The Baldy Center Podcast

Episode 39. Rebecca R. French and Mark A. Nathan discuss Buddhism and Law

Published February 19, 2024

In Episode 39 of The Baldy Center Podcast, Rebecca R. French and Mark A. Nathan discuss Buddhism and Law in the context of past, present, and future plans for collaborative research among international scholars. Cultivated over decades, this research is seen in the depth and scope of related publications, and, in the remarkable trajectory of the scholarly journal,  Buddhism, Law & Society,  founded at UB School of Law, and continuing at Rutgers University.

Keywords: Buddhist Studies; Buddhism and Law; Buddha; Religion; Scripture; History; Korea; Tibet.

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The Buddha actually orally transmitted, it is traditionally said, an entire law code for the people who were practicing Buddhists. And I think the real problem is that even though we understand that Christianity has a very large moral background and law code, et cetera, and we understand that Islam does, and Judaism does, and Hinduism does, no one has ever really paid much attention to the fact that Buddhist countries have one, which is a really large sub-disciplinary law."

                —  Rebecca Redwood French                               
                      (The Baldy Center Podcast, 2024)

It is true that there's kind of common ground for Buddhist communities throughout Asia, particularly in being tied together with monastic codes. Although they're modified in various places, and not exactly the same, generally scholars divide up the Buddhist world in Asia between the different canons that are used, and that are seen as being the transmission of the Buddhist teachings through time."

                —  Mark A. Nathan                          
                      (The Baldy Center Podcast, 2024)

The Baldy Center Conferences on Buddhism and Law (related content)

Rebecca Redwood French

Research focus: Anthropology of Law, Buddhism and Law, Comparative Law, Law and Religion, Property Law

Rebecca French.

Rebecca French

PODCAST INTRO: "I practiced law for about seven years and then went to get a PhD in anthropology with a person who does legal anthropology. It is a very specialized field, but during the course of that, I was interested in what the moral norms are, for law, and I thought that going to Tibet would be a good idea. It turned out it was something that took a very long time. I was four or five years in the field in India because Tibetans at that point had been taken over by China and were in a refugee community in India. I came back, wrote a book, got a job as a law professor, and for a long time I was in Tibetan legal studies. And then perhaps twenty or twenty-five years ago, I switched over into Buddhist Legal Studies realizing that people didn't seem to know that the Buddha had a whole law code and that there were all kinds of moral and other interesting ideas. So I've been teaching in law for thirty-three years now, so that is a little while."  

            —Rebecca Redwood French, Professor
                School of Law, University at Buffalo
               See faculty profile.

Mark A. Nathan

Research focus: Buddhism in Korean history, law and religion, transnational religious developments, religious propagation in Asia

Mark Nathan.

Mark A. Nathan

PODCAST INTRO:  "I took a different path. After I did my undergraduate degree in history, and a master's degree in religious studies, I went for a PhD in Asian studies with a focus on Buddhism and Korean history. While I was just starting my dissertation work, I had attended a workshop that Rebecca hosted at The Baldy Center with David Engel. It opened my eyes to some things about my own work, deciding to come at it from a legal perspective, and the way that the Buddhist community and Buddhist institutions in Korea in the 20th century interacted with the law, and were shaped by some of the ways that religion was being legally defined. It was a big part of the work that I ended up producing for my dissertation, and then my book. It was a nice coincidence that I came to Buffalo and could work with Rebecca. We did the edited volume with Cambridge University Press called Buddhism and Law: An Introduction. That was almost ten years ago."

            —Mark A. Nathan, Director, Asian Studies Program
                Associate Professor, UB Department of History

               See faculty profile.

Logan, Podcast Host/Producer 2023-24



Logan, The Baldy Center’s 2023-2024 podcast host/producer, is a graduate student in UB's School of Architecture and Planning, Program on International Development and Global Health. Logan is interested in NGOs and nonprofit global health initiatives within the global south. Logan completed undergraduate studies in Public Health, with a minor in Spanish, and has recently been accepted into a certificate program at NYU x Rolling Stone for Modern Journalism. As graduate research assistant, Logan has worked for the Women’s Health Initiative, and, the Community for Global Health Equity. Recipient of the 2022 Art Goshin Global Health Fieldwork Award for research on Decentralization of Health Services in Ghana, Logan currently serves as a research assistant with Dr. Tia Palermo's 2PE lab. 

Executive Producers

Samantha Barbas
Professor, UB School of Law;
Director, The Baldy Center

Amanda M. Benzin 
Associate Director
The Baldy Center