Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies: E-journal, Vol 2.2, Schopen

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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 2.2 (2019): 217–249;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism and Business: South and East Asian Perspectives)

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The Business Model of a Buddhist Monasticism: Acquiring Productive Assets

University of California, Los Angeles

Keywords: Vinaya, monastic property, Indian Buddhism, medieval India, monastic labour

Abstract: Whatever else the Buddhist monastic community or Saṅgha was in early and medieval India, it was certainly an institution with economic interests and concerns. At least one of its monastic Codes or vinayas presents it as a legal or juristic personality that owned property—both real and movable—and as a corporation that was intended to generate wealth. The authors or redactors of that same Code invented, developed, or used a whole series of sophisticated legal and financial instruments (permanent endowments, indirect deposits, written wills, etc.) and fundraising techniques (organized and advertised fund drives, etc.). It also authorized the engagement of its monks in a wide variety of business ventures, and framed rules governing such enterprises as selling rice under market value, dealing in expensive cloth, providing hospice care, etc.). All of this will be surveyed, paying particular attention to the justification and rationalization of these practices, and how they embedded the monastery in the local economies—both agricultural and commercial—so that the monastery had vested interests in the local economy, and the economy had the same interests in the monastery.


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