Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


Review: Buddhist Reflection on a More Equitable Future

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 23, 2016

Valuing Diversity: Buddhist Reflection on Realizing a More Equitable Global Future. By Peter D. Hershock. Albany: SUNY Press, 2014, vi + 332 pages, ISBN 978-1-4384-4458-1 (paperback), $29.95.

Reviewed by Seth D. Clippard

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Report: Conference on Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 23, 2016

Inaugural Conference on Buddhist Ethics

Daniel Cozort
Dickinson College

A report on the Conference on Buddhist Ethics held at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on June 14-16, 2016.

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The Ethics (and Economics) of Tibetan Polyandry

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

The Ethics (and Economics) of Tibetan Polyandry

Jonathan Stoltz
University of St. Thomas

Fraternal polyandry—one woman simultaneously being married to two or more brothers—has been a prominent practice within Tibetan agricultural societies for many generations. While the topic of Tibetan polyandry has been widely discussed in the field of anthropology, there are, to my knowledge, no contributions by philosophers on this topic. For this reason alone, my brief analysis of the ethics of Tibetan polyandry will serve to enhance scholars’s understanding of this practice. In this article, I examine the factors that have sustained the practice of polyandry in Tibet, but do so with the further aim of drawing attention to some of the key ethical implications of polyandrous marriage. I argue that the natural law criticisms raised against the practice of polyandry by St. Thomas Aquinas are unsuccessful, but I also argue that the utilitarian motivations for this marriage practice endorsed by agrarian Tibetans are also highly suspect.

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Buddhism and Intellectual Property Rights

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Buddhism and Intellectual Property Rights: The Role of Compassion

Soraj Hongladarom
Chulalongkorn University

I offer the outline of a theory that justifies the concept of intellectual property (IP). IP is usually justified by a utilitarian claim that such rights provide incentives for further discovery and protect the innovator through a monopoly. I propose to broaden the protection offered by the IP regime. My argument is based on the concept of compassion (karuṇā), the aim of relieving suffering in all others. An analysis of how patented products originate shows that they typically depend not only on scientists in the laboratory, but on numerous factors and elements, many of which do not belong to the corporation in which the experiments are conducted. Because these elements have a necessary role in the discovery of inventions, they also deserve fair treatment. In practice, this could mean that the resulting patented product would be made more accessible to the general population and that the corporation would be more actively involved in society. In the long run, this could prove beneficial for all parties, including the patent holders themselves.

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Why Buddhism and the West Need Each Other

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Why Buddhism and the West Need Each Other: On the Interdependence of Personal and Social Transformation

David R. Loy

The highest ideal of the Western tradition has been the concern to restructure our societies so that they are more socially just. The most important goal for Buddhism is to awaken and (to use the Zen phrase) realize one’s true nature, which puts an end to dukkha—especially that associated with the delusion of a separate self. Today it has become more obvious that we need both: not just because these ideals complement each other, but also because each project needs the other. The Western (now world-wide) ideal of a social transformation that institutionalizes social justice has achieved much, yet, I argue, is limited because a truly good society cannot be realized without the correlative realization that personal transformation is also necessary. On the other side, the traditional Buddhist emphasis on ending individual dukkha is insufficient in the face of what we now understand about the structural causes of dukkha. This does not mean simply adding a concern for social justice to Buddhist teachings. For example, applying a Buddhist perspective to structural dukkha implies an alternative evaluation of our economic situation. Instead of appealing for distributive justice, this approach focuses on the consequences of individual and institutionalized delusion: the dukkha of a sense of a self that feels separate from others, whose sense of lack consumerism exploits and institutionalizes into economic structures that assume a life (and motivations) of their own.

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Buddhist Reflections on “Consumer” and “Consumerism”

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Buddhist Reflections on “Consumer” and “Consumerism”

Peter Harvey
University of Sunderland

This article starts with a characterization of “consumerism” and the idea of “the consumer.” It then explores Buddhist attitudes on wealth and “Buddhist economics” before drawing on these to develop a critical assessment of consumerism as an ineffective and wasteful route to human happiness.

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On the Distribution of Wealth

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Can Buddhism Inform the Contemporary Western Liberal Debate on the Distribution of Wealth?

Caroline Mosler
Dhaka, Bangladesh

The contemporary Western liberal debate on the distribution of wealth revolves around whether the right to property may be subordinated to the good of society. Both Liberal Egalitarians and Libertarians make various negative assumptions concerning individuals, rights and duties. Buddhism, on the other hand, can offer the debate, and thereby the topic of human rights, a different perspective on the role of rights and duties and can introduce to the debate the issue of social, economic and cultural rights (“socio-economic rights”), as laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) or the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

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Review: Deep Ecology and Buddhist Economics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Business within Limits: Deep Ecology and Buddhist Economics. Edited by Laszlo Zsolnai and Knut Johannesssen Ims. Bern: Peter Lang Publishing, 2006, 324 pages, ISBN 3039107038, US $62.95 (paperback).

Reviewed by Jason McLeod Monson

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Ethics in Postmodern Organizations

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

The Ethics of Knowledge and Action in Postmodern Organizations

Michael M.Tophoff
Limmen, The Netherlands

Good Corporate Governance was explicitly formulated in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which became federal law in 2002. It includes ethical guidelines to regulate employee behavior and the interrelations between organizations and their shareholders. While these guidelines are exterior to the person, this paper discusses the construct of an internal beacon for right managerial action, in the Buddhist sense, as well as ways not only to access it mentally but also to extend it into the outside world. Within this perspective, it also presents the ethical teaching of the Chinese Ming philosopher Wang Yangming (1472-1529). Although Wang is considered to be a Neo-Confucian philosopher, in this article he is considered a seminal thinker within the Chan Buddhist tradition Wang’s method of self-cultivation is presented to access the person’s innate knowledge which in itself implies right action.

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Development of Buddhist Economic Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Continuity and Change in the Economic Ethics of Buddhism:­ Evidence From the History of Buddhism in India, China and Japan

Gregory K. Ornatowski
Boston University

This paper offers an outline of the development of Buddhist economic ethics using examples from early Theravāda Buddhism in India and the Mahāyāna tradition as it evolved in India, medieval China, and medieval and early modern Japan, in order to illustrate the pattern of continuities and transformations these ethics have undergone. By “economic ethics” the paper refers to four broad areas: (1) attitudes toward wealth, i.e., its accumulation, use, and distribution, including the issues of economic justice and equality/ inequality; (2) attitudes toward charity, i.e., how and to whom wealth should be given; (3) attitudes toward human labor and secular occupations in society; and (4) actual economic activities of temples and monasteries which reflect the lived-practice of Buddhist communities’ economic ethics.

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Buddhist Economic Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Sufficiency Economy and Santi Asoke: Buddhist Economic Ethics for a Just and Sustainable World

Juliana Essen
Soka University of America

Mainstream economic thought and practice has resulted in wide-spread socioeconomic disparity and environmental devastation in all corners of the world, unmitigated by a multi-billion dollar development industry informed by these same economic models. To reverse this trend, the dominant forms of economic thought and practice must be reunited with ethics that are more caring of the human-nature base. Such ethics may be found in alternative economic models based on religious, spiritual, environmental, or feminist values. This essay considers one such alternative: Buddhist economics. After outlining a theory of Buddhist economics, this essay considers two models: the Royal Thai Sufficiency Economy Model and the approach adopted by the Santi Asoke Buddhist Reform Movement of Thailand. Both are conducive to economic activity that is more socially just and environmentally sustainable, particularly due to their ethics of self-reliance, moderation, and interdependence.

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