What Is Buddhist Law?

40 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2015

See all articles by Rebecca French

Rebecca French

University at Buffalo Law School

Date Written: March 31, 2015


This Law Review article, and ones that follow, are an introduction to Buddhist Law and its influence in Asia and the rest of the world. While the legal traditions of all major religious traditions have been extensively studied and written about, there are very few scholars of, and little written in any language on, the legal concepts in the Buddhist tradition. There is basically nothing in the legal academic literature in the U.S. nor are translations of the actual legal texts available for general use when working to understand this form of thinking, or in making comparisons to other religious laws. This series of articles will examine the reasons for this gap, outline the contextual setting, explore the actual rules that were established, note how they influenced social systems in Asia and address other general aspects of Buddhist Law.

This article will have two types of writing: (1) in regular script, the legal discussion and description common to a Law Review and (2) in italics, translations of actual Buddhist law code texts, particularly the Vinaya, or canonical law code. The second type of writing is presented to familiarize non-Asian lawyers with the style of the text and some of the concepts and ideas that underlie Buddhism and Buddhist Law. Besides the intrinsic interest of a wholly unknown legal system, this material is useful for comparative lawyers, international lawyers, scholars of public policy and anyone doing law in a former or current Buddhist country.

Keywords: Buddhism, Buddhist Law, Vinaya, Buddha, comparative Law, Buddhist canonical law code

Suggested Citation

French, Rebecca, What Is Buddhist Law? (March 31, 2015). Buffalo Law Review, Forthcoming; SUNY Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-022. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2587990

Rebecca French (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

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

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