Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

Archive for the ‘Volume 19 2012’


Review: Korean Buddhist Nuns and Laywomen

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Korean Buddhist Nuns and Laywomen: Hidden Histories, Enduring Vitality. Edited by Eun-Su Cho. Albany: SUNY Press, 2011, xiv+210 pages, ISBN 978-1438435107 (paper), $23.95.

Reviewed by Erik Hammerstrom

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Review: Documentary Film on Finding Tibetan Tulku

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Unmistaken Child. DVD. Directed by Nati Baratz. New York, NY: Oscilloscope Pictures 2009.

Reviewed by Jason Ellsworth

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Review: Buddhist Miracle Tales from Early Medieval China

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Signs from the Unseen Realm: Buddhist Miracle Tales from Early Medieval China. By Robert Ford Campany. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2012, ix + 300 pages, ISBN 978-0-8248-3602-3 (cloth), $65.00.

Reviewed by Kendall Marchman

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Review: Temples, Burial, and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Bonds of the Dead: Temples, Burial, and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism. By Mark Michael Rowe. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011, xv + 258 pages, ISBN 978-0-226-73015-8 (paper), $29.00.

Reviewed by T.O. Benedict

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Intellectual Property in Early Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Intellectual Property in Early Buddhism: A Legal and Cultural Perspective

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya

In this paper, I examine the modern concepts of intellectual property and account for their significance in monastic law and culture of early Buddhism. As a result, I have come to the following conclusions: (1) the infringement of copyrights, patents, and trademarks does not amount to theft as far as Theravādin Vinaya is concerned; (2) because a trademark infringement involves telling a deliberate lie, it entails an offense of expiation (pācittiya), but I cannot find any Vinaya rule which is transgressed by copyright and patent infringements; and (3) although the Buddha recognized the right to intellectual credit, commentarial interpretations have led some traditional circles to maintain that intellectual credit can be transferred to someone else.

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Review: Zen and War

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Imperial-Way Zen: Ichikawa Hakugen’s Critique and Lingering Questions for Buddhist Ethics. By Christopher Ives. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2009, x + 274 pages, ISBN 978-0-8248-3331-2 (hardcover), US $52.00.

Reviewed by Douglas Ober

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Review: A New Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

A New Buddhist Ethics. By Robert M. Ellis. Self Published, 2011, 325 pages, ISBN 978-1-4475-3000-8 (paperback), $25.30 / ePub $6.22.

Reviewed by James J. Stewart

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Western Interpretation of the Five Niyāmas as Laws of Nature

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

The Five Niyāmas as Laws of Nature: an Assessment of Modern Western Interpretations of Theravāda Buddhist Doctrine

Dhivan Thomas Jones
The Open University, UK

The doctrine of five niyāmas, or “orders of nature,” was introduced to Westerners by Mrs. Rhys Davids in her Buddhism of 1912. She writes that the list derives from Buddhaghosa’s commentaries, and that it synthesizes information from the piṭakas regarding cosmic order. Several Buddhist writers have taken up her exposition to present the Buddha’s teaching, including that of karma, as compatible with modern science. However, a close reading of the sources for the five niyāmas shows that they do not mean what Mrs. Rhys Davids says they mean. In their historical context they merely constitute a list of five ways in which things necessarily happen. Nevertheless, the value of her work is that she succeeded in presenting the Buddhist doctrine of dependent arising (paṭicca-samuppāda) as equivalent to Western scientific explanations of events. In conclusion, Western Buddhism, in need of a worked-out presentation of paṭicca-samuppāda, embraced her interpretation of the five niyāmas despite its inaccuracies.

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Possible Misunderstandings in Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Ethical Confusion: Possible Misunderstandings in Buddhist Ethics

Stephen A. Evans

The running debate whether or not puñña and kusala refer to the same class of actions evinces a lack of clarity over the meaning of puñña, accompanied by unwarranted assumptions about motivation and by a tendency to conflate “karmic” results with what we would today consider ordinary consequences, that is, roughly, those accruing through material, social or psychological processes. The present paper reviews the contributions of Keown, Velez de Cea, and Adam to the discussion, then argues that in the Nikāyas puñña” almost always refers to the force of goodness generated by certain actions and issuing in pleasant karmic results, rather than to a class of actions; that in spite of the Buddhist belief that puñña is gained, such actions are not typically motivated by craving; and that conflating karmic results with ordinary consequences hampers our ability to understand Buddhist ethics. It is suggested that questions about the relations among the cluster of concepts that make up the mythology of kamma and vipāka, and their relationship to what we call morality or ethics, be asked anew.

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Esoteric Teaching of Wat Phra Dhammakāya

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Esoteric Teaching of Wat Phra Dhammakāya

Mano Mettanando Laohavanich
Pridi Banomyong International College,
Thammasat University

Thailand’s controversial Wat Phra Dhammakāya has grown exponentially. In just three decades, it has come to have millions of followers in and outside of Thailand and over forty branches overseas. The esoteric teaching of meditation taught by the leaders of the community has inspired thousands of young men and women from various universities to sacrifice their lives to serve their Master, something that has never been seen before in Thailand or elsewhere in the Theravāda world. What is the nature of this esoteric teaching? Why is it so appealing to these young minds? These questions are discussed and analyzed by the author, who was one of Wat Phra Dhammakāya’s founding members.

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Parental and Spousal Consent in Early Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Did the Buddha Correct Himself?

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka

In this paper, I look at two related issues in Vinaya, (1) the requirement of parental consent for all candidates wishing to join the Order and (2) the additional requirement of spousal consent for female candidates but no such requirement for male candidates, and I try to prove that both these regulations stemmed from the same principle.

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Review: Tibetan Ritual

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Tibetan Ritual. Edited by José Ignacio Cabezón. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-19-539282-1 (cloth), $29.95.

Reviewed by Holly Gayley

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Review: Modern Buddhist Conjunctures in Myanmar

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Modern Buddhist Conjunctures in Myanmar: Cultural Narratives, Colonial Legacies, and Civil Society. By Juliane Schober. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011, 190 pages, ISBN 978-0824833824 (pbk), $49.00.

Reviewed by Kelly Meister

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Review: Jesuits in Tibet

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Jesuit on the Roof of the World: Ippolito Desideri’s Mission to Tibet. By Trent Pomplum. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, xvi + 302 pages, ISBN 978-0-19-537786-6 (cloth), $29.95.

Mission to Tibet: The Extraordinary Eighteenth-Century Account of Father Ippolito Desideri, S. J. Translated by Michael J. Sweet and edited by Leonard Zwilling. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2010, xxiv + 797 pages, ISBN 978-086171-676-0 (pbk), $34.95.

Reviewed by John Murphy

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Vinaya Narrative and the Promulgation of the Rule on Celibacy: the Tibetan Version

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

The Story of Sudinna in the Tibetan Translation of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya

Giuliana Martini
Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taiwan

This article, a companion to the study of the narrative that according to the canonical Vinaya accounts led to the promulgation of the rule on celibacy for Buddhist monks (first pārājika) published by Bhikkhu Anālayo in the same issue of the Journal of Buddhist Ethics, offers an annotated translation of the narrative as preserved in the Tibetan translation of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya (’Dul ba), in comparison with its Chinese parallel.

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Vinaya Narrative and the Promulgation of the Rule on Celibacy

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

The Case of Sudinna: On the Function of Vinaya Narrative, Based on a Comparative Study of the Background Narration to the First Pārājika Rule

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

In this article I study the tale that according to the canonical Vinaya accounts led to the promulgation of the rule on celibacy for Buddhist monks, using this as an example to understand the function of Vinaya narrative.

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Buddhism, Punishment, and Reconciliation

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Buddhism, Punishment, and Reconciliation

Charles K. Fink
Miami Dade College, Kendall Campus

One important foundation of Buddhist ethics is a commitment to nonviolence. My aim in this paper is to work out the implications of this commitment with regard to the treatment of offenders. Given that punishment involves the intentional infliction of harm, I argue that the practice of punishment is incompatible with the principle of nonviolence. The core moral teaching of the Buddha is to conquer evil with goodness, and it is reconciliation, rather than punishment, that conforms to this teaching. I argue that a commitment to nonviolence requires not only that we refrain from inflicting intentional harm, but that we refrain from inflicting unnecessary harm, and that this has important implications concerning the practice of incapacitation. I analyze the concept of harm and argue that the Buddhist understanding of this notion leads to the conclusion that none of the standard justifications for punishment are compatible with the principle of nonviolence, properly understood.

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Tsongkhapa on Choice and Emotions

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Emotions, Ethics, and Choice: Lessons from Tsongkhapa

Emily McRae
University of Oklahoma

This paper explores the degree to which we can exercise choice over our emotional experiences and emotional dispositions. I argue that we can choose our emotions in the sense that we can intentionally intervene in them. To show this, I draw on the mind training practices advocated by the 14th century Tibetan Buddhist yogin and philosopher Tsongkhapa (tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa). I argue that his analysis shows that successful intervention in a negative emotional experience depends on at least four factors: the intensity of the emotional experience, one’s ability to pay attention to the workings of one’s mind and body, knowledge of intervention practices, and insight into the nature of emotions. I argue that this makes sense of Tsongkhapa’s seemingly contradictory claims that the meditator can and should control (and eventually abandon) her anger and desire to harm others and that harmdoers are “servants to their afflictions.”

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A Reexamination of Buddhist Teachings on Female Inferiority

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Right View, Red Rust, and White Bones: A Reexamination of Buddhist Teachings on Female Inferiority

Allison A. Goodwin
College of Liberal Arts
National Taiwan University

Hundreds of psychological and social studies show that negative expectations and concepts of self and others, and discrimination based on the idea that a particular group is inferior to another, adversely affect those who discriminate as well as those who are subject to discrimination. This article argues that both genders are harmed by negative Buddhist teachings about women and by discriminatory rules that limit their authority, rights, activities, and status within Buddhist institutions. Śākyamuni Buddha’s instructions in the Tripiṭaka for evaluating spiritual teachings indicate that because such views and practices have been proven to lead to harm, Buddhists should conclude that they are not the True Dharma and should abandon them.

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Buddhist Hard Determinism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Buddhist Hard Determinism: No Self, No Free Will, No Responsibility

Riccardo Repetti
Kingsborough College, CUNY

This is the third article in a four-article series that examines Buddhist responses to the Western philosophical problem of whether free will is compatible with “determinism,” the doctrine of universal causation. The first article (“Earlier”) focused on the first publications on this issue in the 1970s, the “early period.” The second (“Paleo-compatibilism”) and the present articles examine key responses published in the last part of the Twentieth and the first part of the Twenty-first centuries, the “middle period.” The fourth article (“Recent”) examines responses published in the last few years, the “recent period.” Whereas early-period scholars endorsed a compatibilism between free will and determinism, in the middle period the pendulum moved the other way: Mark Siderits argued for a two tiered compatibilism/incompatibilism (or semi-compatibilism) that he dubs “paleo-compatibilism,” grounded in the early Buddhist reductionist notion of “two truths” (conventional truth and ultimate truth); and Charles Goodman argued that Buddhists accept hard determinism—the view that because determinism is true, there can be no free will—because in the absence of a real self determinism leaves no room for morally responsible agency. In “Paleo-compatibilism,” I focused on Siderits’s reductionist account. The present article focuses on Goodman’s hard determinism, and the fourth article will examine the most recent publications expressing Buddhist views of free will. Together with my own meditation-based Buddhist account of free will (“Meditation”), this series of articles provides a comprehensive review of the leading extant writings on this subject.

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The Burmese Alms-Boycott

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

The Burmese Alms-Boycott: Theory and Practice of the Pattanikujjana in Buddhist Non-Violent Resistance

Martin Kovan
University of Melbourne

This essay presents a general and critical historical survey of the Burmese Buddhist alms-boycott (pattanikujjana) between 1990 and 2007. It details the Pāli textual and ethical constitution of the boycott and its instantiation in modern Burmese history, particularly the Saffron Revolution of 2007. It also suggests a metaethical reading that considers Buddhist metaphysics as constitutive of that conflict. Non-violent resistance is contextualized as a soteriologically transcendent (“nibbanic”) project in the common life of believing Buddhists—even those who, military regime and martyred monastics alike, defend a fidelity to Theravāda Buddhism from dual divides of a political and humanistic fence.

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Buddhist Reductionism and Free Will: Paleo-compatibilism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Buddhist Reductionism and Free Will:Paleo-compatibilism

Riccardo Repetti
Kingsborough College, CUNY

This is the second article in a four-article series that examines Buddhist responses to the Western philosophical problem of whether free will is compatible with “determinism,” the doctrine of universal causation. The first article focused on the first publications on this issue in the 1970s, the “early period”; the present article and the next examine key responses published in the last part of the Twentieth century and first part of the Twenty-first, the “middle period”; and the fourth article will examine responses published in the last few years. Whereas early-period scholars endorsed compatibilism, in the middle period the pendulum moved the other way: Mark Siderits argued for a Buddhist version of partial incompatibilism, semi-compatibilism, or “paleo-compatibilism,” and Charles Goodman argued for a straightforward Buddhist hard determinism. The present article focuses on Siderits’s paleo-compatibilism; the subsequent article focuses on Goodman’s hard determinism.

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If Intention Is Karma

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

If Intention Is Karma: A New Approach to the Buddha’s Socio-Political Teachings

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka

I argue in this paper that early Buddhist ethics is one of absolute values and that we can consistently use those absolute values to interpret some early teachings that seemingly show an ethic of context-dependent and negotiable values. My argument is based on the concept of intention as karma, the implications and problems of which I have also discussed.

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