Ideas of transgression and Buddhist monks

Malcolm Voyce*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


It is implicit in a western understanding of law that law is a series of generalisations, which are universal and which aim to promote social community. At the same time 'law' is expected to operate in a territory (rather than for specific people or castes) where it applies, and to apply to a community of rights-bearing subjects. Such a view of law may have reflected part of the values of the European Enlightenment where law was seen as a rational science and where religion has been seen as excluded from law. An alternative route in the study of law is to study 'transgressions'. The literature on 'transgression' suggests transgressions form an amorphous category and a proper examination of them is not closed by the normal taxonomy between the studies of 'law as obedience' versus 'laws as violation'. In one sense transgressions are part of the rule, yet a separate category in their own right. I use the concept of 'transgression' to attempt to describe the legal significance of 'violations' in the rules of the Buddhist monks (Vinaya). I conclude that a proper consideration of the role of sexual desire in the Vinaya allows me to show that 'violations were accepted within an institutional framework, that 'violators' were not excluded from the order of monks and that sexual experience could be seen as an alternative, if controversial, path of spiritual development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-198
Number of pages16
JournalLaw and Critique
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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