Category Archives: Volume 12 2005

Brain-Centered Criteria for Death

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

Buddhism and Death: The Brain-Centered Criteria

John-Anderson L. Meyer
University of Hawai’i

This essay explores the two main definitions of human death that have gained popularity in the western medical context in recent years, and attempts to determine which of these criteria—“whole-brain” or “cerebral”—is best in accord with a Buddhist understanding of death. In the end, the position is taken that there is textual and linguistic evidence in place for both the “cerebral” and “whole-brain” definitions of death. Because the textual sources underdetermine the definitive Buddhist conception of death, it is left to careful reasoning by way of logic, intuition, and inference to determine which definition of death is best representative of Buddhism.

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Authentic Love and Compassion

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

No Real Protection without Authentic Love and Compassion

John Makransky
Boston College

The focus of modern technocratic societies on material means for well being tends to ignore the significance of motivation: What sort of motive force drives the social policies and development strategies of our societies, and how does that affect the outcome of our endeavors to establish social stability and well-being? This paper will draw upon teachings from the Ornament of the Mahāyāna Scriptures (Mahāyāna-sūtra-alaṃkāra, ascribed to Maitreya circa the fourth century CE), teachings that focus on the motive power of boundless love and what happens where it is lacking. I will try to apply insights from that text to contemporary problems of social fragmentation and violence.

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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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Groundwork for a Metaphysic of Buddhist Morals

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

Groundwork for a Metaphysic of Buddhist Morals: A New Analysis of puñña and kusala, in Light of sukka

Martin Adam
University of Victoria

This paper offers a new basis for assessing the nature of Buddhist moral thinking. Although consistent with Damien Keown’s view that Buddhist eth­ics may be considered a form of virtue ethics, the account outlined here does not aim to determine which western ethical theory Buddhism most closely matches. It suggests instead that Buddhist discourse presupposes different kinds of moral agency, distinguishable on the basis of the spiritual status of the agent. The moral language characteristically employed in different texts of the Pāli Canon differs accordingly. This accounts for some of the difficul­ties experienced by modern authors attempting to make comparisons with western traditions. Apparent inconsistencies among the texts can be resolved if one takes careful note of the spiritual status of the moral agents under dis­cussion. The argument is based upon an analysis of a particular conceptual schema found in the Pāli Canon, namely, the tetrad of four logical categories of action based upon the pair of the bright and the dark (sukka and kaṇha). This schema is employed in order to clarify the relationship of two more commonly discussed terms, puñña and kusala.

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Filial Piety in Early Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

Filial Piety in Early Buddhism

Guang Xing
University of Hong Kong

Buddhist scholars like Kenneth Ch’en thought that filial piety was a special feature of Chinese Buddhism. Later, John Strong employed “popular Buddhist stories” to show that filial piety was also important in Indian Buddhism, but he asserted that it was “a Buddhist compromise with the Brāhmanical ethics of filiality operating at the popular level.” On the other hand, Gregory Schopen, who mainly used Indian Buddhist epigraphical material in his research, pointed out the same idea but he could not find definitive support from the early Buddhist textual sources. My investigation of the early Buddhist texts and analysis of the relevant passages clearly shows that filial piety is one of the important aspects of the early Buddhist ethical teachings. Filial piety was practiced by the early Indian Buddhists (1) as a way of requiting the debt to one’s parents; (2) as a chief ethical good action; and (3) as Dharma, the social order. And on this basis it also shows that the early Indian Buddhists practiced filial piety not as a “compromise with the Brāhmanical ethics of filiality” but as an important teaching taught by the master.

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Conference: Revisioning Karma

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

Papers from the JBE Online conference

on “Revisioning Karma”


Honorary Chairman and Convener: Dale Wright
Occidental College, Los Angeles


Critical Questions Towards a Naturalized Concept of Karma in Buddhism

Dale Wright
Occidental College

Groundwork for a Metaphysic of Buddhist Morals: A New Analysis of Puñña and Kusala, in Light of Sukka

Martin Adam
University of Victoria

Merit Transfer in Mahāyāna Buddhism

Barbra Clayton
Mt. Allison University

Reflections on Kant and Karma

Bradford Cokelet
Northwestern University

Karma, Rebirth, and Mental Causation

Christian Coseru
College of Charleston

Is the Buddhist Doctrine of Karma Cognitively Meaningful?

James Deitrick
University of Central Arkansas

Valuing Karma: A Critical Concept for Orienting Interdependence with Wisdom, Attentive Mastery and Moral Clarity

Peter Hershock
East-West Center

Karma, Rebirth, and the Problem of Evil

Whitley Kaufman
University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Karma, Character, and Consequentialism

Damien Keown
Goldsmiths College, University of London

Karma in the Later Texts of the Pāli Canon

Jessica Main
McGill University

Karma: Buddhism and the Phenomenology of the Ethical

Eric Nelson
University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Dark and Bright Karma: A New Reading

Abraham Velez
Georgetown University

The Reactionary Role of Karma in 20th Century Japan

Brian Victoria
University of Adelaide