International Conference: Fall 2016

Buddhist Law and State Law in Comparative Perspective

Sept 30 and Oct 1, 2016: The two-day conference, builds on the edited collection, Buddhism and Law: An Introduction (Cambridge, 2014) by Rebecca French and Mark Nathan. It will also serve as the official launch of the first issue of the new peer-reviewed, academic journal, Buddhism, Law & Society  (William S. Hein Publishing).

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Location: 509 O'Brian Hall, UB North Campus


Synopsis: This two-day, international conference in the exciting new area of Buddhism, Law and Society will bring together scholars whose work touches on the theme of Buddhism and law from multiple perspectives and across a variety of regions and time periods. A key goal of this conference is to encourage new conversations and collaborations among scholars working in different areas.

Themes to be explored include the importance of different versions of the original Buddhist law codes in Sanskrit, Pali and vernacular sources; the key principles of continuity and discontinuity in the practice of Buddhist law in ancient and modern periods; and the differences in the conceptions and practices of ‘legality’ in monastic and state legal structures.

Participants will address monastic legal practices, the relationships between royal/civil law and Buddhist legal norms, law codes and documents, notions of legality (or harm, property, freedom etc.), the administration of temples and Buddhist sites, contemporary Buddhist legal activism and Buddhist-interest litigation.    

All interested parties are welcome to attend. Please contact the managing editor of the journal, Buddhism, Law & Society, at, for information on the conference. 

Conference Co-organizers

    Rebecca R. French, SUNY Buffalo Law School

    Benjamin Schonthal, University of Otago


Buddhist Law and State Law in Comparative Perspective, International Conference 2016, is sponsored by the University at Buffalo:

  • The Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy
  • Humanities Institute
  • College of Arts and Sciences, Departments of Anthropology, Geography, History, Political Science, and the Asian Studies Program


Participants represent a variety of Buddhist contexts including China, Japan, Mongolia, Bhutan, Korea, Thailand, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Burma and India. With the help of faculty from the SUNY Buffalo Law School, we also hope to facilitate conversations between scholars of Buddhism and scholars of law on key aspects of legal practice and discourse. Confirmed panelists include:

Anne Blackburn

Jens Borgland

Michael Chladek

Shayne Clarke

David Engel


Rebecca French

Paul Hackett

Ann Heirman

Berthe Jansen

Petra Kieffer-Pülz

Daniel Kent

Christian Lammerts

Tomas Larsson        

Mark Nathan

Ben Schonthal

Brenton Sullivan

Robert Thurman

Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang

Aung Tun

Vesna Wallace

Matthew Walton

Richard Whitecross



9:00-9:30 – Welcome and Breakfast

9:30-11:15 - Panel 1: The Balance between Buddhist and Civil Law?
Richard W. Whitecross – “Of Texts and Drama: Courts, Courtrooms and Due Process”
Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang – “Thailand’s Buddhism in Constitutions”
Benjamin Schonthal – “Litigating the Vinaya?”

11:15-11:45 - Tea Break

11:45-1:00 - Panel 2: Buddhism, Law and Democracy
Tomas Larsson - "Buddhism, Law, and Democracy in Thailand: A Tocquevillean Perspective"
Matthew J. Walton and Aung Tun – “Monks and the Law in Myanmar”

1:00-2:30 - Lunch

2:30-4:15 - Panel 3: Buddhist Ideals and Actualities
Michael Chladek – “Asymmetrical Orientations to the Buddhist Monastic Code: Imagined Laity and the Performance of Monasticism in Northern Thailand”
Daniel Kent – “The Sins of Kings and the Sins of Nations: Reconciling Local and Global Discourses of Remorse and Forgiveness in Civil War Sri Lanka”
Brenton Sullivan – “The administration of a large-scale monastery in the Tibeto-Mongol-Chinese border”

4:15-4:45 - Tea Break

4:45-6:15 - Panel 4 Keynote
Petra Kieffer-Pülz - "Pre-Christian Monastic Law Codes and Their Application in Modern Times"



9:00-9:30 – Breakfast

9:30-11:15 - Panel 1: State-Sangha Relations in East Asia|
Ann Heirman and Faling – "Fighting Fu Yi: Daoxuan and his Defense of Buddhism in the Social and Political Context of the Early Tang Period"
Vesna Wallace – “The Interface of Mongolian Pastoral, Nomadic Culture and Law in the Matters of Sexual Morality"
Mark Nathan - Law, Politics, and Monastic Schism in Post-Colonial South Korean Buddhism: State Intervention and Legal Decisions in the History of the Purification Movement

11:15-11:45 - Tea Break

11:45-1:00 - Panel 2: Structures of Legality in Tibet and Burma
Berthe Jansen – “Monastic Laws and Lay Laws in Pre-modern Tibet regarding Punishment”
Christian Lammerts – “Buddhist Juridical Oaths in Premodern Burma.”

1:00-2:00 - Lunch

2:00-3:15 - Panel 3: New Directions in the Study of Vinaya
Jens W. Borgland – “On Taking Legal Action against Monks Who do not Acknowledge”
Shayne Clarke - "The Unique Nature of the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya Corpus"

3:15-3:45 - Tea Break

3:45-5:15 - Panel 4: Final Reflections
Anne Blackburn
David Engel

5:15-6:15 and into dinner - Panel 5: Planning Meeting: Where Do We Go from Here?
Rebecca Redwood French
Paul Hackett

Conference Poster

Baldy Center Conference.