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Buddhist Ethics in Impermanence

Buddhist Ethics in Impermanence
Item Code: NAE705
Author: M.V. Ram Kumar Ratnam & K. Srinivas
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 9788124605622
Pages: 220
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 9.0 inch x 6.0 inch
weight of the book: 430 gms
About the Book

The Book introduces readers to the fundamental ethical precepts of Buddhism. Buddhist ethics are significant and relevant to contemporary society, as these are not restricted to any caste, creed, race, region and language. The ethical precepts of Buddhist are flexible and autonomous in character. They are of a very practical character, such that they can easily adopted and applied to modern times. The precepts are essentially taken from the sacred texts of Buddhism.

This volume comes in an attempt to highlight the philosophical and ethical bases of Buddhism. It classifies the ethical precepts of Buddhism in order to show their relevance to different categories of people-monks, nuns and Buddhist laid people as well as non-Buddhists. It brings out the autonomous character of Buddhist ethics and the ethical idealism of Buddhism to show that the precepts have a pragmatic character. It also reveals the Buddhist solution to problems in the world in general and individual societies in particular, problems of the nature of war, suicide, gender inequality which existed in ancient times and continue to exist today.

The book will be extremely useful to scholars and students of Buddhist Philosophy and ethics.

About the Author

Dr. M.V. Ram Kumar Ratnam,Professor, Centre for Mahayana Buddhist Studies, Acharya Nagarjuna University, Nagarjuna Nagar, had formal training in Philosophy under Profeesor C. Ramaiah at Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati. His doctoral research deals with the theravada conception of dukkha. His first book on Concept of Dukkha in Indian Philosophy with Special Reference to Early Buddhism deals with the special Reference to early Buddhism deals with the different facets of understanding and means for the annihilation of dukkha. Currently he is working on a project entitled: The relevance of Buddhist Values in contemporary society. Professor Ram Kumar Ratnam Published many papers in journals of international repute and presented papers in many national and international seminars on Buddhism.

K. Srinivas His M.A. in philosophy from Andhra University, Visakhapatnam. Subsequently he obtained his PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He taught at madras Christian College ( Autonomous) between 1985-89 before joing Pondicherry University . His specializations include analytic philosophy, epistemology (eastern & western), and Indian Philosophy. He has special interest in Buddhist Philosophy. Professor Srinivaspresented papers in the national and international seminars and published a number of papers in the reputed journals of philosophy. He was a visiting scholar at many universities in India and abroad.


The present work only serves as a good introduction to those who are interested in getting themselves acquainted with the fundamental ethical precepts of Buddhism. This work is neither elementary nor highly advanced treatise on Buddhist ethics. True to the Buddhist ideal, we chose the middle path in writing this book. Lot of insightful research was done in the past, and is being done now in this field by the outstanding Buddhist scholars both in the Orient and the Occident. A list of such important works is presented in the select bibliography for the benefit of those who would like to get into the deeper structures of Buddhist ethics. An exhaustive study of Buddhist ethics may not be possible in one single life, for it is an ocean by itself. We only picked up some pebbles that lie on the shores of this ocean. We only picked up some pebbles that lie on the shores of this ocean. The modern man is so busy with his day-to-day personal and social responsibilities. He may not find enough time to spare to go through in detail these highly technical and insightful research works on Buddhist ethics. He looks for something that gives him immediate solace to his mental stress and satisfaction to his intellectual urge. This work certainly serves the purpose for such-individuals. At the same time, the present work has its own academic worth, for it tries to show the relevance of Buddhist ethics to the contemporary social scenario in which modern man is placed. The Buddhist ideals come to the rescue of Humankind only when they are understood and practiced in their right spirit. Thus the present work looks at Buddhist ethics both from normative and applied perspectives.

We would also like to express our indebtedness to Dr. Kona Radhakrishna Murty, Reader in Philosophy, C.S. R. Sarma College, ongole. He received his training in Buddhist studies from the well-known Pali scholar in India, Professor Mahesh Tiwari of University of Delhi. His study on Buddhist values provided valuable insights.


Every philosophy sets forth certain ideals to be emulated sometimes the ideals set forth by a particular philosophy remain utopian for they can neither be experientially realized nor be successfully translated into concrete realities. Contrary to an utopian ideal, a genuine ideal is that which can realized and practiced by individuals in their day-today life. Such ideal has its own meaning and purpose. Mere reification of ideals, which are of no practical consequences in one’s life in particular and society in general, amounts to nurturing philosophical idealism of a dogmatic kind. The genuineness of any philosophical system lies in its ability to contribute, directly or indirectly, to the life-word shared by every one of us in the realization of the purpose and meaning of life. The grand philosophical traditions of the orient and the Occident shared such a view.

It is traditionally believed that philosophy as a reflective enterprise is not only concerned with the essential meaning and purpose of life but also with human activities. In other words, philosophy ought to be the philosophy of life. It cannot be separated from the day-to-day existential problems of the individual. As matter of fact, the philosophy of any people represents their feelings, thinking, and living. Thus philosophy is anthropocentric. The philosophy of Buddhism is one such philosophy that does not segregate theory and practice. The teachings of the Buddha are true ideals for they can be realized by every individual in his / her own life. They are far from being utopian. The success of the Buddhist philosophy as a progressive one lies in its ability to transform the lives of millions of people all over the globe. It advocated whatever is conductive for good and healthy human life and society. As observed by one of the well-known contemporary French philosophers, Emmanuel Levin as (1906-95), a sound philosophical system could be erected not on metaphysical or epistemological foundations but only on firm ethical foundations. This is what we could see in the Buddhist philosophy. The philosophy of Buddhism is primarily a philosophy intended to put forth a form of ethics that is aimed at self-perfection. But in the process, the self-regarding virtues gradually take shape as other-regarding virtues. In fact, one can see the amalgamation of philosophical, religious and moral ideals in the fundamental doctrines of Buddhism. Of course, the interdependence of philosophical, religious and moral ideals is one of the chief traits of the Oriental philosophies.

According to Aristotle, the essential feature of human beings is rationality. Therefore, humans are not only inquisitive but human rationality is two-pronged in the sense that it has two important dimensions, namely, scientific and moral. The rapid developments in the realm of science rationality have reached its pinnacle. The material growth of any society is invariably linked up with the developments in science and technology. But science cannot be the paradigm of human life. The decadent forms of morality witnessed in the industrialized or soft totalitarian (consumerist) societies justify our belief that our moral rationality has reached its nadir. In such societies human suffering is conspicuous for the affluent alone enjoy sensuous pleasures at the cost of those who are economically weak and deprived. There is not space left for love and compassion in such societies. A section of human beings is treated as a means by the economically and politically powerful section of society to achieve their ends. But they hardly realize that the sensuous pleasure looks for more and more material wealth for otherwise he cannot lead such a life. The desire to amass more and more material wealth breeds greed in a person. And greed takes away one’s peace. Lack of peace in one’s life is also a for of suffering. Sickness and old age rain on the rich and poor alike. A Well-balanced society is that which gives importance to both scientific and moral forms of gives importance to both scientific and moral forms of rationality. Scientific realism sans moral idealism reduces human individual to the level of beast. Similarly moral idealism sans scientific realism reduces human individual to the level of a stoic and an ascetic. The philosophy of Buddhism does not subscribe to any of these two extremes. Like Aristotle’s principle of “golden Mean,” the philosophy of Buddhism advocates the “middle Path”. It is not an exaggeration to say that a true religion is the religion of humanity in which one does not find any distinction between religion and philosophy. They are fused into one. The religious philosophies of the Orient are the best examples for such a fusion.

However, the anthropocentric purport of any religious philosophical tradition does not rule out human’s concern for other living creatures on the Earth. Man is part and parcel of the natural world. In this natural world he creates a social world he creates a social world for the benefit and the furtherance of the human race. As aptly stated by Aristotle, God and beasts do not require a society for “man is naturally apolitical animal and that one who is not citizen of any state, if the cause of his isolation be natural and not accidental, is either a super human being or low in the scale of civilization, as he stands alone like a “blot” on the backgammon board.” Since God or the Supreme Power is one and only one, we, as ordinary individuals, cannot attain the status of God to escape from our social commitments. However, one can escape from our social commitments by being indifferent to society and to fellow individuals living in society. In other world, one can choose to lead a life of best. To lead beastly life one does require oneself as a human being one needs to be a member of society in which one finds a diversity of human relationships. The bedrock of all human relationships existing in a society is what we call culture in general. The culture of any society is reflected in the lifestyle led by the members of that society. Although Buddhism does not subscribe to the existence of any supreme God or godhead its concern for society (Samgha) is something remarkable. It is the Samgha the reminds every individual his/ her duties as obligations towards other individuals and living creature. Of course, no one denies the contribution made by science and technology to the modern world in various spheres of human life. Science provides us with all earthly pleasures, which are non-enduring. It may provide us with temporal comforts. To weigh or judge every aspect of life in terms of science leads to scientism. Such a view turns science into an ideology. According to Marx, an ideology is a false consciousness that deprives individuals of free thinking. As we know anything in excess leads to disasters. It has to be properly balanced. The consequences of modern science are known to everyone. People have become more and more materialistic and there is no end for greed. The unwarranted competition in every sphere of life has led to wars and violence of different types. All these are manifestations of suffering. To alleviate human suffering moral rationality of the individuals has to be strengthened. In the absence of moral rationality the life of human beings is going to be much worse. Long ago the Buddha recognized this fact. He could see suffering.

The sole remedy to the maladies of the modern world lies in the realizes that human birth is precious, its life. If one realizes that human birth is precious, its continuance is also very important. The fundamental ethical precepts of Buddhism remind us of this fact. The reason why for human life is that it makes one realize the existential situation in which one is placed. In the absence of morality rightly observed by Plato, his rational part is dominated by his irrational part that consists of appetite and spirit. Although the goal of Buddhism is to attain nibbana / nirvana, its practical approach to various problems of life is something worthy of emulation. For instance, non-injury, Non-stealing benevolence, charity, and liberality are the virtues to be emulated by every individual. The Four Noble Truths (ariya sacca / arya satya) of the Buddha are worth knowing and their philosophical implications have to be realized by one and all.


1Fundamental Tenets of Buddhism13
The pali Canon15
Noble character16
Critique of Scholasticism17
Theory of causation19
The Notion of Real21
The Four Noble Truths (Ariya Saccani / Arya Satya)23
The Nature of Reality29
God and Sould30
Rebirth and Nibbana / Nirvana32
Social Significance33
The Moral Law36
Buddhism as philosophy41
Radical Pessimism43
Survival of values46
2Taxonomy of Buddhist Ethics47
Socio philosophical foundations of Buddhism48
Classification of Buddhist Ethics54
3Autonomous character of Buddhist Ethics75
Moral Autonomy76
Moral Progmatism79
4Idealist Nature of Buddhist Ethics113
Evolution of the Buddhist ethics113
Right Opinions (Sammaditthi / Samayakdrsti118
Right Aspirations (Sammasamkappa / Samayaksankalpa)119
Right Speech (sammavaca / Samayakvak)120
Right Actions (Samakamanta / Samayakjiva)120
Right Livelihood (Sammajiva / Samayakvyayama)122
Right Efforts (Sammavayama / Samayakvyama)124
Right Mindfulness (Sammasati)125
Pragmatic Purport of the Noble Eightfold Path (Arya-Astanga-marga)127
Ethical ategories as Ideals129
Critical Reflections136
5Buddhist Ethics and the Cotemporary society145
Climate Change150
Human rights154
Gender Equality169
Trade and Economy171
Violence and peace174

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