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Paṭisambhidā Jāla-Abaddha Paripanti Tipiṭaka Anvesanā ca Paricaya Nikhilavijjālaya ca ñātibhūta Pavatti Nissāya anto 105 Seṭṭhaganthāyatta Bhāsā

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1261 LESSON 11914 THURSDAY There are 83 languages in Please render exact translation in you mother tongue for these translations! That will become a practice of Mediation as taught by the Buddha! And become a Stream Enterer Sotapanna! Towards Nibbana the Eternal Bliss as Final Goal! http: run FREE ONLINE E-Nālanda Research and Practice UNIVERSITY NINE E-Nālanda Research and Practice UNIVERSITY MAHABODHI CENTRE FOR THERAVADA BUDDHIST STUDIES,BENGALURU, INDIA is affiliated to KARNATAKA STATE OPEN UNIVERSITYMYSORE, KARNATAKA, INDIA - BUDDHIST ETHICS
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There are 83 languages in

Please render exact translation in you mother tongue for these translations!

That will become a practice of Mediation as taught by the Buddha!

And become a Stream Enterer Sotapanna!

Towards Nibbana the Eternal Bliss as Final Goal!



FREE ONLINE E-Nālanda Research and Practice UNIVERSITY




  whitehill.txt                                          Page:1
VOLUME 1: 1994 
James Whitehill (
     Contemporary Buddhism increasingly seeks to make itself
understood in modern terms and to respond to contemporary conditions.
Buddhism’s legitimation in the West can be partially met by
demonstrating that Buddhist morality is a virtue-oriented,
character-based, community-focused ethics, commensurate with the
Western “ethics of virtue” tradition. 
     The recent past in Western  Buddhist ethics focused on escape
from Victorian moralism, and was incomplete. A new generation of
Western Buddhists is emerging, for whom the “construction” of a
Buddhist way of life involves community commitment and moral
“practices.”  By keeping its roots in a character formed as “awakened
virtue” and a community guided by an integrative soteriology of wisdom
and morality, Western Buddhism can avoid the twin temptations of
rootless liberation in an empty “emptiness,” on the one hand, and
universalistic power politics, on the other. 
     In  describing Buddhist ethics as an “ethics of virtue,” I am
pointing to consistent and essential features in the Buddhist way of
life. But, perhaps more importantly, I am describing Buddhist ethics
by means of an interpretative framework very much alive in Western and
Christian ethics, namely, that interpretation of ethics most recently
associated with thinkers like Alasdair MacIntyre and Stanley Hauerwas.
The virtue ethics tradition is the Western tradition most congenial to
the assumptions and insights of Buddhist ethics. Hence, virtue ethics
provides a means of understanding Buddhist ethics… and,
reciprocally, Buddhist ethics also offers the Western tradition a way
of expanding the bounds of its virtue ethics tradition, which has been
too elitist, rationalistic, and anthropocentric. On the basis of this
view, I predict some likely, preferable future directions and limits
for Buddhism in a postmodern world.
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:2
     My purpose in this article is to speculate about the //optimal,
future development// of Buddhism in the West. To speculate about the
future is, of course, to reach beyond the narrow protections of
expertise into the vulnerability of guesswork. My guesswork about
Western Buddhism’s future takes the form of two hypotheses for
scholarly consideration by interested philosophers and ethicists,
Buddhist or not. The two hypotheses can also be viewed by Western
Buddhists as recommendations on the future course of their Buddhist
practices and communities. 
     The first hypothesis and recommendation is that Buddhism must
begin to demonstrate a far clearer //moral form// and a more
sophisticated, appropriate //ethical strategy// than can be found
among its contemporary Western interpreters and representatives, if it
is to flourish in the West. This hunch is to me almost certainly
correct, so I will treat it only briefly at the beginning.
     My second conjecture is that Buddhism’s success in the West is
most likely if Buddhist ethics is specifically grafted to and enriched
by the “ethics of virtue” approaches of Western tradition, approaches
recently revived in Christian thinkers like MacIntyre and Hauerwas.[1]
This second guess is more specific, tentative, and provocative, and,
therefore, more interesting, so it will be my dominant theme.[2]
Viewing Buddhist morality and ethics in the light of virtues theory
is, I believe, true to the central core of Buddhism. The virtues
approach also generates a wide range of analytical comparisons with
Western philosophical and theological tradition, and helps us foresee
and plan for the limits of Buddhism’s Western pilgrimage.
     Returning for a moment to my first and most general hypothesis, I
will begin by saying that I am persuaded that Buddhism is on the
threshold of a more significant future in the West. It will
increasingly play practical, heuristic, balancing, and liberating
roles in the lives of Western people and their societies. But, in
order for this to happen, philosophers, Buddhist and non-Buddhist,
must help more to clarify the //moral and ethical// terms of
Buddhism’s soteriological project, in ways coordinate with Western
intellectual tradition. For more than two decades, Buddhist
philosophical talent in the West has been focused almost exclusively
on ontology and hermeneutics. One result is that Buddhist philosophy
in the West has ballooned off into the clouds of “suunyataa-focused
dialectics. I propose that our philosophical soaring needs the
//ballast// of Buddhist moral practices and the //landmarks// of a
refreshed Buddhist ethics to bring Buddhist philosophy more into a
practical relationship with the on-the-ground, everyday realities of
people’s lives. I am moved to this recommendation by my deductive
understanding of Buddhist teaching, but also by the fact that American
Buddhists, since the early 1980’s, have increasingly puzzled over
moral and/or political choices and issues, without much help from
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:3
Buddhist philosophers and scholars who are also well-grounded in
Western moral and political thought.
     When Christians translated their Gospel into Chinese contexts,
the Greek “Logos” became the Chinese “Tao,” a daring and radical
translation, transmuting the Gospel as it transmitted it. A similar
translation //problematique// faces us now as Buddhism transmits the
“Dharma” to the West. But, in the matter of that part of the Dharma
which can be called “Buddhist ethics,”  no proposal in Western
philosophical terms on the shape of Buddhist ethics currently commands
wide attention, much less agreement.[3] As a result, the
legitimization of the Buddhist Dharma //as a whole// is at risk in the
West, for no religious or soteriological philosophy without a
developed ethic can be fully and widely legitimized in Western
     A variety of philosophical proposals relevant to the Western
shaping of Buddhist ethics can be seen across the spectrum of Buddhist
thinkers. Happily, no one argues that Buddhist ethics or morality are
sui generis, a unique and inviolate form of Buddhist tradition to be
transplanted whole and entire into Western cultural soil. Also, few
are suggesting that Buddhist morality and ethics are so much embedded
in Asian cultures that they cannot be transplanted.
     Both in theory and in practice, most Western Buddhists appear to
look for and accept a grafting or hybridizing process, assimilating
Buddhist moral stock to a plausible, compatible Western moral root.
Some are tempted to confuse this process, by reversing it, as if the
task is to graft Western moral concerns to a Buddhist root of
compassion or, worse, transcendental wisdom. This confusion is like
“growing a lotus without planting it in the mud,” or “putting the
spiritual cart before the moral horse.”  More simply, this confusion
assumes that ethics follows spirit or theory, a rather un-Buddhist
notion, given the Buddha’s existential impatience with metaphysical
     In the 1960’s, Buddhist ethical reflection, and morality in the
broad sense of “a way of life,” were grafted by Western apologists to
the stem of existentialism and to some branches of the human potential
movement.[4] These early efforts fell short of a satisfactory ethical
development of Western Buddhism, in my opinion, because they failed to
include much critical, communal, or practical guidance for would-be
Buddhist existentialists (or existentialist Buddhists?) and other
Aquarians. Recently, more politically relevant splicings have been
attempted by several Buddhists within the peace, environmental, and
feminist movements.[5]
     Only a few Western //philosophers// have attempted grafting work
recently in Buddhist ethics, usually by asserting and working out
conceptual analogies between Buddhist ethics in general and particular
Western philosophers and theologians. Examples of this comparative
work include David Kalupahana’s proposal that Buddhist ethics melds
interestingly with William James’ pragmatism, and Christopher Ives’
explorations of opportunities to develop a Zen Buddhist social ethic
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:4
in contrast with Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian social ethics. Also
noteworthy, if less comparative in its analysis, is Robert Thurman’s
proposal to find a relevant recipe for contemporary social activism in
a specific text of Naagaarjuna.[6]
     While I do not find these proposals sufficiently developed to be
compelling to Western ethicists, they are thought-experiments that
address some issues of interest to Western philosophical and
theological ethics, while taking interpretive risks for the sake of
Buddhist relevance. I regret that none of the proposals can withstand
the kind of friendly critique that comes quickly and easily from
ethicists grounded in Christian and Western ethical studies; Winston
King, for example,  has long been helpful in raising  a variety of
critical and disturbing questions about the strengths and weaknesses
of Buddhist philosophy in a Western ethical milieu dominated by
demands for human rights and individual autonomy.[7]
     Assuming the under-developed condition of the domain of Buddhist
ethics in Western context, I now address at length my second, more
tentative conjecture on the future prospect of Western Buddhism. I
propose that the most appropriate analogy, the most fruitful grafting
prospect for a Western Buddhist ethics, will be with the Western
tradition of the “ethics of virtue.” By “ethics of virtue” I mean
simply an ethics that is //character-based// (rather than
principle-driven or act-focused), //praxis-oriented//,
//teleological//, and //community-specific//. More fully, I mean the
complex tradition of ethics that stretches in the West from Socrates
and Aristotle to Alasdair MacIntyre, Philippa Foot, and other
contemporary virtues theorists.[8]
     This proposal does not originate with me. The conceptual and
heuristic linkage of Buddhist ethics with Aristotle’s is a key to
Damien Keown’s approach in his well-argued, revisionist view of
Buddhist ethics, _The Nature of Buddhist Ethics_.[9]  Earlier, Robert
Bellah favored grafting Buddhism to the virtues approach as a possible
path to meet his concern to renew an American ethic of community.
Specifically, Bellah has called for a “cultural symbiosis” of Zen and
modern Aristotelianism as a way of re-asserting “a teleological
understanding of the order of human life” and bringing about “the
creation of actual communities” that can resist: 
     a //modern// Western culture that is destroying the natural
     habitat, undermining any kind of social solidarity, and
     creating a conception of the individual person which is
     utterly self-destructive.[10]
     The utopian spirit of his call for Buddhist-like communities  of
personal and civic virtue suggests that these communities would almost
certainly be “marginalized,” growing only at the edges of the dominant
socio-cultural structures of Western individualism or bureaucratic
nation-states. Its utopian character does not seem to dissuade Bellah
from making his recommendation. Nor am I. Indeed, such “contrast”
communities already exist, however tenuous their rooting in the
Western “soul and soil.”[11]
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:5
     Before taking up this proposal, that Buddhist “morality” and
“ethics” can be appropriately transplanted in the West by assimilating
them to our own virtues tradition, I need to define Buddhist
//morality// more precisely, in the terms of “awakened virtue.”
“Awakened, compassionate virtue-cultivation” is a more accurate
phrasing of what I mean, but, for simplicity’s sake, I will avoid
using it. “Awakened virtue” usefully describes the process and goal of
Buddhist morality. It affirms the intertwined correspondence  of the
moral and the spiritual,  in fresh language, by referring to Buddhist
moral vision and praxis in the language of virtues theory, and by
retaining the Buddhist insistence on spiritual awakening as a
necessary, although not sufficient, condition of moral maturity.
Second, I will simply define Buddhist ethics as “philosophical
reflection upon Buddhist morality, including descriptive, normative
and meta-ethical reflections.”[12]
     My purpose in this essay about “awakened virtue” is not to engage
in historical and textual analysis. I will not exegete the comparative
analogies of “siila or the paaramitaas[13] to //phronesis//,
//arete//, or //virtus//.[14]  My aim is more philosophical,
practical, and even policy-oriented: to probe constructively the
implications of “awakened virtue,” the goal of Buddhist morality and
the object of Buddhist ethics, in connection with the future prospects
of Western Buddhism. The effort to construct a Western Buddhist ethics
by means of a virtues approach is not without exemplars. For example,
Robert Aitken relies on it often in his homiletical text, _The Mind of
Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics_. Aitken fashions refreshing
sermons on Buddhist ethics, with a Zen twist, framing most of his
chapters as expositions of “The Ten Grave Precepts” of Buddhist
morality. He also writes briefly about the Six Perfections, the six
paaramitaas of generosity, morality, patience, vigor, meditation, and
self-realization, and discusses “virtue” as a way of understanding the
Zen life.
     Aitken opens his chapter, “The Way and Its Virtue,” with a saying
of his teacher, Yamada Koun Roshi: “The purpose of Zen practice is the
perfection of character.” Aitken proceeds to discuss briefly but
provocatively the six  paaramitaas, relating them to contemporary
experience and applications.[15]  But his teacher’s saying is
overlooked and the focus on virtue collapses as, in the perennial
fashion of most Zen interpreters, he concludes that:
     At the same time, “virtue,” “the Six Paaramitaas,”
     “perfection of character” — these are simply labels
     for an organic process. Breathing in and out, you let
     go of poisons and establish the serene ground of the
Aitken here falls into a common pitfall in the path of ancient and
contemporary Zen interpreters, what I call “the transcendence trap.”
The trap misleads them and us into portraying the perfected moral life
as a non-rational expressiveness, something natural, spontaneous,
non-linguistic, and uncalculating. This is a “Taoist-like” view of
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:6
virtue as “natural, intuitive, skill/power” (Chin., te; Jap., toku), a
view Aitken shares with some influential, but late Mahaayaana suutras.
This ethical conception results in the kind of ontological dismissal
of morality and ethics preached by Aitken at the end of his chapter:
“Thus, in the world, too, there is nothing to be called virtue.”[17]
The common corollary, “there is also nothing to be called character,”
is unstated by Aitken, although it is part of the same syllogistic net
of claims deduced ostensibly from “no-ego” and “suunyataa axioms. This
net is true and helpful only within the “deconstructive” mood and
context of “suunyataa dialectics and metaphysics. When the net of
“no-self” is thrown to catch truth in an ethical context, villains
laugh and demons thrive.
     A good beginning by Aitken, in taking a virtues approach to
interpreting Buddhist ethics, is later swamped by the
“suunyataa-weighted dialectical anamorphisms of Mahaayaana and Zen
thought. Aitken is enmeshed in what I have called “the satori
perspective” in Zen philosophy, the position most clearly seen in D.T.
Suzuki’s vigorous anti-rationalism and antinomianism. The “satori
perspective”  characteristically over-emphasizes the “awakening”
dimensions of Buddhist soteriology, to the detriment of the moral,
“virtuous” dimensions.[18] Consequently, a view of the Buddhist
virtues from this standpoint tends insistently to relativize and
diminish the “virtue” in the summum bonum of “awakened virtue,” until
there is only the “awakened One,” beyond good and evil.
     A clear and egregious example of this spiritualizing
over-emphasis on “awakening,” comes to us in the writings of Gerta
Ital, in her book, _On the Way to Satori_, where she offers us this
     This is something that cannot be repeated often
     enough: no one who has not completely erased themselves
     as an ego can do anything to help liberate anyone else,
     and the attainment  of the goal is not easy. The journey
     is very long …. Until one is liberated oneself one is
     simply not capable of helping anyone else.[19]
This is not a complete Buddhism, I believe, and certainly not one that
can expect a significant  future in the West, except as an
individualistic, private, and mainly “therapeutic” mysticism. Buddhism
is far more and other than that.
     A fuller and more finely articulated virtues approach to Buddhist
ethics guides Ken Jones’ _The Social Face of Buddhism_. I consider
this the best available //ethical// manual on Buddhist social ethics
by a Westerner.[20]  I recommend it, convinced that it is a touchstone
philosophical text in Buddhist ethics. It is unlike Aitken’s, because
Jones’ seriously pays attention to key philosophical, moral, and
psychological issues. Regrettably, Jones, like Aitken, walks into “the
transcendence trap,” by devaluing the roles of will and deliberation
in the life of awakened virtue. 
     Jones affirms in good virtues theory fashion that Buddhist
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:7
morality is a matter of character and cultivation, and that it focuses
on cultivating character rather than evaluating particular acts.[21]
But quickly he slides toward “the transcendence trap,” beginning with
a too casual substitution of the word “personality” for “character”
     The emphasis in Buddhist morality is therefore on the
     cultivation of a personality which cannot but be moral,
     rather than focusing upon the morality of particular
     choices and acts. But, to repeat, it is not the will that
     can create such a personality, no more than I can pick myself
     up from the ground by my collar. It is to the training that
     the will must be applied, from which virtue will naturally
     flow  [emphasis mine].[23]
Jones’s disclaimer on the power of will may only be a rejection of
Nietzchean or Sartrean voluntarism. If so, he would be correct from a
Buddhist point of view, which dialectically affirms both the
deterministic weight of karma or character dispositions and our
freedom from them in the concomitant “emptiness” of “suunyataa. And he
is certainly correct to assert that the will in Buddhist practice,
rather than serving a “creative” role in free self-creation, serves
mainly to restrain and hold oneself in the various forms of moral and
intellectual practice.
     However. the fuzziness of the phrase, “from which virtue will
naturally flow,” places Jones on the lip of the “transcendence trap.”
He later falls in by constructing virtue as a kind of //natural//
“grace,” emergent from the //forms// of moral discipline and
repetition, //yet// different from them, somehow transcendent, natural
and free. As Robert Scharf suggests, this transcendent view of
virtuous activity is a mystification of what in Buddhist practice is
simply a repetitive and normal process of learning to //perform// in
certain ways with skill; Hee-jin Kim, discussing what he calls the
“heart of Dogen’s thought,” refers to the process of Buddhist practice
as essentially something prosaic, “the ritualization of morality.”[24]
     More than Jones can or will admit, schooling in the forms of
virtue is a social, emotional, and cognitive process. Becoming good is
hardly a natural process in the sense suggested, of being the
non-voluntary, non-deliberative unfolding of a natural goodness.
Aristotle would agree: “While it is Nature that gives us our
faculties, it is not Nature that makes us good or bad.”[25] The goal
of ethics is to become a person who does good or virtuous things
freely from the ground of a well-tempered character, supported by a
matured, resolute, and reasonable knowledge of what one is doing. The
path of Buddhism does not dissolve character (which is different from
ego and personality). It awakens and illuminates moral character and
establishes a “noble” selfhood in the wide, deep, expressive freedom
of creative forms of life and its perfections.
     Jones’s view of virtue echoes the Christian moral doctrine of
“infused virtue,” but without dependence on St. Thomas Aquinas’
transcendent, theistic assumptions and absent his clear sense of the
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:8
endurance of the “natural” virtues in the perfected saints. I venture
the guess that, like Alan Watts and others who fall into “the
transcendence trap,” Jones devalues the will in preferring “natural
expressiveness” (in the sense of what we are born with, //natus//), in
his beliefs about learning to be good, because of things that have
little to do with Buddhism, the Diamond Suutra, and Mahaayaana
dialectics. I suspect that many a Westerner’s “Taoist-like” misreading
of Buddhist ethics, as a form of individualistic naturalism, is mostly
and often a reaction to the West’s residual Victorian morality — a
morality characterized by and hated for its conceived overemphasis on
individual, rational self-discipline, strength of will, rigidity of
personality, and psychophysical repressions — and from which
middle-aged and older Western Buddhists seem to be still trying to
make their escape. In their desire to escape, they share in a broader,
late 20th century Western shift to a moral outlook that prizes a
rather passive, non-judgmental tolerance of others, combined with a
preference for the spontaneous or ecstatic expression of impulses …
at least and especially in contrast with the much maligned Victorians.
     To disdain the necessary roles of will and reason in the Buddhist
moral process is to overlook the importance of both in early Buddhism.
Early Buddhism did not abandon reason, although it did not rely on
reason alone. Neither did early Buddhists overlook the necessity of a
steady will, even in the stages of Buddhist meditation training. That
will and reason were requisite accompaniments of the good person is
also evident in later additions to the six paaramitaas list, namely,
the paaramitaas of resolution, determination, strength, and skillful
means. Obviously, strength of will is necessary even in samaadhi
exercises, in making the Bodhisattva vow, or in responding to
exhortations of the Zen masters to throw one’s whole self and
attention into zazen or koan. Buddhist cultivation requires a constant
dose of what William James called “animal spirits” and doing the
difficult thing against our inclinations.
     Now, having by-passed the “transcendence trap” on the way to a
Buddhist virtues perspective, I wish briefly to describe what I mean
by Buddhist “awakened virtue” in the context of general virtues
theory, distinguishing it somewhat from traditional Western views.
Following this description, I will conclude by exploring some
implications for the West of viewing Buddhist ethics and the Buddhist
“way of life” in a virtues perspective.
     The Buddha’s Dharma or teaching was authoritatively divided in
early times into three groups, but they were interdependent facets of
one process leading to deliverance (vimutti). The Buddhist
investigated and cultivated “siila (morality), samaadhi (deep
meditation), and praj~naa (transcendental wisdom).[26] Each of the
three facets of self-cultivation evolved appropriate practices … of
moral intention, behavior, and correction; of meditation method and
mapping; of transformative shifts of consciousness. We may speak of
these practices as the moral, contemplative, and transformative
paaramitaas. The last, the transformative paaramitaas, are concerned
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:9
with practices that alter consciousness on a transcendental,
“Nirvanic” level, while the contemplative paaramitaas have to do with
the development of powers of concentration, stability, and
tranquilization in meditation. The moral paaramitaas involve practices
in which good intentions are aroused and acted upon in the light of a
right understanding of the good and of situations. With repetition and
correction these practices  severally and together nurtured the
dispositions, both karmic and salvific, that together constitute
Buddhist character.
     Why these paaramitaas as the specific Buddhist virtues, rather
than others, invites a fuller treatment than I will give here.[27]
The paaramitaas, as methods of attending, energizing, pacifying and
relating the self to others,  work together to wean the self from
egocentricity. Beyond ego-weaning, the goal of the paaramitaas is
positive: to  foster a character that increasingly encounters each
moment, each space, each being, as a “mother” enjoys and protects her
only child … to use a traditional simile attributed to the Buddha.
     Since moral intentions are always elastic, they need shaping by
forms and disciplines, taught by teachers and learned in communities.
The virtuous practices that in Buddhism characterize a good person
were often defined as at least the six paaramitaas of generosity or
gift-giving (daana), morality or the Five Precepts (”siila), patience
and forgiveness (k.saanti), courage and vigor (viirya), concentration
(dhyaana), and wisdom (praj~naa). Some held that the six paaramitaas
constituted a progressive order of training in virtue, from generosity
to wisdom. These may be said to be the necessary moral, mental, and
spiritual touchstones of the Buddhist virtues tradition,
notwithstanding later additions to and analytical divisions of the
six. Enrichment of virtue-like practices beyond the paaramitaas is
seen in the development of the well-known Four Immeasurables (the
Brahmavihaaras or “divine abodes”) of Buddhist friendliness,
compassion, joy, and peace, which further mapped out, stimulated, and
idealized Buddhist moral praxis. 
     These practices, moral and otherwise, were more often than not
“methodologized,” that is, formalized, ritualized and
institutionalized in ways to promote habitual performances in a
general program of self-cultivation and character development,
conceived to stretch over many aeons of time (thus requiring the
paaramitaa of patience!). Methods would differ somewhat between monk
and layperson, and from culture to culture. Some practices were
Buddhist adaptations of pre-existing practices and rituals in the
surrounding non-Buddhist culture, as Nath shows in her study of the
Buddhist transformations of Hindu daana, gift-giving rites.[28]
     Buddhist moral self-cultivation tends to encompass not only the
formation of good intentions in the heart and mind (reminding us of
Kant). Practices also include physical postures and breath-speech
techniques. This holistic “psycho-pneumo-physical” approach to moral
self-cultivation results, for example, in attention to helping others
not only by forming a good will, but also by expressing kind words and
offering the material things that they also need. A more holistic
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:10
self-training also opens a way to fuse moral practice with aesthetic
practice, as an early concern in Buddhism with how gracefully to give
gifts demonstrates.
     Practice of the moral paaramitaas is said to create and
accumulate “merit,” or favorable karma dispositions within the psyche,
that lead to a better life and higher rebirth. The “ethics of karma,”
focused upon by Melford Spiro and Winston King as the key to
understanding Theravaadin Buddhist societies, is when looked at
closely but an “ethics of karma-cultivating virtues and
practices.”[29] Spiro and King, reflecting an interpretation within
the Theravaadin tradition, highlight the ostensibly traditional split
between the karmic and the Nibbaanic motives in Buddhist life, one for
goodness and reward, the other for salvation and transformative
liberation. The two motives are personalized in layperson and monk,
     The tension between moral and religious motives appears also in
Mahaayaana Buddhism. At one point the tension was reconciled in the
bodhisattva image of a virtuous layman-sage, Vimalakiirti. The
Vimalakiirti Suutra affirms that a breach between moral effort and
spiritual awakening constitutes bondage and delusion.[31] The center
of Buddhist tradition affirms that moral effort, mainly through
practicing the paaramitaas, must be conjoined with meditative and
transformative practices to be ultimately effective for oneself and
for others. It also affirms that the practices of awakening have
little foundation and less result, for oneself or others, without the
frame, skills, and habit of moral practice. Moral virtue without
“suunyataa, or transforming liberation, may be shallow and weak; but
“suunyataa without moral virtue is blind and dangerous. She who has
accomplished awakened virtue, the merging of skilled, well-disposed,
rational moral agency with self-transforming spirit, is, in contrast,
deep, strong, ever-maturing, and rational, … by her character and
deeds she reduces suffering and promotes friendliness, compassion,
joy, and peace.
     In contrast with Western virtues tradition, the Buddhist
paaramitaas viewpoint tends, in matters of self and community, to be
//biocentric and ecological//. First, Buddhism does not begin with the
premise of the substantial, separable, and distinctive self of
Aristotelian and Christian thought. In Buddhism, the idea of the
atomistic, self-empowering monad-godling of Western individualism is
well known, but understood as a delusion born of ignorant desires and
fears, resulting in a wish-fantasy for domination. Compared to Western
concepts, the self-concept of Buddhism is processional, relational,
and “fuzzy.”[32]
     While the moral saint as individualized hero, above and apart
from others, is not unknown in Buddhism, the open, relational nature
of selfhood stresses the solidarity of those who act virtuously with
those for whom they act or, better, with whom they practice the
perfecting goods of generosity, patience, and so forth. For Buddhist
thought the self is fundamentally incomplete, evolving, and
interpenetratively co-dependent with others. Since we are imbedded in
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:11
mutual dependent community, training in the paaramitaas, moral and
otherwise, is necessarily a training with others and for others.
Because of this solidarity and because paaramitaas practice nurtures
body, speech, and the mind-heart, the Buddhist believes her moral
efforts flow necessarily into the community on many levels,
materially, verbally, and mentally, in a subtle, looping reciprocity.
     Second, Buddhist tradition differs from the Western in defining
//membership// in the moral community, the “considered others” to whom
paaramitaas-defined practices are to be extended. In the dominant
traditions of Western culture, at least since Aristotle, the community
of character and virtue has clearly been the //human// community. The
politics in which an individual’s ethics and virtue find their
completion is a human politics - almost always an anthropocentric,
urban politics. The Buddhist community of virtue is biocentric, far
more inclusive of animals and other sentient beings as objects of
moral consideration (in the practice of the six paaramitaas, for
example, giving aid to animals) than Western virtues tradition.[33]
Because of this biocentric orientation, Buddhist moral practices must
include specific training and self-cultivation in our relations with
nature, as well as human society, extending daana, “siila, k.saanti,
and so on to non-human sentient beings and to the biosphere itself as
a community of communities.[34]
     Given the exurban settings of Buddhist monasteries and
universities, and other factors, Buddhist ethics did not elaborate
itself often into urban, class-oriented political theory, a theory of
revolutionary change, or a theory legitimizing divine rule… although
Buddhist thinkers did propose all three. The community scale imaged by
the sa.mgha was smaller and more nurturing of personal development,
perhaps that of a village set within nature. Perhaps this goes to
explain partially why even urban Buddhists have tended to re-create or
simulate in the grounds of their city temples a contrasting, natural
refuge, for people, animals, fish, birds, and even insects. A Japanese
tea ceremony garden and hut in the middle of Tokyo express this
microtopic, exurban focus most eloquently and ironically.
     Like the Aristotelian virtues tradition, Buddhist ethics tends to
be ahistorical, in that it regards human life as having an important
and profound constancy in its nature and goal, persistent amidst the
general flow and struggles of actual personal and historical forces.
That constancy for the Buddhist lies not in a substantial or eternal
self, but in our common, almost irrefragable experience of suffering
and in our inherent capacity to work toward an awakened, moral
virtuosity, in wisdom and fellow-feeling.
     With respect to the question of historicity, I think that, in
comparison with the Christian virtues tradition, Buddhist ethics did
not develop so extensive a quasi-historical hagiography, a “sense of
narrative,” concerning the lives of the virtuous and their exemplars,
the saints. The Jaataka Tales, while we classify them as “animal”
fables, may be similar in appearance to a “Lives of the Saints.” But
we should probably resist calling them “narrative”  because they
display a narrow range of the Buddhist reality picture, and we should
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:12
hesitate to call them unqualifiedly Buddhist, because the stories are
from a pre-Buddhist tradition. This comparative absence of emphasis on
individual “drama,” which may be more of degree than type, applies
even to the most obvious Buddhist saint, the Buddha, whose “story”
does not serve for Buddhists the whole range of functions that we find
centered in the Gospels, in Roman Catholic hagiography or in Muslim
//hadith// tradition.[35]
     On another theme of contemporary virtues theory, I begin by
acknowledging without apology that Buddhism makes moral claims that
are universalistic. Buddhists have imagined utopian times and settings
for the virtuous, the perfected, the awakened … and projected a
utopic future when “all beings are awakened.” But, like all ethical
traditions centered on virtues, Christian, Muslim, Confucian, or
Aristotelian, the Buddhist paaramitaa tradition looks to the
establishment of particular and appropriately designed communities to
optimize favorable conditions for self-cultivation and happiness in
the good life. Virtue ethics traditions, often focused in small groups
engaged in voluntary training, tend to spend little time on the
ethical strategies necessary in non-voluntary, pluralistic, very
large, or coercive societies. Consequently and not surprisingly, they
tend to lack a viable social ethic in modern terms, that is a
policy-generating set of principles that can be institutionalized on a
mass scale, while protecting individual rights-claims with coercive
     So, while espousing the general tenets and principles of a
universal ethics, Buddhist ethics tends, in practice, to define and
effectuate paaramitaa-cultivation in community-specific terms. At the
mind-and-heart level, the broad intention “to help others” may be
similar across many communities, but at the levels of linguistic and
physical practice, the paaramitaas have a local aspect, and in that
sense display a modest “historical” quality. For example, while the
virtue of giving, daana-paaramitaa, may show local nuances of
expression in almsgiving rites, these local forms are practiced with
recognition of their universal applicability in their intention, but
not in their formal, material, local features. A tolerant awareness of
distinctions between inner and outer aspects of Buddhist practices may
result in much less zealous enforcement of verbal, symbolic, and
physical conformity in moral (and contemplative) practices in Buddhist
contexts. The resulting diversity, flexibility, and tolerance sustain
the  Buddhist tradition, at the risk of appearing very soft and highly
“contextual” in social ethics and politics.
     Nevertheless, one does find conformity in the moral forms and
practices within Buddhist voluntary communities, of which the sa.mgha
is the classical exemplar. Conformity is in keeping not only with the
needs of any community for the standardization and predictability of
behaviors that enhance trust and efficiency. Shared forms are
especially necessary and appropriate to a community guided by virtue
ethics. The Buddhist’s cultivation of the paaramitaas requires a
community designed to respond to awakened virtue practices with
specific structures of support and correction.
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:13
     Each Buddhist community has a distinctive shape and style,
governed primarily by a common goal, the awakened virtue of each
member-in-community. This perfectionist aim is universalized and
idealized by extending it to encompass the awakening of “all sentient
beings.” But, on-the-ground, the community’s purpose is realized in
the details … of distinctive forms of etiquette, and in the
characters of exemplary individuals; in shared schedules, and a common
submission to rules; in rituals of giving and receiving, and
procedures for correcting and expelling delinquent members. These are
communities where one learns and practices what it quite precisely
means, mentally and physically, morally and psychologically, to act as
an “awakened virtue being.”  That is, one learns to act, to perform,
to talk, walk, sit, sort things out, and take out the garbage like a
     It should be obvious by now that learning to act like a Buddha
means something other than becoming spontaneous, inventive, and free
of Victorian inhibitions. The practice of awakened virtue in Buddhist
communities requires diligent learning of the forms in and through
which one can perform like an awakened virtue being. In the moral
sphere, these practices require repeated experiences in learning how
to give, to listen patiently, to call up courage in overcoming fear
and desire, to observe non-violence in the way one walks, to steady
the mind and heart, to make friends with the seasons, and so on. In
the meditative sphere, similar forms of practice are observed,
submitted to, tasted, repeated, tested, and perfected, in cultivation
of the contemplative virtues.
     Finally, the Buddhist community, like any virtue-oriented
community, is defined in the characters of its persons, as well as in
their stories and the forms of their practices. Its continuation and
success depend necessarily upon the degree to which community members
become successful practitioners of the community’s full repertoire of
virtues. Thus, Buddhism will flower in the West only when Western
Buddhists take up a fully balanced Buddhist way of life, by
cultivating both the moral and the contemplative paaramitaas in proper
balance. “Awakened virtue” is the balanced platform upon which to
practice the ultimate, transformative, Nirvanic virtues constituting
the flowering of the spiritual life of Buddhists.
     If we accept the propositions that Buddhist ethics is ineluctably
and essentially an “ethics of virtue” and, second, that the Buddhist
life is necessarily //at every stage// integrative of moral and
spiritual practices, several implications emerge for Buddhism as it
grows in the West. Some of these implications are corrective of recent
Western Buddhist troubles, while others may indicate real limits to
Buddhism’s success in and impact on the West.
     Soon, with the passing away of the pioneering, older generations
of Western Buddhists, I hope we will see Buddhism in the West turning
from its role as a raft carrying Westerners away from the eroding
shores of Victorian — or Judaeo-Christian — or technological — or
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:14
imperialist –or patriarchal culture. While the function of Buddhism
as a means of liberation from suffering and oppression is a central
one, it is not the only one. The other function of Buddhism is to
carry the suffering to the Other shore, to awakened virtue, to
becoming a Buddha in Buddha fields where Buddhas flourish. This means
working to construct and preserve relationships and communities, as
much as cultivating oneself. And this means the renewal of a
paaramitaas-approach in Buddhist thought and life.
     One corrective consequence of renewing the paaramitaas in
Buddhist lives and communities will be the denial of authority to
imbalanced Buddhist teachers by the communities that support them. Too
many Buddhist teachers in the West in the 1980’s have demonstrated
that they cannot balance well the moral and the spiritual.[36]
     However, a virtues-oriented ethic has limitations in meeting
problems caused by the vices of individuals in the practicing
community. This is because a virtue ethic focuses on the
person-as-agent developing over time, in a learning process often of
trial and error. This long-term focus devalues the moral significance
of particular acts, even transvaluing them into “teachable moments,”
while often  overlooking the consequences of flawed or vicious acts
for others and the community. A particular moral failure is excused as
“out-of-character.”  The result is a greater tolerance of isolated
acts of harming others, for example, unless the acts constitute an
intolerable “pattern” of vice that forces community or individual
reaction … perhaps too late.
     Every virtue ethics guides us to the good life by means of models
of “the good person.”  The model may be a living person or a narrative
character (i.e., the Buddha, Vimalakiirti, Vessantara, Queen
“Sriimaalaa, one’s roshi, etc.). A focus on character tends to obscure
or override the role of general principles and rules as guides to
decision-making and mutual regulation.
    But rules, however flawed, sometimes have a place. For example, a
rule-orientation is preferable in some circumstances and relationships
to counter teacher-disciple abuses and distortions. Traditionally,
Buddhism depends heavily on its teachers and on the belief that
profound qualities of an awakened teacher can be passed directly,
through “mind-to-mind” transmission, to her students. Of course,
teachers are capable of transmitting the forms of the paaramitaas,
moral and contemplative, through imitation, familiarization, direct
instruction, and, I will grant, a kind of psychic “osmosis.”  But, far
more difficult to transmit to one’s students and friends are the
all-important //balance// and //integration// of the paaramitaas in a
given person, because they are partly contingent on the individuality
of the novice’s personality. It is wrong to believe that this balance
can be given to the student, rather than earned by self-effort in the
corrective view of a vital community.
     Buddhist tradition poses to each Buddhist a momentous question:
“Who is Buddha?”  How do we know that someone is advanced in the
practices of “awakened virtue”? That she’s a “good person”? The answer
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:15
is critical, for it is these people one turns to for instruction,
advice, example, confidence, and even faith. A paaramitaas-oriented
approach  carries us some distance to the answer, because of its dual
focus on character and communally validated moral practices.
Consequently, the living meaning of awakened virtue is less dependent
on the character of single persons upon whom a community focuses, and
more dependent on several persons and the community (the
sa.mgha-community) in its evolving solidarity. Viewing the practicing
community as Buddha, as itself a virtue-oriented awakening being,
reduces personality cults and deepens community resources.
     The paaramitaas emphasis I am advocating will tend to develop
protective standards of a more public nature, to test those who seek
to join or lead communities. But a Buddhist virtues approach requires
shoring up with useful ethical strategies developed in the West both
to assess particular acts and to generate moral rules. The Western
Buddhist milieu may also require a //heuristic// recovery of the
Vinaya tradition of Buddhist monastic regulation. The Vinaya may have
strayed into the trap of legalistic casuistry, but it did define and
set procedures for adjudicating particular acts of monks that could
not be tolerated, that had to result in suspension or expulsion.
Western Buddhist communities are only now beginning to face up to this
kind of decision-making, for which a virtues-orientation is sometimes
     Having said all this, I acknowledge that act-evaluations and
rule-adjudications must be secondary instruments in Buddhist ethics,
necessary as they may be in particular moments of particular
communities. Essentially, Buddhist ethics is centered in and on
“character in community.”  This focus needs to be kept, for upon it
depends the future development of a Buddhist ethics more aimed at
relationships than principles, more interested in mutual support than
a defense of rights, more empathic than rational, more compassionate
than just.
     Ethical strategies focusing on rational rules and judgments of
particular outward acts are the essential feature of groups so large
that they constitute a //society// of strangers, threatened by the
Hobbesian shadows of competition and governed by laws of contract,
restraint, coercion, property, and command.[37] Laws are secondary to
virtue in a Buddhist setting (and in this I agree with Western
Buddhists who resist “code” or rule-oriented moralizing as a dominant
approach to self- or community-discipline). Nevertheless, while
secondary, they are not dispensable.
     The primary focus on persons, character, and virtuous practices
in Buddhist ethics cannot be sustained without //community//, places
where we know each other well enough to call each other into the
intimacies of an ethics of intention and practice,  as in a family.
This means that Buddhist communities must ever be small, small enough
that people intimately know each other and the other sentient beings
sharing their life and death . I propose that they can be too small,
in that a group of four or six can hardly challenge and support the
full range of self-cultivation practices necessary to awakened virtue.
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:16
The problem of size for many Buddhists in the West lies at the “too
small” end of the spectrum. But that’s better than to be at the “too
large” end. I cannot identify a practicing community that has become
too large (say, more than 200 active members), unless one looks at the
large metropolitan communities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, which
are arguably too large, too complex, and too absorbed in the entropic
tasks of organization maintenance of buildings, mortgages, and so on.
     We know from reading Aristotle and MacIntyre that an ethics
focused in virtue does not picture the way to the good life in
abstract or individual or universal terms. The paths of virtue are
marked by lived practices special to each community. Virtue-oriented
groups and communities, if we are to believe MacIntyre and Hauerwas,
depend more on their traditional “narrative” reality- frames, their
memories and stories of good persons practicing the good life, than on
their laws or universal principles.[38]  But, we also know that
Western Buddhists today live in a post-Nietzschean world, where the
“stories” are many and “memory” is tattered. It is not at all clear to
many Western people that their chosen or inherited stories invoke
human reality in a coherent and compelling way.
     In the postmodern West, the Buddha’s story or the life of
awakened virtue can be told and tested only in small, marginalized
zones appropriately distanced from the dominant power and value
structures. The criteria of testing are two: 1) the plausibility of
the story of a person who, through specific practices in a certain
kind of community, “awakened, by and through virtuous practices,  in
wisdom and compassion;” and  2) the evident goodness in the people and
communities now engaged in practices of the Dharma. These people are
the Buddha. Their story is the Buddha’s story.
     Acceptance of the virtues approach in ethics presents specific
challenges and advantages to Buddhist thinkers and other scholars. For
example, we need to develop a more historical scholarship of the
paaramitaas dimension in Buddhism. But, hopefully, we can also help
people in today’s Buddhist communities to think through the tensions
among the paaramitaas, the problems of priorities, the meanings of
practicing in lay life, and a host of other on-the-ground issues. We
need to help Western Buddhists distinguish among therapeutic,
aesthetic, moral, economic, political, and spiritual practices and
choices. What is the optimum balance of attention and consideration
between self and others? What is Buddhist friendship? Does it include
mosquitoes? How and  why do Buddhists fail morally after years of
practice? How does a virtues orientation link up with social justice
issues and the development of a Buddhist social ethics? Far more moral
and ethical questions buzz in Western Buddhists’ lives,  awaiting
creative, practical inquiry by philosophers, new generation
Buddhologists, and others.
     I have been recommending the virtues approach. It needs a fuller
development, in order to carry Buddhist morality into an inevitable,
serious and mutually constructive dialogue with Western philosophers
and theologians. My recommendations may appear too straitlaced, or
even atavistically Victorian, but what seems clear to me so far is
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:17
this. The most constructive future of Buddhism in the West rests on
its manifestation in the characters of people, not in eloquent prose,
fundraising efforts, temple-building, or incomplete life modeling.
Hopefully,  a new generation will increasingly take the path of
balancing samaadhi-exercise with paaramitaas-practices. Put simply,
the future depends on a few good women and men who reveal a balanced,
integrative life — of “awakened virtue” practices, in families, jobs,
and communities. It is through  good lives that the Buddha’s Dharma
can fully flower in the West, transforming our sufferings and
awakening in us, each and all, that which is best, inch by inch,
moment by moment, breath by breath.
[1]  Alasdair MacIntyre, _After Virtue_ 2nd ed. (Notre Dame, Ind.:
University of Notre Dame Press, 1984; Stanley Hauerwas, _A Community
of Character_ (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press,
[2]  For my judgment that Buddhism will fail to bear fruit in the
United States unless it develops moral practices and ethical
reflection more in concert with American realities, see James
Whitehill, _Enter the Quiet_ (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers,
1980), 60-74, and Whitehill, “Is There a Zen Ethic?,” _The Eastern
Buddhist_ (New Series) 20 (Spring 1987), 9-33.
[3]  A promising and brief sketch of the philosophical roots of
Buddhist ethics in the doctrine of “dependent co-arising”
(pa.ticca-samuppaada), with a good discussion of “moral agency”, is
Joanna Macy’s “Dependent Co-arising: The Distinctiveness of Buddhist
Ethics,” _The Journal of Religious Ethics_, Vol. 7 No. 1 (Spring
1979), 38-52. But Macy did not explicitly acknowledge the
commensurability of Buddhist ethics with virtue ethics, in terms of
key similarities with respect to the nature of the self, dispositions
(kamma, sankhaaras, etc.), and freedom.
[4]  I think here first of the San Francisco Renaissance figures of
Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder, but also of Erich Fromm, William
Barrett, Alan Watts, Thomas Merton, and other writers who probed
parallels between Zen and their own home-grown existential concerns.
[5]  Relevant sources include: (on feminism) Rita Gross, “Buddhism and
Feminism: Toward their Mutual Transformation,” _The Eastern Buddhist_
19 (Autumn 1986), 62-74; Sandy Boucher, _Turning the Wheel: American
Women Creating the New Buddhism_ (San Francisco: Harper & Row,
Publishers, 1988); (on environmentalism) Allan H. Badiner, ed.,
_Dharma Gaia_ (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1990); J. Baird Callicott and
Roger T. Ames, eds., _Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought_ (Albany:
S.U.N.Y. Press, 1989); James Whitehill, “Ecological Consciousness and
Values: Japanese Perspectives,” _Ecological _Consciousness, eds. J.
Donald Hughes and George Schultz (New York: University Press of
America, 1980), 165-182; (on the peace movement) Fred Eppsteiner, ed.,
_The Path of Compassion: Writings on Socially Engaged Buddhism_
(Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1988).
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:18
[6]  See David J. Kalupahana, “The Buddhist Conceptions of “Subject”
and “Object” and their Moral Implications,” _Philosophy East and West_
33 (July 1988), 290-304; Christopher A. Ives, “A Zen Buddhist Social
Ethic,” (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Claremont Graduate School,
1988) and _Zen Awakening and Society_ (Honolulu: University of Hawaii
Press, 1992); Robert A. Thurman, “Guidelines for Buddhist Social
Activism Based on Naagaarjuna’s Jewel Garland of Royal Counsels,” _The
Eastern Buddhist_ (New Series) 16 (Spring 1983), 19-51. For a Kantian
approach, see Philip Olson, _The Discipline of Freedom: A Kantian View
of the Role of Moral Precepts in Zen Practice_ (Albany: State
University of New York, Press, 1993).
[7]  See Winston L. King, “Buddhist Self-World Theory and Buddhist
Ethics,” _The Eastern Buddhist_ (New Series) 22 (Autumn 1989), 14- 26;
“A Buddhist Ethic for the West?” (unpublished manuscript, 1990).
[8]  A large bibliography of contemporary writings in virtues theory
is in Robert B. Kruschwitz and Robert C. Roberts, ed., _The Virtues:
Contemporary Essays on Moral Character_ (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth
Publishing Company, 1987), 237-63. For a discussion of the
translatability and commensurability of one ethical tradition (e.g.,
Buddhist) with another (e.g., Western virtues tradition), see Stephen
E. Fowl, “Could Horace Talk with the Hebrews? Translatability and
Moral Disagreement in MacIntrye and Stout,” _The Journal of Religious
Ethics_ Vol. 19 No.1 (Spring, 1991), 1- 20.
[9]   Damien Keown, _The Nature of Buddhist Ethics_ (New York: St.
Martin’s Press, 1992). See especially Chap. 1, “The Study of Buddhist
Ethics,” and Chap. 8, “Buddhism and Aristotle.”
[10]  Robert N. Bellah, “The Meaning of Dogen Today,” _Dogen Studies_,
ed. William R. LaFleur (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985),
[11] “Soul and soil” because a complete virtue ethics not only refers
to the capacities of “human beings in general,” but also the
particular limitations for expressing those capacities in terms of the
“soil,” literally and metaphorically, in which those capacities for
“humanity at its best” are grown. Virtue is formed by “place,” and a
change of place or soil requires appropriate transformation of the
virtues. Ivan Illich and others have called for a “philosophy of
soil,” because “our generation has lost its grounding in both soil and
virtue. By virtue, we mean that shape, order and direction of action
informed by tradition, bounded by place, and qualified by choices made
within the habitual reach of the actor; we mean practice mutually
recognized as being good within a shared local culture which enhances
the memory of a place.”  See, “Declaration of Soil,” _Whole Earth
Review_, No. 71 (Summer, 1991), 75.
[12]  By “awakened,” I mean the process and state of an empowering
liberation of the self, by means of ego-transforming praxis. By
“virtue,” I mean the ideal cultivated set of rational discernments,
personal skills, and dispositions of character regarded as ideal and
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:19
relevant to relations with self and others in a known and shared
community, in this case the Buddhist community. In Buddhism as I
understand it, moral virtue and spiritual awakening are coordinate and
mutually necessary; neither alone is sufficient for attaining
[13] “Siila, “custom or manner,” but usually referring to the Five
Precepts, avoidance dicta, such as, “Avoid harming living beings,”
etc. Paaramitaa, “high,” “complete,” or “perfect,” but usually in the
context of a list of “perfections,” akin to the virtues,
characterizing the praxis and character of those pursuing the Buddhist
goals of selflessness, insight, compassion, and liberation or
[14] Several works can provide historical and textual framework for
Buddhist ethics, including H. Saddhatissa, _Buddhist Ethics_ (New
York: George Braziller, 1970, and Gunapala Dharmasiri, _Fundamentals
of Buddhist Ethics_ (Antioch, Calif.: Golden Leaves Publishing
Company, 1989). Lopez’s recent discussion of virtues and sainthood
from the Mahaayaana bodhisattva perspective, with comparisons to Roman
Catholic tradition, is detailed enough to be helpful; Donald S. Lopez,
Jr., “Sanctification on the Bodhisattva Path,” _Sainthood_, eds.
Richard Kieckhefer and George S. Bond (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1988).
[15] For a classic discussion of the paaramitaas, “Saantideva, _The
Path of Light_, trans. L.D. Barnett (AMS Press, 1990). A more recent
translation of “Saantideva’s Bodhicaarya-avataara is Marion Matics’
_Entering the Path of Enlightenment_ (London: Macmillan Company,
[16] Robert Aitken, _The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist
Ethics_ (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1984), 158.
[17] Aitken, _The Mind of Clover_, 159.
[18] See Whitehill, “Is There a Zen Ethic?”
[19] Gerta Ital, _On the Way to Satori: A Women’s Experience of
Enlightenment_, trans. Timothy Green (Dorset, England: Element Books,
Ltd., 1990), 276.
[20] Ken Jones, _The Social Face of Buddhism: An Approach to Political
and Social Activism_ (London: Wisdom Publications, 1989).
[21] Dharmasiri, interestingly, argues that Buddhist ethics is best
understood as a peculiar, non-hedonic form of act utilitarianism;
_Fundamentals of Buddhist Ethics_, 26-27.
[22] Much confusion in thinking about Buddhism in the West results
because the Asian cultures from which it comes focus morality in the
“roles” people play in hierarchical, organic relationships, while
modern Westerners who have taken up Buddhism are often urged by their
traditions to view morality from the perspective of the autonomous,
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:20
isolated self, understood as an expressive “personality.”  This
cross-cultural difference needs to be more carefully used and
understood by Buddhist interpreters. On the contemporary American
shift of interest from “character” to “personality,” see Anthony
Quinton, “Character and Culture,” in _Vice and Virtue in Everyday
Life_, ed. Christina & Fred Sommers (New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovic, Publishers, 1989), 613-22.
[23] Jones, _The Social Face of Buddhism_, 157.
[24] Robert H. Scharf, “Being Buddha: A Performative Approach to Ch’an
Enlightenment” (unpublished manuscript, 1989). Hee-jin Kim, _Dogen
Kigen: Mystic Realist_ (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press,
1987), 172-3. Martin Southwold argues, in the instance of Sinhalese
Buddhism, that ethical behavior is the focus and vehicle of the
“ritual impulse” for Buddhist laypeople in Sri Lanka. Absent a
transcendent focus of religious worship and ritual reference,
Buddhists have made of ethics and the Dharma the object of ritual
activity. Of course, the form of ethics most congenial to
ritualization is, of course, virtue ethics. See Southwold, _Buddhism
in life: the anthropological study of religion and the Sinhalese
practice of Buddhism_ (Dover, N.H.: Manchester University Peress,
1983), 162-80.
[25] _Nicomachean Ethics_, Book II, Chap. 4. See M.F. Burnyeat,
“Aristotle on Learning to Be Good,” _Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics_,
ed. Amelie Oksenberg Rorty (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1980), 69-92.
[26] I am taking a rather casual approach to the spelling of these
terms, choosing between the Pali and the Sanskrit renderings on the
basis of which seems easiest to pronounce and remember in English. I
am casual with an excuse however, for I think it must soon be
necessary to coin English phonetic neologues for these terms, and I am
merely choosing those I like (e.g., I think pa~n~naa is weak-sounding
in English when referring to a powerfully transforming insight, or
[27] I hope someone with perseverance can attempt an analysis of the
paaramitaas, in comparative light, akin to Lee Yearley’s arduous study
of the theories of virtue in Mencius and Aquinas. Yearley takes the
study of virtue deep into comparative terrain, marking assiduously
more distinctions between Aquinas and Mencius than I care to know,
because I can’t see readily what difference they make. Lee Yearley,
_Mencius and Aquinas: Theories of Virtue and Conceptions of Courage_
(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990).
[28] Vijay Nath, _Daana: Gift System in Ancient India_ (New Delhi:
Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1987).
[29] See Melford Spiro, _Buddhism and Society_ (New York: Harper &
Row, Publishers, 1970); Winston L. King, _In the Hope of Nibbana_
(LaSalle, Ill.: Open Court, 1964). Spiro and King, while admiring many
of the personal qualities of Buddhist laypeople, tend to diminish
    whitehill.txt                                          Page:21
their moral achievements as self-regarding, because lay Buddhists link
good deeds and good character with favorable rebirths. Scholars from
Christian cultures that have given the highest moral value to
self-sacrificing altruism, agape, are not likely to regard the
Buddha’s injunction, to avoid the extremes of self-indulgence and
self-mortification, as the most heroic spiritual advice.
[30] Some scholars believe King and Spiro make too sharp a distinction
between layperson and monk, between kamma-motives and
Nibbaana-motives, in Theravaada Buddhism. See, Harvey B. Aronson, “The
Relationship of the Karmic to the Nirvanic in Theravada Buddhism,”
_The Journal of Religious Ethics_, Vol. 7 No. 1 (Spring 1979), 28-36;
Donald K. Swearer, “Bhikkhu Buddhadasa on Ethics and Society,” _The
Journal of Religious Ethics_, Vol. 7 No. 1 (Spring 1979), 54-64.
Southwold makes his argument against this “elitist” and “modernist”
interpretation of a dualistic Buddhism the center of his work,
Buddhism in Life. See also, Damien Keown, _The Nature of Buddhist
Ethics_, 83-105.
[31] Robert A. Thurman, trans., _The Holy Teaching of Vimalakiirti_
(London: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976).
[32] This self-concept gives trouble to ethical systems, like Kant’s,
and social-political traditions, like Western liberalism (of
progressive or conservative varieties), that function in terms of
rights-claims, human rights, etc. Buddhist ethics, insofar as it is
grounded in the processional, ecological self-in-community, and
articulated teleologically in terms of the specific paaramitaas and
their cultivation, must be in tension with Western tradition on this
issue, so long as Western ethics and legal structures are primarily
designed to serve individual and corporate property interests. This is
not to claim that Buddhist ethics overlooks or radically discounts
individual human rights. The origins of Buddhism clearly reflect a
vision of human life that is prejudiced toward individual release from
social, as well as psychic, oppression of the human spirit. Buddhist
ethics supports democracy and human rights protection as a preferable
arrangement of social, legal, and religious tolerance. However,
Buddhist ethics views such tolerance and protection as only two of the
conditions for a good human life.
[33] See Joanna Macy, “The Ecological Self: Postmodern Ground for
Right Action,” _Sacred Interconnections_, ed. David Ray Griffin
(Albany: State University Press of New York, 1990), 35-48.
[34] David E. Shaner develops the Japanese Buddhist connection between
cultivation of character and a “biophilic” experience of nature in an
excellent article, “The Japanese Experience of Nature,” _Nature in
Asian Traditions of Thought_, ed. J. Baird Callicott and Roger T. Ames
(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989),163-82.
[35] See Shaner’s review of recent biographies of the Buddha, in which
he discusses the nature and limits of Buddhist hagiography; David E.
Shaner, “Biographies of the Buddha” _Philosophy East and West_ 37
(July 1987), 306-22.
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[36] Helen Tworkov’s _Zen in America: Profiles of Five Teachers_
discusses moral concerns in connection with the behavior of some
American Zen teachers, but avoids using the  words “moral” and
“ethical” and makes little use of Buddhist moral tradition to clarify
the concerns discussed. Tworkov, _Zen in America_ (San Francisco:
North Point Press, 1989). Sandy Boucher reports moral concerns of many
American women growing out of their experiences in American Buddhist
centers;  Boucher, _Turning the Wheel: American Women Creating the New
[37] Frank Kirkpatrick and I have ventured a comparative philosophical
discussion of Buddhist and Christian models of community in our
“Mutual/Personal Community: Buddhist and Christian Models”
(unpublished manuscript, 1990). See Kirkpatrick’s _Together Bound:
God, History, and the Religious Community_ (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1994).
[38]  See, for example, Alasdair MacIntyre’s much referred to chapter,
“The Virtues, The Unity of a Human Life and the Concept of a
Tradition,”  in _After Virtue_. His emphasis on the “narrative”
quality of life is not common to all virtue theorists. The Buddhist
notion of “narrative” is, I presume, sufficiently different from the
Christian notion to offer a useful test of MacIntyre’s claims. For
example, is the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection more
“plausible” (MacIntyre’s criterion) than the story of Siddhaartha
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