Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

Archive for the ‘Volume 22 2015’


The Cessation of Suffering and Buddhist Axiology

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Cessation of Suffering and Buddhist Axiology

Daniel Breyer
Illinois State University

This article examines Buddhist axiology. In section 1, the article argues against the dominant interpretations of what is the ultimate good in Buddhist ethics. In section 2, the article argues for a novel interpretation of Buddhist value theory. This is the Nirodha View, which maintains that for at least the Pāli Buddhist tradition, the cessation of suffering is the sole intrinsic good. In section 3, the article responds to objections and briefly suggests that even non-Buddhists should take the Nirodha View seriously.

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Predictions of Women to Buddhahood in Middle-Period Literature

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Predictions of Women to Buddhahood in Middle-Period Literature

Bhikkhunī Dhammadinnā
Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts

This article studies narratives related to the topic of women receiving a prediction or declaration (vyākaraṇa) for Buddhahood. The texts in question—in their received form—have their place in the Indian Buddhist traditions of the Middle Period. The first episode taken up is the story of Princess Munī who receives the prediction of becoming the present Buddha Śākyamuni; this is found in the so-called “Scripture on the Wise and the Fool.” The second episode is the story of Yaśomatī who receives the prediction that she will become the Buddha Ratnamati; this is found in the Avadānaśataka. When evaluating these comparatively rare instances of predictions received by women, two aspects come up for special consideration: (a) the textual significance of variations regarding the presence or absence of a change of sex, and (b) the epistemological and soteriological consequences for female audiences of women’s narratives constructed by the third-person perspective of male monastic text transmitters. The variations document that the transmitters did not always perceive the transformation of sex into a male as a categorical necessity. This transformation may not have been integral to these narratives of the bodhisattva path as articulated by the textual communities in which these texts originated and circulated.

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Review: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Birth of Insight: meditation, modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw. By Erik Braun. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013, xvi + 257, ISBN 13: 978-0-226-00080-0 (cloth), US $45.00, ISBN 13: 978-0-226-00094-7 (e-book), US $7.00 to $36.00.

Reviewed by Douglas Ober

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Shabkar’s Response to Religious Difference

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Rimé Revisited: Shabkar’s Response to Religious Difference

Rachel H. Pang
Davidson College

This article analyzes Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol’s (1781–1851) Tibetan Buddhist response to interreligious and intersectarian difference. While there exist numerous studies in Buddhist ethics that address the Buddhist perspective on contemporary issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and terrorism, there has been considerably less attention paid to Buddhist responses towards religious difference. Moreover, the majority of the research on this topic has been conducted within the context of Buddhist-Christian dialogue. This article examines Shabkar’s non-sectarian ideas on their own terms, within the context of Buddhist thought. I demonstrate the strong visionary, apocalyptic, theological, and soteriological dimensions of Shabkar’s rimé, or “unbiased,” approach to religious diversity. The two main applications of these findings are: (1) they broaden the current academic understanding of rimé from being a sociological phenomenon to a theological one grounded in social and historical particularities; (2) they draw attention to the non-philosophical aspects of Buddhist ethics.

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The Cullavagga on Bhikkhunī Ordination

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Cullavagga on Bhikkhunī Ordination

Bhikkhu Anālayo
University of Hamburg

With this paper I examine the narrative that in the Cullavagga of the Theravāda Vinaya forms the background to the different rules on bhikkhunī ordination, alternating between translations of the respective portions from the original Pāli and discussions of their implications. An appendix to the paper briefly discusses the term paṇḍaka.

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Ethical Implications of Upāya-Kauśalya

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Ethical Implications of Upāya-Kauśalya: Helping Without Imposing

Kin Cheung
Temple University

Upāya-kauśalya has been examined as a hermeneutical device, a Mahāyānic innovation, and a philosophy of practice. Although the paternalism of upāya-kauśalya employed in the Lotus Sūtra has been analyzed, there is little attention paid to bringing these ethical implications into a practical context. There is a tension between the motivation, even obligation, to help, and the potential dangers of projecting or imposing one’s conception of what is best for others or how best to help. I examine this issue through various parables. I argue that ordinary people can use upāya-kauśalya and that the ethical implications of upāya-kauśalya involve closing two different gaps in knowledge. This has potential applications not just for individuals, but also for organizations like NPOs or NGOs that try to assist large communities.

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Review: Buddhaghosa on Mind, Intention, and Agency

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Forerunner of All Things: Buddhaghosa on Mind, Intention, and Agency. By Maria Heim. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0-19-933104-8 (paperback), $35.00.

Reviewed by Dhivan Thomas Jones

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The Four Realities True for Noble Ones

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Four Realities True for Noble Ones: A New Approach to the Ariyasaccas

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya

Peter Harvey recently argued that the term sacca of ariyasacca should be interpreted as “reality” rather than as “truth,” the common rendition. In this paper, although I basically agree with him, I see quite different implications and come to a wholly new interpretation of the four ariyasaccas.

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Review: Making Sense of Tantric Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Making Sense of Tantric Buddhism: History, Semiology, and Transgression in Indian Traditions By Christian Wedemeyer. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013, xx + 313 pages, ISBN 978-0-231-16240-1 (hardback), $50.00.

Reviewed by Joseph P. Elacqua

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Holistic Eco-Buddhism and the Problem of Universal Identity

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Nature’s No-Thingness: Holistic Eco-Buddhism and the Problem of Universal Identity

Marek Sullivan
University of Oxford

“Holistic eco-Buddhism” has been roundly criticized for its heterodoxy and philosophical incoherence: the Buddha never claimed we should protect an “eco-self” and there are serious philosophical problems attendant on “identifying with things.” Yet this essay finds inadequate attention has been paid to East Asian sources. Metaphysical issues surrounding eco-Buddhism, i.e., problems of identity and difference, universalism and particularity, have a long history in Chinese Buddhism. In particular, I examine the notion of “merging with things” in pre-Huayan and Huayan Buddhism, suggesting these offer unexplored possibilities for a coherent holistic eco-Buddhism based on the differentiating effects of activity and functionality.

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The Metaphysical Basis of Śāntideva’s Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Metaphysical Basis of Śāntideva’s Ethics

Amod Lele
Boston University

Western Buddhists often believe and proclaim that metaphysical speculation is irrelevant to Buddhist ethics or practice. This view is problematic even with respect to early Buddhism, and cannot be sustained regarding later Indian Buddhists. In Śāntideva’s famous Bodhicaryāvatāra, multiple claims about the nature of reality are premises for conclusions about how human beings should act; that is, metaphysics logically entails ethics for Śāntideva, as it does for many Western philosophers. This article explores four key arguments that Śāntideva makes from metaphysics to ethics: actions are determined by their causes, and therefore we should not get angry; the body is reducible to its component parts, and therefore we should neither protect it nor lust after other bodies; the self is an illusion, and therefore we should be altruistic; all phenomena are empty, and therefore we should not be attached to them. The exploration of these arguments together shows us why metaphysical claims can matter a great deal for Buddhist ethics, practice and liberation.

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The Eco-Buddhism of Marie Byles

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Eco-Buddhism of Marie Byles

Peggy James
University of Tasmania

Marie Beuzeville Byles (1900–1979) was a key figure in the historical development of Buddhism in Australia, and the nation’s conservation movement. From the 1940s she began to develop an eco-Buddhist worldview and Buddhist environmental ethic that she applied in her day-to-day conservation activities and articulated over the course of four books on Buddhism and dozens of published articles. She is recognized in Australia for her Buddhist environmental thought, the influence that her ideas had in a key environmental debate of her day, and her international profile as a Buddhist. Most histories of modern eco-Buddhism, however, do not mention Byles’s work, and there has thus far been little scholarly analysis of her writings. This paper examines Byles’s eco-Buddhist ideas and activities in detail, and assesses the historical significance of her contribution.

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Review: Critical Buddhism and Modern Japanese Buddhist Thought

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Critical Buddhism: Engaging with Modern Japanese Buddhist Thought. By James Mark Shields. Farnham, Surrey, and Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2011, ISBN: 978-1-4094-1798-9 (hard-back), $119.95.

Reviewed by Ronald S. Green

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Review: A Short History of the Buddha

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

From Stone to Flesh: A Short History of the Buddha. By Donald S. Lopez, Jr. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013, 978-0-226-49320-6 (hardback), $26.00.

Reviewed by Geoffrey C. Goble

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Everyday Religion and Public Health in Kathmandu

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Puṇya and Pāp in Public Health: Everyday Religion, Material Culture, and Avenues of Buddhist Activism in Urban Kathmandu

Todd Lewis
College of the Holy Cross

In the dense settlements of old Kathmandu city, an urban ecology is fueled by abundant natural resources and sustained by a complex web of predator and prey species, all in a space dominated by human presence and practices. These include everyday activities in temples, roads, and homes that are rooted in Buddhist and Hindu doctrines. Both traditions emphasize non-violence (ahiṃsā) to all living beings, and adherents seek merit (puṇya) daily from feeding some of them. In light of the still chronic outbreaks of diseases like cholera, and especially in light of the threat of future avian-vector epidemics, a new avenue of doctrinal interpretation favoring human intervention might be developed based on the Bodhicaryāvatāra, an important Mahāyāna Buddhist text. In the spirit of “engaged Buddhism,” the discussion concludes with suggestions on how Newar Buddhist teachers today can use their cultural resources to shift their community’s ethical standpoint and take effective actions.

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Review: Daniel Berrigan, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Ethics of Peace and Justice

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Prophet and the Bodhisattva: Daniel Berrigan, Thich Nhat Hanh and the Ethics of Peace and Justice. By Charles R. Strain. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014, ISBN 978-1620328415 (paperback), $32.00.

Reviewed by Peter Herman

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Review: The Princess Nun

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Princess Nun: Bunchi, Buddhist Reform, and Gender in Early Edo Japan. By Gina Cogan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014, xvi+309 pages, ISBN 978-0674491977 (hardback), $49.95.

Reviewed by Febe D. Pamonag

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Review: Films about Chinese Monks

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Alms & Vows. By E.A. Burger. Commonfolk Films, 2010 & 2013. $150/film.

Reviewed by Nicole Goulet

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The Buddha’s Past Life as a Princess

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Buddha’s Past Life as a Princess in the Ekottarika-āgama

Ven. Anālayo
University of Hamburg and Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts

In the present article I study the Ekottarika-āgama version of a past life of the Buddha as a princess. I begin with some general observations on the gender of the Buddha’s past lives as reported in jātaka narratives, followed by a translation of the relevant section from the Ekottarika-āgama. Then I compare this Ekottarika-āgama version to three other versions of this tale preserved in Pāli and Chinese, in particular in relation to the way they deal with the dictum that a woman cannot receive a prediction of future Buddhahood.

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Zen Meets Kierkegaard

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

A Love Knowing Nothing: Zen Meets Kierkegaard

Mary Jeanne Larrabee
DePaul University

I present a case for a love that has a wisdom knowing nothing. How this nothing functions underlies what Kierkegaard urges in Works of Love and how Zen compassion moves us to action. In each there is an ethical call to love in action. I investigate how Kierkegaard’s “religiousness B” is a “second immediacy” in relation to God, one springing from a nothing between human and God. This immediacy clarifies what Kierkegaard takes to be the Christian call to love. I draw a parallel between Kierkegaard’s immediacy and the expression of immediacy within a Zen-influenced life, particularly the way in which it calls the Zen practitioner to act toward the specific needs of the person standing before one. In my understanding of both Kierkegaard and Zen life, there is also an ethics of response to the circumstances that put the person in need, such as entrenched poverty or other injustices.

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Thailand’s Mae Chis and the Global Women’s Ordination Movement

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Becoming Bhikkhunī? Mae Chis and the Global Women’s Ordination Movement

Lisa J. Battaglia
Samford University

Women’s full ordination as Buddhist nuns (Pāli: bhikkhunī, Sanskrit: bhikṣuṇī) has been a contested issue across Buddhist traditions and historical periods. Today, there is a global movement to secure women’s full participation in Buddhist monastic institutions. The present study examines this “bhikkhunī movement” in Thailand from the perspective of mae chis, Thai Buddhist female renunciates who abide by eight precepts yet do not have full ordination or ordination lineage. Employing an anthropological approach informed by postcolonial critical theory, my research reveals that mae chis, women who lead a Buddhist monastic lifestyle characterized by celibate practice and spiritual discipline, are not, on the whole, eager to relinquish their present status, fight against the existing socio-religious order, or pursue bhikkhunī ordination. A critical-empathic consideration of mae chis’ apparent illiberal subjectivities regarding gender hierarchy, female renunciant identity, and women’s liberation brings to light goals and strategies of the global bhikkhunī movement that do not necessarily resonate with the motivations, aims or cultural sensibilities of the Thai white-robed female renunciates.

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Review: Milarepa’s Biographies

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Yogin & the Madman: Reading the Biographical Corpus of Tibet’s Great Saint Milarepa. By Andrew Quintman. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014, 336 pages, ISBN 978-0-231-16415-3 (paperback), $35.00 / £24.00; ISBN 978-0-231-16414-6 (cloth), $105.00 / £72.50.

Reviewed by Massimo Rondolino

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Review: History of Buddhism in Ireland

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Buddhism and Ireland: From the Celts to the Counterculture and Beyond. By Laurence Cox. Equinox, 2013, 426 pages, ISBN 9781908049308 (paperback), £24.99/$35.00.

Reviewed by Alison Melnick

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Review: A Green Odyssey

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey. Directed by Wendy J. N. Lee; Executive Producer, Michelle Yeoh; Narrator, Daryl Hannah. 2013, $549 (Campus Screening License and DVD), $499 (Digital Streaming License), $299 (College and University DVD), and $129 (K-12, Library, and Non-Profit DVD).

Reviewed by Adam T. Miller

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