Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

Archive for the ‘Volume 24 2017’


Review: Vegetarianism and Animal Ethics in Contemporary Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Vegetarianism and Animal Ethics in Contemporary Buddhism. By James J. Stewart. London: Routledge, 2015, ISBN 1138802166 (hardback), $128.94.

Reviewed by Amy Defibaugh

Read article

Monastic Comportment among Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Tradition, Power, and Community among Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka

Nirmala S. Salgado
Augustana College

This article focuses on the relationship between two aspects of monastic comportment among Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka. How nuns present themselves is embedded both in a discourse of power and in a discourse of morality. Their comportment is the subject of public debate insofar as it relates to disputes about tradition and the recognition of the higher ordination of Theravāda nuns. Yet that comportment also relates to the cultivation of moral dispositions (sῑla), such as restraint and discipline, which are intrinsic to tradition and the daily work of nuns in the communal life of a nunnery. The article argues that nuns live a communal form of life in which their cultivation of moral dispositions relates to questions about power and tradition that they cannot ignore, even though they may seek to do so.

Read article

Right Speech is Not Always Gentle

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Right Speech Is Not Always Gentle: The Buddha’s Authorization of Sharp Criticism, its Rationale, Limits, and Possible Applications

Sallie B. King
Georgetown University

What is Right Speech and how should it be applied in the multiple challenges of social and political life? Examining passages from the Pāli canon shows that although Right Speech is normatively truthful and gentle, the Buddha endorsed “sharp” speech when it was beneficial and timely. He both permitted and modeled direct, sharp criticism of the person whose words or actions were harmful. The monks were taught to use such speech even though it might disturb their equanimity and are seen as having a moral duty to do so. Good moral judgment is needed to determine when sharp speech should be used. Applying the analysis to the question of how Buddhists should respond to the harmful words and actions of Donald Trump, the study finds that the norms of Right Speech entail using sharp speech in this case. In responding to supporters of Donald Trump, the study finds benefit in avoiding sharp speech in an effort to build mutual understanding and heal the deep divisions in contemporary American society. An exception is made for hate speech which is seen as needing to be immediately confronted.

Read article

Review: A Zen Pilgrimage

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

One Mind: A Zen Pilgrimage. Directed by Edward A. Burger. COMMONFOLK FILMS, 2016, (DVD), U.S. $349.00.

Reviewed by Dale S. Wright

Read article

Burmese Buddhists and Business Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

In the Midst of Imperfections: Burmese Buddhists and Business Ethics

Pyi Phyo Kyaw
King’s College, University of London

This article looks at interpretations by Buddhists in Burma of right livelihood (sammā-ājīva) and documents the moral reasoning that underlies their business activities. It explores different ways in which Buddhists in Burma, through the use of Buddhist ethics and practices, resolve moral dilemmas that they encounter while pursuing their livelihood. I give a brief summary of the existing scholarship on Buddhist economics and on economic action in Burma, exemplified by the work of E. F. Schumacher and Melford Spiro respectively. In so doing, I wish to highlight a difference between the approaches of the existing scholarship and that of this article: the existing scholarship analyzes economic issues from the perspective of normative ethics; this research analyzes them from the perspective of descriptive ethics, looking at how Buddhists interpret and apply Buddhist ethics in their business activities, in the midst of moral, social, and economic imperfections. The research presented draws on semi-structured interviews and fieldwork conducted in Burma in the summer of 2010 and relates the interpretations given to the relevant Buddhist literature, the textual authorities for doctrines such as morality (sīla).

Read article

Review: Buddhism and Psychedelic Spirituality in America

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Altered States:Buddhism and Psychedelic Spirituality in America by Douglas Osto. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016, 328 pages, ISBN 9780231177306 (hardback), U.S. $35.00.

Reviewed by Ronald S. Green

Read article

A Buddhist Typology of Inherent Values

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

A Buddhist Typology of Inherent Values

Eran Laish
Leipzig University

Intentions and actions are basic elements in Buddhist ethical models. Yet, how are the values of those decided? This article asserts that some of the inherent qualities of lived experience are the basic factors that determine the value of ethical motives and ethical behavior. The examination of Buddhist descriptions of lived experience reveals two complementary types of inherent values—values that accompany individual phenomena and values that indicate structural aspects of human consciousness. Both types manifest certain inherent possibilities of awareness that are necessary for the appearance of ethical values. The first kind of inherent values consists of distinct feelings and volitions, while the second kind includes dualistic and non-dualistic aspects of awareness. By considering these two kinds, it becomes possible to understand how ethical differences are based on distinctions between felt qualities, and how some of these qualities lead to the culmination of the Buddhist path—abiding in non-dual awareness without affective and cognitive afflictions.

Read article

Canonical Exegesis in the Theravāda Vinaya

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Canonical Exegesis in the Theravāda Vinaya

Bhikkhu Brahmāli
Bodhinyana Monastery
Bhikkhu Anālayo
University of Hamburg

In the present paper the two authors examine dimensions of the canonical exegesis found embedded within the text of the Theravāda Vinaya. In part one, Bhikkhu Anālayo examines the word-commentary on the rules found in the Suttavibhaṅga. In part two, Bhikkhu Brahmāli takes up the function of narrative portions in the Khandhakas.

Read article

Guṇaprabha on Monastic Authority

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Guṇaprabha on Monastic Authority and Authoritative Doctrine

Paul Nietupski
John Carroll University

This essay is based on sūtras 70–102 in Guṇaprabha’s seventh century Vinayasūtra, his Autocommentary, and the associated sections in all Indian and Tibetan commentaries on the Vinayasūtra. In this excerpt Guṇaprabha and the commentators include remarks on the requirements for monastic community authority and references to relevant authoritative doctrines. The guidelines for monastic authority include applications of procedures in medieval Indian monastic life, including prerequisites and exceptions in the ordination process. The references to authoritative doctrine in Guṇaprabha’s and the commentators’ works include comments on the interface of ethics, concentration, and wisdom, and how ethical guidelines are based on the correct understanding of epistemological value as presented in canonical treatises on doctrine.

Read article

Review: Gods of Medieval Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Gods of Medieval Japan, Volume 1: The Fluid Pantheon by Bernard Faure. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2015, xii + 496 pages, ISBN 978-0-8248-3933-8 (hardback), $55.00.
Gods of Medieval Japan, Volume 2: Protectors and Predators by Bernard Faure. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2015, x + 512 pages, ISBN 978-0-8248-3931-4 (hardback), $55.00.
.
Reviewed by Joseph P. Elacqua

Read article

Ways of Forsaking the Order According to the Early Vinaya

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Quitting the Dhamma: The Ways of Forsaking the Order According to the Early Vinaya

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya

In this paper, I argue that in the early Vinaya, contrary to the commentarial tradition: (1) two ways of forsaking the Order, equally valid, co-exist; and (2) nuns who have left the Order may be re-ordained without guilt.

Read article

The Good in Aristotle and Early Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

On the Good in Aristotle and Early Buddhism: A Response to Abraham Vélez

Damien Keown
University of London, Goldsmiths

In an earlier publication I compared Aristotelian and Buddhist concepts of the consummate good. Abraham Vélez de Cea has claimed I misrepresent the nature of the good by restricting it to certain psychic states and excluding a range of other goods acknowledged by Aristotle and the Buddha. My aim here is to show that my understanding of the good is not the narrow one Vélez suggests. The article concludes with some observations on the relationship between moral and non-moral good in Buddhism.

Read article

Capital Punishment: a Buddhist Critique

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Capital Punishment: a Buddhist Critique

Martin Kovan
University of Melbourne

Capital punishment is practiced in many nation-states, secular and religious alike. It is also historically a feature of some Buddhist polities, even though it defies the first Buddhist precept (pāṇatipātā) prohibiting lethal harm. This essay considers a neo-Kantian theorization of capital punishment (Sorell) and examines the reasons underwriting its claims (with their roots in Bentham and Mill) with respect to the prevention of and retribution for crime. The contextualization of this argument with Buddhist-metaphysical and epistemological concerns around the normativization of value, demonstrates that such a retributivist conception of capital punishment constitutively undermines its own rational and normative discourse. With this conclusion, the paper upholds and justifies the first Buddhist precept prohibiting lethal action in the case of capital punishment.

Read article

Can Animals Understand the Dharma?

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Dharma Dogs: Can Animals Understand the Dharma? Textual and Ethnographic Considerations

James Stewart
University of Tasmania

Pāli textual sources occasionally mention the existence of unusual animals with an aptitude for the Buddha’s dharma. In the Jātaka, clever animals do good deeds and are thus reborn in better circumstances. In the Vinaya, the Buddha declares to a serpent that he should observe Buddhist holy days so he can achieve a human rebirth. But can animals develop spiritually? Can they move towards enlightenment? In this article I will be examining textual and ethnographic accounts of whether animals can hear and understand the dharma. Using ethnographic research conducted in Sri Lanka, I will show that although animals are thought to passively benefit from being in proximity to dharma institutions, there seems to be agreement amongst the monks interviewed that animals cannot truly understand the dharma and therefore cannot practice it. Animals are therefore severely hampered in their spiritual advancement. However, these ethnographic and textual findings do indicate that passively listening to dharma preaching, whether it is understood or not, has spiritually productive consequences.

Read article

Dependent Origination and the Value of Nature

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Dependent Origination, Emptiness, and the Value of Nature

David Cummiskey and Alex Hamilton
Bates College

This article explains the importance of the Buddhist doctrine of dependent origination to contemporary environmental ethics and also develops a Buddhist account of the relational, non-instrumental, and impersonal value of nature. The article’s methodology is “comparative” or “fusion” philosophy. In particular, dependent origination and Nāgārjuna’s doctrine of emptiness are developed in contrast to Aldo Leopold and J. Baird Callicott’s conception of deep ecology, and the Buddhist conception of value is developed using Christine Korsgaard’s Kantian analysis of the distinction between intrinsic/extrinsic value and means/ends value.

Read article