Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

Archive for the ‘Volume 14 2007’


Buddhist Ethic of Intention and the Environment

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

Avoiding Unintended Harm to the Environment and the Buddhist Ethic of Intention

Peter Harvey
University of Sunderland

This paper reflects on how the mainly intention-based ethics of Buddhism relates to issues of causing unintended harm across a range of issues of relevance to environmental concern, such as species protection, resource depletion and climate change. Given our present knowledge, is environmental concern to be seen as morally obligatory for a Buddhist or only a voluntary positive action? Writers sometimes simply assume that Buddhist ethics are supportive of the full range of environmental concerns, but this needs to be critically argued. The paper reflects on a range of principles of traditional Buddhist ethics, both Theravāda and Mahāyāna, and concludes that, in the present world context, Buddhist considerations urge not only that we should not deliberately harm any living being, but that we should also look after the biosphere-home that we share with other beings, by using our knowledge of unintended effects of our actions to modify our behavior, and that we should act positively to benefit others beings, human and non-human, and enhance their supportive environment. The paper also considers issues such as Buddhism’s attitude to wild nature, industrialization and “progress.”

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Theravāda Sources on Free Will

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

“Freedom of the Will” in the Light of Theravāda Buddhist Teachings

Peter Harvey
University of Sunderland

A well known issue in Western Philosophy is that of “freedom of the will”: whether, how and in what sense human beings have genuine freedom of action in the context of a broad range of external and internal conditioning factors. Any system of ethics also assumes that humans have, in some sense, a freedom to choose between different courses of action. Buddhist ethics is no different in this—but how is freedom of action to be made sense of in a system that sees human beings as an interacting cluster of conditioned and conditioning processes, with no substantial I-agent either within or beyond this cluster? This article explores this issue within Theravāda Buddhism, and concludes that the view of this tradition on the issue is a “compatibilist” middle way between seeing a person’s actions as completely rigidly determined, and seeing them as totally and unconditionally free, with a variety of factors acting to bring, and increase, the element of freedom that humans have. In a different way, if a person is wrongly seen as an essential, permanent Self, it is an “undetermined question” as to whether “a person’s acts of will are determined” or “a person’s acts of will are free.” If there is no essential person-entity, “it” cannot be said to be either determined or free.

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Compassion and Equanimity

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

Do the Compassionate Flourish? Overcoming Anguish and the Impulse towards Violence

Chris Frakes
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

In this paper I argue that in order for compassion to be considered a virtue, Western philosophical accounts of compassion must be supplemented by Buddhist understandings. After examining two potential problems with compassion (that it may burden the compassionate agent with anguish such that s/he cannot flourish and that feeling compassion may give rise to violence on behalf of the suffering), I consider a way out of both of these problems. My central claim is that the proper emotion which demonstrates the virtue of compassion is that of equanimity.

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Buddhist Lessons from “King Lear”

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

Shakespeare, Buddha, and King Lear

Melvin Sterne
Florida State University

Given Shakespeare’s status as “the secular Bible,” it is surprising that his work has not been examined more closely to consider its spiritual teachings. As Buddhist studies increase in popularity in the West, more and more Buddhist scholars are being drawn to evaluate Shakespeare’s work in light of Buddhist traditions. Of special interest today is the perception of Shakespeare’s works as points-of-resistance to the dominant global-consumerist ideology. According to Stanley Wells, Lear’s “non-naturalistic interpretation of action” lends itself to the interpretation of its “moral and philosophical concepts.” This article considers the developing relationship between Shakespeare and Buddhism, and through a close read of King Lear establishes some of the methods and questions which may prove Shakespeare fertile ground for Buddhist scholars.

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Chinese and Pāli Versions of the Buddha’s Ethical Acts

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

What the Buddha Would Not Do, According to the Bāhitika-sutta and its Madhyama-āgama Parallel

Anālayo
University of Hamburg

The Bāhitika-sutta of the Majjhima-nikāya presents an inquiry into the ethical conduct of the Buddha. Based on a translation of the Madhyama-āgama parallel to the Bāhitika-sutta, this inquiry will be examined, taking into account differences found between the Chinese and Pāli versions.

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Ethics in Postmodern Organizations

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

The Ethics of Knowledge and Action in Postmodern Organizations

Michael M.Tophoff
Limmen, The Netherlands

Good Corporate Governance was explicitly formulated in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which became federal law in 2002. It includes ethical guidelines to regulate employee behavior and the interrelations between organizations and their shareholders. While these guidelines are exterior to the person, this paper discusses the construct of an internal beacon for right managerial action, in the Buddhist sense, as well as ways not only to access it mentally but also to extend it into the outside world. Within this perspective, it also presents the ethical teaching of the Chinese Ming philosopher Wang Yangming (1472-1529). Although Wang is considered to be a Neo-Confucian philosopher, in this article he is considered a seminal thinker within the Chan Buddhist tradition Wang’s method of self-cultivation is presented to access the person’s innate knowledge which in itself implies right action.

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Buddhism on Science and Technology

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

Leaf Blowers and Antibiotics: a Buddhist Stance for Science and Technology

Will Tuladhar-Douglas
King’s College, University of Aberdeen

Sustainable technology, like mindfulness, requires cultivation. It is a process of constantly attending in the face of considerable distraction, a process that leads to a self-balancing wholesome state that has beneficial properties for both self and others. This brief essay begins with a consideration of science, scientism and technology. I will then use a handful of examples to consider how technologies appear to behave autonomously, often perverting the good intentions of their inventor or revealing unexpected opportunities for wholesome behavior. In many cases, it seems that apparently neutral technologies fit together with unwholesome tendencies, locking humans and machines into an accelerating and apparently unstoppable destructive dance. I will then propose a general strategy for engaging technologies which draws on traditional Buddhist practices, with two particular objectives: to gain insight into, and maintain awareness of, the actual bias of any particular technology, and to discover tactics for interrupting the destructive cycles which are the cause of the ecological crisis in our world.

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Ethical Implications of Tantric Buddhist Ritual

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

Compassionate Violence? On the Ethical Implications of Tantric Buddhist Ritual

David B. Gray
Santa Clara University

Buddhism is often presented as a non-violent religion that highlights the virtue of universal compassion. However, it does not unequivocally reject the use of violence, and leaves open the possibility that violence may be committed under special circumstances by spiritually realized beings. This paper examines several apologetic defenses for the presence of violent imagery and rituals in tantric Buddhist literature. It will demonstrate that several Buddhist commentators, in advancing the notion of “compassionate violence,” also advanced an ethical double standard insofar as they defended these violent actions as justifiable when performed by Buddhists, but condemned them when performed by non-Buddhists.

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Review: Tibetan Freedom Fighters

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

Buddha’s Warriors: The Story of the CIA-Backed Tibetan Freedom Fighters, the Chinese Communist Invasion, and the Ultimate Fall of Tibet. By Mikel Dunham. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher & Penguin, 2004, 448 pages, ISBN 1-58542-348-3, US $29.95.

Reviewed by Vibha Arora

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Review: Films About Buddhist Practice in China and Nepal

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

Amongst White Clouds. Edward A. Burger: filmmaker, cinematography, music. Producer, Chad Pankewitz. DVD, 86 min. NTSC and PAL versions. Distributor: Cosmos Pictures Inc., Canada, 2004.

On the Road with the Red God Macchendranath. Kesang Tseten. 2005. DVD. Color, 72min. NTSC & PAL versions. Distributor: Kesang Tseten, c/o Hidden Treasure Tours, 509 Lincoln Blvd., Long Beach, NY 11561.

Reviewed by Joanna Kirkpatrick

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Review: Dōgen’s Three Hundred Kōans

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

The True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dōgen’s Three Hundred Kōans. Commentary and Verse by John Daido Loori. Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi and John Daido Loori. Boston: Shambhala, 2005. 472 pages. ISBN 590302427 (cloth).

Reviewed by Gregory Miller

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Review: D.T. Suzuki’s Zen Life

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

A Zen Life: D. T. Suzuki. Michael Goldberg, executive producer and director. Tokyo: Japan Inter-Culture Foundation, preliminary DVD version 2006, 77 min. Website: www.azenlife-film.org

Reviewed by Wayne S. Yokoyama

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