Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Law and Karma: HHDL to Speak Publicly for First Time about the Law and Social Change

Dalai Lama to Partcipate in Two-Day "Law, Buddhism and Social Change" conference at Univ. of Buffalo Law School, Sept. 20-21.

As reported by the State University of New York at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In his very first visit to a U.S. law school conference, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama will publicly share for the first time his thoughts on how religion, particularly Buddhism, can influence law and bring about social change.

The conference, "Law, Buddhism and Social Change: A Conversation with the Dalai Lama," will be held Sept. 20-21 at the University at Buffalo Law School. An intimate two-hour discussion between the Dalai Lama and legal practitioners and scholars from around the world will open the conference at 9 a.m. on Sept. 20.

For more information, go to http://www.law.buffalo.edu/baldycenter.

"This will be one of the first times the Dalai Lama has been asked about legal subject matter," says UB Law School Professor and conference organizer Rebecca French, an international authority on Tibetan law and author of "The Golden Yoke," the first book on Buddhist legal traditions in Tibet.

"It will be fascinating to hear the Dalai Lama describe the best way, from a Buddhist perspective, to think about punishment, rehabilitation and retribution, and I suspect the conversation will address how Buddhist beliefs might influence the U.S. legal system," adds French, who notes that the Dalai Lama has participated in a series of similar public forums on the subject of science and the mind.

The conference is being organized by the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy and the UB Law School. It is being offered in conjunction with the Dalai Lama's visit to UB, Sept. 18-20, http://www.buffalo.edu/dalai_lama/.

French expects the conversation between the Dalai Lama and the scholars in attendance to be quite expansive, covering issues ranging from how constitutions provide social order, the purpose of criminal punishment and the Karmic consequences of legal decisions.

The Dalai Lama also may discuss his thoughts on governmental control of personal freedoms.

The Dalai Lama has spoken before on the detrimental effects of TV on American society, and may comment on whether the government has an obligation to restrict unhealthy behaviors, French says.

The UB Law School is home to the Law and Buddhism Project, the world's first and only center for the study of law and Buddhism. A goal of the conference and of the Law and Buddhism Project, directed by French, is to introduce Buddhist legal concepts to the U.S. legal system, says UB Law School Dean Nils Olsen.

"It is truly a great honor that the Dalai Lama has chosen to speak at our law school and discuss issues that go to the heart of law and morality," says Olsen.

A legal anthropologist who has spent several summers studying Tibetan law at the Dalai Lama's compound in India, French says Buddhist concepts of Karma, human interconnectedness and reincarnation could have a positive effect on the U.S. legal system, and should be studied.

"Buddhists believe that you can't have closure in a case unless all parties are in agreement with the decision, and unless the whole network of people affected by the case is compensated. From this process, you have a social catharsis; you have a feeling that society has been healed.

"In the U.S. legal system, one individual gets into friction with another individual, and from that spark of friction one person wins and one person loses," French explains. "Very little thought is given to interconnectedness of people and how the decision affects all the individuals involved in the case. This process often produces anger, social isolation and unhappiness with our legal system.

"Ultimately, I would like to coordinate all of the Buddhist lawyers in the U.S. and help bring people together to introduce compassion and Buddhism to the American legal system," she adds.