Buddhist approaches to abortion

by R. E. Florida

Asian Philosophy

Vol. 1 No. 1 1991


Introduction As we all know, bio-ethics is currently one of the most active areas in Western religious and philosophical discourse. Although Eastern countries are facing the same bio-ethical issues as we are in the West, on the whole, Eastern religious leaders have not systematically dealt with the problems raised by the collision between ancient traditions and explosively advancing medical techniques. In Buddhist circles, for example, the work is just beginning. Dr Pinit Ratanakul of Mahidol University in Bangkok published a book in 1986 entitled Bioethics. Although a Thai Buddhist, Dr Pinit's doctorate is from Yale, and his very interesting study is fundamentally written from a Western point of view. He does note, however, that: Thailand and Thai medicine confront in general the same ethical questions which have been raised in the West; what has been lacking is the systematic, interdisciplinary attention to and discussion of them that has begun in the West through the discipline of Biomedical Ethics. It is time that discussion of a more systematic and intensive nature... be developed in Asian societies. [1] In many sections of this book, there are valuable comments from a Buddhist point of view, and the appendix called 'The Buddhist Concept of Life, Suffering and Death and their Meaning for Health Policy' is a valuable contribution to the Asian discussion he calls for. Shoyo Taniguchi's pioneering 1987 Master of Arts thesis, A Study of Biomedical Ethics from a Buddhist Perspective, which attempts to develop a Pall text based approach to the field, also notes that although little has been done up to now, Buddhists have much to contribute to the discussion [2]. This paper is an attempt to advance the discussion by presenting some Buddhist theoretical and practical responses to the ethical and religious problems raised concerning abortion. It is based both on textual study and on field observations and interviews in Hawaii, Japan, The People's Republic of China, Taiwan, and Thailand from 1987 through 1989. Some Buddhist Ethical Principles [3] Let us begin with some basic Buddhist principles to put the question of abortion in a wider context. First, anything that exists, exists only in relationship with everything else that exists. That is, nothing has independent self-being. You and I -- anything that is -- exist only as the result of temporary, contingent causal relationships with other similarly changing, unsubstantial, suffering beings. Therefore, all ethical problems must be considered globally and rationally as problems in co-conditioned causality. The Buddha's great insight into the interrelatedness of all phenomena (co-conditioned causality), which is perhaps the first principal of Buddhism [4], has two major expressions. First is the ultimate truth that all things are fundamentally empty, which leads inevitably to the second, relative truth, compassion. The wise person, knowing the truth of the contingency and complete interdependence of all beings, can only regard their frenzied grasping for selfish ends with compassion. Practically, wisdom leads to selfless action for the sake of others. Thus prajna or wisdom and karuna or compassion are the two major Buddhist ideals, the first relating to the realm of ultimacy and the second to the world of day-to-day existence. Without ultimate wisdom one will be defective in upaya or skilful means for helping others. Witless compassion, the bungling attempt to do good without the wisdom to effect it, is extremely dangerous. Moral behaviour in Buddhist systems then, is not an absolute in itself; it is a means towards a religious end, the transcendence of those selfish cravings which bind all beings to an unending round of suffering. Accordingly all moral acts are understood either to be kusala karma, skilful deeds which are beneficial to self and others, or akusala karma, unskilful deeds which harm self and others. Everything in the phenomenal world is relative. Human behaviour, therefore, is to be judged not on an absolute scale of good and evil but rather on a relative scale of skilful and unskilful. Skilfulness, of course, is understood in regard to the ascent of the path of the Buddha out of this world of suffering. This means that the precepts of morality laid down by the Buddha also are not absolute commandments. They are clearly understood as 'rules of training' which the individual undertakes in order to advance along the religious path [5]. In fact, so little are they absolute commandments, that the precepts have been used since the earliest days of the Buddhist community as temporary vows, freely assumed by individuals for specified lengths of time. A lay meditator, for example, might follow the rule of training to abstain from the misuse of sensual pleasures for the period of a retreat. The relativity of the precepts is further demonstrated by the fact that there are traditionally five for the ordinary person, eight for the advanced laity, and 10 for monks and nuns. It is taught that, for advanced Mahayana practitioners and especially for Vajrayana adepts, the precepts can be violated if done for the benefit of others. However, it is cautioned that it takes a very wise person, far along in prajna to make this judgement. Others had better stick with the rules or they will reap the whirlwind. Although Buddhist morality is contextual and relative, it is not generally antinomian. On the level of relative truth, one's deeds or karma obey fixed laws of causality which determine one's destiny. Basically the moral consequences of an act are determined by the will or motivation (cetana) of the actor. If the will behind an act is driven by greed, hatred, or delusion, which Buddhists understand as the three fundamental aspects of selfish craving, then the act is akusala or unskilful. It works in the following way. Every act involves body, speech, and mind working in conjunction. Mind starts a train of activity, and if mind is motivated by greed, hatred, or delusion, then the speech and bodily activity which follow are doomed to be unskilful. Unskilful acts always have negative consequences for the actor and generally for the recipient of the act. The precepts are designed to provide guidelines for skilful activity and when followed will minimise negative karmic consequences. From the Buddhist vantage point of the middle way, there are two basic errors one could fall into on this issue. If one denies the reality of karmic consequences, one has adopted the nihilistic extreme view, which tends towards antinomianism. The eternalistic extreme view would involve the reification of moral precepts, resulting in inflexible dogmatic positions. Application to Abortion From the very earliest days, the theory of co-conditioned causality, or pratityasamutpada, the doctrine of the interrelatedness of all phenomena, was interpreted embryologically [6]. In the form which came to be the standard, dependent origination was expressed as a circle of 12 causal factors or links, which seem to operate simultaneously. As applied to the foetal development of an individual, the first three links of the chain are ignorance, which gives rise to the karma foundations, which in turn give rise to consciousness or vijnana. Vasubandhu, an outstandingly brilliant fourth or fifth century exegete, clarifies this very well: Avidya [ignorance] is in the previous life the condition of passion... All the passions in effect accompany ignorance, entering into activity through ignorance. It is just the same as they say, 'When the king comes, you understand that his courtesans accompany him'. Samskaras [karma foundations] are in the previous life the condition of the act. The series of the previous existence, in so far as it accomplished a good act or a bad one and so on, is what is understood by the karma foundations. Vijnana [consciousness] is the skandhas [the physical and mental components of a being] at conception. The five skandhas, within the womb, at the moment of reincarnation or of birth-of-existence. [7] Thus, vijanana in this context is sometimes translated as 'rebirth consciousness'. In short, what all this boils down to is that Buddhists traditionally have understood that the human being begins at the instant of conception when sperm, egg, and vijnana come together. As Taniguchi puts it, "there is no qualitative difference between an unborn foetus and a born individual" [8]. Therefore, the precept against taking life applies in the case of abortion. Buddhaghosa, a fifth century Theray,da commentator who is Vasubandhu's only equal though of another school, has an extensive commentary on this precept: 'I undertake to observe the rule to abstain from taking life.'... 'Taking life' means to murder anything that lives. It refers to the striking and killing of living beings .... 'Taking life' is then the will to kill anything that one perceives as having life, to act so as to terminate the life-force in it, in so far as the will finds expression in bodily action or in speech. With regard to animals it is worse to kill large ones than small. Because a more extensive effort is involved. Even where the effort is the same, the difference in substance must be considered. In the case of humans the killing is the more blameworthy the more virtuous they are. Apart from that, the extent of the offence is proportionate to the intensity of the wish to kill. [9] Considered externally, then, abortion is a serious unskilful act as it involves violence against a presumably virtuous foetal human being. From the point of view of motivation, the most important factor in Buddhist ethical evaluation, abortion again involves several grievous errors [10]. Greed, hatred, and delusion, the three root drives of unskilful men and women, seem to apply all too well to abortion decisions. Greed, that is passionate attachment, would lie behind persons' considering only their own interests or pleasures in the situation. It would also solidify the notion that an 'I' owned the foetus and could do with it what 'I' would. Hatred would motivate one to strike out to eliminate the perceived cause of discomfort, the foetus. Delusion might cloud one's understanding and lead to denial that the foetus is a living being. It also could result in a condition of apathy where one, avoiding responsibility for oneself, followed advice to terminate the pregnancy. Underlying these three 'poisons' of greed, hatred, and delusion are even more fundamental errors. The three poisons arise through lack of insight into the interconnectedness of all beings, a misguided sense of difference between I and other. When prajna is so lacking, then so too karuna or compassion will also fall short, and upaya or skilful means will not be conspicuous. In light of co-conditioned causality, the moral consequences of abortion do not only concern the relationship between the pregnant woman and the foetus. Abortion also entails physical and mental trauma to the woman and has karmic consequences on the technicians, advisors, friends, and family involved. Additionally the situation which leads one to consider abortion is often caused by some previous error involving the precept concerning sexuality, which as explained by Buddhaghosa is: 'I undertake to observe the rule to abstain from sensuous misconduct.'... The offence is the more serious, the more moral and virtuous the person transgressed against. Four factors are involved: someone who should not be gone into, the thought of cohabiting with that one, the actions which lead to such cohabitation, and its actual performance. There is only one way of carrying it out: with one's own body. [11] Sensuous misconduct leads to an awkward pregnancy, which leads to abortion being contemplated. One unskilful act tends to lead to another as long as one lives unmindfully. This leads us back to the religious context of this discussion. What Buddhists aim to do is to perfect themselves by following the path that the Buddha blazed for them. It involves replacing unwholesome roots of action, namely the selfish drives of greed, hatred, and delusion, with wholesome motives: loving-kindness, compassion, joy for others, and equanimity. Morality, meditation, and wisdom constantly work together in this path of prajna and karuna. From this point of view any pregnancy could be taken as an opportunity to help one in perfecting selfless compassion. Ratanakul closes his book with a very fine reminder of the high religious ideals of the "voluntary sacrifice of one's claims or rights" that are at the heart of Buddhism and Christianity [12]. At any rate, whatever one does, one's acts will ripen, with those skilful acts that are beneficial to self and others bearing good fruit while those unskilful acts that harm self and others yielding bad fruit. It should also be mentioned that contraception, if the methods used do no harm to foetus or the lovers, is considered to be skilful means. Obviously, then, from the Buddhist point of view, preventing unwanted pregnancies is far better than terminating them. Abortion and Buddhism in Thailand [13] Buddhism is generally depicted as an extremely tolerant tradition which does not seek to impose its teachings on individuals. On March 20, 1988, the CBC interviewed Dr Sugunasari, the President of the Buddhist Council of Canada, to solicit a Buddhist view on the current national abortion dilemma. Dr Sugunasari noted that although abortions involve lack of skill in two of the fundamental Buddhist precepts, the abstention from taking life and the abstention from going astray in sensual pleasures, Buddhists do not think that the state should intervene in matters of conscience. Further he advocated compassion for the individuals involved. In Thailand, a Theravada kingdom where Buddhism is the state religion, there is a very complex and intricate interrelationship amongst the king, the military, the government, the universities, the religious orders, and the people. The Thais, unlike the Canadian Buddhists, are not shy about trying to build their legal system on Buddhist principles. As they recognise the foetus as a human being from the moment of conception and take the precept against killing as primary [14], their law against abortion is quite restrictive. Abortions are legal only when there is a serious threat to the health of the mother and in cases of rape [15]. Strictly speaking, it would seem to me that even the outrage of rape, even though it includes both violence and sensuous misconduct, should not be adequate dharmic grounds to allow abortion, which always involves killing a relatively innocent sentient being. That is, one unskilful act does not justify another. The point is to break the chain. At any rate, the vast majority of Thais think that abortion is akusala karma and are pleased with the restrictive law. Legal abortions are very rare; only five per year on average were reported in the mid 1960s [161. Nonetheless, the law is widely broken. Virginity is highly valued and there is a heavy social stigma against unmarried mothers so that fear and shame drive many single pregnant women to illegal abortions. They are unable to face the social consequences of their situation and thus sacrifice their Buddhist principles against taking life. Some rationalise that a very small foetus is not yet conscious and thus an abortion does not involve killing. However, as we have seen, this is contrary to the traditional Buddhist understanding. Some medical professionals more or less discretely advertise for abortion business, but many abortionists are untrained, which leads to the usual dreadful consequences. The Buddhist community in Thailand is divided on the abortion issue. Some leaders like Major General Chamlong Srimunang, the political head of Bangkok, are firmly opposed to any liberalisation of the abortion law, basing their position on the absolue sanctity of life in the Buddhist tradition [ 17]. Others, including some monastic leaders, take a much more global view, pointing out that in Buddhist morality the intent of the action has much to do with the karmic result of the act. Therefore, in some cases, for example when the mother's life is endangered by the pregnancy, abortion could be a skilful act. Dr Pinit Ratanakul's study Bioethics, while it does not offer a complete Buddhist discussion on the abortion question, looks at issues in subtle and complex ways. While the precept against killing counsels against easy abortion decisions, many factors have to be taken into account in coming to a skilful judgement. Professor Siralee Sirilai of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at Mahidol University, Bangkok, points out that the main Buddhist criterion for moral decisionmaking is whether or not the act has wholesome motivation. A skilful deed should work against greed, hatred, and delusion, and thus will be for the good of self and others. However, there are also secondary criteria such as "wholesome-unwholesome, usefulness-unusefulness, trouble-untrouble, admirability-blameworthiness" [18]. She thinks that for the world renouncers, only the first criterion can be taken into account, but that for the Buddhist layperson the secondary can also come into play. Therefore, in some circumstances, abortion could perhaps be morally permissible. Abortion and Buddhism in China [19] In Taiwan, where Chinese Buddhism is currently in a very strong resurgence, abortion is condemned in Buddhist theory, for the same reasons as mentioned earlier. However, in traditional Buddhist thought abortion was less culpable than other forms of taking human life. The law in Taiwan is very restrictive, with induced abortion being illegal for any reason and with strong penalties both for the technician and woman involved [20]. Since chastity for unmarried people is very highly valued in both theory and practice [21], abortions, therefore, are mainly confined to married women who already have the desired number of children. Although illegal, abortion is both widespread and tolerated [22]. It does not seem to be of particular public concern in Taiwan to Buddhists. In mainland China, from my observations, been reduced to an adjunct to the tourist industry. Chinese traditional religions are permitted only the most marginal sort of half life, and all religious bodies are expected to restrict themselves to ritual activities within the confines of their buildings. Religious participation in political or legal issues has been unthinkable. Indeed, very few citizens have any interest in traditional Buddhist thought. Therefore, Buddhist objections to abortion are neither voiced nor would they be listened to in the People's Republic of China, and the government has a free hand in its one-child policy which relies on abortion for enforcement. Incidentally, the People's Republic and Taiwan are very similar in their attitudes towards sexual chastity [23]. Abortion in Japan [24] Since 1948 Japan has had a liberal abortion law and has had a rather high rate of legal abortions, in 1980 running at 22.5 per 1000 women of child-bearing age. In the same year, for comparison, that rate in the USA was 29.3, Canada 11.5, and the Soviet Union 180, the world's highest [25]. As is true in many countries, it is thought that the actual rate of medically supervised procedures is much higher than the officially reported rate, and there are still an unknown number of illegal abortions. Although contraception is increasing in Japan, abortion remains the major form of birth control. In part, this is because the government has refused to certify the pill and IUDs as medically safe. Cynics argue that the medical profession has opposed these means of contraception to protect their highly lucrative abortion trade, but it is true that the pill and IUDs do involve medical risks. Buddhist Responses to Abortion in Japan In 1987 1 visited Kamakura, one of the great centres of Buddhist culture. It was in the grounds of one of Kamakura's exquisite temples, the Hasedera dedicated to Kannon (also known as Kanzeon in Japanese, Kuan Yin in Chinese, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit) and containing a monumental wooden statue of him, that I came across an extraordinary sight. There were thousands of statues of Jizo Bosatsu lining the walkways and filling courtyards. Stone, procelain, and plastic Jizos of various sizes were grouped together. None of particular artistic merit, they came in about a half dozen varieties. The mass of these little statuettes was somehow very touching, and the pathetic effect was greatly intensified by the way many of them were decorated. Very often they were dressed with a red bib or a little red hand-knit cap. Some had soothers on a ribbon around their necks, some had pinwheels or rattles to play with. What was going on here? My friend, an American who had been in Kamakura for several years as a Zen student, explained that the Hasedera temple was one of several around the country that specialised in memorialising miscarried and aborted foetuses --mizuko or water-babies -- or very young children who had died. The vast majority of the statues are for aborted mizuko. At this particular temple, so many women commissioned statues that they continually were clearing away old ones to make room for the new. A major part of the income of the temple came from these services. The cheapest figurine cost the equivalent of US$80 and memorial services, which many clients ordered, were extra. In the literature given out by Hasedera temple, the images of Jizo were explained as commemorating stillborn and miscarried children, but not aborted ones, even though they did note that Jizo was the protector of aborted foetuses. Jizo Bosatsu's connection with aborted foetuses in Japan has a revealing history [26]. Originating in India as the Bodhisattva Ks. itigarbha (womb of the earth, or earthstore), Jizo vowed to roam all six realms of existence in this dark time between Gautama, the historical Buddha, and Maitreya, the Buddha of the future. Because of this vow, in Japan his images sometimes appear in groups of six slightly different statues, each one representing his activities in one of the realms of reincarnation. In his wandering, Jizo aids all suffering creatures towards their ultimate salvation. Although introduced to China and Japan as one of the celestial Bodhisattvas of Vajrayana or esoteric Buddhism, he became very popular in the folk religion due to his connection with the hells. In Japan he became connected with a folk belief concerning the fate of water-babies and very young children who die. Such youngsters are neither good enough to enter a paradise nor bad enough for a hell, so they find themselves on a deserted river bank called Saino-kawara in Meido, the ghostly realm of gloom. During the day there, they try to make the best of it and play with the pebbles they find, stacking them into the form of little pagodas. This play is more than it seems as their building of pagodas, for the benefit of their surviving relatives, is a powerful act of merit. However, when night falls, they become cold and afraid of the dark, and to make things worse malicious demons come and destroy their little structures. Jizo, who has vowed to help all creatures no matter how sad the circumstances, then appears. He is pictured as dressed in the robes of a monk and carrying a staff with six jingling rings on it, each ring representing one of the six realms that he constantly patrols. The jingling of the rings reassures the children, and they are comforted by sheltering in his robe, which gently glows, dispelling the dark. This scene is the subject of many folk tales and songs: Be not afraid, little dear ones, You were so little to come here, All the long journey to Meido! I will be Father and Mother, Father and Mother and Playmate To all the children in Meido! Then he caresses them kindly, Folding his shining robes round them, Lifting the smallest and frailest Into his bosom, and holding His staff for the stumblers to clutch. To his long sleeves cling the infants, Smile in response to his smiling, Glad in his beauteous compassion. [27] Although the image of Kannon in the Hasedera temple was the art treasure that drew the tourists, it was the Jizos in the courtyard that fulfilled a religious need of the people. In dedicating a statuette and commissioning services for their aborted foetuses believers can accrue religious merit. Donations to temples and performing services are excellent ways to improve one's karma, to compensate for the unskilfulness in sexual conduct and violence that accompany an act of abortion. Also, whether taken literally or metaphorically, the notion of Jizo comforting the lost mizuko would be very comforting to the mourning survivors. Jizo has a very large place in the hearts of the Japanese, and little shrines to him appear all over the country, often in unexpected sites: I recall one image nestled amongst a display of valves and piping in a plumber's display window. Often they have little stacks of pebbles before them, recalling the meritorious play of the departed water-babies. The outdoors votive images of Jizo tend to be very simple, stylised figures with him dressed as a Hinayana monk. Although I did not notice it at the time, these figures have an undoubtedly phallic appearance. Indeed, when the Japanese adopted Jizo, he partly supplanted the ancient indigenous Dosojin, Earth Ancestor Deity or Road Ancestor Deity, a god of sexuality in the form of a husband-and-wife couple, who previously had the function of protecting children [28]. His images were often carved onto ancient phallic representations of Dosojin and, to my eye at least, his usual folk form reflects this origin. In this light, the little images in the courtyard of the Hasedera temple, dedicated to so many mizuko are even more poignant as symbols of human frailty and futility. Religion's wonderful power to express our deepest illusions, as in this case that sexuality can conquer death, is no doubt one of the reasons it has such a hold on humanity. Not all temples display their votive Jizo figures in the casual mode of Hasedera, where they almost seem like mushrooms growing in profusion from the soil. In 1989 I observed a very different style at the Kannon memorial temple in Kyoto. In this modern temple, which dates from the 1950s, the Jizos are encased neatly in numbered rows in glass cases. All of the figures are the same, and the overall effect reminded me of a sterile department store. However, there were rows of pinwheels for the mizuko as well as racks for toys, in which one also sees some of the more traditional Jizo images [29]. An American Buddhist Response to Abortion In Honolulu I attended and eventually joined the Diamond Sangha, a Zen group led by an American Roshi, Robert Airkin. He is a leading figure in the 'engaged Buddhism' movement, an informal grouping of North American Buddhists who are trying to formulate theory and practice for applying Buddhist insights and traditions to the social situation of North American practitioners. Roshi Aitken's reflections on abortion are found in the context of his discussion of the first precept, to abstain from killing: Perhaps the most intimate and agonizing test is faced by the woman considering abortion. Over-simplified positions of pro-life and pro-choice do not touch the depths of dilemma. Usually she experiences distressing conflict between her sexual/reproductive drive and the realities of her life;... and indeed, she faces such realities for any child she may bring to term... I get the impression that when a woman is sensitive to her feelings, she is conscious that abortion is killing a part of herself and terminating the ancient process, begun anew within herself, of bringing life into being. Thus she is likely to feel acutely miserable after making a decision to have an abortion. This is time for compassion for the woman, and for her to be compassionate with herself and for her unborn child. If I am consulted, and we explore the options carefully and I learn that the decision is definite, I encourage her to go through the act with the consciousness of a mother who holds her dying child in her arms, lovingly nurturing it as it passes from life .... Once the decision is made, there is not blame, but rather acknowledgement that sadness pervades the whole universe, and this bit of life goes with our deepest love. [30] This position seems to hold them to the middle way very skilfully. The moral consequences of the precepts are fully recognised, but the persons involved are treated compassionately rather than judgementally. For those who so desire, the Diamond Sangha marks these deaths with a public ceremony [see Appendix] based on the Japanese funeral services for mizuko. From my experience I believe that this or a similar ceremony could be very useful in dealing with such a loss, which in our culture usually remains hidden and difficult to resolve. Here it should be mentioned that in Japan, due to the disgrace surrounding abortion, both as a function of sexual misconduct and killing, such services do not seem to involve a public, community recognition of the unhappy event. In Thailand and Taiwan there also is no formalised religious consolation for people involved in abortions. It is a private hidden grief. Furthermore, in Theravada countries there is no tradition of revering Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. In China this bodhisattva, known as Titsang, is neither widely worshipped, nor is he particularly connected with 'water babies'. Finally, my research confirms earlier studies [31]. Where religious prohibitions result in highly restrictive abortion laws, illegal abortions are frequent. When social pressure to limit family size or to avoid the disgrace of unmarried pregnancy conflict with religious principles against abortion, religion loses out. It seems that the gaps between religious theory and practice are often fruitful places for investigation. Appendix [32] The Diamond Sangha Ceremony on the Death of An Unborn Child 1. Three full bows. 2. Vandana and Ti Sarana in Pall, or Taking Refuge in English. 3. Emmei Jikku Kannon Gyo, or other short sutra in Japanese or English. 4. Leader: We gather today to express our love and support for , and for -----[names of parents], and to -----, who appeared just as we all do, from the undifferentiated mind, as that mind, and who passed away after a few moments of flickering life, just as we all do. In our culture, we place great emphasis upon maintaining life, but truly death is not a fundamental matter, but an incident, another wave. Bassui Zenji speaks of it as clouds fading in the sky. Mind essence, Bassui says, is not subject to birth or death. It is neither being nor nothingness, neither emptiness nor form and color. It is, as Yamada Koun Roshi has said, infinite emptiness, full of possibilities, at once altogether at rest and also charged with countless tendencies awaiting the fullness of karma. Here ----- is in complete repose, at one with the mystery that is our own birth and death, our own no-birth and no-death. 5. Heart Sutra in Japanese or English, as parents, leader, and friends offer incense. 6. Leader: Buddha nature pervades the whole universe, existing right here now; with our reciting of Enmei Jikku Kannon Gyo let us unite with the Ancient Seven Buddhas, Fully Realised Sakyamuni Buddha, Great Compassion Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Earth Treasury Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, all Founding Teachers, past, present, future. We especially dedicate our love and our prayerful thoughts to you -----. May you rest in perfect peace. Let true Dharma continue-- Sangha relations become complete. All: All Buddhas throughout space and time, all Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, the Great Prajnaparamita. 7. Great Vows for All in English. 8. Three full bows. NOTES [1] RATANAKUL, PINIT Bioethics: an introduction to the ethics of Medicine and Life Sciences (Bangkok: Mahidol University, 1986), p. 18. Another good start is found in a series of articles by Dr Subhadr Panyadeep entitled 'Influences of Religion on Primary Health Care in Thailand', in: World Fellowship of Buddhists Review (Bangkok, 1986-88). [2] TANIGUCHI, SHOYU A Study of Biomedical Ethics from a Buddhist Perspective (Berkeley: Graduate Theological Union and the Institute of Buddhist Studies, MA Thesis, 1987), introduction. A short excerpt from this thesis appears as 'Biomedical Ethics From a Buddhist Perspective'. in: The Pacific World 3, Fall, 1987. [3] The following discussion of Buddhist ethics is my own. I believe that it is generally correct for both Theravada and Mahayana traditions. It was written before my May, 1989, discussion with members of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities of Mahidol University in Bangkok, and of the Chung Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies in Taipei, but thankfully, those discussions confirmed that I may be on the right track. See also Frank E. Reynolds and Robert Campany, in: MIRCEA ELIADE (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1987). 'Buddhist Ethics' for a good survey. TANIGUCHI, Study, chapter 4 and RATANAKUL, Bioethics, chapter 1 and appendix III are also useful. [4] KALUPAHANA, DAVID Causality: the central philosophy of Buddhism (Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1975). [5] TANIGUCHI, Study, pp. 51-52. [6] LAMOTTE, ETIENNE Histoire du Bouddhisme Indien (Louvain-La-Neuve: Universite de Louvain, 1976), pp. 38ff. [7] Louis de La Vallee Poussin, tr., l'Abhidharmakofa de Vasabandhu (Bruxelles: l'Institut beige des hautes etudes chinoises, 1971), 6 vols., ii pp. 62-63. My translation from de La Vallee Poussin's French, which translates a Chinese translation of a Sanskrit original. [8] TANIGUCHI, Study, p. 19. [9] CONZE, E. tr., Buddhist Scriptures (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1959), pp. 70-71. [10] The analysis that follows is loosely based on TANIGUCHI, Study, chapters 4-5. [11] CONZE, Scriptures, pp. 72-73. [12] RATANAKUL, Bioethics, pp. 276-277. [13] For the material in this section, I am indebted to members of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities of Mahidol University, Bangkok, who generously shared their concerns and knowledge with me. Mahidol University is connected with a medical school, and the Department of Social Sciences and Humanities is very seriously engaged in projects concerning public health and welfare in Thailand. [14] RATANAKUL, Bioethics, for example, makes very clear that the first precept must be central in any Buddhist hioethical theory. [15] Thailand's law was passed before 1918. RUTH ROEMER, 'Laws of the World', in: R. H^LL (Ed.) Abortion in a Changing World (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), 2 vols., p. 122. [16] Ibid., p. 122. [17] Taniguchi's thesis takes this line. In my opinion, it does so in a rather mechanical way and tends towards the error of eternalism (see p. 40 above). [18] SIRILAI, SIRALEE 'An Analytical Study of Buddhist Ethics, Ethical Rules, and Criteria for Judgement of Ethical Problems in Medicine at the Present Time' (Bangkok: Abstract presented to the National Research Council of Thailand, 1986), p. 4. [19] For material in this section I am indebted to Drs Barber and Tso of the Chung Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies in Taipei, who were very generous with their time and knowledge. [20] CHOW, L. P. 'Abortion in Taiwan', in: R. HALL (Ed.) Abortion, p. 251. [21] My informants are borne out by a recent study which analysed various cultures and attitudes towards chastity. ANDREA SACHS 'Secrets of the Mating Game', Time International (Hong Kong, May 1, 1989), pp. 46-47. [22] My informants were under the impression that the law permitted abortion only for married women, which is, in fact, the standing practice. See Chow, ibid., pp. 251-257 for details. I have been unable to find more current information than that contained Chow's article. [23] SACHS, 'Secrets', pp. 46-47. [24] MURAMATSU, MINORU 'Abortion in Japan', in: R. HALL (Ed.) Abortion. See also COLIN FRANCOME, Abortion Freedom: a worldwide movement (London: Unwin, 1984). [25] FRANCOME, Abortion, p. 129. [26] LEVERING, MIRIAM, 'Ksitigarbha' in: MIRCEA ELIADE (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Religion (1987). See also Pierre Grimal (Ed.) Larousse World Mythology (London: Hamlyn, 1965), pp. 318-323. [27] ANESAKI, MASAHARU The Mythology of All Races, J. A. MAcCuLLOCH et al. (Ed.) (New York: Cooper Square, 1964), 13 vols., viii, p. 240. [28] CZAJA, MICHAEL Gods of Myth and Stone: phallicism in Japanese Folk Religion (New York: Weatherhill, 1974), pp. 169 and 265-266. [29] While I have stressed the positive religious value of the mizuko Jizo practice, it does have a sordid aspect. Some of the 2000 or so Japanese temples which offer such services engage in frightening advertising, They distribute hand bills and place advertisements on television, which say that aborted children will wander lost and terrorised unless their spirits are appeased by a Jizo memorial. Furthermore, unless the mother makes such appeasement, she is threatened with personal retribution like epilepsy, cancer and heart disease. It is too bad that religious institutions are so often eager to profit from people's guilty misery. See also TOM ASHBROOK 'Abortions and the "business of terror"', South China Morning Post (Hong Kong, July 31, 1985). [30] AITKEN, ROBERT The Mind of Clover: essays in Zen Buddhist ethics (San Francisco: North Point, 1984), pp. 21-22. [31] CALLAHAN DANIEL Abortion: law, choice and morality (New York: Macmillan, 1970), pp. 285-286 and 298. [32] Ibid., pp. 175-176.