Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


Canonical Exegesis in the Theravāda Vinaya

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Canonical Exegesis in the Theravāda Vinaya

Bhikkhu Brahmāli
Bodhinyana Monastery
Bhikkhu Anālayo
University of Hamburg

In the present paper the two authors examine dimensions of the canonical exegesis found embedded within the text of the Theravāda Vinaya. In part one, Bhikkhu Anālayo examines the word-commentary on the rules found in the Suttavibhaṅga. In part two, Bhikkhu Brahmāli takes up the function of narrative portions in the Khandhakas.

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Ways of Forsaking the Order According to the Early Vinaya

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Quitting the Dhamma: The Ways of Forsaking the Order According to the Early Vinaya

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya

In this paper, I argue that in the early Vinaya, contrary to the commentarial tradition: (1) two ways of forsaking the Order, equally valid, co-exist; and (2) nuns who have left the Order may be re-ordained without guilt.

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Can Animals Understand the Dharma?

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Dharma Dogs: Can Animals Understand the Dharma? Textual and Ethnographic Considerations

James Stewart
University of Tasmania

Pāli textual sources occasionally mention the existence of unusual animals with an aptitude for the Buddha’s dharma. In the Jātaka, clever animals do good deeds and are thus reborn in better circumstances. In the Vinaya, the Buddha declares to a serpent that he should observe Buddhist holy days so he can achieve a human rebirth. But can animals develop spiritually? Can they move towards enlightenment? In this article I will be examining textual and ethnographic accounts of whether animals can hear and understand the dharma. Using ethnographic research conducted in Sri Lanka, I will show that although animals are thought to passively benefit from being in proximity to dharma institutions, there seems to be agreement amongst the monks interviewed that animals cannot truly understand the dharma and therefore cannot practice it. Animals are therefore severely hampered in their spiritual advancement. However, these ethnographic and textual findings do indicate that passively listening to dharma preaching, whether it is understood or not, has spiritually productive consequences.

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Is Compassionate Killing Psychologically Impossible?

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 23, 2016

On Compassionate Killing and the Abhidhamma’s “Psychological Ethics”

Damien Keown
University of London Goldsmiths

Is compassionate killing really psychologically impossible, as the Abhidhamma claims? Previously I discussed a Vinaya case that seemed to show the contrary. Reviewing my conclusions in the light of commentarial literature, Rupert Gethin disagreed and restated the Abhidhamma position that killing can never be motivated by compassion. This paper supports my original conclusions and argues further that the Vinaya case reveals underlying problems with the Abhidhamma’s “psychological ethics.”

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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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The Going Forth of Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 23, 2016

The Going Forth of Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī in T 60

Bhikkhu Anālayo
University of Hamburg

In what follows I translate a discourse preserved as an individual translation in the Taishō edition under entry number 60, which reports the going forth of Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī. Following that is a discussion concerning the different attitudes toward women that emerge from this discourse and a comparison to the current setting in Thailand.

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Review: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Birth of Insight: meditation, modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw. By Erik Braun. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013, xvi + 257, ISBN 13: 978-0-226-00080-0 (cloth), US $45.00, ISBN 13: 978-0-226-00094-7 (e-book), US $7.00 to $36.00.

Reviewed by Douglas Ober

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The Cullavagga on Bhikkhunī Ordination

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Cullavagga on Bhikkhunī Ordination

Bhikkhu Anālayo
University of Hamburg

With this paper I examine the narrative that in the Cullavagga of the Theravāda Vinaya forms the background to the different rules on bhikkhunī ordination, alternating between translations of the respective portions from the original Pāli and discussions of their implications. An appendix to the paper briefly discusses the term paṇḍaka.

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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 Eco-Buddhism of Marie Byles

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Eco-Buddhism of Marie Byles

Peggy James
University of Tasmania

Marie Beuzeville Byles (1900–1979) was a key figure in the historical development of Buddhism in Australia, and the nation’s conservation movement. From the 1940s she began to develop an eco-Buddhist worldview and Buddhist environmental ethic that she applied in her day-to-day conservation activities and articulated over the course of four books on Buddhism and dozens of published articles. She is recognized in Australia for her Buddhist environmental thought, the influence that her ideas had in a key environmental debate of her day, and her international profile as a Buddhist. Most histories of modern eco-Buddhism, however, do not mention Byles’s work, and there has thus far been little scholarly analysis of her writings. This paper examines Byles’s eco-Buddhist ideas and activities in detail, and assesses the historical significance of her contribution.

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Thailand’s Mae Chis and the Global Women’s Ordination Movement

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Becoming Bhikkhunī? Mae Chis and the Global Women’s Ordination Movement

Lisa J. Battaglia
Samford University

Women’s full ordination as Buddhist nuns (Pāli: bhikkhunī, Sanskrit: bhikṣuṇī) has been a contested issue across Buddhist traditions and historical periods. Today, there is a global movement to secure women’s full participation in Buddhist monastic institutions. The present study examines this “bhikkhunī movement” in Thailand from the perspective of mae chis, Thai Buddhist female renunciates who abide by eight precepts yet do not have full ordination or ordination lineage. Employing an anthropological approach informed by postcolonial critical theory, my research reveals that mae chis, women who lead a Buddhist monastic lifestyle characterized by celibate practice and spiritual discipline, are not, on the whole, eager to relinquish their present status, fight against the existing socio-religious order, or pursue bhikkhunī ordination. A critical-empathic consideration of mae chis’ apparent illiberal subjectivities regarding gender hierarchy, female renunciant identity, and women’s liberation brings to light goals and strategies of the global bhikkhunī movement that do not necessarily resonate with the motivations, aims or cultural sensibilities of the Thai white-robed female renunciates.

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The Role of Deterrence in Buddhist Peace-building

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

The Role of Deterrence in Buddhist Peace-building

Damien Keown
University of London, Goldsmiths

This article proposes that military deterrence can be a legitimate Buddhist strategy for peace. It suggests that such a strategy can provide a “middle way” between the extremes of victory and defeat. Drawing on evidence from the Pāli canon, notably the concept of the Cakkavatti, it argues that the Buddha did not object to kingship, armies or military service, and that military deterrence is a valid means to achieve the social and political stability Buddhism values.

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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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Bhikkhunī Academy: A Case of Cross-Tradition Exchange

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Bhikkhunī Academy at Manelwatta Temple: A Case of Cross-Tradition Exchange

Cheng Wei-yi
Hsuan Chuang University

This article is the result of an investigation continued from an earlier article on an exchange between Buddhists in Taiwan and Sri Lanka (“A Cross-Tradition Exchange Between Taiwan and Sri Lanka,” Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 18, 2011). In that article, I investigated the exchange between a Mahāyāna Taiwanese nunnery and a Theravāda Sri Lankan missionary monk. After the initial exchange, described in the 2011 article, a more permanent institute for the education of Sri Lankan Buddhist nuns has been established. This article describes the cross-tradition exchange behind the founding of the educational institute and its implication for exchanges across different Buddhist traditions in Asia.

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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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Act and Result in Nikāyan Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Act and Result in Nikāyan Ethics

Stephen Evans

Scholars continue to debate the ethical priority of act versus result in Buddhist ethics. The present essay looks at the issue as an approach to exploring the connection between act and karmic yield: Why there should be such a connection at all? The priority question was not asked in the Nikāyas (or commentaries) and it seems to have been the same thing to say that an act was good and that it had happy karmic yield, suggesting a kind of identity between the two. Given the necessity and specificity of the connection—the yield must accrue and must accrue for this person—and the analogical resemblance between act and karmic yield, a causal explanation seems unsatisfactory. Suspending such assumptions, the connection appears simply as an indissoluble unity. It is hypothesized here that the unity is grounded in a primordial cosmic order, which I call the “sacral dimension,” conformity to which is by definition right and of necessity beneficial, violation of which is by definition wrong and of necessity harmful. Evidence for belief in such an order is found in the Nikāyas and supporting similarities noted in the Upaniṣads.

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Female Monastic Healing and Midwifery

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Female Monastic Healing and Midwifery: A View from the Vinaya Tradition

Amy Paris Langenberg
Eckerd College

Monastic lawyers who formulated the various classical Indian Buddhist Vinaya collections actively promoted the care of the sick within monastery walls and treated illness as a topic of great importance and relevance for monks and nuns, but also mandated that monastics should exercise caution with respect to practicing the healing arts and provide medical care to lay people only on a restricted basis. A closer examination of Vinaya sources shows that this ambivalence is gendered in interesting ways. The Vinaya lawyers regulated nuns’s involvement in the healing arts, and other types of service, with special care, suggesting that nuns were more likely than monks to take up community work, especially the work of healing. This study attempts to sort out the subtleties of Vinaya attitudes towards the public (as opposed to internal monastic) practice of medicine by nuns, suggesting that social constraints forced laywomen and nuns into relationships of collusion and mutual need and created a situation in which nuns were more likely than their male counterparts to engage in the healing arts. A female monastic ethic emphasizing reciprocity and mutual obligation made it doubly unlikely that Buddhist nuns would turn away from the medical needs of laywomen. Thus, a complex combination of factors accounts for the disproportionate focus on nuns in Vinaya prohibitions regarding the practice of the healing arts.

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Karma and Female Birth

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Karma and Female Birth

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

With the present paper I examine the notion that birth as a woman is the result of bad karma based on selected canonical and post-canonical Buddhist texts.

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Affective Dimensions of the Sri Lankan Bhikkhunī Revival

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

“We Love Our Nuns”: Affective Dimensions of the Sri Lankan Bhikkhunī Revival

Susanne Mrozik
Mount Holyoke College

In this paper I examine lay responses to the Sri Lankan bhikkhunī revival of the late 1990s. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted between 2010 and 2012, I argue that laity have very different concerns than do the scholars, activists, government officials, and monastic authorities engaged in public debate over the scriptural validity of the controversial revival. The primary concern of laity is whether or not they can get their religious needs met at their local bhikkhunī temple, not whether or not the bhikkhunī revival conforms to Theravāda monastic regulations (Vinaya). Taking a rural farming village as a case study, I focus particular attention on the affective ties between laity and nuns, demonstrating that laity in this village express their support for the bhikkhunī revival in the language of love (Sinhala: ādayara, ādare). I analyze what laity mean by the word “love” in the context of lay-nun relationships, and what this can tell us about the larger dynamics of the Sri Lankan bhikkhunī revival.

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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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Some Problems with Particularism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Some Problems with Particularism

Damien Keown
Goldsmiths College, University of London

This article suggests that due to a restricted understanding of the nature and scope of ethical theory, particularism discounts prematurely the possibility of a metatheory of Buddhist ethics. The textual evidence presented in support of particularism is reconsidered and shown to be consistent with a metatheoretical reading. It is argued that writers who have adopted a particularist approach based on W. D. Ross’s “Principalism”—such as Tessa Bartholomeusz in her study of just war ideology in Sri Lanka—have failed to give a satisfactory analysis of the moral dilemmas they have identified. Although particularism rightly draws attention to stories as important sources of moral data, it fails to disprove that the diversity of such evidence can be explained by a single comprehensive theory.

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Buddhist Reflections on “Consumer” and “Consumerism”

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Buddhist Reflections on “Consumer” and “Consumerism”

Peter Harvey
University of Sunderland

This article starts with a characterization of “consumerism” and the idea of “the consumer.” It then explores Buddhist attitudes on wealth and “Buddhist economics” before drawing on these to develop a critical assessment of consumerism as an ineffective and wasteful route to human happiness.

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The Legality of Bhikkhunī Ordination

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Legality of Bhikkhunī Ordination

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

This paper examines the legal validity of the revival of the Theravāda bhikkhunī ordination that has had the 1998 Bodhgayā ordinations as its starting point.

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Review: Colonialism and Modernity in Sri Lanka

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Locations of Buddhism: Colonialism and Modernity in Sri Lanka. By Anne M. Blackburn. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010, xxii + 237 pages, ISBN-13 978-0-226-05 507-7 (cloth); ISBN-10 0-226-05 507-8 (cloth), $45.00.

Reviewed by Nathan McGovern

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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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Review: Buddhism, Wealth, and the Dhammakāya Temple

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Nirvana for Sale?: Buddhism, Wealth, and the Dhammakāya Temple in Contemporary Thailand. By Rachelle M. Scott. Albany: SUNY Press, 2009, xiii + 242 pages, ISBN 978-1-4384-2784-3 (paperback), $29.95, ISBN 978-1-4384-2783-6 (hardcover).

Reviewed by Jordan Johnson

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Bad Nun

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Bad Nun: Thullanandā in Pāli Canonical and Commentarial Sources

Reiko Ohnuma
Dartmouth College

In Pāli literature, Thullanandā is well known for being a “bad nun”—a nun whose persistent bad behavior is directly responsible for the promulgation of more rules of the Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha than any other individually named nun. Yet these very same sources also describe Thullanandā in significantly more positive terms—as a highly learned nun, an excellent preacher, and one who enjoys significant support among the laity. In this article, I analyze the Pāli traditions surrounding Thullanandā. I argue that her portrayal is quite complex in nature and often extends beyond herself as an individual to suggest larger implications for the nature of monastic life and monastic discipline. In addition, once Thullanandā is labeled as a “bad nun,” she becomes a useful symbolic resource for giving voice to various issues that concerned the early sangha. In both ways, Thullanandā reveals herself to be far more than just a “bad nun.”

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Intellectual Property in Early Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Intellectual Property in Early Buddhism: A Legal and Cultural Perspective

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya

In this paper, I examine the modern concepts of intellectual property and account for their significance in monastic law and culture of early Buddhism. As a result, I have come to the following conclusions: (1) the infringement of copyrights, patents, and trademarks does not amount to theft as far as Theravādin Vinaya is concerned; (2) because a trademark infringement involves telling a deliberate lie, it entails an offense of expiation (pācittiya), but I cannot find any Vinaya rule which is transgressed by copyright and patent infringements; and (3) although the Buddha recognized the right to intellectual credit, commentarial interpretations have led some traditional circles to maintain that intellectual credit can be transferred to someone else.

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Western Interpretation of the Five Niyāmas as Laws of Nature

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

The Five Niyāmas as Laws of Nature: an Assessment of Modern Western Interpretations of Theravāda Buddhist Doctrine

Dhivan Thomas Jones
The Open University, UK

The doctrine of five niyāmas, or “orders of nature,” was introduced to Westerners by Mrs. Rhys Davids in her Buddhism of 1912. She writes that the list derives from Buddhaghosa’s commentaries, and that it synthesizes information from the piṭakas regarding cosmic order. Several Buddhist writers have taken up her exposition to present the Buddha’s teaching, including that of karma, as compatible with modern science. However, a close reading of the sources for the five niyāmas shows that they do not mean what Mrs. Rhys Davids says they mean. In their historical context they merely constitute a list of five ways in which things necessarily happen. Nevertheless, the value of her work is that she succeeded in presenting the Buddhist doctrine of dependent arising (paṭicca-samuppāda) as equivalent to Western scientific explanations of events. In conclusion, Western Buddhism, in need of a worked-out presentation of paṭicca-samuppāda, embraced her interpretation of the five niyāmas despite its inaccuracies.

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Possible Misunderstandings in Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Ethical Confusion: Possible Misunderstandings in Buddhist Ethics

Stephen A. Evans

The running debate whether or not puñña and kusala refer to the same class of actions evinces a lack of clarity over the meaning of puñña, accompanied by unwarranted assumptions about motivation and by a tendency to conflate “karmic” results with what we would today consider ordinary consequences, that is, roughly, those accruing through material, social or psychological processes. The present paper reviews the contributions of Keown, Velez de Cea, and Adam to the discussion, then argues that in the Nikāyas puñña” almost always refers to the force of goodness generated by certain actions and issuing in pleasant karmic results, rather than to a class of actions; that in spite of the Buddhist belief that puñña is gained, such actions are not typically motivated by craving; and that conflating karmic results with ordinary consequences hampers our ability to understand Buddhist ethics. It is suggested that questions about the relations among the cluster of concepts that make up the mythology of kamma and vipāka, and their relationship to what we call morality or ethics, be asked anew.

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Esoteric Teaching of Wat Phra Dhammakāya

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Esoteric Teaching of Wat Phra Dhammakāya

Mano Mettanando Laohavanich
Pridi Banomyong International College,
Thammasat University

Thailand’s controversial Wat Phra Dhammakāya has grown exponentially. In just three decades, it has come to have millions of followers in and outside of Thailand and over forty branches overseas. The esoteric teaching of meditation taught by the leaders of the community has inspired thousands of young men and women from various universities to sacrifice their lives to serve their Master, something that has never been seen before in Thailand or elsewhere in the Theravāda world. What is the nature of this esoteric teaching? Why is it so appealing to these young minds? These questions are discussed and analyzed by the author, who was one of Wat Phra Dhammakāya’s founding members.

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Review: Modern Buddhist Conjunctures in Myanmar

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Modern Buddhist Conjunctures in Myanmar: Cultural Narratives, Colonial Legacies, and Civil Society. By Juliane Schober. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011, 190 pages, ISBN 978-0824833824 (pbk), $49.00.

Reviewed by Kelly Meister

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Vinaya Narrative and the Promulgation of the Rule on Celibacy: the Tibetan Version

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

The Story of Sudinna in the Tibetan Translation of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya

Giuliana Martini
Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taiwan

This article, a companion to the study of the narrative that according to the canonical Vinaya accounts led to the promulgation of the rule on celibacy for Buddhist monks (first pārājika) published by Bhikkhu Anālayo in the same issue of the Journal of Buddhist Ethics, offers an annotated translation of the narrative as preserved in the Tibetan translation of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya (’Dul ba), in comparison with its Chinese parallel.

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Vinaya Narrative and the Promulgation of the Rule on Celibacy

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

The Case of Sudinna: On the Function of Vinaya Narrative, Based on a Comparative Study of the Background Narration to the First Pārājika Rule

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

In this article I study the tale that according to the canonical Vinaya accounts led to the promulgation of the rule on celibacy for Buddhist monks, using this as an example to understand the function of Vinaya narrative.

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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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The Burmese Alms-Boycott

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

The Burmese Alms-Boycott: Theory and Practice of the Pattanikujjana in Buddhist Non-Violent Resistance

Martin Kovan
University of Melbourne

This essay presents a general and critical historical survey of the Burmese Buddhist alms-boycott (pattanikujjana) between 1990 and 2007. It details the Pāli textual and ethical constitution of the boycott and its instantiation in modern Burmese history, particularly the Saffron Revolution of 2007. It also suggests a metaethical reading that considers Buddhist metaphysics as constitutive of that conflict. Non-violent resistance is contextualized as a soteriologically transcendent (“nibbanic”) project in the common life of believing Buddhists—even those who, military regime and martyred monastics alike, defend a fidelity to Theravāda Buddhism from dual divides of a political and humanistic fence.

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Review: Prebish, Modern Dharma Pioneer

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

An American Buddhist Life: Memoirs of a Modern Dharma Pioneer. By Charles S. Prebish. Toronto: Sumeru, 2011, 266 pages, ISBN 978-1-896559-09-4 (pbk), $24.95 US/CAD; £17.50.

Reviewed by Nicole Heather Libin

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Founding the Buddhist Order of Nuns

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Mahāpajāpatī’s Going Forth in the Madhyama-āgama

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

The present article provides an annotated translation of the Madhyama-āgama account of the founding of the Buddhist order of nuns, followed by a discussion of some of its significant aspects, which open new perspectives on the way this event is presented in the canonical scriptures.

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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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Strategies for Buddhist Environmentalism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

The Lorax Wears Saffron: Toward a Buddhist Environmentalism

Seth Devere Clippard
Arizona State University

This article argues for the reorientation of eco-Buddhist discourse from a focus on establishing textual justifications of what Buddhist environmental ethics says towards a discourse in which Buddhist rhetoric and environmental practice are intimately linked through specific communal encounters. The article first identifies and assesses two different strategies used by advocates of Buddhist environmentalism in Thailand, one being textual and the other practical. Then, after laying out the deficiencies of the textual strategy, the article argues that the practical strategy offers a more meaningful basis for a discourse of Buddhist environmental concern—one that accounts for the differences in Buddhist communities but does not discount the importance of key Buddhist concepts. This article will suggest that a rhetorical interpretation of environmental practices offers the most effective means of articulating the ethical foundations of religious environmentalism.

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Review: A Virtues Approach to Environmental Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Environmental Ethics in Buddhism: A Virtues Approach. By Pragati Sahni. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2007, 224 pages, ISBN: 978-0415396794 (cloth), US $160.00.

Reviewed by Deepa Nag Haksar

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Review: Emotion in Sri Lankan Monastic Culture

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Attracting the Heart: Social Relations and the Aesthetics of Emotion in Sri Lankan Monastic Culture. By Jeffrey Samuels. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2010, xxx + 167 pages, ISBN: 978-0824833855 (cloth), US $36.00.

Reviewed by Mavis L. Fenn

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The Buddha and the Māgadha-Vajjī War

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

The Buddha and the Māgadha-Vajjī War

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya

According to an account recorded in Mahāparinibbānasutta, the Buddha had to meet a royal minister named Vassakāra when King Ajātasattu ordered the latter to visit the Buddha and inform him about the king’s plan to subdue the Vajjīs. After hearing Vassakāra, the Buddha spoke on seven Conditions of Welfare (satta aparihāniyā dhammā), which would ensure the prosperity of the Vajjīs as long as its citizens observed them. Vassakāra shrewdly inferred from the Buddha’s discourse how to defeat the Vajjī people and later actually forced them into submission. Regarding that event, there are some perplexing questions:

  1. Why did King Ajātasattu choose to consult a wandering ascetic on a significant matter of state like fighting a war?
  2. Vassakāra discerned how to defeat the Vajjīs from the Buddha’s exposition of the Seven Conditions of Welfare. So did the Buddha intend to help Ajātasattu defeat the Vajjīs? If not, what was his purpose in expounding the seven Conditions of Welfare to Vassakāra?
  3. If the Buddha really did not accept any kind of violence, as the tradition would have it, why did he not openly speak against it?

This paper will attempt to answer these questions and will argue, in the conclusion, that this event shows the Buddha’s disapproving attitude toward a political role of the Buddhist Order.

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Noviciation in Theravādin Monasticism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Tithiyaparivāsa vis-à-vis Noviciation in Theravādin Monasticism

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya

Tithiyaparivāsais a particular type of probation in Theravādin monasticism that former ascetics of certain heretic groups must undergo if they wish to gain admission to the Buddhist Order. In the extant probation procedure as found in the Pāli Vinaya tradition, there is no explicit accounting for the stage of novicehood. Why? This paper attempts to answer that question and in the process discovers an unexpected insight into the legally ambiguous status of noviciation.

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Paternalist Deception in the Lotus Sūtra

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Paternalist Deception in the Lotus Sūtra:
A Normative Assessment

Charles A. Goodman
Binghamton University

The Lotus Sūtra repeatedly asserts the moral permissibility, in certain circumstances, of deceiving others for their own benefit. The examples it uses to illustrate this view have the features of weak paternalism, but the real-world applications it endorses would today be considered strong paternalism. We can explain this puzzling feature of the text by noting that according to Mahāyāna Buddhists, normal, ordinary people are so irrational that they are relevantly similar to the insane. Kant’s determined anti-paternalism, by contrast, relies on an obligation to see others as rational, which can be read in several ways. Recent work in psychology provides support for the Lotus Sūtra’s philosophical anthropology while undermining the plausibility of Kant’s version. But this result does not necessarily lead to an endorsement of political paternalism, since politicians are not qualified to wield such power. Some spiritual teachers, however, may be morally permitted to benefit their students by deceiving them.

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Early Buddhist Attitudes Towards Nuns

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Attitudes Towards Nuns: A Case Study of the Nandakovāda in the Light of its Parallels

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

The present article provides an annotated translation of the Saṃyukta-āgama parallel to the Nandakovāda-sutta of the Majjhima-nikāya, followed by a discussion of differences between these two versions that are relevant for an assessment of the attitude towards nuns in early Buddhist discourse. An appendix to the article also provides a translation of the Tibetan parallel to the Nandakovāda-sutta.

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Buddhist Theories of Free Will: Compatiblism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Earlier Buddhist Theories of Free Will: Compatibilism

Riccardo Repetti
Kingsborough College, City University of New York

This is the first part of a four-article series that examines Buddhist accounts of free will. The present article introduces the issues and reviews earlier attempts by Frances Story, Walpola Rāhula, Luis Gómez, and David Kalupahana. These “early-period” authors advocate compatibilism between Buddhist doctrine, determinism (the doctrine of universal lawful causation), and free will. The second and third articles review later attempts by Mark Siderits, Gay Watson, Joseph Goldstein, and Charles Goodman. These “middle-period” authors embrace either partial or full incompatibilism. The fourth article reviews recent attempts by Nicholas F. Gier and Paul Kjellberg, Asaf Federman, Peter Harvey, and B. Alan Wallace. These “recent-period” authors divide along compatibilist and incompatibilist lines. Most of the scholarly Buddhist works that examine free will in any depth are reviewed in this series. Prior to the above-mentioned early-period scholarship, scholars of Buddhism were relatively silent on free will. The Buddha’s teachings implicitly endorse a certain type of free will and explicitly endorse something very close to determinism, but attempts to articulate the implicit theory bear significant interpretive risks. The purpose of this four-article series is to review such attempts in order to facilitate a comprehensive view of the present state of the discussion and its history.

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A Buddhist Theory of Free Will

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Meditation and Mental Freedom: A Buddhist Theory of Free Will

Riccardo Repetti
Kingsborough College, City University of New York

I argue that central Buddhist tenets and meditation methodology support a view of free will similar to Harry Frankfurt’s optimistic view and contrary to Galen Strawson’s pessimistic view. For Frankfurt, free will involves a relationship between actions, volitions, and “metavolitions” (volitions about volitions): simplifying greatly, volitional actions are free if the agent approves of them. For Buddhists, mental freedom involves a relationship between mental states and “metamental” states (mental attitudes toward mental states): simplifying greatly, one has mental freedom if one is able to control one’s mental states, and to the extent one has mental freedom when choosing, one has free will. Philosophical challenges to free will typically question whether it is compatible with “determinism,” the thesis of lawful universal causation. Both Frankfurt’s metavolitional approval and the Buddhist’s metamental control are consistent with determinism. Strawson has argued, however, that free will is impossible, determinism notwithstanding, because one’s choice is always influenced by one’s mental state. I argue, however, that Buddhist meditation cultivates control over mental states that undermine freedom, whether they are deterministic or not, making both mental freedom and free will possible. The model I develop is only a sketch of a minimally risky theory of free will, but one that highlights the similarities and differences between Buddhist thought on this subject and relevantly-related Western thought and has explanatory promise.

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Dewey’s Metaethics and Theravāda

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Theravāda Buddhism and John Dewey’s Metaethics

Or Neeman
University of Pittsburgh

In this article I carry out a comparison between the metaethical views of John Dewey in “Theory of Valuation” and the ethical methodology of Theravāda Buddhism. I argue that the latter illustrates how Dewey’s view of ethics may be applied. Specifically, his view is that ethics can be and ought to be a science, and that ethical knowledge, like all scientific knowledge, is causal. Thus, the focus of ethics is on the causes and effects of our actions. This includes a concrete analysis of desire and the context in which it arises. I further argue that the comparison with Dewey helps to transcend the debate over whether Buddhist ethics more closely resemble utilitarianism or Aristotelian ethics.

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Vegetarianism and Diet in Pāli Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

The Question of Vegetarianism and Diet in Pāli Buddhism

James J. Stewart
University of Tasmania

This article is concerned with the question of whether Pāli Buddhism endorses vegetarianism and therefore whether a good Buddhist ought to abstain from eating meat. A prima facie case for vegetarianism will be presented that relies upon textual citation in which the Buddha stipulates that a good Buddhist must encourage others not to kill. The claim that the Buddha endorses vegetarianism, however, is challenged both by the fact that meat-eating is permissible in the Vinaya and that the Buddha himself seems to have eaten meat. The article will suggest that this conflict emerges as a distinct ethical and legal tension in the canonical texts but that the tension may have arisen as a consequence of difficult prudential decisions the Buddha may have had to make during his ministry.

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Relocalization of Buddhism in Thailand

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

The Relocalization of Buddhism in Thailand

Michael Parnwell and Martin Seeger
University of Leeds

This paper probes beneath the surface of the revitalized religiosity and thriving “civic Buddhism” that is identifiable in parts of Thailand’s rural periphery today as a result of grassroots processes of change. It exemplifies Phra Phaisan Visalo’s assertion that Thai Buddhism is “returning to diversity” and “returning again to the hands of the people.” Using in-depth case studies of three influential local monks in the northeastern province of Yasothon, it develops three cross-cutting themes that are of significance not only as evidence of a process we term “relocalization” but also as issues that lie at the heart of contemporary Thai Theravāda Buddhism. The paper explores how the teachings and specific hermeneutics of influential Buddhist thinkers like Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu, Phra Payutto and Samana Phothirak have been communicated, interpreted, adjusted and implemented by local monks in order to suit specific local realities and needs. Added to this localization of ideas is the localization of practice, wherein the three case studies reveal the quite different approaches and stances adopted by a “folk monk” (Phra Khruu Suphajarawat), a “forest monk” (Phra Mahathongsuk) and what might loosely be termed a “fundamentalist monk” (Phra Phromma Suphattho) at the interface of monastery and village, or the spiritual (supramundane) and social (mundane) worlds. This articulation of Buddhism and localism in turn feeds the debate concerning the appropriateness or otherwise of social engagement and activism in connection with a monk’s individual spiritual development and the normative function of the monk in modern Thai society.

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The Eight Revered Conditions

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Eight Revered Conditions: Ideological Complicity, Contemporary Reflections and Practical Realities

Nirmala S. Salgado
Augustana College

Scholarly debates focusing on the “Eight Revered Conditions,” a list of conditions suggestive of the dependence of nuns on monks in early Buddhism, have long been the focus of scholarly debates. These debates, centering on the legitimation of a patriarchal Buddhism, have reached an impasse. Here I argue that this impasse logically flows from questionable reconstructions of the imperative and authoritative nature of these eight conditions in early Buddhism, perceived as Buddhavacana, or the word of the Buddha. In contemporary Sri Lanka, practitioners’ reflections on the eight conditions suggest that they function less as imperative injunctions than as markers defining social and moral boundaries, in terms of which monastics conceptualize their world. I demonstrate that scholarly presuppositions of the hierarchical nature of the controversial conditions are contested by perspectives of current praxis, and may also possibly be questioned, at least theoretically, by the process of reconstructing earlier Buddhist realities.

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Buddhism and Speciesism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Buddhism and Speciesism: on the Misapplication of Western Concepts to Buddhist Beliefs

Colette Sciberras
University of Durham

In this article, I defend Buddhism from Paul Waldau’s charge of speciesism. I argue that Waldau attributes to Buddhism various notions that it does not necessarily have, such as the ideas that beings are morally considerable if they possess certain traits, and that humans, as morally considerable beings, ought never to be treated as means. These ideas may not belong in Buddhism, and for Waldau’s argument to work, he needs to show that they do. Moreover, a closer look at his case reveals a more significant problem for ecologically minded Buddhists—namely that the Pāli texts do not seem to attribute intrinsic value to any form of life at all, regardless of species. Thus, I conclude that rather than relying on Western concepts, it may be preferable to look for a discourse from within the tradition itself to explain why Buddhists ought to be concerned about the natural world.

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Review: Buddhist Female Ascetics and Gendered Orders in Thailand

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Making Fields of Merit: Buddhist Female Ascetics and Gendered Orders in Thailand. By Monica Lindberg Falk. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007, 238 pages, ISBN 0-2959-8726-X, US $30.00.

Reviewed by Vanessa R. Sasson

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Theravāda Sources on Free Will

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

“Freedom of the Will” in the Light of Theravāda Buddhist Teachings

Peter Harvey
University of Sunderland

A well known issue in Western Philosophy is that of “freedom of the will”: whether, how and in what sense human beings have genuine freedom of action in the context of a broad range of external and internal conditioning factors. Any system of ethics also assumes that humans have, in some sense, a freedom to choose between different courses of action. Buddhist ethics is no different in this—but how is freedom of action to be made sense of in a system that sees human beings as an interacting cluster of conditioned and conditioning processes, with no substantial I-agent either within or beyond this cluster? This article explores this issue within Theravāda Buddhism, and concludes that the view of this tradition on the issue is a “compatibilist” middle way between seeing a person’s actions as completely rigidly determined, and seeing them as totally and unconditionally free, with a variety of factors acting to bring, and increase, the element of freedom that humans have. In a different way, if a person is wrongly seen as an essential, permanent Self, it is an “undetermined question” as to whether “a person’s acts of will are determined” or “a person’s acts of will are free.” If there is no essential person-entity, “it” cannot be said to be either determined or free.

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Chinese and Pāli versions of the Ten Courses of Action

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 13, 2006

The Saṃyukta-āgama Parallel to the Sāleyyaka-sutta and the Potential of the Ten Courses of Action

Ven. Anālayo
Philipps University

The present article offers a translation of the Saṃyukta-āgama parallel to the Sāleyyaka-sutta of the Majjhima-nikāya on the subject of the ten courses of action, followed by an examination of the differences found between the Chinese and Pāli versions. This comparison shows the degree to which oral transmission has influenced the shape of the two versions.

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Cultivation of Moral Concern in Theravāda

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Cultivation of Moral Concern in Theravāda Buddhism: Toward a Theory of the Relation Between Tranquility and Insight

Ethan Mills
Augsburg College

There are two groups of scholars writing on the two main types of Buddhist meditation: one group that considers insight (vipassanā) to be essential and tranquility (samatha) to be inessential in the pursuit of nirvana, and a second group that views both samatha and vipassanā to be essential. I approach an answer to the question of which group is correct in two steps: (1) an outline of the disagreement between Paul Griffiths (of the first group) and Damien Keown (of the second group); and (2), an augmentation of Keown’s assertion that samatha can cultivate moral concern. I am not definitively solving the problem of the relationship between samatha and vipassanā, but rather I show that by making Keown’s theory of the cultivation of moral concern more plausible we have more reasons to accept his larger theory of the importance of both samatha and vipassanā.

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Survey of the Sources of Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

A Survey of the Sources of Buddhist Ethics

Ian J. Coghlan
Georgetown University

This article surveys two sources of ethics in Therāvada Buddhism. Firstly, it briefly surveys the texts that record the process of the proclamation of training rules. Secondly, it investigates the main events which provoked proclamation. This process of setting down an ethical standard itself emerges from both an intuitive sense of ethics held by society and the realized ethics of the Buddha. Further, though the proclamation of the 227 vows is designed to restrain physical and verbal action, the underlying purpose of the vows is to control the mind’s motivating unethical action. This survey will show that of the three roots of ignorance, aversion, and attachment, the vows are primarily directed to eliminating the root of attachment.

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Can Killing Ever Be an Act of Compassion?

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Can Killing a Living Being Ever Be an Act of Compassion? The Analysis of the Act of Killing in the Abhidhamma and Pāli Commentaries

Rupert Gethin
University of Bristol

In the Theravādin exegetical tradition, the notion that intentionally killing a living being is wrong involves a claim that when certain mental states (such as compassion) are present in the mind, it is simply impossible that one could act in certain ways (such as to intentionally kill). Contrary to what Keown has claimed, the only criterion for judging whether an act is “moral” (kusala) or “immoral” (akusala) in Indian systematic Buddhist thought is the quality of the intention that motivates it. The idea that killing a living being might be a solution to the problem of suffering runs counter to the Buddhist emphasis on dukkha as a reality that must be understood. The cultivation of friendliness in the face of suffering is seen as something that can bring beneficial effects for self and others in a situation where it might seem that compassion should lead one to kill.

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Conference: Buddhism and Conflict in Sri Lanka

SSN 1076-9005
Volume 10 2003

Bath Conference on “Buddhism and Conflict in Sri Lanka”

  

Theravāda Attitudes Toward Violence

Dr. Mahinda Deegalle

Recording, Translating and Interpreting Sri Lankan Chronicle Data

Bhikku Professor Dhammavihari

Response to Ven. Prof. Dhammavihari

Prof. Heinz Bechert

The Buddha’s Attitude Toward Social Concerns as Depicted in the Pāli Canon

Dr. Mudagamuwe Maithrimurthi

An Analysis of the Selected Statements Issued by the Mahanayakas on the North-East Problem of Sri Lanka

Ven. Akuratiye Nanda

The Place for a Righteous War in Buddhism

Prof. P.D. Premasiri

The Role of the Sangha in the Conflict in Sri Lanka

Prof. Asanga Tilakaratne

Buddhism, Ethnicity, and Identity: A Problem of Buddhist History

Prof. Gananath Obeyesekere

Review: The Four Noble Truths

ISSN 1076—9005
Volume 8, 2001

Pain and its Ending: The Four Noble Truths in the Theravada Buddhist Canon. Edited by Carol S. Anderson. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 1999, xi + 255 pages, ISBN: 0-7007-1065-5, US $55.00.

Reviewed by L. S. Cousins

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A Jātaka Defence for A Monk Accused

ISSN:1076–9005
Volume 5, 1998

Echoes of Nalinika: A Monk in the Dock

Enid Adam
Edith Cowan University

How can Nalinika, one of the Buddhist Jātaka tales, be used in the Perth District Court in Perth, Western Australia, as an illustration in the defence of a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka? In the dock sat Pannasara Kahatapitye, a high-ranking monk from Colombo, facing eleven charges of sexual assault. Was this a case of cultural, religious, and political bias and misunderstanding, or of a monk breaking monastic vows and practicing immorally? Was this man a charlatan or a genuine monk being framed by dissident Sinhalese groups in Australia? Over ten days the drama developed as evidence was given before judge and jury. Throughout, the accused sat motionless in the dock, smiling benignly at all in the courtroom. Innocent or guilty? This paper describes how the issues were resolved as seen from the author’s role as a consultant to the crown prosecutor, and examines their implications for the general Buddhist community in Western Australia.

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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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Just-War Ideology in Buddhist Sri Lanka

ISSN:1076–9005
Volume 6, 1999

In Defense of Dharma: Just-War Ideology in Buddhist Sri Lanka

Tessa Bartholomeusz
Florida State University

Sri Lankan Buddhists avail themselves of a variety of Buddhist stories, canonical and post-canonical, to support their point of view regarding war. And because there are no pronouncements in the stories attributed to the Buddha or in those stories told about him that declare unequivocally and directly that war is wrong, the military metaphors of the stories allow for a variety of interpretations. Some Buddhists argue that the stories directly or indirectly permit war under certain circumstances, while others argue that war is never acceptable. Whether they justify war or not, these Buddhists engage the stories, sometimes the very same ones, to argue their points of view.

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Problems with Bhikkhunīs in the Pāli Vinaya

ISSN:1076–9005
Volume 6, 1999

Damming the Dhamma: Problems with Bhikkhunīs in the Pali Vinaya

Kate Blackstone
University of Manitoba

Why should one of the contesting voices insist on the decline of saddhamma? How can women’s subordination help preserve the dhamma? This paper poses a possible answer. The Vinaya represents a very formalized statement of both the individual and communal dimensions of monastic life. It prescribes the activities, appearance, decorum, and lifestyle of individual bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs. It also specifies the procedures and protocol for the administration of the sangha. In so doing, the Vinaya authorizes and delimits the mandate of the monastic community over its members and in relation to its supporting community. In the terms of my analysis, it articulates a model of self-identity and a set of guidelines for the expression of that identity.

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Vinaya Principles for Assigning Degrees of Culpability

ISSN:1076–9005
Volume 6, 1999

Vinaya Principles for Assigning Degrees of Culpability

Peter Harvey
University of Sunderland

The Buddhist literature that goes into most explicit detail on factors affecting degree of culpability in wrong actions is the Vinaya. While this includes material that goes beyond the scope of ethics per se, it contains much of relevance to ethics. Focusing on overt physical and verbal actions, it also has much to say on states of mind which affect the moral assessment of actions: knowledge, perception, doubt, intention, carelessness, remorse, etc. These factors interact in sometimes complex and subtle ways, and their relevance varies according to the type of action being assessed, rather than being applied in an indiscriminate blanket fashion. The sources used for the article are primarily the Pāli Vinaya and its commentary, with some reference to the Milindapañha, Kathvātthu, and Abhidharma-kośa-bhāṣya when they discuss Vinaya-related matters.

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Buddhist Case Law on Theft

ISSN:1076–9005
Volume 6, 1999

Buddhist Case Law on Theft: the Vinītavatthu on the Second Pārājika

Andrew Huxley
University of London Law Department
School of Oriental and African Studies 

Of the twenty-eight pages of the vinayapāli devoted to theft, fifteen contain case law. They are the object of this study. The vinayapāli (which was collated and reduced to writing in the first century BCE) consists of oral memorized texts and jottings of various kinds from the prior Buddhist centuries, the core of which must have been fixed by the reign of King Aśoka (circa 273-232 BCE) The four most dramatic offences known to the vinayapāli are the pārājika, the conditions of defeat, dealt with in the first of its six volumes. The second pārājika, identified by a Pāli abstract noun that means taking things which have not properly been offered to you, is what we call theft.

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Theravāda Ethics

ISSN:1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

The General and the Particular in Theravāda Ethics: A Response to Charles Hallisey

Kevin Schilbrack
Wesleyan College

In the most recent issue of JBE (volume 3, 1996), Charles Hallisey calls into question what he sees as a pernicious assumption at work in the study of Theravāda ethics. The problem, according to Hallisey, is that many scholars who study Theravāda ethics assume that the Theravāda tradition has only a single moral theory, and they therefore try to reduce the plurality of the tradition to fit their single-theory view. Hallisey recommends that scholars see the Theravāda ethical tradition as an instance of ethical particularism, a position he describes both as pluralistically including many theories and as having no theory at all. For this reason, Hallisey recommends that scholars abandon the abstract search for the nature of Buddhist ethics in general. After clarifying Hallisey’s recommendation, I argue that it is wrong. Although the Theravāda tradition, like any religious tradition, includes more than one ethical theory, there is no good reason not to inquire into its general or formal features. With Russell Sizemore, I recommend an inclusive understanding of comparative religious ethics that sees a place for both for the historical study of the particular and the philosophical study of the general.

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A Response To Kevin Schilbrack

ISSN:1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

A Response To Kevin Schilbrack

Charles Hallisey
Harvard University

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Bibliography on Sinhala Buddhism

ISSN:1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

A Bibliography on Sinhala Buddhism

Mahinda Deegalle
Kyoto University

Scholars identify the Theravāda form of Buddhism that grew in Sri Lanka as Sinhala Buddhism. The adjective Sinhala is both a reference to an ethnic group—Sinhala people, the majority population in Sri Lanka—and to an Indo-European language—Sinhala, spoken by the Sinhala public. Thus, Sinhala Buddhism has two meanings—Buddhism in the Sinhala language and Buddhism practiced by the Sinhala people.

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Review: Vinaya for Theravāda Nuns

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 6, 1999

Die Vorschriften für die Buddhistische Nonnengemeinde im Vinaya-Piṭaka der Theravādin. By Ute Hüsken. (Monographien zur Indischen Archäologie, Kunst und Philologie. Edited By Marianne Yaldiz, Vol. 11.) Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1997, 519 pages, ISBN 2-496-02632-4, DM 148.00.

Reviewed by Eva K. Neumaier

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Review: Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 6, 1999

Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities: Utopias of the Pali imaginaire. By Steven Collins. Cambridge Studies in Religious Traditions, No. 12. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, xxiv + 684 pages, ISBN 0-521-57054-9, (cloth), US$85.00.

Reviewed by James P. McDermott

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Review: Fundamentalism and Minority Identities in Sri Lanka

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 6, 1999

Buddhist Fundamentalism and Minority Identities in Sri Lanka. Edited By Tessa J. Bartholomeusz and Chandra R. de Silva. New York: State University of New York Press, 1998, 320 pages, ISBN 0-7914-3834-1, US $19.95.

Reviewed by Mavis L. Fenn

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Review: Struggle for Liberation in the Therigatha

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Women in the Footsteps of the Buddha: Struggle for Liberation in the Therigatha. By Kathryn R. Blackstone, Curzon Critical Studies in Buddhism, The Curzon Press, 1998, xiii + 185 pages, ISBN: 0-7007-0962-2.

Reviewed by Nancy J. Barnes

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Review: Wandering Monks in Twentieth-Century Thailand

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Forest Recollections: Wandering Monks in Twentieth-Century Thailand. By Kamala Tiyavanich. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997, xxi + 410 pages, ISBN 0-8248-1781-8, US$29.95.

Reviewed By Tessa Bartholomeusz

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Review: Relics, Ritual and Representation in Sri Lanka

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Relics, Ritual and Representation in Buddhism: Rematerializing the Sri Lankan Theravada Tradition. By Kevin Trainor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, xiv + 223 pages, ISBN 0-521-5820-6, $60.00.

Reviewed by Tessa Bartholomeusz

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Review: Pāli Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Pali Buddhism (Curzon Studies in Asian Philosophy). Edited By Frank J. Hoffman and Deegalle Mahinda. Richmond, England: Curzon Press, 1996, 253 pages, ISBN 0-7007-0359-4, US $42.00.

Reviewed By Anne M. Blackburn

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Review: Buddhism, Art, and Politics in Late Medieval Sri Lanka

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

The Religious World of Kīrti Srī: Buddhism, Art, and Politics in Late Medieval Sri Lanka. By John Clifford Holt. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996, x + 147 pages, ISBN 0-19-510757-8, $26.95.

Reviewed by Mahinda Deegalle

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Review: Monasticism in Theravāda Buddhism and Medieval Catholicism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

Virtuosity, Charisma, and the Social Order: A Comparative Sociological Study of Monasticism in Theravāda Buddhism and Medieval Catholicism. By Ilana Freidrich Silber. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995, x + 250 pages, ISBN 0-521-41397-4, $54.95.

Reviewed by Mavis Fenn

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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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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.

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Kusala in Canon and Commentary

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Good or Skilful? Kusala in Canon and Commentary

L. S. Cousins
University of Manchester

This paper examines the use of kusala in the commentarial sources and finds that, although the commentators are aware of various senses of the word kusala, they tend to give primacy to meanings such as “good” or “meritorious.” A detailed examination of the canonical Pāli sources gives a rather different picture. The original meaning of kuśala (Sanskrit) in the sense with which we are concerned would then be “intelligent.” Its sense in early Buddhist literature would be “produced by wisdom.” The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the concept of puñña—”fortune-bringing action” rather than “merit.”

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Review: Ultimate Values in Theravāda

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Desire, Death, and Goodness: The Conflict of Ultimate Values in Theravāda Buddhism. By Grace G. Burford. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 1991, xii, 213 pages, $38.95.

Reviewed by Mavis Fenn

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Review: Theravāda Psychology and Soteriology

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

The Five Aggregates: Understanding Theravāda Psychology and Soteriology. By Mathieu Boisvert, Editions SR Vol.17: Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion/Corporation Canadienne des Sciences Religieuses, Wilfred Laurier Press, 1995, xii +166 pages, ISBN: 0-88920-257-5, US$24.95.

Reviewed by Peter Harvey

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Review: Chronicles, Politics and Culture in Sinhala Life

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

The Presence of the Past: Chronicles, Politics and Culture in Sinhala Life. By Steven Kemper, The Wilder House Series in Politics, History and Culture. Ithaca, N.Y. and London: Cornell University Press, 1991, xiv +244 pages, ISBN: 0-8014-2395-3, US$29.95.

Reviewed by Nirmala S. Salgado

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Review: Two American Theravāda temples

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Old Wisdom in the New World. By Paul Numrich. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press, 1996, xxiv + 181 pages, ISBN 0-87049-905-X, $25 (cloth).

Reviewed by Martin Baumann

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Unwholesomeness of Actions in Theravāda

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Criteria for Judging the Unwholesomeness of Actions in the Texts of Theravāda Buddhism

Peter Harvey
University of Sunderland

After briefly reviewing the role of ethics on the path in Theravāda texts, the article moves on to discuss the various criteria for distinguishing between wholesome and unwholesome actions. It then explores the gradation of unwholesomeness of actions according to several variables, and then applies this to wholesome actions, here highlighting the importance of right view. Finally, the question of the relation between precept-taking and the moral worth of actions is assessed.

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Ethics in the Kurudhamma Jātaka

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

The Kurudhamma: From Ethics to Statecraft

Andrew Huxley
University of London
Law Department, School of Oriental & African Studies

This article compares two literary treatments of a Buddhist ethical motif. In the prose sections of the Kurudhamma Jātaka the motif is expanded into a collection of ethical casuistry. In the Kurudhamma kaṇḍa pañho, it is expanded into a series of job descriptions for the king and ten of his subordinates. Description of these provokes discussion of the history of the practice of ethics by Buddhist monks and Buddhist courtiers.

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Review: Perspectives on Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Perspectives on Buddhist Ethics. Edited by Prof. Mahesh Tiwary. Delhi: Department of Buddhist Studies, Delhi University, 1989. Rs 150.00.

Theravāda Buddhist Ethics with Special Reference to Visuddhimagga. Dr Vyanjana. Calcutta: Punthi Pustak, 1992. Rs 275.00.

Reviewed by Roger Farrington

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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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Vinaya in American Theravāda Temples

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 1 1994

Vinaya in Theravāda Temples in the United States

Paul David Numrich
University of Illinois at Chicago
 
Vinaya (the monastic discipline) plays an essential role in defining traditional Theravāda Buddhism. This article examines the current state of vinaya recitation and practice in the nearly 150 immigrant Theravāda Buddhist temples in the United States, and also speculates on the prospect of traditional Theravāda’s firm establishment in this country. Specific vinaya issues discussed include the pātimokkha ceremony, the discussion about vinaya adaptation to the American context, adaptations in the areas of monastic attire and relations with women, and principles of adaptation at work in Theravāda temples in the United States. 

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Buddhist Economic Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Sufficiency Economy and Santi Asoke: Buddhist Economic Ethics for a Just and Sustainable World

Juliana Essen
Soka University of America

Mainstream economic thought and practice has resulted in wide-spread socioeconomic disparity and environmental devastation in all corners of the world, unmitigated by a multi-billion dollar development industry informed by these same economic models. To reverse this trend, the dominant forms of economic thought and practice must be reunited with ethics that are more caring of the human-nature base. Such ethics may be found in alternative economic models based on religious, spiritual, environmental, or feminist values. This essay considers one such alternative: Buddhist economics. After outlining a theory of Buddhist economics, this essay considers two models: the Royal Thai Sufficiency Economy Model and the approach adopted by the Santi Asoke Buddhist Reform Movement of Thailand. Both are conducive to economic activity that is more socially just and environmentally sustainable, particularly due to their ethics of self-reliance, moderation, and interdependence.

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Buddhism, Brain Death, and Organ Transplantation

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Buddhism, Brain Death, and Organ Transplantation

Damien Keown
Goldsmiths College, University of London

This article raises concerns about the degree to which potential donors are aware that their layman’s understanding of death may not be the same as that enshrined in protocols employing the criterion of brain death. There would seem to be a need for greater public education of a kind which acknowledges the debate around the practical and conceptual difficulties associated with brain death, and makes clear what the implications of a diagnosis of brain death are for the donor and his or her relatives. The remainder of the article explores the discrepancy between the modern concept of brain death and the traditional Buddhist understanding of death as the loss of the body’s organic integrity as opposed to simply the loss of its cerebral functions.

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