Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


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.

Read article

Aquinas and Dōgen on Poverty and the Religious Life

SSN 1076-9005
Volume 13, 2006

Aquinas and Dōgen on Poverty and the Religious Life

Douglas K. Mikkelson
University of Hawaii at Hilo

Recent efforts to articulate Buddhist ethics have increasingly focused on “Western” ethical systems that possess a “family resemblance” sufficient to serve as a bridge. One promising avenue is the employment of Aristotelian-Thomistic thinking in seeking to understand certain manifestations of Buddhism. More specifically, we can explore how the thinking of Thomas Aquinas may serve to illuminate the moral vision of the Zen Master Dōgen on specific topics, such as that of “poverty and the religious life.” Two texts seem particularly conducive as foci for this approach, namely IIaIIae 186.3 of the Summa Theologiae and the Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki. This modus operandi reveals how Dōgen’s views on poverty and the religious life are significantly similar to, and yet in certain respects distinctively different from, those of Aquinas.

Read article

Two Notions of Poverty in the Pāli Canon

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Two Notions of Poverty in the Pāli Canon

Mavis Fenn
McMaster University

The paper is divided into two sections. The first focuses on an analysis of the Cakkavatti-Sīhanāda Sutta, a sutta that provides the most extensive discussion of poverty as deprivation in the Nikāyas. Poverty in this text is primarily a socio-political issue that effects the spiritual development of all members of society. The second section of the paper focuses on the notion of poverty as simplicity, a notion associated with renouncers who are akiñcana, “without anything,” “lacking possessions.” Central to this section is an analysis of the Aggañña Sutta.

Read article