Category Archives: Volume 09 2002

Embodied Virtue Theory

ISSN 1076—9005
Volume 9 2002

The Value of Human Differences: South Asian Buddhist Contributions Toward an Embodied Virtue Theory

Susanne Mrozik
Western Michigan University

What are virtues? Are these best described as cognitive and affective aspects of a person’s psyche, or can virtues also be described as features, postures, and movements of a person’s body? This paper explores the relationship between virtues and bodies in South Asian Buddhist traditions. The paper illumines several different ways in which Buddhist ethical discourse construes the nature of this relationship: (1) Bodies are the material effects of practicing virtues; (2) bodies are the material conditions for practicing virtues; (3) certain kinds of bodies can influence others to practice virtues; and (4) certain features, postures, and movements of bodies constitute in and of themselves virtues. The paper foregrounds the corporeal specificity of ethical agents in order to consider how South Asian Buddhist ethical discourse can contribute to the development of an embodied virtue theory.

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Śāntideva and the Bodhisattva Path

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 9 2002

Did Śāntideva Destroy the Bodhisattva Path?

Jon Wetlesen
University of Oslo

The question in the title has recently been answered in the affirmative by Paul Williams in his book on Altruism and Reality: Studies in the Philosophy of the Bodhicaryāvatāra. Williams assumes that Śāntideva attempted to justify the bodhisattva’s universal altruism on the basis of a reductive conception of a person, and that this entails a number of absurd consequences that are destructive of the bodhisattva path. Williams concedes that Śāntideva might have avoided these consequences if he had adopted a non-reductive conception of the person as a conventional truth, but Williams seems to assume that this would have to be an individualistic conception, and in that case it would have prevented Śāntideva from reaching his desired conclusion.

I argue that there may be a way out of this dilemma if we interpret Śāntideva’s conception of the person in the direction of an interpersonal holism. In this view, others are perceived not only as more or less similar to oneself, but as parts of oneself. The bodhisattva path is understood as a transformation from the small to the big self within the framework of conventional truth, and eventually to non-self within the highest truth. I believe that this approach takes better care of those few verses in chapter eight of Śāntideva’s book, on which Williams has based his interpretation, and that it is supported by a number of other verses in this context, to which Williams has not paid much attention.

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The Buddha-legend’s First Journey to the West

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 9, 2002

The Killing Test: The Kinship of Living Beings and the Buddha-legend’s First Journey to the West

Graeme MacQueen
McMaster University

As it has traveled, the Buddha-legend has carried complex messages and sets of ideas, among which is the kinship of living beings. When the story made its way to Europe in the medieval period in the form of Barlām and Josaphat, however, many of its messages were removed, and the kinship of living beings was one of the casualties. Concentrating on a particular episode in Barlām and Josaphat, I show how the kinship of living beings was progressively deleted. I then suggest that this removal was based, in part, on a historical practice used for the detection and repression of Manichaeism: the killing test. With the help of this mechanism of inquisition and persecution, the Buddha-legend was prevented, until the nineteenth century, from transmitting one of its key messages to the West.

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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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