The Metaphysical Basis of Śāntideva's Ethics

Journal of Buddhist Ethics 22:249-283 (2015)
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Western Buddhists often believe and proclaim that metaphysical speculation is irrelevant to Buddhist ethics or practice. This view is problematic even with respect to early Buddhism, and cannot be sustained regarding later Indian Buddhists. In Śāntideva’s famous Bodhicaryāvatāra, multiple claims about the nature of reality are premises for conclusions about how human beings should act; that is, metaphysics logically entails ethics for Śāntideva, as it does for many Western philosophers. This article explores four key arguments that Śāntideva makes from metaphysics to ethics: actions are determined by their causes, and therefore we should not get angry; the body is reducible to its component parts, and therefore we should neither protect it nor lust after other bodies; the self is an illusion, and therefore we should be altruistic; all phenomena are empty, and therefore we should not be attached to them. The exploration of these arguments together shows us why metaphysical claims can matter a great deal for Buddhist ethics, practice and liberation.



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Amod Lele
Boston University

References found in this work

Review of Metaphysics, Peter van Inwagen. [REVIEW]Timothy O'Connor - 1993 - Philosophical Review 104 (2):314-317.
Resentment and Reality: Buddhism on Moral Responsibility.Charles Goodman - 2002 - American Philosophical Quarterly 39 (4):359-372.
Emptiness and moral perfection.Luis O. Gomez - 1973 - Philosophy East and West 23 (3):361-373.

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