Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


Grief, Impermanence, and Upāya

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 23, 2016

“To Whom Does Kisā Gotamī Speak?” Grief, Impermanence, and Upāya

Richard K. Payne
Institute of Buddhist Studies, at the Graduate Theological Union

This article develops a perspective on the nature of Buddhist pastoral care by considering the needs of the bereaved. Differentiating the interpretive frameworks of different audiences and understanding different contexts of interpersonal relations are necessary for effective pastoral care. A distinction between the goal of realizing impermanence and the goal of resolving mourning is heuristically useful in theorizing Buddhist pastoral care. The discussion also seeks to underscore the value of upāya as a positive moral injunction on teachers, indicating the need to properly match their audience and to employ the textual tradition responsibly.

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Review: Luminosity and Personhood in Indian and Chinese Thought

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 23, 2016

Encounters of Mind: Luminosity and Personhood in Indian and Chinese Thought. By Douglas L. Berger. Albany: SUNY Press, 2015, 262 pages, ISBN 9781438454740 (paperback), $24.95.

Reviewed by Leah Kalmanson

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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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Review: The Ethics of Śaṅkara and Śāntideva

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 23, 2016

The Ethics of Śaṅkara and Śāntideva: A Selfless Response to an Illusory World. By Warren Lee Todd. Farnham, Surrey and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013, xii + 220, ISBN: 9781409466819 (hardback), $149.95.

Reviewed by Joseph S. O’Leary

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Review: Madhyamaka in 12th Century Tibet

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 23, 2016

Reason and Experience in Tibetan Buddhism: Mabja Jangchub Tsöndrü and the Traditions of the Middle Way. By Thomas Doctor. Routledge Critical Series in Buddhism. New York: Routledge, 2014, 156 pages, ISBN 9780415722469 (hardback), $145.

Reviewed by Adam C. Krug

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Review: Family Matters in Indian Buddhist Monasticisms

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 23, 2016

Family Matters in Indian Buddhist Monasticisms. By Shayne Clarke. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2014, xiii+275 pages, ISBN 978-0-8248-3647-4 (cloth), $52.

Reviewed by Cuilan Liu

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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: Making Sense of Tantric Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Making Sense of Tantric Buddhism: History, Semiology, and Transgression in Indian Traditions By Christian Wedemeyer. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013, xx + 313 pages, ISBN 978-0-231-16240-1 (hardback), $50.00.

Reviewed by Joseph P. Elacqua

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Holistic Eco-Buddhism and the Problem of Universal Identity

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Nature’s No-Thingness: Holistic Eco-Buddhism and the Problem of Universal Identity

Marek Sullivan
University of Oxford

“Holistic eco-Buddhism” has been roundly criticized for its heterodoxy and philosophical incoherence: the Buddha never claimed we should protect an “eco-self” and there are serious philosophical problems attendant on “identifying with things.” Yet this essay finds inadequate attention has been paid to East Asian sources. Metaphysical issues surrounding eco-Buddhism, i.e., problems of identity and difference, universalism and particularity, have a long history in Chinese Buddhism. In particular, I examine the notion of “merging with things” in pre-Huayan and Huayan Buddhism, suggesting these offer unexplored possibilities for a coherent holistic eco-Buddhism based on the differentiating effects of activity and functionality.

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The Metaphysical Basis of Śāntideva’s Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Metaphysical Basis of Śāntideva’s Ethics

Amod Lele
Boston University

Western Buddhists often believe and proclaim that metaphysical speculation is irrelevant to Buddhist ethics or practice. This view is problematic even with respect to early Buddhism, and cannot be sustained regarding later Indian Buddhists. In Śāntideva’s famous Bodhicaryāvatāra, multiple claims about the nature of reality are premises for conclusions about how human beings should act; that is, metaphysics logically entails ethics for Śāntideva, as it does for many Western philosophers. This article explores four key arguments that Śāntideva makes from metaphysics to ethics: actions are determined by their causes, and therefore we should not get angry; the body is reducible to its component parts, and therefore we should neither protect it nor lust after other bodies; the self is an illusion, and therefore we should be altruistic; all phenomena are empty, and therefore we should not be attached to them. The exploration of these arguments together shows us why metaphysical claims can matter a great deal for Buddhist ethics, practice and liberation.

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Compassion in Schopenhauer and Śāntideva

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Compassion in Schopenhauer and Śāntideva

Kenneth Hutton
University of Glasgow

Although it is well known that Schopenhauer claimed that Buddhism closely reflected his own philosophy, this claim was largely ignored until the mid-late Twentieth century. Most commentators on Schopenhauer (with some recent exceptions) since then have mentioned his Buddhist affinities but have been quite broad and general in their treatment. I feel that any general comparison of Schopenhauer’s philosophy with “general” Buddhism would most likely lead to general conclusions. In this article I have attempted to offer a more specific comparison of what is central to Schopenhauer’s philosophy with what is central to Mahāyāna Buddhism, and that is the concept of compassion.

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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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Review: The Range of the Bodhisattva: A Mahāyāna Sūtra

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Range of the Bodhisattva: A Mahāyāna Sūtra. Translated by Lozang Jamspal. New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2011, ISBN 978-1935011071 (cloth), $42.00.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Jenkins

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Review: Power, Wealth and Women in Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Power, Wealth and Women in Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Gaṇḍavyūha-sūtra. By Douglas Osto. New York: Routledge, 2008, xvi + 177 pages, ISBN978-0-415-50008-1 (paperback), $49.95.

Reviewed by Amy Langenberg

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The Gurudharma on Bhiksunī Ordination

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Gurudharma on Bhikṣuṇī Ordination in the Mūlasarvāstivāda Tradition

Bhikṣuṇī Jampa Tsedroen and Bhikkhu Anālayo
Academy of World Religions & Center for Buddhist Studies,
University of Hamburg

This article surveys the stipulation on bhikṣuṇī ordination made in the different Vinayas as part of a set of eight principles to be respected (gurudharma), and explores the possibility, indicated by the formulation of the relevant gurudharma, that a legally valid Mūlasarvāstivāda bhikṣuṇī ordination could be conducted by bhikṣus only.

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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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Consequentialism, Agent-Neutrality, and Mahāyāna Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Consequentialism, Agent-Neutrality, and Mahāyāna Ethics

Charles Goodman
Binghamton University

Several Indian Mahāyāna texts express an ethical perspective that has many features in common with Western forms of universalist consequentialism. Śāntideva, in particular, endorses a strong version of agent-neutrality, claims that compassionate agents should violate Buddhist moral commitments when doing so would produce good results, praises radical altruism, uses a critique of the self to support his ethical views, and even offers a reasonably clear general formulation of what we call act-consequentialism. Meanwhile, Asaṅga’s discussions of the motivation behind rules of moral discipline and the permissible reasons for breaking those rules suggests an interesting and complex version of rule-consequentialism. Evidence for features of consequentialism can be found in several Mahāyāna sūtras as well. In reading these sources, interpretations that draw on virtue ethics may not be as helpful as those that understand the texts as committed to various versions of consequentialism.

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Making Suffering Sufferable

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Suffering Made Sufferable: Śāntideva, Dzongkaba, and Modern Therapeutic Approaches to Suffering’s Silver Lining

Daniel Cozort
Dickinson College

Suffering’s positive side was elucidated beautifully by the eighth century Mahāyāna poet Śāntideva in his Bodhicāryavatāra. Dzongkaba Losang Drakpa, the founder of what came to be known as the Gelukba (dge lugs pa) order of Tibetan Buddhism, used Śāntideva’s text as his main source in the chapter on patience in his masterwork, Lam rim Chenmo. In this article I attempt to explicate Śāntideva’s thought by way of the commentary of Dzongkaba. I then consider it in the context of what Ariel Glucklich has called “Sacred Pain”—the myriad ways in which religious people have found meaning in pain. I conclude with some observations about ways in which some Buddhist-inspired or -influenced therapeutic movements such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Positive Psychology are helping contemporary people to reconcile themselves to pain or to discover that it may have positive value.

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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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If Intention Is Karma

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

If Intention Is Karma: A New Approach to the Buddha’s Socio-Political Teachings

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka

I argue in this paper that early Buddhist ethics is one of absolute values and that we can consistently use those absolute values to interpret some early teachings that seemingly show an ethic of context-dependent and negotiable values. My argument is based on the concept of intention as karma, the implications and problems of which I have also discussed.

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Śāntideva on Justified Anger

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Bile & Bodhisattvas: Śāntideva on Justified Anger

Nicolas Bommarito
Brown University

In his famous text the Bodhicaryāvatāra, the 8th century Buddhist philosopher Śāntideva argues that anger towards people who harm us is never justified. The usual reading of this argument rests on drawing similarities between harms caused by persons and those caused by non-persons. After laying out my own interpretation of Śāntideva’s reasoning, I offer some objections to Śāntideva’s claim about the similarity between animate and inanimate causes of harm inspired by contemporary philosophical literature in the West. Following this, I argue that by reading Śāntideva’s argument as practical advice rather than as a philosophical claim about rational coherence, his argument can still have important insights even for those who reject his philosophical reasoning.

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Review: Forest Bodhisattvas and the Formation of the Mahāyāna

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Bodhisattvas of the Forest and the Formation of the Mahāyāna: A Study and Translation of the Rāṣṭrapālaparipṛcchā-sūtra. By Daniel Boucher. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2008, xxiii + 287 pages, ISBN 978-0-8248-2881-3 (cloth), US$54.00.

Reviewed by Alexander Wynne

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Review: Buddhist Philosophy of Religion in India

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Against a Hindu God: Buddhist Philosophy of Religion in India. By Paramil Patil. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009, 334 pages, ISBN: 978-0674033290 (hardcover); US $45.00. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009, xi + 406 pages, ISBN 978-0231142229 (cloth), US $50.00.

Reviewed by Michael D. Nichols

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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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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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Review: Epistemology in South Asian Philosophy of Religion

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Buddhists, Brahmins, and Belief: Epistemology in South Asian Philosophy of Religion. By Dan Arnold. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005, vii + 318 pages, ISBN: 978-0-231-13281-7 (paperback), $24.50 / £14.50, ISBN 0-231-13280-8 (cloth), $52.00 / £30.50.

Reviewed by Roy Tzohar

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Review: Art of Indian Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 7, 2000

Imaging Wisdom: Seeing and Knowing in the Art of Indian Buddhism. By Jacob N. Kinnard. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 1999, xi + 210 pages, ISBN: 0–7007–1083–3 (cloth), US $55.00.

Reviewed by Kevin Trainor

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Review: Women in Tantric Buddhism

ISSN:1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism. By Miranda Shaw. Princeton University Press, 1994, xv, 291 pages, ISBN 0-691-01090-0, $14.95 (paperback).

Reviewed by Roy W. Perrett

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Review: Doctrine of Impermanence

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

The Buddhist Doctrine of Momentariness: A Survey of the Origins and Early Phase of This Doctrine Up to Vasubandhu, Alt- und Neu-Indische Studien Nr. 47. By Alexander von Rospatt. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1995, 285 pages, ISBN 3-515-06528-8.

Reviewed By John Powers

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Review: Consecration of Images and Stūpas

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Consecration of Images and Stūpas in Indo-Tibetan Tantric Buddhism. By Yael Bentor. Brill’s Indological Library Vol. 11. Edited By Johannes Bronkhorst. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996, xxii + 415 pages, ISBN 90-04-10541-7.

Reviewed by Gareth Sparham

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Review: Uses of the Heart Sūtra

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

Elaborations on Emptiness: Uses of the Heart Sūtra. By Donald S Lopez, Jr. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996, xii, 264 pages.

Reviewed by Jay Garfield

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Review: Horrific Figurations of the Feminine

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

Charming Cadavers: Horrific Figurations of the Feminine in Indian Buddhist Hagiographic Literature (Women in Culture and Society Series). By Liz Wilson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, 258 pages, ISBN 0-2269-0054-1, (paperback), $19.95.

Reviewed by Tessa Bartholomeusz

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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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Review: Indo-Tibetan Scholasticism

SSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Buddhism and Language: A Study of Indo-Tibetan Scholasticism. By José Ignacio Cabezón (Foreword by Frank E. Reynolds), SUNY Series, Toward a Comparative Philosophy of Religions, Frank E. Reynolds and David Tracy, editors. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1994, xiii + 299 pages, ISBN 0-7914-1900-2 (paper).

Reviewed by Mark Siderits

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Review: Sexuality in Ancient India

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Sexuality in Ancient India: A Study Based on the Pali Vinayapiṭaka. By L.P.N. Perera. Kelaniya, Sri Lanka: The Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, 1993.

Reviewed by Tessa Bartholomeusz

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Review: Ethics in Early Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Ethics in Early Buddhism. By David J. Kalupahana. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995, ix +171 pages, ISBN: 0-8248-1702-8, US$27.00, cloth.

Reviewed by Peter Harvey

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The Problem of Buddhist Environmental Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 1 1994

Causation and Telos: The Problem of Buddhist Environmental Ethics

Ian Harris
University College of St. Martin

Environmentalist concerns have moved center stage in most major religious traditions of late and Buddhism is no exception to this rule. This paper shows that the canonical writings of Indic Buddhism possess elements that may harmonize with a de facto ecological consciousness. However, their basic attitude towards the causal process drastically reduces the possibility of developing an authentically Buddhist environmental ethic. The classical treatment of causation fails to resolve successfully the tension between symmetry and asymmetry of relations and this has tended to mean that attempts to inject a telos, or sense of purpose, into the world are likely to founder. The agenda of eco-Buddhism is examined in the light of this fact and found wanting.

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