Freecycling Buddhist Communities

Will Tuladhar-Douglas

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paper


Freecycling as a modern practice combines the virtues of simplicity, poverty and recycling. We might expect to see these enthusiastically endorsed or even anticipated by Buddhist communities and practitioners. Certainly there are precedents in the monastic laws—such as the requirement that monastic robes be made from discarded cloth—and there are some striking examples of Buddhist freecycling, such as the Buddhist temple in Khun Han, Thailand, built from 1.5 million discarded beer bottles.

For many monastics and their patrons, though, an impressive building, large cars, and opulent provisions are a sign of respect and merit. In Nepal, this leads to the jarring sight of dozens of new monasteries, built in clearcut jungle or on levelled hilltops, with erosion gullies and vast piles of rubbish behind them and expensive four-wheel-drive vehicles ferrying important lamas coming in the front.

The tension here does not reduce to modern/Western vs. traditonal/Asian. Begging was an important part of Buddhist training, and of the public appearance of Buddhist communities, in the earliest communities; but now it is a restricted and reformist practice found in ascetic schools. The interconnected nature of global Buddhism means that intra-Buddhist critiques apply equally to wasteful practices in Europe or the Himalayas; and reform movements that adopt freecycling may surface in Berkeley or Thailand. How, then, do specific Buddhist communities interpret Buddhist law, economic and environmental ethics, and the construction of a Buddhist community that maintains both mindfulness and reputation?
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages141
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009
EventAmerican Anthropological Association Annual Meeting 2009 - Philadelphia, United States
Duration: 2 Dec 20096 Dec 2009


ConferenceAmerican Anthropological Association Annual Meeting 2009
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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