Thursday, October 12, 2017 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm
640 Stewart Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA
"Buddhist Law in Burma: A History of Dhammasattha Texts and Jurisprudence, c. 1250–1850 CE"
Christian Lammerts, Assistant Professor of Buddhist and Southeast Asian Studies, Rutgers University
Between the 13th and 19th centuries upper Burma was a regional center for the production of a distinctive genre of Buddhist legal literature known as dhammasattha ("treatise on law"), whose laws claimed jurisdiction over all members of society, including monks and laypersons, and kings, commoners, and slaves. Prose and verse dhammasattha texts were composed in Pali and vernacular languages (Burmese, Mon, Arakanese, Shan, etc.), as well as in bilingual gloss versions (nissaya), and there is extensive testimony, dating from the mid-13th century onward, for their utilization by judges in contexts of dispute resolution. Aspects of the early history of this genre can be gleaned from lithic epigraphy, vernacular poetry, and bibliographic catalogues (piṭakat samuiṅḥ), although surviving dhammasattha treatises, transmitted in palm-leaf and paper manuscripts, can be dated no earlier than circa 1637, whereas the youngest examples of the tradition were written under British colonialism around 1900. For the past decade Christian Lammerts has been involved in the first major study of this genre—its textual histories, laws, and shifting modes of reception and jurisprudence especially vis-à-vis Buddhism—on the basis of extensive fieldwork in Burma and close investigation of the epigraphic corpus and manuscript archive, which preserves hundreds of discrete texts in multiple, sometimes highly variant, versions. In this presentation Lammerts will discuss the results of this project, drawn from his forthcoming book, Buddhist Law in Burma: A History of Dhammasattha Texts and Jurisprudence, c. 1250–1850 CE (University of Hawai'i Press).