Ten days ago, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama came to the Buffalo Law School to speak about Law, Buddhism, and Social Change.
This was the first time that the Dalai Lama has ever visited a law school and indeed the first time he has addressed legal themes. A video of his remarks is available
Buffalo has pioneered scholarship into how Buddhist thought intersects with and informs the law. Professor Rebecca French is teaching in Buffalo this term, the first course on Buddhist law that has ever been taught in the world. Students study Buddhism, and look at how Buddhism is structured in terms of secular legal systems all over the world. Since 2003 she has directed the Project for Law and Buddhism funded by the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy in the University at Buffalo Law School. The aim of the project is to investigate the intersection of law and Buddhism in various countries. This initiative, headed by Professor Rebecca French (Law), is the first such project in this sub-discipline.
The project secured a grant to have a Law and Buddhism Conference March 6-11 at the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio, Italy. The papers concern many countries in Asia from Mongolia and Bhutan to Sri Lanka and Burma while the topics range from detailed studies of cases of theft to broad overviews of Buddhism and Law in Japanese History. Professor French plans to put the papers together in an edited volume on Law and Buddhism.
“Buddhists believe that you can’t have closure in a case unless all parties are in agreement with the decision, and unless the whole network of people affected by the case is compensated. From this process, you have a social catharsis; you have a feeling that society has been healed.
“In the U.S. legal system, one individual gets into friction with another individual, and from that spark of friction one person wins and one person loses,” French explains. “Very little thought is given to interconnectedness of people and how the decision affects all the individuals involved in the case. This process often produces anger, social isolation and unhappiness with our legal system.
“Ultimately, I would like to coordinate all of the Buddhist lawyers in the U.S. and help bring people together to introduce compassion and Buddhism to the American legal system,” she said.