Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


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

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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.

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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: Buddhism and Animal Rights

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights. By Norm Phelps. New York: Lantern Press, 2004. 208 pages. Paperback. ISBN 1590560698.

Reviewed by L. A. Kemmerer

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Research Note: Annotated Bibliography on Animal Use in Biomedicine

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 8, 2001

Animal Use in Biomedicine: An Annotated Bibliography of Buddhist and Related Perspectives

Bill Slaughter, M.D., M.A.
Seattle, Washington

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