Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


Review: Gods of Medieval Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Gods of Medieval Japan, Volume 1: The Fluid Pantheon by Bernard Faure. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2015, xii + 496 pages, ISBN 978-0-8248-3933-8 (hardback), $55.00.
Gods of Medieval Japan, Volume 2: Protectors and Predators by Bernard Faure. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2015, x + 512 pages, ISBN 978-0-8248-3931-4 (hardback), $55.00.
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Reviewed by Joseph P. Elacqua

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Review: Japanese Women, Pregnancy Loss, and Modern Rituals of Grieving

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 23, 2016

Narratives of Sorrow and Dignity: Japanese Women, Pregnancy Loss, and Modern Rituals of Grieving. By Bardwell L. Smith. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, xvii + 410 pag-es, ISBN 978-0-19-994213-8 (cloth), $115.00.

Reviewed by Maureen L. Walsh

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Review: Militarism and Buddhism in Modern Asia

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 23, 2016

Buddhism and Violence: Militarism and Buddhism in Modern Asia. Edited by Vladimir Tikhonov and Torkel Brekke. New York: Routledge, 2013, 264 pages, ISBN: 9780415536967 (cloth), $125.00.

Reviewed by Kendall Marchman

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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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Review: Critical Buddhism and Modern Japanese Buddhist Thought

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Critical Buddhism: Engaging with Modern Japanese Buddhist Thought. By James Mark Shields. Farnham, Surrey, and Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2011, ISBN: 978-1-4094-1798-9 (hard-back), $119.95.

Reviewed by Ronald S. Green

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Review: The Princess Nun

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Princess Nun: Bunchi, Buddhist Reform, and Gender in Early Edo Japan. By Gina Cogan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014, xvi+309 pages, ISBN 978-0674491977 (hardback), $49.95.

Reviewed by Febe D. Pamonag

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Review: The Kyoto School

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

The Kyoto School: An Introduction. By Robert E. Carter. Albany: SUNY, 2013, ISBN: 978-1438445427 (paperback), $24.95.

Reviewed by Ilana Maymind

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Review: Innovation and Activism in Contemporary Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Experimental Buddhism: Innovation and Activism in Contemporary Japan. By John K. Nelson. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2013, 292 pages, ISBN: 9780824838980 (paper-back), $32.00.

Reviewed by Erez Joskovich

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Dōgen’s Primer on the Nonmoral Virtues of the Good Person

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Dōgen’s Primer on the Nonmoral Virtues of the Good Person

Douglas K. Mikkelson
University of Hawai’i at Hilo

The Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki provides a good introduction to Dōgen’s ideas about the virtues possessed by “the good person.” His depiction includes, but extends beyond, the conception of a “morally good” human being. This is evident by the number of “nonmoral” virtues that are manifest in the text. Edmund Pincoffs presents a schematization of numerous virtues based on his conception of virtues and vices as dispositional properties that provide ground for preference or avoidance of persons. This schematization seems especially well suited for an exploration and description of the nonmoral virtues that appear in the Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki.

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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: Religion and the Making of Modern East Asia

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Religion and the Making of Modern East Asia. By Thomas David DuBois. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, xii+ 259 pages, ISBN 987-1107400405 (paperback), ISBN 978-1107008090 (cloth) $81.00.

Reviewed by Yueh-Mei Lin

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Review: Purifying Zen

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Purifying Zen: Watsuji Tetsurō’s Shamon Dōgen. Watsuji Tetsurō, translated by Steve Bein. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2011, 174 pages; ISBN 978-0824835569 (Paperback), $24.00.

Reviewed by Anton Luis Sevilla

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Review: Social Dimension of Shin Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Social Dimension of Shin Buddhism. Ugo Dessi, Editor. Leiden: Brill, 2010, 286 pages; ISBN 978-90-04-18653-8 (Cloth), $153.00.

Reviewed by Glenn R. Willis

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Review: Temples, Burial, and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Bonds of the Dead: Temples, Burial, and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism. By Mark Michael Rowe. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011, xv + 258 pages, ISBN 978-0-226-73015-8 (paper), $29.00.

Reviewed by T.O. Benedict

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Review: Zen and War

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Imperial-Way Zen: Ichikawa Hakugen’s Critique and Lingering Questions for Buddhist Ethics. By Christopher Ives. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2009, x + 274 pages, ISBN 978-0-8248-3331-2 (hardcover), US $52.00.

Reviewed by Douglas Ober

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Review: A 1918 Japanese Pilgrimage

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

The 1918 Shikoku Pilgrimage of Takamure Itsue, an English translation of Musume Junreiki by Takamure Itsue. Translated by Susan Tennant. Bowen Island, BC: Bowen Publishing, 2010, 274 pages, ISBN 978-1-45-054075-9 (paper), $16.95.

Reviewed by Ronald S. Green

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Review: Shugendō Now

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Shugendō Now. A film directed by Jean-Marc Abela and produced by Mark P. Mcguire. Montréal: Empower Productions, 2009, 88 minutes, Japanese with narration; English, French, Spanish subtitles and narration, Individual use: CAD $20.00; Public/Educational use: CAD $150.00.

Reviewed by Heather Blair

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Review: The Early Shōtoku Cult in Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Shōtoku: Ethnicity, Ritual, and Violence in the Japanese Buddhist Tradition. By Michael I. Como. New York: Oxford, 2008, 256 pages, ISBN: 978-0195188615 (hardcover), US $45.00.

Reviewed by Mark Dennis

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Review: Monastic Practice in East Asia

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Buddhist Monasticism in East Asia: Places of Practice. Edited by James A. Benn, Lori Meeks, and James Robson. New York: Routledge, 2010, 248 pages, ISBN: 9780415489775 (hardcover), US $135.00.

Reviewed by Pei-Ying Lin

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Human Rights Founded on Buddha-Nature

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Founding Human Rights within Buddhism: Exploring Buddha-Nature as an Ethical Foundation

Anton Luis Sevilla
Ateneo de Manila University

In this article, I hope to suggest (1) a fertile ground for human rights and social ethics within Japanese intellectual history and (2) a possible angle for connecting Dōgen’s ethical views with his views on private religious practice. I begin with a review of the attempts to found the notion of rights within Buddhism. I focus on two well-argued attempts: Damien Keown’s foundation of rights on the Four Noble Truths and individual soteriology and Jay Garfield’s foundation of rights on the compassionate drive to liberate others. I then fuse these two approaches in a single concept: Buddha-nature. I analyze Dōgen’s own view on the practice-realization of Buddha-nature, and the equation of Buddha-nature with being, time, emptiness, and impermanence. I end with tentative suggestions concerning how Dōgen’s particular view on Buddha-nature might affect any social ethics or view of rights that is founded on it.

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Review: Ethics and Society in Contemporary Shin

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Ethics and Society in Contemporary Shin Buddhism. By Ugo Dessi. Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2008, 265 pages, ISBN: 978-3825808150 (cloth), €39.90.

Reviewed by Jeff Wilson

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Suzuki Shōsan’s Mōanjō and The Doctrine of the Mean

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Guiding the Blind Along the Middle Way: A Parallel Reading of Suzuki Shōsan’s Mōanjō and The Doctrine of the Mean

Anton Luis C. Sevilla
Ateneo de Manila University

Japanese intellectual culture is a mélange of many schools of thought—Shinto, many forms of Buddhism, Confucianism, and so on. However, these schools of thought are distinct in approach and focus, and key ideas of one school may even be found to be in contradiction with the key ideas of other schools of thought. Many have deliberately tried, with varying degrees of success, to reconcile these schools of thought, academically, politically, and so forth. But amidst these attempts, one that stands out for its uncontrived naturalness and vitality is that of Zen Master Shōsan.

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Review: Buddhist Hagiography in Early Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Buddhist Hagiography in Early Japan: Images of Compassion in the Gyōki Tradition. By Jonathan Morris Augustine. London and New York: Routledge, 2005, vii + 174 pages, ISBN 0-415-32245-6 (cloth), US $170.00.

Reviewed by Amy Holmes

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Review: Buddhist Propaganda and Etoki Storytelling in Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Explaining Pictures: Buddhist Propaganda and Etoki Storytelling in Japan. By Ikumi Kaminishi. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006, 246 pages, ISBN 0824826973, US $52.00 (cloth).

Reviewed by Pamela Winfield

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Review: Dōgen’s Three Hundred Kōans

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

The True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dōgen’s Three Hundred Kōans. Commentary and Verse by John Daido Loori. Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi and John Daido Loori. Boston: Shambhala, 2005. 472 pages. ISBN 590302427 (cloth).

Reviewed by Gregory Miller

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Zen Social Ethics in Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

What’s Compassion Got to Do with It? Determinants of Zen Social Ethics in Japan

Christopher Ives
Stonehill College

Judging from pronouncements by contemporary Engaged Buddhists, one might conclude that historical expressions of Zen social ethics have rested on the foundation of compassion and the precepts. The de facto systems of social ethics in Japanese Zen, however, have been shaped largely by other epistemological, sociological, and historical factors, and compassion should best be understood as a “theological virtue” that historically has gained specificity from those other factors.

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Conference: Revisioning Karma

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

Papers from the JBE Online conference

on “Revisioning Karma”

 

Honorary Chairman and Convener: Dale Wright
Occidental College, Los Angeles

 

Critical Questions Towards a Naturalized Concept of Karma in Buddhism

Dale Wright
Occidental College

Groundwork for a Metaphysic of Buddhist Morals: A New Analysis of Puñña and Kusala, in Light of Sukka

Martin Adam
University of Victoria

Merit Transfer in Mahāyāna Buddhism

Barbra Clayton
Mt. Allison University

Reflections on Kant and Karma

Bradford Cokelet
Northwestern University

Karma, Rebirth, and Mental Causation

Christian Coseru
College of Charleston

Is the Buddhist Doctrine of Karma Cognitively Meaningful?

James Deitrick
University of Central Arkansas

Valuing Karma: A Critical Concept for Orienting Interdependence with Wisdom, Attentive Mastery and Moral Clarity

Peter Hershock
East-West Center

Karma, Rebirth, and the Problem of Evil

Whitley Kaufman
University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Karma, Character, and Consequentialism

Damien Keown
Goldsmiths College, University of London

Karma in the Later Texts of the Pāli Canon

Jessica Main
McGill University

Karma: Buddhism and the Phenomenology of the Ethical

Eric Nelson
University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Dark and Bright Karma: A New Reading

Abraham Velez
Georgetown University

The Reactionary Role of Karma in 20th Century Japan

Brian Victoria
University of Adelaide

Review: Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Columbian Exposition. By Judith Snodgrass. London and Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. 351 pages. ISBN: 0-8078-5458-1 (paperback); 0-8078-2785-1 (cloth).

Reviewed by Jason Ānanda Josephson

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Review: Sōtō Zen in Tokugawa Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Sōtō Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan.By Duncan Ryūken Williams. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005. xiv + 241 pages. ISBN: 0-691-11928-7.

Reviewed by Steven Heine

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Review: Religion in Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 7, 2000

Practically Religious: Worldly Benefits and the Common Religion of Japan. By Ian Reader and George J. Tanabe, Jr. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998, xii + 303 pages, ISBN: 0–8248–2065–7 (Hardback), ISBN: 0–8248–2090–8 (Paperback), US $45.00 (Hardback), US $22.95 (Paperback).

Reviewed by Fabio Rambelli

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Buddhism and the Morality of Abortion

ISSN:1076–9005
Volume 5 1995

Buddhism and the Morality of Abortion

Michael G. Barnhart
Kingsborough, CUNY

It is quite clear from a variety of sources that abortion has been severely disapproved of in the Buddhist tradition. It is also equally clear that abortion has been tolerated in Buddhist Japan and accommodated under exceptional circumstances by some modern Buddhists in the UṢ. Those sources most often cited that prohibit abortion are Theravādin and ancient. By contrast, Japanese Buddhism as well as the traditions out of which a more lenient approach emerges are more recent and Mahāyāna traditions. Buddhism itself, therefore, speaks with more than one moral voice on this issue, and furthermore, the nature of the moral debate may have important applications for similarly situated others and constitute an enlargement of the repertoire of applicable moral theories and rationales.

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Abortion, Ambiguity, and Exorcism

SSN:1076-9005
Volume 5, 1998

Abortion, Ambiguity, and Exorcism

William R. LaFleur
University of Pennsylvania

In Japan, persons who have had abortions but believe that a fetus has more value than merely disposable matter may act on that belief, most commonly by making a ritual apology to the spiritual aspect of the fetus, referred to as a mizuko or “child of the waters.” R. Zwi Werblowsky wrote a scathing attack on the practice of mizuko kuyô across the board, claiming that it has been nothing more than a scam from beginning to end. And now, in Marketing the Menacing Fetus in Japan, Helen Hardacre has given us a study which, in essence, makes much the same claim. The issues Hardacre raises are important, not just for an understanding of Japanese religion but because of what they may tell us about the state of our own debates in North America. By this I mean not only our debates about abortion but also about religion, especially as expressed in societies different from our own.

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A Shin Critique of Buddhist Ethics

ISSN:1076-9005 
Volume 4 1997

Teleologized “Virtue” or Mere Religious “Character”? A Critique of Buddhist Ethics From the Shin Buddhist Point of View

Stephen J. Lewis and Galen Amstutz

When comparative ethicists consider the question of ethics in Buddhism, they are tempted to implicate conceptions of teleology and virtue from Western philosophy. Such implications cannot apply to Mahāyāna exemplified in the Japanese Shin tradition. Shin is characterized not only by emptiness philosophy but also by its emphasis on spontaneous (tariki) enlightenment; both of these features undercut the notion that Buddhism can ultimately concern an intentional goal. But a teleological or virtue-oriented sensibility is not needed for the purposes of ordinary life. On the contrary, Shin social history has demonstrated that a powerful tradition of practical life based on Buddhist teaching can exist perfectly well without it. Such wisdom manifests itself both socially and at the individual level as a kind of character, if not ethics in the usual sense.

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Masao Abe, Zen, and Social Ethics

ISSN:1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

Masao Abe, Zen Buddhism, and Social Ethics

Daniel Palmer
Purdue University

As the discourse in the West comes to focus more upon social issues, any form of understanding that is to remain alive must be able to respond to such concerns. If Western Buddhism is to survive it must illustrate how it can address these issues. I will argue that Abe recognizes that this has been an area in which Buddhism has been traditionally deficient, but that by reinterpreting several key Buddhist concepts Abe offers a new paradigm of Buddhism that does allow for the possibility of social critique while still retaining the essential insights of traditional Zen Buddhism. In the first section of the paper I will develop the specific nature of the criticisms in relation to the traditional understanding of Buddhist doctrine. In the second section I will show how Abe’s transvaluation of Zen Buddhism in light of his dialogical hermeneutic takes account of these criticisms and develops the resources within Zen thought to deal with them.

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Review: Chōmei’s Hōjōki

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

Hōjōki: Visions of a Torn World by Kamo-no-Chōmei. Translated By Yasuhiko Moriguchi and David Jenkins, with illustrations by Michael Hofmann. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 1996, 93 pages, ISBN 1-8806-5622-1 (paperback), $9.95.

Reviewed by David L. Gardiner

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Review: Japanese Mandalas

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 6, 1999

Japanese Mandalas: Representations of Sacred Geography. By Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998, 227 pages plus 22 color plates and 104 black-and-white illustrations, ISBN: 0-8248-2000-2, US $52.00 (cloth), ISBN: 0-8248-2081-9, US $29.25 (paper).

Reviewed by Ian Harris

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Review: The Zen Poetry Of Dōgen

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

The Zen Poetry Of Dōgen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace. By Steven Heine. Boston: Charles E. Tuttle Co. Inc., 1997, viii + 183 pages, ISBN: 0-8048-3107-6, US $14.95.

Reviewed by Taigen Dan Leighton

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Review: Shin Buddhist Religion and Culture

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Popular Buddhism in Japan: Shin Buddhist Religion and Culture. By Esben Andreasen. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1998, 199 pages, ISBN: 0-8248-2027-4 (cloth), US$39.00, ISBN: 0-8248-2028-2 (paperback), US$22.95.

Reviewed by Charles B. Jones

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Review: Hōnen’s Life and Thought

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Hōnens Buddhismus des Reinen Landes: Reform, Reformation oder Häresie?. By Christoph Kleine. Bern, Berlin, et al.: Peter Lang, 1996, xiii + 427 pages pages, ISBN 3-631-49852-7, DM 108.

Reviewed by Gregor Paul

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Review: Zen at War

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Zen at War. By Brian (Daizen) A. Victoria. New York & Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1997, xii + 228 pages, ISBN 0-8348-0405-0, $19.95.

Reviewed by Fabio Rambelli

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Review: Moral and Ethical Teachings of Zen

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

The Heart of Being: Moral and Ethical Teachings of Zen Buddhism. By John Daido Loori. Boston: Charles E.Tuttle, 1996, 267 pages, ISBN0-8048-3078-9, $16.95.

Reviewed by Damien Keown

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Review: Japanese Buddhism and Comparative Philosophy

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

The Social Self in Zen and American Pragmatism. By Steve Odin. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996. Pp. xvi, 482. ISBN: 0-7914-2492-8 (paperback), $24.95.

Working Emptiness: Toward a Third Reading of Emptiness in Buddhism and Postmodern Thought. By Newman Robert Glass. Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press, 1995. Pp. ix, 146. ISBN: 0-7885-0080-5 (cloth), $38.95; ISBN: 0-7885-0081-3 (paperback), $25.95.

Reviewed by Steven Heine

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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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