Special Issue "Buddhist Beasts: Reflections on Animals in Asian Religions and Cultures"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 May 2019

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Reiko Ohnuma

Professor and Department Chair, Department of Religion, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Buddhism in South Asia; Hinduism in South Asia; Women and Religion
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Barbara Ambros

Professor and Department Chair, Department of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Gender Studies; Human-Animal Relationships; Place and Space; Pilgrimage

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Buddhists across Asia have thought about, depicted, and treated nonhuman animals in a rich diversity of ways for the last 2,500 years, and have used these conceptual repertoires to negotiate their lives as human beings in many different arenas—ranging from the everyday practice of eating to the writing of sacred literature, the production of art, the ethical project of living a moral life, and the ultimate Buddhist goal of attaining Awakening. The papers collected together in this Special Issue consider some of the many ways in which Buddhists across Asia have viewed nonhuman animals and the human-animal relationship: How have they reconciled the doctrinal view of animals as a lowly realm of rebirth with the Buddhist ethical imperative to view all sentient beings as fellow travelers in the sufferings of samsara? How have they negotiated the thorny issues surrounding the eating of meat? How have depictions of animals been useful in constructing the relationship between Buddhists and their various “others”? How have they depicted animals in art, and what might these depictions tell us about their human creators? As Buddhists have never lived in isolation from others, some of the papers also provide a wider context by looking at surrounding Asian traditions such as Jainism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Daoism. Likewise, two of the papers extend the focus yet further by considering how the animal-related issues considered by premodern Buddhists still leave their lingering traces in modern Indian law and public policy surrounding human-animal interactions.

The papers contained in this Special Issue were originally presented at a conference entitled “Buddhist Beasts: Reflections on Animals in Asian Religions and Cultures” that took place at the University of British Columbia in April 2018. The conference was organized by Jinhua Chen (UBC) and Phyllis Granoff (Yale University) and sponsored by the Glorisun Charitable Foundation, Tzu-Chi Canada, SSHRC Partnership FROGBEAR Project, and the UBC Buddhist Studies Forum. The papers at the conference (most of which are included here) ranged widely in time from the distant past to the contemporary present, and geographically over South Asia, East Asia, and Tibet, making use of a variety of methodological and disciplinary perspectives (including Buddhist textual studies, anthropology, history, art history, literary criticism, law, and public policy). But in all cases, our concern remains the same: What are some of the many ways in which Buddhists and others across Asia have thought about, depicted, and treated nonhuman animals? And what does this tell us about the Buddhist project of being human?

Prof. Dr. Reiko Ohnuma
Prof. Dr. Barbara Ambros
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

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Keywords

  • Buddhism
  • animals
  • animal ethics
  • vegetarianism
  • human-animal relations

Published Papers (2 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle For the Love of Dogs: Finding Compassion in a Time of Famine in Pali Buddhist Stories
Religions 2019, 10(3), 183; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10030183
Received: 15 February 2019 / Revised: 6 March 2019 / Accepted: 8 March 2019 / Published: 12 March 2019
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Abstract
This paper focuses on stories from the 13th century Rasavāhinī in which feeding a starving dog is described as an act of great merit, equal even to the care of a monk or the Buddha. It begins with a reevaluation of passages from [...] Read more.
This paper focuses on stories from the 13th century Rasavāhinī in which feeding a starving dog is described as an act of great merit, equal even to the care of a monk or the Buddha. It begins with a reevaluation of passages from Buddhist texts that have been taken by scholars as evidence of pan- Buddhist concern for taking care of animals. It argues that they have been over-read and that the Rasavāhinī stories are distinctive. The setting in which these acts occur, a catastrophic famine, helps us to understand the transformation of the despised dog into an object of compassion. In such dire circumstances, when humans themselves behave like animals, compassion for a starving dog is both a new recognition of a fundamental shared kinship between human and animal and a gesture of recovering lost humanity. Full article
Open AccessArticle How to Deal with Dangerous and Annoying Animals: A Vinaya Perspective
Religions 2019, 10(2), 113; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020113
Received: 12 January 2019 / Revised: 2 February 2019 / Accepted: 12 February 2019 / Published: 15 February 2019
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Abstract
Against the background of guidelines on non-killing and developing ideas on the release of captured or domesticated animals, this study focuses on how vinaya (disciplinary) texts deal with dangerous and/or annoying animals, such as snakes, mosquitoes, and flies. Are there any circumstances in [...] Read more.
Against the background of guidelines on non-killing and developing ideas on the release of captured or domesticated animals, this study focuses on how vinaya (disciplinary) texts deal with dangerous and/or annoying animals, such as snakes, mosquitoes, and flies. Are there any circumstances in which they may be killed, captured, or repelled? Or should they be endured and ignored, or even protected and cherished, at all times? This paper discusses the many guidelines relating to avoiding—and, if necessary, chasing away—dangerous and annoying animals. All of these proposals call for meticulous care to reduce the risk of harming the creature. In this sense, animals, such as snakes and mosquitoes, seem to be assured a better life in comparison with domesticated or hunted animals. This distinction reflects the somewhat uncomfortable balance that Buddhist monastics must achieve between respecting the life of individual sentient beings, including all animals, and adhering to social conventions in order to safeguard their position in society. Full article
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