Development of Buddhist Economic Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Continuity and Change in the Economic Ethics of Buddhism:­ Evidence From the History of Buddhism in India, China and Japan

Gregory K. Ornatowski
Boston University

This paper offers an outline of the development of Buddhist economic ethics using examples from early Theravāda Buddhism in India and the Mahāyāna tradition as it evolved in India, medieval China, and medieval and early modern Japan, in order to illustrate the pattern of continuities and transformations these ethics have undergone. By “economic ethics” the paper refers to four broad areas: (1) attitudes toward wealth, i.e., its accumulation, use, and distribution, including the issues of economic justice and equality/ inequality; (2) attitudes toward charity, i.e., how and to whom wealth should be given; (3) attitudes toward human labor and secular occupations in society; and (4) actual economic activities of temples and monasteries which reflect the lived-practice of Buddhist communities’ economic ethics.

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