Volume 30, 2023
Buddhism under Capitalism. Edited by Richard K. Payne and Fabio Rambelli. London: Bloomsbury, 2022, 280 pages, ISBN 978-1-350-22832-0 (hardback), $90.00, 978-1-350-22833-7 (paperback), $29.95, 978-1-350-22835-1 (e-book), $26.95.
Reviewed by Stephen Christopher
Volume 27, 2020
The Saṃgha and the Taxman: A Tibetan Regent’s Economic Reforms and the Ethics of Rulership
William K. Dewey
Rubin Museum of Art
This article examines how Tibetan Buddhists believed a state should be governed justly by considering the political agenda of the regent Ngawang Tsültrim (1721–1791) and how he was influenced by the Indian nītiśāstra tradition and similar indigenous traditions of ethical rule. Nītiśāstra originally, under Kauṭilya, promoted wealth and power. Later proponents (both Hindu and Buddhist) more strongly emphasized the primacy of Dharma and justice for the poor, and in this form it most influenced Tibetan Buddhist political thought, including the legislative decrees of Ngawang Tsültrim. He tried to relieve the Tibetan peasants from the heavy tax and labor obligations of the Tibetan social system, and otherwise pursued economic justice. In so doing, he also wanted to ensure that resources continued to flow to the Saṃgha, the supreme field of merit. Accordingly, the decrees targeted aristocratic rather than monastic corruption. They prioritized the maintenance and reform of existing economic obligations over economic development or redistribution of wealth. Ngawang Tsültrim’s decrees demonstrate a tension within the nītiśāstra tradition which can also be found when today’s religions (including socially engaged Buddhism) pursue goals of social justice. These goals may conflict with the goal of spreading the faith, and especially with the social and financial structures that support religious institutions, but may be responsible for social ills. Read article
Volume 24, 2017
In the Midst of Imperfections: Burmese Buddhists and Business Ethics
Pyi Phyo Kyaw
King’s College, University of London
This article looks at interpretations by Buddhists in Burma of right livelihood (sammā-ājīva) and documents the moral reasoning that underlies their business activities. It explores different ways in which Buddhists in Burma, through the use of Buddhist ethics and practices, resolve moral dilemmas that they encounter while pursuing their livelihood. I give a brief summary of the existing scholarship on Buddhist economics and on economic action in Burma, exemplified by the work of E. F. Schumacher and Melford Spiro respectively. In so doing, I wish to highlight a difference between the approaches of the existing scholarship and that of this article: the existing scholarship analyzes economic issues from the perspective of normative ethics; this research analyzes them from the perspective of descriptive ethics, looking at how Buddhists interpret and apply Buddhist ethics in their business activities, in the midst of moral, social, and economic imperfections. The research presented draws on semi-structured interviews and fieldwork conducted in Burma in the summer of 2010 and relates the interpretations given to the relevant Buddhist literature, the textual authorities for doctrines such as morality (sīla).
Volume 15, 2008
Business within Limits: Deep Ecology and Buddhist Economics. Edited by Laszlo Zsolnai and Knut Johannesssen Ims. Bern: Peter Lang Publishing, 2006, 324 pages, ISBN 3039107038, US $62.95 (paperback).
Reviewed by Jason McLeod Monson
Volume 14, 2007
The Ethics of Knowledge and Action in Postmodern Organizations
Limmen, The Netherlands
Good Corporate Governance was explicitly formulated in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which became federal law in 2002. It includes ethical guidelines to regulate employee behavior and the interrelations between organizations and their shareholders. While these guidelines are exterior to the person, this paper discusses the construct of an internal beacon for right managerial action, in the Buddhist sense, as well as ways not only to access it mentally but also to extend it into the outside world. Within this perspective, it also presents the ethical teaching of the Chinese Ming philosopher Wang Yangming (1472-1529). Although Wang is considered to be a Neo-Confucian philosopher, in this article he is considered a seminal thinker within the Chan Buddhist tradition Wang’s method of self-cultivation is presented to access the person’s innate knowledge which in itself implies right action.
Volume 10, 2003
Mindfulness in the Marketplace: Compassionate Responses to Consumerism. Allen Badiner (ed.), Berkeley: Parallax Press, 2002. 264 pages. Paperback. ISBN: 1888375248.
Reviewed by Eric Sean Nelson