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Volume III

Sri Lanka International Buddhis Academy


Sri Lanka



Sri Lanka International Journal of Buddhist Studies



Sri Lanka International Buddhist Academy

(SIBA) Pallekele, Kundasala , Kandy

Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka international Journal of Buddhist Studies


Volume 3

Advisory Board

Ven. Dr. Phramaha Somachai Thanavuddho

Ven. Bhikkhu analayo

Hon. Dr. Pradeep NilangaDela

Prof. Y. Karunadasa

Prof. Richard F. Gombrich

Prof. P.B.Meegaskumbura

Prof. Oliver Abeynayake

Prof. George D. Bond

Prof. Jonathan S. Walters

Prof. Asanga Tilakaratne

Prof. Kapila abhayawansa

Prof. Tilak Kariyawasam

Prof. Toshiichi Endo

Prof. Padmasiri de silva


Sri Lanka International Journal of Buddhist Studies


Volume 3

Editorial Board

Chief Editor

Bhikkhuni Dr. W. Suvimalee

Associate Editors

Ven. Mahawela Rathanapala

Ms. Hasanthi Y. Dahanayake

Mr. U.L.B. Kotandeniya

Mr. Thilina Bandara




Analayo, Bhikkhu PhD (Peradeniya)

Associate Professor, Centre for Buddhist Studies,

University of Hamburg, Germany

Ariyaratne, Iromi (PhD Candidate, Peradeniya)

H.O.D., Department of Buddhist Studies,

Sri Lanka International Buddhist Academy

Author of some books in Sinhala on Buddhism and

research articles for academic journals

Emmer, John

M.A. Sri Lanka International Buddhist Academy,

M.A.Philosophy, Pennsylvania State University

MSc. Computer Science, Ball State University, Indiana

B.A. Philosophy, Earlham Collega, Indiana

Fernando, Anoja,PhD (University of Colombo)

MBBS (Ceylon), BA, FRCP (London)

Anoja Fernando is Emeritus Professor at the University of Ruhuna,Sri Lanka, where she was Professor of Pharmacology and Dean, Faculty of Medicine. She is a past President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association. Currently she is the Chairperson, Ethics Review Com-


mittee, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Chairperson, Subcommittee on Professionalism and Ethics, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, and Member, Working Committee on Biotech- nology and Bioethics, National Science Foundation, Sri Lanka. She teaches medical ethics to undergraduates and postgraduates.

She was Chairperson of the National Bioethics Committee from 2004 to 2008 and Chairper- son, National Committee on Ethics in Science and Technology, from 2010 to 2013. Profes- sor Fernando was also President of the Asian Bioethics Association from 2010-2012, and a member of the Steering Committee of the Forum for Ethical Review Committees in Asia and the Western Pacific from 2003 to 2009. She is a resource person for research ethics training workshops conducted by FERCAP and WHO/SEARO, and a member of FERCAP- SIDCER survey teams evaluating Ethical Review Committees in the Asia Pacific region. She is also a resource person for bioethics teaching/training activities organized by UNESCO in the region. She contributed the Chapter on Sri Lanka to the Handbook of Global Bioethics, Springer, 2014.

Gaveshika, Rev. Dhamma,

M.A. Buddhist Studies,

Sri Lanka International Buddhist Academy

B.A. University of Peradeniya

Goonatilake, Susantha PhD

Dr. Susantha Goonatilake was first trained in electrical engineering in Sri Lanka, Germany and Britain and later in sociology in Sri Lanka and Britain.

He has been interested in exploring the geo-politics of knowledge and his 15 books pub- lished by global scholarly publishing houses include: Toward a Global Science: Mining Civilizational Knowledge; Merged Evolution: the Long Term Implications of Information Technology and Biotechnology; Technological Independence: the Asian Experience; Evolu- tion of Information:

Lineages in Genes, Culture and Artefact; Aborted Discovery: Science and Creativity in the Third World. He has taught or researched in several universities in Europe, USA and Japan.


He has also worked at the UN and been a senior consultant for all the UN organs dealing with knowledge and science and technology issues (such as UNU, UNESCO, UNDP, ILO, FAO, ESCAP, APDA, etc.

Hoffman, Frank J. PhD

Professor Frank J. Hoffman obtained his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion (1981) in University of London, King's College; M.A. in Asian Philosophy (1974) in University of Hawaii Manoa. He is Professor of Philosophy, West Chester University, and Visiting Scholar (Associate), South Asia Center, University of Pennsylvania. At SIBA, Dr Hoffman is Professor of Philosophy and Bud-

dhism, Kandy, Sri Lanka (2012 - present).

Professor Hoffman has approximately 100 publications including books, book chapters, journal articles, encyclopedia articles, and book reviews. He served as Chair of the Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium and Chair, of the Greater Philadelphia Asian Studies Consortium.

Mrozik, Susanne PhD (Harvard)

Susanne Mrozik is Associate Professor of Religion at Mount Holyoke College, Massachu- setts, USA. She received her Ph.D. in the Study of Religion from Harvard University in 1999 and her M.T.S. in World Religions from Harvard Divinity School in 1990. At Mount Holyoke College, Prof. Mrozik teaches courses on Buddhist ethics, Buddhist literature, Bud- dhism in America, Women and Buddhism, as well as introductory survey courses in Bud- dhism and Religion.

Prof. Mrozik is the recent recipient of grants from Fulbright and American Institute of Sri Lankan Studies This has enabled her to take a two-year leave of absence from Mount Holyoke College to conduct research on Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka. Prof. Mrozik has pub- lished books and articles on a range of topics including Budhist ethics and Buddhist women and conducts ethnographic research on Sri Lankan Buddhist nuns. As a specialist in Bud- dhist ethics and gender, she has also engaged in textual research on Buddhist Sanskrit litera- ture. She is the author of Virtuous Bodies: The Physical Dimensions of Morality in Buddhist Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2007), co-editor of Women Practicing Buddhism: Ameri- can Experiences (Wisdom Publications, 2007), and co-editor of Embedded Languages:

Studies in Sri Lankan and Buddhist Cultures: Essays in Honor of W.S. Karunatillake (Godage International Publishers, 2012).


Q, Rev. Phap

M.A.Sri Lanka International Buddhist Academy

B.A. Vietnam Buddhist University

Singh, Anand PhD

Associate Professor,

Buddhist Studies & Civilization, Gautam Buddha University,

Greater Noida, Gautam Buddha Nagar, UP, India, 201308

Sramon, Rev. Upali

M.A. Sri Lanka International Buddhist Academy

B.A. Hons. University of Peradeniya

Wickramasinghe, Chandima, PhD

Chandima S.M. Wickramasinghe earned a BA. in Western Classical Culture from the Uni- versity of Peradeniya. Having successfully completed the research on a comparative per- spective on ancient slavery she received her Ph.D. in Classics from the University of Not- tingham in UK in 2004. She was a Fulbright Research Fellow of the University of Wiscon-

She has been teaching multiple

sin-Madison, USA from November 2009 to May 2010 modules ranging from Greek and Roman literature,

philosophy, religion, social history, art history and political history to Greek language both at undergraduate and postgraduate level at Peradeniya since 2004. Her work focuses on an- cient slavery, social history in ancient Greece, comparative studies on

various aspects of Aristotle’s Ethics and Buddhist teachings, Euripidean dramas and on An- cient Greek Vase paintings.


Currently she is serving as a senior Lecturer in Greek and Roman Studies in the Dept. of Classical Languages, University of Peradeniya.

She has a number of research articles to her credit in Academic Journals in Sri Lanka and abroad. She has also received the State Literary Award for the best drama translation into Sinhala (of a book in Greek) in 2010

Yuan, Cong

M.A.Sri Lanka International Buddhist Academy

B.A. Economics, Central University of Finance and Economics, Wanguangqian,People’s Republic of China



On the Bhikkhunã Ordination Controversy

Ven. Bhikkhu Anālayo

An Asian Viewpoint on the Ethics of Modern Medicine

Anoja Fernando

The Concept of Nonviolence in Buddhism and its Application to Conflict Resolution in society

Frank J. Hoffman

Love and Social Justice

Susanne Mrozik

Issues in Buddhist Ecological Studies: Some Gleanings

Anand Singh


The key to a Successful Life: A Comparative Study on Morality in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and that in Buddhist Dis- courses

Chandima S.M.Wickramasinghe

Buddhist Explorations of the New Globalised World

Susantha Goonatilake

The Buddhist Standpoint with regard to the Partaking

of Garlic by the Ubhatosaïgha

Iromi Ariyaratne

No Esoteric Buddhism The Scope of the Early Buddhist

Teachings for Lay People

John Emmer

Relationship Between Buddhism and Beliefs in Gods

Ven. Dhamma Gavesishika


Why are the Samacitta- devas Called “ Same-minded Deities”?

Ven. Upali Sraman

The Seven Methods of Eliminating the Taints

Ven. Phap Q

A Brief History of Chinese Lay Buddhism:

From 1 st Century B.C. to 13 th Century A.D.

Cong Yuan


On the Bhikkhunã Ordination Controversy

Bhikkhu Anàlayo


In the Theravàda tradition the lineage of bhikkhunãs died out some thousand years ago. Pre- sent-day attempts to revive this lineage meet with opposition. In what follows I examine ar- guments raised by opponents to the revival of bhikkhunã ordination. I begin with the legal aspect, followed by taking up the question whether a revival of an order of bhikkhunãs is de- sirable.

Before getting into the actual topic, I need to briefly comment on the methodological back- ground for my discussion, in particular on different ways how Vinaya can be read. For the present context two modes of reading Vinaya are of particular importance. One is what I would call a legal reading, the other is a historical-critical reading. A legal reading attempts to understand legal implications, a historical-critical reading attempts to reconstruct history through comparative study. Both ways of reading have their proper place and value, depend- ing on the circumstances and particular aim of one’s reading the Vinaya.

For someone ordained within the Theravàda tradition, the Pàli Vinaya is the central law book on which the observation of the monastic rules is based. 1 The rules in the way they are set forth in the Theravàda Vinaya are binding on anyone taking ordination in the Theravàda tradition, not the rules in other Vinaya traditions. So for legal purposes, the appropriate read- ing is a legal reading of the descriptions given and the rules pronounced in the Theravàda Vinaya, together with their understanding by later Theravàda tradition. Other Vinayas are not of direct relevance, as they do not have legal implications for a monastic of the Theravàda tradition.

The situation is different, however, when one aims at reconstructing an early, perhaps the earliest possible account of what happened. This requires a historical-critical mode of reading, where the relevant portion of the Theravàda Vinaya needs to be studied in com- parison with other Vinaya traditions.


SIJBS Volume 3

In the first part of the present article I will be examining the legal question, consequently my discussion will be based solely on the description given in the Theravàda Vinaya, irrespec-

tive of the historical likelihood or otherwise of this description. In the second part of the ar-

ticle I will attempt a historical reconstruction of the Buddha’s attitude towards an order of

bhikkhunãs, hence at that point I will also consult Vinayas of other traditions. 2



main argument raised against bhikkhunã ordination is based on the widely held assump-


that, once a Theravàda bhikkhunã order has become extinct, it cannot be revived. This

assessment is based on the two main rules that, according to the Cullavagga (Cv) of the Pàli Vinaya, were given by the Buddha to bhikkhus on the matter of the higher ordination of fe-

male candidates. The two rules are as follows:

Cv X.2: "Bhikkhus,

bhikkhus." 3

I authorize the giving of the higher ordination of bhikkhunãs


Cv X.17: "Bhikkhus, I authorize the higher ordination in the community of bhikkhus for one

who has been higher ordained on one side and has cleared herself in the community of bhikkhunãs." 4

According to the earlier rule given to bhikkhus on the issue of ordaining bhikkhunãs (Cv X.2), bhikkhus alone can give the higher ordination. Without this rule being explicitly re- scinded, the subsequent rule (Cv X.17) then stipulates that the higher ordination of female candidates requires the cooperation of a community of already existing bhikkhunãs. These first perform their part in giving the candidate the higher ordination, followed by a comple- tion of the ordination ceremony in the presence of a community of bhikkhus.

The reasons why these rules are held to prevent a revival of an extinct order of bhikkhunãs

can be gathered from the writings of two eminent contemporary Theravàda bhikkhus, Phra

Payutto and Bhikkhu hànissaro. Bhikkhu hànissaro (2001/2013: 449f) critically takes up

the suggestion that


Bhikkhu Anālayo

On the Bhikkhunã Ordination Controversy

"because the original allowance for bhikkhus to ordain bhikkhunãs was never explic- itly rescinded, it is still in place and so bhikkhus may ordain bhikkhunãs."

He explains that "this argument ignores the fact that the Buddha followed two different patterns in changing Community transactions, depending on the type of changes made. Only

did he

when totally withdrawing permission for something he had earlier allowed follow the pattern of explicitly rescinding the earlier allowance."

"When keeping an earlier allowance while placing new restrictions on it, he followed a second pattern, in which he merely stated the new restrictions for the allowance and gave directions for how the new form of the relevant transaction should be con- ducted in line with the added restrictions."

"Because Cv.X.17.2, the passage allowing bhikkhus to give full Acceptance to a can- didate who has been given Acceptance by the Bhikkhunã Saïgha, simply adds a new restriction to the earlier allowance given in Cv.X.2.1, it follows this second pattern. This automatically rescinds the earlier allowance."

He concludes that

"in the event that the original Bhikkhunã Saïgha died out, Cv.X.17.2 prevents bhikkhus from granting Acceptance to women". So according to Bhikkhu hànissaro, with the disappearance of an order of bhikkhunãs it becomes impossible for bhikkhus to give the higher ordination to female candidates. The reason is that the first rule (Cv X.2) that allows them to do so has been implicitly rescinded by the promulgation of the second rule (Cv X.17). His argument is in line with a basic prin- ciple in law in general and in the Vinaya in particular, where the latest rule on a particular matter is the one that is valid and which has to be followed.

In a similar vein, Phra Payutto (2013: 58f) explains that "when the Buddha prescribes a specific rule and then later makes revisions to it the most recent version of the rule is binding. It is not necessary to say that previous


SIJBS Volume 3

versions have been annulled. This is a general standard in the Vinaya." He adds that "the reason why the Buddha didn’t rescind the allowance for bhikkhus to ordain bhikkhunis is straightforward: the bhikkhus were still required to complete the bhikkhuni ordinations."

Phra Payutto (2013: 71) adds that

"if one were to assume that the original allowance for bhikkhus to ordain bhikkhunis

then -Because once the Buddha laid down

the second regulation the bhikkhus practiced accordingly and abandoned the first


by themselves has been valid all along

In short, Phra Payutto and Bhikkhu hànissaro conclude that the earlier ruling has been automatically rescinded by the later ruling. The interpretation proposed by Phra Payutto and Bhikkhu hànissaro clearly follows an inner coherence and logic. It is in line with a basic Vinaya principle according to which the latest rule on a specific issue is the valid one. This inner coherence explains why the conclusion arrived at by these two eminent bhikkhus has for a long time been taken as the final word on the issue.


Note that the discussion so far has considered the two rules apart from their narrative con- text. Vinaya law is in principle case law. The various rules believed to have been promul- gated by the Buddha come in response to a particular situation (the only exception being the garudhammas). As with any case law, a study of the significance of a particular ruling re- quires an examination of its narrative context. This narrative context, independent of its his- torical accuracy, determines the legal applicability of the respective rule.

In order to take into account this requirement, in what follows I sketch the Vinaya narrative at the background of these two rules. In this sketch I follow a legal reading of the text, in the sense that I am not attempting to reconstruct or make a pronouncement on what actually happened. Instead my intention is only to summarize what the Pàli Vinaya presents as the narrative background to the promulgation of these two rules, Cv X.2 and Cv X.17.


Bhikkhu Anālayo

On the Bhikkhunã Ordination Controversy

The promulgation of Cv X.2 is preceded by an account of how Mahà-pajàpatã Gotamã be- came the first bhikkhunã. This took place by her accepting the eight garudhammas, "principles to be respected". The sixth of these garudhammas deals with the ordination of bhikkhunãs. It reads as follows:

"A probationer (sikkhamànà) who has trained for two years in six principles should

seek for the higher ordination from both communities." 5

Having become a bhikkhunã through the acceptance of the eight garudhammas, Mahàpa- jàpatã Gotamã then approached the Buddha with the following question: "Venerable sir, how should I proceed in relation to those Sàkyan women?" 6 She was asking about the proper course to be taken in relation to her following of 500 Sàkyan women, who had come to- gether with her in quest of higher ordination. In reply to this question, the Buddha promul- gated Cv X.2, according to which bhikkhus on their own should give the higher ordination to female candidates.

Considering the background to the first rule clarifies that, according to the Vinaya narrative, the Buddha wanted from the outset bhikkhunã ordination to be done by both communities. This is clearly evident from his pronouncement of the sixth garudhamma. Mahàpajàpatã Go- tamã had accepted to undertake this and the other garudhammas and thereby became a bhikkhunã.

Since she was only a single bhikkhunã, she was unable to follow the sixth garudhamma. There were no other bhikkhunãs to form the minimum quorum required for higher ordina- tion. Because it was impossible for her at this juncture of events to act according to the sixth garudhamma, she approached the Buddha and inquired about the proper line of conduct to be adopted regarding her female followers. In reply, the Buddha authorized that bhikkhus should give them ordination on their own.

So the first of the two rules under discussion, Cv X.2, has a very clear purpose. It addresses a situation where an ordination by a community of bhikkhus in cooperation with a commu- nity of bhikkhunãs is the proper way to proceed, as indicated in garudhamma 6. However,


SIJBS Volume 3

this is not possible if a community of bhikkhunãs is not in existence. In such a situation the Buddha authorized that the bhikkhus should give the higher ordination on their own. He laid down this rule after having promulgated the sixth garudhamma and thereby after having clearly expressed his preference for bhikkhunã ordination to be conducted by both communi- ties.

The ruling Cv X.2 comes in the Vinaya directly after the report of Mahàpajàpatã Gotamã be- coming a bhikkhunã. Following Cv X.2, the Vinaya continues with a series of other events related in some way or another to an already existing bhikkhunã order. For example, the Buddha explains to Mahàpajàpatã Gotamã that for her and the new bhikkhunãs the rules they have in common with the bhikkhus are as binding as the rules promulgated specifically for them (Cv X.4).7 Then the Vinaya reports that the bhikkhus were actively engaged in various legal performances on behalf of the bhikkhunãs (Cv X.6), such as recitation of the code of rules (pàñimokkha), the confession of offences (àpatti), and the carrying out of formal acts (kamma). Later on, the Buddha is on record for explicitly stopping the bhikkhus from doing

these legal activities on behalf of the bhikkhunãs. 8

According to the Vinaya narrative, the rule Cv X.17 was occasioned by the fact that some female candidates were too shy to reply to questions by the bhikkhus regarding their suit- ability for higher ordination. As part of the standard procedure for the higher ordination for males as well as females, the ordaining monastics need to ascertain that the candidate has no sexual abnormality. In a traditional setting women can easily feel embarrassed if they have to reply to such questions in front of bhikkhus.

To deal with this problem, the second of the two rules mentioned above came into existence. According to the rule Cv X.17, the questioning of female candidates was now delegated to the bhikkhunãs. A community of bhikkhunãs should first give higher ordination. Once this has been accomplished, the bhikkhus perform their part. This second rule is given in a situa- tion where a community of bhikkhunãs is in existence. Its purpose is to enable the carrying out of the higher ordination for a female candidate without creating unnecessary embarrass- ment for them.


Bhikkhu Anālayo

On the Bhikkhunã Ordination Controversy

The wording of Cv X.17 does not support the assumption by Phra Payutto that Cv X.2 could not be rescinded because "the bhikkhus were still required to complete the bhikkhuni ordi- nations". Cv X.17 clearly indicates that a female candidate should receive "the higher ordi- nation in the community of bhikkhus". This is sufficient in itself and does not require the maintenance of any other rule in order to function. Even if there had never been any ruling of the type given at Cv X.2, the functionality of Cv X.17 would not be in any way impaired. It would still be clear that bhikkhus are to give the higher ordination to female candidates, once these have been ordained by the bhikkhunãs. In fact already with the sixth garudhamma the Buddha had made it clear that he wanted bhikkhus to perform their part in the ordination of bhikkhunãs. Once this was made clear, there was no need to make a rule just to clarify that.

The function of Cv X.2 is more specifically to enable the giving of the higher ordination to female candidates in a situation where no bhikkhunã order is in existence. This is unmistaka- bly clear from the narrative context. In contrast, the function of Cv X.17 is to regulate the giving of the higher ordination to female candidates when a bhikkhunã order is in existence. This is also unmistakably clear from the narrative context. So there is a decisive difference between the two rules that needs to be taken into consideration: The two rules are meant to address two sub-stantially different situations.

Contrary to the assumptions by Phra Payutto and Bhikkhu Ṭhànissaro, what we have here is not just an early rule and its subsequent adaptation. Instead we have two rules on related but different issues. This explains why, after an order of bhikkhunãs had come into existence during the lifetime of the Buddha, there were no ordinations bhikkhunãs conducted solely by bhikkhus. There can be only one situation at a time: Either a community of bhikkhunãs is in existence, in which case Cv X.17 is to be followed, or else a community of bhikkhunãs is not in existence, in which case Cv X.2 is to be followed.

Since the belief in the impossibility of reviving an order of bhikkhunãs has such a long his- tory in Theravàda circles, perhaps an example may help to clarify the point at issue. Sup- pose a person regularly commutes from home to work via a highway that connects two towns, and the mu-nicipal authorities have set a speed limit of 100 km/h for this highway. Later on, the municipal authorities set another speed limit of 50 km/h.


SIJBS Volume 3

Even though the earlier limit of 100 km/h hour has not been explicitly abolished, when caught by the police for driving at 80 km/h this person will not be able to argue that he or she had on that day decided to follow the earlier speed limit regulation. It is not possible to assume that both limits are valid simultaneously and one can freely choose which one to fol- low. The last speed limit is the one that counts. The situation changes considerably, however, once closer investigation reveals that the sec- ond speed limit set by the municipal authorities refers to traffic in the town in which this person works, it does not refer to the highway that leads up to this town. In that case, both speed limits are valid at the same time. While driving on the highway, the speed limit is still 100 km/h, but when leaving the highway and driving into town to reach the working place, the speed limit of 50 km/h needs to be observed.

In the same way, Cv X.2 and Cv X.17 are both valid. The second of the two, Cv X.17, does not imply a rescinding of the first, just as the town speed limit does not imply a rescinding of the speed limit for the highway. Both rules are simultaneously valid, as they refer to two distinctly different situations.

In sum, the traditional belief that the Theravàda Vinaya does not enable a reviving of an ex- tinct bhikkhunã order seems to be mistaken, based on a reading of the relevant rules without sufficient consideration of their narrative background. If studied in their narrative context, it becomes clear that an extinct order of bhikkhunãs can be revived by the bhikkhus, as long as these are not extinct as well.

As already stated by the Jetavan Sayàdaw in 1949:

Sangha did not exist; in the future, too, it will be restricted to a period when the Bhikkhunã Sangha will not exist; and at present it is restricted to a period when the Bhikkhunã Sangha does not exist." He further explains that the Buddha knew "that when the Bhikkhunã Sangha is non-existent the occasion arises for an allowance

[given to] the Bhikkhu Sangha [to be used], the Buddha laid down

that woman

Bhikkhus, I allow Bhikkhus to or-

Sangha [to be used], the Buddha laid down that woman Bhikkhus , I allow Bhikkhus to

dain bhikkhunãs." 9


Bhikkhu Anālayo

On the Bhikkhunã Ordination Controversy

The interpretation proposed by the Jetavan Sayàdaw is clearly a more accurate reflection of the Pàli Vinaya than the interpretations proposed by Phra Payutto and Bhikkhu hànissaro. The conclusion that emerges, after giving sufficient consideration to the narrative context of the two rules in question, is that it is definitely possible to revive an extinct order of bhikkhunãs through ordination given by bhikkhus alone. In fact, for bhikkhus seriously wishing to follow the Theravàda Vinaya, this is not only pos- sible, but even imperative. The two rules promulgated by the Buddha imply that he expected bhikkhus to cooperate in the giving of the higher ordination to female candidates. The im- portance accorded to the cooperation of bhikkhus in this respect can also be seen from an- other rule, according to which a bhikkhu can leave his rains residence for up to seven days if

this is done in order to participate in the ordination of a bhikkhunã (Mv III.6). 10

Since with the full ordination given in 1998 at Bodhgayà an order of bhikkhunãs has come

into existence that can claim legal recognition according to the Theravàda Vinaya, 11 the is-

sue of bhikkhus giving ordination on their own is no longer relevant. What is relevant and even expected of bhikkhus is their cooperation with the now revived Theravàda bhikkhunã order in the conferring of the higher ordination to new candidates. As far as I can see, those who are willing to be active participants in such ordinations are following the regulations in the Pàli Vinaya and act in accordance with the intentions of the Buddha in the way these have been recorded in the canonical scriptures. The same cannot be stated of those who re- fuse to participate in such ordinations or who continue to question their validity without se- rious consideration of the legal situation that emerges from a close study of the Vinaya nar- rative.


Phra Payutto (2014: 71) also wonders whether it is at all desirable for females to become bhikkhunãs. He comments that "ordaining as a bhikkhuni may create even more obstacles for women. This is because once they have taken bhikkhuni ordination they will be obliged to keep the 311 training precepts. Go ahead and try to keep these rules in the present high-tech age. Would this simply in- crease problems? "In today’s social environment and general way of life, keeping the 311


SIJBS Volume 3

training rules will be a stumbling block for women who are ordained. Are we sure that they will be able to keep these rules?" While it is of course true that keeping precepts that evolved in a different setting two and a half millennia ago is a challenge, the same applies also to bhikkhus. One might similarly wonder if it is not going to increase the problems for males if they take higher ordination.

Another point worth noting is that often arguments raised against the revival of the bhikkhunã order seem to assume that this implies a rejection of the eight or ten precept nuns that have developed in Theravàda countries. These are the mae chis in Thailand, the thila shins in Burma and the dasasil màtàs in Sri Lanka, to which the sãladhàràs in the West could be added. The wish to revive a bhikkhunã order does not require a replacing of these orders in the respective countries. There is no reason why both cannot exist side by side. The question is thus not one of abolishing or dismissing what is already there, but rather one of enabling women to choose between the alternatives of becoming an eight or ten precept nun and taking ordination as a bhikkhunã.

Nowadays in Theravàda countries some men also prefer not to become bhikkhus, and in- stead live a celibate lay life, at times by becoming anagàrikas. Such celibate males exist alongside with bhikkhus, in fact often they live in close relationship with bhikkhus at a mon- astery. In the same way, the option of being an eight or ten precept nuns will probably be of continuing appeal to some women in Theravàda countries. This does not imply, however, that the alternative option of becoming a bhikkhunã should not also be made available to those who wish for it.

Improving the situation of the eight or ten precept nuns is a very important and praiseworthy task that should be given full attention, but this does not suffice to fulfil the wish of those who want to have access to full ordination. Alongside such endeavours, there clearly re- mains a need to restore full ordination for bhikkhunãs. If some eight and ten precept nuns in Theravàda countries do not want to become bhikkhunãs, then this does not dispense with the need of reviving such an order in principle for others who do want higher ordination. Recent research in Sri Lanka has in fact shown that numbers of dasasil màtàs, who earlier were not interested in bhikkhunã ordination, changed their mind once this became available

and took higher ordination. 12 Moreover, recent research shows that the bhikkhunãs in Sri


Bhikkhu Anālayo

On the Bhikkhunã Ordination Controversy

Lanka are well respected by laity and make a major contribution by meeting the needs of lay

followers, even though so far they have not been recognized by the government. 13 This

leaves little room for arguing that a revival of the bhikkhunã order is not needed or will not be beneficial for society at large.


The notion that such a revival is better avoided often seems related to the impression con- veyed by the account of the founding of the bhikkhunã order in the Vinaya. According to the narration that comes before the garudhammas, the Buddha originally refused to let Mahàpa- jàpatã Gotamã and her followers go forth.

In order to understand the implications of this passage, a shift from the legal reading adopted earlier to a historical-critical reading is required. With what follows the task is not to ascertain the legal implications of a particular regulation in the Theravàda Vinaya, but much rather to attempt to reconstruct a historical event, in order to appreciate what the ca- nonical texts have to say about the attitude of the Buddha towards an order of bhikkhunãs.

For a historical-critical reading that aims at reconstructing an early account of what hap- pened, the relevant portion from the Theravàda Vinaya needs to be studied in comparison with other Vinaya traditions, because during the long period of oral transmission a portion of text can be lost.

The possibility of a portion of text being lost can be illustrated with the case of the Chabbi- sodhana-sutta of the Majjhima-nikàya, the "Discourse on Sixfold Purity". In spite of the ex- plicit reference to six in its title, the discourse expounds only five types of purity of an ara- hant. The commentary reports several explanations for this inconsistency, one of them being that, according to the reciters from India, arahant’s detachment in regard to the four nutri- ments (edible food, contact, volition, and consciousness) should be added to the five purities

mentioned in the discourse. 14 That this is indeed the solution can be seen through compara-

tive study of a parallel preserved in the Madhyama-àgama, a discourse collection brought


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from India to China so as to be translated into Chinese. Besides the five purities mentioned

in the Chabbisodhana-sutta, this parallel lists the four nutriments as a sixth purity. 15

From this it follows that at some point during oral transmission from India to Sri Lanka this sixth purity was lost. Indian reciters still knew of a complete version of the discourse that had this sixth purity, but by the time the discourse had reached Sri Lanka, this part of the text had gone missing. The case of the Chabbisodhana-sutta shows that substantial portions of a Pàli canonical text could get lost during oral transmission.

The difficulties of relying on oral transmission are explicitly taken up in the Pàli discourses themselves. The Sandaka-sutta points out that oral tradition might be well heard or else might not be well heard, as a result of which some of it is true, but some of it is otherwise. 16 The Caïkã-sutta also takes up the unreliability of oral tradition, recommending that someone who wishes to preserve truth should not take a stance on oral transmission claiming that this

alone is true, everything else is false. 17

So a historical-critical reading that considers the parallel versions of a particular text offers a way of giving proper consideration to the nature of oral transmission and its possible errors in accordance with the indications made in the Sandaka-sutta and the Caïkã-sutta. Doing justice to the indications in these Pàli discourses requires allowing, in principle, the possibil- ity that at times a portion of text preserved in the Pàli canon could be incomplete due to tex- tual loss.

Based on allowing in principle this possibility, revisiting the account of the founding of the order of bhikkhunãs in the Pàli Vinaya brings to light a turn of events that is not entirely straightforward. After the Buddha had refused Mahàpajàpatã Gotamã s request to go forth, she and her followers shaved off their hair and put on robes. According to the Pàli commentarial tradition, Mahàpajàpatã Gotamã had earlier become a

stream-enterer. 18 It seems inconceivable that a stream-enterer would openly defy the Bud-

dha’s command in this way. 19 Moreover, when Mahàpajàpatã Gotamã with shaven head and

wearing robes approaches ânanda, the latter comments on her exhausted bodily condition

Gotamã with shaven head and wearing robes approaches ânanda, the latter comments on her exhausted bodily


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after having travelled, but makes no remark at all about her being shaven-headed and wear-

ing robes. 20

The solution to this conundrum can be found by consulting accounts of the same event in other Vinayas, adopting what I have called a historical-critical reading, in order to allow for loss of text during oral transmission. Relevant to the present issue are versions of this story preserved in the canonical texts of three schools, the Mahã÷àsaka, the Måla-sarvàstivàda, and the Sarvàstivàda. All these are Vinayas from India, which have been brought to China for translation. Besides the Chinese translation, in the case of the Målasarvàstivàda Vinaya we also have the relevant passage preserved in a Sanskrit fragment as well as in Tibetan translation.

These Vinayas report that when Mahàpajàpatã Gotamã approached the Buddha with her re- quest, he indeed did not allow her to go forth, but he then offered her an alternative. This

alternative was that she could shave her hair and wear robes. 21 But she should do so staying

in the protected environment at her home instead of going forth to wander around India as a homeless person.

The perspective afforded by a historical-critical reading based on a comparative study changes the situation considerably. Instead of the Buddha just being against an order of bhikkhunãs in principle, he offers an alternative. This alternative seems to express his con- cern that, at a time when the Buddhist order was still in its beginnings, lack of proper dwell- ing places and the other harsh living conditions of a homeless life might be too much for queen Mahàpajàpatã Gotamã and her following.

The Theravàda Vinaya in fact records that bhikkhunãs were raped, making it clear that in an- cient India for women to go forth could be dangerous. 22 The situation then was clearly quite different from modern South and Southeast Asia, where women who have gone forth can expect to be respected in their choice of living a celibate life. For Mahàpajàpatã Gotamã and her following to go forth in such a situation would indeed be comparable to a household with many women and few men, which can easily be attacked by robbers (Cv X.1). 23 The possibility of being raped would indeed be similar to ripe crop of rice or sugar cane that is suddenly attacked by a disease.


Bhikkhu Anālayo

On the Bhikkhunã Ordination Controversy

Returning to the Vinaya narration, once Mahàpajàpatã Gotamã and her followers had re- ceived an explicit permission to shave their hair and wear robes, the rest of the story flows on naturally. It now becomes understandable why they would indeed do so and why ânanda on seeing Mahàpajàpatã Gotamã shaven-headed and in robes would not find this worth com- menting on.

Laity at times followed the Buddha for quite some distance on his journeys. 24 In view of such a custom, it seems natural for Mahàpajàpatã Gotamã and her group similarly to follow the Buddha in an attempt to show that they were able to brave the living conditions of going forth. Such an action would not have been something the Buddha had forbidden. Having in this way proven their ability to handle the condition of going forth would also explain why the Buddha eventually allowed them to become bhikkhunãs.

In order to validate this alternative understanding of how the bhikkhunã order came into ex- istence, the canonical principle of the four mahàpadesas needs to be followed. 25 According to the principle enshrined in these four mahàpadesas, any particular statement claiming to go back to the Buddha needs to be compared with the discourses and the Vinaya in order to ascertain if it conforms with them. In the present case, this requires examining what other canonical passages have to say about the bhikkhunãs. Do other canonical passages support what the historical-critical reading has brought to light, namely that the existence of an order of bhikkhunãs is not something undesirable that the Buddha would rather have avoided?

undesirable that the Buddha would rather have avoided? The Lakkhaõa -sutta of the Dãgha - nikàya

The Lakkhaõa-sutta of the Dãgha-nikàya describes the Buddha s possession of thirty-two superior bodily marks. Each of these has a special relationship to his virtues and former deeds. Here the wheel-marks on the soles of the Buddha’s feet are portents of his destiny to be surrounded by a large retinue of four assemblies of disciples. These four assemblies are bhikkhus and bhikkhunãs, as well as male and female lay followers. 26 According to this dis- course, the Buddha was from his birth destined to have an order of bhikkhunãs. This makes the existence of bhikkhunãs an integral and indispensable part of the sàsana, the Buddha’s dispensation.


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The Pàsàdika-sutta in the same Dãgha-nikàya proclaims that the completeness of the holy life taught by the Buddha was evident in the accomplishment of his four assemblies of disci- ples, including an order of bhikkhunãs. 27 The same emerges from the Mahàvacchagotta-sutta in the Majjhima-nikàya teaching can be seen in the high numbers of bhikkhus and bhikkhunãs who had become fully liberated, and in the fact that similarly high numbers of lay followers of both genders had reached other levels of awakening. 28 Clearly, without ac- complished bhikkhunãs the Buddha’s dispensation would not have been complete.

According to the Mahàparinibbàna-sutta in the Dãgha-nikàya, the Buddha had declared that he would not pass away until he had achieved his mission of having competent disciples from each of the four assemblies, including bhikkhunãs. 29 The importance of this statement is reflected in the fact that it recurs again in the Pàli canon in the Saüyutta-nikàya, the Aïguttara-nikàya, and the Udàna. 30

, the Aïguttara - nikàya , and the Udàna . 3 0 In this way, from

In this way, from his birth until his passing away, it was an integral part of the Buddha s vision to have an order of bhikkhunãs. On following the mahàpadesa principle, the results of the above historical-critical reading finds confirmation. An order of bhikkhunãs is a desir- able, in fact an in-dispensable part of the dispensation of the Buddha.


The passages surveyed so far help to set into context the prophecy that because an order of

had come into existence during the lifetime of the Buddha, the duration of the

teachings will be shortened to 500 years. 31 Now this prophecy is surprising, since once

would not expect the Buddha to do something which he knew in advance would have such an effect. In fact, the prophecy in the way it is recorded in the Vinaya has not come true, as after 2,500 years the teaching is still in existence. Even the bhikkhunã order was still in exis- tence in India in the 8th century and thus more than a 1,000 years after the time of the Bud- dha.


It also needs to be noted that the basic condition described in this prophecy has been ful-

filled when an order of

came into existence during the Buddha's lifetime. The



Bhikkhu Anālayo

prophecy has no relation to whether an order of days.

On the Bhikkhunã Ordination Controversy

bhikkhunãs continues or is revived nowa-

It seems, then, that here we have another presentation that is not entirely straightforward. On following the same principle of the four mahàpadesas, we now need to examine what other passages have to say about possible causes for a decline of the teaching. A discourse in the Aïguttara-nikàya describes how each of the four assemblies can contribute to the thriving of the Buddha s teachings. Here a bhikkhunã can stand out for illuminating the Buddhist com- munity through her learnedness. 32 Another discourse in the same collection indicates that a bhikkhunã also illuminates the community through her virtue. 33 These two discourses reflect a cn of the contribution that learned and virtuous bhikkhunãs can make to the Buddhist com- munity, instead of seeing them as something detrimental.

munity, instead of seeing them as something detrimental. Other discourses more specifically address what prevents the

Other discourses more specifically address what prevents the decline of the teaching. Ac- cording to a discourse in the Saüyutta-nikàya, such a decline can be prevented when the members of the four assemblies, including bhikkhunãs, dwell with respect for the teacher, the Dhamma, the Saïgha, the training, and concentration. 34 Here the bhikkhunãs actually contribute to preventing decline, rather than being themselves its cause.

Similar presentations can be found in three discourses in the Aïguttara-nikàya. In agree- ment with the Saüyutta-nikàya discourse just mentioned, these three discourses present re- spectful behaviour by the members of the four assemblies, including bhikkhunãs, as what prevents de-cline. Besides respect for the teacher, the Dhamma, the Saïgha, and the train- ing, these three discourses also mention respect of the four assemblies for each other, heed- fulness, and being helpful (to one another). 35 These passages clearly put the responsibility for preventing a decline of the teaching on each of the four assemblies. It is their dwelling with respect towards essential aspects of the Bud- dha’s teaching and each other that prevents decline. According to Phra Payutto (2013: 49),

"the Buddha laid down the eight garudhammas as a protective embankment. With such protection the teachings will last for a long time, just like before."


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Now for this protective embankment of the eight garudhammas, "principles of respect", to function, the collaboration of the bhikkhus is required. Most of the eight garudhammas in- volve interactions between bhikkhus and bhikkhunãs in such matters as spending the rainy season retreat (2), announcement of the observance day and the exhortation, ovàda (3), invi- tation, pavàraõà (4), penance, mànatta (5), and the granting of higher ordination, upasam- padà (6). 36 These clearly require the cooperation of bhikkhus. Partaking in the higher ordina- tion of bhikkhunãs, provided this accords with the legal requirements of the Theravàda Vi- naya, thereby supports what according to Phra Payutto is the protective embankment con- structed by the Buddha for protecting the long life of his dispensation.

In sum, following the principle of the four mahàpadesas it seems clear that an order of bhikkhunãs is desirable and an important asset in order to prevent the decline of the Bud-

dha’s teaching. In fact Buddhist countries who do not have such an order are in this respect

in the category of border countries. It is an unfortunate condition to be reborn in such a bor-

der country, since the four assemblies, including an order of bhikkhunãs, are not found

there. 37 Such a condition makes it more difficult to practice the Dharma.

A Buddhist tradition that has only three of the four assemblies could be compared to a noble

elephant with one leg crippled. The elephant can still walk, but only with difficulties. The medicine to restore the crippled leg is now available, all it needs is a concerted effort to sup- port the healing process.


Bhikkhu Anālayo





Burmese edition


Ceylonese edition




Derge edition













Peking edition


Siamese edition









On the Bhikkhunã Ordination Controversy

REFERENCES Anàlayo 2010: "Women’s Renunciation in Early Buddhism - The Four Assemblies and the Foundation of the Order of Nuns", in Dignity & Discipline, Reviving Full Ordination for Buddhist Nuns, T. Mohr and J. Tsedroen (ed.), 65-97, Boston: Wisdom, 2010. Anàlayo 2011a: A Comparative Study of the Majjhima-nikàya, Taipei: Dharma Drum Pub- lishing Corporation. Anàlayo 2011b: "Mahàpajàpatã's Going Forth in the Madhyama-àgama", Journal of Bud- dhist

Ethics, 18: 268-317. http://www.buddhis analayo/Mahapajapati. pdf Anàlayo 2013a: The Legality of Bhikkhunã Ordination, Malaysia: Selangor Buddhist Vipas- sanà


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Meditation Society (reprinted 2014, New York: Buddhist Association of the United

States). pdf/ analayo/

Legality withTranslations.pdf

Anàlayo 2013b: "A Note on the Term Theravàda", Buddhist Studies Review, 30.2: 216-235.

Blackstone, Kate 1999: "Damming the Dhamma: Problems with Bhikkhunãs in the

Pali Vinaya", Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 6: 292-312.

Bodhi, Bhikkhu 2009: The Revival of Bhikkhunã Ordination in the Theravàda Tradition,

Georgetown, Penang: Inward Path Publisher (reprinted 2010 in Dignity & Disci-

pline, Reviving Full Ordination for Buddhist Nuns, T. Mohr and J. Tsedroen (ed.),

99-142. Boston: Wisdom).

Clarke, Shayne 2014: Family Matters in Indian Buddhist Monasticism, Honolulu: Univer-

sity of Hawaii Press.

Mrozik, Susanne 2014: "We Love Our Nuns: Affective Dimensions of the Sri Lankan

Bhikkhunã Revival", Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 21: 57-95.

Payutto, Phra and M. Seeger 2013: The Buddhist Discipline in Relation to Bhikkhunis,

Questions and Answers, R. Moore (translated),


Payutto, Phra and M. Seeger 2014: The Buddhist Discipline in Relation to Bhikkhunis,

Questions and Answers, R. Moore (translated),


Perera, L.P.N. 1993: Sexuality in Ancient India, A Study Based on the Pàli Vinayapiñaka,

Sri Lanka: University of Kelaniya, Post-graduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Stud-


Salgado, Nirmala S. 2013: Buddhist Nuns and Gendered Practice, In Search of the

Female Renunciant, New York: Oxford University Press.

Schmidt, Michael 1993: "Bhikùuõã-Karmavàcanà, Die Handschrift Sansk. c.25(R) der

Bodleian Library Oxford", in Studien zur Indologie und Buddhismuskunde, Festgabe

des Seminars für Indologie und Buddhismuskunde für Professor Dr. Heinz Bechert

zum 60. Geburtstag am 26. Juni 1992, M. Hahn (ed.), 239-288, Bonn: Indica et Ti-

betica Verlag.

hànissaro Bhikkhu 2001/2013: The Buddhist Monastic Code II, The Khandaka Rules

Translated & Explained by hànissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff), Revised Edi- tion, California: Metta Forest Monastery.


Bhikkhu Anālayo

On the Bhikkhunã Ordination Controversy


* Acknowledgement: I am indebted to Adam Clarke, Petra Kieffer-Pülz, and Ven. Dham- madinnà for comments on a draft of this paper. 1 On the centrality of the Pàli canon for a Theravàda sense of identity cf. Anàlayo 2013b. 2 My presentation is based in part on points already raised in Anàlayo 2010, 2011b and


3 Vin II 257,7: anujànàmi, bhikkhave, bhikkhåhi bhikkhuniyo upasampàdetun ti. In Vinaya contexts the term anujànàmi has a stronger nuance than simply "to allow", standing for a legal prescription or order; cf. Clarke 2014: 126. 4 Vin II 271,34: anujànàmi, bhikkhave, ekato-upasampannàya bhikkhunãsaïghe (Be:

bhikkhunisaïghe) visuddhàya bhikkhusaïghe upasampadan ti (Se: upasampàdetun ti).

5 Vin II 255,19: dve vassàni chasu dhammesu sikkhitasikkhàya sikkhamànàya ubhato-saïghe

upasampadà pariyesitabbà.

6 Vin II 256,37: kathàhaü, bhante, imàsu sàkiyanãsu (Be, Ce, and Se: sàkiyànãsu) pañi-

pajjàmã ti?

7 Vin II 258,17. This passage is addressed to Mahàpajàpatã Gotamã, who became a bhikkhunã by ac- cepting the garudhammas, and implicitly also addressed to her followers, who were ordained by bhikkhus only. This would settle a problem raised by Phra Payutto 2013: 58, according to which "in the formal explanation (vibhaïga) of the bhikkhuni training rules laid down by the Buddha there is this definition: The term "bhikkhunã" refers to a woman who has been ordained by both sanghas. This poses a problem in that, if bhikkhunis are ordained without a bhikkhuni sangha present, none of these training rules will formally apply to them or be legally binding." In a modern-day situation of

creating a new bhikkhunã order through ordination by bhikkhus only, the first generation of such bhikkhunãs could rely on Cv X.4, just as Mahàpajàpatã Gotamã and her followers did.

8 Vin II 259,25, Vin II 260,11, and Vin II 260,30. If bhikkhus undertake legal actions on be-

half of bhikkhunãs when a bhikkhunã order has gone out of existence and is being revived, then they would incur a dukkaña, but this would not invalidate the legal act itself.

9 Translated in Bodhi 2009: 60 and 62 (= 2010: 137 and 138).

10 Vin I 146,8.

11 On the legality of the Bodhgayà ordinations cf. Anàlayo 2013a.

12 Salgado 2013: 140-142.

13 Mrozik 2014.


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14 Ps IV 94,23, commenting on MN 112.

15 Mâ 187 at T I 732b18.

16 MN 76 at MN I 520,6: sussutam (Se: susutaü) pi hoti dussutam pi hoti, tathà pi hoti

a¤¤athà pi hoti. The Sanskrit fragment parallels to this discourse have unfortunately not pre- served this particular statement; for a comparative study cf. Anàlayo 2011a: 413-416.

17 MN 95 at MN II 171,1 notes that what has been well transmitted may still be wrong, con-

sequently it does not suffice for one who protects the truth to come to the one-sided conclu-

sion: This is true, everything else wrong, svànussutaü yeva hoti, ta¤ ca hoti rit-taü tucchaü


purisena nàlam ettha ekaüsena niññhaü gantuü: idam eva

saccaü, mogham a¤¤an ti; on the parallels cf. Anàlayo 2011a: 557-566.

18 Dhp-a I 115,13 reports that the Buddha established Mahàpajàpatã Gotamã in the fruit of

saccam anurakkhatà

stream-entry at the outset of his first visit to Kapilavatthu.

19 Blackstone 1999: 302f in fact comes to the conclusion that "in defying the Buddha, Ma-


20 Vin II 254,4 (Cv X.1).

21 Mahãśàsaka: T 1421 at T XXII 185b27; Målasarvàstivàda: Schmidt 1993: 242,5, T 1451

at T XXIV 350b16, and D 6 da 100b2 or Q 1035 ne 97b4; Sarvàstivàda: Mâ 116 at T I 605a17; for a translation of these permissions and a more detailed study cf. An-àlayo 2011b:


22 Cf., e.g., Vin I 89,10 (Mv I.67) and the discussion in Perera 1993: 107f.

23 Vin II 256,16.

24 Vin I 220,21 (Mv VI.24) reports that the Buddha was followed by a whole group of lay

people wishing to make offerings in turn, a group apparently so large that it took a long time before each could get its turn; another such reference can be found in Vin I 238,33 (Mv


25 DN 16 at DN II 123,30 and AN 4.180 at AN II 167,31; cf. also the same principle in rela-

tion to rules at Vin I 250,34 (Mv VI.40).

26 DN 30 at DN III 148,18.

27 DN 29 at DN III 125,24.

poses a direct challenge to the Buddha's authority".

28 MN 73 at MN I 490,21.


Bhikkhu Anālayo

On the Bhikkhunã Ordination Controversy

29 DN 16 at DN II 105,8.

30 SN 51.10 at SN V 261,18, AN 8.70 at AN IV 310,32, and Ud 6.1 at Ud 63,32.

31 Vin II 256,9 (Cv X.1); for a more detailed discussion of this prophecy cf. Anàlayo 2010:


32 AN 4.7 at A II 8,22

33 AN 4.211 at AN II 226,1.

34 SN 16.13 at SN II 225,8.

35 AN 5.201 at AN III 247,20, AN 6.40 at AN III 340,13, and AN 7.56 at AN IV 84,22.

36 The delivery of the garudhammas is reported in Vin II 255,9 (Cv X.1).

37 AN 8.29 at AN IV 226,8.


An Asian Viewpoint on the Ethics of Modern Medicine


Anoja Fernando

During the latter half of the twentieth century, biomedical and technological advances in the field of medicine and healthcare gave rise to ethical dilemmas and controversies at regular intervals. The issues debated include contraception, assisted reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilization and surrogacy, organ transplantation, and more recently genetic engi- neering, embryo research and cloning.

Since most advances in modern medicine originated in the West, in technologically devel- oped countries, the new ethics of biomedicine is also Western in origin, and rooted in West- ern values. Many Asian countries today practice Western medicine in addition to their in- digenous systems of medicine. These countries will, in the future, as they have already be- gun to do so, face the new situations resulting from modern technological advances, and the ethical solutions they demand. The Asian countries thus face a rather complex ethical situa- tion, although only a few of these countries have begun facing these challenges seriously. How do we Asians resolve the conflicts between the traditional ethical norms of our coun- tries and the Western model of bioethics, with its emphasis on individual autonomy?

Japanese physicians were among the earliest to comment on some of the disparities between Eastern and Western ethics. In many traditional Asian societies more importance is ac- corded to the well-being of the community, and the harmony resulting from respecting fam- ily ties and values, rather than encouraging individual autonomy and uniqueness as in the West. Asian ethics tends to emphasize a person’s obligations to others rather than a per- son’s rights. The existence of a divergence between Asian and Western ethics was also rec- ognized by moral philosophers and physicians in the West. In “Transcultural Dimensions in Medical Ethics”, Edmund Pellegrino said “Western values, however, may be strongly at odds with worldviews held by billions of other human beings. Those billions…may be drawn more strongly by the spiritual and qualitative dimensions of life. Their ethical sys- tems may be less dialectical, logical or linguistic in character, less analytical, more synthetic or more sensitive to family or community concensus than to individual autonomy, more vir- tue-based than principle-based.”

In Sri Lanka, for example, Western medicine is practiced together with the traditional in- digenous systems. The predominant cultural ethos is derived from Buddhism and Hindu- ism, and pervades 85% of the population. Sri Lankan scholars, Arsecularatne and Ba- bapulle, in 1996, suggested that there could be a certain resistance in such a population to ideas introduced through a purely Western model of medical ethics and they propose the


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introduction of Asian views on medical ethics to Sri Lankan undergraduates because of its cultural relevance. The possibility of integrating Wetsern ethics with Buddhist ethics for example, need not seem too far-fetched. Since the 18 th century, the cultural ethos of the West seems to have gradually transformed from one of orthodox revealed religion to one of science and secular liberalism. Buddhism is perceived as a rational philosophy, which is not in conflict with modern scientific discoveries, and therefore appears to have the potential to contribute positively towards a universal ethos in science and medicine.

Characteristics of Theravāda Buddhism

In my presentation, I will briefly outline some of the main characteristic features of Thera- vāda Buddhism relevant to the interpretation of the Buddhist viewpoint towards some of the controversial issues in modern medicine, and how they can be applied to these issues. Obvi- ously there can be no Buddhist view stated in the original Pali canon regarding modern medical dilemmas. However, given the fundamental Buddhist ethics, a Buddhist viewpoint can be worked out for almost any given situation. Given its pragmatic nature, and the reli- ance placed on individual endeavour and free will, Buddhism seems ideally suited for situ- ational ethics.

Theravāda Buddhism is the original, authentic doctrine as proclaimed by the Buddha, 2500 years ago and is found in south Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma. Later variations of Buddhism, such as the Mahāyāna, Zen and Tantric schools are prevalent in countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Tibet and Vietnam. I shall confine myself to the Buddhist teaching of the original Theravāda tradition.

1.The Buddhist Theory of Knowledge (Epistemology)

The main difference between Buddhism and the other major world religions is that Bud- dhism does not believe in an all-powerful creator God. Buddhism is atheistic. If the defini- tion of religion is a belief in tivrtse because only they have the rare privilege of accessibility to salvations.he existence of a superhuman controlling power or a system of blind faith or worship, then Buddhism is not a religion. Buddhism is one of the most anti-authoritarian systems of thinking. The Buddha advised not to accept anyone or anything as an authority. (including the Buddha and his teaching) without subjecting them to rigorous scrutiny. Ideas should not be accepted or rejected without proper investigation and verification. In this process of investigation and verification, personal experience plays an extremely important role.

2. Buddhist Concept of the Universe

According to the Buddha’s teaching the universe is a vast cosmic space in which ae located innumerable worlds, with many different kinds of beings humans, animals, spirits, etc. In this vast cosmos, the place of man appears so small and insignificant as to become almost


Anoja Fernando

An Asian Viewpoint on the Ethics of Modern Medicine

nothing. Nevertheless, human beings assume a unique position in this universe because only they have the rre privilege of accessibility to salvation. The short human life, in the continuous cycle of existence known as saüsāra, provides an opportunity to work towards one’s salvation, and escape from this existence to a state known as nirvana.

3 Basic features common to all these worlds of existence

There are three basic features common to these worlds of existence. They are: Imperma- nence (anicca) which means that everything physical and mental, is in a state of ever chang- ing flux. Nothing that exists is permanent.

2) Non-substantiality (anatta). This means that nothing has a soul or an abiding sub- stance. The Buddhist doctrine of Dependent Orignation (pañiccasamuppāda), emphasizes that everything arises and exists in relation to everything else. From another viewpoint, eve- rything can be analyzed until it is reduced to nothing. In this state of interdependence and nothingness, there is no place for an unchanging, independent soul or substance. According to Buddhism, man, or this entity we refer to as “I”, is a psychophysical unit composed of one physical and 4 mental components. The physical component is form (råpa), and the 4 mental components are feelings, physical/psychic (vedanā), perceptions, ideas, concepts (sa¤¤ā), dispositions or purposive activities (saïkhāra) and consciousness or mental activity (vi¤¤āõa). All these five factors are constantly changing, and therefore one cannot find any permanent entity, like a self or a soul, in any one of these components.

3) The third feature of this saüsāric existence is that it is basically one of suffering or a state of non-satisfaction, arising from desire, or craving, (taïhā). Whatever happiness obtained can only be temporary, and further craving leads to more suffering or state of being unful- filled. The Buddha showed the way to escape from this endless cycle of not -satisfying saüsāra and achieve a permanent happiness, or nirvāõa, by getting rid of craving. The path to nirvāõa consists of the practice of morality, wisdom and mediation, (sãla, samādhi and pa¤¤ā), and is described the Noble Eightfold Path. When successfully practised, it will lead to ultimate enlightenment.

To summarize, the Buddhist worldview is characterized by impermanence, insubstantiality (absence of a permanent soul) and the reality of the saüsāric cycle of a state of nonsatisfac-


3) The Basis of Buddhist Ethics

I now now come to the bsis of Buddhist ethics. What are the beliefs and concepts in Bud- dhism that will guide a person to take moral responsibility for his actions? The basis of Budhist ethics rests on 3 doctrines considered to be verifiably true. They are:


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1 The Reality of Free Will and Self-determination (in this sense, Buddhism is

not teleological, not being theistically determinant nor naturally determinant).

2 The Reality of Survival After Death or Rebirth.

All living beings will be

reborn an infinite number of times until they attain nirvāõa.

3 The Reality of Moral Causation or Kamma. Karmic or moral law is one of

the 5 natural laws described by the Buddha. Karmic actions are moral (or immoral) actions, where one acts through body, speech or mind. In producing the conse- quences of such karmic actions, it is the intention that is of crucial importance. Re- birth is heavily dependent on the good or bad consequences resulting from good or bad kamma.

These 3 doctrines, i.e., Free Will, rebirth and the moral law of kamma, make individual moral responsibility meaningful, and will guide a person to act in any given situation.

4 Basic Principles of Buddhist Ethics

It is difficult to describe Buddhist ethical theory using terminology used to describe Western theories of ethics, because Buddhism does not fit neatly into any of the main categories. It is neither strictly teleological nor strictly deontological, although there are some elements of both. It could best be described as a form of virtue eth- ics, where the emphasis is on developing a virtuous character, Damien Keown main- tains that “In the course of Buddhist history there never arose a branch of learning concerned with the philosophical analysis of moral norms.” He also says that the closest approximation to ethics in the early texts is sãla, or morality, and that while Buddhism has good deal to say about morality it has little to say about ethics. He suggests an alternative explanation for the need for these two words, in that morality denotes the existing values of a society as against ethics referring to a critical analy- sis of these values by philosophers. I would suggest that Buddhism being a very pragmatic religion or way of life, was more concerned with promoting the practice of morality as a means of achieving ultimate realization rather tha encouraging it as a theoretical discipline.

On the other hand, it is possible to compare the basic principles in Western and Bud- dhist ethics and see some similarities. Two of the most fundamental principles of Buddhist ethics are ahiüsā (or non-violence) and karuõā (or compassion). Ahiüsā (non-violence or non-harming) forms the cornerstone of Buddhist ethics and can be compared to non-maleficence. This respect for life is meant to be extended to all living beings, including animals. Intentional killing of any being, including one’s own self, is considered to be absolutely immoral, whatever the motive.

Karuõā (compassion towards all living beings) can be compared to the ultimate in beneficence, aims to alleviate or prevent suffering, and is directed towards the well- being of others as well as one’s own self. Aung San Suukyi, leader of the Burmese


Anoja Fernando

An Asian Viewpoint on the Ethics of Modern Medicine

democracy movement and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has this to say:

“I am a Buddhist. As a Buddhist, the answer is very simple and clear. That is com- passion and mercy is the real panacea. I am sure that when we have compassion and mercy in our hearts, we can overcome not only terrorism but also many other evil things that are plagueing the world.” This is the Buddhist view, although it may sound rther naïve and impractical in today’s context (e.g. The political consequences of Emperor Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism).

As for the principles of human rights and Individual autonomy so highly emphasized

in Western bioethics, Buddhism describes these ethical requirements in the form of

reciprocal duties between people in various relationships, carried out to create a just,

harmonious and peaceful society. e.g. Between parents and children, teachers and pupils, employer and employee, ruler and the ruled, etc. The duties of one corre- spond to the ‘rights’ of the other. These moral duties are contined in the voluntary precepts a virtuous person undertakes, eg. Refrain from killing/harming…

Application of Buddhist Ethics to Modern Medicine

To summarize the basic principles of Buddhist Ethics i.e.1) ahiüsā (or non- violence) 2) karuõā (or compassion) and 3) the ethical obligations of reciprocal du- ties embodied in the precepts, could be utilized to resolve most of the dilemmas aris- ing from technological advances in modern medicine.

Ethiical issues at the beginning of life

A brief look at the Buddhist attitude towards abortion would exemplify how Bud-

dhism considers ethical issues at the beginning of life. According to Buddhism, con- ception occurs when the ‘stream of consciousness’ (gandhabba) of a diceased per- son seeking rebirth enters a fertilized ovum. While it is not stated in the scriptures exactly exactly when this occurs it is generally believed to commence from this point of conception. An abortion,( generally defined as the intentional termination of pregnancy resulting in death of the foetus), is considered to be morally wrong based on the ethical principle of respect for life and non-violence towards all living beings.

The current Roman Catholic thinking on the commencement of life is the same as in Buddhism, although earlier, it had varied from 4 months (according to St. Augustine) to 40 -80 days after conception (Thomas Acquinas). Abortion of course

is not condoned by the church, although since 1967, abortion has been legalized in

many countries under certain critera.

As for in-vitro fertilization, the procedure itself produces no problem for Bud- dhism, but the destruction of surplus embryos would be considered wrong as with abortion.

However, as with abortion and IVF, destruction of surplus embryos would be wrong.


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The first cloning of an animal was met with disapproval and opposition from the the- istic religions since it appeared to usurp the authority of a creator God who gave life. From a Buddhist perspective there is no objection to this method of creating life, as Buddhism does not believe in a Creator God. However, as with abortion and IVF, destruction of surplus embryos would be wrong.

As for genetic engineering, the question should be looked at from the point of caus- ing harm/benefit to the potential life. Since research in the field is still experimental,

and the beneficial effects uncertain,

the basis of avoiding harm to potential human beings.

such research on

Buddhism would discourage

Euthanasia and end of life issues

I shall now briefly consider the Buddhist viewpoint on euthanasia. This is the same as for abortion. Active euthanasia is considered morally wrong, since the intention to kill (or cause death) is present. Even for the most compassionate of motives, in- tentional causing of death is unacceptable. Bddhism considers human life to be very precious, more valuable than animal life for example, because of the ability of hu- mans to devlop morally and intellectually towards their goal of attaining enlighten- ment. Any attempt to shorten this life artificially by any person, i.e. by suicide or euthanasia is invariably wrong. Withholding active treatment on the other hand, when a patient is about to die, or is suffering from a terminal illness, is permissible. On this issue, Buddhist and Christian viewpoints are similar, although for different reasons.

To summarize in this manner, any situation demanding an ethical solution could be analyzed using respect for life and non-harming as the guiding principles.


To conclude I have shown that the two fundamental ethical principles in Buddhism that pro- vide guidance to decision making in medical ethics are ahiüsā (or non-violence), and ka- ruõā (or compassion) towards all living beings, including one’s own self, in all karmic or moral actions, the intention is the most important factor in determining the consequences of one’s actions. Respect for life and the practice of compassion are values found in most world religions. However, in Western bioethics, it appears that religious principles have been replaced to a large extent by contemporary societal norms, and the value placed on in- dividual rights and autonomy has transformed medical ethics in the Western world, resulting in the current thinking on, e.g., abortion and euthanasia. These are some of the reasons there appears to be a certain degree of conflict between Western and Asian ethics in the world today.


Anoja Fernando

An Asian Viewpoint on the Ethics of Modern Medicine

While I would not dare to recommend a return to fundamental religion, it should be possible to determine common values among the world religions to help develop ethical guidelines for modern medicine.

In 1993, the Parliament of the World’s Religions met in Chicago to determine whether con- sensus on basic moral teachings could be achieved among the religions of the world. The document that resulted from this conference, known as the ‘Declaration towards a Global Ethic’ set out the fundamental moral principles to which apparently all religions subscribed. It is interesting to note that leading Buddhists at the conference felt obliged to protest at the inclusion of the phrases “a unity of religions under God “ and at references to “God the Al- mighty” and “God the Creator” during invocations.

Two years ago, UNESCO undertook to develop universal norms on Bioethics, which proc- ess is now nearing completion. I found it rather intriguing to observe that the principle of respect for life, which appeared in the very first draft had somehow managed to disappear in subsequent versions. One of the reasons for this is apparently the very divergent views held by different countries with regard to euthanasia, and the need to reconcile these views. An- other reason had been pressure from the feminist lobby regarding the moral status of the em- bryo and a woman’s right to abortion in countries where abortion is legal, the embryo is not considered as a human being until birth, and therefore is without rights. An international declaration on bioethics that does not mention the fundamental ethical principle of respect for life is disappointing, but the primary aim of the declaration was to obtain consensus among the countries.

Perhaps it would be relevant to ask whether it is necessary for Western and Asian ethics to come closer together in the current climate of globalised health in an interdependent world, with increasing international collaborative research and the development of universal decla- rations on the human genome, human genetic data and bioethical norms. I believe that it would be mutually beneficial for a closer rapport between the two in working towards con- sensus.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge reference to the writings of Damien Keown and Peter Harvey, who have attempted to describe the moral teachings of Buddhism in relation to Western ethics. I have also benefited from discussion with Ven.Professor Dhammavihari, Ven.Bhikkhuni Kusuma and Ven. Bhikkhuni Suvimalee.


“The Concept of Nonviolence in Buddhism and Its Application to Conflict Resolution in Society” Frank J. Hoffman

Lead quotation: from Thich Nhat Hahn

"Anyone can practice some nonviolence, even soldiers. Some army generals, for example, conduct their operations in ways that avoid killing innocent people; this is a kind of nonviolence. To help soldiers move in the nonviolent direction, we have to be in touch with them. If we divide reality into two camps -- the violent and the nonviolent -- and stand in one camp while attacking the other, the world will never have peace. We will always blame and condemn those we feel are responsible for wars and social injustice, without rec- ognizing the degree of violence in ourselves. We must work on ourselves and also work with those we condemn if we want to have a real impact." Venerable Thich Nhat Hahn, "Ahimsa: The Path of Harmlessness" in David W. Chappell (ed.), Buddhist Peacework (Boston: Wisdom, 1999), p. 155.


In Indian thought the idea of ahiüsā is ancient.Proudfoot has documented that the meaning of ahiüsā changes with the context of use.As Indu Mala Ghosh says: “Generally, non-violence is equated with ahiüsā. Non-violence means “non-killing” and is usually compared with pacifism. But ahiüsā, though apparently negative, has a positive counter- part and as such covers a much wider sphere. Apart from ‘non-killing it includes a feeling of loving kindness and compassion towards all. Ahiüsā is doing good to all with all body, mind and speech.”

Ahiüsā is a very big concept with a complex history. I.B. Horner writes:

The emergence in India of the notion of ahiü, non-harming, non-injury, is histori- cally speaking not clear. Its origin cannot be attributed to a definite date or to any particular teacher, social reformer or lawgiver. The problem of the birth of the idea of non-injury is indeed as obscure as that of “leaving the world”, of forsaking home for homelessness. Non- injury, which includes the principle of sparing life, of not taking it, or not depriving man or


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beast of it, receives much emphasis in the surviving Jain texts; but whether the notion actu- ally sprang up under the Jains or whether they exploited some life-saving tradition already there we do not know.

In this paper I will confine myself to discussing the meanings of ahiüas they are found in early Indian Pali Buddhism of the Nikāyas. Only passing references to show the larger context are justified in this brief compass.

In Buddhist thought, the term, ahiü, means non-harming, non-injury, and non- violence. As Kedar Nath Tiwari writes:

“The eightfold path consist of right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration Of these, the first two come under what is known as pa¤¤ā the next three come under sãla and the last three under samādhi. More specifically speaking, it is sãla which represents Buddhist morality. Let us see the items under sãla.

The first is right speech. This consists in refraining from telling a lie, back-biting, harsh talk and idle gossip. Moreover, according to it our speech should be free from any kind of ill will and selfish interest. The second is right action, which consists in the obser- vance of five precepts known as Pa¤casãla. These are: (1) Not to kill, but to practise harm- lessness and compassion (ahiüsā), (2) Not to take that which is not given, but to practise charity and generosity (cāga), (3) Not to commit sexual misconduct, but to practise chastity and self-control (brahmacarya), (4) Not to indulge in false speech, but to practise sincerity and honesty (sacca), (5) Not to take intoxicating drinks or drugs, but to practice restraint and mindfulness. The third, i.e., right living, consists in adopting a just honestly earned and undeceitful means of livelihood which does not debar others of their just rights of the same.”

The concept of ahiüsā is that of a virtue in Buddhism. Perfect expression of ahiüsa is an idealization, whereas in practice one is following ahiüsā in one or more particular ways and also as a matter of degree within a particular way. None of the following, (a) through (e), are absolutes from some timeless perspective. The following ways are among the possi- ble ways in which a person may exemplify ahiüsā:


Frank J. Hoffman

The Concept of Nonviolence in Buddhism

(a) Ahiüsā can be expressed by a believer in one religion who tries to see the good

in people of other faiths rather than contend with them. [Pali texts say no contending with anyone in the world]

(b) Ahiüsā can be expressed in vegetarianism rather than participating in a process

of taking sentient beings’ life for food when there are alternatives. Horner shows that vege- tarianism is not required in early Buddhism, but that the emphasis is on not taking life.]

(c) Ahiüsā can be expressed by not retaliating when attacked when diplomacy, gen-

erosity, or satyagraha are alternatives. [Gandhi practiced ahiüsā in this way]

(d) Ahiüsā can be expressed by being a peace-maker, through social action that in-

volves opposing war and seeking diplomatic solutions to conflict. [ML King practiced ahiüsā in this way when he opposed the war in Vietnam]

(e) Ahiüsā can be expressed by one who has a combatant's social role by keeping

harm to the minimum degree possible under the circumstances. [some Generals have surren- dered against overwhelming odds instead of fight to the last combatant and that’s ahiüsā


This is not to commit to being a doormat to the world. None of these expressions of ahiüsā commits one to not defend one's country, family, or self, but only to seek only often overlooked alternatives to immediately striking out to harm. The main philosophical argu- ment of this paper focuses on (e) above, how combatants can minimize harm. The trajectory of my thought is that the concept of ahiüsā is that of a virtue which applies both to ordinary citizens who are civilians and also to those charged with defense of the public, such as peo- ple in the military, the government, and the police.

This paper concerns some ways in which ahiümay be expressed. Although the main reference points are to Buddhism, much of what I have to say about the scope of the virtue of ahiüshows that ahiücould be a secular virtue as well as one that particular religions might aspire to incorporate. Buddhist texts sometimes say that to do good and avoid unskillful actions is the whole dhamma. One can readily see that doing good is the perfect antidote to doing unskillful actions. Ahiümay be held from a secular point of view on the basis of reasoning just as appropriately as it may be held on the basis of reli-


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gious thinking.

argument with wide-ranging application.

Investigating Buddhist texts here is an opportunity to make a philosophical

In the early Buddhist way of thinking, a cycle of continual rebirths (rather than enlightenment) stems from craving and ignorance and importantly, from possessive and ego -centered thinking. Kalupahana writes of the Buddha’s view, belief in a permanent ‘self’ or atman often led to selfishness and egoism (ahaükāra, mamaükāra) and was the root cause of craving, suffering. In Buddhist view, roots of violence are also traceable to egoism, not just as a general theoretical belief but as an applied outlook. It is not, I think, that theory of atman comes first in a person’s experience and the greedy conduct follows theory. Bud- dhism recognizes that beings naturally go toward pleasure and avoid pain. But it also says that, through mindfulness one can understand the causes of arising of “likes and dislikes” so as to see how both obsessive attachment and hatred arise. Once one becomes mindfully aware of the causal process in detail, it is possible to resist being drawn into behaviors illus- trative of attraction and aversion. Conversely, when there is polarization between groups mired in a “devil or angel” mentality replete with narrow “likes and dislikes”, then these groups become locked in a cycle of destructive and self-destructive behaviors (e.g., mind- less violence and imperialistic aggression).

An illustration of resistance of obsessive perceptions is given in the Madhupiõóika- sutta or “Discourse of the Honey-Ball” where the setting of the sutta is in Nigrodha’s mon- astery in Kapilavatthu. There Buddha went into the woods to meditate and sat down under a little tree. Then 'Stick-in-Hand' asked Buddha what views he holds. Buddha replies that according to his teaching there is no contending with anyone in the world. As a result per- ceptions are not obsessive and one is not controlled by sense pleasures and has no craving. After hearing this 'Stick-in-Hand' left, shaking his head with wrinkled brow.

When Buddha met monks he told them all that happened with 'Stick-in-Hand' . Then a monk asked for further explanation of the teaching. Buddha replied that evil unskilled states of mind are eliminated by following the teaching. These include attachment, repug- nance, views, perplexity, pride, becoming, ignorance, violence, disputes, and lies.


Frank J. Hoffman

The Concept of Nonviolence in Buddhism

Then Kacchana the Great

said that asking him instead of Buddha is like someone looking for the pith while standing

in front of a big tree.

Nobody understood, so they asked Kacchana the Great.

Sure, the monks agreed, Buddha knows dhamma, but everyone knows you can ex- plain it so please go ahead.

OK, Kacchana the Great, said, listen up and I will tell you. Then Kacchana the Great explained causally how the various sorts of consciousness (i.e., visual consciousness, audi- tory consciousness, olfactory consciousness, gustatory consciousness, bodily consciousness, and mental consciousness) arise depending on antecedent causal conditions. He explained that in each case consciousness arises when there is a gateway, (such as eye, etc.). On the other hand, when there is no gateway, then there is no consciousness. That's how I under- stand it, Kacchana said, and you can ask Buddha if this is the full, correct meaning.

So the monks went to Buddha, stated Kacchana's explanation, and inquired. Buddha replied that the explanation given was exact.

Then Ananda said that it is as if an exhausted hungry person were to find a Honey- Ball and find it sweet, so too an able monk would find this teaching sweet. So Buddha named this teaching the Discourse of the Honey-Ball. Ananda was very pleased.


In early Buddhism, since roots of violence stem from egoism, then conversely roots of nonviolence -- involving behaviors of both abstention from killing and injury and also the positive valuation of life -- stem from following the precepts on the Buddhist path. This pa- per will both explain ahiüsā in early Buddhism and also advance a philosophical argument, the schema of which is below. In simplest terms the main argument is as follows:

(1) Ahiüis a virtue

(2) The virtue of ahiücan be expressed in several ways.

(3) One of the ways in which the virtue of ahiücan be expressed is that those charged with defense of the public use appropriate restraint and do no harm.


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(4) Those charged with the defense of the public include the military, government, and po- lice.

(5) Military, government, and police can use appropriate restraint and avoid doing harm.

Therefore, the concept of ahiüas a virtue applies to the military, the government, and the police.

Philosophically speaking, the virtue of ahimsa can be cultivated by anyone of good will regardless of whether they have a religious commitment. Ahiü, on this view, is not just a virtue for ascetics and sages but a viable virtue that most people can achieve to a greater or lesser extent. Ahiüis not an all or none matter, like a toggle switch, but a mat- ter of degree. Here I am focusing on the often-overlooked opportunities for ahiüwithin the lives of those whose job it is to manage conflict.




AHIýSĀ is a virtue that can be expressed in several ways

In support of the premise (1), section I offers relevant textual details, and likewise each of the following sections support their respectively numbered premises.

Akira Hirakawa provides a detailed analysis of ahiü. Hirakawa states that ahiüis “a word formed by adding the negative prefix a to the word hiü, a derivative from the root han meaning ‘to kill’ and ‘to injure’. Accordingly, ahiücarries the meaning of not killing, and not injuring.” (287) He points out that ahiüappeared as early as the Chandogya Upani÷ad (III, 17) of the early period. The Dharmasutra literature of Hinduism emphasizes ahiüand in accordance with that there origi- nated many people who practice vegetarianism. And in recent times Gandhi and his followers emphasized ahiüand made it a key point in a nationwide movement.

Although ahiücrops up from time immemorial in Indian tradition, the doctrinal basis for its assertion varies in each context. In Hinduism the idea of an imperishable atman that undergoes countless transmigrations and also the idea of the unity of atman-brahman (from the standpoint of moksha), here the idea of ahiüis based on the idea that life is one.


Frank J. Hoffman

The Concept of Nonviolence in Buddhism

(Arthur Herman popularly puts it, in Community Violence and Peace, we are the community in the sense of the is of identity.) In Jainism there is a reverence for all life where life in- cludes even plants and minerals. So there ahiügoes deep down. In Gandhi’s thought ahiügoes wide across all India to include all people including harijans (children of God, today’s dalits).

Ahiüis clearly an important idea in sãla or morality within Buddhism. There, as both Hirakawa and Gomez observe, there is a tradition of abstaining from injuring living beings (expressed by pānātipātāveramani and pānātipātāpātivirati in addition to ahiü). Ahiüis the most popular of the three ways to speak of non-injury in Buddhism and the other two terms are used mainly in sãla and Vinaya contexts forbidding the killing of living beings. When used in Vinaya veramani means “abstaining” and pativirati means “restraining”. Sãla involves deliberate, reflective, abstention from doing bad deeds. Buddhaghosa even defines sãla as cetanā (intention). Sãla is not simply happening to avoid wrong. From a Buddhist view sãla is the will to practice and actualize the teaching so that one proceeds towards enlightenment.

Morality, concentration, and wisdom (sãla, samādhi, pa¤¤ā) have informed Buddhist practice from early on in Buddhist tradition. But these are not 1, 2, 3 in a stepwise manner but each interpenetrates the other. I think that Hirakawa is exactly right when he claims that “These three practices are each separate and yet they are not exclusive but progress towards the highest by mutually helping each other.” (287) So, for example, wisdom is purified by sãla and vice versa. (D I, p. 124). As the motivating power to proceed along the Buddhist path, ahiüis supported by sãla and actualized by the mental power that arises with it.

In Sarvāstivāda ahiüis viewed as an independent mental power, but it is not so in


and as actualized through the suppression of anger (Dharmapāla).

In Mahāyāna ahiühas been construed as based on compassion (Sthiramati)

The practice of ahiüsā is considered universal as stated in Dhammapada 129 be- cause all tremble before punishment and all fear death, so comparing oneself with another one should not kill or cause another to kill. So it is asserted from the perspective of compas- sion but also maintained from the point of view of a consciousness of shame. Sāma¤¤aphalasutta (Dialogues of the Buddha I , p. 79) says “the bhikkhu, putting away the


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killing of living things, holds aloof from the destruction of life. The cudgel and the sword he has laid aside, and ashamed of roughness, and full of mercy, he dwells compassionate and kind to all creatures that have life.”

As Hirakawa comments: “This shows that the practice of ahiüsā is not limited to human beings only, but includes all living beings. Its basis is compassion (dayā), sympathy and pity (hitānukampā), as well as the feeling of shame (lajjā) of the cruelty of killing and injuring life. Thus, ahiüis united with compassion and a consciousness of shame.” (288) As a mental power (caitasika-dharma), sãla is the spirit of compassion.

In early Buddhism ahimsā is not just the ethical rule that one should avoid harming all living beings. Ahiüis also the religious idea that through the practice of Buddhism enlightenment is attainable. So in early Buddhism ahiüappears as right action (sammākammantā) within the eightfold noble path. It also appears in the ten kinds of good actions (dasakusalakammapatha), the first of which is not to kill living beings (D. III, p. 269). In teaching morality to laypersons Buddha emphasizes ahiüin conversation with Sigālaka (D. III, p. 181).

In view of the human condition as one of struggle, eating to survive, ahiüsā is clearly an ideal that one might approximate to a greater or lesser extent, but short of saint- hood, not actually achieved in everyday life. Hikakawa comments: “Some, like the Jains, take to vegetarianism to escape this killing. But even this cannot be called a correct way of life, from the standpoint of those who look upon plants also as possessing life.” (289)

Various manifestations of ahiüare, first, in the life of the lay Buddhist practitio- ner (upāsaka, upāsikā) who accepts the Three Gems (ti-ratana) of Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha and undertakes observance of the five precepts. The first precept is not killing liv- ing beings. This includes both intention and action. If there is intent, but not right action, then confession (pañidesanā) may be done.

Non-killing is so important that it also occurs in other contexts, in the eight precepts practiced on the four fast days (uposatha) of the month; as the first of the ten precepts of male and female novices, the sāmanera and sāmaneri. And the third precept of the pārājikā in the Pātimokkha, in the Vinaya of the monks and nuns, the bhikkhu-s and bhikkunã-s. In-


Frank J. Hoffman

The Concept of Nonviolence in Buddhism

tentional killing of a human being is a pārājikā offence and results in the most severe form of monastic discipline, namely expulsion from the monastery. Ordering others to kill, abor- tion, and suicide are placed on the same level (Vin. III, p. 73, 82).

Killing animals is a pācittiya offence (no. 61), but can be forgiven by confession (āpatti -desanā) and does not result in expulsion. Plantlife or vegetation is also protected by pācittiya rules (no. 20, 62). Monks strain their water in order to avoid drinking water that contains living beings that would die as a result.

Hirakawa observes that the Buddha did not ban the eating of meat, only the taking of life. (In early Buddhism Devadatta asks Buddha to pass a rule banning eating of meat and fish altogether, but Buddha declines.) “He did prohibit the ten kinds of flesh that were cen- sured by society. Apart from that, meat could be eaten by one, provided it was not seen or heard or suspected by him that an animal was specially killed for the eater and the meat was prepared as food for him only (tikoti-parisuddhamacchamaüsa): Vin. IV, pp. 218-20; Sn. 242).” (290)

In ancient India Buddha did not require vegetarianism of his followers and what was against the rules was the taking of life. For example, abstention from animal sacrifice is consistently part of Buddhist tradition from the beginning. In Mahāyāna tradition vegetari- anism was often understood as a requirement, but discussion of that goes beyond this paper.

In the pillar edicts of King Asoka, there are expressions of the principle of ahiü(in 2, 5, 7); also in the rock edicts in Girnar and other places (in 1, 2, 4, 11, and 13). In these ways religious offerings of animal sacrifice were prohibited, meat eating was restricted, and meat consumption at the king’s own table was minimal. Even when animals were killed, young ones under six months old and pregnant ones were not to be killed. Domesticated animals were supposed to be treated with respect, and branding, castration were prohibited, as were burning of forests without cause and killing wildlife. It is evident that Asoka was a philanthropist and benefactor of many worthwhile projects. As Hirakawa comments on Asoka, “He worked in a positive way for the love and protection of animals. He built hos- pitals for both men and animals; he cultivated medicinal plants, planted trees by the roadside and dug numerous wells, thus serving the needs of both man and beast. Asoka, in this way, spread the influence of Buddhism over the whole of India, which tremendous influence


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lasted for a long period of time in the spiritual life of the Indian people."”(290) Logically speaking, non-killing would entail both pacifism and vegetarianism, but neither are upheld by Asoka as moral absolutes. (Hoffman, "Asoka” in Encyclopedia of Monasticism). He made progress in dhamma towards these ideals and was tolerant of religions generally after the bloody battle at Kalinga and his subsequent change of heart.

By contrast, it should be noted as a brief aside that in Mahāyāna Buddhism of China and Japan there is a definite prohibition against eating meat, by contrast with Theravāda Buddhism of South Asia. For example, not taking life is interpreted as giving another being life by not eating and so is compassionate behavior. Thus the Mahāparinirvāna Sutra (Taisho 12, p. 386 a, b) states: “The eating of meat extinguishes the sea of great compassion.” (Hirakawa 291) Buying and setting free fish, birds, and animals also shows compassion. (Taisho, 24, p. 1005-1007, 1029, 1049-1050). In punishments, there are no amputations or death sentences: censure, punishment, jail, and exile are permit- ted.


Luis O. Gomez has shown the development of the idea of ahiü. One part of my overall argument is to argue that there is no essence of ahiübut there are a family of fea- tures (in a Wittgensteinian sense) that comprise the concept of ahiü. I will next survey some of them.

I.B. Horner has identified several forms that ahiücan take in early Buddhism. For example, Vinaya iv, 34 speaks against monks chopping down trees and destroying vegetable growth. Vinaya i, 137-138; iv, 296 speaks against trampling crops or grasses. Vin. iv, 32-33 speaks against killing beings while digging soil. It is recognized that ekindriyajiva or one- facultied life exists in trees, plants, and soil, and that water may have sappānakaudaka or breathers in it.

As seen in Aïgulimālasutta (“Discourse with Aïgulimāla") MLS II # 86, p. 284 ahiücan be expressed by not retaliating when attacked. In this Pali Buddhist sutta topics such as personal self-transformation, psychic powers, miracles, and the relation between ethics and enlightenment are discussed.


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The Concept of Nonviolence in Buddhism

Thus have I heard. Buddha was near Sāvatthi in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiõóika's monas- tery. The Buddha set out on a road toward the abode of Aïgulimāla, an infamous bandit who wore a garland of fingers. Usually people traveled this way only in large groups of twenty or thirty, and even then it would be dangerous. Monks three times tried to discour- age him, but the Buddha set out anyway. It appears the Buddha was not deterred by those attempting to discourage him from traveling there. As he approached, Aïguligmāla saw him and thought about killing the Buddha. As Aïgulimāla was trailing him with bow and arrow, Buddha with psychic power made it such that Aïgulimāla was not able to catch up with him no matter how fast he ran. Aïgulimāla questions him about this and the Buddha replies that he stands still having renounced violence whereas Aïgulimāla is unrestrained regarding taking life and is always moving. The Buddha's response thus shows the cultural value of quiescence and non-violence. After hearing the Buddha's speech, Aïgulimāla threw away his sword and weapons in a chasm. Then the Buddha made his way to Sāvatthi with Ven. Aïgulimāla as his attendant. A big crowd complained to King Pasenadi about Aïgulimāla's presence. If he became a monk, asked the Buddha of the king, how would you regard him? The king said he would extend the usual courtesies due to monks. Then the Buddha introduced King Pasenadi to the converted Aïgulimāla. At first the king was afraid and found the change hard to believe. But then he offered to have the robes and medicines necessary for monastic life prepared for Aïgulimāla. After telling the Buddha of his ex- treme discomfort on hearing the cries of a woman in labor leading to childbirth, the Buddha advises Aïgulimāla to give the woman a blessing on the unborn child saying that he had not deprived anything of life since being born of the Ariyan birth. Then Ven. Aïgulimāla medi- tated, acquired super-knowledge, and became perfected. When once some villagers of Savatthi beat him up with clods, gravel, and sticks, Aïgulimāla endured it without retaliat- ing. This is the ripening of karma. Then in private meditation Aïgulimāla uttered a solemn utterance about his conversion to "Harmlessness”. He declared the supremacy of the Bud- dhist path, and experienced the three-fold knowledge.--turning the other cheek

Ahiücan be expressed in vegetarianism; What is meant by “vegetarianism” is a matter of definition. If not taking life is what is meant by vegetarianism, there are few if any vegetari- ans. To see this, consider that, for example, even in boiling water with vegetables one is killing tiny living organisms in the water. In common usage of the term, however, vegetari- ans are contrasted with both those who eat meat or fish and with vegans who abstain also


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from dairy products. There are also “fish vegetarians”, those who will abstain from meat but not fish. (To Cherish All Life explores this topic in greater detail than I can here.)

Simply not to kill, injure or harm life is different from cherishing all life.

Both of

these emphases may be found in different parts of Buddhist tradition. As Luis Gomez puts it : “Our examination of the Pali scriptures and related sources had demonstrated that there was not just one unalloyed ideal of nonviolence in early Buddhism. Instead we encountered several definitions and redefinitions of ahiü. As ritual thinking was rationalized and ethi-

cized, a tradition of nonviolence as abstention vied with a tradition of nonviolence based on a valuation of life.”

Gomez also notices a connection between self-cultivation and non-violence. He sees that the application of non-violence and no-self in everyday life often raises questions not all of which are specifically addressed in Buddhist texts. Gomez interprets Buddhist self- cultivation as a very humble kind of practice involving not lying, not stealing, etc. It is in- terpreted as a practice that is centered neither on public peace protests nor on compliance with moral rules, but on going beyond merit and demerit so that “love is ever present in the mind.”

It is I think not so important from a Buddhist perspective whether one avoids social engagement and sticks to what Gomez calls “a very humble practice” as it is in what spirit any social engagement occurs. In the development of Western Buddhism in the USA there are those who emphasize the practice of meditation by itself with perhaps a little supplemen- tary reading and those who use Buddhist meditation practice in a socially engaged manner. Criticism of a negative sort without any form of appreciation merely contributes to polariza- tion; furthermore, to be done without attachment the socially engaged Buddhist must not be attached to the fruits of action.

There is no reluctance to accept the idea of socially engaged Buddhism in the work of Cynthia Keppley Mahmood’s paper, "Equality, Ethnicity, and the Political Potential of Buddhism". By contrast to Gomez, in a concluding paragraph Mahmood writes:

The Buddhist alternative, then, is one which demands cultural self-determination; which de- mands equality; and which demands democracy. In short, it is a religious tradition which is

While lauding the beautiful messages of peace

as much about justice as it is about peace.


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and loving kindness expressed in Buddhist writings, we cannot forget the more difficult message of rebellion against injustice handed down to us from ancient India. Whether and to what extent there is a “message of rebellion” in the Buddhism of ancient India is a matter of interpretation. For alongside anti-brahmanism, anti-caste, and anti- Vedic pronouncements there is also the advice not to contend with anyone in the world.


As ThichNhat Hahn emphasized in the quotation with which we began, "Anyone can prac- tice some nonviolence, even soldiers. Some army generals, for example, conduct their op- erations in ways that avoids killing innocent people; this is a kind of nonviolence.”

And as Swiderski writes:

From Asoka's universal realm of dharma to Chief Joseph's refusal to fight and Gan- dhi's satyagraha there have been many instances of warlike tempers turning away from injurious action. We can recognize the contours of ahiüand feel the strug- gle of its rise in different lives, in many times and places, by understanding that the resolution not to harm other beings demands a careful balance between determina- tion and ease. It is never practised perfectly, toward all being alike without contra- diction or dissent. Imperfection makes ahiüwhat it is in the lives of the violent, the destructive the conqueror and conquered.


Defense of the public is a concept that arises in organized societies and would not exist otherwise (for example in a so-called “state of nature”). There are many more people who are charged with the defense of the public than just military, govern- ment, and police (e.g., firemen and school crossing guards).

As I.B. Horner notes:


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The emergence in India of the notion of ahiü, non-harming, non-injury, is historically speaking not clear. Its origin cannot be attributed to a definite date or to any particular teacher, social reformer or law-giver. The problem of the birth of the idea of non-injury is indeed as obscure as that of "leaving the world", of forsaking home for homelessness. non- injury, which includes the principle of sparing life, of not taking it, of not depriving man or beast of it, receives much emphasis in the surviving Jain texts; but whether the notion actu- ally spring up under the Jains or whether they exploited some life-saving tradition already there we do not know. Although the birth of the notion may be hidden to us, the magnitude of the stress the Jains lay on doing anything so calamitous as taking life has the appearance of a protest; a protest against an existence and more or less widespread slaughter of crea- tures of which it was impossible to be unaware.

Buddhism also was aware of this state of things; and was very much alive to the di- verse purposes for which life was destroyed. If it did not use the word ahiüsā and the verbs connected with it as frequently as the contemporary Jains, it all the same fostered the scruple against the taking of life as much as they did. Other sects which inhabited the Valley of the Ganges at the same time, while not making such a mark on the thought and custom of the day, nevertheless contributed to this new or revived scruple and upheld it by themselves practising non-injury under the form of vegetarianism.

In the same place Horner notices that the Asoka Rock Edits I and V (234 BC) op- pose killing of animals and comments that this shows Buddhist teaching on compassion to all that lives and breathes. (4) There were non-slaughter days existing in ancient India (4-5) which may or may not have coincided with uposatha days (5) before Asoka the Buddha surely protested against the taking of life (5-6) There were great animal sacrifices decreed under Asoka but he did not eliminate warfare, agriculture, and meat-eating.

Concerning warfare, Horner notices three ways in which the Buddha faced the fact of fighting: S I 85 speaks of the futility of war; force is contrasted with dhamma in Dh. 256- 7; secondly he eliminated warfare as an occupation for monks in third pārājikā rule -- mur- der, incitement to murder or to suicide results in expulsion from the Order; third, he faced the fact of fighting by using military metaphors that emphasized discipline, being steadfast, and fighting a spiritual battle (16)


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Horner writes: "The monk-world had a different code from the lay-world, for it was one of as complete non-harming as it was possible to achieve. But in the completeness of this there was a curious anomaly connected with some of the foods that a monk might eat." (20)

"The eating of neither fish nor meat was banned for monks; and if not positively en- couraged was likewise not positively discouraged. Indeed fish and meat formed two out of the five permissible "soft foods" the other three being different cereals. It looks as if, be- cause the laity was neither stopped from growing grain, which after all did not involve the intentional taking of life, nor from occupations which made the eating of meat possible, so similarly the monks were allowed to partake of cereals, fish and meat.

Horner on taking life. But we have seen that in the case of the last two, certain re- strictions were imposed: meat, and fish, had to be "pure" in the three respects, and meat had to be "the meat of those (animals) whose meat is allowable." [fn. to Vin. iv 88] Gifts to the Order were made allowable, kappakata, by the donor uttering some phrase to the effect that he was giving, for with a few minor exceptions, it was an offence to take anything not given. [fn. to Pārājikā I I.] But, especially in times of scarcity, monks had a right to ask, and in fact incurred an offence of wrongdoing if they did not, whether the meat that was being given to them was that of certain animals: of an elephant, horse, dog, serpent, lion, tiger, leopard, bear or hyena. For the meat of these animals came to be unallowed. But the rea- sons for this ban do not in the least imply that for monks or laity meat - eating was thought to be wrong in itself. Elephants and horses are attributes of royalty; dogs and serpents are revolting and disgusting; whether to catch any of the wild animals mentioned, including again the serpent, might involve the monks in personal danger." (21)

"Although the eating of meat by laity and monks alike is tacitly condoned, the bloody trades which bring animals to destruction for this purpose by no means escape con- demnation." (23) Numerous textual references support the view that bad rebirths await those who kill (A. v. 288; M i 387 ff., iii. 203)

"But monks did not, or should not, themselves actually take animal life. They did not act as butchers, they did not fish, hunt or trap. All their food was provided for them by the laity. Yet, unlike those recluses and brahmins who are recorded to have lived on jujube


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fruits, sesamum, beans or uncooked rice, they were able to receive gifts of fish and meat, provided they observed the restrictions and safeguards of not receiving more food than their one begging bowl would hold; of not eating more than once a day; of establishing the fish and meat was "pure"; and that it was not the meat of certain prohibited animals." (24)

Cynthia Keppley Mahmood, "Equality, Ethnicity, and the Political Potential of Bud- dhism" p 25-33. Writes: "One of the persisting problems in many Western treatments of Buddhism is the tendency to regard this tradition as essentially other-worldly in its orienta- tion, a stereotype which may well accommodate an admiration for ahimsa, but hardly allows for a recognition of Buddhism as an active political force. Max Weber is probably the key culprit in the perpetuation of this image for our discipline, writing in his influential Religion in India that Buddhism was "a specifically unpolitical and anti-political status religion" which "had no sort of tie with any 'social' movement" and "has established no 'socio- political' goal." As Edward Said's classic “Orientalism” has shown us this attitude which labeled Eastern religion as a tradition of uncompromising mysticism was of long standing in the West, and was not unrelated to the West's own political goals of this-worldly domina- tion." (26)

"Both the Buddha and Mahavira are also described as being of Kshatriya origin, but on the widespread evidence of indigenous' [indigenous] elevation to Kshatriya status this can no longer be taken as evidence of Aryan ethnicity. Lalmani Joshi and G.C. Pande are two scholars who have effectively argued for the non-Aryan foundations of the Buddhist movement, pointing out that many features of both Buddhism and Jainism have antecedents dating back to the Indus Valley civilization. These include the concept of holy places (not a feature of nomadic Aryan life) especially marked by caityas which later became to stupas of Buddhism. The pipal tree, another iconographic theme of the Indus Valley, remained sacred as the bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment. Meditation postures still utilized in the Buddhist and Jaina traditions are replicated in Indus Valley sculpture, and the ideal of asceticism which pervades both is at a wide remove from the some-imbibing, hero- worshipping, celebratory Aryans portrayed in the Vedas. Both the Buddha and Mahavira, of course, are described in their respective schools not as innovators, but as perpetuators of tra- dition, part of long lines of past and future Buddhas and Jinas. Futhermore, references within the Vedic texts themselves to alien, marginal individuals known as munis and yatis


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accords with the idea of a persisting minority tradition, which perhaps only required a change of social circumstances for its full renaissance." (pp. 31-32)

Swiderski writes: "The discrepancy between the Asoka of the Buddhist chronicles and the Asoka of the rock edicts has been much discussed. The chronicles' Emperor is an idealist abstraction within the context of Indian Buddhist thought, while the inscriptions' Emperor is a practical, if pompous, ruler of an Indian state. The Buddhists needed to see a champion who would do anything to assure the advancement of their religion. Students of the inscriptions see a man who was able to employ Buddhist organization and ideology to shore up his rule, much as Constantine employed Christianity. The legend and discernible career of Asoka raise questions about the meaning and practice of ahiüwhich extend be- yond the historical issues of Asoka's intentions and actions. Considering Asoka helps for- mulate the parameters of ahiüin a warlike society and culture, what turns an aggressive person to ahiüand what commitment to ahiü, both of kind and of degree, does this person display afterward? This obviously leads to a confusing array of psychological, so- ciological and anthropological issues. Taking Asoka as a model I wish simply to explore how the rise of ahiüin the lives of warlike might responsibly be addressed. Ahiühas risen in the lives of warriors and rulers other than Asoka, in many different times and in dif- ferent parts of the world.”

George Victor writes in G. Sundara Ramaiah, K. Ravi, and SDA Joga Rao’s Bud- dhism and Peace that holy books by themselves are not enough; what is needed is for people to put their tenets into action (127).

Victor states: "The point is action promotes peace rather than books and ideals; and political power will be ahead of everything. Again to clarify this point, a lecture on peace in a class room is no doubt related to peace, but it is not something making peace or world peace. Peace making is an effort, a dialogue, an agreement and a resolution that gives joy to all those concerned and involved. It is not limited to words but culminates in action. A worldwide action, that yields results alone can contribute for world peace rather than utter- ances for certain occasions. If one's thoughts and actions are oriented towards his own land and limited to his won village, how can he contribute for world peace? The efforts of peace making should transcend the borders of one's own land, then alone the word 'world peace'


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will have a meaning. India's contribution to world peace counts after the land becomes in- dependent and with the emergence of the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru." (127)

George Victor continues: "The sayings may be good, the heritage might be the bet- ter, but a commitment and involvement will be the best. Peace relates to the present and future; and all that glorious past do not help in making peace. The problems of peace are the problems of the present day society and nations at large. Any discussion on past does not help to promote peace as 'peace as such relates to the present' and creates a hope for fu- ture. the present problems of peace do not have their answers in the past, but needs a thor- ough dialogue and determination with reference to the contemporary situation. 'Let noble thoughts come to our minds' and the people at the helm of affairs shall be awakened to make India to contribute for world peace." (129)


CONCLUSION: Therefore, the concept of ahiüā as a virtue applies to the military, the gov- ernment, and the police.

Concluding quotation from Hirakawa:

“The world in which man lives is one of mutual injury, and life is sustained by sacri- ficing others. Therefore, the Buddha looked at this life and said, “Existence is suffer- ing” (dukkha). Thus, the actual practice of ahiücan be undertaken only on the basis of a true cognition of life, the contradictions of which are difficult to resolve. That is to say, in our lives the practice of perfect and absolute ahiüsā in this particular sense is impossible. The inward feeling of the spirit of ahiüsā, therefore, and its outward manifestation, the act of ahiüsā, become different from one another. The action of ahiüsā is difficult to perfect, but the spirit of ahiüsā in the heart is not impossible to perfect, by learning and prac- tice.” (289)


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The Concept of Nonviolence in Buddhism

P.S. Sivasway Aiyer, Evolution of Hindu Moral Ideals (Delhi: Nag Publishers, 1935, 1976).

Nathaniel Altman, Ahimsa (Wheaton IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980).

David W. Chappell (ed.), Buddhist Peacework (Boston: Wisdom, 1999).

Mahinda Deegalle, Buddhism, Conflict, and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (New York:

Routledge, 2006).

Indu Mala Gosh, Ahimsa Buddhist and Gandhian (Indian Bibliographies Bureau with Balaji Enterprises, 1988).

Luis Gomez, "Nonviolence and the Self in Early Buddhism" in Kenneth Kraft, Inner Peace/ World Peace (Albany: SUNY Press, 1992).

Margaret Cone and Richard F. Gombrich, ThePerfert Generosity of Prince Vessantara:

A Buddhist Epic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977).

Arthur L. Herman, Community, Violence, and Peace (Albany: SUNY Press, ----).

Akira Hirakawa, “Ahimsa” in Encyclopaedia of Buddhism vol 1 (2) Acala Akan.Edited by G.P. Malalasekera (Ceylon: Government Press, 1963).

Frank J. Hoffman, “Asoka” in Encyclopedia of Monasticism (Chicago:


Fitzroy Deaborn,

Frank J. Hoffman, “Gandhi” in Edward Craig (ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1998).

I.B. Horner, Early Buddhism and the Taking of Life (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1967).The Wheel Publication Series # 104.


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David J. Kalupahana, The Buddha and the Concept of Peace (Sri Lanka: Sarvodaya,1999).

Kenneth Kraft, Inner Peace, World Peace: essays on Buddhism and Nonviolence

(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992).

George Kotturan, Ahimsa: Gautama to Gandhi (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1973).

S. Narayan (ed.), Buddhism and World Peace (New Delhi: Inter-India Publications, 1989).

Amrut W. Nakhre, Social Psychology of Nonviolent Action (Delhi:


Chanaka Publications,

Rajendra Prasad, Varnadharma, Nishkama Karma, and Practical Morality (New Delhi:

D.K. Printworld, 1999).

I. Proudfoot, Ahimsa and a Mahabharata Story (Canberra: Australian National University, 1987). Asian Studies Monographs, new series no. 9.

Gail Hinich Sutherland, Nonviolence, Consumption, and Community Among Ancient Indian Ascetics (Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1997).

Richard M. Swiderski, "Giving Up the Struggle: The Rise of Ahimsa in the Lives of the Warlike" in S. Narayan (ed.), Buddhism and World Peace (New Delhi: Inter-India Publica- tions, 1989).

G. Sundara Ramaiah, K. Ravi, and SDA Joga Rao, Buddhism and Peace:

nary Study, Essays in Honour of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Visakhapatnam:

University, 1991).

an Interdiscipli-


S. Narayan (ed.), Buddhism and World Peace (New Delhi: Inter-India Publications, 1989).

Cynthia Keppley Mahmood, "Equality, Ethnicity, and the Political Potential of Buddhism" p 25-33 in S. Narayan (ed.), Buddhism and World Peace (New Delhi: Inter-India Publica- tions, 1989).

Arturo Speziale, The Ethical and Religious Values of Ancient India (Calcutta: Sujan Publi- cations, 1987).


Frank J. Hoffman

The Concept of Nonviolence in Buddhism

The Rise of Ahimsa in the Lives of the

Warlike" in S. Narayan (ed.), Buddhism and World Peace (New Delhi: Inter-India Publica-

tions, 1989).

Richard M.

Swiderski, "Giving Up the Struggle:

Kedar Nath Tiwari, Classical Indian Ethical Thought (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1998).

Venerable Thich Nhat Hahn, "Ahimsa: The Path of Harmlessness" in David W. Chappell

(ed.), Buddhist Peacework (Boston: Wisdom, 1999).

P. George Victor, "Individuals and Nations for Peace" in G. Sundara Ramaiah, K. Ravi, and

SDA JogaRao, Buddhism and Peace: an Interdisciplinary Study, Essays in Honour of His

Holiness the Dalai Lama (Visakhapatnam: Andhra University, 1991).

KoshelyaWalli, Ahimsa in Indian Thought (Varanasi: BharataManisha, 1974).

G. Sundara Ramaiah, K. Ravi, and SDA JogaRao, Buddhism and Peace:

nary Study, Essays in Honour of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Visakhapatnam:

University, 1991).

an Interdiscipli-


Discourse of the Honey-Ball, (Madhupiõóikasutta) MLS pp. 141-148; MN I 108-114.

Discourse with Aïgulimāla MLS II p 284 Abhayakumarasutta MN

End Notes

This paper is an expanded version of "Buddhism and Nonviolence" read at the 13 th Interna- tional Congress of Vedanta, Sept. 12-15, 2002, at Miami University of Oxford Ohio. "Buddhism and Nonviolence". It was revised and presented in Kandy (2011).

2 I. Proudfoot writes: “For instance, in enumeration so the universal norms (sadhāranadharma) it implies not causing injury; or, as a penitential discipline, it may con- note not adopting an aggressive attitude; or, in terms of yogic practice, not having an unsul- lied spirit which could produce aggressive emotions. Along another spectrum, it may imply not taking life, or not causing pain or not causing an apprehension of injury. Or again it may relate to different spheres of action, expressing a principle of social morality, an ascetic ideal, a quality of sacrificial procedure, and so forth. Running through all these variations is another kid of dichotomy, between ahimsā seen in terms of the effect on the object (‘non- injury’) and ahiüas a quality of the subject (‘non-injuriousness’).


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Needless to say, no single translation is adequate to encompass this range of conno- tations. If one is necessary as an expedient, ‘harmlessness’ is least prejudicial to the wide range of possible meaning of ahimsa. I thus the advantage of ambiguously representing both ‘non-injury’ and ‘non-injuriousness.’” I. Proudfoot, Ahiüsā and a Mahābhārata Story (Canberra: Australian National University, 1987). Asian Studies Monographs, new series no. 9), p. 1.

3 Indu Mala Gosh, Ahimsa Buddhist and Gandhian (Indian Bibliographies Bureau with Balaji Enterprises, 1988), p. 17.

4 I.B.Horner, "Early Buddhism and the Taking of Life" (Kandy: Sri Lanka, Buddhist Publi- cation Society, 1967). The Wheel Publication No. 104, p.3.

5 KedarNathTiwari, Classical Indian Ethical Thought (Delhi: MotilalBanarsidass, 1998), pgs. 64-65.

6 Rajendra Prasad, Varnadharma, Nishkama Karma, and Practical Morality (New Delhi:

D.K. Printworld, 1999), p. 145 and p. 150 shows the appeal of secularism in a way that does not exclude the religious but which contrasts with fundamentalism.

7 David J. Kalupahana, Buddhist Philosophy (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1976), p. 38.

8 I.B. Horner (trans.), “Discourse of the Honey-Ball” (Madhupiõóikasutta) Middle Length Sayings pgs. 141-148; MajjhimaNikāya I 108-114.

9 Key terms here are 'Stick-in-Hand' (daõóapāni) -- nickname of pretentious fellow who walks with a gold cane and questions Buddha; brahmin' -- in Buddhist (NOT Hindu) useage, 'true brahmin' one who follows the Buddhist path; 'obsessions' (papañca) -- cravings, also conceptual proliferations; stopping the obsessions without remainder is enlightenment (nibbāna); sensory impingement or contact (phassa) -- important in the causal analysis of sorts of consciousness and bondage to things of the world

10 See Akira Hirakawa, “Ahimsa” in Encyclopaedia of Buddhism vol 1 (2) Acala Akan. Ed. y G.P. Malalasekera (Ceylon: Government Press, 1963).

11 I.B.Horner, "Early Buddhism and the Taking of Life" (Kandy: Sri Lanka, Buddhist Publi- cation Society, 1967). The Wheel Publication No. 104, p. 2.

12 Luis O. Gomez, "Nonviolence and the Self in Early Buddhism" in Kenneth Kraft (ed.), Inner Peace, World Peace (Albany: SUNY Press, 1992), p. 45. Gomez continues to say:

“In many cases, abstention was regarded as ethically equivalent to involvement, and the practice of nonviolence was motivated as much by an ideal of self-realization as by an ideal of cosmic healing.

We also found that the close connection between self-cultivation and nonviolence, an essential feature of early Buddhism, raises important questions about the role of the self. As a ritual symbol, nonviolence serves as a mechanism for constructing or maintaining a self-


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image. In other contexts as well, nonviolence involves self-assertion as much as self-denial.

It might be said that the self that is asserted is that of all beings. Yet the individual self, first

split into self and other, then reintegrated in the experience of non-self, is what gives mean-

ing to the concept of all beings, and to the activity of nonviolence.

While not harming and no-self are the fundamental guidelines of Buddhist ethics, the specific application of these guidelines is not always clear. How are we to deal with the problems that arise when we try to implement the principles of nonviolence in our daily lives or in larger social contexts? What about situations in which avoiding violence may lead to the suffering of others? How about cases where justice seems to require [p. 45 ends] violence? [p. 46 starts here] Buddhist texts address some of these issues but leave others unresolved. In the AvatamsakaSutta (which unfortunately has no early counterpart), a para- dox is used to define the Buddhist ideal of altruism: "The bodhisattva will not give up one single living being for the sake of all beings, nor will he give up all beings for the sake of one living being."

What distinguishes (or should distinguish) advocates of nonviolence who identify them- selves with Buddhist teachings is a recognition of the indispensable link between nonvio- lence and self-cultivation. The Vinaya rules imply that nonviolence forms part of a morality of abstention, in which one's own daily behavior is the starting-point of any campaign for peace. Refraining from lying, for example, would take precedence over public verbal activi- ties such as issuing proclamations in support of world harmony (or writing essays on ahimsa). Similarly, it may be more valuable to recycle one's recyclable trash on a regular basis than to join marches on behalf of the environment. Even working in a crisis center for victims of family violence might still represent a step outside the primary arena of concern. The core of Buddhist nonviolence is a very humble kind of practice. Its basis is not harm- ing, not stealing, not lying, and so on.

If ethical behavior could be governed by principles that would provide, in all circum- stances, an unambiguously moral and rational course of action, then self-cultivation would center on compliance, and we would no longer be able to speak of virtue. But Buddhist self -cultivation nurtures a kind of virtue that transcends mere compliance with moral principles. Thus when Buddhists speaks of a Buddha or a saint, they say that he or she has gone beyond merit and demerit, beyond good and evil, beyond self and other, "beyond the heavens and the hells." For those who have attained this state, "love is ever present in the mind." (46)

13 Luis O. Gomez, "Nonviolence and the Self in Early Buddhism" in Kenneth Kraft (ed.), In- ner Peace, World Peace (Albany: SUNY Press, 1992), p. 46.

14 See KedarNathTiwari, Classical Indian Ethical Thought (Delhi: MotilalBanarsidass, 1998), pgs. 128-133, on niskama karma, i.e.”action for no selfish gain, for no desired end” (p. 130).

15 Cynthia KeppleyMahmood, "Equality, Ethnicity, and the Political Potential of Buddhism"

Inter-India Publica-

p 25-33 in S. Narayan (ed.), Buddhism and World Peace (New Delhi:

tions, 1989), p. 32-33.


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16 Venerable ThichNhat Hahn, "Ahimsa:

(ed.), Buddhist Peacework (Boston: Wisdom, 1999), p. 155.

The Path of Harmlessness" in David W. Chappell

The Rise of Ahimsa in the Lives of the

Warlike" in S. Narayan (ed.), Buddhism and World Peace (New Delhi: Inter-India Publica- tions, 1989), p. 121.

17 Richard M. Swiderski, "Giving Up the Struggle:

18 I.B. Horner, Early Buddhism and the Taking of Life (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Soci- ety, 1967). The Wheel Publication Series # 104, p. 3.

The Rise of Ahimsa in the Lives of the

Warlike" in S. Narayan (ed.), Buddhism and World Peace (New Delhi: Inter-India Publica-

tions, 1989).

19 Richard M. Swiderski, "Giving Up the Struggle:

20 G. SundaraRamaiah, K. Ravi, and SDA JogaRao, Buddhism and Peace:

nary Study, Essays in Honour of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Visakhapatnam:

University, 1991).

an Interdiscipli-



Love and Social Justice 1

Susanne Mrozik

This paper explores the intersection of Buddhism with social justice work in the US today. In the paper, I focus scholarly attention on two social justice activists, both of whom draw upon Buddhist meditation and philosophy to deal with racial, class and gender discrimina- tion in the contemporary US. Before proceeding, however, I wish to clarify that I have cho- sen to discuss the contemporary US not because I think the US is more important than Sri Lanka or any other country. I absolutely do not think that. I love Sri Lanka and deeply value its many contributions, including its Buddhist contributions, to the world. I am limit- ing my comments to the US context because this is the context in which I have been able to study the relationship between Buddhism and social justice work.

The first activist is bell hooks, an African American woman and distinguished US professor, who has published extensively on racial, class and gender discrimination. Please note that hooks uses an unconventional lowercased spelling of her pen name in order to downplay the authority of herself as ‘author’; she wants her readers to focus on what she says instead of who she is. hooks is a practitioner of Buddhist meditation and draws extensively upon Bud- dhist meditation and philosophy in her writing. Buddhist meditation and philosophy offer her tools to ‘transform a culture of domination and oppression into one of love’ (hooks


Scholars of Buddhism usually speak of ‘loving kindness’ (mettā) and ‘compassion’ (karuõā), rather than ‘love’. hooks, however, uses the language of love be- cause there is a long history of religious and ethical discourse on love in the West, due in part to Christianity’s emphasis on love. hooks who was raised in a Christian community, draws upon both Christianity and Buddhism in her work and uses language familiar to her US audience. The complex relationship in the US between Christianity, Judaism, and Bud- dhism is itself a fascinating topic, but one outside the scope of this brief paper. I can only note here that it is not unusual in the US for religious practitioners to draw from more than one religious tradition, perhaps because the US is home to so many different religions.

What does hooks mean by the word ‘love’? For some Buddhists, the word ‘love’ may have negative connotations, signifying attachment and clinging. hooks, however, has a more ex- pansive vision of love, one that, in fact, comes close to modern socially engaged Buddhist concepts of loving kindness and compassion. For hooks, love is the opposite of attachment; love takes us beyond our attachment to self-gratification, whether gratification through ro- mantic love or other sources of worldly pleasure (see hooks 2000, 19, 108, 111). As she puts it in an American idiom, love is not about ‘getting what one wants, whether it’s a hug or a new sweater or a trip to Disneyland’ (hooks 2000, 19, 108, 111). Rather, love is the experience of connection with others. And here hooks uses language familiar to a Buddhist audience, namely, language that evokes the Buddhist teaching of dependent co-arising


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(pratãtya-samutpāda): she speaks of interdependence, interconnection, and interbeing (Just as Buddhists in the US may draw upon more than one religious tradition in their writings, so too they may draw upon more than one branch of Buddhism in their writings.)

For hooks, love is the experiential realization of interbeing. It is the opening of our hearts to the larger network of interconnected beings. It is also, according to hooks, ‘an active prac- tice’ (hooks 1996, 287; see also hooks 2000, 165, 171). Opening our hearts to others re- quires taking their needs as seriously as our own. Thus love and social justice work go hand -in-hand for hooks (hooks 2000, 19). An advocate of socially engaged Buddhism, she be- lieves that love ‘leads to greater commitment and involvement with the world’ (hooks 1996, 289) furthermore this commitment to the world is a commitment to the spiritual as well as material welfare of others. There is an explicitly religious dimension to hooks’ vision of social justice. Indeed on several occasions hooks defines love as ‘the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth’, borrowing this definition from an American psychiatrist’s publications on love (Peck 1978, 81,qtd. in hooks 2004).

So let us examine how hooks draws on Buddhist meditation and philosophy to create a ‘love ethic’ and why she believes this ‘love ethic’ can help to alleviate the suffering caused by discrimination. hooks writes that ‘[to] commit to love is fundamentally to commit to a life beyond dualism. That’s why, in a culture of domination, love is so sacred. It erodes dual- isms - the binary oppositions of black and white, male and female, right and wrong’ (hooks 1996, 287). Why? Because love, which is the active practice of working to benefit others, requires that we pay careful attention to others. Love, I would argue, is for hooks a mindful- ness practice, prompting us to engage in what Thich Nhat Hanh calls ‘deep looking’ and ‘deep listening’ of others. Deep looking and listening makes it much harder to reduce others to smimplistic dualisms. As hooks observes: “when we hear another person’s thoughts, be- liefs, and feelings, it is more difficult to project onto them our perceptions of who they are’ (hooks 2000, 49). Speaking autobiographically, she further observes: “In my case, life was easier when I felt that I could trust another black person more than I could trust a white person. To face the reality that this is simply not so is a much harder way to live in the world…things are always more complex than they seem. [Understanding] this is what it means to see clearly. Such understanding is more useful and more difficult than the idea that there is a right and wrong, or a good or bad, and you only have to decide what side you’re on. In real love, real union or communion, there are no simple rules’ (hooks 1996,


hooks informs us that it was ‘the Buddhist call to move beyond dualisms’ that first attracted her to Buddhism (hooks 1996,287). In other words, it was Buddhism’s critique of all con- ventional labels and identities philosophically articulated as the teachings of no-self [anātman] and emptiness [÷ånyatā] that first attracted hooks to Buddhism. Why? Because labels and identities like black and white, male and female, right and wrong, often serve as the basis for oppression. From the very beginning, therefore, hooks harnesses the Buddhist


Susanne Mrozik

ove and Social Justice

meditational and philosophical goal of seeing clearly, that is, of seeing reality as it is to the social justice goal of alleviating suffering caused by discrimination. Scholarship on Bud- dhism in the US still focuses a disproportionate attention on white converts to Buddhism. But in addition to the long history of Asian and Asian American Buddhists in the US, dating back to the 19 th century, there is also a more recent history of convert Buddhists of color, including African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. Again and again we read in their publications that Buddhism speaks to them in part because it offers tools to alleviate the suffering caused by discrimination (e.g., essays in Baldoquin 2004: Unno in Gregory and Mrozik 2008; Willis 2001) for these socially engaged Buddhists, the Buddhist goal of ending suffering includes ending the suffering caused by racial, class, and/ or gender dis- crimination.

I turn now to a second soial justice activist. Her name Hilda Ryumon Gutierrez Baldo- quin.Baldoquin, who was born in Cuba of African and Spanish heritage, and who moved later with her family to the US is a Soto Zen priest and social justice activist. Like hooks, she uses Buddhist meditation and philosophy to lessen our attachment to labels and identi- ties that serve as a basis for oppression. For example, she writes:

In my experience, systems of oppression necessitate notions of identity, and consequently, our habitual attachment to this notion perpetuates oppression. It is the nature of oppression to obscure the limitless essence, the vastness of who we are that the nature of our mind is luminous, like a clear pool reflecting a cloudless sky (Baldoquin 2004, 181 182)

Our attachment to notions of identity both those we construct for ourselves and those we project onto others - divide living beings into mutually exclusive and antagonistic categories of victim and perpetrator. This generates further suffering and obscures the true nature of our reality, that is, our condition of interdependence. It also obscures ‘the vastness of who we are’, by which Baldoquin means our capacity for liberation, that is, our capacity for un- bounded wisdom and compassion.

Coming from historically disadvantaged communities in the US, Baldoquin and hooks are especially concerned about attachment to the identity of victim. In other words, they are concerned about internalized racism and sexism, among other possible internalized negative identities. Indeed hooks argues that [in] ‘ a culture of domination, preoccupation with vic- timhood and identity is inevitable’ (hooks 1996, 288). “A culture of domination like ours says to people: There is nothing in you that is of value; everything of value is outside you and must be acquired’ (1996,291). She speaks of women and African Americans, who in spite of great professional success, still feel a ‘deep-seated sense of unworthiness that is po- tentially more life-threatening than structures of domination’ (hooks 1996, 290-291).

How do we let go of our deep-seated habitual attachment to notions of identity, whatever they might be for each of us individually? Not surprisingly, hooks and Baldoquin turn to meditation, especially mindfulness meditation (Baldoquin 2004, 183-184). Indeed, hooks argues that meditation is the starting point for all individual and communal transformation:


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A fundamental shift in consciousness is the only way to transform a culture of domination and oppression into one of love. Contemplation is the key to this shift. There is no change without contemplation. The image of Buddha under the Bodhi tree illustrates this here is an action taking place that may not appear to be a mean- ingful action. Yet it transforms (hooks 1996, 292).

So my first point is that social justice activists like hooks and Baldoquin draw upon Bud- dhist meditation and philosophy to address the suffering of discrimination. In this way Bud- dhist perspectives are shaping human values in US society by becoming part of social jus- tice advocacy.

My second point is that moving beyond dualisms, that is, letting go of labels and identi- ties can never be an exscuse to ignore the fact that labels and identities like black and white, male and female, right and wrong are in fact regularly used as a basis for oppression. In Buddhist philosophical terms, we need to hold together conventional and ultimate perspec- tives on reality, as Baldoquin argues, drawing upon the Mahayāna philosopher Nagarjuna:

Nagarjuna distinguishes between two ways of perceiving reality, which he calls two ‘truths’. From the standpoint of ultimate truth, distinctions such as those of race, ethnicity, and class have no meaning. From the standpoint of conventional truth, however, they do. The challenge is for us to recognize that the world as we know it is far less solid and fixed than we think it is. Concepts like race, ethnicity and class are merely conventional concepts and lack any ultimate meaning. But this doesn’t mean that they don’t matter. Nagarjuna was careful to say that ultimate truth does not negate conventional truth: Instead it teaches us to see the conventional world with a more open heart and mind; it encourages us to let go of our prejudices be- cause we see that they have no ultimate meaning. Unfortun