The Ethics of Collective Sponsorship

Virtuous Action and Obligation in Contemporary Tibet

in Religion and Society
Author: Jane Caple 1
View More View Less
  • 1 University of Copenhagen gsb163@hum.ku.dk
Restricted access

ABSTRACT

A significant strand of anthropological work on Buddhist generosity practices in Therāvādin and Tibetan Buddhist societies has examined their role in reproducing and reinforcing social and economic hierarchies. Inspired by the recent ‘moral turn’ in anthropology, this article addresses the moral dimensions of these practices by analyzing debates, decisions, and judgments about what to sponsor and how to do so during times of accelerated ‘modernizing’ change. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in northeastern Tibet (Amdo) conducted between 2008 and 2015, I focus on a mode of collective sponsorship that has, in different contexts, been considered good, problematic, or even wrong. The moral grounds for such evaluations show that sponsorship is evaluated and experienced not only as a Buddhist practice but also as a social and economic practice with direct consequences for both individuals and communities. The moral stakes of generosity practices are shown to extend beyond individual ethics to the common good.

Contributor Notes

JANE CAPLE is a Marie-Skłodowska Curie Research Fellow at the University of Copenhagen. She earned her PhD in Chinese Studies from the University of Leeds in 2011. Her research has focused on the revival and development of Tibetan monastic Buddhism in northeast Tibet (Amdo/Qinghai), in particular, monastic economies and lay-monastic patronage. With research interests in religion, economy, and morality, her current project focuses on the relationship between Buddhism and ideas about wealth, virtue, and social justice in Tibet. E-mail: gsb163@hum.ku.dk

Religion and Society

Advances in Research

  • Aulino, Felicity. 2014. “Perceiving the Social Body: A Phenomenological Perspective on Ethical Practice in Buddhist Thailand.” Journal of Religious Ethics 42 (3): 415441.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Beldo, Les. 2014. “The Unconditional ‘Ought’: A Theoretical Model for the Anthropology of Morality.” Anthropological Theory 14 (3): 263279.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1980. The Logic of Practice. Trans. Richard Nice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

  • Bowie, Katherine. 1998. “The Alchemy of Charity: Of Class and Buddhism in Northern Thailand.” American Anthropologist 100 (2): 469481.

  • Brac de la Perrière, Bénédicte. 2015. “Religious Donations, Ritual Offerings, and Humanitarian Aid: Fields of Practice According to Forms of Giving in Burma.” Religion Compass 9 (11): 386403.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Caple, Jane. 2015. “Faith, Generosity, Knowledge and the Buddhist Gift: Moral Discourses on Chinese Patronage of Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries.” Religion Compass 9 (11): 462482.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Caple, Jane. Forthcoming. Morality and Tibetan Monastic Revival in Post-Mao China. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.

  • Cassaniti, Julia L. 2014. “Moralizing Emotion: A Breakdown in Thailand.” Anthropological Theory 14 (3): 280300.

  • Cassaniti, Julia L., and Jacob R. Hickman. 2014. “New Directions in the Anthropology of Morality.” Anthropological Theory 14 (3): 251262.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Certeau, Michel de. 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven F. Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Chaksham Tsering. 2016. “Economic Development: Recent Changes in Tibetan Pre-death Ritual (Gson Chos) in Gling Rgya Village, Reb Gong, Northeastern Tibet.” Paper presented at the 14th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Bergen, 19–24 June.

    • Export Citation
  • Childs, Geoff, Melvyn C. Goldstein, and Puchung Wangdui. 2010. “An Entrepreneurial Transition? Development and Economic Mobility in Rural Tibet.” Himalaya 30 (1): 5162.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Clarke, Graham E. 1989. “Merit (bsod-nams), Virtue (dge-ba), Blessing (byin-rlabs) and Material Prosperity (rten-‘brel) in Popular Thought.” Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 43 (2–3): 223242.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cook, Joanna. 2010. Meditation in Modern Buddhism: Renunciation and Change in Thai Monastic Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Dreyfus, Georges. 1998. “The Shuk-den Affair: Origins of a Controversy.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 21 (2): 227270.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Eberhardt, Nancy. 2014. “Everyday Morality: Constructing a Buddhist Ethos in Rural Thailand.” Journal of Religious Ethics 42 (3): 393414.

  • Germano, David, and Nicolas Tournadre. 2003. “THL Simplified Phonetic Transcription of Standard Tibetan.” The Tibetan and Himalayan Library. http://www.thlib.org/reference/transliteration/#!essay=/thl/phonetics.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gutschow, Kim. 2004. Being a Buddhist Nun: The Struggle for Enlightenment in the Himalayas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Hillman, Ben, and Gray Tuttle, eds. 2016. Ethnic Conflict and Protest in Tibet and Xinjiang: Unrest in China’s West. New York: Columbia University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kovan, Martin. 2012. “The Burmese Alms-Boycott: Theory and Practice of the Pattanikujjana in Buddhist Non-Violent Resistance.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 19: 95129.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Laidlaw, James. 2014. The Subject of Virtue: An Anthropology of Ethics and Freedom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Makley, Charlene E. 2013. “The Politics of Presence: Voice, Deity Possession, and Dilemmas of Development among Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 55 (3): 665700.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Robbins, Joel. 2007. “Between Reproduction and Freedom: Morality, Value, and Radical Cultural Change.” Ethnos 72 (3): 293314.

  • Rozenberg, Guillaume. 2004. “How Giving Sanctifies: The Birthday of Thamanya Hsayadaw in Burma.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 10 (3): 495515.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schober, Juliane. 1989. “Paths to Enlightenment: Theravāda Buddhism in Upper Burma.” PhD diss., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schober Juliane. 2006. “Buddhism in Burma: Engagement with Modernity.” In Buddhism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives, ed. Stephen C. Berkowitz, 73100. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schrempf, Mona. 2000. “Victory Banners, Social Prestige and Religious Identity: Ritualized Sponsorship and the Revival of Bon Monasteries in Amdo Shar-khog.” In New Horizons in Bon Studies, ed. Samten G. Karmay and Yasuhiko Nagano, 317358. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sihlé, Nicolas. 2015. “Towards a Comparative Anthropology of the Buddhist Gift (and Other Transfers).” Religion Compass 9 (11): 352385.

  • Spiro, Melford E. 1970. Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and Its Burmese Vicissitudes. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Smyer Yü, Dan. 2012. The Spread of Tibetan Buddhism in China: Charisma, Money, Enlightenment. London: Routledge.

  • Sulek, Emilia. 2011. “Disappearing Sheep: The Unexpected Consequences of the Emergence of the Caterpillar Fungus Economy in Golok, Qinghai, China.” Himalaya 30 (1): 922.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Toffin, Gérard. 2015. “Donations and Gift-Giving among Newar Buddhists, Nepal.” Religion Compass 9 (11): 423442.

  • Zigon, Jarrett. 2009. “Within a Range of Possibilities: Morality and Ethics in Social Life.” Ethnos 74 (2): 251276.

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 23 23 4
Full Text Views 6 6 0
PDF Downloads 5 5 0