BBB Conference

Asian Dynamics Initiative conference information

Time and venue
Keynote speakers
Further information

Buddhism, business and economic relations – in Asia and beyond

Buddhism, as with all other religions, has always necessarily been deeply embedded within not only economic, but political and social spheres in the various contexts in which Buddhism has taken root. In order for a Buddhist monk to be able to become disengaged with the material world, he must have an economic basis from which he gains sustenance. At the same time, Buddhist monasteries in Asia have historically been large economic centres owning great plots of land and occupying a central position along regional trade routes. Yet the economic entanglements that Buddhists have historically had often becomes overshadowed by text-based studies which focus on the soteriological aim of going beyond and becoming released from this-worldly engagements. Furthermore, the complex relationship between religion and economics often raises ambiguous and contentious sentiments. Take, for example, the wealth displayed at Buddhist monasteries and the luxury items used by Buddhist masters. While these signifiers of wealth arise awe in many and disgust in some, common perceptions of Buddhism as an anti-materialistic and austere religion reveals the ambiguous relationship that Buddhism and business have had – both in historical and contemporary practices.

At this interdisciplinary, three-day conference, we will inquire into this complex relationship and ideological juxtapositions that lie within the nexus of Buddhism and economic activity in various historical and contemporary contexts in Asia and beyond. We seek to address the many ways in which Buddhism – as not only a religion, but also an identification, a tradition or culture, a source of values, morals and ethics, a world-view or way of life, and as a philosophy, science, even secularism – have been engaged in economic relations in both clerical and lay communities.    


The deadline has passed.

Time and venue

The conference was held on the 12-14 October 2016 at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Keynote speakers

Dr. Lionel Obadia, Professor in Anthropology, Université Lyon

Prof. Dr. Inken Prohl, Institut für Religionswissenschaft, Zentrum für Europäische Geschichts – und Kulturwissenschaften, Universität Heidelberg

Dr. Dan Smyer-Yü, Professor and Founding Director Center for Trans-Himalayan Studies, Yunnan Minzu University


Further information

The conference was hosted by the Center for Contemporary Buddhist Studies at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies and the international collaborative research project Buddhism, Business and Believers (BBB) in collaboration with the Asian Dynamics Initiative, a cross-faculty Asia focus at the University of Copenhagen ( 

The Danish Council for Independent Research has funded the conference.

Please visit our Facebook page and add us on Twitter for information and updates on upcoming conferences: @bbb_studies as well as @ccbs_studies. Questions regarding practical and logistical issues can be made to the conference coordinators at

If you are interested in learning about the BBB-project or would like to become affiliated with the project, please feel free to contact Trine Brox [trinebrox @] or Elizabeth Williams-Oerberg [elizabeth.oerberg @].


Conference schedule:

Buddhism, business and economic relations – in Asia and beyond 

12-14 October 2016

University of Copenhagen
Njalsgade 136, 2300 Copenhagen
Room 27.0.09, building 27

Please note: This conference has taken place. For more information on upcoming conferences, please check our news or write an email to

Last updated on the 10th of October, 2016.


08:30   Registration and coffee

09:15-9:30       Welcome

9:30-10:30    Key note – Dan Smyer-Yü:

Symbioses and Antipathies of Charisma and Money: Tibetan Buddhist Social Engagement in Contemporary China

10:30-11:00     Break

11:00-12:30     SESSION 1

Roger Casas: Buddhist Brokers and Unworthy Exemplars: The Morality of Exchange Among Tai Lue Monastics in Southwestern China

Chaksham Tsering: Economic Development and Merit Accumulation: Recent Changes in Tibetan Pre-Death Ritual (Gson Chos) in Gling Rgye Village, Reb Gong

Laura Hornig: Myanmar’s Small Businesses – Buddhist Beliefs in a Period of Economic Change

12:30-1:30       Lunch

1:30-3:00         SESSION 2

Michael Jerryson: Marketing the Buddha and its Blasphemy

Joshua Musiol: Singapore’s Spiritual Caterers and the National Imaginary: Technologies for the Aspirational Citizens

Kristina Jonutyte: ‘’A Hungry Buryat Doesn’t Think of Buddha’’: Sangha and Buddhist Exchange in Post-Soviet Buryatia

3:00-3:30         Break

03:30-5:00       SESSION 3

Tashi Lundup: Tourism and Religion: An Understanding of Authenticity and Commodification of Monastic Culture in Ladakh (India)

Elizabeth Williams-Oerberg: The Spectacle of Buddhist Festivals in Leh, Ladakh: The Intersection of Buddhism and Tourism and the Reinvention of Buddhist Rituals

Brooke Schedneck: Between Openness and Accommodation: The Agency of Buddhist Monks in Thailand’s Tourism Landscape

05:30   Reception with light meal


08:30   Coffee

09:00-10:00  Key note – Lionel Obadia: Economies of Religion, Buddhism and Economy, Buddhist Economics: Challenges and Perspectives

10:00-10:30     Break

10:30-12:30     SESSION 4

Trine Brox: Buddhist Commodities in a Sino-Tibetan Contact Zone

Levi McLaughlin: The Soka Gakkai Economy: A Bottom-Up Perspective on Cycles of Exchange That Propel Japan’s Largest New Religion

Marianne Viftrup Hedegaard: Suitable for Business? Mindfulness, management and morality in Danish workplaces

12:30-1:30       Lunch

1:30-3:00         SESSION 5

Paul Nietupski: The Interface of Religion, Economy, and Politics in Amdo

Xiaohai Zhu: Transformed ‘’Humanistic Buddhism’’ from 1900s-2000s, an Economic Political Analysis from Taixu to Hsingyen

Berthe Jansen: Monastic Economic Policies in Pre-Modern Tibet: Precedents for the Present?

3:00-3:30         Break

03:30-5:00       SESSION 6

Emilia Sulek: Caterpillar Fungus and the Economy of Sinning. How Tibetan Buddhist Cope with ‘Stained’ Money from the Caterpillar Fungus Boom

Jørn Borup: Prosperity Buddhism

and Religious Capital

Hannah Klepeis: Monks, Money and Kinship Relations in Shangrila


08:30   Coffee

09:00-10:00     Key note – Inken Prohl:

Buddhism Sells – Buddhist Related Images, Semantics and Designs in Contemporary Marketing

10:00-10:30     Break

10:30-12:00     SESSION 7

Christoph Brumann: Temples in Motion: The Economy of Temple Relocations in Kyoto, Japan

Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko: Money as Seed, Money Fruit: Karma, Poverty and Wealth in Ulaanbaatar

Mary Picone: How to have a Good Time in Hell: Japanese Infernal Theme Parks on Buddhist Sites as Means of Economic Recovery Through Tourism and as Changing Moral Instruction

12:00-1:00       Lunch

1:00-3:00         SESSION 8

Yang Minghong: Spiritual Capital and Money Making: A Case Study Base on Larong Monastery Buddhist Institute in Seda County

Maciej Kanert: Profiting for the Benefit of Others – Rita in the Management Philosophy and Praxis of Inamori Kazuo

WM Dhanapala: A Study on the Social Impacts of Commodification of Buddhist Religious Properties in Contemporary Sri Lanka

Alexander Horstmann: Building the Land of Buddha: Saintly Entrepreneurialism and Political Aspirations of Theravadin Saints in Mainland Southeast Asia

3:00-3:30         Break


To see the conference abstracts, please click the below link. You will be taken to a new tab where you can read or download the complete list of abstracts.

Conference abstracts – PDF