Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

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Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby grace_xx » Wed May 13, 2009 11:17 am

Im very interested in the teaching of theravada on bioethics (ie: abortion, cloning, stem cell research). I know that most schools condemn these actions but for abortion there is two sides to it depending on the situation. Is there any quotes or specific teachings, scared texts that particulary targets on this issue? Thankss, Buddha Bless you! :smile:
Last edited by grace_xx on Thu May 14, 2009 9:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby Cittasanto » Wed May 13, 2009 11:48 am

Some of these issues have been raised in another thread I will have a look for it, but it was about the 9year old who was raped and excomunicated along with her doctor from the church in south America, if I can't find it you may come across it.
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Re: Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby Cittasanto » Wed May 13, 2009 11:51 am

This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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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: Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby grace_xx » Wed May 13, 2009 12:03 pm

Thank you for replying! I was wondering, how the buddhist teaching applied to these issues? I was thinking vegetarism is one teaching, that can be applied through the 5 precepts the "Do not kill" i guess becoming vegetarism is strongly supported. Through mediation maybe?
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Re: Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby Cittasanto » Wed May 13, 2009 12:29 pm

grace_xx wrote:Thank you for replying! I was wondering, how the buddhist teaching applied to these issues? I was thinking vegetarism is one teaching, that can be applied through the 5 precepts the "Do not kill" i guess becoming vegetarism is strongly supported. Through mediation maybe?


I can not think of any specific teaching off the top of my head and I don't have time too look any up but there are some mentioned in the specific threads for vegetarianism, and such other threads which may interest you, have a look through the free for all section. you may want to try access to insight in their index which may be useful for you inquiry
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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: Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby zavk » Thu May 14, 2009 12:24 am

Hello Grace,

Damien Keown has a book entitled, Buddhism and Bioethics, that is written from a Theravadin perspective:

http://www.amazon.com/Buddhism-Bioethic ... 0333912802

There's a review of the book here:

http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/barnhart.htm
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Re: Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby kc2dpt » Thu May 14, 2009 3:57 am

grace_xx wrote:for abortion there is two sides to it depending on the situation.

What are the two sides?

Is there any quotes or specific teachings, scared texts that particulary targets on this issue?

The texts say life begins at conception. The texts also say intentionally taking life is an unwholesome act. So abortion is considered to be an instance of intentional killing and therefore considered unwholesome.

Wholesomeness and unwholesomeness for lay people is not a matter of one person judging another. Rather it is a matter of a person deciding it would be better to try to abstain from unwholesome acts and cultivate wholesome acts. The Buddha described what constitutes wholesome and unwholesome but it is up to each of us to decide if we are going to try to live up to that or not.

I hope this is helpful.
- Peter

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Re: Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby Cittasanto » Thu May 14, 2009 8:29 am

Peter wrote:
grace_xx wrote:for abortion there is two sides to it depending on the situation.

What are the two sides?


side 1 - Abortion is always wrong because it is the taking of life

side 2 - for medical reasons one will die anyway and if no Abortion is done through volitionally not doing it then you are still killing, who has the right to life?

Side 3 - rape, or sexual abuse cases should be exempt from anti abortion laws because there was no consent to sex.

and there are more

where in the suttas does it say when life begins, don't think I have seen it?

wm
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Re: Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby Dhammanando » Thu May 14, 2009 11:39 am

Manapa wrote:where in the suttas does it say when life begins, don't think I have seen it?


It's in the Vinaya Pitaka's account of the third parajika rule – the prohibition against killing humans. It says that the term "human being" applies from the moment the first citta arises in a mother's womb.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby grace_xx » Thu May 14, 2009 1:12 pm

May I ask, the skandhas (the five aggregates of human life/being) would it be considered as the teaching of the Dhamma, hence could it be effectively meditated upon? This is a bit off topic, but I think the Mayahana School of Buddhism offers two sides to abortion as quoted by the Dalai Lama

"Of course, abortion, from a Buddhist viewpoint, is an act of killing and is negative, generally speaking. But it depends on the circumstances.
If the unborn child will be retarded or if the birth will create serious problems for the parent, these are cases where there can be an exception. I think abortion should be approved or disapproved according to each circumstance."
Dalai Lama, New York Times, 28/11/1993

Is the teaching of Theravada refect upon something similar?

Thank you for the responses. I'm sorry for my ignorance on Buddhism! Its very interesting, but at the same time very confusing! Thank for the links I'll check them out right now. Thank you =)
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Re: Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby Dhammanando » Thu May 14, 2009 1:23 pm

grace_xx wrote:Is the teaching of Theravada refect upon something similar?


No. Theravada teaching is that intentional killing is always an unwholesome act. No exceptions. There are, however, differences in the gravity of different acts of killing. These will depend chiefly upon what sort of being is killed (e.g. in the case of humans killing a virtuous person is worse than killing a vicious one; in the case of animals killing a big one is worse than killing a small one) and on the mental state of the killer.

Best wishes,
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    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby Dhammanando » Thu May 14, 2009 1:41 pm

A good overview of the subject from Peter Harvey's Introduction to Buddhist Ethics.

Harvey, Abortion.pdf
(577.23 KiB) Downloaded 103 times
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby Fede » Thu May 14, 2009 3:17 pm

After ploughing my way through 42 pages, this was the summary (as it appears in the publication):

The approach to abortion most in tune with central Buddhist principles
would be:

(1) encouragement of reflection on the value of human life;

(2) encouragement of responsible use of contraception, so as to minimize
the chances of women even having to consider an abortion;

(3) encouraging the non-use of ‘contraceptives’ which actually cause
early abortions, and the development of more effective contraceptives
which do not do this;

(4) encouragement and support for adoption services, with ‘giving up’ a
child for adoption being seen as a form of da¯na;

(5) support for legal abortion only where the case for its being a ‘necessary
evil’ is strong (see p. 326), or where the foetus is badly impaired;

(6) compassion for those who have had an abortion by provision of some
kind of ritual to alleviate their psychological pain, encourage an
expression of sincere regret and attempt to benefit the dead child
spiritually.


Sems entirely logical to me, and I hold these premises already....With regard to Number (5) I would probably personally substitute "acceptance" for "support"......
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Re: Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby kc2dpt » Thu May 14, 2009 3:48 pm

I think as beings born into samsara we are sometimes faced with a choice between the lesser of two evils. In such circumstances we should support each other to do the best we can and help each other deal with the effects of our choices.

The danger lies in mistakenly perceiving the lesser of two evils as actually a good.

I think if we can cultivate the thought of "I understand this action is unwholesome but at this point I do not see any other choice. Nevertheless I resolve to try to avoid getting into this sort of situation in the future." then I think we are keeping in the right direction.

side 1 - Abortion is always wrong because it is the taking of life

This is pretty much the Buddhist position. Instead of "wrong" I'd say "unwholesome" or "leads to future suffering" or "not a choice that is in line with the Buddha's path for ending suffering."

side 2 - for medical reasons one will die anyway and if no Abortion is done through volitionally not doing it then you are still killing, who has the right to life?

This is not in accord with Buddhist teachings. Abstaining from taking actions which would save a life does not in itself constitute intentional killing. That said, there are certainly cases where one might abstain from a action due to an unwholesome mental state, for example wishing that person to die. The most important thing, I think, is to develop clear awareness of one's mental state when making a decision.
- Peter

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Re: Theravada's teaching on Bioethics

Postby Cittasanto » Thu May 14, 2009 11:25 pm

Thanks Dhammanando,
I thought peter was on about a sutta reference there?

on a side note to the abortion string happening.
I have never actually heard of any reason which would persuade me that Abortion is always a bad thing (not including abortion for the sake of abortion)
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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