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Buddhist Perspectives on Contemporary Religious and Moral Issues Practical Resources for GCSE

Katharine Porter 2009


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Bolton School Girls Division

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Contents
Introduction .... p3 Chapter 1 Matters of Life and Death p5
Buddhist Attitudes to Abortion Buddhist Attitudes to Euthanasia Buddhist Attitudes to Life after Death

Chapter 2 - Marriage and the Family .... p8


Buddhist Attitudes to Sex Outside Marriage Buddhist Attitudes to Marriage Buddhist Attitudes to Family Life Buddhist Attitudes to Divorce

Chapter 3 - Social Harmony p11


Buddhist Attitudes to Racial Harmony Buddhist Attitudes to the Roles of Men and Women Buddhist Attitudes to Religious Harmony

Chapter 4 - Religion and the Environment ... p13


Buddhist Teachings about Creation, Stewardship and the Environment Buddhist Attitudes to Animal Rights

Chapter 5 - Religion: Peace and Conflict .. p16


Buddhist Attitudes to War Buddhist Attitudes to Bullying Buddhist Teachings on Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Chapter 6 - Religion: Crime and Punishment .... p18


Buddhist Attitudes to Justice Buddhist Attitudes to Punishment Buddhist Attitudes to Capital Punishment

Chapter 7 - Religion and Medical Issues .. p20


Buddhist Attitudes to Infertility Treatments Buddhist Attitudes to Genetic Engineering Buddhist Attitudes to Transplant Surgery

Acknowledgements .. p22 Bibliography ... p23 Farmington Trust Page3

Introduction
When I joined my current School as Head of Religious Studies in 2006, I was asked to review the GCSE specification offered by the Department. In the discussions which followed, it was decided that a specification which focused on contemporary religious and moral issues was likely to prove more popular than the more traditional learning about world religions approach which had yielded excellent exam results, but gradually dwindling numbers of students. We eventually decided to adopt Edexcels Religion and Life and Religion and Society courses, to be studied from the perspectives of Christianity and one other religion. However, which other religion would we choose? As a multi-faith, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural School, we found this decision particularly challenging. At last, one of my colleagues suggested rather tentatively, Why dont we let them choose which religion they want to study? After some moments of silence, during which we contemplated the drive to promote the personalised curriculum, independent study and, as a mere afterthought of course, the logistics involved in such an enterprise, it was decided unanimously that this would be a wonderful idea. Our cohort of academically able and generally highly motivated Year 9s (yes, I did say motivated Year 9s) clearly agreed with our decision, because three months later, we discovered that our option numbers had jumped from thirty to seventy students! As Head of Department, it fell to me to begin preparations for the introduction of the new course and it was at this point that mild panic began to set in. Whilst I found numerous resources to support the course, the vast majority focused on the Abrahamic faiths. The two Edexcel endorsed textbooks written specifically for this specification contained chapters on Hinduism and even the oft-neglected Sikhism, but not a single word about Buddhist attitudes to the issues covered. When I raised the question at an Edexcel meeting, I was told that there was insufficient demand from schools to justify including Buddhism in the text books and that only something like two centres in the country had elected to study the course from a Buddhist perspective. I would be interested to know if the availability of resources has been a major influence on teachers when deciding which non-Christian religion to study for this specification. I am aware that the study of the beliefs and practices of Buddhism as a world religion has grown in popularity at GCSE, possibly because it appeals to students who are increasingly sceptical of religions which claim to hold the whole truth and who often come to school with the rather hazy and unexamined notions that religions only cause wars and that science has disproved God etc. Given the level of interest that pupils display about Buddhism and the rising popularity of issues-based GCSE courses, it would seem reasonable to me to assume that more students or their teachers would take this option if the resources existed. Interestingly enough, the very requirements of the Edexcel specification seem incompatible with a Buddhist approach in places. For example, the specification states that students should study religious attitudes to creation and stewardship which seems to me to presuppose belief in a creator God; similarly, the requirement to know about the purposes of marriage as expressed through the features of a marriage ceremony appears particularly problematic given that there is no set Buddhist wedding ceremony! Undeterred, I tracked down a range of textbooks on Buddhism, only to discover that they gave lots of excellent detail on the origins, teachings and practices of Buddhism, but very little on Buddhist

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attitudes to religious and moral issues. The few issues-focused books I did manage to acquire which mentioned Buddhist approaches tended either to be very general in nature and lacking sufficient detail about the principles and teachings which underpin these attitudes, or aimed at adult readers with a far more thorough grasp of Buddhist philosophy than could be reasonably expected from a student of 1416 years of age. The aim of my Farmington Fellowship was, therefore, to research Buddhist attitudes to the religious and moral issues covered by the Edexcel GCSE course and to produce practical resources to support students wishing to study the issues from a Buddhist perspective. Given my own frustration at the lack of clear, relevant and focused information about Buddhist attitudes, I have tried hard to make the resources which follow as pupil friendly as possible. It should be noted that they are tailored to the requirements of the Edexcel specification and, as a result, they are designed to follow the format of the Religion and Life and Religion and Society textbooks endorsed by the board. This is also reflected in the choice of wording at times.

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Chapter 1 - Matters of Life and Death


Buddhist Attitudes to Abortion
Most Buddhists regard abortion as unskilful because: Abortion goes directly against the First Precept which states, I undertake to abstain from taking life. Abortion breaks the principle of ahimsa, non-violence. The Buddha condemned abortion and said that a bhikku (monk) who assisted in abortion would no longer be considered a member of the monastic Sangha: A bhikkhu who intentionally kills a human being, down to procuring abortion, is no ascetic and no follower of the fraternity of the Buddha. (Vinaya) Most Buddhists believe that a new consciousness arises at conception; abortion is therefore regarded as killing a human person, which is usually regarded as unskilful. Some Buddhists believe that abortion prevents the foetus from working through its kammic debt (the consequences of actions from a previous lifetime) and thus hinders that beings progress toward enlightenment. It is also likely to lead to negative consequences for the person requesting or carrying out the procedure.

However, some Buddhists might consider abortion to be skilful in certain circumstances because: Buddhism expects each individual to apply the principle of upaya kausala, or skilful means, to any situation and decide for themselves what they should do. The concept of karuna (compassion) might be applied if, for example, a child would be born with a serious handicap. Some Buddhists might consider it more compassionate to abort the foetus. The principle of karuna might also be applied to the mother if she would suffer greatly by continuing with the pregnancy. The Dalai Lama (the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists) has said: 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.

Buddhist Attitudes to Euthanasia


Many Buddhists regard euthanasia as unskilful because: Euthanasia is killing which breaks the First Precept. Euthanasia goes against the principle of ahimsa, non-violence, and should therefore be avoided. The law of kamma states that all actions have consequences. Ending a persons life is likely to have negative consequences both for the person performing euthanasia and for the person who requests it.

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A person who requests euthanasia because they wish to escape suffering should realise that the consequences of their kamma will still be there in their next rebirth. Buddhists are taught to accept suffering and try to overcome it. According to the Vinaya Pitaka, the rules for monks and nuns, A monk who intentionally deprives a human being of his life, or provides the means for suicide, or praises death, or incites one to commit suicide commits an offence entailing loss of monkhood. This clearly suggests that the Buddha would not approve of euthanasia. The concept of karuna (compassion) might lead them to believe that helping to end a persons life painlessly is the most compassionate course of action. They may feel that the negative consequences of ignoring someones suffering outweigh the negative consequences of helping a terminally ill person to die. Many Buddhists feel that there is a difference between acting in such a way as to bring about a persons death and withdrawing treatment which prolongs life artificially. The Dalai Lama said, In the event a person is definitely going to die and has virtually become a vegetable, and prolonging his existence is only going to cause difficulties and suffering for others, the termination of his life may be permitted according to Buddhist ethics.

However, some Buddhists might consider euthanasia acceptable because:

Buddhist Attitudes to Life After Death


Buddhists believe in life after death because: The Buddha taught that all beings are reborn many times. According to tradition, the Buddha himself was able to remember his own previous lives once he became enlightened. The law of kamma says that your actions in this life will have consequences both in this lifetime and in future lifetimes, therefore there must be life after death. The Buddha taught that human beings are constantly craving (tanha). The things we crave are seen in the Three Poisons, greed, hatred and ignorance of the truth. Tanha is what keeps us tied to the wheel of samsara. Many Buddhists believe in life after death because it gives their lives meaning and purpose. They feel that for life to end at death does not make sense. The concept of rebirth can make life seem fairer and also gives everyone a second chance. There are many accounts of people who claim to remember past lives. These might support Buddhist beliefs in life after death.

Buddhist beliefs about life after death: Buddhists believe that life is made up of a continual cycle of birth, life, disease, old age, death and rebirth. This process is called samsara. The Buddha taught that people do not have a permanent self or a soul which is reborn into a new body. However, there is a connecting link between each life; it is our kamma, the consequences of our actions, which provides this continuity. A traditional way of explaining this Buddhist belief is to use the example of a new candle being lit from the flame of the old one just as it flickers and dies. The new flame is different, yet it has arisen in dependence on the old one.

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Buddhists believe that there are many states into which a person can be reborn, such as the realm of the gods, the realm of the hungry ghosts and the realm of animals. Some Buddhists think that these are literal states of being, whilst others see them as symbolising different states of mind. Being born as a human is particularly fortunate as human beings have the ability to improve themselves and to work towards achieving enlightenment. For Buddhists, the goal is to break free of this endless cycle of samsara and attain nirvana. The word nirvana means blown out. Nirvana is a state in which all the fires of desire, greed, hatred and ignorance have been blown out, leaving supreme wisdom, compassion, happiness and freedom from dukkha (suffering and everything that is unsatisfactory). Nirvana is not somewhere you go after death; it is something which can be achieved in this life. Once a person has attained nirvana, they no longer experience re-birth. Mahayana Buddhists believe that a person who has become an enlightened being (a Buddha) can choose to be reborn and stay in the world to help others achieve enlightenment too. Such a being is known as a Bodhisattva.

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Chapter 2 - Marriage and the Family


Buddhist Attitudes to Sex Outside Marriage
Pre-Marital Sex Buddhist scriptures do not specifically condemn pre-marital sex, but a Buddhist might be influenced by the culture of the country in which he or she lives. For example, a Buddhist from India, where pre-marital sex is largely frowned upon, might disapprove of it and might consider pre-marital sex to be sexual misconduct, which goes against the Third Precept. By contrast, a Buddhist from the UK, where pre-marital sex is now the norm, might feel that it is acceptable, as long as the Five Precepts are observed and that both parties try to act in a way which promotes metta (loving kindness) and karuna (compassion). Many Buddhists would consider promiscuity to be unskillful because casual sexual encounters are unlikely to promote metta and karuna and are likely to cause harm to self and others. Promiscuity is also associated with tanha (craving) which makes it difficult for a Buddhist to cultivate the qualities of mind necessary to achieve enlightenment.

Adultery Most Buddhists are likely to regard adultery as unskillful because of the Third Precept in which Buddhists undertake to abstain from sexual misconduct. Adultery usually involves dishonesty and promise-breaking which is dealt with in the Fourth Precept, in which a Buddhist undertakes to abstain from wrong speech and instead, to show honesty and sincerity to all beings. Most Buddhists would consider adultery to be unskillful conduct because the person who is being cheated on is not being shown metta or karuna and unfaithfulness is likely to cause harm to all concerned. The law of kamma states that our actions have consequences. The results of adultery are likely to be negative ones, causing hurt to others and deepening bad habits in the person who has been unfaithful; such consequences are not helpful in the search for enlightenment. According to the Buddha, Four things happen to the thoughtless man who takes another mans wife: he lowers himself, his pleasure is restless, he is blamed by others, he goes to hell. (Dhammapada)

Buddhist Attitudes to Marriage


Buddhists are likely to see the purposes of marriage as: Providing a secure framework for a man and woman to live together according to the teachings of the Buddha. Providing a healthy, loving relationship in which the couple can enjoy sex. Providing a secure environment for the procreation of children. Providing a loving family life in which the teachings of Buddhism can be passed on to children. Traditionally, lay Buddhist householders have supported the Sangha, the community of monks and nuns, with gifts of food and clothing.

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However, in Buddhism, marriage is a purely social contract with no particular religious significance. Marriage is not considered to be a sacrament or holy bond of any sort. For this reason, there is no set marriage ceremony in Buddhism.

Buddhist Attitudes to Family Life


Buddhist teachings about family life: Unlike other religions, Buddhism does not explicitly state that children should be born to married parents, although many Buddhists are likely to view marriage as an important commitment and a stable framework for the procreation and upbringing of children. Buddhists will also be influenced by the culture of the country in which they live; an Indian Buddhist is likely to feel that children should be born to married parents, whereas a British Buddhist may not regard marriage as especially important. Most Buddhists would agree that: Buddhist parents should provide their children with all the necessities of life. Buddhist parents should provide a Buddhist home with a shrine. Buddhist parents should teach their children the beliefs of Buddhism and set a good example of how to live a Buddhist life. The Sigalovada Sutta sets out the five traditional duties that children have to their parents: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. To support them in their old age To do as they are asked To keep family traditions To deserve their inheritance To honour them after they have died.

The Sigalovada Sutta sets out a similar set of five traditional duties that parents have to their children: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. To keep them away from evil To encourage them to do good To provide them with a good education To make suitable marriage arrangements for them To give them their inheritance when they need it.

Note - not all Buddhists would recognise all of these duties as being relevant today. The unconditional love of a mother for her child is held in the highest regard in Buddhism and is used as an illustration of metta: Just as a mother would protect her only child even at the risk of her own life, even so, let him cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings. (Metta Sutta)

Useful quotes: Towards my wife I undertake to love and respect her, be kind and considerate, be faithful, delegate domestic management, provide gifts to please her. (Sigalovada Sutta) To my husband, I undertake to perform my household duties efficiently, be hospitable to my inlaws and friends of my husband, be faithful, protect and invest our earnings, discharge my responsibilities lovingly and conscientiously. (Sigalovada Sutta) Whoever has illicit affairs with the wives of his relatives or friends, either by force or through mutual consent, he is to be known as an outcast. (Sigalovada Sutta)

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"I declare that one can never repay two people, namely mother and father. Even if one carries about one's mother on one shoulder and one's father on the other, and doing so would live a hundred years even then one could not repay them. Why so? The reason is that parents do much for their children; they give life to them, nourish and bring them up, and introduce them to the world." (Sigalovada Sutta) Buddhist attitudes to the importance of families:

The family is the place where children learn about the key principles of Buddhism and how to apply them to their lives. This helps children understand the difference between skilful and unskilful actions and recognise that all their actions have consequences which need to be considered. In Buddhism, the family is the place where children are introduced to the faith through daily meditation, puja, being taken to the vihara (monastery) or temple, celebrating festivals etc. This means that the family is very important for Buddhism to continue to grow. In many traditional Buddhist societies, the role of the householder is very important because it is the householders who support the monks and nuns with gifts of food and clothing. Some Buddhists do not see the family as particularly important; Theravadins in particular have traditionally viewed the celibate life of the monk or nun as the best way of achieving enlightenment, because a person can then be free from the attachment to family. However, Mahayanists believe that householders too may achieve enlightenment and, within Buddhism as a whole, more than 90% of Buddhists live as householders rather than as monks or nuns.

Buddhist Attitudes to Divorce


Most Buddhists allow divorce because: The Buddha did not ban divorce. Buddhists regard marriage as a contract and contracts can be ended, so divorce is acceptable. If one spouse has broken one of the Five Precepts, eg by committing adultery (sexual misconduct), some Buddhists would consider divorce to be acceptable. Living in hatred and discord is likely to have negative consequences for all involved, so divorce might be a more compassionate option. Buddhism is about overcoming suffering and not clinging to situations that produce suffering, so divorce may be preferable to living together unhappily.

Some Buddhists are against divorce because: Buddhists view marriage as a contract between two people who have made a commitment to each other, so a marriage should, ideally, be for life. Buddhists should practise metta (loving kindness) and karuna (compassion) towards their husband or wife and so divorce should not be necessary. Divorce breaks up families and causes suffering. They are influenced by the culture and attitudes of the country in which they live.

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Chapter 3 - Social Harmony


Buddhist Attitudes to Racial Harmony
Buddhists regard racism as unskilful because: All human beings have the potential to achieve enlightenment regardless of skin colour or ethnic origin, so thinking that one race is better or worse than another is a mistake. The concept of anatta means that there is no fixed, permanent self. Outward differences like race or nationality are therefore impermanent and irrelevant. The concept of samsara means that Buddhists believe that each person has been born many times as many different beings. Again, this suggests that physical differences are impermanent and unimportant; we have all been born as members of different races and nationalities. Buddhists aim to cultivate an attitude of metta (loving kindness) towards all sentient beings. Discriminating against someone on the grounds of their race would contradict this. The Fourth Precept says, I undertake to abstain from wrong speech. Using racist language or insults would break this precept.

Buddhist Attitudes to the Roles of Men and Women


Most Buddhists believe that men and women are of equal value and should have equal roles in life because: All human beings have the potential to achieve enlightenment regardless of gender, so thinking that one sex is better or worse than another is a mistake. The concept of anatta means that there is no fixed, permanent self. Outward differences like gender, race or nationality are therefore impermanent and irrelevant. The concept of samsara means that Buddhists believe that each being has been born many times; some of these births would be as males, others as females. According to tradition, the Buddha was able to recall his past lives when he attained enlightenment; some of these lives were lived as men, some as women and some as animals. Again, this suggests that physical differences are impermanent and unimportant. The Buddha accepted women as nuns. This implies that he felt women were just as capable of achieving enlightenment as men and should be respected as such. This would have been very unusual for the time he lived, as women were generally excluded from performing religious rituals and studying sacred texts. Buddhists aim to cultivate an attitude of metta (loving kindness) toward all sentient beings. Discriminating against someone on the grounds of their gender would contradict this. Buddhists are often influenced by the culture in which they live; in countries like Britain, it is generally accepted that men and women are equal, so British Buddhists are likely hold this view.

However, some Buddhists feel that men and women have different roles in life because: The Sigalovada Sutta sets out very different duties for husbands and wives. The role of the wife is to manage the home and the family and to be hospitable to her husbands family and friends.

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The Buddha was initially reluctant to allow women to become nuns, and some have interpreted this to suggest that women are less suited to the spiritual life. Buddhists are often influenced by the culture in which they live; in countries where men and women have more traditional roles, Buddhists living there may follow these traditional roles.

Buddhist Attitudes to Religious Harmony


Buddhists believe that everyone has the right to follow any religion they choose, or none at all. In the Sutta Nipata, the Buddha warned against assuming that one religion is better than another: A man has faith. If he says This is my faith, so far he maintains truth. But by that he cannot proceed to the absolute conclusion: This alone is Truth, and everything else is false. To be attached to one view and to look down upon other views as inferior - this the wise man calls a fetter. (A fetter is chain for the feet.) After his enlightenment, the Buddha spent the last forty-five years of his life traveling and teaching. Although he gained many converts, he did not try to pressurise people into becoming Buddhists. Following the Buddhas example, most Buddhists today are happy to explain their beliefs to non-Buddhists if asked to do so, but do not try to persuade people to convert to Buddhism. Buddhist centres such as the Manchester Buddhist Centre offer courses about meditation and Buddhist beliefs which are open to anyone who is interested. Buddhism places great value on respecting and learning about the beliefs of others. Emperor Ashoka, the great Buddhist ruler of India in the 3rd Century BCE stated: I desire men of all faiths to know each others beliefs and acquire sound doctrines themselves. By honouring others one exalts ones own faith and at the same time performs a service to others. In dishonouring them one injures ones own faith. Concord [harmony] alone is commendable.

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Chapter 4 - Religion and the Environment


Buddhist Teachings About Creation, Stewardship and the Environment
There are no specific Buddhist teachings about creation. The Buddha never tried to explain the origins of the earth or of human and animal life because he felt that any answer he gave would be mere speculation. Buddhists do not regard themselves as God's stewards because Buddhism does not include belief in a creator God. However, the teachings of Buddhism do encourage care and respect for the environment. The belief in conditionality (paticcasamupada) means that Buddhists do not see human beings as somehow separate from the environment; all life is interdependent. They recognise that the actions of each being affect other beings and that all sentient beings should be treated with respect. The Buddha taught that greed and ignorance are two of the Three Poisons which keep us tied to the wheel of samsara. Many of the current problems facing the environment have also been caused by human greed and ignorance. Human beings need to become aware of this in the way they treat the environment. The law of kamma states that our actions have consequences. Buddhists should be mindful of the consequences of their actions on the environment and on future generations. Buddhists believe that we have lived many lives already and are likely to be reborn many more times. This is also likely to encourage Buddhists to consider the long-term effects of their actions on the planet. The negative form of the First Precept means that Buddhists are likely to try to avoid taking the lives of other living creatures. The positive form of the First Precept encourages Buddhists to show loving kindness (Metta) to all beings. This suggests that Buddhists have a responsibility to care for other creatures too. The concept of ahimsa (non-violence) means that Buddhists are likely to try to avoid activities which destroy habitats or pollute the planet. In following the Middle Way between a life of luxury and a life of hardship, Buddhists are encouraged to see that the earths resources are shared fairly and not exploited. Those who squander resources or keep them for themselves are going against the Second Precept in taking what is not freely given.

Buddhist Attitudes to Animal Rights


Most Buddhists would agree that animals should be shown respect and consideration and should be treated with kindness. They believe this because: The First Precept states: I undertake to abstain from taking life. This includes the lives of animals.

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The Second Precept states: I undertake to abstain from taking what is not freely given. It seems reasonable to assume that most animals would prefer not to die, so taking an animals life is likely to break this precept. Buddhists try to cultivate the positive qualities of metta (loving kindness) and karuna (compassion) towards all sentient beings, including animals. Choosing to ignore the suffering of animals deepens negative habits and qualities of mind. Buddhists try to practise ahimsa (non-violence) and this applies to animals as well as humans. The Buddha said: All living things fear being beaten with clubs. All living things fear being put to death. Putting oneself in the place of the other, Let no-one kill nor cause another to kill. (Dhammapada) According to the Jataka Tales, when the Buddha attained enlightenment, he was able to remember his many previous lives, both animal and human. In some of these lives, the Buddha sacrificed his own life for that of animals. Many Buddhists believe that we have all lived as animals before and it therefore makes little sense to look down on animals as lesser beings. However, some Buddhists feel that animals are not as important as human beings and therefore should not have the same rights as human beings. Reasons for this attitude might include the following: Some Buddhists believe that if a person is reborn as an animal, this is a result of that persons unskilful actions from a previous life. This suggests that animals are spiritually inferior to humans. Some Buddhists believe that because animals are unable to engage in conscious acts of selfimprovement, they will continue to be reborn as animals until their kammic debt is exhausted. Only when they are reborn as human beings can they resume the quest for nirvana. The life of an animal is therefore of less value than the life of a human being.

Buddhist Attitudes to Specific Animal Rights Issues


Vegetarianism As a result of the First Precept, ahimsa, metta, karuna and the Buddhas own words, many Buddhists are vegetarian. The Buddha specifically forbade monks and nuns from slaughtering animals. Many Buddhists feel that following a vegetarian diet does less damage to the environment and enables the earths resources to be shared more fairly. However, other Buddhists, including some monks and nuns do eat meat. This may be because Buddhism expects the individual to exercise their own judgement about how to behave and they way in which these Buddhists interpret the First Precept might lead them to argue that eating meat is not the same as killing an animal. Some Buddhists would argue that if you are offered meat, you should accept it as a gesture of generosity (dana). Some monks and nuns will eat meat if it is placed in their alms bowls for this reason. For some Buddhists, vegetarianism is not a practical option; for example, most Tibetan Buddhists eat meat because there is simply not enough suitable land to grow sufficient crops in Tibet. The Dalai Lama eats meat for health reasons (the First Precept applies to yourself just as it does to others!). Hunting

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Those Buddhists who eat meat are likely to agree with hunting if this is the only way to get food. However, Buddhists are unlikely to agree with hunting for sport as the deliberate killing of a sentient being for pleasure certainly seems to go against the First Precept, ahimsa, metta, karuna and the words of the Buddha. Experimenting on Animals Most Buddhists are against animal testing for the reasons already given. The Noble Eightfold Path also instructs Buddhists to engage in Right Livelihood. Many Buddhists would say that a job which involves treating animals cruelly and subjecting them to painful experiments goes against this teaching. The Dalai Lama said, According to Buddhism the life of all beings human, animal, or otherwise is precious, and all have the same right to happiness. For this reason I find it disgraceful that animals are used without being shown the slightest compassion, and that they are used for scientific experiments. I have also noticed that those who lack any compassion for animals and who do not hesitate to kill them are also those who sooner or later, show a lack of compassion toward human beings. (The Dalai Lama, Beyond Dogma: the challenge of the modern world) However, other Buddhists would approve of using animals in medical research if the benefits to human health would be great and if there were no alternative. These Buddhists might argue that the negative consequences generated by performing the experiments should be balanced against the reduction in suffering which such experiments could bring about for human beings. If experiments are to be carried out, all Buddhists would agree that the animals involved should be treated kindly and compassionately and should not be killed if possible.

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Chapter 5 - Religion: Peace and Conflict


Buddhist Attitudes to War
Most Buddhists would consider fighting in wars to be unskilful because: It breaks the First Precept in which Buddhists undertake to abstain from taking life. It contradicts the principle of ahimsa which encourages Buddhists to practise non-violence and to cultivate an attitude of peace and good will towards all living beings. Wars are often caused by greed and hatred which are two of the three poisons. These negative states of mind are unlikely to help a person to achieve enlightenment. Buddhists try to develop an attitude of metta (loving kindness) towards all living beings. This would seem to rule out fighting and killing in wars. The teachings of the Buddha also suggest that war is unskilful: Hatred does not cease by hatred, hatred ceases only by love. This is the eternal law. (Dhammapada). All living things fear being put to death. Putting oneself in the place of the other, let noone kill nor cause another to kill. (Dhammapada) The rules laid down by the Buddha for monks and nuns allowed fighting in self-defence, but forbade killing.

However, in practice, some Buddhist countries have gone to war and individual Buddhists have made the decision to fight in wars. They might have come to this decision because: They feel that the consequences of not fighting might be far worse. For example, if an enemy army invaded and was threatening the lives of thousands of people, a Buddhist may come to the conclusion that the negative consequences of fighting and killing enemy soldiers might be less damaging than allowing many more innocent people to be slaughtered. They may feel that they have a duty to protect their families and fellow countrymen from attack. They might use the principle of double effect to argue that the intention is not to kill enemy troops but to protect the innocent.

Buddhist Attitudes to Bullying


Buddhists consider bullying to be unskilful because: The principle of ahimsa states that Buddhists should try to live in a non-violent way; bullying always involves violence towards another person, whether this is mental or physical. Buddhists strive to cultivate an attitude of metta (loving kindness) towards all beings. This is clearly incompatible with bullying. The Fourth Precept states that Buddhists will undertake to abstain from wrong speech. Bullying often involves the wrong use of speech and would therefore go against that Precept. The Law of Kamma states that all our actions have consequences which need to be considered. Bullying is likely to lead to negative consequences, both for the bully and the person being bullied and should therefore be avoided.

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Buddhist Teachings on Forgiveness and Reconciliation


Because Buddhists do not worship an almighty creator God, their understanding of forgiveness and reconciliation is different to that of religions such as Christianity. For Buddhists, there is no concept of needing Gods forgiveness. Instead, it is the individuals state of mind and the consequences of either forgiving or of holding on to anger which are important. As a result, Buddhists are likely to regard forgiveness and reconciliation as skilful because: The law of kamma states that actions have consequences. Holding on to anger and refusing to be reconciled with someone who has wronged you is likely to lead to negative states of mind (for both parties) which will hinder the individuals search for enlightenment. By contrast, letting go of hatred and resentment is more likely to result in a calmer, more peaceful state of mind. Hatred is one of the Three Poisons which keep us tied to the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. In order to break free from Samsara and achieve enlightenment, a Buddhist must try to overcome hatred. Forgiveness and reconciliation are important steps towards this goal. The teachings of the Buddha imply that clinging on to resentment and anger is unskillful, whilst forgiving others and becoming reconciled with them is skilful: Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else, but you are the one who gets burned. (The Buddha) He abused me, he struck me, he overcame me, he robbed me - in those who harbour such thoughts hatred will never cease. He abused me, he struck me, he overcame me, he robbed me - in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred will cease. (The Buddha) You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger. (The Buddha) Let none deceive another, or despise any being in any state. Let none through anger or ill-will wish harm upon another. Just as a mother would protect her only child even at the risk of her own life, even so, let him cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings. Let his thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole would, above, below and across without any obstruction, without any hatred, without any enmity. (The Buddha, Metta Sutta)

Metta bhvan (cultivation of mett) is a popular form of meditation in Buddhism. Traditionally,

the practice begins with the meditator cultivating loving kindness towards him or her self, then towards a loved one, then towards a neutral person (one for whom they have no particular feelings), then towards a difficult person (someone towards whom they have negative feelings or find it hard to get along with) and finally, towards all sentient beings. Again, this suggests that forgiveness and reconciliation are likely to be important to Buddhists.

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Chapter 6 - Religion: Crime and Punishment


Buddhist Attitudes to Justice
The law of kamma states that every willed action has a consequence; positive actions will result in positive consequences, negative actions in negative consequences. The belief in samsara means that even if the consequences of our kamma are not immediate, they cannot be escaped. The law of kamma is justice in action. Whilst some Buddhists might feel that the law of kamma means that those suffering injustice are simply reaping the consequences of their own kamma, most Buddhists would say that choosing to ignore suffering and injustice will lead to negative consequences for your own state of mind, whereas working for justice will bring positive consequences. Buddhists believe that every person has the potential to realise their Buddha nature and therefore every person should be treated with justice and respect. Buddhists aspire to cultivate an attitude of metta (loving kindness) and karuna (compassion) to all sentient beings. This leads many Buddhists to try to work for justice in the world. Many Buddhists try to work for justice by supporting charities such as Oxfam, which helps people in LEDCs, or Amnesty, an organisation which promotes human rights and highlights cases where peoples rights are abused. The Second Precept states: I undertake to abstain from taking what is not freely given. This leads many Buddhists to feel that they have a responsibility to ensure that the earths resources are shared fairly.

Buddhist Attitudes to Punishment


Most Buddhists regard reform as the main aim of punishment. Whatever situation a person finds themselves in and whatever they may have done, it is always possible to change. The great Tibetan Buddhist saint and poet Milarepa is a good example of this. As a young man, Milarepa was responsible for the deaths of 35 people who had wronged him and his family. He came to regret his actions, changed his life and eventually attained enlightenment and became known for his wisdom and compassion. Protection is also a valid purpose of punishment in Buddhism. Buddhists recognise the need for society to be protected from criminals, but the concept of protection also extends to the criminal; imprisoning a criminal stops them from committing further crimes and therefore protects them from creating any more negative kammic consequences for themselves. Buddhists are unlikely to see retribution as an appropriate aim of punishment. However, the law of kamma means that criminals will always reap the consequences of their crimes either in this lifetime or in a future one, even if they appear to have got away with them. Buddhists generally feel that any punishment should be in proportion to the crime committed and most are against cruel punishments because of the effects they will have on the mind of the person inflicting the punishment as well as on the physical and mental state of person being punished. The principles of metta (loving kindness) and karuna (compassion) would also appear to rule out cruel punishments.

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Buddhist Attitudes to Capital Punishment


Many Buddhists regard capital punishment as unskilful because: Executing someone goes against the First Principle in which Buddhists undertake to abstain from taking life. Capital punishment also contradicts ahimsa, the principle of non-violence. Buddhists aspire to cultivate metta (loving kindness) and karuna (compassion) towards all beings, including criminals. This would seem to rule out capital punishment. The law of kamma states that our actions have consequences. Buddhists are likely to be concerned with the effects of executing criminals on all concerned; for example, how might it affect the state of mind of the executioner or of the family of the condemned? The Buddha said, All living things fear being beaten with clubs. All living things fear being put to death. Putting oneself in the place of the other, Let no-one kill nor cause another to kill. (Dhammapada) However, there are a number of predominantly Buddhist countries which operate the death penalty and some Buddhists feel that capital punishment is acceptable because: They feel it helps to uphold the law of the land and protects society from dangerous criminals. They agree with non-religious arguments in favour of the death penalty.

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Chapter 7 - Religion and Medical Issues


Buddhist Attitudes to Infertility Treatments
Some Buddhists regard some or all forms of medical treatment for infertility as skilful because: Buddhism places great value on relieving suffering. Some Buddhist would argue that this applies to relieving the suffering caused by infertility and that medical treatments should therefore be allowed. The law of kamma states that our actions have consequences. A Buddhist may feel that the consequences of using medical treatments to help an infertile couple conceive a child would be positive. Donating sperm, an egg, or an embryo to an infertile couple could be regarded as an act of dana (generosity), compassion (karuna) and loving kindness (metta). Buddhists wish to cultivate these qualities in order to help them attain enlightenment.

Other Buddhists regard some or all forms of medical treatment for infertility as unskilful because: The cause of dukkha is tanha (craving). The Buddha taught that the only way to overcome dukkha is to overcome tanha. For this reason, some Buddhists might say that an infertile couple should accept their situation and work on overcoming their craving for a child. Perhaps they could practise metta by adopting an unwanted child. Having children is not considered to be a religious duty for Buddhists. The money spent on treatments for infertility could be better spent on curing disease. Most Buddhists believe that a new consciousness arises at conception. Some Buddhists regard techniques which involve the destruction of extra embryos as unskilful because they go against the First Precept.

Buddhist Attitudes to Genetic Engineering


Some Buddhists support some, or all, forms of genetic engineering if the goal is to provide cures for disease. They may have this attitude because: Buddhists are concerned with the relief of suffering. Technology which helps to relieve suffering or prevent it in the first place is therefore a good thing. The law of kamma states that our actions have consequences. Ignoring the suffering of the sick is likely to lead to negative consequences for our own spiritual development and for the well-being of others. Trying to find cures through genetic engineering is likely to lead to positive consequences and should therefore be encouraged. If someone is experiencing great physical pain or mental distress as a result of a genetic disorder, they may not be able to focus on cultivating the qualities necessary for a person to work towards achieving enlightenment.

However, other Buddhists are opposed to some, or all, forms of genetic engineering. They may have this attitude because:

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Some forms of genetic engineering involve the destruction of embryos (PGD or stem cell technology, for example) and many Buddhists believe that a new human consciousness arises at conception. The destruction of embryos breaks the First Precept and goes against the teaching of ahimsa. Companies which attempt to patent information about our genetic makeup and use it for profit might be seen as breaking the Second Precept by taking that which is not freely given. Some Buddhists might feel that genetic disorders are simply another form of dukkha and that a Buddhist should accept this and focus instead on cultivating the qualities of mind necessary to make spiritual progress. Some Buddhists might feel that if a person is sick, it is as a result of their kamma (actions) from a previous lifetime. If they face their suffering with courage and dignity, they can hope to improve themselves and have a more favourable rebirth in the future.

Buddhist Attitudes to Transplant Surgery


Some Buddhists regard using donor organs from the dead in transplant surgery as skilful because: They do not believe that the body is required after death and so there is nothing intrinsically wrong with taking organs for transplantation. A Buddhists state of mind when approaching death is very important and is believed by many to have an impact on that beings rebirth. A sense of non-attachment to the body and the knowledge that their organs will help someone else after their death might be very beneficial to the persons state of mind. The concepts of dana (generosity) and metta (loving kindness) are important to Buddhists. Carrying a donor card could be seen as one way of putting these principles into practise. Buddhism places great value on relieving suffering. Using the organs of the dead to help the living is a way of relieving suffering.

However, other Buddhists regard using donor organs from the dead in transplant surgery as unskilful because: Some Buddhists believe that the consciousness of the deceased does not immediately leave the body when breathing and heartbeat cease and that it is important not to disturb the body by removing organs as this can have a negative effect on the departing consciousness and its rebirth. If the person has not clearly expressed their wishes by carrying a donor card, taking their organs could be regarded as breaking the second precept which deals with taking that which is not freely given. Some Buddhists feel that the time and money spent on transplant surgery for a small number of people would be better spent on simpler treatments which would benefit a larger number of people

Live donor transplants Most Buddhists consider live donor transplants as skilful as long as the person has freely consented (second precept) because this is an act of dana and metta. Buddhists are unlikely to consider the buying and selling of organs as skilful because this usually involves the exploitation of the poor and goes against the second precept.

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Acknowledgements
I am most grateful to the Farmington Institute for giving me this wonderful opportunity to enhance my own knowledge and understanding of Buddhism and to produce materials which will be of practical benefit in the classroom. The value of the gift of time to carry out my research and prepare teaching notes cannot be overestimated. My particular thanks are due to Ralph Waller for his charm, good humour and enthusiasm, to Suzanne Tetsell for her marvellous efficiency and support throughout the period of my Fellowship and to Maggie Faulkner who was my first contact with the Farmington Institute and whose friendly manner encouraged me to apply for a Fellowship. I should also like to thank the Head Mistress and her Deputies at Bolton School Girls Division for supporting my application and enabling me to take up my Fellowship, and my colleagues who have encouraged me throughout and who asked polite questions at my school-based presentation. My thanks also go to my Farmington tutor Peter Jackson for his support, and to my students for being guinea pigs, for their thoughtful feedback and for pointing out my typing mistakes! I am grateful to Munisha at the Manchester Buddhist Centre for her input and for gently pointing out and correcting some of my misunderstandings about Buddhist beliefs. Any errors or omissions which remain are mine alone! Finally, I would like to thank my husband for his ICT assistance and my son for putting up with his mummys tendency to get carried away with work when she should be playing train sets.

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Bibliography
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http://web.singnet.com.sg/~alankhoo/MoreQA.htm www.buddhanet.net www.clear-vision.org www.unification.net/ws/ www.urbandharma.org www.wikipedia.org

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