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Gregory Schopen - Doing Business for the Lord: Lending on Interest and Written Loan Contracts in the Mūlasarvāstivāda-Vinaya

Gregory Schopen - Doing Business for the Lord: Lending on Interest and Written Loan Contracts in the Mūlasarvāstivāda-Vinaya

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Published by Ɓuddhisterie2
Journal of the American Oriental Society, 114 (1994): 527-554
Journal of the American Oriental Society, 114 (1994): 527-554

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Published by: Ɓuddhisterie2 on Sep 03, 2012
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a Buddhist monastic code. contains a wealth of little-studied ma-terial bearing on the institutional, economic and legal history of monastic Buddhism in India. It ap-pears, moreover, to have close links with classical
or Indian legal literature. The rulesit contains in regard to lending on interest and written loan contracts, for example, are remarkablyclose to those found in the
The account of the promulgation of these rules is alsoof interest. It suggests how monks understood the long-term concerns of donors, and how theyjustified their financial activities in terms of the religious needs of those donors. The presence ofsuch rules in a Buddhist monastic code, finally, presupposes the existence of permanent, well-orga-nized, and fully institutionalized monasteries which can be approximately dated in the archeologicalrecord.
that there has been verylittle discussion in Western scholarship about how In-dian Buddhist monasteries paid their bills. It is pos-sible, of course, that this is in part because money andmonks have had, to be sure, an unhappy history in theWest-at least as that history has often been written-and the topic may, therefore, be considered somehowunedifying.' It may also be true, as Peter Levi's "Studyof Monks and Monasteries" suggests, that we like our
I would like to thank my colleagues Richard Lariviere. JaniceLeoshko, and Jonathan Silk, for having read a draft of this pa-per, and for allowing me to benefit from their criticism andgood sense.
For two important positions on monks and monasticism inWestern scholarship see L. W. Barnard, "Two EighteenthCentury Views of Monasticism: Joseph Bingham and EdwardGibbon," in
Monastic Studies: The Continuity of Tradition,
.Loades (Bangor, 1990). 283-91. Gibbon's overwhelm-ingly negative view has been, of course, by far the most influ-ential. However, as a first rate example of what more recentscholarship has been able to do on the question of monks andmoney. see L. K. Little,
Religious Poverty and the ProfitEconomy in Medieval Europe
(Ithaca, 1978). There has been,as well, a promising start made towards determining indige-nous South Asian attitudes towards monastic wealth (see S.Kemper, "Wealth and Reformation in Sinhalese Buddhist Mo-nasticism" in
Ethics, Wealth, and Salvation: A Study in Bud-dhist Social Ethics.
ed. R.
Sirernore and D. K. Swearer[Columbia, S.C., 19901, 152-69), and towards acknowledgingthe significance of economic concerns in religious develop-
monasteries in "ruins," as "landscape decorations andgarden ornaments." "That," Levi says, "is because theruins of monasteries speak more clearly than the realinhabited
However this be eventually settled, it appears that thisreticence or romanticism has worked less forcefully inregard to the study of China. Why this was so is againuncertain, but one effect of it is not: much that a studentof Indian monastic Buddhism might find surprising inthe
for example, will be oldhat to economic and legal historians of China.
partic-ularly good instance of this sort of thing occurs in the
of the
where wefind the following passage:
tatra bhagavan bhik?.cndrnantrayare srna, bhEjayata yiiyam bhiksava upanan-dasya bhik~or nytapc[ri~kiiram ti. bhik~ubhih amgha-rnadhye avatalya vikriya bhiijirarn.
On one level themeaning of this passage is straightforward: "In this casethe Blessed One said to the monks: 'You, monks, must
ments in South Asia. See
Stietencron, "Orthodox Attitudestowards Temple Service and Image Worship in Ancient In-dia,"
Central Asiatic Journal
21 (1971
126-38, and G.
Spencer, "Temple Money-lending and Livestock Redistribu-tion in Early Tanjore,"
The Indian Econornic and Social His-tory Review
5.3 (1968): 277-93, for two interesting examples.
The Frontiers of Paradise:
Study of Monks andMonasteries
(London, 1987), 29ff.; for a more scholarly studyof the theme see M. Aston. "English Ruins and English His-tory: The Dissolution and the Sense of the Past,"
Journal ofthe Warburg and Courtlzuld Institutes
36 (1973): 23 1-55.
Journal of the American Oriental Society 114.4 (1994)
divide the estate of the dead monk Upananda!' Themonks, having brought it and having sold it in the midstof the community, divided (the
It lookshere like there was a kind of 'public' sale or auction ofthe belongings of a dead monk that was held by themonks, and that what was realized from this sale wasthen distributed to the monks in attendance.Although there is, in fact, a second reference to"selling" the goods of a deceased monk in this samepassage, this procedure, seen through the eyes of an In-dianist, will almost certainly appear unusual. But read-ers of J.Gernet's remarkable
Les Aspects e'conomiquesdu bouddhisme dans la socie'te' chinoise du ve au
will already be familiar with it. In discussing the"partage entre les moines des vCtements du dCfunt"Gernet said-almost forty years ago-that "les docu-ments de Touen-houang nous montrent les religieuxd'une m2me paroisse
. . .
rCunis pour la vente auxenchkres des vCtements et des pieces de tissu. LesbenCfices sont ensuite partages entre les moines
. .
Professor Gernet, who for good reason paid less at-tention to the
of the MfilasarvBstivBdins, seemsto have thought that "il n'est pas question cependantdans les Vinaya de la vente des v&tementsdes moinesmorts," and that "seul le Vinaya des MahBsBmghikafait une allusion, fort discrbte,
ce mode de part-age
although he himself then quotes short pas-sages from both the
of the Sarvastiviidins and"la MBtrkB [des MiilasarviistivBdin]" which refer to thesale of monastic robes,5 and Lien-sheng Yang had al-ready some years before noted that "a [MiilasarvBstivB-din]
text translated in the early T'ang period,however, indicates that in India sale by auction wasused to dispose of such personal belongings" of de-ceased monks.6 Yang's assertion seems now, in part atleast, to be confirmed by the passage from the
cited above: that passage does not actually con-tain a word for 'auction', but clearly refers to the sale
Gilgit Manuscripts,
iii.2: 1 19.13.
Les Aspects Pconomiques du bouddhisme dansla sociCtC chinoise du ve au
(Paris, 19561, 82.Gernet,
Les Aspects Pconomiques
83, 84.
Yang, "Buddhist Monasteries and Four Money-Raising Institutions in Chinese History,"
Harvard Journal ofAsiatic Studies
13 (1950): 174-91; esp. p.182. The text inquestion is Taishb 1452, the reconstructed title of which isgiven in P. Demieville,
Durt and A. Seidel,
RPpertoire ducanon bouddhique sino-japonais,
2nd ed. (Paris-Tokyo, 19781,as
ee below pp. 542-43and n. 60. Yang's paper is reprinted in L.-S. Yang,
Studies inChinese Institutional History
(Cambridge, 19611, 198-215.
"in the midst of the community" of a dead monk's pos-sessions, and-although it cannot establish that thiswas actually practiced in India-it does confirm thatMBlasarviistivadin
masters thought it should, orhoped it would.Such confirmation from an extant Sanskrit text is, ofcourse, welcome, but perhaps a more important point isthat without the work of sinologists the significance ofthe
passage might very easily be missed.Scholars working on China have in fact very oftenbeen the first to introduce and make available impor-tant Indian material bearing on the institutional andeconomic history of Buddhism, but this material rarely,or never, makes it into Indian studies. References toGernet's
Les Aspects e'conomiques du bouddhisme,
forexample, are extremely rare in works on Indian cul-tural and economic history.
D. D.
Kosambi long agoreferred to Gernet when he raised the "fundamentalquestion" of the extent to which Buddhist monks andmonasteries in India participated directly in trade."The documentary evidence" for such participation,Kosambi said, "exists at the other end of the Buddhistworld, in Chinese records and translations," of the sortpresented byGernet.' But few have followed this up.AndrC Bareau, too, relied heavily on Gernet in a shortpiece he published on certain forms of monastic en-dowments in India and China.* Apart from these papers
know of little else.9There are of course problems in using Chinese sourcesin studying India. No one, I think, would accept withoutserious qualifications, for example, Kosambi's assertionthat "not only the art but the organization and economicmanagement of Chinese Buddhist monasteries, especiallythe cave-monasteries
were initially copied from In-dian models, so that their records can be utilized for ourpurpose," that is to say, to study directly Indian monas-teries.1° The use of Chinese translations of Indian texts issometimes less problematic, but here too there are stillserious difficulties. The process of translation often con-ceals, for example, the Indian vocabulary, and this is
D. D. Kosambi, "Dhenukakata,"
Journal of the AsiaticSociety of Bombay
30.2 (1955): 50-71; esp. pp. 52-53.A. Bareau, "Indian and Ancient Chinese Buddhism: Insti-tutions Analogous to the Jisa."
Comparative Studies in Societyand History
3 (1961
443-5 1.For some idea of sinological work on the economic andinstitutional aspects of Buddhism, see the equally rich book ofStanley Weinstein,
Buddhism Under the T'ang
(Cambridge,19871, and the sources cited there.
Jourr~alof the Asiatic Society of Bombay
30.2(1955): 53.
oing Business for the Lord
often especially the case with realia or financial matters.The sinologists, too, who present such Indian texts are,justifiably, often unable to recognize their broader Indiansignificance. Here I would like to deal with just one ex-ample which might illustrate at least some of these points.In his survey of what the Chinese translations of thevarious
have to say in regard to monks partici-pating in "commerce" or trade or business, ProfessorGernet partly paraphrases and partly translates a textfrom the
of the
which-unless I am very much mistaken-is ofunique importance." It is important first for what it cantell us about the kinds of legal and economic ideas thatwere developed by at least some Indian
writers;it is important for what it can contribute to our under-standing of the laws of contract and debt in early andclassical India, and because it provides another goodexample of Buddhist
interacting with Indianlaw; it is also important for what it can contribute tothe discussion concerning the uses of writing and writ-ten documents and legal instruments in India.
Sanskrit text for this passage has not yet-as faras I know-come to light. But in addition to the Chi-nese version presented by Gernet, the text is also avail-able in a Tibetan translation. This Tibetan translationhas at least one advantage over the Chinese text: it isoften, though not always, easier to see the Sanskrit thatunderlies a Tibetan translation, and therefore to get atthe original Indian vocabulary. Since the text has notyet been fully translated, I first give a complete transla-tion. This will be followed by an attempt to establishthe technical Indian vocabulary that the Tibetan ap-pears to be translating, and then further discussiondirected toward situating this piece of
in thelarger context of similar discussions in Indian
with some reference to actual legal recordspresented in Indian inscriptions. In the end, too, therewill have to be some attempt made to get at the reli-gious and institutional needs which might lie behindour text and the legal instruments it is concerned with.
(Derge, 'dul ha, Cha 154b.3-155b.2)The Buddha, the Blessed One, was staying in VaiSSli,in the hall of the lofty pavilion on the bank of the mon-key's pool. At that time the Licchavis of VaiSali built
Les Aspects Pconomiques du bouddhisme,
156.houses with six or seven upper chambers
s the Licchavis of Vaiiali built their houses, so too didthey build
with six or seven upper chambers.As a consequence, because of their great height, havingbeen built and built, they fell apart.I3 When that oc-curred the donors thought: "If even the
of thosewho are still living, abiding, continuing and alive fallthus into ruin, how will it be for the
of thosewho are dead? We should give a perpetuity
tothe monastic conimunity for building purposes."Having thought thus, and taking a perpetuity, theywent to the monks. Having arrived they said this tothem: "Noble Ones, please accept these perpetuities forbuilding purposes!"The monks said: "Gentlemen, since the Blessed Onehas promulgated a rule of training in this regard, we donot accept them."The monks reported this matter to the Blessed One.The Blessed One said: "For the sake of the com-munity a perpetuity for building purposes is to be ac-cepted. Moreover, (155a) a
for a community ofmonks should be made with three upper chambers. Aretreat house
for a community of nuns shouldbe made with two upper chambers."The monks, having heard the Blessed One, havingaccepted the peipetuity, put it into the community'sdepository
nd left it there.The donors came along and said: "Noble Ones, whyis there no building being done on the
"There is no money
"But did we not give you perpetuities?"The monks said: "Did you think we would consumethe perpetuities? They remain in the community'sdepository
"But of course, Noble Ones, they would not beperpetuities if they could be exhausted, but why doyou think we did not keep them in our own houses?I4Why do you not have them lent out on interest
Most of the Sanskrit equivalents inserted into the transla-tion will be discussed below.
yangs pa can gyi li istsha bi rnams
khang pa ji lta ba debzhin du gtsug lag khang dug kyang drug rtseg dung bdun rtsegtu byed pas de dug mtho ches pas brtsigs shing brtsigs shing rdibnus.
I am not quite sure how to take the reduplicative con-struction
brtsigs shing brtsigs shing.
I cite the Tibetan here andin ns. 14 and 15, where I am not sure of my translation.
'phags pa dug de lta nu mi zad par mi 'gyur gyi 'di [tarzad par 'gyur te ci bdag cag gi sdurn pa nu gnus ma mchissnyam 'am.

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