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Aspects of Early Buddhist Sociological Thought

Aspects of Early Buddhist Sociological Thought

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Published by Han Sang Kim

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Published by: Han Sang Kim on Apr 20, 2014
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As stated in the Hippocratic Oath modifed in 1947 and

accepted in 1965 as the International Code of Medical
Ethics, a physician commences his career by solemnly
pledging to consecrate his life for the service of humanity.
As the Buddha himself symbolises the physician par excel-
lence, a problem of medical ethics for the physician may
not arise in the Buddhist context. Therefore, that a phy-
sician should be motivated by unreserved compassion in

curing the afficted is taken for granted. What is signifcant

is, with reference to the foregoing incident, the Buddha laid
down ethics for both attendant and patient which can be
considered as an unparalleled innovation in the medical
history of the world.
The attendant who tends the sick should be endowed

with fve qualities:

i. He should be competent in providing medicine.

ii. He should know what is benefcial and what is not
benefcial and should take away what is not bene-
fcial and bring forth what is benefcial.


Vin. i, p.301–2


iii. He should tend the sick with amity of mind, not in
the hope of gain.

iv. He should not become one who loathes to remove
excrement or urine or sweat or vomit of the sick.

v. He should be competent to gladden, rejoice, rouse
and delight the sick from time to time with right
eous talks (dhammiyā kathāya).

The patient also must be endowed with fve qualities. A

patient having these qualities is considered easy to nurse:

i. He should know what is benefcial.

ii. He should know moderation in what is benefcial.

iii. He should take medicine.

iv. He should make clear his condition to the attendant
who wishes him well whether he is getting better or
worse or of the same condition.

v. He should endure bodily feelings which are painful,
acute, sharp, shooting, disagreeable, miserable and

What is more signifcant in the medical ethics laid down in

Buddhism is, other than the physical attendance the attend-
ant is expected explicitly to extend his emotional support to
the patient and the patient is expected to gird up his loins
and face the situation mindfully without losing his expecta-
tion for recovery. There seemed to be some monks appointed
to see to the indisposed. They were called gilanapucchakas
who went round, engaged in friendly conversations with and
looked to the recovery of those who had fallen ill.86


A. iii, p.143


Vin. iv, p.88, p.115, p.118


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