Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

Archive for the ‘Volume 15 2008’


Implications of the New Dating of the Buddha

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Cooking the Buddhist Books: The Implications of the New Dating of the Buddha for the History of Early Indian Buddhism

Charles S. Prebish
Utah State University

On the surface, new dating for the Buddha’s death doesn’t seem terribly earthshaking, either for Indian Buddhist history or for ancillary studies such as a consideration of Upāli and his lineage of Vinayadharas. Yet it is. If there is a new date for the Buddha’s demise, virtually everything we know about the earliest Indian Buddhism, and especially its sectarian movement, is once again called into question. Dates for the first, second, and third canonical councils—once thought to be certain—must now be reexamined. Kings who presided at these events must be reconsidered. Most importantly, the role of the great Indian King Aśoka, from whose reign much of the previous dating begins, needs to be placed under the scrutiny of the historical microscope again.

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Methodology of Constructive Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Deploying the Dharma: Reflections on the Methodology of Constructive Buddhist Ethics

Christopher Ives
Stonehill College

Recent Buddhist ethical argumentation has been hampered by a set of methodological issues. The Buddhist soteriological scheme offers at least a partial solution to several of those issues, and more importantly, provides a framework for more rigorous and systematic formulations of Buddhist ethics.

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Suzuki Shōsan’s Mōanjō and The Doctrine of the Mean

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Guiding the Blind Along the Middle Way: A Parallel Reading of Suzuki Shōsan’s Mōanjō and The Doctrine of the Mean

Anton Luis C. Sevilla
Ateneo de Manila University

Japanese intellectual culture is a mélange of many schools of thought—Shinto, many forms of Buddhism, Confucianism, and so on. However, these schools of thought are distinct in approach and focus, and key ideas of one school may even be found to be in contradiction with the key ideas of other schools of thought. Many have deliberately tried, with varying degrees of success, to reconcile these schools of thought, academically, politically, and so forth. But amidst these attempts, one that stands out for its uncontrived naturalness and vitality is that of Zen Master Shōsan.

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Relocalization of Buddhism in Thailand

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

The Relocalization of Buddhism in Thailand

Michael Parnwell and Martin Seeger
University of Leeds

This paper probes beneath the surface of the revitalized religiosity and thriving “civic Buddhism” that is identifiable in parts of Thailand’s rural periphery today as a result of grassroots processes of change. It exemplifies Phra Phaisan Visalo’s assertion that Thai Buddhism is “returning to diversity” and “returning again to the hands of the people.” Using in-depth case studies of three influential local monks in the northeastern province of Yasothon, it develops three cross-cutting themes that are of significance not only as evidence of a process we term “relocalization” but also as issues that lie at the heart of contemporary Thai Theravāda Buddhism. The paper explores how the teachings and specific hermeneutics of influential Buddhist thinkers like Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu, Phra Payutto and Samana Phothirak have been communicated, interpreted, adjusted and implemented by local monks in order to suit specific local realities and needs. Added to this localization of ideas is the localization of practice, wherein the three case studies reveal the quite different approaches and stances adopted by a “folk monk” (Phra Khruu Suphajarawat), a “forest monk” (Phra Mahathongsuk) and what might loosely be termed a “fundamentalist monk” (Phra Phromma Suphattho) at the interface of monastery and village, or the spiritual (supramundane) and social (mundane) worlds. This articulation of Buddhism and localism in turn feeds the debate concerning the appropriateness or otherwise of social engagement and activism in connection with a monk’s individual spiritual development and the normative function of the monk in modern Thai society.

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The Eight Revered Conditions

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Eight Revered Conditions: Ideological Complicity, Contemporary Reflections and Practical Realities

Nirmala S. Salgado
Augustana College

Scholarly debates focusing on the “Eight Revered Conditions,” a list of conditions suggestive of the dependence of nuns on monks in early Buddhism, have long been the focus of scholarly debates. These debates, centering on the legitimation of a patriarchal Buddhism, have reached an impasse. Here I argue that this impasse logically flows from questionable reconstructions of the imperative and authoritative nature of these eight conditions in early Buddhism, perceived as Buddhavacana, or the word of the Buddha. In contemporary Sri Lanka, practitioners’ reflections on the eight conditions suggest that they function less as imperative injunctions than as markers defining social and moral boundaries, in terms of which monastics conceptualize their world. I demonstrate that scholarly presuppositions of the hierarchical nature of the controversial conditions are contested by perspectives of current praxis, and may also possibly be questioned, at least theoretically, by the process of reconstructing earlier Buddhist realities.

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Buddhism and Speciesism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Buddhism and Speciesism: on the Misapplication of Western Concepts to Buddhist Beliefs

Colette Sciberras
University of Durham

In this article, I defend Buddhism from Paul Waldau’s charge of speciesism. I argue that Waldau attributes to Buddhism various notions that it does not necessarily have, such as the ideas that beings are morally considerable if they possess certain traits, and that humans, as morally considerable beings, ought never to be treated as means. These ideas may not belong in Buddhism, and for Waldau’s argument to work, he needs to show that they do. Moreover, a closer look at his case reveals a more significant problem for ecologically minded Buddhists—namely that the Pāli texts do not seem to attribute intrinsic value to any form of life at all, regardless of species. Thus, I conclude that rather than relying on Western concepts, it may be preferable to look for a discourse from within the tradition itself to explain why Buddhists ought to be concerned about the natural world.

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The Sixfold Purity of an Arahant

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

The Sixfold Purity of an Arahant According to the Chabbisodhana-sutta and its Parallel

Anālayo
University of Hamburg
Dharma Drum Buddhist College

In continuation of two articles published in the last two issues of the JBE, in which I studied aspects of early Buddhist ethics based on comparing parallel versions of a discourse preserved in Pāli and Chinese, the present article examines the treatment of the six-fold purity of an arahant in the Chabbisodhana-sutta of the Majjhima-nikāya and in its Madhyama-āgama parallel, based on an annotated translation of the latter.

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Transgression and Forgiveness

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Did King Ajātasattu Confess to the Buddha, and did the Buddha Forgive Him?

Jayarava Michael Attwood
Cambridge Buddhist Centre

Is it possible to counteract the consequences of a moral transgression by publicly acknowledging it? When he reveals to the Buddha that he has killed his father, King Ajātasattu is said to “yathādhammaṃ paṭikaroti.” This has been interpreted as “making amends,” or as seeking (and receiving) “forgiveness” for his crime. Successfully translating this phrase into English requires that we reexamine etymology and dictionary definitions, question assumptions made by previous translators, and study the way that yathādhammaṃ paṭikaroti is used in context. We can better understand confession as a practice by locating it within the general Indian concern for ritual purity—ethicized by the Buddha—and showing that the early Buddhist doctrine of kamma allows for mitigation, though not eradication, of the consequences of actions under some circumstances.

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Review: The Political Ascendancy of Chan Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Monks, Rulers, and Literati: The Political Ascendancy of Chan Buddhism. By Albert Welter. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, 334 pages, ISBN: 978-0195175219, US $55.00 (cloth).

Reviewed by Charles B. Jones

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Review: Visions of Buddhist Vinaya

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Going Forth: Visions of Buddhist Vinaya. Edited by William M. Bodiford. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005, x + 317 pages, ISBN: 0-8248-2787-2, US $48.00 (cloth).

Reviewed by Brian Nichols

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Review: Chinese Monks in the Struggle against Japanese Aggressions

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Buddhism, War, and Nationalism: Chinese Monks in the Struggle against Japanese Aggressions, 1931-1945. By Xue Yu. New York: Routledge, 2005, xiii + 278 pages, ISBN 0415975115, US $85.00 (cloth).

Reviewed by Brooks Jessup

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Review: Deep Ecology and Buddhist Economics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Business within Limits: Deep Ecology and Buddhist Economics. Edited by Laszlo Zsolnai and Knut Johannesssen Ims. Bern: Peter Lang Publishing, 2006, 324 pages, ISBN 3039107038, US $62.95 (paperback).

Reviewed by Jason McLeod Monson

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Review: Dzogchen and Deepest Goodness

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Awakening Through Love: Unveiling Your Deepest Goodness. By John Makransky. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2007, xii + 261 pages, ISBN: 0-86171-537-3, US $16.95 (paperback).

Reviewed by John N. Sheveland

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Review: Epistemology in South Asian Philosophy of Religion

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Buddhists, Brahmins, and Belief: Epistemology in South Asian Philosophy of Religion. By Dan Arnold. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005, vii + 318 pages, ISBN: 978-0-231-13281-7 (paperback), $24.50 / £14.50, ISBN 0-231-13280-8 (cloth), $52.00 / £30.50.

Reviewed by Roy Tzohar

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Review: Pilgrimage, Meaning and Practice in Shikoku

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Making Pilgrimages, Meaning and Practice in Shikoku. By Ian Reader. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2006, xv + 250 pages, ISBN 0-8248-2907-7, US $29.00.

Reviewed by Ronald S. Green

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Review: Buddhist Hagiography in Early Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Buddhist Hagiography in Early Japan: Images of Compassion in the Gyōki Tradition. By Jonathan Morris Augustine. London and New York: Routledge, 2005, vii + 174 pages, ISBN 0-415-32245-6 (cloth), US $170.00.

Reviewed by Amy Holmes

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Review: Moral Theory in Śāntideva’s Śikṣāsamuccaya

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Moral Theory in Śāntideva’s Śikṣāsamuccaya: Cultivating the fruits of virtue. By Barbra R. Clayton. London: Routledge, 2006, xv + 165 pages, ISBN 10041534697 (cloth).

Reviewed by Douglas Osto

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Review: Buddhist Propaganda and Etoki Storytelling in Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Explaining Pictures: Buddhist Propaganda and Etoki Storytelling in Japan. By Ikumi Kaminishi. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006, 246 pages, ISBN 0824826973, US $52.00 (cloth).

Reviewed by Pamela Winfield

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Review: Cambodian Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Cambodian Buddhism: History and Practice. By Ian Harris. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005, xvi + 352 pages, ISBN: 0-8248-2765-1, US $62.00.

Reviewed by Jason A. Carbine

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Review: Buddhist Female Ascetics and Gendered Orders in Thailand

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Making Fields of Merit: Buddhist Female Ascetics and Gendered Orders in Thailand. By Monica Lindberg Falk. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007, 238 pages, ISBN 0-2959-8726-X, US $30.00.

Reviewed by Vanessa R. Sasson

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