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Human Rights Founded on Buddha-Nature

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 17, 2010

Founding Human Rights within Buddhism: Exploring Buddha-Nature as an Ethical Foundation

Anton Luis Sevilla
Ateneo de Manila University

In this article, I hope to suggest (1) a fertile ground for human rights and social ethics within Japanese intellectual history and (2) a possible angle for connecting Dōgen’s ethical views with his views on private religious practice. I begin with a review of the attempts to found the notion of rights within Buddhism. I focus on two well-argued attempts: Damien Keown’s foundation of rights on the Four Noble Truths and individual soteriology and Jay Garfield’s foundation of rights on the compassionate drive to liberate others. I then fuse these two approaches in a single concept: Buddha-nature. I analyze Dōgen’s own view on the practice-realization of Buddha-nature, and the equation of Buddha-nature with being, time, emptiness, and impermanence. I end with tentative suggestions concerning how Dōgen’s particular view on Buddha-nature might affect any social ethics or view of rights that is founded on it.

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