Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


A Buddhist Typology of Inherent Values

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

A Buddhist Typology of Inherent Values

Eran Laish
Leipzig University

Intentions and actions are basic elements in Buddhist ethical models. Yet, how are the values of those decided? This article asserts that some of the inherent qualities of lived experience are the basic factors that determine the value of ethical motives and ethical behavior. The examination of Buddhist descriptions of lived experience reveals two complementary types of inherent values—values that accompany individual phenomena and values that indicate structural aspects of human consciousness. Both types manifest certain inherent possibilities of awareness that are necessary for the appearance of ethical values. The first kind of inherent values consists of distinct feelings and volitions, while the second kind includes dualistic and non-dualistic aspects of awareness. By considering these two kinds, it becomes possible to understand how ethical differences are based on distinctions between felt qualities, and how some of these qualities lead to the culmination of the Buddhist path—abiding in non-dual awareness without affective and cognitive afflictions.

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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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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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Does Anātman Rationally Entail Altruism?

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Does Anātman Rationally Entail Altruism? On Bodhicaryāvatāra 8:101-103

Stephen Harris
University of New Mexico

In the eighth chapter of the Bodhicaryāvatāra, the Buddhist philosopher Śāntideva has often been interpreted as offering an argument that accepting the ultimate nonexistence of the self (anātman) rationally entails a commitment to altruism, the view that one should care equally for self and others. In this essay, I consider reconstructions of Śāntideva’s argument by contemporary scholars Paul Williams, Mark Siderits and John Pettit. I argue that all of these various reconfigurations of the argument fail to be convincing. This suggests that, for Madhyamaka Buddhists, an understanding of anātman does not entail acceptance of the Bodhisattva path, but rather is instrumental to achieving it. Second, it suggests the possibility that in these verses, Śāntideva was offering meditational techniques, rather than making an argument for altruism from the premise of anātman.

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Review: Nāgārjuna’s Philosophy

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 7, 2000

Emptiness Appraised: A Critical Study of Nagarjuna’s Philosophy. By David F. Burton. London: Curzon Press, 1999, xvi + 233 pages, ISBN 0-7007-1066-3 (cloth), £40.

Reviewed by Paul J. Griffiths

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