Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


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: 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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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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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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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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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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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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Review: Bodh Gaya Jataka

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Cross-disciplinary Perspectives on a Contested Site: Bodh Gaya Jataka. Edited by David Geary, Matthew R. Sayers, and Abhisek Sing Amar. London: Routledge, 2012, ISBN 978-0415684521 (hardback), $150.00.

Reviewed by Brooke Schedneck

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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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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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Founding the Buddhist Order of Nuns

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Mahāpajāpatī’s Going Forth in the Madhyama-āgama

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

The present article provides an annotated translation of the Madhyama-āgama account of the founding of the Buddhist order of nuns, followed by a discussion of some of its significant aspects, which open new perspectives on the way this event is presented in the canonical scriptures.

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The Buddha and the Māgadha-Vajjī War

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

The Buddha and the Māgadha-Vajjī War

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya

According to an account recorded in Mahāparinibbānasutta, the Buddha had to meet a royal minister named Vassakāra when King Ajātasattu ordered the latter to visit the Buddha and inform him about the king’s plan to subdue the Vajjīs. After hearing Vassakāra, the Buddha spoke on seven Conditions of Welfare (satta aparihāniyā dhammā), which would ensure the prosperity of the Vajjīs as long as its citizens observed them. Vassakāra shrewdly inferred from the Buddha’s discourse how to defeat the Vajjī people and later actually forced them into submission. Regarding that event, there are some perplexing questions:

  1. Why did King Ajātasattu choose to consult a wandering ascetic on a significant matter of state like fighting a war?
  2. Vassakāra discerned how to defeat the Vajjīs from the Buddha’s exposition of the Seven Conditions of Welfare. So did the Buddha intend to help Ajātasattu defeat the Vajjīs? If not, what was his purpose in expounding the seven Conditions of Welfare to Vassakāra?
  3. If the Buddha really did not accept any kind of violence, as the tradition would have it, why did he not openly speak against it?

This paper will attempt to answer these questions and will argue, in the conclusion, that this event shows the Buddha’s disapproving attitude toward a political role of the Buddhist Order.

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Review: Masculine Images in Indian Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

A Bull of a Man: Images of Masculinity, Sex, and the Body in Indian Buddhism. By John Powers. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009, 334 pages, ISBN: 978-0674033290 (hardcover); US $45.00.

Reviewed by Vanessa Sasson

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Vegetarianism and Diet in Pāli Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

The Question of Vegetarianism and Diet in Pāli Buddhism

James J. Stewart
University of Tasmania

This article is concerned with the question of whether Pāli Buddhism endorses vegetarianism and therefore whether a good Buddhist ought to abstain from eating meat. A prima facie case for vegetarianism will be presented that relies upon textual citation in which the Buddha stipulates that a good Buddhist must encourage others not to kill. The claim that the Buddha endorses vegetarianism, however, is challenged both by the fact that meat-eating is permissible in the Vinaya and that the Buddha himself seems to have eaten meat. The article will suggest that this conflict emerges as a distinct ethical and legal tension in the canonical texts but that the tension may have arisen as a consequence of difficult prudential decisions the Buddha may have had to make during his ministry.

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Chinese and Pāli Parallels On Women’s Inabilities

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 16, 2009

The Bahudhātuka-sutta and its Parallels On Women’s Inabilities

Anālayo
University of Hamburg
Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taiwan

The present article offers a comparative study of the Bahudhātuka-sutta, based on a translation of one of its parallels found in the Madhyama-āgama preserved in Chinese translation. The study focuses in particular on the dictum that a woman cannot be a Buddha, which is absent from the Madhyama-āgama version.

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Implications of the New Dating of the Buddha

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Cooking the Buddhist Books: The Implications of the New Dating of the Buddha for the History of Early Indian Buddhism

Charles S. Prebish
Utah State University

On the surface, new dating for the Buddha’s death doesn’t seem terribly earthshaking, either for Indian Buddhist history or for ancillary studies such as a consideration of Upāli and his lineage of Vinayadharas. Yet it is. If there is a new date for the Buddha’s demise, virtually everything we know about the earliest Indian Buddhism, and especially its sectarian movement, is once again called into question. Dates for the first, second, and third canonical councils—once thought to be certain—must now be reexamined. Kings who presided at these events must be reconsidered. Most importantly, the role of the great Indian King Aśoka, from whose reign much of the previous dating begins, needs to be placed under the scrutiny of the historical microscope again.

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Transgression and Forgiveness

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Did King Ajātasattu Confess to the Buddha, and did the Buddha Forgive Him?

Jayarava Michael Attwood
Cambridge Buddhist Centre

Is it possible to counteract the consequences of a moral transgression by publicly acknowledging it? When he reveals to the Buddha that he has killed his father, King Ajātasattu is said to “yathādhammaṃ paṭikaroti.” This has been interpreted as “making amends,” or as seeking (and receiving) “forgiveness” for his crime. Successfully translating this phrase into English requires that we reexamine etymology and dictionary definitions, question assumptions made by previous translators, and study the way that yathādhammaṃ paṭikaroti is used in context. We can better understand confession as a practice by locating it within the general Indian concern for ritual purity—ethicized by the Buddha—and showing that the early Buddhist doctrine of kamma allows for mitigation, though not eradication, of the consequences of actions under some circumstances.

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The Buddha-legend’s First Journey to the West

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 9, 2002

The Killing Test: The Kinship of Living Beings and the Buddha-legend’s First Journey to the West

Graeme MacQueen
McMaster University

As it has traveled, the Buddha-legend has carried complex messages and sets of ideas, among which is the kinship of living beings. When the story made its way to Europe in the medieval period in the form of Barlām and Josaphat, however, many of its messages were removed, and the kinship of living beings was one of the casualties. Concentrating on a particular episode in Barlām and Josaphat, I show how the kinship of living beings was progressively deleted. I then suggest that this removal was based, in part, on a historical practice used for the detection and repression of Manichaeism: the killing test. With the help of this mechanism of inquisition and persecution, the Buddha-legend was prevented, until the nineteenth century, from transmitting one of its key messages to the West.

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Review: Buddhist-Christian Dialogue

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 8, 2001

Buddhists Talk about Jesus, Christians Talk about the Buddha. Edited By Rita M. Gross and Terry C. Muck. New York: Continuum, 2000, 144 pages, ISBN: 0–8264–1196–7 (paperback), US $14.95.

Reviewed by Eric Reinders

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Review: Buddhism, A Very Short Introduction

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 7, 2000

Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction. By Damien Keown. Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks, 1996, xiii + 141 pages, ISBN: 0–1928–5386–4, US$8.95.

Reviewed by James G. Mullens

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The Buddhalegend’s Westward Journey

ISSN:1076-9005
Volume 5 1995

Changing Master Narratives in Midstream: Barlaam and Josaphat and the Growth of Religious Intolerance in the Buddhalegend’s Westward Journey

Graeme MacQueen
McMaster University

As the legend of the Buddha moved into Europe in the medieval period in the form of the story of the Christian saints Barlām and Josaphat it became marked for the first time by deep religious intolerance. The article find this structural shift to have been accomplished through two separate but integrated moves: a master narrative of emancipation through enlightenment is replaced by a master narrative of salvation through faith, and a model of religions as linked and overlapping is replaced by a perception of religions as closed systems that compete with and endanger each other.

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Just-War Ideology in Buddhist Sri Lanka

ISSN:1076–9005
Volume 6, 1999

In Defense of Dharma: Just-War Ideology in Buddhist Sri Lanka

Tessa Bartholomeusz
Florida State University

Sri Lankan Buddhists avail themselves of a variety of Buddhist stories, canonical and post-canonical, to support their point of view regarding war. And because there are no pronouncements in the stories attributed to the Buddha or in those stories told about him that declare unequivocally and directly that war is wrong, the military metaphors of the stories allow for a variety of interpretations. Some Buddhists argue that the stories directly or indirectly permit war under certain circumstances, while others argue that war is never acceptable. Whether they justify war or not, these Buddhists engage the stories, sometimes the very same ones, to argue their points of view.

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Review: Absence of the Buddha Image

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 6, 1999

Absence of the Buddha Image in Early Buddhist Art: Towards its Significance in Comparative Religion. By Kanoko Tanaka. New Delhi: D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd, 1998 [Emerging Perceptions in Buddhist Studies, No. 8], 148 pages, plus illustrations, ISBN 8124600902, US $66.70.

Reviewed by Elizabeth J. Harris

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Review: How Buddhism Began

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

How Buddhism Began: The Conditioned Genesis of the Early Teachings. By Richard F. Gombrich. London and Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Athlone, 1996.

Reviewed by Bhikkhu Bodhi

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