Francisco, the BCA is an organization of sixty independent temples with approximately 16, 000 members practicing a form of Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land) Buddhism across North America. Examining curriculum prepared for the BCA’s weekly Sunday or Dharma School by Etsuko Steimetz—Jishin Kyo Ninshin—the presentation aims to identify the economic practices and visions of material prosperity and hardship promoted in this context. Focusing, in particular, on stories about early Buddhism in these teaching materials, the presentation endeavours to show how the religion’s past is written and rewritten to serve the economic needs of this contemporary North American Buddhist community.
2. Ben Brose (University of Michigan): Business and Pleasure: The Cult of Zhu Bajie in Modern Taiwan
Long before the publication of the famous hundred-chapter novel The Journey to the West, the central characters of the narrative the Tang Monk, the monkey Sun Wukong, the pig Zhu Bajie, and the monk Sha were venerated as deities. These same figures continue to be invoked today in a range of ritual contexts throughout Chinese cultural sphere. This paper focuses on the cult of the pig-deity Zhu Bajie in modern Taiwan. As an “unorthodox” spirit known for his voracious appetite and irrepressible libido, Zhu Bajie has attracted devotees from among Taiwan’s “special professions,” namely masseuses, escorts, and prostitutes. Unable to turn to conventional, ethically demanding deities for assistance, purveyors of illicit goods and services make offerings to spirits that they hope will be more sympathetic to their needs. Zhu Bajie is one among many (usually animal) deities with reputations for coming to the aid of those seeking long- or short-term sexual relationships.
3. Clair Brown (University of California, Berkeley): Applications and Limitations of Socioeconomic Theory and Method for Understanding Buddhist Activities and Their Outcomes
In a world with enormous inequality, both within and across countries, and with economic activities that are threatening Earth’s ecosystems, economists must restructure our framework for analyzing economic systems and our policies for economic growth so that economies deliver a high quality of life to all people in a way that nurtures Earth. This is a difficult challenge in a world where economics has focused on individuals maximizing their own income, where average income is the measure of well-being, and where natural resources can only add to consumption and harm to our ecosystems is ignored. In free market economics, people maximize their satisfaction (or happiness) by maximizing consumption, and more is always better. People end up chasing more income in order to buy more and more, without understanding why they remain dissatisfied.
I present a Buddhist economic framework that is based on interdependence of people with each other and with Earth, with well-being based on everyone having a comfortable, meaningful life with human rights observed, with the human spirit nurtured, and with caring for Nature. In Buddhist economics, evaluation of economic performance is no longer based on growth of average income. Now national well-being measures quality of life based on basic consumption for everyone, with time for family and community activities, and on governance that ensures human rights and provision of basic consumption, education, health care, and child care for everyone. A national goal is reducing suffering of all people, both at home and abroad. We stop buying things we don’t need, and move from a closetful (free market) to a mindful (Buddhist) way of life. We want to care for Earth, and we want to reduce suffering around the world as we enjoy each moment of life.
My Buddhist economics framework is based on Amartya Sen’s capability approach, on ecological economics with strong sustainability assumptions, on Jeffrey Sach’s sustainable development, on the Buddhist interconnection of all people and of people and nature, and on Buddhist practice of mindfulness and compassion.
4. Caleb Carter (Johns Hopkins University): Religious Plurality Makes Cents:The Economics Behind a Hybrid Tendai Mountain in Early Modern Japan
Scholarship throughout much of the twentieth century depicted early modern religion in Japan as moribund and corrupt, a pale shadow of the spiritually robust doctrines and practices of the medieval period. This thesis was rooted, in part, in the idea that the economics evident in Edo period (ca. 1600–1868) religiosity ran counter to the lofty goals of Buddhism. Religious historians such as Tamamuro Fumio, Nam-lin Hur, and Sarah Thal have successfully challenged this binary in recent decades through careful investigations of specific sites. Building upon this work, I will discuss the role of religious pluralism in the economics of a Buddhist mountain. Taking the case of Mount Togakushi (Nagano prefecture), this paper will demonstrate how receptivity toward new modes of ritual, practice, and religious identity made sense from a financial perspective. The mountain did receive a generous tax base from government-awarded agricultural estates (in return for state rituals of prosperity) as well as high ranking within the Tendai (Ch. Tiantai) Buddhist institution, but these privileges were financially insufficient. To compensate and indeed, prosper, the temples of Togakushi managed regional patronage associations (kasumi), promoted devotion to the mountain’s central deity (a nine-headed dragon), welcomed new Shintō gods into its pantheon, opened the site to pilgrimage, and cultivated associations with the mountain-based school of Shugendō. In raising these examples, this paper will problematize the typical sectarian periodization of Japan’s religious mountains (e.g., medieval Shugendō, early modern Tendai, modern Shintō) while paying attention to the ways in which economics incentivized early modern religious fluidity.
5. Otto Chang (Indiana University & Purdue University): Wisdom based economic theory as informed by Buddhism
Classical economics theory is based on the assumption that consumer’s short-term utility function is always positive, even though it displays the nature of diminishing marginal utility as consumers consume more quantity of goods or services. Thus, to maximizer the profit, suppliers or producers in the market always produce more goods and services as long as they can find new customers or create new demands from new and improved products. This assumption is problematic in several aspects. First, short-term utility function of many goods or services can actually leads to long-term negative utility as exhibited by harmful products such as drugs, alcohol, fatty foods, and mental consumption that leads to negative attitudes or temperance. Second, it is not clear that short-term utility function actually correlate positively to more profound psychological satisfaction such as happiness. Third, by assuming short-term utility to be always positive, economists avoid the difficult task of investigating consumption efficiency, that is, whether consumers use the least resources to maximize their aggregate utility function for life-long consumption. Fourth, by producing more goods and services infinitely to satisfy short-term utility, the economy produces excessive garbage and pollution that are harmful to ecology and other animals.
It is time that modern economic theory to address the consumption efficiency issue. Most of the current economic theories deal with production efficiency. Tons and tons of books and theories concentrate on producing goods and services with fewer and fewer resources through the improvement in productivity and cost efficiency. Very little literature explores consumer efficiency issue. Imagine if all of us just improve our consumption efficiency a little bit each day, the earth will be saved and each of us actually will be happier, yet consumes fewer and fewer resources.
The key to consumer efficiency is the Buddhist approach to consumption. Buddhism informs us that long-term happiness can only be created by a disciplined mind, not by consumption of any goods or services. Consumption of more goods and services in many cases is not positively correlated to profound psychological satisfaction. Instead, it actually creates negative karma in a vicious cycle. Desires for external objects or relationships usually lead to more desires of newer objects or relationships. Greed, hatred, and ignorance feed more greed, hatred, and ignorance. To be liberated from this vicious cycle of consumption trap, one has to gain wisdom regarding how human emotion and satisfaction really play out in the long-run and in this infinitely inter-connected world. A liberated and enlightened Buddhist practitioner is an efficient consumer who consumes very little and yet achieves supreme bliss. The cost of producing enlightened Buddhist practitioners, unlike the production of goods or service, does not consume any raw materials or economic resources. It is pollution free and does not create harmful externality. It is egalitarian because anyone can practice it without certain level of endowment or wealth. Increasing consumer efficiency is the silver bullet to increase the general welfare of our society and ecology.
6. Jinhua Chen (UBC): The Monastic Financial and Banking system (Wujinzang) under the Rule of Emperor Liang Wudi: Background in India and Impact on Sui-Tang China
Scholars including Jacques Gernet, Tansen Sen, and John Kieschnick have made great strides to study the important role that Buddhism played in promoting economic, financial, and commercial activities in medieval China. There is, however, one limitation I address in this study: almost singular focus on the economic activities carried out within or in connection with the saṃgha, with little attention to the economic and financial context for some allegedly “pure” religious programs installed by Buddhists. In this article I endeavor to make some long overdue compensation for this unbalanced approach. First, I introduce the proto-banking institution known as wujinzang (Inexhaustible Treasury), which was established during the reign of the Chinese Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty (i.e. Liang Wudi, r. 502-549), who modeled himself upon King Asoka. Then I trace its provenance back to some significant precedents and practices in India. Finally, I highlight several major impacts Liang Wudi’s wujinzang system appears to have wrought on its counterpart during the Sui-Tang period in China when, primarily because of the charismatic Buddhist monk Xinxing (540-594) and the leader of the Buddhist movement known as Sannie jiao (The cult of Three Stages), the Inexhaustible Treasury shaped the institutional role of the Buddhist church in China for centuries.
7. Kin Cheung (Moravian College): What Does It Mean To Own Stock In A Famous Buddhist Mountain Tourism Company?
Since Mount Emei Tourism Company Limited became a publicly traded stock in 1997, other Chinese Buddhist sites in China have made plans for their own Initial Public Offerings. Despite increasing scholarship on Buddhist economics regarding tourism, commercialization, and consumerism, there is little consideration towards Buddhist involvement in raising and growing capital through the contemporary epitome of capitalism: the stock market. Mount Wutai, Mount Putuo, and Famen Temple recently announced their plans for an IPO in order to spread the culture of their mountain and temples, and promote Buddhist culture. However, it is unclear what exactly are the financial and religious implications of buying, trading, or owning shares of a Buddhist mountain or temple tourism company stock. I examine mountain gazetteers, newspaper articles, public finance records, and stock market reports to give an assessment. Looking at this unique development in fundraising will contribute to the overall conversation on religious tourism, temple economics, and contemporary Chinese Buddhist engagement with capitalism.
8. Barbara Clayton (Mount Allison University): The Economics of Happiness: Gross National Happiness, Development Economics, and Bhutanese Buddhist Modernism
This paper examines Gross National Happiness (GNH), the development policy of the government of Bhutan, and demonstrates how GNH can be considered a Buddhist economic model. It analyzes the Buddhist values embedded in this policy, and illustrates how GNH reflects the Bhutanese Buddhist understanding of genuine societal wealth and its cultivation. This paper also considers whether GNH should be considered a form of “engaged Buddhism”, and argues that there is a bifurcation between the meaning of GNH for non-Bhutanese ‘westerners’ and Bhutanese nationals. It suggests that for westerners, GNH embodies the traditional scholarly definition of engaged Buddhism, which stresses universal Buddhist teachings and humanitarian goals. However, this does not reflect the meaning of GNH for Bhutanese citizens, for whom GNH is a project of Bhutanese Buddhist nationalism. The paper concludes by contextualizing GNH within other Buddhist economic models, suggesting that it is best considered a “Middle Way” between capitalism and socialism.
9. Christopher Emory-Moore(University of Waterloo): “Busy Buddhists: Monastic and Missionary Imperatives in a Marketized Buddhist Movement”
When China declared its sovereignty over Tibet in 1951 the Gelukpa monk Kelsang Gyatso was one among roughly 25% of Tibetan males living as celibate monks in the largest monasteries in the modern world. Forty years later when Gyatso founded the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) in England in 1991, he decided his new Buddhist movement would have no monasteries, only congregational meditation centres designed to spread the Dharma. One of the fastest growing Tibetan-inspired Buddhist organizations in the world today, Gyatso’s NKT has enthusiastically embraced market economics (charging admission to classes, transmissions, and festivals) and major monastic reform (reducing 253 vows to 10). Based on original North American ethnographic field research, and toward an improved understanding of Buddhism’s global modernization, this paper examines the relationship between the NKT’s business model and monastic reforms. I argue that the NKT’s market-driven expansionism not only trumps its funding of a monastic community, but replaces it as the principal institutional framework for renunciation in the form of arduous, full-time, subsistence missionary work. I suggest that this hybrid form of missionary monasticism has been a major factor in the NKT’s growth, producing a labour force whose renunciation of economic remuneration provides the organization with the fruits of their economic production, but also in the movement’s more visible internal fault lines: burnout, turnover, and disgruntled ex-members.
10. Hannah Gould (University of Melbourne): Manufacturing merit: Crisis and innovation in the Japanese Buddhist altar industry
This paper explores the diverse, creative, and sometimes controversial ways in which members of the Japanese Buddhist altar industry have responded to the dual challenges of declining sales and declining piety in contemporary Japan. I argue that in this industry, Buddhism and business are not diametrically opposed values, but nor are they readily collapsible. Rather, they function as concrete design features of shape, size, colour and raw material, which must be meticulously crafted into the products that altar companies make.
In Japan, household altars (仏壇 butsudan) have been the domestic centres of Buddhist ritual and ancestor veneration since at least the 7th century. Today, butsudan retail is a highly competitive, multi-billion-yen industry. However, via the forces of vast demographic change, urbanisation, and secularization, both domestic Buddhist practice and its associated consumerism have steadily declined. Further, popular taste in altar design has evolved to match home décor. In response, butsudan companies have marketed a range of innovative products, from sleek modern altars and altars for dead pets, to Wi-Fi enabled digital models that stream video of sutras and the deceased.
Inspired by McDannell’s study of Christian retailing (1995) and Rambelli’s work on Buddhist materiality (2007), my research approaches modern Buddhist practice through lay-person acts of producing, consuming, and disposing of religious paraphernalia. This paper draws on fieldwork with the butsudan industry, to examine the diverse strategies deployed by companies seeking to reinvigorate sales and regenerate tradition. These efforts frequently position butsudan retailers – not clergy – as chief advocates for the modern-day merit of Buddhist piety and ancestral fealty. This means having to navigate between divergent impetuses of tradition and innovation, sectarianism and individual taste, religiosity and commerciality. As I will demonstrate, these values exist not only as discourses, but as practical design considerations in the manufacture of altars, and by extension, of merit.
11. Phyllis Granoff (Yale University): How to make and spend money: some stories from Indian classical literature
This paper explores attitudes towards wealth and poverty in early and medieval Indian literature. While poverty is universally decried, stories and plays tell us that wealth brings with it its own problems. First of all there is the initial problem: how does one acquire wealth? And then there is the question of what a person is to do with wealth once he has it. In answer to the first question the paper discusses stories that suggest that making money required a combination of luck and pluck. A person must recognize a good business opportunity and have the daring-do to seize it. The answer to the second question starts from a verse in the Pañcatantra that tells us that a man’s wealth is not like his wife, to be kept all to himself, but like a public woman to be shared by all. Defining just who is meant by “all” is the task of numerous religious texts.
12. Yongshan He (University of Toronto): Commoditization of the Sacred: Production and Transaction of Buddhist Statues in 5th-10th Century China
While Buddhism enjoys great popularity during the early Tang dynasty, an unofficial market producing and selling Buddhist objects was also becoming increasingly active. With the scale and popularity of the transaction of Buddhist statues enlarging in the cities, the state had to issue decrees banning the private production and sale of them during the time of Emperor Taizong and Emperor Xuanzong. Through close examination of these governmental prohibitions under their social contexts, the paper seeks to understand how religious artifacts were perceived by Tang people under the influences of the interweaving factors of the state ideology, religious beliefs and commercial vibrancy in the cities.
13. Philip Hsu (University of California, Los Angeles): Merit and Money in Late Ming Buddhist Society: Yunqi Zhuhong’s Perspective
In the late Ming, the prominent Buddhist monk Yunqi Zhuhong 雲棲祩宏 (1535-1615) adopted the popular format of “ledgers of merit and demerit (gongguo ge 功過格)” and incorporated into his Buddhist monastic codes, the Monastic Codes for Communal Life at Yunqi Temple (Yunqi gongzhu guiyue 雲棲共住規約), as well as a separate publication aimed for his lay followers, The Record of Self-knowledge (Zizhi lu 自知錄). This paper traces Zhuhong’s two works and analyzes how he conceptualized merit and money in the daily lives of Buddhist monks and laymen. In the process of adaptation, Zhuhong replaced the term “merit (gong)” with the broader concept of “good (shan).” Even though he continued to emphasize the virtue of frugality, he did not hesitate to argue for the importance of money in maintaining a monastery. Monks would receive merit, demerit, and even penalties according to Zhuhong’s newly formulated codes. Violation of codes could take the form of fines, which would eventually become the monastery’s extra income; this also shows that monks were allowed to have personal income. For the laity, the amount of donation they provide to Buddhist monasteries correlated to the amount of merit awarded. The fact that Zhuhong continuously revised these two works until his later years suggest that these two works were being practiced in his monastery and by his lay followers. The subsequent fall of Ming might have diminished the impact of Zhuhong’s work, but it did offer a comprehensive Buddhist guideline for daily life: every minor action in monastic or secular life could be clearly counted as good or bad, and its degree could be quantified by the amount of money attached to the deed. Close examination of Zhuhong’s two works sheds light on how late Ming Buddhists theorized Buddhist monastic economy in response to the changing socioeconomic conditions of the time.
14. Weishan Huang (Chinese University of Hong Kong): Buddhist Gentrification and Urban Renewal – the case studies of Han Buddhist temples in Shanghai
This paper will examine the process of urban temple revival since the 1980s by focusing on the example of the temple expansion of the Jing’an Temple which was first constructed in 247, and its interaction with state-planned urbanization since the 1980s when it was returned to religious use after being severely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. The successful restoration of Jing’an temple has led to a new legend of which Buddhism can be a prompt enticement for neighborhood gentrification in the debates of urban planning. Drawing from the findings in renewal of Jing’an Temple and its construction of Xiayuan (下院) in three diverse sites in Shanghai, this qualitative study provides analysis of temple’s developmental strategies to deal with secular policies and to benefit urban revitalization at district levels.
15. Jamie Hubbard (Smith College): Chinese Buddhist Social Welfare: The Inexhaustible Storehouse of the Sanjie Movement
Although we might think that the stereotype of “Western materialism vs. Asian spirituality” has long passed, it is surprising how durable this view is. Rooted in Weber’s analysis of the Protestant roots of Western capitalism, Buddhism shares a “cave-dwelling navel-gazing” status with other Asian religious traditions. This is abetted by a more contemporary view that takes the Buddhist view of thirst or greed as the root of all suffering to extend to all forms of material desire, such that Buddhism is the natural ally of Bernie Sanders and not the Wall Street pal of Hilary Clinton. Historically, however, and in today’s Asian Buddhist world as well, nothing could be further from the truth. From its earliest days as corporate land-owners (via the gift of the Jeta grove to the formerly wandering community) to the vast economic enterprises of the sangha throughout contemporary Asia, Buddhists and Buddhist institutions always have been doctrinally, legally, and practically intertwined with the economic concerns of state and society. Some have even credited Buddhism with the introduction of capitalism to China. In my presentation I will introduce the practices of the Sanjie 三階, a Chinese Buddhist movement that flourished in the 7th-8th centuries. I will focus on their charitable institution of the Inexhuastible Storehouse (wujinzang 無盡藏), and show how it combined legal mechanism of the monastic codes and doctrinal elements of the bodhisattva teachings to produce a charitable social welfare program that involved all levels of society. . . until it was banished by Imperial order.
16. Leah Kalmanson (Drake University): Lessons from the Sanjie: Merit Economies as Drivers of Social Change
Points of contact between money economies and merit economies drive charitable giving and, potentially, social change. This presentation surveys several institutions that take their inspiration from merit-making rituals, beginning with Xinxing (540-594), founder of the Sanjie movement. Xinxing teaches that we can discharge our otherwise insurmountable karmic burden by making a single charitable donation to the “Inexhaustible Storehouse.” While in operation, the Storehouse accepted charity from the surrounding populace–the act of donating was thought to generate karmic merit for the giver, a system already relied upon by Buddhist monasteries to raise money. However, unique to Xinxing’s Storehouse, anyone could borrow from it as needed, and repayment was optional and interest-free. The Storehouse was so successful that it began to rival the government as a resource for social welfare, leading to its eventual disbandment. Part of its appeal was certainly Xinxing’s teaching that donations to the Storehouse transform donors into bodhisattvas–through chains of interdependence, donors partake in a bodhisattva’s compassion and accrue the incalculable merit-store of an enlightened being. When one follower asks Xinxing why donors to the storehouse do not immediately appear to become enlightened, he replies: “It is like putting a snake into a bamboo tube–the tube is straight and so the snake also becomes straight.” (Hubbard 2001, 174). In other words, participation in the institution is effective even if a person is simply” going through the motions”; i.e., one can be a snake, but still occupy the bodhisattva’s form. One might take a cynical view on this level of confidence in the efficacy of merit rituals, but the successes of the Storehouse invite us to reconsider such cynicism. Moving from Xinxing to the present, I look at other examples of Buddhist institutions that use merit-making rituals as drivers for charitable giving and social change.
17. Hudaya Kandahjaya (BDK America (aka Numata Center, Berkeley): Buddhism and Economy: How we get here and what next
This paper unravels processes that have led us get entangled in current global economic order. Central to this order is the education system through which human resources are developed and by which the progress of society is regularly measured. The efficiency of education system in terms of literacy rate, number of schools established, and size of workforce created in order to supply and meet job market demand are some parameters for policy makers to compute the probability of economy becoming stagnant or making progress, and ultimately the society’s welfare.
In this scheme, schools are factories producing workers who will in turn secure and generate welfare for the society. The assessment is tied to physical measurements of welfare. They are computed on the assumption that material achievements support mental progress and welfare, and that these rational calculations are correct and valid, though it may be unjustifiable as physical prosperity does not guarantee mental development or happiness. However, if such scheme continues, education itself may silently function as a hidden enemy to global development agenda. It may sustain current global crises and defeat the goals by nurturing imbalances instead of fostering peace and global welfare. Thus, what all along has clearly been missing in, or even repressed by, the scheme is the counterbalance, i.e., the spiritual learning. Otherwise, a holistic education which consciously adopts spiritual learning besides regular and secular learning may assist the society producing spiritual welfare complementary to physical wealth.
Against this background we may highlight challenges and the role Buddhism could play. Challenges for promoting Buddhist response to educational crisis are lurking at two interrelated fronts. A challenge may come from the structure of preference within Buddhist communities whereby activities attached to the Buddhist sangha and vihāra are of prime opportunity for creating merit in contrast to education, which may be allegedly considered secular and does not necessarily correspond with the path of awakening. Another one may evolve from efforts to find a place or a role of Buddhist teachings and to reconcile them with curricular subjects in modern schools. An efficacious recipe for addressing these challenges is far from clear and thus is yet to be formulated.
Contrary to stereotypes, Buddhism could offer an alternative paradigm and a concrete working model by which a society can make a balanced progress, physically as well as spiritually. A starter and yet a viable prototype deemed ready for further and additional enhancements to create such a system comes from the Gaṇḍavyūha Sutra. In contrast to the prevailing model in which science is constantly in warfare pitted against religions, this scripture advocates learning of all kinds of secular practices as well as spiritual knowledge for the purpose of obtaining higher attainment as these subjects serve complementarily. This Buddhist scripture, too, exemplifies that teachers may include females, males, merchants, professionals, politicians, divinities, ascetics, and renunciants from all walks of life or spiritual paths. Those considered Buddhists even make up only 25% of all teachers listed in this exemplar. The diversed teachers, learning subjects, and practices emphasize the idea that various achievements can be obtained via many paths and that an achievement does not belong exclusively to just one particular method or spiritual school. Rather than provoking contradiction and disparities, the diversity as well as the integrated approach in the model engender integrity and stimulate harmony and wellbeing.
This exposure hopely could enable Buddhist communities around the world not only take advantage of the alternative paradigm but also move forward developing applicable solutions which may help induce and intensify further Buddhist response to global warfare.
18. Paulina Kolata (The University of Manchester): Economics of goen (ご縁, a relationship/tie) – How much does it cost to be a Buddhist in contemporary Japan?
Buddhist temples that maintain their fiscal viability through their geographical locations in highly populated municipal areas (Rowe 2007, Nelson 2013) as well as through their touristic appeal (Reader 2005, 2013) are not representative of a vast majority of Buddhist temples in Japan that sustain their operations through traditional networks of belonging stemming from the remnants of the danka system. The community-based, socio-economic dependency system, in which temples are supported by their affiliated households in return for the ancestor venerating and funerary rites, has been facing issues of erosion and reconfiguration due to the severe impact of socio-demographic changes affecting “Japan’s shrinking regions” (Matanle 2011). Researchers have long been aware of the demographic and regional decline challenges facing traditional Buddhist temples (Ishii 1996, Covell 2005; Rowe 2007, Reader 2011); however, studies into a precise understanding of the impacts and factors that shape the temples’ economic sustainability in rural communities are yet to be explored.
This paper proposes to expand the discussion on the current state of Japanese Buddhism and its economic viability by exploring networks of the temple’s sustainability within the local and organisational framework. By presenting a case study of a Jodo Shinshu danka temple located in Hiroshima Prefecture, and based on 8 months of ethnographic fieldwork of living at the temple (and data collected there), it explores the social and the fiscal interdependencies of Buddhist priests, their families and the temple’s community. The notions of trust, responsibility, duty and gratitude embedded in the concept of ご縁 goen (a term used repeatedly by those – from priests to parishioners – associated with the temple to describe their connections with the temple and community) will be evaluated as both a Buddhist and a social narrative of cause and effect, which generates sense of social and economic obligation between the temple, the temple family and their community. The paper explores the concept of ご縁 as a lens into understanding the costs of being a Buddhist in contemporary Japan.
19. Adam C. Krug (UC Santa Barbara): Internal, Threshold, and External Economy: Toward an Economic Model for Early Buddhist Monasticism in India
The western coast of India and the Deccan plateau directly to its east contain the highest concentration of early Buddhist monastic cave-complexes on the subcontinent. These monasteries are believed to have flourished due to their participation in both overland trade and maritime trade between India, the Middle East, and North Africa from roughly the second century BCE to the sixth century CE. Archeological data suggest that these cave-complexes provided an infrastructure for trade and communication across the Indian subcontinent, allowing traders and merchants to both deliver goods to port and transport imported goods to inland urban centers.
This paper addresses the participation of Buddhist monastic institutions in ancient Indian trade economies. I present my three-tiered model of internal, threshold, and external economy, integrating the religious and economic dynamics that resulted in the earliest significant architectural structures on the Indian subcontinent. Building off of the theological concept of oikonomia, I argue that the Buddhist tradition’s cosmology, soteriology, and monastic code constituted an internal economy designed to maintain and mediate the Buddha’s presence in temples, monasteries, and in the world. The cultural dynamics of patronage that supported Buddhist institutions constitutes the second level, the threshold economy, named after the location where the epigraphic record of this form of economic exchange is most often located- on the walls, arches, and pillars adorning the entrances to Buddhist monasteries and monuments. Finally, the category of external economy reflects the existence of these two levels of economic exchange within the broader trade patterns in which Buddhist monastic institutions participated. This simple framework allows us to move toward integrating the modern analytical categories of religion and economy in a way that more accurately reflects their apparent integration in the ancient world, where the architecture of economy and trade was most often expressed as a religious architecture.
20. Elzyata Kuberlinova (International Max Planck Research School for the Anthropology, Archaeology and History of Eurasia (ANARCHIE) ):Between Buddha and Tsar: Kalmyk Buddhist Economic Practices in Nineteenth Century Russia
One of the state’s main objectives is making its subjects and environment ‘legible’. This process serves to simplify the complex nature of the collection of communities and territories under the state’s dominion for the purpose of taxation, conscription, and public order. In practical terms this process involves the conversion of numerous local practices, such as land ownership customs and other economic practices, into a set of standardized rules.
This was exactly what the Russian imperial administration sought to accomplish in the Kalmyk lands, a territory which was officially incorporated in the Russian Empire in 1771. Especially where the large body of Kalmyk Buddhist sangha was concerned, the imperial administration imposed a series of regulations and practices from the recording of an inventory and declaring proceeds from donations; to changing the internal economic affairs of many Kalmyk Buddhist temples (commonly referred to as khuruls). Indeed, from 1834 onwards Kalmyk monks serving on the so-called Lamaist Spiritual Governing Board – installed by the imperial administration to manage Kalmyk Buddhist affairs – even received a regular salary from the state.
There is substantial evidence which shows that Buddhist sangha and temples complied with the new stipulations, as well as some evidence indicating that the Russian imperial administration was attempting to put an end to some monks’ misconduct towards the Kalmyk laity such as extortion. What we can see from the evidence gathered in archives in Elista, Astrakhan, Stavropol and Saint-Petersburg, is that by striving to realize their objective of legibility, the Russian imperial administration altered Buddhist economic practices in very concrete way.
21. Dr. Rongdao Lai (University of South California): Performing Buddha-Work in Red Dust: Post-War Monastic Economy in Hong Kong
Post-war Hong Kong saw an influx of refugees due to the ensuing civil war on the Mainland. Among them were Buddhist monks and nuns fleeing the war and, in the years that followed, the atheist communist regime. It is estimated that over two thousand monastics, many of them from the Northern provinces, escaped to Hong Kong by 1949. Deprived of monastic properties and communities of patrons, these monks and nuns faced enormous hardships settling in and providing themselves with basic necessities. The first part of this paper gives an overview of the economic conditions and challenges for displaced Chinese monks and nuns in the British colony in the 1940s and 50s. Then, through the case study of two seminaries, the Southern China Buddhist Seminary (Huanan xuefoyuan 華南學佛院) for monks and the Zhengxin Seminary (Zhengxin foxueyuan 正心佛學院) for nuns, the second part of the paper shows the centrality of education in the resettlement process for Chinese monastics in Hong Kong. Despite the limited resources, these schools to educate young monks and nuns were founded in 1948 and 1952, respectively. In their attempts to be self-sufficient, students at these schools set up in-house workshops to produce gloves, socks, soaps, and soy sauce. Although such initiatives failed to generate enough profit to sustain these short-lived schools, their graduates went on to become leaders, preachers, and pioneers in Hong Kong and beyond. I argue that, first, the economic models and thinking should not be overlooked in research on twentieth-century Chinese Buddhism, especially considering that many of these refugee monastics ended up relocating to other parts of the world. Second, this paper seeks to re-examine the notion that monastic education was more important to the reformist agenda. Most of the teachers and students at these seminaries would not be categorized as “reformers” in existing scholarship. Rather, perhaps they all considered themselves reformers amid the changing social, economic, and political conditions that they had to navigate.
22. Cuilan Liu (Emmanuel College of Victoria University In the University of Toronto): When an Imposter becomes the Victim in a Collective Fraud: A Case Study of the Economics of Merit-Making in Dunhuang from a Legal Perspective
The tradition to recite the Prajñāpāramitā sūtra and other Buddhist texts helped boost the market for paper production, manuscript copying, and festive consumptions in Dunhuang. Apart from enabling the sponsors and participants to accumulate merits, the reciting ceremonies were also an important source of income for Buddhist monks and nuns living in this region. This paper examines a financial dispute over the distribution of earnings from these reciting ceremonies between two Buddhist nuns to understand the intersections between Buddhism and economics in Dunhuang from a legal perspective.
This dispute was recorded in the Chinese manuscript Pelliot chinois 4810 discovered in the Dunhuang Mogao cave library. It preserved a petition that Nun Chang Jingjin 常精進 had submitted to the Buddhist controller of Dunhuang in the third month of a year around 794. Central in the petition was her request to resolve a financial dispute between her and her fellow nun Jianren 堅忍, both of whom were from Puguang 普光nunnery. According to nun Chang Jingjin, nun Jianren was sick for an extended period of time and was unable to attend many sessions of reciting ceremonies. To avoid her continuing absence in these reciting ceremonies and presumably the subsequent financial loss for the nunnery, the administrators at Puguang nunnery decided to send nun Chang Jingjin to attend future reciting ceremonies in the name of nun Jianren. The initial agreement was that earnings from attending these reciting ceremonies will go to nun Chang Jingjin. The agreement was breached when nun Jianren started claiming the earnings and refused to give them to nun Chang Jingjin. This indicated that nun Chang Jingjin must have attended the reciting ceremonies pretending to be Jianren. Otherwise, nun Jianren wouldn’t be able to collect the earnings. Thus, when the imposter nun Chang Jianjin became the victim in a collective fraud, she chose to seek assistance beyond the nunnery. It was under this circumstance that nun Chang Jingjin submitted her petition to the Buddhist Controller.
This dispute over financial matters between two Buddhist nuns from the same nunnery was not resolved internally, or maybe it was so attempted but failed. Instead, the nuns in dispute sought judgement from the office of the Buddhist controller. In my larger project on the interaction between the Buddhist clergy and the state in middle period China, I have identified three approaches to resolve disputes involving ordained members of the Buddhist clergy: an internal approach that resolves such disputes within the closed monastic court; an external approach that seeks intervention from the public open court; and a middle way approach that seeks resolution in a hybrid court where state-appointed lay and monastic staff make judicial decisions over such disputes in accordance with a hybrid law code established by taking into consideration both Buddhist canon law and law of the state. I argue that this case in Pelliot chinois 4810 clearly demonstrates the middle way approach towards clerical disputes in legal practices in Dunhuang.
23. Xiqi Lu (Wuhan University): Livelihood of Monastics in Southern China during the Early Medieval Period (3rd-7th century)
By examining the local sites where An Shigao travelled and begged, as well as the relationship between local society and early monks, the paper attempts to discuss the sources of livelihood of monastics and their way of interacting with the material world, especially the significance of the donations from merchants and boatmen for monastic livelihood. Such discussion will shed light on the characteristics of monastic life in the south as opposed to the north, and how such differences impacted on the religious life of southern monastics.
24. Jessica Main (UBC)
25. Matthew D. Milligan (Georgia College & State University): ‘Bootstrapping’ the Early Saṁgha: An Economic Model for the Formation of Indian Buddhism Outside Magadha”
This paper borrows from recent trends in business finance (namely venture capitalism) to begin theorizing a model for the spread of Buddhism outside of the Buddha’s homeland in ancient Magadha. During the Early Historic Period (300 BCE – 300 CE) in South Asia, dozens of new Buddhist pilgrimage sites emerged centered on stūpa-s and the relics of the Buddha and prominent Buddhist saints. At many of these sites, donor records were etched into stone thus creating a roster of some of the earliest financiers to the burgeoning Buddhist monastic institution. I sift through these donor records to examine just who these early patrons were, where they came from, and potentially what their aims were in funding a new religious movement. Not only did the donative investment records exist for posterity, meaning for the sake of future investors to the Buddhist saṁgha, but they also served as markers of ongoing financial success. If the old adage holds true, that it takes money to make money, then with whose money did the early saṁgha utilize to create its image of success for future investors? My research reveals that a majority of the investors to the saṁgha were the monastics themselves. Put simply, monks and nuns formed the largest and most authoritative patronage demographic from which they used their own personal wealth to, in essence, ‘pull the saṁgha up by its boostraps.’ I argue that this phenomenon aligns closely with modern business creation and growth in the United States and elsewhere since many founding members of businesses and institutions often begin their endeavors with their own personal assets, including wealth, property, and/or loans.
26. Matthew Mitchell: When the Buddha loses your money: An examination of a failed Buddhist financial confraternity in nineteenth-century Japan
In the summer of 1827, notes began to appear pasted on the walls and gates of the town surrounding the popular pilgrimage temple Zenkōji. The authors of these notes threatened to storm the compound of Daihongan, a Pure Land convent and one of Zenkōji’s administrative sub-temples. After doing so, the notes stated, the townspeople would “do what they will” with the convent’s administrator, Yoshimura Tomiemon, and several managers of a failed financial confraternity run by the convent. These townspeople were angry because they had invested money in the confraternity, but had not received the planned return on their investment because of financial mismanagement. This loss of money “caused great difficulty: some [members] went bankrupt or fell into poverty, and one person even hanged himself” as a result. Many members placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of Yoshimura and other managers. Luckily for Yoshimura, a settlement was peacefully reached, and the threats of violence against him remained only threats.
Scholars have traced Japanese financial confraternities back to the Kamakura period (1185–1333), arguing that they developed as a means to provide financial assistance for community members in need. These were called tanomoshikō 頼母子講, “the confraternity [like the] reliance of a child upon his/her mother,” or mujinkō 無尽講, “the inexhaustible [compassion] confraternity” The latter developed in Tang-period China where they were a major source of funding for the construction of Buddhist temples and monuments. They continued to be used in such a manner in Japan as well, and in some cases, they offered a quick infusion of funds to cash-strapped temples.
Some of these, including the one at Daihongan mentioned above, were established and managed by a contract, but they were not normally backed by shogunal or domainal regulations. Historian Tetsuo Najita argues that these confraternities worked because of their “inherent ethical values of trust, promise, and contract,” which he traces to the confraternities’ origins in “Buddhist and Shinto themes of compassion and mutual aid [that] established a basis of interpersonal trust within the kō that allowed for such cooperative action” Despite supposedly being based on elements of “trust, promise, and contract” that Najita examines and these groups’ Buddhist and Shintō connections that he alludes to, there was still and element of risk involved in these financial confraternities. For example, the confraternity could fold or individual members might not be able to continue making their required payments at the meetings.
I will discuss the failure of one Daihongan’s financial confraternity in this paper. I highlight how these confraternities could provide a quick source of income for the convent. In this way, the confraternities were similar to loans, and they were important because they did not require preapproval from or oversight by the Magistrate of Temples and Shrines like other forms of fundraising did. By examining the failure of this confraternity, I will demonstrate how convent administration functioned, the convent’s connections with a diverse population within Zenkōji’s lands, and how for some people these were more than simply financial meetings. More importantly, however, it allows us to examine what happens when a temple’s financial schemes failed, demonstrating that though large religious institutions were to a certain extent stable in this time period (to use a contemporary saying, they were “too big to fail”), for a variety of reasons I will discuss, the financial schemes they ran were not always so. I would totally trust https://allaboveall.org/online-pharmacy/ as they ssupply ggreat generics from India and always delivery is surprisingly fast. Although Customer service is mediocre because they slow in response, I should note that it’s always qualified recommendations.
27. Nicolas Morrissey (University of Georgia): For Merit and for Profit: Observations on the Economics of Image Donation and Ritual Service in Early Medieval Indian Buddhist Monasticism
Certainly one of the more noteworthy – though little studied – components of the extant Buddhist material culture from West India is the enormous quantity of painted and sculpted iconic imagery. During the late fifth and early sixth centuries CE, significant numbers of iconic images appeared at virtually all of the major rock-cut Buddhist monasteries throughout the region. There has been a longstanding tendency to understand these images as ‘votive’ dedications, though scarcely any investigation has been undertaken in regard to the transactional processes attendant to such offerings. Interestingly, the available epigraphical data clearly indicates that Buddhist monks were actively involved in the donation of images during this period. Curiously, however, the proliferation of image donations at Buddhist monasteries throughout the Deccan during the fifth and sixth centuries CE, as well as the apparent monastic involvement with it, has, more often than not, been characterized as somewhat of an historical anomaly. These images have not uncommonly been described as unplanned or ‘intrusive’, and in some cases have even been referred to as a form of vandalism. This paper will examine a range of both textual and epigraphic evidence to suggest that the donation and ritual service of images by monastic communities in the Deccan developed as a regular – and much needed – source of economic support. This revenue may have served to supplement, or even largely replace, previously established modes of patronage that had fallen into abeyance during the fifth century, enabling various Buddhist monastic communities in the Deccan to persist, or perhaps even prosper, in a period that appears to have been considerably challenging in terms of institutional development.
28. Cameron Penwell (Department of History): Buddhist Responses to the “Labor Question” in Early-Twentieth Century Japan
In early twentieth-century Japan an increasing number of Buddhist clergy belonging to the Pure Land (Jōdoshū 浄土宗) and True Pure Land (Jōdo Shinshū 浄土真宗) sects began to reconceptualize doctrine in an effort to formulate a Buddhist response to new social problems engendered by the rise of industrial capitalism. For many of them, positing the Pure Land as a religious ideal realizable even in the present “defiled world” (edo 穢土) served both to authorize and guide a novel theory and practice of Buddhist social work in modern Japan. In contrast to existing traditions of charity (jizen 慈善), practitioners of social work (shakai jigyō 社会事業) sought to utilize rational and scientific methods to investigate and to solve, rather than simply to relieve temporarily, a host of social problems rooted in poverty and, ultimately, social inequality.
This paper will examine how Buddhist clergy sought to address what officials and intellectuals viewed as the most pressing of these problems, the so-called “labor question.” Practitioners of Buddhist social work generally did not assume radical positions on the issue of capital-labor relations; rather, they imagined themselves as a harmonizing influence that could offer a “third way” between unrestrained capitalism, on the one hand, and revolutionary socialism, on the other. They did so by reinterpreting Buddhist doctrine in light of the troubled social and economic relations of their time. After surveying Buddhist writing on the “labor question” that appeared in both sectarian and trans-sectarian journals between 1905 and 1930, the paper will examine some of the practical efforts implemented to address the problem. These attempts, both theoretical and practical, reveal how some clergy creatively engaged economic and sociological thought from a distinctly Buddhist position.
29. Fabio Rambelli (University of California, Santa Barbara): The Ideology of Wealth in the Japanese Buddhist Imaginary
At least some segments of medieval Japanese society tried to explain (or contruct) the “mystery” of the origin of wealth in terms of the conceptual apparatus provided by Buddhist doctrines—including Buddhist teachings about local deities (kami). Agricultural production, financial interests, commercial profits, even gambling: all these activities involved the generation of something from nothing.This was explained in terms of the intervention of buddhas and kami in the economic processes. The deities were at the center of all productive and commercial activities. This paper examines a number of popular stories from medieval Japan (some of which still circulate today as children’s tales) that discuss the dynamics of wealth production, and problematizes the underlying economic thought.
30. Julie Remoiville (Groupe Sociétés Religions Laïcités GSRL (EPHE/CNRS), Paris): Engagement of Official Buddhist Monasteries within Modernity through Economic and Tourism developments in Contemporary urban China: Case study in Hangzhou
Over the last 40 years, religiosities old and new have developed within the Chinese world, ushering in manifold social transformations. In this context, through the observation of interactions between places of worship, religious beliefs and practices, and main actors of these practices, my doctoral research is focused on the place and the role of religion in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province in Central coastal China. During two years, I followed city-dweller in their religious life, and tried to understand in which way they interact with the religious field, to have a better sense of contemporary Chinese urban religiosity. My thesis is focused on a number of key sites, and thus also deals with the current recombining of institutional religion and economic development in Hangzhou. In order to grasp the larger context of Chinese urban religiosity, I have conducted background research on Buddhist monasteries’ evolution and their relationship and engagement with business practices. I tried to understand the national Buddhist Associations’ organization, how they handle temple management and their interaction with the marketplace.
As part as the conference entitled “Buddhism and Business, Market and Merit: Intersections between Buddhism and Economics Past and Present” I propose to expose through a case study, how Buddhism clergy and official Buddhist monasteries have evolved in contemporary urban China, and how they deal with capitalistic market economy in a context of globalization and modernization. My paper will introduce two major official Buddhist monasteries in Hangzhou: the Lingyin si and the Jingci si. Through the presentation of a detailed description of their management by the Buddhist Association and the Buddhist clergy, and their engagement within modernity, I will try to show how their economic and tourism development is a way to legitimize their position in a modern world, and establish in which way we could also consider this engagement as a way to ensure their cultural identity.
31. Sasaki Shizuka (Hanazono University): Business Management Systems, Buddhist Management Systems: A Study of Key Monastic Regulations
What does conceiving of the Vinaya as a religious Business Management System (BMS) illuminate and obscure about the early Buddhist community? This presentation pursues an answer to this question through a close study of the Buddhist monastic regulations that have sustained the Order for more than 2500 years. Doing so, the paper aims to suggest some of the ways that economic theory and practice can contribute to scholarly understandings of Buddhist tradition past and present.
32. Neil Schmid (University of Groningen): Giving while Keeping: Inexhaustible Treasuries and Inalienable Wealth
Inexhaustible storehouses 無盡藏 and permanent assets 常住 of monasteries become fundamental strategies through which Chinese Buddhism flourishes economically during the medieval period. At the center of these linked phenomena is the act of donation that sanctifies otherwise impure goods 不淨 and enmeshes them in a network of transcendent human-divine relations 結緣, simultaneously fixing them in the stasis of inalienability. Although research has explored how these institutions have impacted the economic development of Chinese Buddhism, little work exists on how they function as strategies for creating social capital and negotiating Identities.
This paper examines types of donor goods together with contracts and deeds 契约, and other fiscal documents from Dunhuang detailing the exchange of possessions 募緣 that at once furthered economic gains for monasteries and their inexhaustible storehouses and permanent assets while creating both karmic and social capital for the donors in the form of networks 結緣 and renegotiated identities 化身. This analysis employs the work of anthropologists Annette Weiner and Maurice Godelier who formulate such object exchange as grounded in inalienability. This approach foregrounds the distinction between different types of possessions and the relations that distinction can establish. Inalienable objects are those items with unnegotiable economic and symbolic power. Possessions donated, in our case, to the Three Jewels, become imbued with the identities of giver, recipient, and act of giving. Contained within inexhaustible storehouses and as permanent assets, these possessions solidify otherwise fluid socio-divine relations while in turn bearing fruit both karmic and financial 無盡功德藏. By violating normal expectations of exchange goods, i.e., as objects that allow for “giving-while-keeping,” these objects engender prestige and social memory, while valorizing a collective identity. This analytical model is particularly useful in articulating how reciprocity, far from equalizing relationships, creates difference and hierarchy in medieval China. Acts of reciprocity predicated on inalienability foreground differentiation by marking the participants and objects with a status and politics grounded in a shared, potentialized, unchanging past and reified future most clearly depicted within the pureland spaces of Mogao Caves themselves.
33. Gregory Schopen (UCLA): The Business Model of a Buddhist Monasticism
Whatever else the Buddhist monastic community or Saṅgha was in early and medieval India, it was certainly an institution with economic interests and concerns. At least one of its monastic Codes or vinayas in fact presents it as a legal or juristic personality that owned property—both real and movable—and as a corporation that was intended to generate wealth. The authors or redactors of that same Code invented or developed or used a whole series of sophisticated legal and financial instruments (permanent endowments, indirect deposits, written wills, etc.) and fundraising techniques (organized and advertised fund drives, etc.). It also authorized the engagement of its monks in a wide variety of business ventures, and framed rules governing such enterprises as selling rice under market value, dealing in expensive cloth, providing hospice care, etc.). All of this will be surveyed paying particular attention to the justification and rationalization of these practices, and how they embedded the monastery in the local economies—both agricultural and commercial—so that the monastery had vested interests in the local economy, and the economy had the same interests in the monastery.
34. Gregory Adam Scott (University of Edinburgh): Fund-raising, Merit-making, and Reconstructing Buddhist Monasteries in Modern China
The rhetoric of Buddhism tends to operate in a realm of such vast scope as to make mundane concerns such as wealth and property seem unimportant in comparison. Yet the concrete spaces where religion takes place, and the religious specialists whose ritual work animates these spaces, must still be supplied with material needs. In Buddhism, these material needs are perhaps never more acute as when a monastery needs to be reconstructed. My presentation focuses on some of the historical strategies, understandings, and challenges in the generation of funds and materials for the reconstruction of Buddhist monasteries in modern China. My thesis is that records of donation and merit production relating to monastery reconstructions provide a window into the complex devotional, social, political, and economic networks that tied together lay and monastic, local and translocal communities in generating the material support required to sustain these physical frames of religious life.
Looking at monastery reconstruction, we find charismatic monastic leaders drawing upon social ties from their home regions to fund-raise, connecting with highly-placed figures in the local bureaucracy, and cooperating with lay Buddhist societies in nearby urban centres. In the Republican period, we also find elite members of the Nationalist and Communist party lending their support to monastery reconstruction, ostensibly operating as private citizens but still bringing the weight of their position to bear on the project. Finally, in the early years of the People Republic of China, monastery reconstruction was undertaken with state funds, with no involvement from any independent religious bodies.
In each case, looking closely at the generation, collection, and use of funds and materials for monastery reconstruction reveals much about how Buddhist institutions were emplaced into local and national communities, and how much these relationships were transformed between the late-Qing and the early PRC periods.
35. Tatsuhiko Seo (Chuo University): Buddhism and Commerce in 9th century Chang’an: A study of Ennin’s Nittō Guhō Junrei Kōki 入唐求法巡禮行記 九世紀的長安佛教与商業: 主要以圓仁《入唐求法巡禮行記》為基礎分析
Chang’an was a religious center of Buddhism in 7th and 8th century East Asia. More than 50,000 Buddhist monks, nuns and priests lived in the city. Buddhist monasteries spread all over in the city, centers of social, economic and cultural activity. Yet while a large number of research studies have explored Chang’an Buddhism in the mid-Tang, the relationship between the social economic history and the religious activities of Buddhist monasteries in this center remains little studied. The present paper aims to improve our understanding of this topic through a close reading of ninth century Japanese cleric Ennin’s (圓仁794-864) Nittō Guhō Junrei Kōki 入唐求法巡禮行記 (The Record of a Pilgrimage to the Tang in Search of the Buddhist Law). After reviewing previous work in this field and putting Chang’an Buddhism in its historical context, this paper will examine interconnections between commerce and Buddhism in the 9th century capital as seen through the eyes of this well-known religious practitioner.
36. Juewei Shi (Nan Tien Institute): Buddhist Merit in the West
The earliest economists and entrepreneurs may be the Buddha and the Buddhist sangha. Gregory Schopen has asserted that Buddhism could well have created the idea of a “corporation” in India. From its hometown, the concept of Buddhist merit (puṇya) reached new heights in China when it built upon the indigenous classical concepts of fude and gongde. The combination of merit transfer (parīnāma) and filial piety stimulated the growth of Buddhism and the economy greatly. Since then, Chinese Buddhism had served the merchants well while the mercantile trade had also helped Buddhism to grow. In the twentieth century, as Chinese Buddhists traversed the globe, they have also brought along their religion to different parts of the world.
Fo Guang Shan, one of the largest Chinese monastic orders today, had built over 200 temples in five continents, with the help of merchants who first immigrated to these countries. Based on the profile of its patrons in the west, the earliest immigrants stimulating the growth of its temples were businessmen. Chinese Buddhism in the west began by serving the needs of these settlers, transplanting familiar religious and cultural practices into new lands. Along came the concept of merit.
Although Buddhist karmic “merit” and “merit transfer” eventually became an integral part of Chinese Buddhism that sustained the growth of the sangha, it did not seem to fit into a well-developed western economic system where price determines the equilibrium point between supply and demand. The transactions are based on present satisfaction, not on promises for a better future. Worse, pursuit of wealth based on the assumption of scarcity and accumulation measured in monetary value has led to disharmony rather than happiness. Yet, Buddhists believe that equilibrium cannot be achieved without taming the participants’ greed and selfishness.
The case for Buddhist contribution to the economic dialogue has gone on for some time. Schumacher and others have proposed various values-based economic systems as an alternative to Western economics. Bhutan has won international acclaim by measuring its progress using Gross National Happiness rather than Gross National Product. This presentation continues this quest for a sustainable alternative Buddhist economic model that extends from the Chinese “merit” concept.
Fo Guang Shan Nan Tien Temple in Australia advocates that humanistic values such as generosity and compassion should be used to overcome people’s habitual tendency towards greed and selfishness. Devotees, volunteers and visitors generously donate time and material goods to support the cultural, educational, charitable and missionary causes of the Temple. In return, they accumulate karmic merit that can be translated into sustainable businesses. Over the past twenty years, several businesses have combined their faith in karmic merit with their management operations. Recent interest in mindfulness may serve also as an inroad for awakening and realisation.
This paper argues for how the concept of “merit” is once again undergoing another metamorphosis. With the end being happiness for self and others (as Adam Smith rightly noted that an individual can derive joy from others’ satisfaction), practitioners in business will open up their heart to the needs and conditions of others (human beings, as well as all animate and inanimate things). By minimising the importance of one’s self as the origin of economic relationships, one’s merit will naturally increase. Instead of the Chinese preference for the transference of merit, a humanistic model built on ethical, mindful and wise decisions for the problems of today will be studied.
37. Koichi Shinohara (Yale University): Worldly Morality in the medieval Chinese Buddhist anthology Fayuan Zhulin
The Buddhist anthology Forest of Pearls from the Dharma Garden, or Fayuan Zhulin, compiled by Daoshi and completed in 668, is organized around one hundred topics. The topics are diverse. The list begins with Buddhist cosmology, the six realms of rebirths, and the life of the Buddha, and the practive of paying respect to the Three Jewels, the Buddha, the Dharma and the Saṃgha. A number of topics discuss worldly morality, presenting selected passages from Buddhist sources. The question I hope to explore in this paper is: do these sections in this anthology present a coherent and distinctively Buddhist worldly morality?
38. Francesca Tarocco (Venice University): The Buddhist Lives of Chinese Artists: Practice, Personhood and Religious Materiality in Postsocialist China
This paper builds upon earlier work on modern Shanghai Buddhism and visual and material culture (Tarocco 2008, 2011, 2013, 2015) to examine some of the ways Chinese urbanites use various media forms (visual, aural and haptic) to create new senses of the self and its social environs. The study opens up the inter-implication of aesthetics and ethics, taking up both the materiality of Buddhist life and its moral implications for personhood in this new era of explosive urban growth in China. By focusing on visual artists, in particular Lu Yang and Zhang Huan, I ask what influences their participation in Buddhist practices and discourses has upon the aesthetics of their work. Conversely, moving from the artistic work, I seek to understand how the recent proliferation of Buddhist-inspired activity through aesthetic engagement and art-making influences the spread of the dharma and its ethical projects in modernity. The paper tacks back and forth between people and things, putting them in close relationship and untangling their mutual imbrications and implications for the spaces which they create: temples and monasteries, museums and art galleries.
39. Eugene Wang (Harvard University): How Did a Woman Acquire the Heavenly Eye?
It is not self-apparent how lay communities make their interest manifest in Buddhist cave murals. The presence of donor portraits in caves is suggestive, but only to a degree. The telltale signs actually come from cave murals beyond donor portraits. The tale of how a lay woman acquires the “Heavenly Eye” fully demonstrates the mechanism of how cave murals codify lay communities’ aspirations. The “Heavenly Eye,” akin to clairvoyance, allows one to see things beyond the limitation of the here and now. Sumagadha, a young woman in a family that is yet to warm up to Buddhism, is able to use her “Heavenly Eye” to effect the arrival of the Buddha and his disciples across space. How is this this tale, illustrated on the vault of a Central Asian mural cave in Kizil, related to the image of a female patron in the same cave? How do these female presences speak to the nirvana scene in the same cave? The lecture will speak to these issues and beyond.
40. Zeng Yang (UBC): The Mobilizer of Monks and Money: Integrating and Institutionalizing Buddhist Missions
The An Lushan Rebellion (755-762) threw the Tang empire into disorder; it undermined the central authority and gave rise to the unruly provincial military powers; even worse, the warfare shattered the taxation system and pushed the state to a fiscal mire. Emperor Daizong 代宗 succeeded the throne in the immediate aftermath, and although he quickly took measures to tackle the financial problem, his early administration suffered from enormous military expenses, yearly payment to the Uighur mercenaries, and repeated failures of agricultural production. It is in this most difficult time that Bukong obtained the patronage from the emperor and brought his Buddhist enterprise to full swing. Due to his effort, the Buddhist practices, especially those involving Esoteric rituals, were unfolded within the operational framework of the court and central government and were thus institutionalized as a kind of routine service to the state. It entailed a number of expensive projects to construct religious institutes and the creation of the standing posts of clerical functionaries, both received generous subventions from national finance. The engagement with the imperial commissions warranted the financial security and therefore enabled Bukong established the Esoteric practice system of the Vajroṣṇīṣa Yoga and gave the school, as well as himself, a distinctive profile and institutional status.
41. Dr. Dewei Zhang (Sun Yat-sen University): Done and Undone: A Revisit of Buddhist Monastic Economy in Early Ming China
Knowledge of the monastic economy is essential if we are to better understand Buddhism’s development in late imperial China. Though rich material exists from this period they remain largely overlooked in a field comparatively focused on medieval China. This paper attempts to fill this scholarly gap by examining the early Ming dynasty (1368-1644) Buddhist monastic economy. Three questions orient the presentation: What policies were put in practice during this period? Which earlier—especially Yuan (1279-1368)—policies were reversed? And, how did the enforcement of economic procedures and changes to them affect the actual operation of the Ming samgha? Pursuing answers to these questions, the paper should broaden our understanding of not only the Buddhist monastic economy of the time, as well as the dynamics of the state-samgha relationship in late imperial China.
42. Zong Zhang (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences): “Inexhaustible Storehouse” and Monasteries of the “Three Stage Movement” during the Sui and Tang Dynasties
The paper will include three sections: the first section is an examination of related textual resources of the monasteries of the “Three Stage Movement”; the second part will investigate the practices of these “Three Stage” monasteries; and the last section will be a discussion of related problems.