Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

Archive for the ‘Volume 02 1995’


“Human Rights” in Buddhism?

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Are There “Human Rights” in Buddhism?

Damien Keown
Goldsmiths College, University of London

It is difficult to think of a more urgent question for Buddhism in the late twentieth century than human rights. Human rights issues in which Buddhism has a direct involvement, notably in the case of Tibet, feature regularly on the agenda in superpower diplomacy. The political, ethical and philosophical questions surrounding human rights are debated vigourously in political and intellectual circles throughout the world. Yet despite its contemporary significance, the subject has merited hardly a footnote in mainstream academic research and publication in the field of Buddhist Studies. Why is this? One reason would seem to be the lack of a precedent within Buddhism itself for discussing issues of this kind; scholars, by and large, continue to follow the tradition’s own agenda, an agenda which appears to some increasingly medieval in the shadow of the twenty-first century. If Buddhism wishes to address the issues which are of concern to today’s global community, it must begin to ask itself new questions alongside the old ones.

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Meditation as Ethical Activity

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Meditation as Ethical Activity

Georges Dreyfus
Williams College

Despite the fact that the various Tibetan Buddhist traditions developed substantive ethical systems on the personal, interpersonal and social levels, they did not develop systematic theoretical reflections on the nature and scope of ethics. Precisely because very little attention is devoted to the nature of ethical concepts, problems are created for modern scholars who are thus hindered in making comparisons between Buddhist and Western ethics. This paper thus examines the continuity between meditation and daily life in the context of understanding the ethical character of meditation as practiced by Tibetan Buddhists. The discussion is largely limited to the practice of meditation as taught in the lam rim (or Gradual Stages of the Path).

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Buddhism on Human Rights

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

A Buddhist Response to the Nature of Human Rights

Kenneth Inada
State University of New York, Buffalo

It is incorrect to assume that the concept of human rights is readily identifiable in all societies of the world. The concept may perhaps be clear and distinct in legal quarters, but in actual practice it suffers greatly from lack of clarity and gray areas due to impositions by different cultures. This is especially true in Asia, where the two great civilizations of India and China have spawned such outstanding systems as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Yoga, Confucianism, Taoism and Chinese Buddhism. These systems, together with other indigenous folk beliefs, attest to the cultural diversity at play that characterizes Asia proper. In focusing on the concept of human rights, however, we shall concentrate on Buddhism to bring out the common grounds of discourse.

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Judeo-Christian and Buddhist Justice

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Judeo-Christian and Buddhist Justice

Winston King
Vanderbilt University

This article compares and contrasts the traditional Judeo-Christian and Buddhist notions of justice. It begins with an examination of some traditional biblical resources, such as the Job story, and moves ahead to trace Buddhist ideas about justice as developed in the Pāli Canon. In the Conclusion, more recent Buddhist considerations are developed, such as those found in Zen and in modern socially engaged Buddhism.

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Tsongkhapa on the Results of Anger

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Cutting the Roots of Virtue: Tsongkhapa on the Results of Anger

Daniel Cozort
Dickinson College

Anger is the most powerful of the kleśas that not only “plant seeds” for suffering but also “cut the roots of virtue” for periods of up to a thousand aeons per instance. This article examines and assesses the exegesis by Tsongkhapa, founder of the Tibetan Gelukba order, of Indian sources on the topic of anger. It argues that despite Tsongkhapa’s many careful qualifications he may not be successful in avoiding the conclusion that if the sūtras are to be accepted literally, there almost certainly will be persons for whom liberation from saṃsāra is precluded.

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Bibliography of Buddhism and Medical Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Buddhism and Medical Ethics: A Bibliographic Introduction

James J. Hughes
University of Chicago
and
Damien Keown
Goldsmiths, University of London

This article provides an introduction to some contemporary issues in medical ethics and the literature which addresses them from a Buddhist perspective. The first part of the article discusses Buddhism and medicine and outlines some of the main issues in contemporary medical ethics. In the rest of the paper three subjects are considered: (1) moral personhood, (2) abortion, and (3) death, dying and euthanasia.

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Ethics and Integration in American Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Ethics and Integration in American Buddhism

Charles S. Prebish
The Pennsylvania State University

This article identifies and explicates several of the most difficult and problematic issues facing the North American Buddhist movement today. It considers not only the obvious conflict between Asian-American and Euro-American Buddhism, but also those concerns that most directly impact on the ethical dilemmas facing modern American Buddhists. The article considers the tension that exists in American Buddhism’s struggle to find the ideal community for Buddhist practice in its Western environment, as well as some potentially creative solutions.

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Unwholesomeness of Actions in Theravāda

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Criteria for Judging the Unwholesomeness of Actions in the Texts of Theravāda Buddhism

Peter Harvey
University of Sunderland

After briefly reviewing the role of ethics on the path in Theravāda texts, the article moves on to discuss the various criteria for distinguishing between wholesome and unwholesome actions. It then explores the gradation of unwholesomeness of actions according to several variables, and then applies this to wholesome actions, here highlighting the importance of right view. Finally, the question of the relation between precept-taking and the moral worth of actions is assessed.

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Social Engagement in Western Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Practicing Peace: Social Engagement in Western Buddhism

Kenneth Kraft
Lehigh University

This essay examines some current concerns of socially engaged Buddhists in the West. How does one practice nonviolence in one’s own life and in the world? How can the demands of “inner” and “outer” work be reconciled? What framework should be used in assessing the effects of Buddhist-inspired activism? Today’s engaged Buddhists do not refer extensively to Buddhism’s ethical tradition, and some of their activities may not appear to be distinctively Buddhist. Nonetheless, their efforts reflect a longstanding Mahāyāna ideal — that transcendental wisdom is actualized most meaningfully in compassionate action.

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Typology of Buddhist Environmentalism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Getting to Grips With Buddhist Environmentalism: A Provisional Typology

Ian Harris
University College of St. Martin

This paper offers a survey of current writing and practice within the area of Buddhist environmental ethics. Consideration of the manner in which sections of contemporary Buddhism have embraced a range of environmental concerns suggests that four fairly distinct types of discourse are in the process of formation, i.e., eco-spirituality, eco-justice, eco-traditionalism and eco-apologetics. This fourfold typology is described and examples of each type are discussed. The question of the “authenticity”, from the Buddhist perspective, is addressed to each type in turn.

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Ethics in the Kurudhamma Jātaka

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

The Kurudhamma: From Ethics to Statecraft

Andrew Huxley
University of London
Law Department, School of Oriental & African Studies

This article compares two literary treatments of a Buddhist ethical motif. In the prose sections of the Kurudhamma Jātaka the motif is expanded into a collection of ethical casuistry. In the Kurudhamma kaṇḍa pañho, it is expanded into a series of job descriptions for the king and ten of his subordinates. Description of these provokes discussion of the history of the practice of ethics by Buddhist monks and Buddhist courtiers.

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Review: Perspectives on Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Perspectives on Buddhist Ethics. Edited by Prof. Mahesh Tiwary. Delhi: Department of Buddhist Studies, Delhi University, 1989. Rs 150.00.

Theravāda Buddhist Ethics with Special Reference to Visuddhimagga. Dr Vyanjana. Calcutta: Punthi Pustak, 1992. Rs 275.00.

Reviewed by Roger Farrington

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Bibliography of Buddhism and Human Rights

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

A Bibliography on Buddhism and Human Rights

Damien Keown
Goldsmiths College, University of London

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