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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Buddhist Nuns’ Ordination in the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya Tradition

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 23, 2016

Buddhist Nuns’ Ordination in the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya Tradition: Two Possible Approaches

Bhikṣuṇī Jampa Tsedroen
Academy of World Religions and Numata Center for Buddhist Studies, University of Hamburg

This article examines the possibilities of reviving the Mūlasarvāstivāda lineage of fully ordained nuns (bhikṣuṇī). It explores two ways to generate a “flawless and perfect” Mūlasarvāstivāda bhikṣuṇī vow, either by Mūlasarvāstivāda monks alone or by Mūlasarvāstivāda monks with Dharmaguptaka nuns (“ecumenical” ordination). The first approach is based on a Vinaya passage which traditionally is taken as the Word of the Buddha, but which, from a historical-critical point of view, is dubious. The second approach is not explicitly represented in the Vinaya but involves “re-reading” or “re-thinking” it with a critical-constructive attitude (“theological” approach). Each approach is based on my latest findings from studying the Tibetan translation of the Bhikṣuṇyupasaṃpadājñāpti and related commentaries.

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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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Review: Buddhism, the Internet, and Digital Media

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 23, 2016

Buddhism, the Internet, and Digital Media: The Pixel in the Lotus. Edited by Gregory Price Grieve and Daniel Veidlinger. New York: Routledge, 2015, viii + 232 pages, ISBN 978-0-415-72166-0 (hardback), US$145.00.

Reviewed by Maria Sharapan

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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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The Metaphysical Basis of Śāntideva’s Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

The Metaphysical Basis of Śāntideva’s Ethics

Amod Lele
Boston University

Western Buddhists often believe and proclaim that metaphysical speculation is irrelevant to Buddhist ethics or practice. This view is problematic even with respect to early Buddhism, and cannot be sustained regarding later Indian Buddhists. In Śāntideva’s famous Bodhicaryāvatāra, multiple claims about the nature of reality are premises for conclusions about how human beings should act; that is, metaphysics logically entails ethics for Śāntideva, as it does for many Western philosophers. This article explores four key arguments that Śāntideva makes from metaphysics to ethics: actions are determined by their causes, and therefore we should not get angry; the body is reducible to its component parts, and therefore we should neither protect it nor lust after other bodies; the self is an illusion, and therefore we should be altruistic; all phenomena are empty, and therefore we should not be attached to them. The exploration of these arguments together shows us why metaphysical claims can matter a great deal for Buddhist ethics, practice and liberation.

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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: A Green Odyssey

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey. Directed by Wendy J. N. Lee; Executive Producer, Michelle Yeoh; Narrator, Daryl Hannah. 2013, $549 (Campus Screening License and DVD), $499 (Digital Streaming License), $299 (College and University DVD), and $129 (K-12, Library, and Non-Profit DVD).

Reviewed by Adam T. Miller

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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: Death and Reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Death and Reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism: In-between Bodies. By Tanya Zivkovic. London: Routledge, 2014, xx + 147 pages, ISBN 978-0-415-83067-6 (hardback), $140.

Reviewed by Jay Valentine

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Transforming Gender Bias in Tibetan Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Blossoms of the Dharma: The Contribution of Western Nuns in Transforming Gender Bias in Tibetan Buddhism

Elizabeth Swanepoel
University of Pretoria

This article investigates the nature of gender imbalance in Tibetan Buddhism, particularly pertaining to the unavailability of bhikṣuṇī ordination, and the specific role Western nuns have played in contributing to transforming this imbalance. The article postulates that male privilege continues to dominate the institutional cultures of religious life in Tibetan Buddhism. However, fertile tensions have of late emerged between an underground tradition of highly accomplished female practitioners and the institutional preference for male practitioners. A revalorization process has been initiated in recent years by a number of Western female Buddhologists, some of whom are also fully ordained Tibetan Buddhist nuns. The article highlights the efforts of these accomplished nuns as well as a number of other prominent Western Tibetan Buddhist nuns.

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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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Buddhist Self-immolation and Mahāyānist Absolute Altruism, Part Two

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

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

Martin Kovan
University of Melbourne

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

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

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Review: Cruel Theory/Sublime Practice

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Cruel Theory/Sublime Practice: Toward a Revaluation of Buddhism. By Glenn Wallis, Tom Pepper, and Matthias Steingass. Roskilde, Denmark: EyeCorner Press, 2013, 211 pages, ISBN 978-87-92633-23-1 (paperback), $29.95.

Reviewed by John L. Murphy

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The Politics of “Compassion” of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

The Politics of “Compassion” of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama: Between “Religion” and “Secularism”

Masahide Tsujimura
Kobe University
Koyasan University

Since 1959, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has expressed the view that democratic reforms should be gradually carried out in the Tibetan political system. He did this by enlarging the connotation of the traditional Tibetan concept of chos srid zung ‘brel (union of dharma and polity). This paper will examine how the Dalai Lama succeeded in maintaining the traditional political concept of chos srid zung ‘brel in a modern Tibetan democracy by employing the idea of “compassion” to link “religion” and “secularism.”

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Review: The Spread of Tibetan Buddhism in China

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Spread of Tibetan Buddhism in China: Charisma, Money, Enlightenment. By Dan Smyer Yü. London: Routledge, 2012, xi + 222 pages, ISBN 978-0-415-57532-4 (cloth), $138.00.

Reviewed by Stuart Young

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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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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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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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Consequentialism, Agent-Neutrality, and Mahāyāna Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Consequentialism, Agent-Neutrality, and Mahāyāna Ethics

Charles Goodman
Binghamton University

Several Indian Mahāyāna texts express an ethical perspective that has many features in common with Western forms of universalist consequentialism. Śāntideva, in particular, endorses a strong version of agent-neutrality, claims that compassionate agents should violate Buddhist moral commitments when doing so would produce good results, praises radical altruism, uses a critique of the self to support his ethical views, and even offers a reasonably clear general formulation of what we call act-consequentialism. Meanwhile, Asaṅga’s discussions of the motivation behind rules of moral discipline and the permissible reasons for breaking those rules suggests an interesting and complex version of rule-consequentialism. Evidence for features of consequentialism can be found in several Mahāyāna sūtras as well. In reading these sources, interpretations that draw on virtue ethics may not be as helpful as those that understand the texts as committed to various versions of consequentialism.

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Buddha’s Maritime Nature

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

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

Barbra Clayton
Mount Allison University

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

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The Dalai Lama and the Nature of Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Dalai Lama and the Nature of Buddhist Ethics

Abraham Vélez de Cea
Eastern Kentucky University

This article clarifies the nature of Buddhist ethics from a comparative perspective. It contends that the Dalai Lama’s ethics is best understood as a pluralistic approach to virtue ethics. The article has two parts. The first part challenges Charles Goodman’s interpretation of Mahāyāna Buddhist ethics as an instance of consequentialism. This is done indirectly, that is, not by questioning Goodman’s reading of Śāntideva and Asaṅga, but rather by applying to the Dalai Lama’s ethics the same test that Goodman uses to justify his reading of Mahāyāna ethics as a whole. The second part examines the Dalai Lama’s ethics in comparison to Christine Swanton, a representative of a pluralistic approach to virtue ethics in contemporary analytic philosophy. By comparing the ethics of the Dalai Lama and Swanton, the article does not wish to suggest that her pluralistic approach to virtue ethics is the closest western analogue to Buddhist virtue ethics. I use comparison, not to understand the Dalai Lama’s ethical ideas from the perspective of Swanton’s ethics, but rather to highlight what is unique about the Dalai Lama’s approach to virtue ethics, which is pluralistic in a characteristically Buddhist way.

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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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Making Suffering Sufferable

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Suffering Made Sufferable: Śāntideva, Dzongkaba, and Modern Therapeutic Approaches to Suffering’s Silver Lining

Daniel Cozort
Dickinson College

Suffering’s positive side was elucidated beautifully by the eighth century Mahāyāna poet Śāntideva in his Bodhicāryavatāra. Dzongkaba Losang Drakpa, the founder of what came to be known as the Gelukba (dge lugs pa) order of Tibetan Buddhism, used Śāntideva’s text as his main source in the chapter on patience in his masterwork, Lam rim Chenmo. In this article I attempt to explicate Śāntideva’s thought by way of the commentary of Dzongkaba. I then consider it in the context of what Ariel Glucklich has called “Sacred Pain”—the myriad ways in which religious people have found meaning in pain. I conclude with some observations about ways in which some Buddhist-inspired or -influenced therapeutic movements such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Positive Psychology are helping contemporary people to reconcile themselves to pain or to discover that it may have positive value.

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Reimagining Buddhist Ethics on the Tibetan Plateau

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Reimagining Buddhist Ethics on the Tibetan Plateau

Holly Gayley
University of Colorado, Boulder

This article examines the ideological underpinnings of ethical reform currently underway in Tibetan areas of the PRC, based on a newly reconfigured set of ten Buddhist virtues and consolidated into vows taken en masse by the laity. I focus on texts of advice to the laity by cleric-scholars from Larung Buddhist Academy, one of the largest Buddhist institutions on the Tibetan plateau and an important source for an emergent Buddhist modernism. In analyzing texts of advice, I am interested in how lead-ing Buddhist voices articulate a “path forward” for Tibetans as a people, calling simultaneously for ethical reform and cultural preservation. Specifically, I trace the tensions and ironies that emerge in their attempts to synthesize, on the one hand, a Buddhist emphasis on individual moral action and its soteriological ramifications and, on the other hand, a secular concern for the social welfare of the Tibetan population and the preservation of its civilizational inheritance. In doing so, I view ethical reform as part of a broader Buddhist response to China’s civilizing mission vis-à-vis Tibetans and new market forces encouraged by the post-Mao state.

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Vegetarianism in Tibet

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

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

Geoffrey Barstow
Otterbein University

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

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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: Documentary Film on Finding Tibetan Tulku

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Unmistaken Child. DVD. Directed by Nati Baratz. New York, NY: Oscilloscope Pictures 2009.

Reviewed by Jason Ellsworth

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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: Jesuits in Tibet

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Jesuit on the Roof of the World: Ippolito Desideri’s Mission to Tibet. By Trent Pomplum. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, xvi + 302 pages, ISBN 978-0-19-537786-6 (cloth), $29.95.

Mission to Tibet: The Extraordinary Eighteenth-Century Account of Father Ippolito Desideri, S. J. Translated by Michael J. Sweet and edited by Leonard Zwilling. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2010, xxiv + 797 pages, ISBN 978-086171-676-0 (pbk), $34.95.

Reviewed by John Murphy

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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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Tsongkhapa on Choice and Emotions

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Emotions, Ethics, and Choice: Lessons from Tsongkhapa

Emily McRae
University of Oklahoma

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

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A Reexamination of Buddhist Teachings on Female Inferiority

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

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

Allison A. Goodwin
College of Liberal Arts
National Taiwan University

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

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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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Review: Essays of Rita Gross

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

A Garland of Feminist Reflections: Forty Years of Religious Exploration. By Rita M. Gross. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2009, viii + 340 pages, ISBN 978-0-520-25586-9 (paper), US $24.95; ISBN 978-0-520-25585-2 (cloth).

Reviewed by Ravenna Michalsen

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Restoring Mūlasarvāstivāda Bhikṣuṇī Ordination

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

The Mūlasarvāstivāda Bhikṣuṇī Has the Horns of a Rabbit: Why the Master’s Tools Will Never Reconstruct the Master’s House

Bhikṣuṇī Lozang Trinlae
Buddhist Hong Shi College

At the First International Congress on the Buddhist Women’s Role in the Saṅgha held at the University of Hamburg in 2007, Venerable Samdhong Rinpoche offered the pronouncement, “Our efforts toward re-establishing the Mūlasarvāstivāda bhikṣuṇī ordination are not driven by Western influence or feminist concerns about the equality of the sexes—this issue cannot be determined by social or political considerations. The solution must be found within the context of the Vinaya codes” (Mohr and Tsedroen 256). Using the perspective and comparative analysis of contemporary moral theory, I argue to the contrary that restoration of Mūlasarvāstivāda bhikṣuṇī communities by Vinaya [discipline rules] alone is most unlikely, if not entirely impossible, without a consideration of gender equality, and, by extension, social considerations and Western influence. Thus, Vinaya code compliance may be seen as a necessary but insufficient condition for producing Mūlasarvāstivāda (Mula) bhikṣuṇī communities. Furthermore, not only the result of bhikṣuṇī Vinaya restoration, but also the cause of it, a desire for its existence, is also very unlikely, if not entirely impossible, in a convention-determined Vinaya framework whose stance is self-defined as being mutually exclusive with post-conventional morality. A fundamental change of attitude embracing modern perspectives of women’s rights is itself necessary.

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Review: Dzogchen and Deepest Goodness

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Awakening Through Love: Unveiling Your Deepest Goodness. By John Makransky. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2007, xii + 261 pages, ISBN: 0-86171-537-3, US $16.95 (paperback).

Reviewed by John N. Sheveland

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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: Tibetan Freedom Fighters

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

Buddha’s Warriors: The Story of the CIA-Backed Tibetan Freedom Fighters, the Chinese Communist Invasion, and the Ultimate Fall of Tibet. By Mikel Dunham. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher & Penguin, 2004, 448 pages, ISBN 1-58542-348-3, US $29.95.

Reviewed by Vibha Arora

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Review: Tibetan Buddhist Monk’s Education

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

The Sound of Two Hands Clapping: The Education of a Tibetan Buddhist Monk.By Georges B. J. Dreyfus. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003. 445 pages. ISBN: 0-520-23260-7.

Reviewed by William Edelglass

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Review: Path and Fruit in the Sakya Tradition

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 9, 2002

Luminous Lives. By Cyrus Stearns. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001, xiv + 305 pages, ISBN 0-86171-307-9 (paperback), US $34.95.

Reviewed by Jan-Ulrich Sobisch

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Review: Identity Among Exiled Tibetan Buddhist Nuns

SSN 1076-9005
Volume 9 2002

Identität in Exil. Tibetisch-Buddhistische Nonnen und das Netzwerk Sakyadhita. By Rotraut Wurst. Edited By H.-J. Greschat, H. Jungraithmayr, and W. Rau. Marburger Studien zur Afrika- und Asienkunde Series C, vol. 6. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 2001, 314 pages, ISBN 3-496-02711-8.

Reviewed by Eva K. Neumaier

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Review: Tsong-kha-pa’s Great Treatise

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 8, 2001

The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path, Volume One. Translated by the Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee. Joshua W.C. Cutler, Editor-in-Chief; Guy Newland, Editor Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2000, 434 pages, ISBN 1–5593–9152–9 (paperback), US $29.99.

Reviewed by David Burton

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Review: Tsong-kha-pa’s Great Treatise

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 8, 2001

The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment by Tsong-kha-pa, Volume One. Translated by the Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee. Joshua W. C. Cutler, Editor-in-Chief; Guy Newland, Editor. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2000, 434 pages, ISBN: 1-55939-152-9 (cloth), $29.95.

Reviewed by Daniel Cozort

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Review Article: Reflexive Awareness

ISSN 1076–9005
Volume 7, 2000

We Are All Gzhan stong pas

Reflections on The Reflexive Nature of Awareness: A Tibetan Madhyamaka Defence. By Paul Williams. Surrey, England: Curzon Press, 1998, xix + 268 pp, ISBN: 0–7007–1030–2, $55.00.

Reviewed by Matthew T. Kapstein
The University of Chicago

The present review article discusses aspects of Paul Williams’s excellent and highly recommended book, which focuses on the question of “reflexive awareness” (Tib. rang rig, Skt. svasaṃvittiḥ, svasaṃvedana) in Tibetan Mādhyamika thought. In particular, I am concerned with his characterization of so so rang rig ye shes and its relation to Rdzogs-chen teaching, and his notions of the gzhan stong doctrine and its place in the intellectual life of Far-eastern Tibet. My critical remarks on these topics are in many respects tentative, and I would welcome correspondence about them.

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Review: Pilgrimage and Visionary Landscape in Southeast Tibet

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 7, 2000

The Cult of Pure Crystal Mountain: Popular Pilgrimage and Visionary Landscape in Southeast Tibet. By Toni Huber. N.Y./Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, xxi + 297 pages, ISBN 0–19–512007–8, US $65.00.

Reviewed by Alex McKay

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Review: Tashi Jong

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 7, 2000

Tashi Jong: A Traditional Tibetan Community in Exile. Producer/Videographer: Barbara Green; Editor: Nathaniel Dorsky; Narrator: Dechen Bartso; Singer: Thrinlay Choden. 45 Minutes. ISBN: 0–9675021–0–x, Available from Tibetan Video Project, 2952 Pine Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705. (510)540–8401, bcgreen@attglobal.net, http://www.tibet.org/tashijong, US $35.00 for individuals, US $108 for institutions.

Reviewed by Daniel Cozort

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Review: Dharmakīrti in Tibet

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 7, 2000

Recognizing Reality: Dharmakirti’s Philosophy and Its Tibetan Interpretation. By Georges B. J. Dreyfus. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997, xxi + 622 pages, ISBN 0–7914–3097–9 (hardcover), ISBN 0–7914–3098–7 (paperback), US $68.50 (hardcover), US $22.95 (paperback).

Reviewed by Pascale Hugon

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Review: Tibetan Buddhism in France

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 6, 1999

Bouddhisme et Occident: La diffusion du bouddhisme tibétain en France. By Lionel Obadia. Paris: Éditions L’Harmattan (Collection Religion & Sciences Humaines), 1999, 272 pages, ISBN 2-7384-7570-1.

Reviewed by Elke Hahlbohm-Helmus

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Review: Emptiness in the Mind-Only School

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 6, 1999

Emptiness in the Mind-Only School of Buddhism: Dynamic Responses to Dzong-ka-ba’s The Essence of Eloquence: I. By Jeffrey Hopkins. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999, xiv + 528 pages, ISBN: 0-520-21119-7 (cloth), US$45.00.

Reviewed by Paul G. Hackett

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Review: A History of Modern Tibet

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 6, 1999

The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947. By Tsering Shakya. London: Pimlico Original, 1999, xxi + 571 pages, ISBN: 0-71266-533-1, £12.50 (paper).

Reviewed by Martin A. Mills

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Review: Tibetan Buddhism and the West

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 6, 1999

Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. By Donald Lopez, Jr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998, Hardcover 272 pages, ISBN 0226493105, US $25.00; Paperback 284 pages, ISBN 0226493113, US $14.00.

Reviewed by Tsering Shakya

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Review: Tibet, China and the Dalai Lama

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 6, 1999

The Snow Lion and the Dragon: Tibet, China and the Dalai Lama. By Melvyn C. Goldstein. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997, xiii + 152 pages, : 0-520-21254-1, US$19.95.

Reviewed by Toni Huber

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Review: Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious Revival and Cultural Identity. Edited By Melvyn C. Goldstein and Matthew T. Kapstein. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998, 235 pages, paperback ISBN: 0520211316, US $15.95, cloth ISBN: 0520211308, US$40.00.

Reviewed by Cathy Cantwell

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Review: Dzogchen Texts

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Simply Being: Texts in the Dzogchen Tradition. By James Low. London: Vajra Press, 1998, xxiii +179 pages, ISBN: 0953284506, n.p.

Reviewed by Sam van Schaik

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Review: Tibetan Memoirs

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Tibetan Lives. Three Himalayan Autobiographies. Edited By Peter Richardus. Richmond: Curzon Press, 1998, xxviii + 223 pages, ISBN 0-7007-1023-X (cloth), UK £40.00.

In the Presence of My Enemies. Memoirs of Tibetan Nobleman Tsipon Shuguba. By Sumner Carnahan & Lama Kunga Rinpoche. Santa Fe: Clear Light Press, 1995, xvii + 238 pages, ISBN 0-9406-6662-6 (paper), US $14.95.

Reviewed by Toni Huber

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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: Kagyus in Germany

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Geistige Heimat im Buddhismus aus Tibet: Eine empirische Studie am Beispiel der Kagyuepas in Deutschland. By Eva Sabine Saalfrank. Ulm: Fabri Verlag, 1997, viii + 529 + xxx pages, ISBN 3-931997-05-7, DM/SFr 34.

Reviewed by Elke Hahlbohm-Helmus

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Review: A History of Tibetan Painting

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

A History of Tibetan Painting: The Great Tibetan Painters and Their Traditions,Beiträge zur Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte Asiens Nr. 15. By David Jackson. Wein: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1996, 432 pages, includes 70 color plates, 210 line drawings, and a black and white fold-out map, ISBN 3-7001-2224-1, US $140.00.

Reviewed by Ian Harris

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Review: Tibetan Art

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Tibetan Art: Towards a Definition of Style. Edited By Jane Casey Singer and Philip Denwood. London: Laurence King, 1997, 319 pages, ISBN: 1-8566-9099-7, £65 (cloth).

Reviewed by Ian Harris

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Review: Tibetan Culture in the Diaspora

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Tibetan Culture in the Diaspora, Papers Presented at a Panel of the 7th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Graz 1995. Edited By Frank J. Korom. Vienna: Verlag derÖsterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1997, 119 pages, ISBN 3-7001-2659-X, $56.80.

Reviewed by Christian von Somm

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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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Review: Tibetan Culture

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Constructing Tibetan Culture: Contemporary Perspectives. Edited By Frank J. Korom. St-Hyacinthe (Quebec): World Heritage Press, 1997, 230 pages, ISBN 1-896064-12-4, US $19.95.

Reviewed By Toni Huber

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Review: Female Identity in Tibetan Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

Traveler in Space: In Search of Female Identity in Tibetan Buddhism. By June Campbell. New York: George Braziller Incorporated, 1996, x, 225 pages, ISBN 0-485-11494-1 (cloth), $27.50.

Reviewed by Karen Lang

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Review: Uses of the Heart Sūtra

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

Elaborations on Emptiness: Uses of the Heart Sūtra. By Donald S Lopez, Jr. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996, xii, 264 pages.

Reviewed by Jay Garfield

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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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Review: Wisdom and Compassion in Mahāyāna Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Ocean of Nectar: Wisdom and Compassion in Mahāyāna Buddhism. By Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. London: Tharpa Publications, 1995, viii + 592 pages, , £16.95/$29.95 (paper).

Reviewed by John Powers

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Review: Bodhisattva Practices

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Commentary on the Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva. By HH the Dalai Lama, translated by Acārya Nyima Tsering. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1995, x+106 pages, ISBN: 81-85102-97-X, Rs 120.

Reviewed by Jay L.Garfield

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Review: Indo-Tibetan Scholasticism

SSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Buddhism and Language: A Study of Indo-Tibetan Scholasticism. By José Ignacio Cabezón (Foreword by Frank E. Reynolds), SUNY Series, Toward a Comparative Philosophy of Religions, Frank E. Reynolds and David Tracy, editors. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1994, xiii + 299 pages, ISBN 0-7914-1900-2 (paper).

Reviewed by Mark Siderits

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Meditation as Ethical Activity

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Meditation as Ethical Activity

Georges Dreyfus
Williams College

Despite the fact that the various Tibetan Buddhist traditions developed substantive ethical systems on the personal, interpersonal and social levels, they did not develop systematic theoretical reflections on the nature and scope of ethics. Precisely because very little attention is devoted to the nature of ethical concepts, problems are created for modern scholars who are thus hindered in making comparisons between Buddhist and Western ethics. This paper thus examines the continuity between meditation and daily life in the context of understanding the ethical character of meditation as practiced by Tibetan Buddhists. The discussion is largely limited to the practice of meditation as taught in the lam rim (or Gradual Stages of the Path).

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Tsongkhapa on the Results of Anger

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Cutting the Roots of Virtue: Tsongkhapa on the Results of Anger

Daniel Cozort
Dickinson College

Anger is the most powerful of the kleśas that not only “plant seeds” for suffering but also “cut the roots of virtue” for periods of up to a thousand aeons per instance. This article examines and assesses the exegesis by Tsongkhapa, founder of the Tibetan Gelukba order, of Indian sources on the topic of anger. It argues that despite Tsongkhapa’s many careful qualifications he may not be successful in avoiding the conclusion that if the sūtras are to be accepted literally, there almost certainly will be persons for whom liberation from saṃsāra is precluded.

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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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