Volume 12, Issue 1 p. 173-190

Secular morality, village law, and Buddhism in Tibetan societies

Fernanda Pirie

Corresponding Author

Fernanda Pirie

University of Oxford

Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UQ, UK. [email protected]Search for more papers by this author
First published: 08 March 2006
Citations: 9


Contrary to assumptions frequently made about Buddhist societies and to models promoted by Tibetan elites, not all Tibetans understand their religion in an ethical way. This article demonstrates that, for a community of villagers in Ladakh, Buddhism is not a source of moral guidance nor is it regarded by them as providing authority for the exercise of political or judicial power. Comparing the findings of ethnographers elsewhere in the Tibetan region, it is apparent that many Tibetans regard the cosmos and its inhabitants as having little relevance for the moral order of their community or its political organization. It is suggested that such understandings have a profound effect on local understandings of the ambit and significance of Buddhism and on the course of its assimilation in the region.