Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction

Damien Keown

Language: English

Pages: 148

ISBN: 019280457X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The latter half of the twentieth century witnessed a growing interest in Buddhism, and it continues to capture the imagination of many in the West who see it as either an alternative or a supplement to their own religious beliefs. Numerous introductory books have appeared in recent years to cater to this growing interest, but almost none devotes attention to the specifically ethical dimensions of the tradition. For various complex cultural and historical reasons, ethics has not received as much attention in traditional Buddhist thought as it has in the West. Written by Damien Keown, one of the few experts worldwide who specializes in the area, Buddhist Ethics illustrates how Buddhism might approach a range of contemporary moral issues, ranging from abortion to euthanasia, sexuality to cloning, and even war and economics.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

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‘Peace Pagodas’ in Japan, as well as five in India and two each in Sri Lanka, the UK, and the USA. The group hopes that the pagodas and the sacred relics they house will exert a calming influence on a troubled world. Elsewhere in Japan, Daisetsu Ikeda, president of So¯ka Gakkai International (SGI), has been an active peace campaigner for many years. The objectives of SGI include the aim of ‘Working for peace by opposing all forms of violence and contributing to the welfare of humankind by

himself alight. The American journalist David Halberstam witnessed the dramatic scene: Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning flesh . . . Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think. In contrast to the shock and distress of those around him, the

system of rewards and punishments meted out by God but a kind of natural law akin to the law of gravity. In popular usage in the West, karma is thought of simply as the good and bad things that happen to a person, a little like good and bad luck. However, this oversimplifies what for Buddhists is a complex of interrelated ideas which embraces both ethics and belief in reincarnation. The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word karma is ‘action’, but karma as a religious concept is concerned not with

wrong, but that we should not judge too harshly those who take their own lives in circumstances of great pain or distress. However, there are alternative interpretations. One early school (the Sarva¯stiva¯da) seems to have supported the view that suicide may be permitted to 106 avoid loss of arhat status, and we are also told that the Buddha renounced his ‘life principle’ ( a ¯yusamska ¯ra) three months ˙ before he died (D.ii.106) (whether this constitutes ‘suicide’ would seem to involve

provide food, medicine, or some other requisite for life. Some commentators see this distinction as morally significant, whereas others do not. Given the importance Buddhism places on intention in moral evaluation, it would seem to matter little whether the fatal 109 outcome is achieved by active or passive means. Note that on the definition in use here the borderline case of administering painkillers – which may simultaneously hasten death – does not count as euthanasia of either kind, since

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