Faculty Publications

Publication Date







Buddhist Studies | History of Religions of Eastern Origins | Religion


This essay attends to the sticky web of indigenous terminology concerning divination and other so-called “mundane” or “worldly” arts, focusing primarily upon Buddhist canonical texts preserved in Pāli, augmented by references to commentarial and exegetical literature. It asks: How have some Buddhists, as evinced in this canonical and exegetical literature, understood the broader category of “worldly arts,” which includes techniques we call divinatory? Are Buddhists discouraged from engaging with such practices, as has been commonly asserted? If so, then for whom, specifically, are such words of discouragement primarily meant? And why, specifically, are such practices discouraged? Are the penalties for practicing them severe or lenient? Are there any exceptions or instances when practicing worldly arts is tolerated or encouraged? And what might we conclude, more broadly, from the textual evidence? These tricky questions bear particularly upon the complex, legalistic body of Buddhist monastic rules and their interpretation, as well as the interpretation of a few passages from Buddhist canonical literature that are arguably less straightforward than has sometimes been assumed or asserted.

Document Type

Published Version


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Original Citation

David Fiordalis
On Buddhism, divination and the worldly arts: Textual evidence from the Theravåda tradition.
Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies, 2014, volume 15, pages 79-108



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