Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


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.

Read article

Review: Zen and War

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Imperial-Way Zen: Ichikawa Hakugen’s Critique and Lingering Questions for Buddhist Ethics. By Christopher Ives. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2009, x + 274 pages, ISBN 978-0-8248-3331-2 (hardcover), US $52.00.

Reviewed by Douglas Ober

Read article

If Intention Is Karma

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

If Intention Is Karma: A New Approach to the Buddha’s Socio-Political Teachings

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka

I argue in this paper that early Buddhist ethics is one of absolute values and that we can consistently use those absolute values to interpret some early teachings that seemingly show an ethic of context-dependent and negotiable values. My argument is based on the concept of intention as karma, the implications and problems of which I have also discussed.

Read article

Review: Buddhism and War

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Buddhist Warfare. Edited by Michael K. Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, xi + 257 pages, ISBN: 978-0195394839 (paper); US $29.95.

Reviewed by Henry M. Schliff

Read article

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.

Read article

Review: Chinese Monks in the Struggle against Japanese Aggressions

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Buddhism, War, and Nationalism: Chinese Monks in the Struggle against Japanese Aggressions, 1931-1945. By Xue Yu. New York: Routledge, 2005, xiii + 278 pages, ISBN 0415975115, US $85.00 (cloth).

Reviewed by Brooks Jessup

Read article

Zen Social Ethics: Introduction

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 13, 2006

Introduction to “Zen Social Ethics: Historical Constraints and Present Prospects”

Taigen Dan Leighton
Institute of Buddhist Studies

This collection of papers is from a panel organized by Chris Ives for the Ethics Section of the American Academy of Religion meeting in Philadelphia in November, 2005. As Chair of that panel I offer this brief introduction. The topic addresses a clear concern, apparent to scholars but also to many practitioners, about the problematic approach to ethics of the Zen Buddhist tradition and the place of ethics in its modern context. One major impetus for this concern is the challenge to Japanese Zen from Brian Victoria in his Zen at War, and the revelation of the active support by eminent Zen figures for Japanese militarism and jingoism before and during World War II. One assumption of these papers is that Zen’s historical ethical failings may be symptomatic of internal problematics in the very structure of Zen philosophy and discourse, perhaps more heightened in its interface with the West and modernity.

Read article

Review: Just-war Ideology in Buddhist Sri Lanka

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 13, 2006

In Defense of Dharma: Just-war Ideology in Buddhist Sri Lanka. By Tessa J. Bartholomeusz. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2002, 209 pages, ISBN 0700716823 (paper), US $37.95.

Reviewed by Annewieke Vroom

Read article

Review: Zen War Stories

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Zen War Stories. By Brian Daizen Victoria. London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. Pp. 268+xviii. Paperback. ISBN: 0700715800.

Reviewed by David Loy

Read article

Buddhism and the War on Terror

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 10 2003

From Vulnerability to Virtuosity: Buddhist Reflections on Responding to Terrorism and Tragedy

Peter D. Hershock
East-West Center

Here, I want to reflect on how we—both privately and publicly—have been responding to the horrific events of September 11. The declared war on terrorism—a central part of our public response—has not ended, but has instead spread and intensified. Along with this, our “enemies” have multiplied. Parents, sons, and daughters continue to be killed, sacrificed singly or in small groups, by the dozens, or—as in Bali on October 12, 2002—by the hundreds. My intention is not to analyze the complex geopolitics of the “war on terror.” Neither is it to critically assess either specific policy decisions or their effects on the quality of daily life and civil liberties. Instead, I want to offer some general observations about terrorism and tragedy and then, from a Buddhist perspective, to begin reflecting on our broad strategies for responding to them and to the realization of our individual and collective vulnerability.

Read article

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

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.

Read article

Review: Zen at War

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Zen at War. By Brian (Daizen) A. Victoria. New York & Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1997, xii + 228 pages, ISBN 0-8348-0405-0, $19.95.

Reviewed by Fabio Rambelli

Read article