Law, Buddhism and Social Change: A Conversation With the 14th Dalai Lama

Posted: 29 Jan 2008

See all articles by Rebecca French

Rebecca French

University at Buffalo Law School

Kenneth M. Ehrenberg

University of Surrey - School of Law

David M. Engel

SUNY Buffalo Law School

Leslie Gunawardana

University of Peradeniya

James L. Magavern

Magavern Magavern & Grimm LLP

Kenneth Shockley

State University of New York

Vesna Wallace

University of California, Santa Barbara

Richard Whitecross

University of Edinburgh; Edinburgh Napier University

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Abstract

In September of 2006, the Dalai Lama of Tibet came to the University at Buffalo Law School, SUNY, to speak at a conference, "Law, Buddhism, and Social Change." It was the first time he has publicly addressed issues concerning the law and the religious foundations of a legal system and the result was a major event of great significance for contemporary legal thinking. He spoke at length about Buddhist values in political situations, the role of law in social life, and the nature of the legal process. His answers were particularly incisive because of the range of his sixteen conversants: a local judge and well-known legal practitioner, Asian historians, philosophers, legal anthropologists working in Tibetan cultures, Buddhist scholars, the Head of the Tibetan Manuscript Division of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in India, two law professors who work in Asia and two law scholars who work in American religion.

These articles present several of the major ideas of the conference. After a brief introduction, the second article, "The Dalai Lama Speaks on Law" is an attempt by the organizer, Rebecca French, to make the radical meaning of his words available to others. It is laid out as a basic jurisprudential primer of his thought: what is the nature of law? What is the role of lawyers? What are immoral laws? Do we need tolerance? How important is economic well-being for a society? Should there be a union or separation of religion and law? Should there be a death penalty? How should we address criminal punishment? Throughout, the impact of Buddhism on his thinking is apparent. Following this introduction are seven short articles written by the participants outlining and contextualizing the Dalai Lama's approach to law for several different disciplines. And finally, a complete transcript of his comments and the eight questions prepared by the participants are included in the appendix for reference and review.

Keywords: Dalai Lama, Buddhism, Law and Buddhism, Buddhist legal studies, crime and punishment, lawyering, religion, law and religion, compassion, death penalty, separation of church and state, comparative law, karma, cultural studies, law and society, Tibet, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, jurisprudence, ethics

Suggested Citation

French, Rebecca and Ehrenberg, Kenneth M. and Engel, David M. and Gunawardana, Leslie and Magavern, James L. and Shockley, Kenneth and Wallace, Vesna and Whitecross, Richard William, Law, Buddhism and Social Change: A Conversation With the 14th Dalai Lama. Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2007-15; Buffalo Law Review Vol. 55, pp. 635-735, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1088035

Rebecca French (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

710 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States
716-645-2159 (Phone)

Kenneth M. Ehrenberg

University of Surrey - School of Law ( email )

United Kingdom

David M. Engel

SUNY Buffalo Law School ( email )

415 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States

Leslie Gunawardana

University of Peradeniya ( email )

Peradeniya, 20400
Sri Lanka

James L. Magavern

Magavern Magavern & Grimm LLP ( email )

1100 Rand Building
14 Lafayette Square
Buffalo, NY 14203
United States

Kenneth Shockley

State University of New York ( email )

135 Park Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260
United States

Vesna Wallace

University of California, Santa Barbara ( email )

Santa Barbara, CA 93106
United States

Richard William Whitecross

University of Edinburgh ( email )

Edinburgh, EH8 9LL
United Kingdom

Edinburgh Napier University ( email )

Edinburgh
United Kingdom

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