Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

Archive for the ‘Volume 01 1994’


Buddhist Ethics as Virtues Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 1 1994

Buddhist Ethics in Western Context: The Virtues Approach

James Whitehill
Stephens College


Contemporary Buddhism increasingly seeks to make itself understood in modern terms and to respond to contemporary conditions. Buddhism’s legitimation in the West can be partially met by demonstrating that Buddhist morality is a virtue-oriented, character-based, community-focused ethics, commensurate with the Western “ethics of virtue” tradition.

The recent past in Western Buddhist ethics focused on escape from Victorian moralism, and was incomplete. A new generation of Western Buddhists is emerging, for whom the “construction” of a Buddhist way of life involves community commitment and moral “practices.” By keeping its roots in a character formed as “awakened virtue” and a community guided by an integrative soteriology of wisdom and morality, Western Buddhism can avoid the twin temptations of rootless liberation in an empty “emptiness,” on the one hand, and universalistic power politics, on the other. In describing Buddhist ethics as an “ethics of virtue,” I am pointing to consistent and essential features in the Buddhist way of life. But, perhaps more importantly, I am describing Buddhist ethics by means of an interpretative framework very much alive in Western and Christian ethics, namely, that interpretation of ethics most recently associated with thinkers like Alasdair MacIntyre and Stanley Hauerwas. The virtue ethics tradition is the Western tradition most congenial to the assumptions and insights of Buddhist ethics. Hence, virtue ethics provides a means of understanding Buddhist ethics… and, reciprocally, Buddhist ethics also offers the Western tradition a way of expanding the bounds of its virtue ethics tradition, which has been too elitist, rationalistic, and anthropocentric. On the basis of this view, I predict some likely, preferable future directions and limits for Buddhism in a postmodern world.

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A Buddhist Ethic Without Karmic Rebirth?

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 1 1994

A Buddhist Ethic Without Karmic Rebirth?

Winston L. King
Vanderbilt University

Is a viable and authentic Buddhist ethic possible without the prospect of rebirth governed by one’s karmic past? This paper explores traditional and contemporary views on karma with a view to determining the importance of this doctrine for practical ethics in the West. The Theravāda emphasis on the personal nature of karma is discussed first, followed by a consideration of the evolution of a social dimension to the doctrine in the Mahāyāna. The latter development is attributed to the twin influences of the Bodhisattva ideal and the metaphysics of Nāgārjuna and Hua Yen. Following this survey of traditional perspectives, attention is turned for the greater part of the paper to a consideration of the relevance of the notion of karmic rebirth for Buddhist ethics in the West. The notion of “social kamma” advanced by Ken Jones in The Social Face of Buddhism is given critical consideration. The conclusion is that a doctrine of karmic rebirth is not essential to a viable and authentic Buddhist ethic in the West. Is a viable and authentic Buddhist ethic possible without the prospect of rebirth governed by one’s karmic past?

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The Problem of Buddhist Environmental Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 1 1994

Causation and Telos: The Problem of Buddhist Environmental Ethics

Ian Harris
University College of St. Martin

Environmentalist concerns have moved center stage in most major religious traditions of late and Buddhism is no exception to this rule. This paper shows that the canonical writings of Indic Buddhism possess elements that may harmonize with a de facto ecological consciousness. However, their basic attitude towards the causal process drastically reduces the possibility of developing an authentically Buddhist environmental ethic. The classical treatment of causation fails to resolve successfully the tension between symmetry and asymmetry of relations and this has tended to mean that attempts to inject a telos, or sense of purpose, into the world are likely to founder. The agenda of eco-Buddhism is examined in the light of this fact and found wanting.

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Vinaya in American Theravāda Temples

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 1 1994

Vinaya in Theravāda Temples in the United States

Paul David Numrich
University of Illinois at Chicago
 
Vinaya (the monastic discipline) plays an essential role in defining traditional Theravāda Buddhism. This article examines the current state of vinaya recitation and practice in the nearly 150 immigrant Theravāda Buddhist temples in the United States, and also speculates on the prospect of traditional Theravāda’s firm establishment in this country. Specific vinaya issues discussed include the pātimokkha ceremony, the discussion about vinaya adaptation to the American context, adaptations in the areas of monastic attire and relations with women, and principles of adaptation at work in Theravāda temples in the United States. 

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Scholarly Books on Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 1 1994

Scholarly Books on Buddhist Ethics and Ethics-Related Topics Published in the 1990s

Compiled By Charles Prebish and Damien Keown


This bibliography may be used freely for teaching and research purposes, but please acknowledge the source. Copyright Charles Prebish and Damien Keown 1995.

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