Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


Review: Chan Rhetoric of Uncertainty in the Blue Cliff Record

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Chan Rhetoric of Uncertainty in the Blue Cliff Record: Sharpening a Sword at the Dragon Gate. By Steven Heine. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, ISBN 978-0-19-939776-1 (hardback) 978-0-19-939777-8 (paperback), $105.00 USD (hardback) $36.95 USD (paperback).

Reviewed by Rafal K. Stepien

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Review: Buddhism and Psychedelic Spirituality in America

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Altered States:Buddhism and Psychedelic Spirituality in America by Douglas Osto. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016, 328 pages, ISBN 9780231177306 (hardback), U.S. $35.00.

Reviewed by Ronald S. Green

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Dependent Origination and the Value of Nature

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Dependent Origination, Emptiness, and the Value of Nature

David Cummiskey and Alex Hamilton
Bates College

This article explains the importance of the Buddhist doctrine of dependent origination to contemporary environmental ethics and also develops a Buddhist account of the relational, non-instrumental, and impersonal value of nature. The article’s methodology is “comparative” or “fusion” philosophy. In particular, dependent origination and Nāgārjuna’s doctrine of emptiness are developed in contrast to Aldo Leopold and J. Baird Callicott’s conception of deep ecology, and the Buddhist conception of value is developed using Christine Korsgaard’s Kantian analysis of the distinction between intrinsic/extrinsic value and means/ends value.

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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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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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Review: Critical Buddhism and Modern Japanese Buddhist Thought

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

Critical Buddhism: Engaging with Modern Japanese Buddhist Thought. By James Mark Shields. Farnham, Surrey, and Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2011, ISBN: 978-1-4094-1798-9 (hard-back), $119.95.

Reviewed by Ronald S. Green

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Zen Meets Kierkegaard

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 22, 2015

A Love Knowing Nothing: Zen Meets Kierkegaard

Mary Jeanne Larrabee
DePaul University

I present a case for a love that has a wisdom knowing nothing. How this nothing functions underlies what Kierkegaard urges in Works of Love and how Zen compassion moves us to action. In each there is an ethical call to love in action. I investigate how Kierkegaard’s “religiousness B” is a “second immediacy” in relation to God, one springing from a nothing between human and God. This immediacy clarifies what Kierkegaard takes to be the Christian call to love. I draw a parallel between Kierkegaard’s immediacy and the expression of immediacy within a Zen-influenced life, particularly the way in which it calls the Zen practitioner to act toward the specific needs of the person standing before one. In my understanding of both Kierkegaard and Zen life, there is also an ethics of response to the circumstances that put the person in need, such as entrenched poverty or other injustices.

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Review: Religion and the Making of Modern East Asia

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Religion and the Making of Modern East Asia. By Thomas David DuBois. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, xii+ 259 pages, ISBN 987-1107400405 (paperback), ISBN 978-1107008090 (cloth) $81.00.

Reviewed by Yueh-Mei Lin

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Mahāyāna Ethics and American Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Mahāyāna Ethics and American Buddhism: Subtle Solutions or Creative Perversions?

Charles S. Prebish
Pennsylvania State University & Utah State University (Emeritus)

“Mahāyāna Ethics and American Buddhism: Subtle Solutions or Creative Perversions?” initially explores the notion of two distinctly different forms of upāya, first presented by Damien Keown in his 1992 volume The Nature of Buddhist Ethics, in which one form of skill-in-means is available only to bodhisattvas prior to stage seven of the bodhisattva’s path and requires adherence to all proper ethical guidelines, while the second form of upāya is applicable to bodhisattvas at stage seven and beyond, and allows them to ignore any and all ethical guidelines in their attempts to alleviate suffering. This distinctly Mahāyāna interpretation of upāya is used to examine the presumably scandalous behavior of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche and Richard Baker, Rōshi, two of the most popular and controversial figures in American Buddhism. The article concludes that we can at least infer that applied in the proper fashion, by accomplished teachers, the activities allowed by upāya do present possibly subtle explanations of seemingly inappropriate behaviors. On the other hand, if abused by less realized beings, we must recognize these acts as merely creative perversions of a noble ethical heritage.

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Review: Purifying Zen

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Purifying Zen: Watsuji Tetsurō’s Shamon Dōgen. Watsuji Tetsurō, translated by Steve Bein. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2011, 174 pages; ISBN 978-0824835569 (Paperback), $24.00.

Reviewed by Anton Luis Sevilla

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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

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Review: Fabrication in Tang Dynasty Chan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Fathering Your Father: The Zen of Fabrication in Tang Buddhism. By Alan Cole. Berkeley:University of California Press, 2009, xix + 340 pages, ISBN: 8-0520254855 (paperback), US $29.95; ISBN 978-0520254858 (cloth).

Reviewed by Matthew J. Wilhite

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Review: Chan in Song-Dynasty China

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China. By Morten Schlütter. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2008, 289 pages, ISBN: 978-0-8248-3255-1 (cloth), US$48.00.

Reviewed by Jack Meng-Tat Chia

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Review: Dōgen’s Three Hundred Kōans

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

The True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dōgen’s Three Hundred Kōans. Commentary and Verse by John Daido Loori. Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi and John Daido Loori. Boston: Shambhala, 2005. 472 pages. ISBN 590302427 (cloth).

Reviewed by Gregory Miller

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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.

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Zen Social Ethics: Zen as a Social Ethics of Responsiveness

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 13, 2006

Zen as a Social Ethics of Responsiveness

T. P. Kasulis
The Ohio State University

One reason traditional Chan or Zen did not develop a comprehensive social ethics is that it arose in an East Asian milieu with axiologies (Confucian, Daoist, and Shintō) already firmly in place. Since these value orientations did not conflict with basic Buddhist principles, Chan/Zen used its praxes and theories of praxis to supplement and enhance, rather than criticize, those indigenous ethical orientations. When we consider the intercultural relevance of Zen ethics today, however, we must examine how its traditional ethical assumptions interface with its Western conversation partners. For example, it is critical that Chan and Zen stress an ethics of responsiveness rather than (as is generally the case of the modern West) one of responsibility. This paper analyzes special philosophical problems arising when one tries to carry Zen moral values without modification into Western contexts.

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Zen Social Ethics: Satori and the Moral Dimension of Enlightenment

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 13, 2006

Satori and the Moral Dimension of Enlightenment

Dale S. Wright
Occidental College

This essay addresses the question posed by Brian Victoria’s description of “moral blindness” in twentieth-century Japanese Zen masters by claiming that since Zen monastic training does not include practices of reflection that cultivate the moral dimension of life, skill in this dimension of human character was not considered a fundamental or necessary component of Zen enlightenment. The essay asks what an enlightened moral sensitivity might require, and concludes in challenging the Zen tradition to consider re-engaging the Mahāyāna Buddhist practices of reflection out of which Zen originated in order to assess the possible role of morality in its thought and practice of enlightenment.

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Zen Social Ethics: Chinul, Sŏngch’ŏl, and Minjung Buddhism in Korea

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 13, 2006

Wisdom, Compassion, and Zen Social Ethics: the Case of Chinul, Sŏngch’ŏl, and Minjung Buddhism in Korea

Jin Y. Park
American University

This essay examines the possibility of Zen social ethics by contemplating the relationship between wisdom and compassion in two Korean Zen masters, Pojo Chinul and T’oe’ong Sŏngch’ŏl. Unlike the common assumption that wisdom and compassion naturally facilitate each other in Zen practice, I contend that in both Chinul and Sŏngch’ŏl, they are in a relationship of tension rather than harmony and that such a tension provides a ground for Zen social ethics. In this context the Minjung Buddhist movement in contemporary Korea is discussed as an example of Zen social activism that makes visible the social dimension of Zen philosophy and practice.

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Zen Social Ethics: Zen, Ideology, and Prophetic Critique

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 13, 2006

Not Buying into Words and Letters: Zen, Ideology, and Prophetic Critique

Christopher Ives
Stonehill College

Judging from the active participation of Zen leaders and institutions in modern Japanese imperialism, one might conclude that by its very nature Zen succumbs easily to ideological co-optation. Several facets of Zen epistemology and institutional history support this conclusion. At the same time, a close examination of Zen theory and praxis indicates that the tradition does possess resources for resisting dominant ideologies and engaging in ideology critique.

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Zen Social Ethics: A Response

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 13, 2006

Saving Zen From Moral Ineptitude: A Response to
Zen Social Ethics: Historical Constraints and Present Prospects

John C. Maraldo
University of North Florida

The four articles on the historical constraints and present prospects of a Zen social ethics are ethical essays in an exemplary sense: although they reflect on what Zen social ethics actually is or has been, their primary concern is with what a Zen social ethics could be or should be. Insofar as the papers are descriptive, they describe a lack or a failure of ethics in the Zen tradition, the failure for example to avert complicity in Japanese militarism and the suffering caused from it. Even where they point to ethical resources within the Zen tradition they do so in the awareness that such resources were not explored, much less utilized, in the past. Yet…

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Review: Dōgen, Mystical Realist

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 13, 2006

Eihei Dōgen – Mystical Realist. Revised, 3rd edition. By Hee-jin Kim. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004. 320 pages. Paperback. ISBN 0861713761.

Reviewed by M. T. Jarvis

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Review: Capping Phrases for Kōan Practice

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 13, 2006

Zen Sand: The Book of Capping Phrases for Kōan Practice. Compiled, translated, and annotated by Victor Sōgen Hori. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003, 764 pages, ISBN: 0-8248-2284-6 (cloth), US $44.00.

Reviewed by Jiang Wu

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Zen Social Ethics in Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

What’s Compassion Got to Do with It? Determinants of Zen Social Ethics in Japan

Christopher Ives
Stonehill College

Judging from pronouncements by contemporary Engaged Buddhists, one might conclude that historical expressions of Zen social ethics have rested on the foundation of compassion and the precepts. The de facto systems of social ethics in Japanese Zen, however, have been shaped largely by other epistemological, sociological, and historical factors, and compassion should best be understood as a “theological virtue” that historically has gained specificity from those other factors.

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Review: Sōtō Zen in Tokugawa Japan

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Sōtō Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan.By Duncan Ryūken Williams. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005. xiv + 241 pages. ISBN: 0-691-11928-7.

Reviewed by Steven Heine

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Review: A Buddhist Social Theory

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory. By David R. Loy. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2003. 228 pages. Paperback. ISBN 0861713664.

Reviewed by Dan Arnold

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Review: Zen Environmental Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

Zen Buddhism and Environmental Ethics. By Simon P. James. Hampshire, UK: Ashgate, 2004. 142 pages. ISBN: 0754613674.

Reviewed by Eric Sean Nelson

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Review: Buddhism and Psychedelics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics. Edited by Allan Hunt Badiner and Alex Grey. Preface by Huston Smith. Foreword by Stephen Batchelor. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2002. 238 pages. Cloth. ISBN 0-8118-3286-4.

Reviewed by Geoffrey Redmond

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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

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Review: The Kyoto School

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 10, 2003

Philosophers of Nothingness: an Essay on the Kyoto School. By James W. Heisig. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2001. Pp. xi + 380. ISBN 0-8248-2480-6 (paperback), US $21.95 + 305 pages, ISBN 0-86171-307-9 (paperback), US $34.95.

Reviewed by Diana L. Pasulka

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Review: The Zen Works of Stonehouse

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 7, 2000

The Zen Works of Stonehouse: Poems and Talks of a Fourteenth-Century Chinese Hermit. Translated by Red Pine. San Francisco: Mercury House, 1999, xvi + 231 pages, ISBN: 1–56279–101–X, US $14.95.

Reviewed by Eric Reinders

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Masao Abe, Zen, and Social Ethics

ISSN:1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

Masao Abe, Zen Buddhism, and Social Ethics

Daniel Palmer
Purdue University

As the discourse in the West comes to focus more upon social issues, any form of understanding that is to remain alive must be able to respond to such concerns. If Western Buddhism is to survive it must illustrate how it can address these issues. I will argue that Abe recognizes that this has been an area in which Buddhism has been traditionally deficient, but that by reinterpreting several key Buddhist concepts Abe offers a new paradigm of Buddhism that does allow for the possibility of social critique while still retaining the essential insights of traditional Zen Buddhism. In the first section of the paper I will develop the specific nature of the criticisms in relation to the traditional understanding of Buddhist doctrine. In the second section I will show how Abe’s transvaluation of Zen Buddhism in light of his dialogical hermeneutic takes account of these criticisms and develops the resources within Zen thought to deal with them.

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Review: Philosophical Meditations on Zen

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 6, 1999

Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism. By Dale S. Wright. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, ISBN: 0-521-59010-8, US $53.95.

Reviewed by Steven Heine

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Review: The Zen Poetry Of Dōgen

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

The Zen Poetry Of Dōgen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace. By Steven Heine. Boston: Charles E. Tuttle Co. Inc., 1997, viii + 183 pages, ISBN: 0-8048-3107-6, US $14.95.

Reviewed by Taigen Dan Leighton

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Review: Zen in Medieval Vietnam

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

Zen in Medieval Vietnam: A Study and Translation of the Thien Uyen Tap Anh. By Cuong Tu Nguyen. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1997, 488 pages, ISBN 0-8248-1948-9, US$55.00.

Reviewed by Peter C. Phan

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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

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Review: Moral and Ethical Teachings of Zen

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 5 1998

The Heart of Being: Moral and Ethical Teachings of Zen Buddhism. By John Daido Loori. Boston: Charles E.Tuttle, 1996, 267 pages, ISBN0-8048-3078-9, $16.95.

Reviewed by Damien Keown

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Review: Zen Handbook

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

Le Guide du Zen. By Eric Rommeluere. Paris: Editions Le Livre de Poche, Collection les Guides Selene, 1997, 315 pages, ISBN: 2-253-17003-8, FF 79.

Reviewed By Alioune Kone-el-adji

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Review: A Zen Master’s Lessons

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Living a Life That Matters. By Bernard Glassman and Rick Fields. New York: Bell Tower, 1996, ix, 171 pages, ISBN 0-517-70377-7 (cloth), $20.00.

Reviewed by Duncan Ryuuken Williams

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Review: Japanese Buddhism and Comparative Philosophy

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 4 1997

The Social Self in Zen and American Pragmatism. By Steve Odin. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996. Pp. xvi, 482. ISBN: 0-7914-2492-8 (paperback), $24.95.

Working Emptiness: Toward a Third Reading of Emptiness in Buddhism and Postmodern Thought. By Newman Robert Glass. Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press, 1995. Pp. ix, 146. ISBN: 0-7885-0080-5 (cloth), $38.95; ISBN: 0-7885-0081-3 (paperback), $25.95.

Reviewed by Steven Heine

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Review: Zen and the Way of the Sword

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Zen and the Way of the Sword: Arming the Samurai Psyche. By Winston L. King. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993, 265 pages, $10.95 (paper).

Reviewed by Charles B. Jones

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Judeo-Christian and Buddhist Justice

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Judeo-Christian and Buddhist Justice

Winston King
Vanderbilt University

This article compares and contrasts the traditional Judeo-Christian and Buddhist notions of justice. It begins with an examination of some traditional biblical resources, such as the Job story, and moves ahead to trace Buddhist ideas about justice as developed in the Pāli Canon. In the Conclusion, more recent Buddhist considerations are developed, such as those found in Zen and in modern socially engaged Buddhism.

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