Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


Review: Progressive and Radical Buddhism in Modern Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Against Harmony: Progressive and Radical Buddhism in Modern Japan. By James Mark Shields. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017, 404 pages, ISBN 978-0-19-066400-8 (hardback), U.S. $99.00.

Reviewed by Christopher Ives

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Shabkar’s Response to Religious Difference

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Rimé Revisited: Shabkar’s Response to Religious Difference

Rachel H. Pang
Davidson College

This article analyzes Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol’s (1781–1851) Tibetan Buddhist response to interreligious and intersectarian difference. While there exist numerous studies in Buddhist ethics that address the Buddhist perspective on contemporary issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and terrorism, there has been considerably less attention paid to Buddhist responses towards religious difference. Moreover, the majority of the research on this topic has been conducted within the context of Buddhist-Christian dialogue. This article examines Shabkar’s non-sectarian ideas on their own terms, within the context of Buddhist thought. I demonstrate the strong visionary, apocalyptic, theological, and soteriological dimensions of Shabkar’s rimé, or “unbiased,” approach to religious diversity. The two main applications of these findings are: (1) they broaden the current academic understanding of rimé from being a sociological phenomenon to a theological one grounded in social and historical particularities; (2) they draw attention to the non-philosophical aspects of Buddhist ethics.

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Ethical Implications of Upāya-Kauśalya

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Ethical Implications of Upāya-Kauśalya: Helping Without Imposing

Kin Cheung
Temple University

Upāya-kauśalya has been examined as a hermeneutical device, a Mahāyānic innovation, and a philosophy of practice. Although the paternalism of upāya-kauśalya employed in the Lotus Sūtra has been analyzed, there is little attention paid to bringing these ethical implications into a practical context. There is a tension between the motivation, even obligation, to help, and the potential dangers of projecting or imposing one’s conception of what is best for others or how best to help. I examine this issue through various parables. I argue that ordinary people can use upāya-kauśalya and that the ethical implications of upāya-kauśalya involve closing two different gaps in knowledge. This has potential applications not just for individuals, but also for organizations like NPOs or NGOs that try to assist large communities.

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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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Everyday Religion and Public Health in Kathmandu

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Puṇya and Pāp in Public Health: Everyday Religion, Material Culture, and Avenues of Buddhist Activism in Urban Kathmandu

Todd Lewis
College of the Holy Cross

In the dense settlements of old Kathmandu city, an urban ecology is fueled by abundant natural resources and sustained by a complex web of predator and prey species, all in a space dominated by human presence and practices. These include everyday activities in temples, roads, and homes that are rooted in Buddhist and Hindu doctrines. Both traditions emphasize non-violence (ahiṃsā) to all living beings, and adherents seek merit (puṇya) daily from feeding some of them. In light of the still chronic outbreaks of diseases like cholera, and especially in light of the threat of future avian-vector epidemics, a new avenue of doctrinal interpretation favoring human intervention might be developed based on the Bodhicaryāvatāra, an important Mahāyāna Buddhist text. In the spirit of “engaged Buddhism,” the discussion concludes with suggestions on how Newar Buddhist teachers today can use their cultural resources to shift their community’s ethical standpoint and take effective actions.

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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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Review: The Religion of Falun Gong

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

The Religion of Falun Gong. By Benjamin Penny. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012, xiii + 262 pages, ISBN: 9780226655017 (cloth), $50.00.

Reviewed by Paul Hedges

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Review: Introduction to Tantra

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Introduction to Tantra: The Transformation of Desire. By Lama Yeshe. Compiled and edited by Jonathan Landaw. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2014, ISBN 978-61429-155-8 (paper-back), $16.95.

Reviewed by Alyson Prude

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Changes in Buddhist Karma

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Escaping the Inescapable: Changes in Buddhist Karma

Jayarava Attwood

Early Buddhist karma is an impersonal moral force that impartially and inevitably causes the consequences of actions to be visited upon the actor, especially determining their afterlife destination. The story of King Ajātasattu in the Pāli Samaññaphala Sutta, where not even the Buddha can intervene to save him, epitomizes the criterion of inescapability. Zoroastrian ethical thought runs along similar lines and may have influenced the early development of Buddhism. However, in the Mahāyāna version of the Samaññaphala Sutta, the simple act of meeting the Buddha reduces or eliminates the consequences of the King’s patricide. In other Mahāyāna texts, the results of actions are routinely avoidable through the performance of religious practices. Ultimately, Buddhists seem to abandon the idea of the inescapability of the results of actions.

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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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Buddhist Self-immolation and Mahāyānist Absolute Altruism, Part Two

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Thresholds of Transcendence: Buddhist Self-immolation and Mahāyānist Absolute Altruism, Part Two

Martin Kovan
University of Melbourne

In China and Tibet, and under the gaze of the global media, the five-year period from February 2009 to February 2014 saw the self-immolations of at least 127 Tibetan Buddhist monks, nuns, and lay-people. An English Tibetan Buddhist monk, then resident in France, joined this number in November 2012, though his self-immolation has been excluded from all accounts of the exile Tibetan and other documenters of the ongoing Tibetan crisis. Underlying the phenomenon of Buddhist self-immolation is a real and interpretive ambiguity between personal, religious (or ritual-transcendental), altruistic, and political suicide, as well as political suicide within the Buddhist sangha specifically. These theoretical distinctions appear opaque not only to (aligned and non-aligned, Tibetan and non-Tibetan) observers, but potentially also to self-immolators themselves, despite their deeply motivated conviction.

Such ambiguity is reflected in the varying historical and current assessments of the practice, also represented by globally significant Buddhist leaders such as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the Vietnamese monk and activist Thích Nhất Hạnh. This essay analyses the symbolic ontology of suicide in these Tibetan Buddhist cases, and offers metaethical and normative accounts of self-immolation as an altruistic-political act in the “global repertoire of contention” in order to clarify its claims for what is a critically urgent issue in Buddhist ethics.

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Recent Buddhist Theories of Free Will

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Recent Buddhist Theories of Free Will: Compatibilism, Incompatibilism, and Beyond

Riccardo Repetti
Kingsborough College, CUNY

This is the fourth article in a four-article series that examines Buddhist responses to the Western philosophical problem of whether free will is compatible with “determinism,” the scientific doctrine of universal lawful causation. The first article focused on “early period” scholarship from the 1970’s, which was primarily compatibilist, that is, of the view that the Buddhist conception of causation is compatible with free will. The second and third articles examined “middle period” incompatibilist and semi-compatibilist scholarship in the remainder of the twentieth century and first part of the twenty-first. The present article examines work published in the past few years. It largely agrees that Buddhism tacitly accepts free will (although it also explores an ultimate perspective from which the issue appears moot), but mostly divides along compatibilist and incompatibilist lines, mirroring Theravāda and Mahāyāna Buddhist perspectives, respectively. Of the writers I emphasize, Gier and Kjellberg articulate both perspectives; Federman and Harvey advocate Theravāda compatibilism; and Wallace argues that although determinism and free will are incompatible, subtle complexities of Mahāyāna Buddhist metaphysics circumvent the free will and determinism dichotomy. Although the present article focuses on these writers, as the culminating article in the series it also draws on and summarizes the other articles in the series, and directs the reader to other recent period works that, due to space constraints, cannot be reviewed here.

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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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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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Rethinking the Precept of Not Taking Money

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Rethinking the Precept of Not Taking Money in Contemporary Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese Buddhist Nunneries

Tzu-Lung Chiu
University of Ghent

According to monastic disciplinary texts, Buddhist monastic members are prohibited from accepting “gold and silver,” and arguably, by extension, any type of money. This rule has given rise to much debate, in the past as well as in the present, particularly between Mahāyāna and Theravāda Buddhist communities. The article explores the results of my multiple-case qualitative study of eleven monastic institutions in Taiwan and Mainland China, and reveals a hitherto under-theorized conflict between Vinaya rules and the bodhisattva ideal, as well as a diversity of opinions on the applicability of the rule against money handling as it has been shaped by socio-cultural contexts, including nuns’ adaptation to the laity’s ethos.

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Buddhist Self-immolation and Mahāyānist Absolute Altruism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Thresholds of Transcendence: Buddhist Self-immolation and Mahāyānist Absolute Altruism, Part One

Martin Kovan
University of Melbourne

In China and Tibet, and under the gaze of the global media, the four-year period from February 2009 to February 2013 saw the self-immolations of at least 110 Tibetan Buddhist monks, nuns and lay-people. Underlying the phenomenon of Buddhist self-immolation is a real and interpretive ambiguity between personal, religious, altruistic and political suicide, and political suicide within the Buddhist saṅgha specifically, itself reflected in the varying historical assessments of the practice and currently given by global Buddhist leaders such as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the Vietnamese monk and activist Thích Nhất Hạnh.

Part One of this essay surveys the textual and theoretical background to the canonical record and commentarial reception of suicide in Pāli Buddhist texts, and the background to self-immolation in the Mahāyāna, and considers how the current Tibetan Buddhist self-immolations relate ethically to that textual tradition. This forms the basis for, in Part Two, understanding them as altruistic-political acts in the global repertoire of contention.

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Śāntideva on Gifts, Altruism, and Poverty

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Compassionate Gift of Vice: Śāntideva on Gifts, Altruism, and Poverty

Amod Lele
Boston University

The Mahāyāna Buddhist thinker Śāntideva tells his audience to give out alcohol, weapons and sex for reasons of Buddhist compassion, though he repeatedly warns of the dangers of all these three. The article shows how Śāntideva resolves this issue: these gifts, and gifts in general, attract their recipients to the virtuous giver, in a way that helps the recipients to become more virtuous in the long run. As a consequence, Śāntideva does recommend the alleviation of poverty, but assigns it a much smaller significance than is usually supposed. His views run counter to many engaged Buddhist discussions of political action, and lend support to the “modernist” interpretation of engaged Buddhist practice.

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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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Buddha’s Maritime Nature

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Buddha’s Maritime Nature: A Case Study in Shambhala Buddhist Environmentalism

Barbra Clayton
Mount Allison University

This paper describes the Buddhist environmental ethic of Windhorse Farm, a Shambhala Buddhist community in Atlantic Canada supported by ecosystem-based sustainable forestry and organic farming. The values, beliefs and motives for this project are described and contextualized within the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, and these results are discussed within the context of the debate in scholarly discussions of environmental Buddhism over whether interdependence or virtues such as compassion and mindfulness are more significant for a Buddhist environmental ethic. The results of this study suggest that both areteic features and the metaphysical position of interdependence play key roles in the Shambhala approach to environmentalism. Results also suggest that the Shambhala environmental ethic defies the theoretical demand for a fact/value distinction, and that this case study may indicate why Buddhist traditions tend to lack systematic treatments of ethics.

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Resources for Buddhist Environmental Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Resources for Buddhist Environmental Ethics

Christopher Ives
Stonehill College

In recent decades Buddhists have been turning their attention to environmental problems. To date, however, no one has formulated a systematic Buddhist environmental ethic, and critics have highlighted a number of weak points in Buddhist arguments thus far about environmental issues. Nevertheless, Buddhism does provide resources for constructing an environmental ethic. This essay takes stock of what appear to be the most significant of those resources, including the Buddhist anthropology, the tradition’s virtue ethic, elements in Buddhist epistemologies, doctrines that make it possible to determine the relative value of things, the Four Noble Truths as an analytical framework, and bases for action if not activism.

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Mahāyāna Ethics and American Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Mahāyāna Ethics and American Buddhism: Subtle Solutions or Creative Perversions?

Charles S. Prebish
Pennsylvania State University & Utah State University (Emeritus)

“Mahāyāna Ethics and American Buddhism: Subtle Solutions or Creative Perversions?” initially explores the notion of two distinctly different forms of upāya, first presented by Damien Keown in his 1992 volume The Nature of Buddhist Ethics, in which one form of skill-in-means is available only to bodhisattvas prior to stage seven of the bodhisattva’s path and requires adherence to all proper ethical guidelines, while the second form of upāya is applicable to bodhisattvas at stage seven and beyond, and allows them to ignore any and all ethical guidelines in their attempts to alleviate suffering. This distinctly Mahāyāna interpretation of upāya is used to examine the presumably scandalous behavior of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche and Richard Baker, Rōshi, two of the most popular and controversial figures in American Buddhism. The article concludes that we can at least infer that applied in the proper fashion, by accomplished teachers, the activities allowed by upāya do present possibly subtle explanations of seemingly inappropriate behaviors. On the other hand, if abused by less realized beings, we must recognize these acts as merely creative perversions of a noble ethical heritage.

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A Determinist Deflation of the Free Will Problem

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Metaphysics of No-Self: A Determinist Deflation of the Free Will Problem

Vishnu Sridharan

For over two millennia, the free will problem has proven intractable to philosophers, scientists, and lay people alike. However, Buddhism offers us unique insight into how, when, and why human agency matters to us. In his 2009 book, Consequences of Compassion, Charles Goodman argues that the ultimate nonexistence of the self supports the ultimate nonexistence of free will. Recently in this journal, Riccardo Repetti has critiqued Goodman’s view and made the case that free will does, in fact, ultimately exist. This article first illustrates how Repetti’s view of the self is, actually, entirely consistent with Goodman’s. It goes on to argue that Repetti misconstrues elements of hard determinism as entailing that our wills have no influence on final outcomes. Lastly, it shows how, if Goodman and Repetti are in agreement on the ultimate nonexistence of the self, as well as the causal efficacy of the will, their disagreement about the ultimate existence of free will may be inconsequential.

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The Revival of the Bhikkhunī Order and the Decline of the Sāsana

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Revival of the Bhikkhunī Order and the Decline of the Sāsana

Bhikkhu Anālayo
Center for Buddhist Studies, University of Hamburg
Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taiwan

In this article I study the revival of the bhikkhunī order in the Theravāda traditions and its supposed relation to a decline of the Buddha’s dispensation.

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Vegetarianism in Tibet

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Buddhism Between Abstinence and Indulgence: Vegetarianism in the Life and Works of Jigmé Lingpa

Geoffrey Barstow
Otterbein University

Tibetan Buddhism idealizes the practice of compassion, the drive to relieve the suffering of others, including animals. At the same time, however, meat is a standard part of the Tibetan diet, and abandoning it is widely understood to be difficult. This tension between the ethical problems of a meat based diet and the difficulty of vegetarianism has not been lost on Tibetan religious leaders, including the eighteenth century master Jigmé Lingpa. Jigmé Lingpa argues repeatedly that meat is a sinful food, incompatible with a compassionate mindset. At the same time, however, he acknowledges the difficulties of vegetarianism, and refuses to mandate vegetarianism among his students. Instead, he offers a variety of practices that can ameliorate the inherent negativity of eating meat. By so doing, Jigmé Lingpa offers his students a chance to continue cultivating compassion without having to completely abandon meat.

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Tsongkhapa on Choice and Emotions

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Emotions, Ethics, and Choice: Lessons from Tsongkhapa

Emily McRae
University of Oklahoma

This paper explores the degree to which we can exercise choice over our emotional experiences and emotional dispositions. I argue that we can choose our emotions in the sense that we can intentionally intervene in them. To show this, I draw on the mind training practices advocated by the 14th century Tibetan Buddhist yogin and philosopher Tsongkhapa (tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa). I argue that his analysis shows that successful intervention in a negative emotional experience depends on at least four factors: the intensity of the emotional experience, one’s ability to pay attention to the workings of one’s mind and body, knowledge of intervention practices, and insight into the nature of emotions. I argue that this makes sense of Tsongkhapa’s seemingly contradictory claims that the meditator can and should control (and eventually abandon) her anger and desire to harm others and that harmdoers are “servants to their afflictions.”

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A Reexamination of Buddhist Teachings on Female Inferiority

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Right View, Red Rust, and White Bones: A Reexamination of Buddhist Teachings on Female Inferiority

Allison A. Goodwin
College of Liberal Arts
National Taiwan University

Hundreds of psychological and social studies show that negative expectations and concepts of self and others, and discrimination based on the idea that a particular group is inferior to another, adversely affect those who discriminate as well as those who are subject to discrimination. This article argues that both genders are harmed by negative Buddhist teachings about women and by discriminatory rules that limit their authority, rights, activities, and status within Buddhist institutions. Śākyamuni Buddha’s instructions in the Tripiṭaka for evaluating spiritual teachings indicate that because such views and practices have been proven to lead to harm, Buddhists should conclude that they are not the True Dharma and should abandon them.

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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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A Cross-Tradition Exchange Between Taiwan and Sri Lanka

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

A Cross-Tradition Exchange Between Taiwan and Sri Lanka

Wei-Yi Cheng
Hsuan Chuang University

This paper uses as an example an alms-offering ceremony that took place on October 5, 2010 to illustrate cross-tradition exchanges between Asian Buddhists of different geographic locations. This ceremony had been intended to give alms to all of the bhikkhunīs in Sri Lanka and was thus itself noteworthy. However, the attention of this paper is on the two main players behind this ceremony. One is a Sri Lankan monk who has been a long term Theravāda missionary in Mahāyāna Taiwan, and the other is a Taiwanese nunnery which has not limited its works to Taiwan. This paper wishes to shed light on cross-tradition exchanges among Asian Buddhists.

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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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Authentic Love and Compassion

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

No Real Protection without Authentic Love and Compassion

John Makransky
Boston College

The focus of modern technocratic societies on material means for well being tends to ignore the significance of motivation: What sort of motive force drives the social policies and development strategies of our societies, and how does that affect the outcome of our endeavors to establish social stability and well-being? This paper will draw upon teachings from the Ornament of the Mahāyāna Scriptures (Mahāyāna-sūtra-alaṃkāra, ascribed to Maitreya circa the fourth century CE), teachings that focus on the motive power of boundless love and what happens where it is lacking. I will try to apply insights from that text to contemporary problems of social fragmentation and violence.

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AAR Panel: Revisioning Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Opening Statement

Charles Prebish

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Cutting the Roots of Virtue

Daniel Cozort

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Buddhism and Suicide: The Case of Channa

Damien Keown

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Ethical Particularism in Theravāda Buddhism

Charles Hallisey

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Are There Seventeen Mahāyāna Ethics?

David W. Chappell

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Response: Visions and Revisions in Buddhist Ethics

Christopher Ives

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A Buddhist Ethic Without Karmic Rebirth?

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 1 1994

A Buddhist Ethic Without Karmic Rebirth?

Winston L. King
Vanderbilt University

Is a viable and authentic Buddhist ethic possible without the prospect of rebirth governed by one’s karmic past? This paper explores traditional and contemporary views on karma with a view to determining the importance of this doctrine for practical ethics in the West. The Theravāda emphasis on the personal nature of karma is discussed first, followed by a consideration of the evolution of a social dimension to the doctrine in the Mahāyāna. The latter development is attributed to the twin influences of the Bodhisattva ideal and the metaphysics of Nāgārjuna and Hua Yen. Following this survey of traditional perspectives, attention is turned for the greater part of the paper to a consideration of the relevance of the notion of karmic rebirth for Buddhist ethics in the West. The notion of “social kamma” advanced by Ken Jones in The Social Face of Buddhism is given critical consideration. The conclusion is that a doctrine of karmic rebirth is not essential to a viable and authentic Buddhist ethic in the West. Is a viable and authentic Buddhist ethic possible without the prospect of rebirth governed by one’s karmic past?

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