Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


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).

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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.

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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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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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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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Review: Modern Buddhist Conjunctures in Myanmar

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Modern Buddhist Conjunctures in Myanmar: Cultural Narratives, Colonial Legacies, and Civil Society. By Juliane Schober. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011, 190 pages, ISBN 978-0824833824 (pbk), $49.00.

Reviewed by Kelly Meister

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The Burmese Alms-Boycott

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

The Burmese Alms-Boycott: Theory and Practice of the Pattanikujjana in Buddhist Non-Violent Resistance

Martin Kovan
University of Melbourne

This essay presents a general and critical historical survey of the Burmese Buddhist alms-boycott (pattanikujjana) between 1990 and 2007. It details the Pāli textual and ethical constitution of the boycott and its instantiation in modern Burmese history, particularly the Saffron Revolution of 2007. It also suggests a metaethical reading that considers Buddhist metaphysics as constitutive of that conflict. Non-violent resistance is contextualized as a soteriologically transcendent (“nibbanic”) project in the common life of believing Buddhists—even those who, military regime and martyred monastics alike, defend a fidelity to Theravāda Buddhism from dual divides of a political and humanistic fence.

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Noviciation in Theravādin Monasticism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Tithiyaparivāsa vis-à-vis Noviciation in Theravādin Monasticism

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya

Tithiyaparivāsais a particular type of probation in Theravādin monasticism that former ascetics of certain heretic groups must undergo if they wish to gain admission to the Buddhist Order. In the extant probation procedure as found in the Pāli Vinaya tradition, there is no explicit accounting for the stage of novicehood. Why? This paper attempts to answer that question and in the process discovers an unexpected insight into the legally ambiguous status of noviciation.

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Buddhist Ahimsā and its Existential Aporias

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 16, 2009

Violence and (Non-)resistance: Buddhist Ahiṃsā and its Existential Aporias

Martin Kovan
University of Queensland

This essay considers a paradigmatic example in Buddhist ethics of the injunction (in the five precepts and five heinous crimes) against killing. It also considers Western ethical concerns in the post-phenomenological thinking of Derrida and Levinas, particularly the latter’s “ethics of responsibility.” It goes on to analyze in-depth an episode drawn from Alan Clements’s experience in 1990 as a Buddhist non-violent, non-combatant in war-torn Burma. It explores Clements’s ethical predicament as he faced an imminent need to act, perhaps even kill and thereby repudiate his Buddhist inculcation. It finds a wealth of common (yet divergent) ground in Levinasian and Mahāyāna ethics, a site pregnant for Buddhist ethical self-interrogation.

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Buddhism, Nonviolence, and Power

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 16, 2009

Buddhism, Nonviolence, and Power

Sallie B. King
James Madison University

Contemporary Buddhists have in recent decades given the world outstanding examples of nonviolent activism. Although these movements have demonstrated great courage and have generated massive popular support, sadly, none of them has, as yet, prevailed. In this paper I will explore how nonviolent power was exercised in these cases. I will draw upon the work of nonviolent theorist Gene Sharp to help us understand the nature and sources of nonviolent power. I will then use that material to analyze the power dynamics of the Buddhist nonviolent struggles in Vietnam during the war years, and in Burma and Tibet today. I will also reflect upon Buddhist attitudes towards the wielding of nonviolent power in conflict situations.

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Review: Engaged Buddhism in Burma

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 8, 2001

The Voice of Hope. Edited by Aung San Su Kyi with Alan Clements. New York: Seven Stories Press, 1997, 304 pages, ISBN 1–888363–83–5 (paperback), ISBN 1–888363–50–9 (hardcover), US $14.95 (paperback), US $24.95 (hardcover).

Reviewed by Barbara E. Reed

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Review: Mental Culture in Burmese Crisis Politics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 7, 2000

Mental Culture in Burmese Crisis Politics. By Gustaaf Houtman. Tokyo: ILCAA Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa Monograph Series, no. 33, Publication of the Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 1999, viii + 392 pages, ISBN 4-87297-748-3 (paperback), Free.

Reviewed By Karen Derris

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Review: Engaged Buddhism in Asia

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia. Edited by Christopher S. Queen and Sallie B. King. New York: State University of New York, 1996, xii + 446 pages, ISBN 0-7914-2844-3, $24.95.

Reviewed by Mavis L. Fenn

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