Buddhism and Business, Market and Merit: Intersections between Buddhism and Economics Past and Present

Buddhism and economics is emerging as a significant field of scholarly inquiry. Having long ago abandoned the vision of Buddhist practitioners as recluses seeking individual soteriological ends at a remove from the “ordinary” world, students of history, philosophers, and specialists in the subdiscipline of Buddhist economics itself are helping us to understand the religion’s pervasive and continuing importance in this sphere. Aware of the multiplicity of forms Buddhist practice and belief have taken over time, historical and anthropological investigations of Buddhism have, for instance, shed much light on its active economic activities during different time periods and in different societies. Applying Buddhist insights to their own fields, students of economics and sociology have, at the same time, put forward alternative economic models that address major challenges facing our contemporary world.  There is much work being done on Buddhism’s intersections with economics across and outside of the academy and there is much to be learned in multidisciplinary conversations on this topic.



Seeking to promote this form of exchange, organizers of the “Market and Merit” conference to be held at the University of British Columbia from May 19-21, 2017, sponsored by UBC Buddhist Studies Forum and the newly funded multi-year,international and interdisciplinary SSHRC partnership project on Buddhism and East Asian Religions (www.frogbear.org), invite paper proposals addressing the ways that economic interests inform Buddhist practice and the ways Buddhism shapes economic activity. We welcome contributions from anthropologists, historians, philosophers, sociologists, textual scholars and experts in other fields whose work helps us to understand the religion’s contemporary situation, as well as its histories. Contributions can explore any aspect of the topic. Categories of exploration might include one or more of the following:


  • Applications and limitations of socioeconomic theory and method for understanding Buddhist activities and their outcomes;
  • Developments in the field of Buddhist Economics;
  • Economic interests at play in the creation of artefacts and other activities related to Buddhist arts;
  • Implications of Buddhist philosophy for economic practice;
  • Intersections between Buddhism, Economics, and Gender;
  • Links between Buddhism and entrepreneurial culture in East Asia;
  • Past and present roles of Buddhist economic practices in forging or disrupting transregional connections, especially those related to the so-called Silk Road and Book Road;
  • Ramifications of Buddhist activity for the environment;
  • Relationships between technological change and Buddhist practices such as merit-making;
  • Roles of monasteries and monastics in the production, consumption, and transfer of wealth; e.g., the Indian Mahayanist ideas and practices related to the so-called akṣayâkara(“Inexhaustible Treasure” 無盡藏), and the Cult of Three-Stage 三階教 in Sui-Tang China;
  • Stories, histories, contemporary case studies that shed light on the ways Buddhism has served as an instrument of economic domination or force for equality.


The organizing committee welcomes paper proposals related to any tradition of Buddhism and topics need not be limited to those listed here. All conference-related costs, including meals and accommodation during the conference period, will be covered by the conference organizers, who will also provide a modest travel subsidy to each of the selected panelists. 


We are now in the course of inviting twenty-five established scholars for this event, and in the meanwhile we wish to engage ten to fifteen additional scholars (especially of a younger generation) to join us in Vancouver, Canada. Interested individuals should email their proposals, along with copies of their updated CV, to Jinhua Chen (jinhuachen2013@gmail.com) by November 30, 2016.