Law, Buddhism and Social Change: A Conversation With the 14th Dalai Lama
Posted: 29 Jan 2008
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
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