Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Workshop Comments & Notes

Here you will find the answers to questions, comments made each week as well as notes and links to various information (like Sutras).

It will be updated each week during the workshop.
Week Seven
Theme 6: Social Identity

Links For further reading:
Theme six handout
Obama on Race
Buddhism and Politics of Indentity
The Buddha's Appearance

Week Six
Theme 5: Money and the Economy

Links for further reading:
Buddhism and Money: The Repression of Emptiness Today
Toward Buddhist Economics
Buddhism Comes To Main Street

Week Five
Theme 4: Living and Dying

Link for further reading:
Theme 4 handout
Bardo Todol: The Great Liberation Through Hearing in the Intermediate State
Death and Dying in the Theravada Tradition
Buddhism and Medical Ethics

Week Four
Theme 3: Mind and Life

Links for further reading:

Basic Ideas of Yogacara

Eight Consciousnesses, What is and isn't Yogacara

Meditation On Breathing

Maha-satipatthana Sutta

Mind and Life Institute

1. Mind and Body in Buddhism
Body and Mind/ Material and Spiritual: —Form (rupa) and Mind (nama)
Five Aggregations (skandhas/khandas)
Form (rupa)
Sensation (vedana)
Perception (samjna/sanna)
Volition (samskara/ sankhara)
Consciousness (vijnana/vinnana)

2. Concept of “Mind” in Yogacara Buddhism
8 consciousnesses
Mano--Mind—6th consciousness
Mana --7th Consciousness
Alaya —8th consciousness/substrate consciousness

3. Meditation—Mental Cultivation
Samatha: Concentration meditation
Method—Anapana Sati: meditation on in-and-out Breathing
Vipassana: Insight meditation
Method on phenomena—Body, Feeling, Mind and Mental Objects
(Four Foundations of Mindfulness)

Quotation from Maha-satipatthana Sutra
Meditation on Breathing—Anapana meditation

"Breathing in long, he discerns that he is breathing in long; or breathing out long, he discerns that he is breathing out long. Or breathing in short, he discerns that he is breathing in short; or breathing out short, he discerns that he is breathing out short. He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to the entire body and to breathe out sensitive to the entire body. He trains himself to breathe in calming bodily fabrication and to breathe out calming bodily fabrication.
Just as a skilled turner or his apprentice, when making a long turn, discerns that he is making a long turn, or when making a short turn discerns that he is making a short turn; in the same way the monk, when breathing in long, discerns that he is breathing in long; or breathing out short, he discerns that he is breathing out short... He trains himself to breathe in calming bodily fabrication, and to breathe out calming bodily fabrication.”

Meditation on Body
"Furthermore, when walking, the monk discerns that he is walking. When standing, he discerns that he is standing. When sitting, he discerns that he is sitting. When lying down, he discerns that he is lying down. Or however his body is disposed, that is how he discerns it.”

Meditation on Feeling
"When feeling a painful feeling of the flesh, he discerns that he is feeling a painful feeling of the flesh. When feeling a painful feeling not of the flesh, he discerns that he is feeling a painful feeling not of the flesh. When feeling a pleasant feeling of the flesh, he discerns that he is feeling a pleasant feeling of the flesh. When feeling a pleasant feeling not of the flesh, he discerns that he is feeling a pleasant feeling not of the flesh. When feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling of the flesh, he discerns that he is feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling of the flesh. When feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling not of the flesh, he discerns that he is feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling not of the flesh.”

Meditation on Mind
"When the mind is restricted, he discerns that the mind is restricted. When the mind is scattered, he discerns that the mind is scattered. When the mind is enlarged, he discerns that the mind is enlarged. When the mind is not enlarged, he discerns that the mind is not enlarged. When the mind is surpassed, he discerns that the mind is surpassed. When the mind is unsurpassed, he discerns that the mind is unsurpassed. When the mind is concentrated, he discerns that the mind is concentrated. When the mind is not concentrated, he discerns that the mind is not concentrated. When the mind is released, he discerns that the mind is released. When the mind is not released, he discerns that the mind is not released.

Meditation on Mental Objects
"In this way he remains focused internally on mental qualities in & of themselves, or externally on mental qualities in & of themselves, or both internally & externally on mental qualities in & of themselves. Or he remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to mental qualities, on the phenomenon of passing away with regard to mental qualities, or on the phenomenon of origination & passing away with regard to mental qualities. Or his mindfulness that 'There are mental qualities' is maintained to the extent of knowledge & remembrance. And he remains independent, unsustained by (not clinging to) anything in the world. This is how a monk remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves with reference to the five hindrances.”

Buddhism and Science for Mind and Life in the West
1. Mind and Life Institute: where Buddhism and Mind Science meet,
2. Jon Kabat-Zinn: Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and Stress Reduction Clinic
See Youtube: Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn
3. Daniel Goleman: Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence
4. Alan Wallace: Toward the First Revolution in the Mind Science (Video) and Contemplative Science: Where Buddhism and Neuroscience Converge
5. Neuroplasticity: Transforming the mind by Changing the Brain
6. Insight Meditation—Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein

Week Three
War and Peace

1. Yifa’s reflect on the NY Religious leaders’ dialogue with the President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on September 25, 2008 (from Buddhist View on “Conflict Resolution”)
2. Buddhist response to violence: the story of Prince Virudhaka and the massacre of Sakya tribe
3. Is there anything “Just War” ----Murder with skill in means in Mahayana Buddhism check on Upayakausalya Sutra (大方廣善巧方便經 T12 No. 346 )

The Story of the Compassionate Ship's Captain

4. Buddhism and War—War in Japan and Violence in Sri Lanka

Reading materials (click each link to read more):
a. Story of Virudhaka Prince
b. Violence in Sri Lanka
c. Buddhism and War

The core teaching will be on suffering and Quotations will be from The Tender Heart. Learn more about the book [HERE]

Dukkha (Pali)
Suffering; of pain, both mental and physical, of change, and endemic to cyclic existance; the first Noble Truth that acknowledges the reality of suffering

Week Two
the Kalama Sutra will be discussed, you can read it [HERE] and read a premise of the sutra [HERE].
An Additional Version of the Kalama Sutra can be read [HERE]

Week Two's handout can be viewed [HERE]

From Wikipedia, "In this sutta, Gautama Buddha passes through the village of Kesaputta and is greeted by the people who live there: the Kalamas. The Kalamas greet the Buddha and ask for advice. According to the Kalamas, many wandering holy men and ascetics pass through the village, expounding their teachings and criticizing others'. The Kalamas ask the Buddha whose teachings they should follow. In response, he delivered a sutta that serves as an entry-point to Buddhist beliefs to those unconvinced by revelatory experiences."

You can also read Bhikku Bodhi's commentary on the Kalama Sutra [HERE]

Week two's core teaching is the "Three Refuges".

To become a Buddhist is to take refuge in the Three Jewels, also called the Three Treasures. The Three Jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.The formal ceremony of Ti Samana Gamana (Pali), or "taking the three refuges," is performed in all schools of Buddhism. However, anyone who sincerely wants to follow the Buddha's path may begin that commitment by reciting these lines:I take refuge in the Buddha.I take refuge in the Dharma.I take refuge in the Sangha.The English word refuge refers to a place of shelter and protection from danger. What danger? We seek shelter from the passions that jerk us around, from feeling distressed and broken, from pain and suffering, from the fear of death. We seek shelter from the wheel of samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth.

More information on them can be read [HERE]

Definition of Religion:
The English word religion is in use since the 13th century, loaned from Anglo-French religiun (11th century), ultimately from the Latin religio, "reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety, the res divinae".[4]
The ultimate origins of Latin religio are obscure. It is usually accepted to derive from ligare "bind, connect"; likely from a prefixed re-ligare, i.e. re (again) + ligare or "to reconnect." This interpretation is favoured by modern scholars such as Tom Harpur and Joseph Campbell, but was made prominent by St. Augustine, following the interpretation of Lactantius. Another possibility is derivation from a reduplicated *le-ligare. A historical interpretation due to Cicero on the other hand connects lego "read", i.e. re (again) + lego in the sense of "choose", "go over again" or "consider carefully".[5] It may also be from Latin religiō, religiōn-, perhaps from religāre, to tie fast.[6]

Week One

An open house was held to discuss the workshop. The various teachings and corresponding texts were explained. Also a brief intro to meditation along with a short sitting completed the evening.

Handout 1: Meditation
A. Three Elements of Meditation
Body Posture

B. Seven Steps to set-up the Body posture (from the bottom to the top)
1. Feet
2. Hands
3. Back
4. Shoulder
5. Chin/neck
6. Tongue
7. Eyes

C. Technique of Breathing
Key point: Breathing naturally and subtly

D. Mind/Thought
Key point: Keep the awareness

Buddhist term: Indra's Net (from
Indra's Net is a metaphor taken from the Avatamsaka (Flower Garland) Sutra, an important Mahayana Buddhist sutra.
sutra describes a vast net that reaches infinitely in all directions, and in the net are an infinite number of jewels. Each individual jewel reflects all of the other jewels, and the reflected jewels also reflect all of the other jewels.
The metaphor illustrates the interpenetration of all phenomena. Everything contains everything else. At the same time, each individual thing is not hindered by or confused with all the other individual things.

Buddha's Appearance

There are 32 main characteristics (Pali: Lakkhana Mahapurisa 32) of a Buddha:
He has feet with a level sole (Pali: supati thapado). Note: "feet with level tread,/ so that he places his foot evenly on the ground,/ lifts it evenly,/ and touches the ground evenly with the entire sole." (Lakkhana Sutta)
He has the mark of a thousand-spoked wheel on the soles of his feet (Pali: he thapadatalesu cakkani jatani).
He has projecting heels (Pali: ayatapa ni).
He has long fingers and toes (Pali: digha nguli).
His hands and feet are soft-skinned (Pali: mudutalahathapado).
He has netlike lines on palms and soles (Pali: jalahathapado).
He has high raised ankles (Pali: ussa nkhapado).
He has taut calf muscles like an antelope (Pali: e nimigasadisaja ngho).
He can touch his knees with the palms of his hands without bending. (Pali: thitako va anonamanto).
His sexual organs are concealed in a sheath (Pali: kosohitavatguyho).
His skin is the color of gold (Pali: suva n nava no). "His body is more beautiful than all the gods." (Lakkhana sutta)
His skin is so fine that no dust can attach to it (Pali: sukhumacchavi).
His body hair are separate with one hair per pore (Pali: ekekalomo).
His body hair are blue-black, the color of
collyrium, and curls clockwise in rings. (Pali: uddhagalomo).
He has an upright stance like that of
brahma (Pali: brahmujugatto).
He has the seven convexities of the flesh (Pali: satusado). Note: "the seven convex surfaces,/ on both hands, both feet, both shoulders, and his trunk." (Lakkhana Sutta)
He has an immense torso, like that of a lion (Pali: sihapuba dhakayo).
The furrow between his shoulders is filled in (Pali: pitantara mso).
The distance from hand-to-hand and head-to-toe is equal (Pali: nigrodhaparima n dalo).
He has a round and smooth neck (Pali: samva d dakhando).
He has sensitive taste-buds (Pali: rasagasagi).
His jaw is like that of lion's (Pali: sihahanu).
He has a nice smile
His teeth are evenly spaced (Pali: samadanto).
His teeth are without gaps in-between (Pali: avira ladanto).
His teeth are quite white (Pali: sukadanto).
He has a large, long tongue (Pali: pahutajivho).
He has a voice like that of
Brahma (Pali: brahmasaro hiravikabha ni).
He has very blue eyes (Pali: abhi nila netto). Note 1: "very (abhi) blue (nila) eyes (netto)" is the literal translation. Nila is the word used to describe a
sapphire and the color of the sea, but also the color of a rain cloud. It also defines the color of the Hindu God Krishna. Note 2: "His lashes are like a cow's; his eyes are blue./ Those who know such things declare/ 'A child which such fine eyes/ will be one who's looked upon with joy./ If a layman, thus he'll be/ Pleasing to the sight of all./ If ascetic he becomes,/ Then loved as healer of folk's woes.'" (Lakkhana Sutta)
He has eyelashes like an ox (Pali: gopa mukho).
He has a white soft wisp of hair in the center of the brow (Pali: una loma bhamukantare jata). Note: this became the symbolic
His head is like a royal turban (Pali: u nahisiso). Note that this denotes his cranial protrusion, visible on Buddhist iconography.
The 80 secondary characteristics
Siddhartha Gautama as a bodhisattva, before becoming a Buddha.
He has beautiful fingers and toes.
He has well-proportioned fingers and toes.
He has tube-shaped fingers and toes.
His fingernails and toenails have a rosy tint.
His fingernails and toenails are slightly upturned at the tip.
His fingernails and toenails are smooth and rounded without ridges.
His ankles and wrists are rounded and undented.
His feet are of equal length.
He has a beautiful gait, like that of a king-elephant.
He has a stately gait, like that of a king-lion.
He has a beautiful gait, like that of a swan.
He has a majestic gait, like that of a royal ox.
His right foot leads when walking.
His knees have no protruding kneecaps.
He has the demeanor of a great man.
His navel is without blemish.
He has a deep-shaped abdomen.
He has clockwise marks on the abdomen.
His thighs are rounded like banana sheafs.
His two arms are shaped like an elephant's trunk.
The lines on the palms of his hands have a rosy tint.
His skin is thick or thin as it should be.
His skin is unwrinkled.
His body is spotless and without lumps.
His body is unblemished above and below.
His body is absolutely free of impurities.
He is a very happy man.
He has a protruding nose.
His nose is well proportioned.
His upper and lower lips are equal in size and have a rosy tint.
His teeth are unblemished and with no plaque.
His teeth are long like polished conches.
His teeth are smooth and without ridges.
His five sense-organs are unblemished.
His four canine teeth are crystal and rounded.
His face is long and beautiful.
His cheeks are radiant.
The lines on his palms are deep.
The lines on his palms are long.
The lines on his palms are straight.
The lines on his palms have a rosy tint.
His body emanates a halo of light extending around him for two meters.
His cheek cavities are fully rounded and smooth.
His eyelids are well proportioned.
The five nerves of his eyes are unblemished.
The tips of his bodily hair are neither curved nor bent.
He has a rounded tongue.
His tongue is soft and has a rosy-tint.
His ears are long like lotus petals.
His earholes are beautifully rounded.
His sinews and tendons don't stick out.
His sinews and tendons are deeply embedded in the flesh.
His topknot is like a crown.
His forehead is well-proportioned in length and breadth.
His forehead is rounded and beautiful.
His eyebrows are arched like a bow.
The hair of his eyebrows is fine.
The hair of his eyebrows lies flat.
He has large brows.
His brows reach the outward corner of his eyes.
His skin is fine throughout his body.
His whole body has abundant signs of good fortune.
His body is always radiant.
His body is always refreshed like a lotus flower.
His body is exquisitely sensitive to touch.
His body has the scent of sandalwood.
His body hair is consistent in length.
He has fine bodily hair.
His breath is always fine.
His mouth always has a beautiful smile.
His mouth has the scent of a lotus flower.
His hair has the colour of a dark shadow.
His hair is strongly scented.
His hair has the scent of a white lotus.
He has curled hair.
His hair does not turn grey.
He has fine hair.
His hair is untangled.
His hair has long curls.
He has a topknot as if crowned with a flower garland.

Buddhism and the Politics of Indentity

Buddhism and the Politics of Identity
By Yifa
(draft only, no citation)
Recent scholars working to apply the insights of modern psychology into the traditional Buddhist practice of liberation encounter a complex tension between what we might call deep truths and superficial needs.
[1] Personal concerns and desires to escape individual suffering distract from practice, but they also motive it, in the first place. The deep truth denies the reality of the desires, but without them there would be no need for truth. The deep and the superficial thus stand in an uneasy truce. As if sorting out these two were not enough, there is the need elucidated by Nagarjuna[2] to realize their ultimate unity; that is, that the apparent difference between profound and superficial is itself conditioned.
Scholars wrestle with these problems while exploring the role of ontological emptiness in a psychologically full life;
[3] the juxtaposition of persons with the impersonal play of cause and effect;[4] and the tension between deep hearing and immediate response.[5] But while most focus on individual psychology, few explore the contribution Buddhism might make to our understanding of the psychology of larger social and political issues. Social identity conditions social suffering, just as our individual identities condition our individual sufferings. This paper attempts to connect some of these individual and social issues.
After decades of “identity politics,” many claim that we are now entering an age they describe as “post-ethnicity.” In a recent article in the LA Times, for instance, Tim Rutten writes:
Anyone with children in their 20s or younger knows that they deal with race and ethnicity in ways different from their elders. Skin color is no longer a physical marker for most of them. By and large, our sons and daughters describe their friends as tall or short, funny or serious, as good students or poor athletes, but seldom—as earlier generations would have done—as a "black guy" or a "white girl." They take the sound of Spanish and the sight of Korean shop signs for granted. (LATimes Opinion, February 6, 2008).
There are many factors behind this, one of which is the growing awareness in recent scholarship of the historically constructed nature of our concepts of race, class, and gender. In Race Matters, Cornell West explores the development of the modern notion of “blackness.”
[6] In Brown, Richard Rodriguez writes of the Nixon administration’s creation of the category “Hispanic” (which did not originally include Cubans).[7]
The terms for these social divisions grew out of conditions of inequality and oppressions. Use of the terms, it follows, normalizes those conditions, making them sound real. Young people of the post-ethnic generation are thus disinclined to talk about these things at all, dismissing them as inherently stereotypical, the destructive superstitions of a previous generation. Recognizing the historically constructed nature of racial and ethnic categorizations, they refuse to buy into the essentialist notions that, so far as they can see, have caused only pain.
The parents of this new generation, however, offer harbor ambivalent feelings as the struggles that often defined their identities are dismissed as delusions. While they welcome a world in which their children are judged, as King said, not by the color of their skin but the content of their character, they don’t think we are there yet, and it is naïve to believe we are. While they are glad to see hateful racial epithets and stereotypes done away with, purging the language of all reference to race does not help us. Though ethnic and racial categories are social constructions and not real things, people meeting those descriptions still face very real problems. The simple rejection of racial and ethnic categorization will not only fail to fix those problems, they argue, but will even further entrench them by rendering them officially invisible.
To summarize, there is great uncertainty over what to make of race.
These are complex questions. They have been brewing for a long time and may be coming to a boil with the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. While I do not claim to have a solutions, I think there are valuable connections to traditional lines of Buddhist thought which may serve as resources in modern times.
First, the constructed nature of race and ethnicity is a perfect illustration of the Buddhist idea of pratitya-samutpada, “dependent origination.” Without certain historical conditions, modern categories of race would not have arisen. They do not have any inherent existence. Nor are they permanent; as conditions change, conceptions of racial and ethnic identity change, as well, for better or for worse.
But the fact that identities are constructed does not mean they are non-existent. The process of integrating social construction with practical reality, I would argue, is analogous to the dialectic of emptiness and form that we see in the Heart Sutra. \To think that these two are opposed or inconsistent, that the construction of these identities means that they are unimportant or can be ignored, as Nagarjuna explains, “is incorrect. As a consequence, you are harmed by it.”
[8] That is, it is not only an error, but a dangerous one. He continues:
Without a foundation in conventional truth,
The significance of the ultimate cannot be taught.
Without understanding the significance of the ultimate,
Liberation is not achieved.
We know that racial and ethnic categories are both ultimately empty and conditionally real, though it is hard to sort out precisely what that means for practical purposes. Nagarjuna argues that an understanding of the intersection of these two is essential to an ultimate solution.
A detailed analysis of Nagarjuna’s argument would take me beyond the scope of this paper. But let me just point out a simple version of it. The law of pratitya samutpada may be stated as follows:
When this is, that is.From the arising of this comes the arising of that.When this isn't, that isn't.From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.
Social identities arise under historical conditions. This has to do with the origins of identities and it also has to do with their cessation. Analysis of the conditions that give rise to particular identities reveals the changes that could be made to cause those identities to disappear.
This knowledge, not of the emptiness of things but of the logic of illusion, is upaya, “expedient means.” Skill in expedient means is the bodhisattva’s primary tool in the compassionately alleviating suffering. This was what Nagarjuna meant that ultimate truth does not invalidate conventional truth but, quite the opposite, requires its mastery.
There are other ways that Buddhism might provide practical guidance in the dismantling of social identities. As in Diamond sutra indicates, there are “no giver, no receiver and no subject of giving.” Social identities almost always involve inequalities of power. Poor people lose self-esteem, especially when they receive the aid which makes them perceive themselves as inferiors and helpless. The giver is always superior to the taker. At the same time the givers are tempted to see themselves as separate from and superior to the takers. The amount of help given is often taken as a measure of prestige. Look at the pictures when philanthropists, especially celebrities, donate food or money to the poor or adopt their children. There is nothing wrong in helping the poor. Indeed, it is a good deed, worthy of encouragement. But what the message of Diamond Sutra tries to reveal will be how to avoid generating the pride in donors and at the same time to avoid the despair in the receivers.
There is another reason not to distinguish givers and takers in addition to the bad psychological effect. In the Buddhist view, we are living in an interdependent circle of social function. Bill Gates could not be Bill Gates if his employees were not his employees and his customers were not who they are. “Without this, that would not be.” Society is like the human body, the significant heart needs all the cell pores to take in oxygen too. It is this interdependent existence or co-existence that teaches us the meaning of non-self. To say that there is no self does not mean nothing exists. Rather, the meaning of non-self indicates three things: that there is no permanent, independent, or individual existence. If both givers and receivers understood the true meaning of interdependence, they would not generate unwholesome views of superiority or inferiority. This is what the Diamond sutra reveals as the true meaning of emptiness in the action of giving.
It might sound as though interdependence is a non-dual unity, which would then itself qualify as something permanent, independent, and individual. But this would be an incorrect understanding, as Yogacara theory explains. According to Yogacara, identity is formed in the seventh consciousness, also called mana consciousness. This is where the ego comes from and the idea of self as opposed to others. This is the consciousness which generates the delusion of self-ignorance, self-view, self-pride and self-love.
But the mana consciousness is not permanent, independent or individual. The mana consciousness is generated by the deep down consciousness, the alaya or eighth consciousness. And the alaya is not permanent, independent, or individual, either, but is a pool of continuously changing seeds. These seeds of experience are created from physical, verbal and mental actions which are themselves conditioned by a history with no beginning. It is continuous but changing, similar to the cells in our physical body. We are continuous with our childhood but the components of current body are different from those in the past.
To describe mana and alaya as the seventh and eighth consciousnesses means they are different functions, not separate things. The practice Buddhism is to transform consciousness into one that will perceive the equality of self and others. But to say they are equal does not mean there are not conventional differences between them. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is because of the differences that the equality is important.
I would like to pause for a moment to say how odd it feels odd, at a conference on Buddhist psychology in Japan, to talk so much about American politics as filtered through the experience of a Taiwanese-American nun. But perhaps these questions are not so strange to this audience as I might fear. If so, this may suggest that national identities, like racial, ethnic, and ego identities, are not facts of the landscape which we should take for granted. They may perhaps serve as starting points, but our goal is to work through them rather than around them.
I was born in Taiwan. Both my parents speak what is called “Taiwanese.” After the Nationalists came to Taiwan from Mainland China in 1949 under Chiang Kaisei, we were ordered speak only mandarin Chinese. And from the material in our school texts we mostly learned the history and geography of mainland China, not our own island.
Now there is tension in the political situation as Taiwan would like to claim its independence while China insists on unification. I used to say that I am biologically Taiwanese and culturally Chinese. Once at UN meeting an Asian woman whose origin I do not know asked if I am Chinese or Taiwanese. My answer was that I am American citizen. Then I added that I am a global citizen. I meant it.
I realized that even in my own mind I have only a very vague sense of my own nationality and national identity. This experience began in me a process of the dissolution of my self-identity. More precisely, it taught me the true nature of the non-self of so called social identity. And seeing through this, I realized, can help to reduce the political conflict in international society.
International conflicts like that between the Israel and Palestine are founded on national identities. The UN or other countries tried to help to negotiate the division of land for both sides. But this strategy will never work out. No matter how the land is divided, one side always feels they have not gotten their fair share. And yet, as the woman’s question at the UN showed me, the national identities that form the foundation for these conflicts are the most tenuous things in the world.
Had Chiang Kaisei stayed on the mainland, I would have remained Taiwanese. And if I had not stepped on a plane to Hawaii, I would not be American. Have the mediators in the Israel-Palestine conflict ignored the children of interracial marriage? Two identities unite in one person all the time. And these people have no alternative but to share land with themselves. So it is possible for the two identities to co-exist. The same processes that create divisions can mend them. And haven’t these social identities led to enough conflict? I think Buddhism can help us cope with these problems.
There are also ways in which the modern political situation challenges Buddhism. The Buddhist tradition typically presents contrasts such as form versus emptiness and metaphysical reality versus illusion as binary opposites. The contrasts here between social identities and the economic and political conditions that both give rise to and result from them, however, mark out not polar extremes but relative points in the grey zone. Neither is completely empty, nor ultimately real, either. Engaging the problem as located in this metaphysical grey zone may not only be necessary in addressing the political questions; it may depend our understanding of Buddhism, as well.
Finally, modern studies tend to point merely to the ill-effects resulting from ethnic and racial identifications: prejudice, gang wars, etc. They don’t see them, like ego identity, as essentially painful in themselves; that is, as forms of suffering. We tend to view these ill-effects as social problems that can be cleaned up with improved education and increased policing, while preserving the rest of our lives intact. To the extent that the Buddhist analysis is correct, however, these ill-effects cannot be cleaned up without addressing the fundamental cause. Here again, the Buddhist analysis of suffering might help us to understand the implications of our “selves,” not just as individuals but as ethnicities and groups.
What is identity? In the Buddhist view, identities are empty, which does not mean that they do not exist but that their existence is conditioned. People unreflectively mistake social identities as having permanent or unchanging nature. But nationality changes with naturalization different races can become one through marriage. This is not even to mention changes in people’s economic, social, or political fortunes. As the Diamond sutra says, “There is No self, no others, no all sentient beings and no long-life.” None of what we see has a self nature.
The different identities we see and feel are just ripples and waves on the surface, eddies and currents in the depth of the pool of alaya consciousness. What I would really like to learn from the experts in modern psychology is how these consciousnesses correspond to unconsciousness or sub-consciousness in the west.

[1] For example, see chapters in Buddhism and Psychotherapy Across Cultures, Mark Unno, ed., (Wisdom Publications: Boston, 2006).
[2] Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, Jay Garfield, tr., (Oxford University Press, 1995)
[3] Engler in Unno (2006)17–30. See especially 24–25.
[4] Waldron in Unno (2006) 87–104.
[5] Unno in Unno (2006)139–158.
[6] Cornell West, Race Matters (Beacon Press, 2001).
[7] Richard Rodriguez, Brown (Viking, 2003) 95.
[8] Garfield (1995) 296.
[9] Garfield (1995) 298.

Obama on Race

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama"A More Perfect Union"Constitution Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 18, 2008
We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."
Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.
The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.
Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.
And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.
This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.
This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.
I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.
Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.
This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.
And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.
On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems - two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way
But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:
"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters....And in that single note - hope! - I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories - of survival, and freedom, and hope - became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame about...memories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild."
That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.
Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.
A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.
This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.
But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.
And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.
Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.
Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.
This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.
But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.
For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.
Ironically, this quintessentially American - and yes, conservative - notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.
The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.
In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.
For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.
We can do that.
But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.
That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.
This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.
This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.
This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.
I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.
There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.
There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.
And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.
She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.
She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.
Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.
Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."
"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.
But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Theme 6- Social Identity

Theme 6: Social Identity

Who am I?
“I” “self” –independent, permanent one, entity, substance (atman)
Myself: body, feeling, perception, volition and consciousness (5 skandhas)
Self and others
Martin Buber (1878-1965): “I-it” and “I-Thou” two types of relationship
I-it: “one engages with another sentient being views simply as an object, to be manipulated in accordance with one’s self-centered desires.”
I-Thou: “one may transcend the polarity of self and other and engage with a sphere between self and other, in which both access the “eternal thou” that transcends individuality.
Buddhist Concept of Non-self (anatman)
Diamond Sutra on
p. 11 & 67 on “Bodily appearances”
p. 15 on “Self” “Individual” “Being” and “Life Span”
p. 55 “mind”
The Four Immeasurables
Loving-kindness selfish affection
Compassion sorrow
Joy frivolity
Equanimity cold and indifference
Recommended readings:
Martin Buber: I and Thou
Diamond Sutra
Yifa’s article on “Buddhism and Politics of Identity” (draft only)
“Buddhist concept on non-self” in What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula

Monday, October 20, 2008

Buddhism and Medical Ethics

Buddhism and Medical Ethics: A Bibliographic Introduction
James J. HughesMacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics
Damien KeownGoldsmiths, University of London
Published in the
Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Volume Two, 1995
ISSN 1076-9005

It has not gone unnoticed that the Buddhist aim of eliminating suffering coincides with the objectives of medicine (Duncan et al, 1981; Soni, 1976). The Buddhist emphasis on compassion finds natural expression in the care of the sick, and according to the Vinaya the Buddha himself stated "Whoever, O monks, would nurse me, he should nurse the sick" (Zysk, 1991:41). Buddhist clergy and laity have been involved with the care of the sick for over two thousand years. The Indian Buddhist emperor Asoka states in his second Rock Edict that provision has been made everywhere in his kingdom for medical treatment for both men and animals, and that medicinal herbs suitable for both have been imported and planted.

Birnbaum (1979) and Demieville (1985) provide good general introductions to Buddhism and medicine. Buddhism appears to have played an important role in the evolution of traditional Indian medicine (Zysk, 1991), and there are many parallels between Buddhist medicine, as recorded in the Pali canon, and Aayurveda (Mitra, 1985). There are short monographs by Haldar on the scientific (1977) and public heath aspects (1992) of medicine in the Pali sources. It is likely that as Buddhism spread through Asia it would have interacted with indigenous medical traditions promoting the cross-fertilization of ideas. Redmond (1992) discusses the relationship of Buddhism to medicine from Theravaada and Mahaayaana perspectives and compares Buddhist and Daoist concepts of disease. Discussions of Tibetan medicine may be found in Clifford (1984), Dhonden (1986), and Rechung (1976), while Ohnuki-Tierney (1984) discusses illness and culture in contemporary Japan.

Buddhism's holistic understanding of human nature encourages a psychosomatic approach to the pathology of disease (Soni, 1976), something to which Western medicine is now increasingly attuned. It may also be suggested that the Buddhist philosophy of origination in dependence is both a fruitful diagnostic model and a philosophy which encourages a preventive approach to healthcare. However, disquiet has been voiced recently about how "natural" certain forms of traditional Buddhist medicine are - notably the Tibetan "black pill" - some recipes for which specify rhinoceros horn and bear-bile among the ingredients (Leland, 1995).

Despite Buddhism's long association with the healing arts, little attention has been paid to the ethical issues which arise from the practice of medicine. A small number of monographs provide introductions to the issues and dilemmas which arise in medical practice. These are Ratanakul (1986), Nakasone (1990) and Keown (1995), and these volumes should be consulted in conjunction with the sources listed under the specific subject-headings below. Also relevant is the unpublished Masters thesis by Shoyu Taniguchi (1987a). For general discussions in the periodical literature see Taniguchi (1987b), Mettanando (1991), and Ratanakul (1988; 1990). A useful discussion of Buddhism in terms of the "four principles" approach to medical ethics developed by Beauchamp and Childress (1989) is provided by Robert Florida (1994).

The Encyclopedia of Bioethics contains articles on medical ethics in India (Jaqqi, 1987), Asia (Unschuld, 1987), and Japan in the nineteenth century (Kitagawa, 1987). Also on Japan see Umezawa (1988). On medical ethics in imperial China see Unschuld (1979) and on Thailand Violette Lindbeck (1984) and Ratanakul (1988; 1990).

The principal issues to be addressed in contemporary medical ethics may be summarised as moral personhood (the question of who is and who is not entitled to moral respect), abortion, embryo experimentation, genetic engineering, consent to treatment, resource allocation, defining death, organ transplantation, living wills, the persistent vegetative state, and euthanasia. Little systematic attention has yet been directed to these subjects by Buddhist practitioners or scholars, and some subjects have not been discussed at all from a Buddhist perspective. The arrangement of the topics below is neither comprehensive nor final. It is inevitable there will be overlap between the sections, and items which appear under one category may contain discussion of issues or principles which have broader relevance.

At this time, however, it seems useful to identify three groups of issues and related literature. These concern: moral personhood, issues surrounding life at its beginning, and issues surrounding life at its end. There is insufficient literature on resource-allocation, socio-economic issues, or other questions about general medical practice to justify a category on those topics in this review. There are signs, however, that a Buddhist perspective on certain aspects of medical treatment is beginning to appear, for example Epstein (1993) and Kabat-Zinn's (1990, 1994) integration of Buddhist meditation into medical practice, and the growing literature on Buddhism and social justice, such as Jones (1989) and Sizemore and Swearer (1993).


Personhood is both a central problem for Buddhist ethics and Western medical ethics, and consequently a very promising area for a dialogue between the two. The problem for Buddhist ethics has always been why should people act ethically if there is no act, no actor and no consequences of action (Collins, 1982). If there is no self or other, how can there be karmic consequences, responsibility, loyalty, or even compassion? Theravaadin scholars continue to be divided over whether Buddhism suggests different ethics for those who persist in the illusion of self (kammic ethics) and for those who would transcend the illusion of self (nibbanic ethics). The paradoxical unity of compassionate ethics and nihilistic insight into selflessness has been the central koan of Mahaayaana Buddhism. Tantra and Zen suggest that the person who sees that there is no "I" is beyond good and evil.

For bioethics, struggles over abortion, animal rights and brain death have brought personhood to the forefront (Nelkin, 1983). Opponents of abortion and euthanasia, and advocates for the disabled and animals, on the other hand, assert that mere humanness or merely being alive should bestow a "right to life." But most bioethicists believe that human beings and animals take on ethical significance to the extent that they are "persons." Some, such as Tooley (1984), would set a standard which would exclude almost all animals, newborns, and the severely retarded or demented. When they specify which elements of sentience and neurological integrity create the illusion of personhood, Western bioethicists begin to sound remarkably Buddhistic: "the awareness of the difference between self and other; the ability to be conscious of oneself over time; the ability to engage in purposive actions" (see, for instance, Fletcher, 1979).

At the same time, Western bioethicists have become increasingly troubled by questions about the autonomy, continuity and authenticity of the self. Do anti-depressants create an inauthentic self, or is the self more authentic when its cheerful? Is one respecting a patient's autonomy by respecting the treatment preferences they expressed when healthy, or those they express in the throes of illness? Is it ever possible for a patient to give truly free and informed consent to treatment?
The most radical challenge to Western ethics of self- determination came in 1984 with the publication of British philosopher Derek Parfit's Reasons and Persons. In this meticulously argued tome, Parfit rejects the existence of continuous selves and concludes that an individual is as discontinuous from itself at some later time as it is from other individuals. Consequently, working for the future welfare of all beings is the same as working for one's own future welfare, since there will be no "I" to benefit in the future.

Bioethicists are only now incorporating Parfit's argument. For instance, researchers find that is impossible to accurately anticipate one's state of mind when one is sick or dying, much less when one is unconscious, undercutting the assumption of continuous personhood undergirding "living wills."

From a Buddhist/Parfitian perspective, the search for "real" preferences, central to the identity of the person, is a pointless one. With this acknowledgement, it is less troubling to place our trust in our family and friends to make decisions for our future selves (Kuczewski, 1994). More to the point, a Buddhist/Parfitian would encourage citizens to look beyond their personal preferences in dying, which may be to "die with dignity" but may also be to use as many resources as possible to stave off death, and instead participate in creating a health care system that served the needs of everyone in society.

Another area of potential dialogue is in the efforts to go beyond Cartesian (and Hindu etc.) mind-body dualism in defining life and death. Over the last twenty years the West has slowly accepted that a "person" is dead if their brain is destroyed, even if the body continues to function. Yet it still troubles many Westerners and Buddhists to declare the permanently unconscious "dead," believing that this is an example of inappropriate mind-body dualism. Other Westerners and Buddhists believe that only a "neocortical" definition of death recognizes the centrality of consciousness and personhood in ethics (Gervais, 1986). More challenging, some Western ethicists have begun to discuss the status of personhood as future technologies make possible the continuity of personality from one body to another (More, 1994). When medical technology offers reincarnation, Buddhist bioethics will certainly flourish.

Buddhism, like all religious and secular philosophies, focuses on two central questions concerning abortion: (a) when does the embryo or fetus acquire the property which makes termination of pregnancy "killing"?; and (b) is termination of a pregnancy, before or after this point, ever justifiable?

While there was a minority tradition in classical Hindu embryology that held that incarnation does not occur till as late as the seventh month (Lipner, 1989), most Buddhist commentators have adopted classical Hindu teachings that the transmigration of consciousness occurs at conception, and therefore that all abortion incurs the karmic burden of killing. Before modern embryology, however, in both Buddhist countries and the West, ideas about conception were scientifically inaccurate, and often associated the beginning of life with events in the third or fourth month of pregnancy (for a discussion of traditional Tibetan embryology, see Dhonden, 1980 and Lecso,1987).

Another problem in early Buddhists' embryology is their assumption that the transmigration of consciousness is sudden rather than gradual. Based on the findings of modern neuro-embryology Buddhists today might maintain that the fetus does not fully embody all five skandhas and the illusion of personhood until after birth; this is the argument developed by most Western ethicists to defend abortion (Tooley, 1984; Flower, 1985; Bennett, 1989). If the fetus is not yet a fully embodied person, then the karmic consequences of abortion would be even less than the killing of animals, which Buddhism teaches do have moral status. This neurological interpretation of the skandhas may be more consistent with Western Buddhism, which often sees the doctrine of rebirth as peripheral or interprets rebirth metaphorically rather than literally (Batchelor, 1992; King, 1994).
The second question is whether abortion always generates bad karma, or in Western terms, is it ever "justified." This relates to the debate about whether Buddhist ethics are absolutist, utilitarian or "virtuist," i.e. seeing the good in the development of personal qualities. The absolutist would hold that bad karma is incurred from any act of murder, whatever the justifications. The utilitarian would argue that murder can be a compassionate act with positive karmic consequences, taking into account factors such as the health of the fetus or mother, the population crisis, and the readiness of the parents to raise a child.

A virtue-oriented Buddhist would argue that the attitude and motivations of the pregnant woman and her collaborators would determine the ethics of an abortion. Along this line, Tworkov (1992) argues that the karmic skilfulness of an abortion is related to whether the person became pregnant and made her decision to abort without serious mindfulness. From this perspective, aborting a fetus conceived without an effort at contraception would be more karmically significant than an abortion necessitated in spite of contraception.

The much discussed Japanese tolerance for, and ritualization of, abortion appears to combine both utilitarian and virtue approaches. The Japanese believe that abortion is a "sorrowful necessity," and Buddhist temples sell rituals and statues intended to represent parents' apologies to the aborted, and wishes for a more propitious rebirth. The Japanese have reached these accommodations consensually, with little debate, and without discussion of the rights of women or the unborn (LaFleur, 1990, 1992).

The Theravaadin commentator Buddhaghosa appears to have combined all three views. He held that killing produces karma jointly through the mental effort and intensity of the desire to kill, and the virtue of the victim (Florida, 1991). Since killing big animals required more effort, and was therefore worse than killing small animals, the karma of feticide would be less than murder of adults, and less in earlier stages of pregnancy. On the other hand, for Buddhaghosa, the karma of feticide would be greater than that of killing villains in self-defence.

Buddhists have thus far given little thought to the third important question, the connection between morality and law, specifically how, and on what grounds, the state should regulate abortion. Some Buddhists have adopted the stance of many moderates in the West: abortion is murder of a person, but women should have that choice (for instance, Imamura, 1984 and Lecso, 1987). Since most Buddhists have no problem with laws to discourage and punish murder in general, implicit in this position is that murder is either justifiable when it conflicts with bodily autonomy or, since few Buddhists would imprison butchers, that fetuses are closer in status to animals. Clearly there is much room for clarification of the relationship between religious ethics and law in pluralistic societies.

Some scholars (such as Ling, 1969, and LaFleur, 1992) have looked beyond the strictly ethical concerns with abortion to examine the cultural aspects of the question. From this perspective it is sometimes pointed out that Buddhism is not "pro-natalist," i.e. does not hold that reproduction is a religious duty - quite the reverse in fact - and does not advocate "family values," at least in the sense that Confucianism did. Buddhist skepticism about family and reproduction was a central cause of Confucian and Shinto persecution. The Sinhalese embrace of contraception and abortion was so enthusiastic in the 1960s, compared to Sri Lanka's Muslims, Catholics and Hindus, that racialist monks began to argue that Buddhists had an obligation to "race-religion-nation" to reproduce.

The themes of impermanence, decay and death are omnipresent in Buddhist literature. In many Asian cultures Buddhism is identified as the authority par excellence on matters pertaining to death, and is closely linked to the rites and ceremonies associated with the transition from this life to the next. Buddhist literature emphasises the importance of meeting death mindfully since the last moment of one life can be particularly influential in determining the quality of the next rebirth.
General reflections on death will be found in Philip Kapleau's 1972 anthology The Wheel of Death and his 1989 The Wheel of Life and Death. Stephen Levine is the author of several books dealing with the subject of death from a Zen perspective while a contemporary Tibetan perspective is provided by Sogyal Rinpoche's popular Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Glenn H. Mullin (1986) and John Powers (1995, Ch.10). James Whitehill (1974) discussed what can be learned from the death of the Buddhist masters, and the development of a corpus of "Great Death" stories of various Buddhist masters is examined by LaFleur (1974). Other writings on death in Buddhism include Smart (1968), Amore (1974), and Bowker (1991).

In a 1993 monograph on the subject of death in Buddhism, Becker asserts that the Buddhist tradition, especially in Japan, is very tolerant of suicide and euthanasia. Evidence of this is the Buddha's tolerance of suicide by monks (Wiltshire, 1983) and Japanese stories praising suicide by monks, samurai and laypeople. Becker suggests that Buddhism values self-determination and praises those who decide when and how they will die when they do so in order to have a dignified conscious death. Becker also concludes that the key point is not whether there is still warmth or reflexes (as suggested by some readings of the Visuddhimagga) but whether the patient's skandhas have permanently left, i.e. the patient is permanently unconscious. In other words, Buddhism would endorse a brain death definition of death. On the understanding of death in Japanese religion see also Picken (1977).

A number of issues in medical ethics turn upon the problem of defining death, but few writers have addressed the question of a Buddhist definition of death directly. Only van Loon (1978), Keown (1995), and Mettanando (1991) have argued for a specific definition: van Loon equates death with neocortical death whereas Keown and Mettanando support the "whole brain" criterion.
There has been considerable resistance to the adoption of the brain death standard in Japan, both from the public and within the medical profession, due in no small measure to its association with organ transplantation. The brain death criterion allows organs to be harvested with the minimum delay, thereby enhancing the prospects for a successful transplant. Japanese tradition, however, requires the performance of rituals over a lengthy period before an individual is regarded as having passed on, and is also reluctant to countenance plundering the bodily organs of future ancestors. Some commentators suggest that public acceptance of brain death is growing as professional groups and universities develop criteria, and as pressure from potential beneficiaries grows. Also, countries such as the Philippines have raised objections to Japanese patients going abroad for transplants rather than building an organ retrieval system of their own. The best analysis available (in English) of the Japanese situation is Hardacre (1994), but relevant material may also be found in Lock and Honde (1990), Feldman (1988), Becker (1990), and Nudeshima (1991). For discussions of the issue outside of Japan see Ratanakul (1988, 1990), Sugunasiri (1990), and Nakasone (1994).

A more positive attitude towards transplantation is revealed in Tsomo (1993). The author surveyed teachers from many different traditions about their attitudes to donation. All were very positive, and emphasized that the corpse is merely an empty vessel, and that to give of oneself is a great thing, and an act of compassion.

There are no monographs devoted specifically to euthanasia in Buddhism. There are a few periodical articles and the subject is dealt within one or two books. Relevant issues are the distinction between various forms of euthanasia (e.g. "active" and "passive") and the use of narcotics in palliative care which may cloud the mind and interfere with the process of dying (Keown, 1995; Kapleau, 1989; Lecso, 1986; Ratanakul, 1988, 1990).
Kapleau's volume The Wheel of Life and Death (1989) contains a short discussion of euthanasia in conjunction with suicide and it is suggested that Buddhism would reject the practice of either. Ratanakul concurs, reporting "a growing consensus among the Thai public that euthanasia (passive or active) is morally unjustifiable" (1990:27). Keown and Keown (1995) explore Buddhist and Christian attitudes to euthanasia and suggest both oppose it for similar reasons. Nakasone, however, is of the opinion that "Evidence indicates that Buddhists would favor the 'right-to-die' position" (1990:76). Jennifer Green's short article "Death with Dignity: Buddhism" (1989:40-41) discusses only the practicalities of funeral arrangements and does not mention euthanasia. Neuberger (1987) is likewise concerned with practical as opposed to moral issues.
Euthanasia has been a special feature in two Buddhist magazines, Raft, and Tricycle. London-based Raft, the Journal of the Buddhist Hospice Trust, devoted its No. 2 Winter 1989/90 issue to Euthanasia. Sixteen pages in length it contains short pieces by authors such as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Ajahn Sumedho, Dame Cicely Saunders and David Stott, exploring the cases for, against, and in terms of a middle way. A similar range of opinions will be found in the Winter 1992 edition of Tricycle, which contains short articles by Patricia Anderson, Jeffrey Hopkins, Philip Kapleau, Chogyam Trungpa, and an interview with author Stephen Levine.
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Copyright 1995