Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


Review: Tracing the Evolution of Esoteric Buddhist Rituals

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 23, 2016

Spells, Images, and Maṇḍalas: Tracing the Evolution of Esoteric Buddhist Rituals. By Koichi Shinohara. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014, xxii + 324 pages, ISBN 978-0-231-16614-0 (hardback), $55.00.

Reviewed by Joseph P. Elacqua

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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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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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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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Review: Milarepa’s Biographies

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Yogin & the Madman: Reading the Biographical Corpus of Tibet’s Great Saint Milarepa. By Andrew Quintman. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014, 336 pages, ISBN 978-0-231-16415-3 (paperback), $35.00 / £24.00; ISBN 978-0-231-16414-6 (cloth), $105.00 / £72.50.

Reviewed by Massimo Rondolino

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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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Review: Theos Bernard, the White Lama

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Theos Bernard, the White Lama: Tibet, Yoga, and American Religious Life. Paul G. Hackett. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012, xxii + 494 pages, ISBN 978-0-231-15886-2 (cloth), $32.95.

Reviewed by David M. DiValerio

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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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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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Review: Violence and Liberation in Tibetan Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Taming of the Demons: Violence and Liberation in Tibetan Buddhism. By Jacob P. Dalton. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011, x + 311 pages, ISBN 978-0-300-18796-0 (paper), $27.50; ISBN 978-0-300-15392-7 (cloth), $40.00.

Reviewed by Sarah F. Haynes

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Review: Tibetan Ritual

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Tibetan Ritual. Edited by José Ignacio Cabezón. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-19-539282-1 (cloth), $29.95.

Reviewed by Holly Gayley

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Review: Contemporary Tantric Practices in Tibet

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Buddhism Beyond the Monastery: Tantric Practices and their Performers in Tibet and the Himalayas. Edited by Sarah Jacoby and Antonio Terrone. Leiden: Brill, 2009, 202 pages, ISBN 978-90-04-17600-3 (cloth), $136.00.

Reviewed by Geoffrey Barstow

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Buddhist and Tantric Perspectives on Causality and Society

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 16, 2009

Buddhist and Tantric Perspectives on Causality and Society

Chris Kang
University of Queensland

This paper examines the articulation of causality from Buddhist and Indian Tantric perspectives, offering a potentially fresh look at this topic using epistemologies and insights outside the dominant Western paradigm. Reclaiming non-Western voices that analyze and intuit causality rooted in multidimensional modes of knowing reveals new possibilities about the nature of reality and enables integral transformative actions for emancipating human suffering. In particular, I examine the genealogy of early Buddhist, Buddhist Tantric, Sāṃkhya, and Hindu Tantric perspectives, with reference to relevant internal philosophical debates, to explicate alternative viewpoints on causality and their implications for society.

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Ethical Implications of Tantric Buddhist Ritual

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

Compassionate Violence? On the Ethical Implications of Tantric Buddhist Ritual

David B. Gray
Santa Clara University

Buddhism is often presented as a non-violent religion that highlights the virtue of universal compassion. However, it does not unequivocally reject the use of violence, and leaves open the possibility that violence may be committed under special circumstances by spiritually realized beings. This paper examines several apologetic defenses for the presence of violent imagery and rituals in tantric Buddhist literature. It will demonstrate that several Buddhist commentators, in advancing the notion of “compassionate violence,” also advanced an ethical double standard insofar as they defended these violent actions as justifiable when performed by Buddhists, but condemned them when performed by non-Buddhists.

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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: Maṇḍala and Landscape

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 6, 1999

Maṇḍala and Landscape. Edited By Alexander W. Macdonald. Delhi: D.K. Printworld / South Asia Books, 1997, ISBN: 8124600600, US $140.00.

Reviewed by Cathy Cantwell

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Review: Peaceful and Wrathful Deities in Tibetan Tantra

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Kar gling zhi khro: A Tantric Buddhist Concept. By Henk Blezer. Leiden: CNWS Publications, Vol. 56, 1997, viii + 249 pages, ISBN 90-73782-85-6.

Reviewed by Robert Mayer

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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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