Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

Archive for the ‘Volume 18 2011’


Review: Prebish, Modern Dharma Pioneer

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

An American Buddhist Life: Memoirs of a Modern Dharma Pioneer. By Charles S. Prebish. Toronto: Sumeru, 2011, 266 pages, ISBN 978-1-896559-09-4 (pbk), $24.95 US/CAD; £17.50.

Reviewed by Nicole Heather Libin

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Review: Contemporary Tantric Practices in Tibet

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Buddhism Beyond the Monastery: Tantric Practices and their Performers in Tibet and the Himalayas. Edited by Sarah Jacoby and Antonio Terrone. Leiden: Brill, 2009, 202 pages, ISBN 978-90-04-17600-3 (cloth), $136.00.

Reviewed by Geoffrey Barstow

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Review: A 1918 Japanese Pilgrimage

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

The 1918 Shikoku Pilgrimage of Takamure Itsue, an English translation of Musume Junreiki by Takamure Itsue. Translated by Susan Tennant. Bowen Island, BC: Bowen Publishing, 2010, 274 pages, ISBN 978-1-45-054075-9 (paper), $16.95.

Reviewed by Ronald S. Green

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Review: An Interpretation and Defense of Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Consequences of Compassion: An Interpretation and Defense of Buddhist Ethics. By Charles Goodman. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, viii + 250 pages, ISBN 978–0–19–537519–0 (cloth), $74.00.

Reviewed by Richard Hayes

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Review: Essays of Rita Gross

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

A Garland of Feminist Reflections: Forty Years of Religious Exploration. By Rita M. Gross. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2009, viii + 340 pages, ISBN 978-0-520-25586-9 (paper), US $24.95; ISBN 978-0-520-25585-2 (cloth).

Reviewed by Ravenna Michalsen

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Śāntideva on Justified Anger

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Bile & Bodhisattvas: Śāntideva on Justified Anger

Nicolas Bommarito
Brown University

In his famous text the Bodhicaryāvatāra, the 8th century Buddhist philosopher Śāntideva argues that anger towards people who harm us is never justified. The usual reading of this argument rests on drawing similarities between harms caused by persons and those caused by non-persons. After laying out my own interpretation of Śāntideva’s reasoning, I offer some objections to Śāntideva’s claim about the similarity between animate and inanimate causes of harm inspired by contemporary philosophical literature in the West. Following this, I argue that by reading Śāntideva’s argument as practical advice rather than as a philosophical claim about rational coherence, his argument can still have important insights even for those who reject his philosophical reasoning.

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On the Distribution of Wealth

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Can Buddhism Inform the Contemporary Western Liberal Debate on the Distribution of Wealth?

Caroline Mosler
Dhaka, Bangladesh

The contemporary Western liberal debate on the distribution of wealth revolves around whether the right to property may be subordinated to the good of society. Both Liberal Egalitarians and Libertarians make various negative assumptions concerning individuals, rights and duties. Buddhism, on the other hand, can offer the debate, and thereby the topic of human rights, a different perspective on the role of rights and duties and can introduce to the debate the issue of social, economic and cultural rights (“socio-economic rights”), as laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) or the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

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Review: The Thai Cult of King Chulalongkorn

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Worshipping the Great Moderniser: King Chulalongkorn, Patron Saint of the Thai Middle Class. By Irene Stengs. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009, xii + 316 pages, ISBN 978-0295989174 (paper), US $35.00.

Reviewed by Luke Schmidt

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Founding the Buddhist Order of Nuns

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Mahāpajāpatī’s Going Forth in the Madhyama-āgama

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

The present article provides an annotated translation of the Madhyama-āgama account of the founding of the Buddhist order of nuns, followed by a discussion of some of its significant aspects, which open new perspectives on the way this event is presented in the canonical scriptures.

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A Cross-Tradition Exchange Between Taiwan and Sri Lanka

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

A Cross-Tradition Exchange Between Taiwan and Sri Lanka

Wei-Yi Cheng
Hsuan Chuang University

This paper uses as an example an alms-offering ceremony that took place on October 5, 2010 to illustrate cross-tradition exchanges between Asian Buddhists of different geographic locations. This ceremony had been intended to give alms to all of the bhikkhunīs in Sri Lanka and was thus itself noteworthy. However, the attention of this paper is on the two main players behind this ceremony. One is a Sri Lankan monk who has been a long term Theravāda missionary in Mahāyāna Taiwan, and the other is a Taiwanese nunnery which has not limited its works to Taiwan. This paper wishes to shed light on cross-tradition exchanges among Asian Buddhists.

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Strategies for Buddhist Environmentalism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

The Lorax Wears Saffron: Toward a Buddhist Environmentalism

Seth Devere Clippard
Arizona State University

This article argues for the reorientation of eco-Buddhist discourse from a focus on establishing textual justifications of what Buddhist environmental ethics says towards a discourse in which Buddhist rhetoric and environmental practice are intimately linked through specific communal encounters. The article first identifies and assesses two different strategies used by advocates of Buddhist environmentalism in Thailand, one being textual and the other practical. Then, after laying out the deficiencies of the textual strategy, the article argues that the practical strategy offers a more meaningful basis for a discourse of Buddhist environmental concern—one that accounts for the differences in Buddhist communities but does not discount the importance of key Buddhist concepts. This article will suggest that a rhetorical interpretation of environmental practices offers the most effective means of articulating the ethical foundations of religious environmentalism.

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Review: A Virtues Approach to Environmental Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Environmental Ethics in Buddhism: A Virtues Approach. By Pragati Sahni. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2007, 224 pages, ISBN: 978-0415396794 (cloth), US $160.00.

Reviewed by Deepa Nag Haksar

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Review: Forest Bodhisattvas and the Formation of the Mahāyāna

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Bodhisattvas of the Forest and the Formation of the Mahāyāna: A Study and Translation of the Rāṣṭrapālaparipṛcchā-sūtra. By Daniel Boucher. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2008, xxiii + 287 pages, ISBN 978-0-8248-2881-3 (cloth), US$54.00.

Reviewed by Alexander Wynne

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Review: The Reinvention of Chan in Seventeenth Century China

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Enlightenment in Dispute: The Reinvention of Chan Buddhism in Seventeenth-Century China. By Jiang Wu. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, 457 pages, ISBN: 978‐0195333572 (cloth), US $74.00.

Reviewed by Jack Meng-Tat Chia

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Review: Emotion in Sri Lankan Monastic Culture

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Attracting the Heart: Social Relations and the Aesthetics of Emotion in Sri Lankan Monastic Culture. By Jeffrey Samuels. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2010, xxx + 167 pages, ISBN: 978-0824833855 (cloth), US $36.00.

Reviewed by Mavis L. Fenn

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Review: Taiwan’s Buddhist Nuns

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Taiwan’s Buddhist Nuns. By Elise Anne DeVido. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010, xvii + 188 pages, ISBN: 978-1438431482 (paper), US $24.95.

Reviewed by Mavis L. Fenn

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Review: Buddhism and War

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Buddhist Warfare. Edited by Michael K. Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, xi + 257 pages, ISBN: 978-0195394839 (paper); US $29.95.

Reviewed by Henry M. Schliff

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Review: Shugendō Now

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Shugendō Now. A film directed by Jean-Marc Abela and produced by Mark P. Mcguire. Montréal: Empower Productions, 2009, 88 minutes, Japanese with narration; English, French, Spanish subtitles and narration, Individual use: CAD $20.00; Public/Educational use: CAD $150.00.

Reviewed by Heather Blair

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Review: Buddhism and Taoism in Medieval China

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Buddhism and Taoism Face to Face: Scripture, Ritual, and Iconographic Exchange in Medieval China. By Christine Mollier. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008, xi + 241 pages, ISBN: 0824831691 (hardcover), US $55.00.

Reviewed by Alyson Prude

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Review: Buddhist Philosophy of Religion in India

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Against a Hindu God: Buddhist Philosophy of Religion in India. By Paramil Patil. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009, 334 pages, ISBN: 978-0674033290 (hardcover); US $45.00. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009, xi + 406 pages, ISBN 978-0231142229 (cloth), US $50.00.

Reviewed by Michael D. Nichols

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Review: Fabrication in Tang Dynasty Chan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Fathering Your Father: The Zen of Fabrication in Tang Buddhism. By Alan Cole. Berkeley:University of California Press, 2009, xix + 340 pages, ISBN: 8-0520254855 (paperback), US $29.95; ISBN 978-0520254858 (cloth).

Reviewed by Matthew J. Wilhite

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The Buddha and the Māgadha-Vajjī War

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

The Buddha and the Māgadha-Vajjī War

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya

According to an account recorded in Mahāparinibbānasutta, the Buddha had to meet a royal minister named Vassakāra when King Ajātasattu ordered the latter to visit the Buddha and inform him about the king’s plan to subdue the Vajjīs. After hearing Vassakāra, the Buddha spoke on seven Conditions of Welfare (satta aparihāniyā dhammā), which would ensure the prosperity of the Vajjīs as long as its citizens observed them. Vassakāra shrewdly inferred from the Buddha’s discourse how to defeat the Vajjī people and later actually forced them into submission. Regarding that event, there are some perplexing questions:

  1. Why did King Ajātasattu choose to consult a wandering ascetic on a significant matter of state like fighting a war?
  2. Vassakāra discerned how to defeat the Vajjīs from the Buddha’s exposition of the Seven Conditions of Welfare. So did the Buddha intend to help Ajātasattu defeat the Vajjīs? If not, what was his purpose in expounding the seven Conditions of Welfare to Vassakāra?
  3. If the Buddha really did not accept any kind of violence, as the tradition would have it, why did he not openly speak against it?

This paper will attempt to answer these questions and will argue, in the conclusion, that this event shows the Buddha’s disapproving attitude toward a political role of the Buddhist Order.

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Does Anātman Rationally Entail Altruism?

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Does Anātman Rationally Entail Altruism? On Bodhicaryāvatāra 8:101-103

Stephen Harris
University of New Mexico

In the eighth chapter of the Bodhicaryāvatāra, the Buddhist philosopher Śāntideva has often been interpreted as offering an argument that accepting the ultimate nonexistence of the self (anātman) rationally entails a commitment to altruism, the view that one should care equally for self and others. In this essay, I consider reconstructions of Śāntideva’s argument by contemporary scholars Paul Williams, Mark Siderits and John Pettit. I argue that all of these various reconfigurations of the argument fail to be convincing. This suggests that, for Madhyamaka Buddhists, an understanding of anātman does not entail acceptance of the Bodhisattva path, but rather is instrumental to achieving it. Second, it suggests the possibility that in these verses, Śāntideva was offering meditational techniques, rather than making an argument for altruism from the premise of anātman.

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Noviciation in Theravādin Monasticism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Tithiyaparivāsa vis-à-vis Noviciation in Theravādin Monasticism

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya

Tithiyaparivāsais a particular type of probation in Theravādin monasticism that former ascetics of certain heretic groups must undergo if they wish to gain admission to the Buddhist Order. In the extant probation procedure as found in the Pāli Vinaya tradition, there is no explicit accounting for the stage of novicehood. Why? This paper attempts to answer that question and in the process discovers an unexpected insight into the legally ambiguous status of noviciation.

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Review: Masculine Images in Indian Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

A Bull of a Man: Images of Masculinity, Sex, and the Body in Indian Buddhism. By John Powers. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009, 334 pages, ISBN: 978-0674033290 (hardcover); US $45.00.

Reviewed by Vanessa Sasson

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Review: Life of 20th Century Chinese Monk

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Heart of Buddha, Heart of China: The Life of Tanxu, a Twentieth-Century Monk. By James Carter. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, viii+221 pages, ISBN 019539885-4 (cloth), US $29.95.

Reviewed by Erik Hammerstrom

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Review: Buddhism and Psychotherapy Across Cultures

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Buddhism and Psychotherapy Across Cultures: Essays on Theories and Practices. Edited by Mark Unno. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2006, 350 pages, ISBN: 978-0861715077 (paper), US $19.95.

Reviewed by Joshua Johnson

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Review: The Early Shōtoku Cult in Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Shōtoku: Ethnicity, Ritual, and Violence in the Japanese Buddhist Tradition. By Michael I. Como. New York: Oxford, 2008, 256 pages, ISBN: 978-0195188615 (hardcover), US $45.00.

Reviewed by Mark Dennis

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Review: Monastic Practice in East Asia

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Buddhist Monasticism in East Asia: Places of Practice. Edited by James A. Benn, Lori Meeks, and James Robson. New York: Routledge, 2010, 248 pages, ISBN: 9780415489775 (hardcover), US $135.00.

Reviewed by Pei-Ying Lin

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Paternalist Deception in the Lotus Sūtra

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Paternalist Deception in the Lotus Sūtra:
A Normative Assessment

Charles A. Goodman
Binghamton University

The Lotus Sūtra repeatedly asserts the moral permissibility, in certain circumstances, of deceiving others for their own benefit. The examples it uses to illustrate this view have the features of weak paternalism, but the real-world applications it endorses would today be considered strong paternalism. We can explain this puzzling feature of the text by noting that according to Mahāyāna Buddhists, normal, ordinary people are so irrational that they are relevantly similar to the insane. Kant’s determined anti-paternalism, by contrast, relies on an obligation to see others as rational, which can be read in several ways. Recent work in psychology provides support for the Lotus Sūtra’s philosophical anthropology while undermining the plausibility of Kant’s version. But this result does not necessarily lead to an endorsement of political paternalism, since politicians are not qualified to wield such power. Some spiritual teachers, however, may be morally permitted to benefit their students by deceiving them.

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