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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Contemporary Buddhist Ethics by Damien Keown (Curzon Routledge) This collection of essays on Buddhist views of ethical and current ethical problems offers a rich introduction to Buddhist thought and tradition as well as contemporary practical ethical reasoning. Not to be ignored by ethicists.

In terms of the structure of the book, the first two chapters introduce the reader to important issues regarding the theoretical nature of Buddhist ethics and the sources of Buddhist moral precepts. An obvious question to ask at the outset is: How are we to classify Buddhist ethics in terms of the categories evolved in the study of the ethics in the West? As James Whitehill observes in the first chapter, contemporary Buddhism increasingly seeks to make itself understood in modern terms and to respond to contemporary conditions. In his view, Buddhism's legitimization in the West can be partially met by demonstrating that Buddhist morality is a virtue-oriented, character­based, community-focused ethics, and has much in common with the Western `ethics of virtue' tradition.

Whitehill takes the view that the earlier generation of the study of Buddhist ethics focused on escape from Victorian moralism, and was incomplete. He now sees a new generation of Western Buddhists emerging, for whom the `construction' of a Buddhist way of life involves community, commitment and moral `practices.' By keeping its roots in a character formed as `awakened virtue' and a community guided by an integrative soteriology of wisdom and morality, he believes that Western Buddhism can avoid the twin temptations of rootless liberation in an empty `emptiness,' on the one hand, and universalistic power politics, on the other.

In describing Buddhist ethics as an `ethics of virtue,' Whitehill is pointing to consistent and essential features of the Buddhist way of life. But, perhaps more importantly, he is describing Buddhist ethics by means of an interpretative framework very much alive in Western and Christian ethics, namely that interpretation of ethics most recently associated with thinkers like Alasdair Maclntyre and Stanley Hauerwas. Whitehill suggests that the virtue ethics tradition is the most congenial Western counterpart to Buddhism. Virtue ethics, he believes, provides a means of understanding Buddhist ethics, and reciprocally Buddhist ethics offers the West a way of expanding its scope, which in the past may have been been too elitist, rationalistic, and anthropocentric. On this basis Whitehill predicts some likely future directions and limits for Buddhism in a postmodern world.

In the following chapter Charles Prebish explores the foundations of traditional Buddhist ethics as found in the twin strands of the Vinaya, or Monastic Code, and in sila, commonly translated as `morality,' or `moral virtue.' Prebish draws the following distinction between them: `Unlike the Vinaya, which is externally enforced, sila refers to the internally enforced ethical framework by which the monk or nun structures his or her life.' So

on which of -these foundations should contemporary Buddhist ethics be based? Many scholars incline towards the Vinaya as the primary source for ethical norms, but Prebish finds Ala to be `an incredibly rich concept for understanding individual ethical conduct.' Clearly, the two cannot be entirely unrelated, but the precise nature of their relationship has been a puzzle for scholars. Are the 227 or so monastic precepts found in the Vinaya simply an extension of the basic `five silas' or Five Precepts that lay Buddhists observe? The problem here is that many monastic precepts seem to have no clear moral content, for example those relating to the kind of robes that must be worn and matters of general etiquette. Scholars therefore now incline to the view that the central concern of the Vinaya is not morality per se, but the harmonious internal regulation of the order of monks, and its proper and decorous conduct in the eyes of the laity.

Advancing beyond this, Prebish poses a further question. Granted that Ma is the proper foundation for Buddhist ethics, how does Ma itself relate to the other important soteriological components of the Buddhist path to nirvana? The Eightfold Path, which is the royal road to nirvana, is traditionally divided into three component parts: Morality (Ma), Medita­tion (samadhi), and Wisdom (prajna). Some scholars have seen morality as simply a preliminary step on the way to nirvana, one that is subsequently transcended or left behind. This view is nowadays less influential, and Prebish emphasizes that all three components of the path are interrelated and, when developed, collectively constitute nirvana.

Having established the priority of Ma for any analysis of Buddhist ethics, Prebish goes on to examine the understanding of the term in early Sutra and Abhidharma literature, and then in Mahayana texts. The latter pose a number of interesting challenges, for certain sources seem to authorise the transgression of the traditional moral precepts in special circumstances. In doing this they invoke the doctrine of `skilful means' (upaya-kausalya) by way of justification. This holds that when motivated by compassion and informed by wisdom, a bodhisattva (or saint) may - in exceptional circumstances - violate even the most basic precepts, such as the one against taking life. These sources seem to be moving in the direction of a situation ethics,' albeit with certain strict provisos.

Having researched the early material, Prebish next turns his attention to its relevance for the modern world. As noted above, many of the concerns we face today are not discussed in the ancient texts. How do we bridge the gap between the moral foundations of the tradition and contemporary ethical dilemmas? Drawing on ideas from postmodernism and elsewhere, Prebish discusses various strategies that can be adopted to make the texts speak to our present needs. Referring to recent work by Harold Coward, he proposes the notion of dialogue with an `open canon' after the style of the Mahayana, which continued to produce new literature to speak to new situations. What is required is a way of approaching the literature that is `is

truly transtemporal and transcultural.' Moreover, since the vast majority of Western Buddhists are laity rather than monks, any new methodology must tailor its message to the concerns of lay life, and take into account developments such as democratization, feminism, and alternative lifestyles.

Prebish concludes by identifying two key traditional ethical frameworks that should have a place in fashioning a bridge between the old and new. The first is the four brahmaviharas or `Divine Abodes,' consisting of love (maitri), compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita), and equanimity (upeksa). The second is that of the six paramitas or 'perfections,' of giving (dana), morality (sila), patience (ksanti), vigour (virya), meditation (samadhi), and wisdom (prajna). The first of these is drawn from the Theravada tradition and the second from the Mahayana. His hope is that together `they might be reinterpreted conjointly through an entirely new commentarial literature' in order to reconfigure Buddhist ethics for the modern world.

Turning to the first of the six applied ethical issues to be considered in the book, it is difficult to think of a more urgent or topical question for Buddhism in the late twentieth century than human rights. Human rights issues in which Buddhism has a direct involvement, notably in the case of Tibet , feature regularly on the agenda in superpower diplomacy. The political, ethical and philosophical questions surrounding human rights are debated vigorously in political and intellectual circles throughout the world. Yet despite its contemporary significance, the subject has merited hardly a footnote in mainstream academic research and publication in the field of Buddhist Studies. Why is this? One reason would seem to be the lack of a precedent within Buddhism itself for discussing issues of this kind; scholars, by and large, continue to follow the tradition's own agenda, an agenda which appears to some increasingly medieval in the shadow of the twenty-first century. If Buddhism wishes to address the issues that are of concern to today's global community, it must begin to ask itself new questions alongside the old ones.

With respect to human rights, an important preliminary question would seem to be whether traditional Buddhism has any understanding of what is meant by `human rights' at all. Indeed, it may be thought that since the concept of `rights' is the product of an alien cultural tradition it would be utterly inappropriate to speak of rights of any kind - `human' or otherwise - in a Buddhist context. Even if it was felt that these objections were overstated, and that the issue of human rights does have a legitimate place on the Buddhist agenda, there would still remain the separate and no less difficult question of how human rights were to be grounded in Buddhist doctrine, particularly in the light of the fact that the tradition itself provides little precedent or guidance in this area. This chapter offers a preliminary exploration of the questions raised above. It concludes that it is legitimate to speak of both `rights' and `human rights' in Buddhism, and proposes a ground for human rights in Buddhist doctrine.

But are human beings the only creatures that have rights? One feature of Buddhism that has attracted much attention in the West is its different evaluation of the importance and status of animals. Although often expressed in a humorous context, the fact that according to Buddhism a person `can come back as an ant' or as a member of another animal species, is one of the better known - if least well understood - Buddhist beliefs among Westerners. This notion, known to Buddhists as the doctrine of `rebirth,' has profound implications for the way Buddhists view and respond ethically to the animal kingdom. In his chapter on `Buddhism and Animal Rights' Paul Waldau sets out to discuss three questions: (1) What does `animal rights' involve? (2) What are the Buddhist tradition's views of other animals? and (3) How might we relate Buddhist insights to the admittedly modern notions and terminology used when the many versions of `animal rights' are discussed?

After clarifying what the notion of `animal rights' means, Waldau explores the attitude of the Buddhist tradition towards non-human animals. References to animals are abundant in Buddhist literature, but the texts display complex and at times inconsistent views about the animal kingdom. Waldau identifies two `faces' of Buddhism in this respect. In terms of the first, Buddhism does not restrict moral protection to the human species alone. Thus the First Precept, unlike the Sixth Command­ment (as almost universally interpreted in the Christian tradition), prohibits intentionally killing or causing harm to animals as well as to humans. From this perspective, there would appear to be a moral parity between human and other species. The second `face' of Buddhism, however, is less benign, and in many respects this general view of animals in Buddhism may be characterised as negative. This is because to exist as an animal is - in terms of the hierarchical Buddhism doctrine of rebirth - to be reborn in a state of woe. It is a kind of purgatory produced by bad karma, and is a punishment for evil conduct in former lives. Existence as an animal has few positive aspects: life is perilous and likely to be cut short at any time by human or other predators. Furthermore, there is little chance of improving one's lot in terms of spiritual development, since animals lack the intellectual capabilities to enable them to advance in the Dharma. The best that can be hoped for is that in the course of time whatever evil karma caused one to be reborn as an animal will exhaust itself and one will return again to the human world. Buddhism appears to take little interest in the different capacities and abilities of the diverse animal species, preferring instead to lump them together and contrast them as a group with human beings, invariably in a negative way. Furthermore, Buddhism does not appear to object to the instrumental use of animals, as in the case of elephants that are kept in captivity and used for manual labour after being subjected to often painful techniques of training.

Although the Buddhist view of non-human animals is thus a mixed one,  Waldau concludes on a positive note, observing that `the insights and approaches which Buddhism offers for respecting other animals as real world entities entitled to the privilege of life without human interference do justify some of the optimistic statements made about the tradition and other animals.' He also believes that Buddhism `has great potential for a contribution to environmental ethics and to the benefits which increased environmental awareness entails for other animals' lives.'

Environmental ethics is the subject of the following chapter by Ian Harris. Harris makes an important point at the outset, a point also made elsewhere in this collection. This takes the form of a caution against succumbing to the dangers of anachronism when confronting ancient texts and traditions with the concerns of modernity. Contemporary concerns such as animal rights and ecology simply did not feature as distinct topics in the philosophical agenda of the ancients. For this reason, there is little sustained discussion of these matters in the texts. Moreover, given that the texts often seem to present a `blank screen,' there exists the danger of projecting onto them contemporary ideologies which are based on alien cultural foundations and contain inappropriate elements. The tendency to apply convenient contemporary tags - for example labelling Buddhism `eco-friendly' - may only serve to obscure what is in reality a different set of attitudes or underlying concerns. As Harris notes:

... ecological concerns are quintessentially modern concerns with origins that can be traced to the collapse of traditional Western cosmological certainties under the impact of science. Indeed, there may be some justification in the view that the eco-catastophist outlook is the contemporary inheritor of Judaeo-Christian eschatol­ogy with its great emphasis on the events leading up to the `end of history.' If this geneaology is accepted, the lack of any explicit discussion of environmental ethics in the foundational documents of Buddhism is understandable. We simply should not expect to find coherent discussion of a topic that, strictly speaking, is not crucial to the Buddhist understanding of reality.

Having sounded this warning, Harris goes on to note the feature of Buddhism which seem to be in harmony with the concerns of contemporary ecology. The First Precept is of importance here, as is the thrifty and frugal lifestyle of the monks, which contrasts with the `untrammeled consumer­ism' of modern life. The existence of a monastic rule which obliges monks to avoid causing injury to plants and animals also seems to point in the direction of a rudimentary ecological concern. In the light of other factors, however - such as that monks are not required to be vegetarian - Harris takes the view that `None of this seems closely tied to an explicitly

ecological ethic.'

Certain aspects of Buddhist teaching seem to favour ecological concerns. The notion of an `extended kinship' among all spheres of existence - animal, human, and divine - serves to foster solidarity with other forms of life. The Buddhist virtue of 'loving-kindness' (metta) which is to be practised towards all beings, seems to strengthen further the bonds with other creatures. Harris, however, detects an ambiguity in these Buddhist beliefs and practices. Meditation, as an inward practice, is not at all like ecological activism, and loving-kindness has individuals as its object rather than species. The ideas that species must be valued in their own right is a cornerstone of modern ecology, but appears to be absent in Buddhism.

There is also evidence that early Buddhism is `fundamentally dysteleologic.' The doctrinal teaching that all life is suffering, and that the world is impermanent and in decline, hardly seems a good foundation on which to construct an environmental ethic. In the light of this world-view the obvious question is `Why bother?' If there is no intrinsic purpose or direction to time or history it is difficult to attach any ultimate value or meaning to the things of this world. This recalls a tendency within Buddhism, referred to earlier, which maintains that the priority is not to improve the world but to escape from it into nirvana at the earliest possible opportunity.

The prospects for a more positive set of ecological credentials seem greater in East Asian than Indian Buddhism. Here is found the notion that all things - even trees, grass and inanimate objects like the earth - have the capacity to reach nirvana. This is because all reality is permeated by the `Buddha nature,' and contains within itself the `seed of enlightenment' (tathagatagarbha). This is nicely expressed in the Zen haiku of Kaga no

Chiyo (1701-1775 CE):

All I pick up
At the ebb tide
Is alive!

It is this ecologically-friendly face of East-Asian Buddhism that has been received most favourably in the West amongst ecologists. The tendency has been to contrast the enlightened `naturalism' of Buddhism with the more aggressive and destructive attitude towards nature supposedly evinced by the Judaeo-Christian tradition, which is seen by influential writers such as Lynn White as a major culprit in the contemporary eco-crisis. Here again, however, Harris sounds a note of caution against adopting too readily what may be `romanticised and nostalgic' visions found in art and literature which have more to do with local cultural and historical circumstances than with the deep structure of Buddhist thought. He concludes by questioning the intellectual pedigree of what has come to be termed `ecoBuddhism':

In fact, much that masquerades under the label of ecoBuddhism, a neologism employed to denote the contemporary Buddhist response to the challenge of ecological degradation premised on the prioritisa­tion of `mental states,' on analysis, turns out to be an uneasy partnership between Spinozism, New Age religiosity and highly selective Buddhism.

Our attention is turned in the following three chapters from the world of animals and nature back to human-centred issues. The next two chapters are concerned with issues in medical ethics: the first deals with an issue at the beginning of life, and the second with a moral dilemma at the end of life.

In chapter six, Robert Florida provides an overview of Buddhist approaches to abortion, one of the most controversial and divisive of contemporary moral issues. Rather surprisingly, and in complete contrast to the voluminous literature and abundant pronouncements and position statements available on this topic in the West, there has been little debate on the matter in the Buddhist cultures of Asia. Florida suggests some of the reasons for this curious hiatus and makes a point which strikes many observers, namely the apparent reluctance of those in positions of religious authority within Buddhism to take a position on controversial moral questions. The profile of the Buddhist establishment on questions of this kind could scarcely be lower (this applies not only to Thailand), and in many respects their pronouncements and public statements seem geared to a bygone age rather than the needs of today.

Florida then turns his attention to traditional Buddhist teachings on ethics, embryology, and abortion. Drawing mainly on Theravada sources supplemented by Tibetan teachings, he explains how traditional Buddhist notions of rebirth generate a distinctive yet quite clear position on this question. Since conception marks not the beginning of personal existence but a continuation of it, the moral status of a new conceptus is held to be equal to that of its recently-deceased predecessor. In other words, there is no moral distinction to be drawn between the entity in the womb, a young child and a mature adult. The basic Buddhist position, therefore, is that abortion is included along with other acts of homicide as a breach of the First Precept against taking life.

At the same time, Buddhist ethics places a great deal of emphasis on the motivation with which an act is performed, so the intention of those involved has a large part to play in assessing moral culpability in individual cases. Furthermore, in the light of the doctrine of dependent origination (paticcasamuppada), which holds that all phenomena are causally interrelated, it would be pertinent to look at the total context and the impact on all those affected rather than to evaluate the significance of the act in isolation.

The Buddhist perspective on abortion is further nuanced by the influence of the different Asian cultures with which Buddhism interacted over the course of the past two millennia. In order to provide as balanced and representative a picture as possible, Florida surveys the contemporary situation in three different countries: Thailand, Japan, and Korea. Thailand receives the most attention, and it quickly becomes clear that in practice the official or canonical stance on abortion is more respected in the breach than the observance. Florida provides useful information on the legal regulation of abortion in Thailand as well as statistics on the number of abortions performed per annum. Somewhat surprising for a country in which Buddhism - a religion renowned for its respect for life - is the state religion, and in which 90 per cent of Thais are Buddhists, abortions are running at some 50 per cent higher than the number in the USA for the equivalent number of citizens. `Thailand', he writes, `essentially has therapeutic abortion on demand.' 85 per cent or more of abortions are obtained by married women, the majority employed in agricultural work, who appear to use it as a means of birth control. Florida refers to an estimated 300,000 abortions per year, the majority of which are illegal. While only an estimate, the figure represents an increase of two thirds on the annual total for the United Kingdom (Thailand has a population of 60 million, one or two million higher than the United Kingdom).

Under Thai law abortion is permitted for therapeutic reasons where `it is necessary for the sake of the woman's health,' or if the pregnancy is the result of rape. Under the current law, the Penal Code of 1956, strict penalties are prescribed for abortions performed illegally outside of these exceptions: three years in prison and/or a heavy fine for the woman, and five years imprisonment and/or a heavy fine for the abortionist. The heavy penalties reflect the traditional Buddhist disapproval of abortion, but the high abortion statistics show there is another side to the matter. This is confirmed in opinion polls which, Florida notes, `reflect the marked dissonance between Thai religious theory, which judges abortion to be an unskilful violation of Buddhist principles, and Thai practical reality, which is that abortion is very common.' The Thai attitude to abortion is paradoxical, since while most Thais regard abortion as immoral, a majority also believe the legal grounds for obtaining it should be relaxed.

The situation in Japan, where Buddhism is not the state religion, also shows interesting variations from the canonical norm. Florida takes as the focus of his discussion the recent phenomenon of mizuko kuyo, a memorial service performed following an abortion or miscarriage. He explains the Buddhist context of the ritual, which emerged in the 1960s, and summarises the different scholarly opinions and interpretations of this social phenomenon, including feminist and other readings. Interestingly, the practice has also been adopted by at least one Zen Buddhist group in the United States.

From Japan, Florida turns to neighbouring South Korea, sometimes described as an `abortion paradise.' Although abortion is officially illegal, it is, as in Thailand, widely practised. More than half of married women in Korea have had at least one abortion, with one third reporting two or more. In particular, so many female fetuses have been aborted that it is estimated there will be a shortage of wives for males of a certain age group. After a long silence, Buddhists have recently begun to express views on the subject of abortion. Particularly notable are the pro-life publications of a Buddhist monk, the Venerable Sok Myogak, and the post-abortion ceremonies held by the nun Venerable Songdok.

Turning from the beginning of life to its end, Pinit Ratanakul's chapter `To Save or Let Go: Thai Buddhist Perspectives on Euthanasia' returns us to Thailand to consider another important contemporary moral problem in a specific cultural setting. New medical technology has raised issues which traditional Thai ethics - based largely on early Buddhism - do not seem well equipped to deal with. The author notes that `The new life-support technologies have blurred the line between prolongation of life and prolongation of the dying process, and have raised questions about the adequacy of the traditional definition of death as the cessation of all vital signs.' Although Buddhism has long been concerned philosophically with death as a feature of the human condition, it has not heretofore had a problem about distinguishing the living from the dead. Apart from the empirical issues presented by the new technology, like the problem of defining death, a host of thorny ethical ones cluster around the final stages of life. For example:

Is the refusal of life-preserving treatment by artificial means a morally acceptable option or does it constitute a kind of suicide prohibited by Buddhist teachings? Is it morally wrong for doctors, nurses and families to withdraw life-preserving treatments or to stop such treatment, once these have begun? Are such actions the same as `killing' patients or are there important ethical distinctions to be made between 'letting-go-of-life' by withholding or stopping treatment, and actual `killing' or causing death?

The case of the late Thai monk Venerable Buddhadasa Bhikkhu brought these issues to the attention of the Thai public in recent times. Buddhadasa made a `living will' stating that he did not wish his life to be prolonged by extraordinary means and preferred a natural death. However, when he suffered a serious stroke in 1993 at the age of 86 after earlier minor ones, a debate arose among his disciples as to whether he should be hospitalised. In the end he was, and the doctors insisted on continuing with treatment that contravened his wishes as expressed in the advance directive he had made. Although both sides - devotees and doctors - sought to do what was best, the incident came to be seen as providing a stark example of the contrast between the values of modern medicine and those of traditional Buddhism.

The case of Buddhadasa also engendered a lively debate among Thai Buddhists on the question of euthanasia, and Ratanakul locates his discussion of this issue within the context of the Buddhist doctrine of karma (Pali: kamma). This teaches that the moral and physical are intertwined, and that physical conditions may have moral or psychological causes. As such, treating only the physical symptoms of a disease may not result in a cure. What is important is that the whole person should be well, both spiritually and physically. But what if a cure is impossible, as in the final stages of terminal illness? Is `mercy killing' ever justified in these contexts? Ratanakul suggests an interesting psychological dynamic may be at work in the case of physicians who perform euthanasia. Despite the good motivation of wishing to prevent suffering, in Buddhist terms the physician may well be acting out of aversion (dosa) to the patient's suffering. As such, it is fundamentally his own repugnance and `hidden hatred' of the patient's pain and suffering which leads him to perform euthanasia. This line of reflection leads Ratanakul to the conclusion: `Therefore from the view of Buddhist psychology "mercy-killing" is not really a benevolent act. It is done from ill will and thus has bad kammic effects both for the doctor and the patient.'

So much for what has become known as `active euthanasia.' But what about `passive euthanasia'? Ratanakul sees this as a more complex issue, and one about which the majority of lay Thai Buddhists are uncertain. `Some Thai Buddhists,' he notes, `recognize that there is a real moral distinction between "letting-go-of-life" or allowing a patient to die and directly and intentionally taking life. For them, allowing a patient to die does not violate the precept and is considered an altruistic action for those involved.' Buddhist ethics places great emphasis on intention, and in the case of euthanasia much depends on the motivation of those in whose hands the decision rests. For example, is it done from a desire to relieve suffering, to speed the inheritance of an estate, or to harvest organs for transplantation? The moral assessment of each of these situations may vary, and so a case-by-case approach to the problem seems wisest. Given the

increasing number of cases of patients who recover from so-called `irreversible' comas, and the obvious scope for abuse, lay Thai Buddhists take the view that it would be unwise to adopt general policies on passive euthanasia. Instead, Buddhism emphasises the principle of interrelatedness (paticcasamuppada) when assessing situations of this kind. As noted above, this is a universal principle that states that everything exists in mutual dependency. As such, it discourages unilateral decisions and calls for dialogue and discussion with full recognition of the effects our actions have on others. The most appropriate environment for the care of terminal patients, and the one most congenial to Buddhist values, Ratanakul concludes, is the hospice, for the following reasons:

The success in pain-relief and the atmosphere and policies of the hospice movement indicate that no one needs die neglected, alone, shunted aside by doctors and nurses, busy with the living yet unconscious and hooked to machines, kept from their families. The hospice movement shows that death with dignity and humane treatment is still possible in our time.

Clearly, had hospice care been available in the case of the Venerable Buddhadasa, the tragic course of events surrounding his death could have been avoided, and the suffering of all concerned reduced.

Developments in medical science present a unique set of problems, but so do other facets of the modern world. Business, commerce, and economic concerns have come to dominate modern life. What is the proper role of Buddhism in this new era where, as one writer puts it, `corporations rule the world'? This is the question David Bubna-Litic sets out to answer in the final chapter. He begins by reminding us just how rapid the changes have been in modern times:

In the two hundred or so years since the Industrial Revolution began, the world has seen a period of unprecedented change. Our capacity to transform raw materials into products has grown exponentially. For example, total global economic output has expanded by more in each of the past four decades than from prehistory to the middle of this century.

The impact of these changes on individuals has been significant, and it is surely true that `the dominance of work in our lives leaves gaps in our humanity.' The giddy pace of modern life seems to leave less and less time for spiritual pursuits. In society as a whole, the gap between rich and poor seems every wider, and in the world economy poor nations resort to sweat­shop industries, corruption, violence and political repression to meet the needs of more affluent countries.

In seeking a Buddhist response to these concerns, Bubna-Litic draws a parallel between the Buddha's rejection of a life of comfort and luxury and the increasing dissatisfaction of many people today with a contemporary ethos which values only status and material success. The central theme in the legend of the Buddha's life, however, is not out-and-out rejection but the search for a productive `middle way.' It was when he adopted the `middle way' after six years of austerity that the Buddha quickly gained enlight­enment. So what is the proper role of `the bodhisattva in business?' It would seem to call for a relationship with the everyday world rather than a flat rejection of it. But what form of organizational structure is most appropriate for this? The monastery, the corporation, or does some new communal framework need to be developed as a suitable vehicle for Buddhism in the modern world? To answer this question, Bubna-Litic turns back to the fundamental doctrines and moral teachings of the Buddha. The principle of interdependency must surely be acknowledged in any organisational structure. So too must the vows of refuge and the Precepts. Modern business techniques that are compatible with Buddhist teachings, like Julian Gresser's methodology for negotiation, can be incorporated. Using the Samurai technique of approaching new situations at work with `a stance of open awareness' can allow us to respond intuitively, without expectations or prejudice. Work situations also provide the opportunity to cultivate the spiritual virtue of integrity through `a spiral pathway of learning.' Given the short-term focus of modern organisations they can be chaotic, and full of conflict. The practice of Buddhism can help us withstand the pain and disappointment which arises from the over­identification with projects and plans we become involved with by stripping away the projections and emotional over-investment we make in them.
Integrity is also important in dealing with the success and financial and other rewards which business acumen can bring. Buddhism teaches how wealth should be distributed and emphasises an attitude of inner detachment so that our inner integrity is undisturbed and unthreatened either by failure or success. Bubna-Litic suggests that `it is possible to develop an alternative framework for navigating work life that resonates well with Buddhist precepts and may shed new light on "right livelihood".' This framework contains two important and interrelated elements. The first is the development of detachment, and alongside this a lifestyle that is simple, healthy, and frugal. The second element is to live and work with integrity. Work cannot be separated from other areas of life, and the workplace can become just as much a forum for personal growth and spiritual development as the monastery. In terms of organisations, also, integrity is capable, like DNA, of forming many different structures depending on the local environment. The encounter with the West provides a new challenge regarding the integration of Buddhist practice and commerce.

The assumptions of the world of commerce, basically those of egoism and sensual materialism, are quite different from those which underlie the Dharma, namely selflessness and detachment. Can they co-exist, or will one overcome the other? Bubna-Litic is optimistic and concludes:

As more Buddhist join the commercial world and negotiate their work lives with integrity, changes will naturally emerge at the collective level. These cannot be prescribed. What will emerge from this new growth of Buddhism in the West hopefully will express itself with the grace and beauty of nature in the market place.

What general conclusions can be drawn from this book about contempor­ary Buddhist ethics? The overall tone of the chapters can be described as one of guarded optimism. The authors on the whole seem to feel cautiously

optimistic about the prospects for Buddhism in the modern world, and believe that Buddhism can make a useful contribution to contemporary moral issues. At the same time, they also point out the many pitfalls and problems that face those who seek today to tap the spring of Buddhist moral wisdom for guidance.

In large part these dangers fall into two groups. The first concerns the hermeneutical problems of making ancient scriptures speak to new contexts. This is a challenging but not insuperable task, and it is one that is at present being undertaken in other religious traditions. There is no reason why Buddhism cannot meet this challenge in the same way, perhaps in dialogue with other faiths.

The second danger is more subtle, and concerns what might be termed `cultural misappropriation.' This occurs when contemporary Western views are `read back' into an Asian tradition. Many Westerners, for example, find Buddhism attractive because it seems congenial to their own liberal ideology. Thus, in contrast to much of what is perceived as negative in Western religion, Buddhism appears to be open-minded, rational, eco­friendly, kind to animals, pacifist, and neither authoritarian nor doctrinaire. The `voluntary' or `optional' nature of the Buddhist precepts, for example, is frequently contrasted with the `Commandments' of Christianity. The essays in this book, however, show that such a conception - which for convenience we might term `liberal Buddhism' - is really only a construct which depends largely for its existence on Western culture, and, in particular, Christianity. Buddhist sources, as noted above, reveal a much more untidy and at times contradictory picture made up of different strands. To select only those which are in harmony with fashionable trends in Western society is to treat Buddhism superficially, and fail to engage seriously with its views. It is, however, an understandable and common mistake to project the assumptions of one's own culture onto another, and to make invisible those parts of it which do not seem to fit well with our j own preconceptions. Buddhism as a reality is far from monolithic, and even at the level of individual schools one encounters nuanced and divergent points of view. This complexity must be reckoned with in any dialogue with Western ethics.

The purpose of this book is to open such a dialogue across a broad front. The views expressed here are far from the last word or the only voices that deserve attention. The collection as a whole, however, constitutes one of the first major contributions to a range of contemporary moral issues from a Buddhist perspective, and may serve as a representative example of the present state of reflection on the issues surveyed.

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