Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

Archive for the ‘Volume 17 2010’


Early Buddhist Attitudes Towards Nuns

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Attitudes Towards Nuns: A Case Study of the Nandakovāda in the Light of its Parallels

Ven. Anālayo
Center for Buddhist Studies, University of Hamburg
Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taiwan

The present article provides an annotated translation of the Saṃyukta-āgama parallel to the Nandakovāda-sutta of the Majjhima-nikāya, followed by a discussion of differences between these two versions that are relevant for an assessment of the attitude towards nuns in early Buddhist discourse. An appendix to the article also provides a translation of the Tibetan parallel to the Nandakovāda-sutta.

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Restoring Mūlasarvāstivāda Bhikṣuṇī Ordination

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

The Mūlasarvāstivāda Bhikṣuṇī Has the Horns of a Rabbit: Why the Master’s Tools Will Never Reconstruct the Master’s House

Bhikṣuṇī Lozang Trinlae
Buddhist Hong Shi College

At the First International Congress on the Buddhist Women’s Role in the Saṅgha held at the University of Hamburg in 2007, Venerable Samdhong Rinpoche offered the pronouncement, “Our efforts toward re-establishing the Mūlasarvāstivāda bhikṣuṇī ordination are not driven by Western influence or feminist concerns about the equality of the sexes—this issue cannot be determined by social or political considerations. The solution must be found within the context of the Vinaya codes” (Mohr and Tsedroen 256). Using the perspective and comparative analysis of contemporary moral theory, I argue to the contrary that restoration of Mūlasarvāstivāda bhikṣuṇī communities by Vinaya [discipline rules] alone is most unlikely, if not entirely impossible, without a consideration of gender equality, and, by extension, social considerations and Western influence. Thus, Vinaya code compliance may be seen as a necessary but insufficient condition for producing Mūlasarvāstivāda (Mula) bhikṣuṇī communities. Furthermore, not only the result of bhikṣuṇī Vinaya restoration, but also the cause of it, a desire for its existence, is also very unlikely, if not entirely impossible, in a convention-determined Vinaya framework whose stance is self-defined as being mutually exclusive with post-conventional morality. A fundamental change of attitude embracing modern perspectives of women’s rights is itself necessary.

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Buddhist Theories of Free Will: Compatiblism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Earlier Buddhist Theories of Free Will: Compatibilism

Riccardo Repetti
Kingsborough College, City University of New York

This is the first part of a four-article series that examines Buddhist accounts of free will. The present article introduces the issues and reviews earlier attempts by Frances Story, Walpola Rāhula, Luis Gómez, and David Kalupahana. These “early-period” authors advocate compatibilism between Buddhist doctrine, determinism (the doctrine of universal lawful causation), and free will. The second and third articles review later attempts by Mark Siderits, Gay Watson, Joseph Goldstein, and Charles Goodman. These “middle-period” authors embrace either partial or full incompatibilism. The fourth article reviews recent attempts by Nicholas F. Gier and Paul Kjellberg, Asaf Federman, Peter Harvey, and B. Alan Wallace. These “recent-period” authors divide along compatibilist and incompatibilist lines. Most of the scholarly Buddhist works that examine free will in any depth are reviewed in this series. Prior to the above-mentioned early-period scholarship, scholars of Buddhism were relatively silent on free will. The Buddha’s teachings implicitly endorse a certain type of free will and explicitly endorse something very close to determinism, but attempts to articulate the implicit theory bear significant interpretive risks. The purpose of this four-article series is to review such attempts in order to facilitate a comprehensive view of the present state of the discussion and its history.

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Response to David Loy

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Moving Forward by Agreeing to Disagree: A Response to “Healing Ecology”

Grace Y. Kao

This paper was the subject of discussion at the American Academy of Religion national meeting in Atlanta, October 31, 2010 on “Nondualist Ecology: Perspectives on the Buddhist Environmentalism of David Loy.” Co-hosting were the Buddhist Critical-Constructive Reflection Group and the Comparative Religious Ethics Group.

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Healing Ecology

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Healing Ecology

David R. Loy

This paper was the subject of discussion at the American Academy of Religion national meeting in Atlanta, October 31, 2010 on “Nondualist Ecology: Perspectives on the Buddhist Environmentalism of David Loy.” Co-hosting were the Buddhist Critical-Constructive Reflection Group and the Comparative Religious Ethics Group.

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Human Rights Founded on Buddha-Nature

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Founding Human Rights within Buddhism: Exploring Buddha-Nature as an Ethical Foundation

Anton Luis Sevilla
Ateneo de Manila University

In this article, I hope to suggest (1) a fertile ground for human rights and social ethics within Japanese intellectual history and (2) a possible angle for connecting Dōgen’s ethical views with his views on private religious practice. I begin with a review of the attempts to found the notion of rights within Buddhism. I focus on two well-argued attempts: Damien Keown’s foundation of rights on the Four Noble Truths and individual soteriology and Jay Garfield’s foundation of rights on the compassionate drive to liberate others. I then fuse these two approaches in a single concept: Buddha-nature. I analyze Dōgen’s own view on the practice-realization of Buddha-nature, and the equation of Buddha-nature with being, time, emptiness, and impermanence. I end with tentative suggestions concerning how Dōgen’s particular view on Buddha-nature might affect any social ethics or view of rights that is founded on it.

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A Buddhist Theory of Free Will

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Meditation and Mental Freedom: A Buddhist Theory of Free Will

Riccardo Repetti
Kingsborough College, City University of New York

I argue that central Buddhist tenets and meditation methodology support a view of free will similar to Harry Frankfurt’s optimistic view and contrary to Galen Strawson’s pessimistic view. For Frankfurt, free will involves a relationship between actions, volitions, and “metavolitions” (volitions about volitions): simplifying greatly, volitional actions are free if the agent approves of them. For Buddhists, mental freedom involves a relationship between mental states and “metamental” states (mental attitudes toward mental states): simplifying greatly, one has mental freedom if one is able to control one’s mental states, and to the extent one has mental freedom when choosing, one has free will. Philosophical challenges to free will typically question whether it is compatible with “determinism,” the thesis of lawful universal causation. Both Frankfurt’s metavolitional approval and the Buddhist’s metamental control are consistent with determinism. Strawson has argued, however, that free will is impossible, determinism notwithstanding, because one’s choice is always influenced by one’s mental state. I argue, however, that Buddhist meditation cultivates control over mental states that undermine freedom, whether they are deterministic or not, making both mental freedom and free will possible. The model I develop is only a sketch of a minimally risky theory of free will, but one that highlights the similarities and differences between Buddhist thought on this subject and relevantly-related Western thought and has explanatory promise.

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Dewey’s Metaethics and Theravāda

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Theravāda Buddhism and John Dewey’s Metaethics

Or Neeman
University of Pittsburgh

In this article I carry out a comparison between the metaethical views of John Dewey in “Theory of Valuation” and the ethical methodology of Theravāda Buddhism. I argue that the latter illustrates how Dewey’s view of ethics may be applied. Specifically, his view is that ethics can be and ought to be a science, and that ethical knowledge, like all scientific knowledge, is causal. Thus, the focus of ethics is on the causes and effects of our actions. This includes a concrete analysis of desire and the context in which it arises. I further argue that the comparison with Dewey helps to transcend the debate over whether Buddhist ethics more closely resemble utilitarianism or Aristotelian ethics.

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Vegetarianism and Diet in Pāli Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

The Question of Vegetarianism and Diet in Pāli Buddhism

James J. Stewart
University of Tasmania

This article is concerned with the question of whether Pāli Buddhism endorses vegetarianism and therefore whether a good Buddhist ought to abstain from eating meat. A prima facie case for vegetarianism will be presented that relies upon textual citation in which the Buddha stipulates that a good Buddhist must encourage others not to kill. The claim that the Buddha endorses vegetarianism, however, is challenged both by the fact that meat-eating is permissible in the Vinaya and that the Buddha himself seems to have eaten meat. The article will suggest that this conflict emerges as a distinct ethical and legal tension in the canonical texts but that the tension may have arisen as a consequence of difficult prudential decisions the Buddha may have had to make during his ministry.

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Review: Ethics and Society in Contemporary Shin

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Ethics and Society in Contemporary Shin Buddhism. By Ugo Dessi. Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2008, 265 pages, ISBN: 978-3825808150 (cloth), €39.90.

Reviewed by Jeff Wilson

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Review: Buddhist Modernism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

The Making of Buddhist Modernism. By David L. McMahan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, 320 pages, ISBN: 978-0195183276 (cloth), US $29.95.

Reviewed by John L. Murphy

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Review: Cultural Practices of Modern Chinese Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

The Cultural Practices of Modern Chinese Buddhism: Attuning the Dharma. By Francesca Tarocco. London: Routledge, 2008, 208 pages, ISBN: 978-0415375030 (hardcover), US$160.00.

Reviewed by Justin Ritzinger

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Review: Chan in Song-Dynasty China

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China. By Morten Schlütter. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2008, 289 pages, ISBN: 978-0-8248-3255-1 (cloth), US$48.00.

Reviewed by Jack Meng-Tat Chia

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Review: How the Ancient Greeks Reinvented Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Pyrrhonism: How the Ancient Greeks Reinvented Buddhism. By Adrian Kuzminski. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008, 170 pages, ISBN: 978-0739125069 (hardcover), US$65.00.

Reviewed by Kristian Urstad

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Buddhist Economic Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Sufficiency Economy and Santi Asoke: Buddhist Economic Ethics for a Just and Sustainable World

Juliana Essen
Soka University of America

Mainstream economic thought and practice has resulted in wide-spread socioeconomic disparity and environmental devastation in all corners of the world, unmitigated by a multi-billion dollar development industry informed by these same economic models. To reverse this trend, the dominant forms of economic thought and practice must be reunited with ethics that are more caring of the human-nature base. Such ethics may be found in alternative economic models based on religious, spiritual, environmental, or feminist values. This essay considers one such alternative: Buddhist economics. After outlining a theory of Buddhist economics, this essay considers two models: the Royal Thai Sufficiency Economy Model and the approach adopted by the Santi Asoke Buddhist Reform Movement of Thailand. Both are conducive to economic activity that is more socially just and environmentally sustainable, particularly due to their ethics of self-reliance, moderation, and interdependence.

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Buddhism, Brain Death, and Organ Transplantation

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Buddhism, Brain Death, and Organ Transplantation

Damien Keown
Goldsmiths College, University of London

This article raises concerns about the degree to which potential donors are aware that their layman’s understanding of death may not be the same as that enshrined in protocols employing the criterion of brain death. There would seem to be a need for greater public education of a kind which acknowledges the debate around the practical and conceptual difficulties associated with brain death, and makes clear what the implications of a diagnosis of brain death are for the donor and his or her relatives. The remainder of the article explores the discrepancy between the modern concept of brain death and the traditional Buddhist understanding of death as the loss of the body’s organic integrity as opposed to simply the loss of its cerebral functions.

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