Universiteit Leiden

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Lecture

Insects and other annoying or dangerous creatures in Buddhist monasteries: Vinaya from India to China

  • Prof. dr. Ann Heirman (Ghent University)
Date
Wednesday 27 March 2019
Time
Series
China Seminar
Location
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Room
006

Against the background of guidelines on non-killing and developing ideas on the release of captured or domesticated animals, this study focuses on how Buddhist disciplinary texts (vinaya) deal with dangerous and/or annoying animals, such as mosquitoes, flies and snakes. 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 research discusses the many guidelines relating to avoiding—and, if necessary, chasing away—annoying and dangerous animals, particularly insects. All of these proposals call for meticulous care to reduce the risk of harming the creature. In this sense, animals such as mosquitoes and snakes 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.

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