Buddhism and Abortion.

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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Mar 12, 2009 2:57 pm

Peter wrote:
Manapa wrote:look at the story related to verse 1 or 2 of the Dhammapada about the blind walking mediator.

What about it? That monk didn't violate any rules.


but did those who knew about it break them by not telling him? each case is individual and can not be judged with a blanket rule. the lay precepts are not commandments they are guides, or suggestions, which we aim not to do in our day to day goings on, but in certain circumstances these choices need made.
I would no sooner like to be a man who has to decide who dies his wife or child, to save one, or loose both, than I would like to have to make any decision which affects the life of others, abortion or not, but unfortunately these decisions have to be made sometimes.
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby SeerObserver » Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:19 pm

Chris wrote:Hello jc, all,

With respect to Bhikkhu Sujato, I think that he is either unfamiliar with the sex lives of lay people of all religious persuasions, or is somewhat inexperienced or naive about relationships and children.

Bhikkhu Sujato says, "When a woman seeks an abortion, she and the father should be provided with detailed information and personal counseling before making the final decision. Our society must accept that addressing the issue of abortion involves not just making moral judgements and providing medical services, but also education in contraception and in responsible relationships. We must offer women a meaningful alternative through adequate child support and social services."

In cases where a woman is considering an abortion, the woman doesn't want it generally known that she is pregnant, very often the 'father' is unknown (one night stand, was drunk, or is one of multiple sexual partners) or has disclaimed responsibility. If the woman knows or is prepared to disclose the father, he may no longer be in a relationship with the woman, his whereabouts may be unknown, doesn't want it known that he is the father, or doesn't intend to continue seeing her. Many pregnancies are the result of rape or incest, or occur where both parents are very young teenagers.

It seems that the Bhikkhu's mention of education in responsible relationships (education would have to be at different levels) would seem to cover the one night stands and other scenarios of unplanned pregnancy you brought up. It also covers the other circumstances surrounding the father as it suggests that the education will encourage woman to consider the partners they choose more carefully and avoid those of the character to act in that manner (leaving, estrangement, etc.). As for youth of the parents, this is also covered under responsible relationship education, but regarding this and rape/incest the meaningful alternatives mentioned come into play. Of course these are just alternatives, and some will still choose to abort.

The main point of my reply was to suggest that the Bhikkhu possibly had all of that in mind and made blanket statements.
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:10 pm

Manapa wrote:
Peter wrote:
Manapa wrote:look at the story related to verse 1 or 2 of the Dhammapada about the blind walking mediator.
What about it? That monk didn't violate any rules.

but did those who knew about it break them by not telling him?

You are asking if the non-blind monks violated the precept to abstain from killing by not telling the blind monk that he was about to step on an insect? In my understanding of the Buddha's teachings, no. At worst if one of the non-blind monks had the thought "I hope that blind monk steps on and kills some insects" then that monk has given rise to a unwholesome thought.

Things die. All the time. Nothing about the Buddha's teachings seek to prevent that. What they seek to prevent is the unwholesome mind-states which lead one to intentionally kill another or lead one to intentionally urge another to kill.

I would be interested to hear why you think the non-blind monks broke their precepts by not warning the blind monk.

each case is individual and can not be judged with a blanket rule.

Any act of intentional killing is taught to be unwholesome. There are no exceptions given in the teachings. When the Buddha was told of the blind monk causing the death of those insects, the Buddha said the act was blameless because there was no intention to kill.

If you want to assert that "each case is individual" then please provide an example from the teachings of the Buddha praising an act of intentional killing as wholesome or blameless.

Perhaps, Manapa, you think the precept to abstain from killing means to refer to both intentional and unintentional acts? This is not so. The precepts only pertain to intentional acts.
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby Jechbi » Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:28 pm

Hi Peter,

This is a recurring theme, and I think you make some very compelling points. My question for you is this: Is it your understanding of the Buddhadhamma that inaction is never akusala kamma? Perhaps this should be a question for a split thread.

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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby Dhammanando » Thu Mar 12, 2009 11:33 pm

Hi Jechbi,

This is a recurring theme, and I think you make some very compelling points. My question for you is this: Is it your understanding of the Buddhadhamma that inaction is never akusala kamma? Perhaps this should be a question for a split thread.


I think it depends what you mean by 'inaction'. If you mean no action of body, speech or mind, then no, there's no kamma of any sort.

If you mean without doing anything with one's body or speech, then yes, one can accumulate akusala mind-door kamma by thoughts of covetousness, ill will, wrong view etc..

Furthermore, there are circumstances in which one can perform akusala body-door kamma without the body moving (e.g., by commanding someone to kill) or akusala speech-door kamma without saying anything (e.g., when a bhikkhu who knows himself to be guilty of a Vinaya offence remains silent when asked if he is pure during a Patimokkha recital. The bhikkhu's silence in this context will be taken as a statement of his being free of any offence, and so he commits the akusala kamma of false speech).

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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Mar 12, 2009 11:39 pm

Jechbi wrote:Is it your understanding of the Buddhadhamma that inaction is never akusala kamma?

In short: Yes.
In long: What Ven. D. said.

I agree that any further discussion of this side topic is probably best suited to a new thread.
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Mar 13, 2009 8:38 am

Peter wrote:You are asking if the non-blind monks violated the precept to abstain from killing by not telling the blind monk that he was about to step on an insect? In my understanding of the Buddha's teachings, no. At worst if one of the non-blind monks had the thought "I hope that blind monk steps on and kills some insects" then that monk has given rise to a unwholesome thought.

Things die. All the time. Nothing about the Buddha's teachings seek to prevent that. What they seek to prevent is the unwholesome mind-states which lead one to intentionally kill another or lead one to intentionally urge another to kill.

I would be interested to hear why you think the non-blind monks broke their precepts by not warning the blind monk.


then why did they go to the Buddha to ask about it? if you saw someone drowning and could help, without putting yourself in danger would you? or would you walk by? I know what I would do! inaction is not the best response all the time.

each case is individual and can not be judged with a blanket rule.

Any act of intentional killing is taught to be unwholesome. There are no exceptions given in the teachings. When the Buddha was told of the blind monk causing the death of those insects, the Buddha said the act was blameless because there was no intention to kill.

If you want to assert that "each case is individual" then please provide an example from the teachings of the Buddha praising an act of intentional killing as wholesome or blameless.

Perhaps, Manapa, you think the precept to abstain from killing means to refer to both intentional and unintentional acts? This is not so. The precepts only pertain to intentional acts.


I do not presume to know your thoughts, and it would be best to not suggest what mine are! I know fully well the meaning of the precepts.
and how about the man who has to decide who lives his un-born child, the mother or through inaction both, what then? he is being asked to decide who dies the mother or child, and if he does nothing then both die. this is a situation which happens there is no blanket case there, and I do not know of a case in the Suttas, but that doesn't mean there aren't any in life, or the suttas.
Last edited by Dhammanando on Fri Mar 13, 2009 9:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Formatted quotes correctly.
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:42 am

Manapa wrote:then why did they go to the Buddha to ask about it?

They weren't asking the Buddha a question; they were reporting what they thought was an offense on the part of the blind monk.

inaction is not the best response all the time.

I don't think anyone in this thread has indicated otherwise.

and how about the man who has to decide who lives his un-born child, the mother or through inaction both, what then? he is being asked to decide who dies the mother or child, and if he does nothing then both die.

Your example is a little vague. I can only point out that, from what I understand of the teachings:
Intentionally acting to save one person, knowing that as a result of that action another person might die, is a wholesome act.
Intentionally acting to kill one person, knowing that as a result of that action another person might live, is an unwholesome act.
It is a subtle distinction to be sure.
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:00 am

Peter if you wan't to take a narrow view great
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:46 pm

Manapa wrote:Peter if you wan't to take a narrow view great

I am confused by this response. A narrow view of what? I am discussing what the Buddha taught on these matters. Are you saying we should take a wider view than the Buddha? Or are you still suggesting the Buddha taught the unwholesome as wholesome? You have yet to provide a scriptural example of this.

We can't simply assert the Buddha taught whatever we wish he had taught; that's dishonest. The truth is, sometimes we find our own personal beliefs conflict with the Buddha's teachings. That's where spiritual growth comes from. We may at times honestly feel that the right thing to do is take an unwholesome action. That's why the Buddha felt the need to teach us. As we develop on the Path we may gain a better understanding of why the Buddha recommended the things he did.
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:51 pm

Peter wrote:
Manapa wrote:Peter if you wan't to take a narrow view great

I am confused by this response. A narrow view of what? I am discussing what the Buddha taught on these matters. Are you saying we should take a wider view than the Buddha? Or are you still suggesting the Buddha taught the unwholesome as wholesome?


Again don't add to what I mean, I have not suggested anything of the kind, and by narrow I am not referring to the teachings but of what the scope of view is, on this matter.
The article in the OP states the Abortion was done because the doctors who carried it out for fear that the slim girl would not survive carrying the foetuses to term, which gives a dimention to this case which is not talked about in the suttas, but as I have said it is the circumstances of the situation which needs to be looked at and considered, not with a blanket moral rule, but with what is best in the situation, again look at the ants in the blind monk story, the monks and the buddha could of saved lives, but didn't stop the monk stepping on them! Killing for killings sake is not a wholesome action, but saving life when another would have to be lost is what?
look again at my question about the the man who has to decide who survives complications in a pregnancy his un-born child, the pregnant mother or through inaction both, very relevant to the OP.
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Mar 16, 2009 2:09 pm

Manapa wrote:The article in the OP states the Abortion was done because the doctors who carried it out for fear that the slim girl would not survive carrying the foetuses to term, which gives a dimention to this case which is not talked about in the suttas

According to the scriptures, wanting to save the girl is a wholesome mental act and intentionally killing the fetus is an unwholesome physical act. What dimension do you think is not covered?

as I have said it is the circumstances of the situation which needs to be looked at and considered, not with a blanket moral rule, but with what is best in the situation

Yes, you keep saying this, but you have yet to provide any support for this position form the scriptures.

again look at the ants in the blind monk story, the monks and the buddha could of saved lives, but didn't stop the monk stepping on them!

That is an assumption on your part. Nothing in the story suggests this.

Killing for killings sake is not a wholesome action, but saving life when another would have to be lost is what?

As I said, from what I understand of the teachings:
Intentionally acting to save one person, knowing that as a result of that action another person might die, is a wholesome act.
Intentionally acting to kill one person, knowing that as a result of that action another person might live, is an unwholesome act.

As for what a person would do in such a situation... a person will do what they think is best based on their current understanding and insight. As long as a person is still unawakened they will sometimes make a decision which leads to peace and sometimes a decision that leads to suffering.
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Mar 16, 2009 2:45 pm

as I have said it is the circumstances of the situation which needs to be looked at and considered, not with a blanket moral rule, but with what is best in the situation

Yes, you keep saying this, but you have yet to provide any support for this position form the scriptures.

so are you saying the Buddha acted out of generalisations of what had happened before, or acted in a relevant manner to the circumstances which were present at the time? I am saying he acted appropriately to the situation as that situation was, not blindly looking at a rule book, and if you want a reference to a sutta where he responded apropriately to the situation try all of them, or http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html and http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:23 pm

Manapa wrote:so are you saying the Buddha acted out of generalisations of what had happened before, or acted in a relevant manner to the circumstances which were present at the time?

I am saying that, according to the Buddha's teachings, circumstances would never call for a Buddha to kill or to urge another to kill.

I am saying he acted appropriately to the situation as that situation was

And I am saying that what you consider an appropriate act is not necessarily the same as what the Buddha would consider an appropriate act. According to what he taught us, killing is never a wholesome act and a Buddha would never act in an unwholesome way. You and I, on the other hand, will often act in unwholesome ways due to delusion. That is why the Buddha taught us the Path to ending delusion.
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby Jechbi » Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:45 pm

Peter wrote:As long as a person is still unawakened they will sometimes make a decision which leads to peace and sometimes a decision that leads to suffering.

This is exactly right. There are times when it can be hard to know what to do. And there will be times when we lack the wisdom to take the course of action that would be fully wholesome in a given situation.

Having read the article, I can say that if I were the mother of this poor girl, and if I were confronted with the reality that she might very well die during the course of this pregnancy, I also would feel a strong compulsion to authorize the abortion to save this girl's life. And indeed I can see how that decision might very well condition more suffering. Yet if the pregnancy proceeded, and I saw this girl suffer and then die, and then I saw the baby twins also die, I can see how that also would condition more suffering. We're stuck in samsara.

One thing that struck me about the article is this:
[The regional archbishop] said the accused stepfather would not be expelled from the church. Although the man allegedly committed "a heinous crime ... the abortion - the elimination of an innocent life - was more serious".
I find that statement nearly impossible to accept. The decision of the girl's mother to authorize the abortion probably included kusala kamma associated with compassion (as well as akusala kamma associated with moha). But it's hard to imagine that the step-father's decision to rape the girl included any kind of kusala kamma whatever.
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby Fede » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:30 pm

Peter wrote:
Manapa wrote:As I said, from what I understand of the teachings:
Intentionally acting to save one person, knowing that as a result of that action another person might die, is a wholesome act.
Intentionally acting to kill one person, knowing that as a result of that action another person might live, is an unwholesome act.


This is too ambiguous...... :rolleye:
unless, if I understand it from what you're saying is, that the same single action can gather both wholesome, and unwholesome Kamma.

Now I get it.

But the question for me, is, which of the two leads on points.....? :thinking:

(Consider the question flippant.......)
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:35 pm

Fede wrote:This is too ambiguous.

Let me try to clarify.

Let's say the mother needs an operation on her liver in order to save her life. But doing the operation will create an increased risk to the baby (operations of any sort put enormous stress on the body). Performing the operation with the hope to save the mother's life constitutes a wholesome act. Performing the operation with the hope to put the baby at risk constitutes an unwholesome act. Most likely a doctor performing the operation would hope to keep both mother and baby alive. Even though he is performing an operation which puts the baby at risk, he would do everything he could to save it as well as the mother.

Now let's say the "operation" is to kill the baby. In this case the hope is to kill the baby; that is the desired result of the act (as opposed to it being an undesired consequence in the example above). That makes the act unwholesome.

if I understand it from what you're saying is, that the same single action can gather both wholesome, and unwholesome Kamma.

I do not think that would be possible.
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby Jechbi » Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:11 am

Peter wrote:
if I understand it from what you're saying is, that the same single action can gather both wholesome, and unwholesome Kamma.

I do not think that would be possible.
I suppose that depends on what one means by a "single action."
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:17 am

Peter wrote:
Fede wrote:if I understand it from what you're saying is, that the same single action can gather both wholesome, and unwholesome Kamma.

I do not think that would be possible.


peter there are four kinds of Kamma one being dark and bright kamma with dark and bright results.http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html
Last edited by Cittasanto on Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Buddhism and Abortion.

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:37 am

Peter wrote:
Manapa wrote:so are you saying the Buddha acted out of generalisations of what had happened before, or acted in a relevant manner to the circumstances which were present at the time?

I am saying that, according to the Buddha's teachings, circumstances would never call for a Buddha to kill or to urge another to kill.

I am saying he acted appropriately to the situation as that situation was

And I am saying that what you consider an appropriate act is not necessarily the same as what the Buddha would consider an appropriate act. According to what he taught us, killing is never a wholesome act and a Buddha would never act in an unwholesome way. You and I, on the other hand, will often act in unwholesome ways due to delusion. That is why the Buddha taught us the Path to ending delusion.


again don't add to what I say!

I never said what I think is appropriate is what any other would think, never mind what the Buddha would of though.
what I have said repeatedly is that the Buddha would act appropriately to the individual situation he encounters, something you appear to disagree with due to the need for proof.
rules like everything else are a skill, Kamma being the action due to an intention, it only stands to reason that certain actions are going to have a undesirable outcome, it is the volition behind the action which makes it bright, dark, both bright and dark, or neither bright and dark.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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