Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


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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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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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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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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Violence and Nonviolence in Buddhist Animal Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Violence and Nonviolence in Buddhist Animal Ethics

James Stewart
University of Tasmania

Boiled alive for killing an ant. Suffering endless demonic flagellation for trading as a butcher. According to some Buddhist writings, these are just a few of the punishments bestowed upon those who harm animals. Are such promises sincere or are they merely hollow threats intended to inculcate good conduct? Are there other non-prudential reasons for protecting animals? How do these views differ from preceding Indian traditions? These are some of the questions addressed in this paper. I will argue that the threat of a bad rebirth is a major factor in motivating Buddhists to abstain from animal cruelty. By comparing the Vinaya (both Mahāyāna and Theravāda) to the Sūtra literature I will argue that such claims may be exaggerations to motivate more compassionate conduct from Buddhist adherents. I also argue that Buddhist texts look unfavorably upon animal killing in a way unheard of in the Vedic religious tradition. Although there may be disagreement over what sort of harm may befall animal abusers, it is almost universally acknowledged amongst most Buddhist sects that animal killing is completely unacceptable. However, this pacifism lives in uneasy tension with the promise of extreme violence for impinging on these basic principles of nonviolence.

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Buddhism and Intellectual Property Rights

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Buddhism and Intellectual Property Rights: The Role of Compassion

Soraj Hongladarom
Chulalongkorn University

I offer the outline of a theory that justifies the concept of intellectual property (IP). IP is usually justified by a utilitarian claim that such rights provide incentives for further discovery and protect the innovator through a monopoly. I propose to broaden the protection offered by the IP regime. My argument is based on the concept of compassion (karuṇā), the aim of relieving suffering in all others. An analysis of how patented products originate shows that they typically depend not only on scientists in the laboratory, but on numerous factors and elements, many of which do not belong to the corporation in which the experiments are conducted. Because these elements have a necessary role in the discovery of inventions, they also deserve fair treatment. In practice, this could mean that the resulting patented product would be made more accessible to the general population and that the corporation would be more actively involved in society. In the long run, this could prove beneficial for all parties, including the patent holders themselves.

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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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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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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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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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Review: Visions of Buddhist Vinaya

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Going Forth: Visions of Buddhist Vinaya. Edited by William M. Bodiford. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005, x + 317 pages, ISBN: 0-8248-2787-2, US $48.00 (cloth).

Reviewed by Brian Nichols

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Buddhist Approach to Restorative Justice

ISSN 1076–9005
Volume 7, 2000

How to Reform a Serial Killer: The Buddhist Approach to Restorative Justice

David R. Loy
Bunkyo University

This article considers how Buddhist perspectives on crime and punishment support the contemporary movement toward restorative (in place of retributive) justice. It begins by examining the two Pāli suttas that most directly address these issues: the Angulimala Sutta, about the reform of a serial killer, and the Lion’s Roar Sutta, about the responsibility of a ruler. Then it looks at the Vinaya, which has many implications for our understanding of motivation and reform, and finally at traditional Tibet to see how its criminal justice system embodied these Buddhist perspectives. It concludes with some reflections on why our present criminal justice systems serve the purposes of the state better than the needs of offenders and their victims.

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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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