Comparative Ethics in Hindu and Buddhist Traditions

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  • 7/28/2019 Comparative Ethics in Hindu and Buddhist Traditions



    E D I T O R - I N - C H I E F

    A . K. NarainUniversity of Wisconsin, Madison, USA

    E D I T O R SHeinz Bechert Leon Hurvitz

    Universitat Gottingen FRG University of British ColumbiaVancouver, Canada

    Lewis Lancaster A . W . MacDonaldUniversity of California, Berkeley, USA Universiti de Paris X, Nanterre, France

    B. J. Stavisky Alex WaymanWCNILKR, Moscow, USSR Columbia University, New York, USA

    A S S O C I A T E E D I T O R

    Stephen BeyerUniversity of Wisconsin, Madison, USA

    Volume 2 1979 Number 1

  • 7/28/2019 Comparative Ethics in Hindu and Buddhist Traditions


    T A BL E O F C O N T E N T S

    I . A R T I C L E S1 . The Mongo l Khans and Ch inese Buddh i sm and Tao i sm, bySechin Jagchid2. From Madhyamika to Yogacara, an Analysis of MMK,XX IV. 18 an d MV, 1.1-2, by Gadjin m. Nagao3 . Dynamic Libera t ion in Yogacara Buddhism, by AlanSponberg4 . Yogacara and the Buddhis t Logic ians , by A lex Wayman

    I I . S H O R T P A P E R S1. Sambodhi in ASoka's 8th Rock Edict , by A . L. Basham2 . Can Medi ta t ional Prac t ice be Measured? A Report on aQuant i ta t ive Survey , by Jacques Maquet3 . Nirvana and Metaphysica l Exper ience , by Ismael Qu iles

    I I I . B O O K R E V IE W S A N D N O T I C E SReviews:

    1 . Wo r l d C o n q u e ro r a n d Wo r l d R e n o u n c e r , by S.J. Tambiah2 . Compara t ive E th ic s in Hindu and Buddh i s t Trad i t ions , byRoderick Hindery.3 . Mahayana Buddh i s t Med i t a t ion : Theory and Prac t i ce , byMinoru Kiyota, assisted by Elvin W. Jones4. C h a n d i B o r o b u d u r : A M o n u m e n t o f M a n k i n d , by Dr.


    1. Paul Demieville, by A lexander W. Macdonald




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    pre pos te ro us , I ho pe P rofessor M acdona ld will con t inu e to p roc la im thet ruism as loudly and as of ten as he can. T h e task may be bor ing bu t th er eis the r ew ard o f ma k ing co nver s ions .

    By the way, a French t ransla t ion of my book is underway. And the publ i sher has not g iven me the gratui tous advice that Professor Macdonald a l lowshimself to give.

    S. [ . Tambiah

    Comparative Ethics in Hindu and Buddhist Traditions by Rod er ick H indery ,Delhi -V aranasi -Patna: Mot i la l Banarsidas s , 1978. Pp. xvi -308.

    T h e au th or o f th is vo lum e mus t be co m m en de d for bo th h is exp lo ra t ionof Hindu e th ical systems and his sensi t ive t reatment of the in t r icate phi losophical , h is tor ical and l inguis t ic problems encountered when examiningthese t radi t ions. Professor Hindery provides an extensive synopsis of e th icsin the Rgveda, Upanisads, Laws of Manu, Ram dyana, a n d Bhagavad-Gita, as wellas in popular Indian classics l ike the Pancatantra and Kal idasa 's Ahhijndna-Sdkuntala.The purview of th is t rans-cul tura l inquiry culminates in an excel lent d iscussion of the e th ical systems en ge nd er ed by ancient an d con tem pora ry ph i loso phe r s and r e fo rm ers , inc lud ing Sam kara , M. K. G and h i , andRa bin dran a th Ta gore . Espec ia lly va luab le a re the two Ap pend ices the firs te laborat ing on cr i t ica l ora l and textual mat ters (dat ing, authorship , e tc . ) inthe Ramdyana a n d Mahdbhdrata, the second providing a table of paral lel topicsin the texts surveyed. The Selected Bibl iography contains a var ie ty of Engl isht ransla t ions, together wi th sources encompassing many specia l ized f ie lds , inc luding e th ics , re l ig ion, phi losophy, l i tera ture , and in ternat ional law. Despi tethe inclusion of "Buddhist" t radi t ions in the t i t le , the reader wi l l d iscoveronly a s ingle chapter dedicated to the exposi t ion of e th ical thought inM ahayana Bud dhi s t t ex t s . T h e au tho r in tende d th is cha p te r as an in t rodu ctory essay, pending the fu ture publ icat ion of three addi t ional volumes oncomparat ive e th ics in o ther re l ig ious and phi losophical t radi t ions, the subsequen t vo lume to beg in wi th a more comprehens ive t r ea tment o f Buddhi s tethics.

    Professor H ind ery 's con cern is not with how H ind u e th ical systems ormodels of conduct may have served as normal iz ing inf luences on people . Ins tead, he appl ies a descr ip t ive approach in h is analysis of what moral prescr ip t ions people have a l leged through thei r l i tera ture and socia l inst i tu t ions.For purposes of th is s tudy, the author equates "moral i ty ," meaning a person 'sref lect ions u po n a nd prac tice of no rm ativ e social values, to "ethics," which refers to the just i fica t ions of and m ean ings associa ted wi th socia l co nd uct . T h efocus of th is inquiry i s twofold: w hat warr ants an d em ot ive factors are present for people to decide on normat ive e th ical ideals ; and, more impor tant ly ,what beyond inner convict ions do they c la im mot ivates them to per form ac-103

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    tions intended to promote the general welfare? Five guidelines, addressingmoral assertions in textual and oral traditions, are specified: (1) Confrontedwith cultural mores, Hindery asks what reasons are given for being moralthat is, whether or not the grounds for other-regarding decisions are basedon self-compensation. In addition, he asks whether morality is claimed to berealized through either knowledge (vidyd) or a "minimum of free volition"ind ep en de nt of social influences such as laws and customs (p. 3). (2) Th e author suggests that ethical behavior may be motivated (but not necessarilynormalized) by one or more models of moral conduct. Three such modelsare discussed in this volumea model of "social cooperation" similar to thatwhich Max Weber attributed to the Vedic period; an "altruistic" model basedon intuitional jud gm en ts and self-sacrifices; a nd a "mystical/religious" modelbased on mystical insight, divine revelation, or the belief there in. (3) W hethe ror no t ethical behav ior is validated by worldviews {Weltanschauungs) or modelsof conduct, Hindery points out that it may also be justified by common-sensereasoning based on the consequences of actions, by trust in collective experiences which are partially encapsulated in legal statutes and surviving customs (saddcara), or by various aesthetic and emotive human capacities, e.g.creating and loving. The author discusses the Ramayanic heroine, Slta, andthe Buddhist bodhisattva as altruistic models with which people have identified themselves and their actions. The mystical/religious model is exemplified by the Upanisadic appeal to a personal experience of the "oneness" and"inseparability" of the individual self (dtman) and the ultimate self (Brahmanor Atman). (4) The author examines his sources with an eye for the ethos orethosesvalues and virtues which assume motivational priority in decisionsand actions. (5) Finally, this inquiry explores what attitudes develop fromrelationships between individuals and institutions (agents which enforce theadhe ren ce to social conventions). H indery is especially concerned with the"populist" and "elitist" movements within the evolution of Hindu religiousand philosophical traditions. He considers the masses and elite groups asmutually responsivecompeting with and complementing each otherthroughout Indian history, with this interaction gradually contributing to arich Hind u ethical pluralism (pp. 202-203). T he au thor is conscientious aboutdelivering the pros and cons at each stage of his analysis.

    Discussion of these issues is exemplified in the chapte r on the Rgveda. Theau tho r compares his view, that the Vedas display moral ethoses represe ntativeof the people during that period, with the views of such eminent scholars asMax Weber, who regard the Vedas as exp ou ndin g sets of amorally-ground edelitist sanctions. The Weberian position p oints to the Vedic absence of liberation from this-worldly suffering (moksa) and moral notions like karmicretribution. This position is supported by the predominance of pragmaticcivil codes, social conventions, and the affirmation of this-worldly concernsas found in the Rgvedas "Hymn to Dawn" (RV.IA 13.1-20) and in the Athar-vaveda's lists of civil crimes, including theft, indebtedness, and incest. Furthersupport lies in the observation that "misfortune," "human incapacity," or"social evil" have often been misconstrued by scholars as "sin" (dgas; enas;papa). Hindery, however, regards the Vedic use of dana (giving/sharing) as anaesthetic ideal and not merely related to self-compensation. He cites several104

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    songs in the Rgveda (Rv.\A25, 126.1-5; V.61) which express love as the reservoir of g iv ing. The author a lso points out that the Rgveda ment ions gu i l t(enas) as the product of not g iv ing to those in need (Rv.VII.89.5; X.117).H er e , he fo llows the P . V. Ka ne an d A . A. Ma cdon nel l t rans la t ions of enas as"gui l t ." Dana is also related to satya, o r " t r u t h " (Rv.X.WA), and to /rta( f lt / .I .75 .5) w he re the la t ter te rm is personif ied as on e of the god s. T h e autho r conte nd s that Web er 's obse rvat ion s serve as evide nce for a l ife-af fi rmingethos in the form of the tri-varga: weal th (artha), pleasure (kdma), a n d o r d e r(rta). Here , we a re to r ead rta etymological ly as "natural" and "r i tual" order ,as wel l as the order of proper human conduct . On the basis of th is d iscussion,Hindery suggests that the Vedas d isplay "at least a partly mo ra l ou t look " fo rthe people of that per iod (p . 52) .

    Acknowledging, wi th the author , the problem of h is tor ical layer ing inVedic texts, the reviewer is incl ined to agree with his posi t ion, but f inds suppor t ive h is tor ical evide nce regret tab ly sparse in th is ch ap ter and e lsew here .A br oa de r d iscussion of socia l mi l ieux would ha ve benef it ted the read er , wi thout the necessi ty of drawing f rom outs ide the b ibl iography of th is volume.For example , the use o f d&na in the Rgveda (Rv.XA 17.2) appears to be mores t rong ly re l a t ed to com m on sense and se l f - compensa t ion : " Th e m an wi thfood in s tore who, when the needy comes in miserable case begging for breadto eat , hardens h is hear t against h imeven when of o ld he d id h im servicefinds n ot on e to com for t h im " (p . 45) . W ith du e respect to Professor H in-dery 's valuable insights and discussions, the reader would have prof i ted bys t ron ger ev idence dem on s t r a t in g e i the r the deg ree to which the f ea tu redethical systems (Vedic , Upanisadic , e tc . ) were socia l ly normat ive or what cul tu ra l g roups were r epresen ted by the t ex t s d i scussed in th i s vo lume. Theauthor 's exposi t ion of ear ly Indian phi losophical contr ibut ions to re la t ivelyco nt em po ra ry e th ical con cepts an d systems is m or e successfully co r rob or a t e d .

    The in t roduc to ry essay on Buddhi s t e th ics dese rves comment he re . Thereis a br ief desc r ip t ion of T he ra va da e th ics (about 7 pages) focusing on theFive Precepts (parlca-sila) and the Four I l l imi tables (brahmaviharas). T h e r e m ain de r ( 33 pages) o f th is cha p te r is devo ted to Mahay ana e th ics. T h e Bo-dhis at tva ideal serves as the cent ra l topic ar ou nd which the d iscussion i s or gan ized . T h e au th or has se lected his sources wi th a def in i te predis posi t iont o w a r d J a p a n e se f o rm s o f Bu d d h i sm , i n c lu d i n g t h e Diamond Sutra, LotusSutra, S h i n r a n ' s Letters, a n d J a p a n e s e No plays in h is analysis . Ind ian , Ti be tan ,and Chinese sources , however , are a lmost complete ly absent f rom this anal ysisthe author considers them to be less pervasive and less v iable represen ta t ions o f Mahayana t r ad i t ions p resen t today (p . 238) .In summ ary , the au tho r ' s op en ing d i scuss ion o f e th ica l t e rm s and concep t sleaves too many quest ions unresolved, which i s regret table , s ince any exposi t ion of e th ical systems hinges on a c lear understanding of such terms as"ethics" and "mo ral i ty ." His catego r izat ion of the Bo dhisat tva ideal solely asa mo del of e th ical a l t ru ism is unc onv incin g the bod hisat tva i s f ir st andfore m ost a soter iolog ical symb ol an d could ju st as easily sat isfy the re qu ire ments of the o ther two models . Professor Hindery covers a wide range ofmater ia l on e th ics in Indian t radi t ions, incorporat ing a var ie ty of opinions105

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    held by scholars f rom d ifferent d isc ipl ines . H e avoids dra w ing paral le ls tooquick ly be tween Ind ian and non-Ind ian e th ica l concep ts . Also , he has p re sen ted a va luab le d iscuss ion on the incorpora t ion o f ea r ly Ind ian thoughtinto con te m po ra ry e thical systems. This edi t ion is a useful s tudy if used incon cert w ith oth er tex ts . T h o u g h it is too diff icult lor the novice , ComparativeEthics should prove a valuable reference for those in terested in the socia l andpolitical sciences.

    Michae l B . Bemem

    Ma hayana Buddhist M editation: Theory and Practice, edited by Minoru Kiyota ,ass is ted by Elvin W .Jo ne s. H on olu lu: The Univers i ty Press of Hawaii , 1978.P p . 3 1 3 .

    Th is vo lum e is ded ic a ted to the me m ory of R ichard H . Robinson (1926-70) , who was ins t rumenta l in es tab l i sh ing a Buddhis t S tud ies p rogram a t theUnivers i ty o f W iscons in -Madison , w here he taugh t Ind ian ph i losophy , In d iancivi l izat ion and Buddhism. I t was his l i fe- long convict ion that the t ruths ofBu dd hism "were no t p rem ises fo r a deduc t ive sys tem bu t enunc ia t ion s o fgnosis ( ' saving knowledge ' ) to be medita ted upon unti l the hearer ' ca tches on 'a n d b re a k s th ro u g h to a n o th e r p l a n e o f b e in g . " {The Buddhist Religion: AHistorical Introduction, 1970, p . 29. ) I t is most appropria te , therefore , that th isc o mme mo ra t iv e v o lu me d e a l...


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