Volume 18, 2011
Bile & Bodhisattvas: Śāntideva on Justified Anger
In his famous text the Bodhicaryāvatāra, the 8th century Buddhist philosopher Śāntideva argues that anger towards people who harm us is never justified. The usual reading of this argument rests on drawing similarities between harms caused by persons and those caused by non-persons. After laying out my own interpretation of Śāntideva’s reasoning, I offer some objections to Śāntideva’s claim about the similarity between animate and inanimate causes of harm inspired by contemporary philosophical literature in the West. Following this, I argue that by reading Śāntideva’s argument as practical advice rather than as a philosophical claim about rational coherence, his argument can still have important insights even for those who reject his philosophical reasoning.