Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

Archive for the ‘Volume 11 2004’


Santi Asoke Movement in Thailand

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11 2004

Santi Asoke Buddhist Reform Movement: Building Individuals, Community, and (Thai) Society

Juliana M. Essen
Soka University of America

The late 1990s economic crisis in Southeast Asia marked a critical moment in Thailand’s history. Now, many Thais pause to reevaluate their nation’s development path and to consider alternatives for a primarily Buddhist, agrarian society. The Santi Asoke Buddhist Reform Movement in Thailand offers one such alternative. The Asoke group’s aim is not a Western ideal—to accumulate high levels of material comfort, but a Buddhist ideal—to release attachment to the material world and attain spiritual freedom. Like other Buddhist approaches to development, Asoke-style development begins with personal spiritual advancement; yet it emphasizes worldly engagement in order to address contemporary social, economic, and environmental dilemmas. This paper draws from ethnographic research at one Asoke community to illustrate how Asoke Buddhist beliefs and practices contribute to development on three levels: individual, community, and society.

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Cultivation of Moral Concern in Theravāda

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Cultivation of Moral Concern in Theravāda Buddhism: Toward a Theory of the Relation Between Tranquility and Insight

Ethan Mills
Augsburg College

There are two groups of scholars writing on the two main types of Buddhist meditation: one group that considers insight (vipassanā) to be essential and tranquility (samatha) to be inessential in the pursuit of nirvana, and a second group that views both samatha and vipassanā to be essential. I approach an answer to the question of which group is correct in two steps: (1) an outline of the disagreement between Paul Griffiths (of the first group) and Damien Keown (of the second group); and (2), an augmentation of Keown’s assertion that samatha can cultivate moral concern. I am not definitively solving the problem of the relationship between samatha and vipassanā, but rather I show that by making Keown’s theory of the cultivation of moral concern more plausible we have more reasons to accept his larger theory of the importance of both samatha and vipassanā.

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Martha Nussbaum on Compassion

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Reflection on Martha Nussbaum’s Work on Compassion from a Buddhist Perspective

Maria Vanden Eynde

The current philosophical debate between care and justice reflects the debate between an image of self that is either autonomous and invested with rights or a self that is contingent, feeling and thinking. Our goal is to bridge the polarization between the two ethical theories of care and justice. For this, an extended self image would be introduced, carrying traits of both views. We aim to show that Nussbaum’s concept of compassion can bridge the dichotomy. But, rather than merely building on Nussbaum’s findings, we think it is essential to investigate what Buddhism, as a philosophy where compassion is central, can bring to this project. The topic of this paper then, is to relate Nussbaum’s work on compassion with Buddhist theory, at the same time opening the subject matter to the potentialities that are at hand in Buddhist philosophy.

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A Naturalized Concept of Karma

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Critical Questions Towards a Naturalized Concept of Karma in Buddhism

Dale S. Wright
Occidental College

In an effort to articulate a naturalized concept of karma for the purposes of contemporary ethical reflection, this paper raises four critical questions about the Buddhist doctrine of karma. The paper asks (1) about the advisability of linking the concept of karma to assurance of ultimate cosmic justice through the doctrine of rebirth; (2) about the effects of this link on the quest for human justice in the social, economic, and political spheres of culture; (3) about the kinds of rewards that the doctrine of karma attaches to virtuous action, whether they tend to be necessary or contingent consequences; and (4) about the extent to which karma is best conceived individually or collectively. The paper ends with suggestions for how a non-metaphysical concept of karma might function and what role it might play in contemporary ethics.

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Criteria of Goodness in the Pāli Nikāyas

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11 2004

The Criteria of Goodness in the Pāli Nikāyas and the Nature of Buddhist Ethics

Abraham Velez de Cea
Georgetown University

I start by discussing Damien Keown’s important contribution to the field of Buddhist ethics, and I point out some difficulties derived from his criterion of goodness based on the identification of nirvana with the good and the right. In the second part, I expand Keown’s conception of virtue ethics and overcome the difficulties affecting his criterion of goodness by proposing a heuristic distinction between instrumental and teleological actions. In the third part, I explore the early Buddhist criteria of goodness and argue that they do not correspond to a form of virtue ethics as Keown defines it, but rather to a particular system of virtue ethics with features of utilitarianism and moral realism. That is, a system where the goodness of actions is determined not only by the mental states underlying actions as Keown claims, but also by the content and the consequences of actions for the happiness of oneself and others.

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Survey of the Sources of Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

A Survey of the Sources of Buddhist Ethics

Ian J. Coghlan
Georgetown University

This article surveys two sources of ethics in Therāvada Buddhism. Firstly, it briefly surveys the texts that record the process of the proclamation of training rules. Secondly, it investigates the main events which provoked proclamation. This process of setting down an ethical standard itself emerges from both an intuitive sense of ethics held by society and the realized ethics of the Buddha. Further, though the proclamation of the 227 vows is designed to restrain physical and verbal action, the underlying purpose of the vows is to control the mind’s motivating unethical action. This survey will show that of the three roots of ignorance, aversion, and attachment, the vows are primarily directed to eliminating the root of attachment.

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Can Killing Ever Be an Act of Compassion?

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Can Killing a Living Being Ever Be an Act of Compassion? The Analysis of the Act of Killing in the Abhidhamma and Pāli Commentaries

Rupert Gethin
University of Bristol

In the Theravādin exegetical tradition, the notion that intentionally killing a living being is wrong involves a claim that when certain mental states (such as compassion) are present in the mind, it is simply impossible that one could act in certain ways (such as to intentionally kill). Contrary to what Keown has claimed, the only criterion for judging whether an act is “moral” (kusala) or “immoral” (akusala) in Indian systematic Buddhist thought is the quality of the intention that motivates it. The idea that killing a living being might be a solution to the problem of suffering runs counter to the Buddhist emphasis on dukkha as a reality that must be understood. The cultivation of friendliness in the face of suffering is seen as something that can bring beneficial effects for self and others in a situation where it might seem that compassion should lead one to kill.

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Review: Buddhism and Psychedelics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics. Edited by Allan Hunt Badiner and Alex Grey. Preface by Huston Smith. Foreword by Stephen Batchelor. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2002. 238 pages. Cloth. ISBN 0-8118-3286-4.

Reviewed by Geoffrey Redmond

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Review Essay: Personal Identity and Buddhist Philosophy

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Personal Identity and Buddhist Philosophy: Empty Persons. By Mark Siderits. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2003. 231 pages. Cloth. ISBN 0-7546-3473-6.

Reviewed by Roger Farrington

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Review Essay: Destructive Emotions

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them? A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Narrated by Daniel Goleman. New York: Random House, 2003, xxiv + 404 pages, ISBN 0-553-80171-6 (hardback), $28.00.

Reviewed by Christian Coseru

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Review: Zen War Stories

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Zen War Stories. By Brian Daizen Victoria. London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. Pp. 268+xviii. Paperback. ISBN: 0700715800.

Reviewed by David Loy

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Review: A Modern Buddhist Bible

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

A Modern Buddhist Bible: Essential Readings from East and West. Edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2003. xli + 266 pages. Paperback. ISBN 0807012432.

Reviewed by Jeff Wilson

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Review: Religion in Modern Taiwan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Religion in Modern Taiwan: Tradition and Innovation in a Changing Society. Edited by Philip Clart and Charles B. Jones. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003, 352 pages, ISBN 08248-2564-0 (cloth), $52.00.

Reviewed by Marc L. Moskowitz

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Review:Reform and Self-examination in Modern Taiwanese Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Taiwan jindai fojiao de biange yu fansi (Reform and self-examination in modern Taiwanese Buddhism). By Jiang Canteng (Chiang Tsan-t’eng). Taipei: Dongda, 2003. 400 pages. ISBN 9571925233. Price NT$400.

Reviewed by Bret Hinsch

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