Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

Archive for the ‘Volume 21 2014’


Battlefield Dharma

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Battlefield Dharma: American Buddhists in American Wars

Robert M. Bosco
Centre College

The Internet has become a space for today’s American Buddhist soldiers to think through difficult ethical questions that cannot always be resolved on the battlefield. I argue that this emergent cyber-sangha of American Buddhist soldiers signifies the arrival of an important new feature on the landscape of American Buddhism. As Buddhism integrates ever more deeply into American life and collective consciousness, it forms links with American conceptions of national security, military values, and America’s role on the world. When viewed in the larger social and cultural context of American Buddhism, the development of this cyber-sangha represents a new generation’s answer to the predominantly anti-war Buddhism of 1960s and 1970s that continues to define Buddhism in the public imagination. We are thus beginning to perceive the faint outlines of how American Buddhism might be changing—accommodating itself, perhaps—to a new post-9/11 nationalism.

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Compassion in Schopenhauer and Śāntideva

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Compassion in Schopenhauer and Śāntideva

Kenneth Hutton
University of Glasgow

Although it is well known that Schopenhauer claimed that Buddhism closely reflected his own philosophy, this claim was largely ignored until the mid-late Twentieth century. Most commentators on Schopenhauer (with some recent exceptions) since then have mentioned his Buddhist affinities but have been quite broad and general in their treatment. I feel that any general comparison of Schopenhauer’s philosophy with “general” Buddhism would most likely lead to general conclusions. In this article I have attempted to offer a more specific comparison of what is central to Schopenhauer’s philosophy with what is central to Mahāyāna Buddhism, and that is the concept of compassion.

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Bhikkhave and Bhikkhu as Gender-inclusive Terminology in Early Buddhist Texts

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Bhikkhave and Bhikkhu as Gender-inclusive Terminology in Early Buddhist Texts

Alice Collett
York St John University

Bhikkhu Anālayo
University of Hamburg

In what follows we examine whether the use of the vocative bhikkhave or the nominative bhikkhu in Buddhist canonical texts imply that female monastics are being excluded from the audience. In the course of exploring this basic point, we also take up the vocative of proper names and the absence of the term arahantī in Pāli discourse literature.

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Attitudes Arising from Buddhist Nurture in Britain

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Attitudes Arising from Buddhist Nurture in Britain

Phra Nicholas Thanissaro
University of Warwick

Focus groups comprised of seventy-five self-identifying Buddhist teenagers in Britain were asked to discuss value domains that previous research has identified to be of special interest to Buddhists. These included personal well-being, the nature of faith, the law of karma, monasticism, meditation, home shrines, filial piety, generosity, not killing animals, and alcohol use. The findings suggest that some attitudes held by teenagers were conscious and intrinsically nurtured (“worldview”) while others involved social constructs (“ideologies”). The study finds that parents and the Sangha are mainly responsible for shaping “ideological” patterns in young Buddhists whereas informal nurture by “immersion” (possibly facilitated by caregivers) may be responsible for “worldview” patterns.

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Review: The Kyoto School

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

The Kyoto School: An Introduction. By Robert E. Carter. Albany: SUNY, 2013, ISBN: 978-1438445427 (paperback), $24.95.

Reviewed by Ilana Maymind

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Review: Innovation and Activism in Contemporary Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Experimental Buddhism: Innovation and Activism in Contemporary Japan. By John K. Nelson. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2013, 292 pages, ISBN: 9780824838980 (paper-back), $32.00.

Reviewed by Erez Joskovich

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Review: The Religion of Falun Gong

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

The Religion of Falun Gong. By Benjamin Penny. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012, xiii + 262 pages, ISBN: 9780226655017 (cloth), $50.00.

Reviewed by Paul Hedges

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Review: Introduction to Tantra

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Introduction to Tantra: The Transformation of Desire. By Lama Yeshe. Compiled and edited by Jonathan Landaw. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2014, ISBN 978-61429-155-8 (paper-back), $16.95.

Reviewed by Alyson Prude

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Review: Death and Reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Death and Reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism: In-between Bodies. By Tanya Zivkovic. London: Routledge, 2014, xx + 147 pages, ISBN 978-0-415-83067-6 (hardback), $140.

Reviewed by Jay Valentine

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Review: Buddhism Goes to the Movies

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Buddhism Goes to the Movies: An Introduction to Buddhist Thought and Practice. By Ronald Green. New York: Routledge, 2014, 166 pages, ISBN: 9780415841481 (paperback), $34.95.

Reviewed by John Whalen-Bridge

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The Role of Deterrence in Buddhist Peace-building

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

The Role of Deterrence in Buddhist Peace-building

Damien Keown
University of London, Goldsmiths

This article proposes that military deterrence can be a legitimate Buddhist strategy for peace. It suggests that such a strategy can provide a “middle way” between the extremes of victory and defeat. Drawing on evidence from the Pāli canon, notably the concept of the Cakkavatti, it argues that the Buddha did not object to kingship, armies or military service, and that military deterrence is a valid means to achieve the social and political stability Buddhism values.

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Violence and Nonviolence in Buddhist Animal Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Violence and Nonviolence in Buddhist Animal Ethics

James Stewart
University of Tasmania

Boiled alive for killing an ant. Suffering endless demonic flagellation for trading as a butcher. According to some Buddhist writings, these are just a few of the punishments bestowed upon those who harm animals. Are such promises sincere or are they merely hollow threats intended to inculcate good conduct? Are there other non-prudential reasons for protecting animals? How do these views differ from preceding Indian traditions? These are some of the questions addressed in this paper. I will argue that the threat of a bad rebirth is a major factor in motivating Buddhists to abstain from animal cruelty. By comparing the Vinaya (both Mahāyāna and Theravāda) to the Sūtra literature I will argue that such claims may be exaggerations to motivate more compassionate conduct from Buddhist adherents. I also argue that Buddhist texts look unfavorably upon animal killing in a way unheard of in the Vedic religious tradition. Although there may be disagreement over what sort of harm may befall animal abusers, it is almost universally acknowledged amongst most Buddhist sects that animal killing is completely unacceptable. However, this pacifism lives in uneasy tension with the promise of extreme violence for impinging on these basic principles of nonviolence.

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The Ethics (and Economics) of Tibetan Polyandry

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

The Ethics (and Economics) of Tibetan Polyandry

Jonathan Stoltz
University of St. Thomas

Fraternal polyandry—one woman simultaneously being married to two or more brothers—has been a prominent practice within Tibetan agricultural societies for many generations. While the topic of Tibetan polyandry has been widely discussed in the field of anthropology, there are, to my knowledge, no contributions by philosophers on this topic. For this reason alone, my brief analysis of the ethics of Tibetan polyandry will serve to enhance scholars’s understanding of this practice. In this article, I examine the factors that have sustained the practice of polyandry in Tibet, but do so with the further aim of drawing attention to some of the key ethical implications of polyandrous marriage. I argue that the natural law criticisms raised against the practice of polyandry by St. Thomas Aquinas are unsuccessful, but I also argue that the utilitarian motivations for this marriage practice endorsed by agrarian Tibetans are also highly suspect.

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Transforming Gender Bias in Tibetan Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Blossoms of the Dharma: The Contribution of Western Nuns in Transforming Gender Bias in Tibetan Buddhism

Elizabeth Swanepoel
University of Pretoria

This article investigates the nature of gender imbalance in Tibetan Buddhism, particularly pertaining to the unavailability of bhikṣuṇī ordination, and the specific role Western nuns have played in contributing to transforming this imbalance. The article postulates that male privilege continues to dominate the institutional cultures of religious life in Tibetan Buddhism. However, fertile tensions have of late emerged between an underground tradition of highly accomplished female practitioners and the institutional preference for male practitioners. A revalorization process has been initiated in recent years by a number of Western female Buddhologists, some of whom are also fully ordained Tibetan Buddhist nuns. The article highlights the efforts of these accomplished nuns as well as a number of other prominent Western Tibetan Buddhist nuns.

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Buddhist Practice as Play

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Buddhist Practice as Play: A Virtue Ethical View

Meynard Vasen

The debate about which Western ethical theory is most suited to understand Buddhist ethics has been fruitful, because it places the Buddhist tradition in a light that brings out new features. In this article I take further Keown’s view on Buddhist ethics by offering a virtue ethical interpretation of Buddhist ethics with praxis/practice as a central notion, and a form of naturalism as foundation. I draw on the notion of play, as developed by Gadamer and Wittgenstein, and on MacIntyre’s view on virtues as grounded in practices, narratives, and traditions, as widening hermeneutical circles. I conclude by arguing that such an interpretation is a fruitful one, both in the sense that it increases our understanding and that it motivates to engage in Buddhist practice.

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Changes in Buddhist Karma

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Escaping the Inescapable: Changes in Buddhist Karma

Jayarava Attwood

Early Buddhist karma is an impersonal moral force that impartially and inevitably causes the consequences of actions to be visited upon the actor, especially determining their afterlife destination. The story of King Ajātasattu in the Pāli Samaññaphala Sutta, where not even the Buddha can intervene to save him, epitomizes the criterion of inescapability. Zoroastrian ethical thought runs along similar lines and may have influenced the early development of Buddhism. However, in the Mahāyāna version of the Samaññaphala Sutta, the simple act of meeting the Buddha reduces or eliminates the consequences of the King’s patricide. In other Mahāyāna texts, the results of actions are routinely avoidable through the performance of religious practices. Ultimately, Buddhists seem to abandon the idea of the inescapability of the results of actions.

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Bhikkhunī Academy: A Case of Cross-Tradition Exchange

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Bhikkhunī Academy at Manelwatta Temple: A Case of Cross-Tradition Exchange

Cheng Wei-yi
Hsuan Chuang University

This article is the result of an investigation continued from an earlier article on an exchange between Buddhists in Taiwan and Sri Lanka (“A Cross-Tradition Exchange Between Taiwan and Sri Lanka,” Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 18, 2011). In that article, I investigated the exchange between a Mahāyāna Taiwanese nunnery and a Theravāda Sri Lankan missionary monk. After the initial exchange, described in the 2011 article, a more permanent institute for the education of Sri Lankan Buddhist nuns has been established. This article describes the cross-tradition exchange behind the founding of the educational institute and its implication for exchanges across different Buddhist traditions in Asia.

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Dōgen’s Primer on the Nonmoral Virtues of the Good Person

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Dōgen’s Primer on the Nonmoral Virtues of the Good Person

Douglas K. Mikkelson
University of Hawai’i at Hilo

The Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki provides a good introduction to Dōgen’s ideas about the virtues possessed by “the good person.” His depiction includes, but extends beyond, the conception of a “morally good” human being. This is evident by the number of “nonmoral” virtues that are manifest in the text. Edmund Pincoffs presents a schematization of numerous virtues based on his conception of virtues and vices as dispositional properties that provide ground for preference or avoidance of persons. This schematization seems especially well suited for an exploration and description of the nonmoral virtues that appear in the Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki.

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Buddhism and Intellectual Property Rights

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Buddhism and Intellectual Property Rights: The Role of Compassion

Soraj Hongladarom
Chulalongkorn University

I offer the outline of a theory that justifies the concept of intellectual property (IP). IP is usually justified by a utilitarian claim that such rights provide incentives for further discovery and protect the innovator through a monopoly. I propose to broaden the protection offered by the IP regime. My argument is based on the concept of compassion (karuṇā), the aim of relieving suffering in all others. An analysis of how patented products originate shows that they typically depend not only on scientists in the laboratory, but on numerous factors and elements, many of which do not belong to the corporation in which the experiments are conducted. Because these elements have a necessary role in the discovery of inventions, they also deserve fair treatment. In practice, this could mean that the resulting patented product would be made more accessible to the general population and that the corporation would be more actively involved in society. In the long run, this could prove beneficial for all parties, including the patent holders themselves.

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Review: The Range of the Bodhisattva: A Mahāyāna Sūtra

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Range of the Bodhisattva: A Mahāyāna Sūtra. Translated by Lozang Jamspal. New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2011, ISBN 978-1935011071 (cloth), $42.00.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Jenkins

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Buddhist Self-immolation and Mahāyānist Absolute Altruism, Part Two

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Thresholds of Transcendence: Buddhist Self-immolation and Mahāyānist Absolute Altruism, Part Two

Martin Kovan
University of Melbourne

In China and Tibet, and under the gaze of the global media, the five-year period from February 2009 to February 2014 saw the self-immolations of at least 127 Tibetan Buddhist monks, nuns, and lay-people. An English Tibetan Buddhist monk, then resident in France, joined this number in November 2012, though his self-immolation has been excluded from all accounts of the exile Tibetan and other documenters of the ongoing Tibetan crisis. Underlying the phenomenon of Buddhist self-immolation is a real and interpretive ambiguity between personal, religious (or ritual-transcendental), altruistic, and political suicide, as well as political suicide within the Buddhist sangha specifically. These theoretical distinctions appear opaque not only to (aligned and non-aligned, Tibetan and non-Tibetan) observers, but potentially also to self-immolators themselves, despite their deeply motivated conviction.

Such ambiguity is reflected in the varying historical and current assessments of the practice, also represented by globally significant Buddhist leaders such as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the Vietnamese monk and activist Thích Nhất Hạnh. This essay analyses the symbolic ontology of suicide in these Tibetan Buddhist cases, and offers metaethical and normative accounts of self-immolation as an altruistic-political act in the “global repertoire of contention” in order to clarify its claims for what is a critically urgent issue in Buddhist ethics.

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The Ethico-Political Significance of Mindfulness

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Towards a Dialogue Between Buddhist Social Theory and “Affect Studies” on the Ethico-Political Significance of Mindfulness

Edwin Ng
Deakin University

This article stages a conversation between an emergent Buddhist social theory and current thinking in the humanities and social sciences on the affective and visceral registers of everyday experience—or what falls under the rubric of “affect studies.” The article takes the premise that prevailing models of Buddhist social theory need updating as they remain largely confined to macropolitical accounts of power, even though they argue for the importance of a mode of sociocultural analysis that would anchor itself on the “self” end of the self–society continuum. The article will thus explore ways to develop a micropolitical account of the ethical and political implications of Buddhist spiritual-social praxis—specifically mindfulness training—by formulating some hypotheses for dialogical exchange between Buddhist understandings and the multidisciplinary ideas informing the so-called “affective turn.”

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Recent Buddhist Theories of Free Will

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Recent Buddhist Theories of Free Will: Compatibilism, Incompatibilism, and Beyond

Riccardo Repetti
Kingsborough College, CUNY

This is the fourth article in a four-article series that examines Buddhist responses to the Western philosophical problem of whether free will is compatible with “determinism,” the scientific doctrine of universal lawful causation. The first article focused on “early period” scholarship from the 1970’s, which was primarily compatibilist, that is, of the view that the Buddhist conception of causation is compatible with free will. The second and third articles examined “middle period” incompatibilist and semi-compatibilist scholarship in the remainder of the twentieth century and first part of the twenty-first. The present article examines work published in the past few years. It largely agrees that Buddhism tacitly accepts free will (although it also explores an ultimate perspective from which the issue appears moot), but mostly divides along compatibilist and incompatibilist lines, mirroring Theravāda and Mahāyāna Buddhist perspectives, respectively. Of the writers I emphasize, Gier and Kjellberg articulate both perspectives; Federman and Harvey advocate Theravāda compatibilism; and Wallace argues that although determinism and free will are incompatible, subtle complexities of Mahāyāna Buddhist metaphysics circumvent the free will and determinism dichotomy. Although the present article focuses on these writers, as the culminating article in the series it also draws on and summarizes the other articles in the series, and directs the reader to other recent period works that, due to space constraints, cannot be reviewed here.

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Review: Cruel Theory/Sublime Practice

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Cruel Theory/Sublime Practice: Toward a Revaluation of Buddhism. By Glenn Wallis, Tom Pepper, and Matthias Steingass. Roskilde, Denmark: EyeCorner Press, 2013, 211 pages, ISBN 978-87-92633-23-1 (paperback), $29.95.

Reviewed by John L. Murphy

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Act and Result in Nikāyan Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Act and Result in Nikāyan Ethics

Stephen Evans

Scholars continue to debate the ethical priority of act versus result in Buddhist ethics. The present essay looks at the issue as an approach to exploring the connection between act and karmic yield: Why there should be such a connection at all? The priority question was not asked in the Nikāyas (or commentaries) and it seems to have been the same thing to say that an act was good and that it had happy karmic yield, suggesting a kind of identity between the two. Given the necessity and specificity of the connection—the yield must accrue and must accrue for this person—and the analogical resemblance between act and karmic yield, a causal explanation seems unsatisfactory. Suspending such assumptions, the connection appears simply as an indissoluble unity. It is hypothesized here that the unity is grounded in a primordial cosmic order, which I call the “sacral dimension,” conformity to which is by definition right and of necessity beneficial, violation of which is by definition wrong and of necessity harmful. Evidence for belief in such an order is found in the Nikāyas and supporting similarities noted in the Upaniṣads.

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The Politics of “Compassion” of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

The Politics of “Compassion” of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama: Between “Religion” and “Secularism”

Masahide Tsujimura
Kobe University
Koyasan University

Since 1959, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has expressed the view that democratic reforms should be gradually carried out in the Tibetan political system. He did this by enlarging the connotation of the traditional Tibetan concept of chos srid zung ‘brel (union of dharma and polity). This paper will examine how the Dalai Lama succeeded in maintaining the traditional political concept of chos srid zung ‘brel in a modern Tibetan democracy by employing the idea of “compassion” to link “religion” and “secularism.”

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Review: The Spread of Tibetan Buddhism in China

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Spread of Tibetan Buddhism in China: Charisma, Money, Enlightenment. By Dan Smyer Yü. London: Routledge, 2012, xi + 222 pages, ISBN 978-0-415-57532-4 (cloth), $138.00.

Reviewed by Stuart Young

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Review: Buddhist Funeral Cultures of Southeast Asia and China

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Buddhist Funeral Cultures of Southeast Asia and China. Edited by Paul Williams and Patrice Ladwig. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012, ISBN: 9781107003880 (paper-back), $39.99.

Reviewed by Nicolas Sihlé

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Female Monastic Healing and Midwifery

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Female Monastic Healing and Midwifery: A View from the Vinaya Tradition

Amy Paris Langenberg
Eckerd College

Monastic lawyers who formulated the various classical Indian Buddhist Vinaya collections actively promoted the care of the sick within monastery walls and treated illness as a topic of great importance and relevance for monks and nuns, but also mandated that monastics should exercise caution with respect to practicing the healing arts and provide medical care to lay people only on a restricted basis. A closer examination of Vinaya sources shows that this ambivalence is gendered in interesting ways. The Vinaya lawyers regulated nuns’s involvement in the healing arts, and other types of service, with special care, suggesting that nuns were more likely than monks to take up community work, especially the work of healing. This study attempts to sort out the subtleties of Vinaya attitudes towards the public (as opposed to internal monastic) practice of medicine by nuns, suggesting that social constraints forced laywomen and nuns into relationships of collusion and mutual need and created a situation in which nuns were more likely than their male counterparts to engage in the healing arts. A female monastic ethic emphasizing reciprocity and mutual obligation made it doubly unlikely that Buddhist nuns would turn away from the medical needs of laywomen. Thus, a complex combination of factors accounts for the disproportionate focus on nuns in Vinaya prohibitions regarding the practice of the healing arts.

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Karma and Female Birth

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Karma and Female Birth

Bhikkhu Anālayo
Numata Center for Buddhist Studies, University of Hamburg;
Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taiwan

With the present paper I examine the notion that birth as a woman is the result of bad karma based on selected canonical and post-canonical Buddhist texts.

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Review: Power, Wealth and Women in Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Power, Wealth and Women in Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Gaṇḍavyūha-sūtra. By Douglas Osto. New York: Routledge, 2008, xvi + 177 pages, ISBN978-0-415-50008-1 (paperback), $49.95.

Reviewed by Amy Langenberg

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Review: Buddhism and Iconoclasm in East Asia

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Buddhism and Iconoclasm in East Asia: A History. By Fabio Rambelli and Eric Renders. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2012, xvi + 247 pages, ISBN 978-1-4411-4509-3 (hardback), $120.00.

Reviewed by Joseph P. Elacqua

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Affective Dimensions of the Sri Lankan Bhikkhunī Revival

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

“We Love Our Nuns”: Affective Dimensions of the Sri Lankan Bhikkhunī Revival

Susanne Mrozik
Mount Holyoke College

In this paper I examine lay responses to the Sri Lankan bhikkhunī revival of the late 1990s. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted between 2010 and 2012, I argue that laity have very different concerns than do the scholars, activists, government officials, and monastic authorities engaged in public debate over the scriptural validity of the controversial revival. The primary concern of laity is whether or not they can get their religious needs met at their local bhikkhunī temple, not whether or not the bhikkhunī revival conforms to Theravāda monastic regulations (Vinaya). Taking a rural farming village as a case study, I focus particular attention on the affective ties between laity and nuns, demonstrating that laity in this village express their support for the bhikkhunī revival in the language of love (Sinhala: ādayara, ādare). I analyze what laity mean by the word “love” in the context of lay-nun relationships, and what this can tell us about the larger dynamics of the Sri Lankan bhikkhunī revival.

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Rethinking the Precept of Not Taking Money

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Rethinking the Precept of Not Taking Money in Contemporary Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese Buddhist Nunneries

Tzu-Lung Chiu
University of Ghent

According to monastic disciplinary texts, Buddhist monastic members are prohibited from accepting “gold and silver,” and arguably, by extension, any type of money. This rule has given rise to much debate, in the past as well as in the present, particularly between Mahāyāna and Theravāda Buddhist communities. The article explores the results of my multiple-case qualitative study of eleven monastic institutions in Taiwan and Mainland China, and reveals a hitherto under-theorized conflict between Vinaya rules and the bodhisattva ideal, as well as a diversity of opinions on the applicability of the rule against money handling as it has been shaped by socio-cultural contexts, including nuns’ adaptation to the laity’s ethos.

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The Trolley Car Dilemma

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

The Trolley Car Dilemma: The Early Buddhist Answer and Resulting Insights

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya

In this paper, I attempt to give a Buddhist answer to the Trolley Car Dilemma posed by Michael J. Sandel and also present insights that I have discovered along the way.

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