Special Issue "Buddhist Beasts: Reflections on Animals in Asian Religions and Cultures"
A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 May 2019).
Interests: Buddhism in South Asia; Hinduism in South Asia; Women and Religion
Interests: Gender Studies; Human-Animal Relationships; Place and Space; Pilgrimage
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
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- animal ethics
- human-animal relations