倫理學
談戒與持戒
格梅茲撰'鄭振煌譯
11/03/2010 13:27 (GMT+7)
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談戒與持戒

美國密西根大學教授 格梅 茲撰;
中華佛學研究所副研究員 鄭振煌譯

中華佛學學報
第六期(1993.07)
頁351-389

©1993 中華佛學研究 所
臺北市


提要

        佛教一直很強調信條和規矩,而道德或倫理則是佛 教崇高目標的前行和修行的重要基礎。佛教以其倫理思想來適應新文化情境,不是因為推論出道德神學的精細處,而是訴諸超倫理的價值:

①肯定它的超越性。
②訴諸它的比較廣泛的救世原則。

        傳統佛教戒律並不能適當回應今日佛教倫理所面臨 的危機。我們如果要對戒律做有意義的重估,就必須修改佛教倫理理想的內涵與基礎,不能一味否認佛教的缺點。對我們這個時代具有意義的佛教倫理,需要具備四 個條件:

①必須根源於過去和傳統的佛教討論。
②必須考慮到社會和個人的目前時空。
③必須針對目的而談佛教倫理,並且儘量減少神秘色彩和浮誇虛飾。
④必須以人類(個體與其社會現實)為考量依據,必須是給每一個人和任何人遵守的信條。

        我們有必要對古代某些神秘東西做批判性的檢驗, 有必要更新那些支持佛教倫理生活的神話和符號,但這並不表示是宗教敬畏的結束。

 

 

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        由於對「戒律」的共同興趣,讓我們共聚一堂,參 加這次盛會。在我們當中,有許多人深深迷上了佛教僧戒的歷史和細節,佛教的儀式和社會涵義,但最重要的是,我們大都尊敬佛教對於人類行為所抱持的理想。換 句話說,我認為:對於戒律感興趣,隱含著對於倫理、美德、關心別人和自我修行的廣大問題感興趣。我確信,我們對於佛教倫理理想的崇高敬意,也能夠使得我們 關心它們的末來、它們的生存、它們的意義的保存和釐清。因此,我願意邀請出席本次會議的各位先進,共同思索戒律文獻所呈現的理想及其歷史意義。

        在某方面來說,二千多年來,佛教僧戒已經提供了 人類美德和人類圓滿的模式。佛教僧侶的「美德」,西方人已經耳熟能詳好幾個世紀了。五百多年前,馬哥孛羅就提到了佛教徒的模範生活,雖然他把佛教看成是一種「迷信」。[1]隨著西方人對於佛教越來越了解,越來越尊敬,他們就越來越把佛教和佛教徒看成是高度倫理的宗教和宗教徒。即使是在 今天,我們還是常常聽到有人說:佛教的「美德」或「道德」非常特別,比起任何西方的道德系統要精緻得多。

        1913年,凱洛琳.萊斯.大衛斯對巴利文的 「尸羅」這個詞,表達了無比的喜歡,因為她似乎對於這個詞被翻譯成英文中的「道德」表示歉意:

我很想保留美麗的巴利文「尸羅」原字,而不用英文的「道德」等詞。「美德」這個詞比較優雅,卻有點模糊。「尸羅」是道德習慣,習慣上的善,或道德的行為一 不傷害其他生命,不淫亂,誠實,言語柔和、不飲酒。

        好像五戒就解決了一切問題。她加了一句:「那就 夠了」,就某種意義來說,五戒確實夠完美了。現代撰述「佛教倫理學」的作家,都很樂意把萊斯.大衛斯的這個說法擴大其定義和假設。[2]我們通常都認為在佛教典範中,「尸羅是人類行為和自我實現的中心,另一方面卻又認為道德或倫理只是佛教崇高目標的 前行。(這一點可能是最吸引現代西方人的地方)萊斯.大衛斯在上述同一資料中,也帶有分類的意味說:「此種行為只是修行的重要基礎」[3],他又很啟示性地說:「佛陀的戒法,是對職業殺手而非比丘而說的。」


1. 從那時候起一直到現在的六百年間,情況並沒有改變太大。可能是對外國既羨慕又恐懼的同一個混合情結,感動了本世絕的卡爾.容格,把「東方的」智慧看成是深 奧的心理真實的倉庫,卻非西方人居住的地方。

2. B. C. Law(1936/1966)在(佛教的概念)(Concepts of Buddhism)一書中,引用萊斯.大衛斯的註腳,來綜述佛教的戒。

3. 重點放在「我所有」。這句話隱含有很多意義。這場主題演說的時間和情況,不容許我對這些意義深入介紹,但大家必須記住在亞洲和西方對於「筏喻」、阿羅漢 「超越善惡」的地位、「無相戒」等問題的長久辯論。這一切重要而頗為棘手的問題,在像本文這種長度的論文裏,僅能點到為止。萊斯.大衛斯所翻譯的偈子,是 不是針對殺手而言,我們不得而知,但故事的架構卻來自很晚期的註書。但因為文中把道德的成果說成名望、利益和天堂,所以該偈明顯指涉這個臨時或非宗教,而 建立在方便之上的道德概念。

 

 

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        不過,「尸羅」不僅被認為是修行的基礎,也是佛 法的延伸。大約一百年前,湯姆斯.赫胥黎以典型的維多利亞時代的眼光,很羨慕地提到「形而上學的傑作」,使得「喬達摩」做結論:「在整個宇宙中,沒有恆常 的東西,心和物都沒有實體。」、「位格是一種形而上學的幻想;終極而言,不僅是我們,還有世間的萬事萬物,都是在無窮盡的宇宙變化之中,都只是夢幻泡 影。」

        赫胥黎認為,喬達摩和他的先驅一樣,只能從他的 形而上學得出「一個行為的準則一一出離。」但,赫胥黎卻推論說,喬達摩不像他的先驅,「對於輪迴的解脫,無疑的,他有比較好的保證。當不再有實體(不管是 神我或梵我)不滅時,總之,當一個人夢想到他願意不再做夢時,輪迴就一定可以解脫了。」

        赫胥黎對佛教哲學和解脫理論做過這種評價之後, 又熱心地稱揚他所理解的佛教倫理學和社會實踐:

慾念和情慾是無法單靠折磨肉體就予以消除的;反之,它們必須從根本上加以對治,也要靠持培養與之相反的心理習慣來予以克服,其他方法還有萬物一體的仁慈 心、以德報怨,……總之,完全捨棄自我肯定──宇宙過程的要素。毫無疑問的,佛教之所以如此成功,便是得力於這些倫理的品質。佛教這個系統……否認人有靈 魂;認為對於永恆不朽的信仰是一種錯誤,而希望永恆不朽是一種罪惡;否認祈禱和祭祀有任何效用;要求人們只有靠自己的力量才能得救;它的原始面貌不要求人 們發願屈服,反對偏執,從不尋求世俗力量的幫助;卻以驚 人的速度傳布到舊世界的相當多地區,即使在今天,它被加進了外國的迷信,仍然是大部分人類的主要信仰。

        對我們來說,赫胥黎的讚詞,透露出他對於佛教經 典和歷史的認識有所不足,也反映他百分之百相信抽象觀念的力量。如果從一百多年來學術性宗教研究對各種宗教的認識,一百多年來的佛教研究等有利角度來看, 再看看我們自己的期望,就可以發

 

 

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現赫胥黎的評價如果不是太天真了,就是有點理想化。不過,對於 「加進了外國的迷信」之類的概念,雖然現代學者可能會發現並無多大用處,但我們必須承認赫胥黎所要解決的問題與今日並無兩樣。在《進化與倫理》一書中,赫 胥黎也面臨了下面這個問題:如果沒有我,沒有永恆的生命,沒有上帝,道德責任會變成什麼樣子?這不是一個耍嘴皮和難解的學術性辯論。如果沒有我的話,佛教 徒怎能相信業力?也不是一個為倫理建構形而上學基礎的哲學問題。它是在沒有超越的世界裡,有關於倫理的意義、功能和性質的問題。赫胥黎就像今日的我們一 樣,可能也像佛陀本人,遠在他了解「無我論」之前,他也面臨著他那個時代喪失自我的問題。但喪失自我可以有很多意義和很多結果,不只是重新建構一個人的意 義和目的領域而已。

        在西方,也許在古印度也是如此,社會性的自我迷 失都引生本體性的自我迷失。不過,在西方,這種迷失通常是被看作留下一個毫無樂趣可言的虛幻。過去西方思想的主流,從否定之中似乎只能得出失望和絕望,從 無實之中只能得出虛無和空無。[4]反之,佛教傳統卻把這種自我的忘失看成是解脫的可能性,也是從這個世間解脫的理由,並非失望和哀傷的理由。對佛教 徒而言,這是一個荒涼、無家可歸的地球,我們必須出離,而出離卻會導致極樂。

        赫胥黎觀察到了這個重要的差別:擊破宇宙和形而 上的安全保障,在西方會導致失望,但就佛教而言,似乎會導致快樂的離執。但吊詭的是,赫胥黎雖然毫不掩藏地稱揚佛教,卻同時也批判佛教的離執。赫胥黎把佛 教對於無我的深觀智慧,看成是類似進化論的古典理論,但他相信從這些智慧所衍生的倫理原則卻不正確。希臘人讓我們過份相信人類的完美性,一方面卻暗示堅忍 論的出離和絕望。在喬達摩身上,印度已經給了我們一個比較完美的退縮方式。但退縮只是答案的一半:在完全絕望和完全退縮的兩個極端之間,赫胥黎看到一個未 來的倫理,既可以接受人類的有限性,也可以努力去校正它。他寫道:「一個人既要拋棄年少氣盛的過度自信,也要拋棄年老力衰的暮氣沈沈。」

        赫胥黎不是質樸的浪漫主義者。他的論文有時能夠 振聾啟瞶,在他預測形成我們這個世紀的自我和價值多麼不安全時,他的天才就一再浮現出來了。但無可置疑的,他對於佛教的認知,反映出維多利亞時代英國人對 於佛教和「東方」的期盼。

        當西方知識分子對於他們自己的機構喪失信心之 餘,他們就轉而追求外來的模式──空無的理想。因此,我們也就不足為奇地讀到赫胥黎把佛教描寫成一種哲學,它不僅具有進佔生物論的智慧,而且「認為對於永 恒不朽的信仰是一種錯誤,而希望永恆不朽則是一種罪惡;否認祈禱和祭祀有任何效用;要求人們只有靠自已的力量才


4. 目前已經不是這回事了。請閱 Taylor, 1989。

 

 

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能得救;它的原始面貌不要求人們發願屈服,反對偏執,從不尋求世 俗力量的幫助。」我們不禁會疑惑:這種描述反映出多少成分的西方知識分子的希望。

        如果佛教是什麼的話,我們可以說它一直很強調信 條和規矩,即使我們認為「屈從」可能不是最正確的詞,但我們還是不得不尋找歷史證據,來支持赫胥黎所描述的「解構的佛教」。佛教顯然曾經有過自已的政治立 場,也曾經不得不操縱政治和社會現實。在這麼做時,佛教也曾經不得不形成自己的倫理理想,其方向則遠離單純的肯定無我。

        遺憾的是,赫胥黎對於出離心理學和完美社會生物 學的睿知卓見,並不太為佛教倫理學的作家們所熟知;不 過,他所倚賴的維多利亞時代英國人對佛教的印象,仍然保留至今。

        今天,我們願意相信我們已經超越了維多利亞時代 的討論範圍。我們的學術研究,至少已經做了稍許的進步,我們可以安全地肯定:赫胥黎對於佛教的認識,充其量只不過是理想化的抽象概念。不過,一般人還是像 赫胥黎一樣地認為:在佛教本體論和佛教倫理學、情操之間,有一個清晰而邏輯上必須有的關係。又有一個傾向認為:被佛教當作是情操的形式,或應該是某種倫理 理論的反映。不管是當作歷史事實也好,當作辯證也好,也有很多人認為佛教已經不再有儀式主義、法統主義和政治興趣。在歷史證據的面前,所有這些訴求都飛走 了,但它們似乎在辯證上還有點成功。

        這不完全是現代改變信仰的策略,不過,「解構的 宗教」是辯證學的常用策略,「我的宗教」總是對的,它是用它的理想來界定的;而別人的宗教總是人類對於現實的錯誤了解。有時候這是一種有效的辯證策略,在 上一個世紀的某些圈子裏,這種策略還滿管用的。我相信這種成功一定會曇花一現的,更糟的是,佛教作為一種正面改變的力量所能發揮的良性效益,可能會因而被 打折扣了,尤其在我們透過人類理想而非強迫手段來共同追求社會共識時,佛教作為這種推動力量的功能將大受影響。如果把佛教當成是理想的解構實體,而不考慮 到形成它的制度歷史的具體行動規範和儀式傳統,則必然會傷害到真理(或者說誠實?),也有損於佛教作為人類智慧的寶藏。

        把佛教當成最高智慧和解脫的解構理論,而非行為 模式的體系,這種趨勢是怎麼形成的呢?歐洲、印度和中國的社會史差異極大,毫無疑問的,這是最重要的因素之一。只要對婆羅門教和佛教的互動情形做深入研 究,就可以發現佛教倫理學的性質。但在本論文中,我只想談談佛教倫理學本身,以及它在未來的可能改變。

        佛教以其倫理理想來適應新文化情境,似乎不是因 為推論出道德神學的精細處,而是訴諸超倫理的價值:

(1)肯定它的超越性(在認識論上以二諦的模式來表達,在倫 理學上以入世出世的模式來表達)。

 

 

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(2)訴諸它的比較廣泛的救世原則(也就是把倫理學當成目的 論)。[5]

        這些策略足以讓佛教成為一種宗教意識型態,也足 以讓僧院成為一種自我存續的機構。基督教的西方,也有類似的意識型態。

        這些對於倫理有效性的詮釋方式,一方面使倫理獲 得似非而是的定位──以各地的道德習俗,來界定非出家眾的倫理。另一方面,它們也衍生僧團的解構倫理理想,借用萊斯.大衛的話,倫理只有在對俗眾宣說時才 是倫理,在對僧眾宣說時它只不過是跳板而已。

        不管怎樣,今天我們面臨了佛教倫理的危機。傳統 佛教戒律並不能對這種危機做適當的回應。這種危機並不新,赫胥黎早就一針見血地指出了。這種道德危機,不能單純地解釋為人們實踐道德的決心越來越薄弱。傳 統的倫理基礎,不論是社會的,形而上的或宗教的,已經受到嚴厲的質疑。如果想對佛教倫理做新的詮釋,擴大來說,就是對戒律做有意義的重估,就必須修改佛教 倫理理想的內涵與基礎。我們也必須重新思考形成佛教的廣泛原則,並且從這些廣泛原則的角度來看特殊規矩。下面這些說法都是無濟於事的:佛教就是答案,而 「真正的」答案則存在於另外一界──解脫界……只有從解脫者的角度來看,才能判定倫理有意義或無意義。

        更有甚者,否認佛教的缺點也無補於實際,尤其是 否認佛教徒的缺點,否認佛教史上某些時期的缺點,或佛教的傳統教條內容。

        只站在吾人想當然耳的理想的基礎上來討論,或只 站在原始佛教的立場來討論,或只站在佛陀應該已說過的戒律的立場來討論……或甚至只站在佛陀實際上已說過的戒律的立場來討論,都是不夠的。

        說佛教是解決方案,這是不夠的。即使說佛教是解 決方案之一,也是不夠的。我


5. 第一種策略已經被 Dharmasisi 在他1989年的近著《佛教倫理的基本要素》(Fundamentals of Buddhist Ethics)中所採用。第二種策略隱含在我從卡洛琳.萊斯.大衛斯的《早期佛教徒的讚美詩》(Carolyn Rhys-Davids Psalms' of the Earlies Buddhists)所引用的段落中。問題當然遠比這個要複雜得多。雖然基督教辯證家明瞭獨立倫理立論和獨立哲學人類理論的價值(無疑的,這個技巧得自希 臘人和羅馬人,再加上與世俗哲學家爭吵而磨鍊出來的),但任何以宗教語詞來界定自已的信條或倫理理論體系,都有貶抑倫理本身的危險。而且,儘管本文對於佛 教目的論已經有所保留,但我仍然不相信在目的論的立論中,有什麼先天上的瑕疵,對於宗教倫理思想而言,這些立論在歷史上都是最重要的。不過,如果目的論的 立論會導致社會和人類現實的貶抑,以便產生倫理的需要性或宗教倫理的兩個基本面向:針對別人和針對自己,那麼我還是要袒護反本體論者。

 

 

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們必須說明佛教如何和為何能提供解決方案,並且承認佛教傳統在某 種程度上也無法提供解決方案……或只能提供一些不能被稱為「解決方案」的東西。我們必須指出:有關現代佛教徒所應遵循的普遍倫理,佛教至少能符合其內容和 形式的基本需求。

        我們生活在一個大覺醒的時代,如果不是犬儒主義 的時代的話。我們見到學者和修行人的覺醒。他們所覺醒的,不是人類變得比從前殘酷粗野,而是我們正在迅速喪失我們的基礎感(包括社會對於自我和價值的肯 定),以致於現在我們可以藉口為了對自己忠誠,而毫不知恥地表達和培養我們的自私心。因此,在這個時代裏,自私心的理想缺少社會的涵義,大眾的意見和行 為,既不支持精神上的理想,也不支持佛教在過去之所以被承認為生活行為規範的行為模式。

        誠如阿賴斯戴.麥辛泰爾在《美德之後》所說的, 佛教並不能免於大眾價值的腐蝕。這本書寫於十年前,作者幻想不出「新的世界秩序」,他只把我們的時代比喻為羅馬帝國的末年。羅馬帝國的道德共識消失了, 「美德」變成少數新信徒和修道人的專區。麥辛泰看到今天我們也需要過著少數人所宣揚的道德生活。因此,他看到我們有必要:

建設新的社會形式,在這種社會中,人們能夠過著道德的生活,以便在即將來臨的野蠻和黑暗時代裏,道德和禮貌,還不致於完全絕跡。但此時野蠻人並不是在邊疆 之外等待,他們已經統治我們有一段時間了。我們所等待的,並不是可多特,而是另一個(無疑是大不相同的)聖貝尼迪克。

        我們確實需要另一個聖貝尼迪克(或者我願意說, 許多聖貝尼迪克),但這些修行團體的新創立人,將與聖貝尼迪克「無疑是大不相同的」;我急著要補充說:將與喬摩、宗喀巴、道元「無疑是大不相同的」。

        嘗試著當預言家是很危險的(當然這要決定於他活 多久,很有可能會令他尷尬萬分),但我仍然要冒險地說:即使在未來的五十年(可能是未來的二十年),看到(我相信我們將看到)僧團重新變成工業化世界的核 心的道德和精神機構,它必然是迥異於過去的僧團,迥異於過去的戒律。

        我們之所以聚集在這裏,說明:我們或我們所回應 的某個不特定團體,正在探求僧團的新定義及其指導原則。不管如何,對於戒律從事任何嚴肅的反省,其目的就在這裏。

        在這種探求中,我們必須質疑許多過去的假設。面 對著現代倫理和世俗道德的挑戰,我們不僅要了解大家所熟知的僧團戒條和風俗的細節,還應該提出更多的問題。我們必須自問:「為什麼我們要守『佛教倫理』而 非一般性的倫理?為什麼我們要從佛

 

 

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教傳統中尋找或希望尋找某些東西,以便能夠替我們的時代……並替 我們那些非常分歧卻又統合的文化宇宙,建構、引出或維持一個倫理理想呢?僧團的理想能夠提供什麼給非僧團人士呢?」

        這些都是複雜而爭議多端的問題。今天,我只想把 自已限制在邀請各位跟我一起來偵察這個領域,思考新倫理和新戒律的某些一般性和正式需求。對我們這個時代具有意義的佛教倫理,到底需要那些條件呢?我能想 到幾個互相重疊的條件。

        (1)第一而且似非而是的,對於佛教行為理想的 任何重新思考,都必須根源於過去和傳統佛教討論。任何有效的倫理,都必須與過去有所連繫。我們的困難,不僅是哲學倫理的困難,也是實踐倫理和宗教倫理的困 難,我認為:與祖先做象徵性和歷史性的連繫,既是倫理行為(特別是宗教倫理)的基礎,也是它們的意義。連績感和同體感,可能比哲學上的說服力要來得重要。

        不過,同時我們也必須與過去斷裂。今天我們的問 題是:如何與過去連繫,不管這個過去是準歷史的過去或綜合性的理想過去,我們都不能脫離過去;但在另一面,我們卻又必須尋找建構倫理意義的新途徑。但如何 建構和維持這個「倫理意義」呢?當我們能夠從文化的知識化、民眾互動的行為困境和內在身分感的個人困境等層面,來了解和釐清倫理符號的系統(理想、神話、 教條和儀式)時,才能產生和保存倫理的意義。在從事釐清 的工作時,我們所需要的是諧和,而非同意。事實上,如果宗教討論想當俗眾討論的刺激物或評論者,不同意是很重要的。

        請注意:意義並不源自「真理」,或佛教的「真實 和原始」價值的發現或恢復,或「不背負世世代代文化包裹」的價值。離開文化就不可能有倫理──過去世代的文化包裹,其實就是宗教傳統的內容,雖然我們可能 不願意背負整個文化包裹。

        目前,還不只這個問題而已。我們可以在這個地方 信心滿滿地說:今天我們的困境是一方面要保存神話式的過去,另一方面則要產生新的意義和運用方式。我們既不能聲稱已經從我們身上「淨化」了神話,也不能聲 稱目前的事實並不存在。

        對於佛教倫理的傳統知識性討論,一方面我們必須 以相同的記號來找出其替代品,另一方面卻還要保存我們與它的連繫。譬如,讓我們來研究經常被古典和現代辯證者當作基本教理的兩個教理:佛教徒到底是以佛教 的「終極目標」來當作倫理行為的基礎呢?還是以慈悲的原則來當作倫理行為的基礎?我們可能有好幾個方式可以引用這些原則來啟發進一步的反省,同時又不致於 單純地重彈老調。

        這兩個原則的第一個,似乎不被用作基本的倫理原 則,而是被用作倫理原則的非倫理基礎。但,如何從它引伸出倫理呢?則一點也不清楚。傳統的佛教倫理討論,都集中在輪迴宇宙論的分層上,而非所謂的「終極目 標」。[6]

        我認為:從目標上來立論,是最微弱的事;在古典 亞洲和西方現代佛教徒中,都


6. 傳統上,這些結構的倫理支柱,自然都是功德的理論和善的理論。(「善」的梵文字 Kusala,是一個非常重要的語詞,但我還沒有找到合適的英文字。)在現代有關佛教倫理的討論中,我相信「功德」還是佔有一席之地,但令我感到遺憾的 是,在現代人想描述佛教倫理的努力中,卻有忽視「功德」論的趨勢。

 

 

頁359 談戒與持戒

中華佛學學報第六期 (1993.07)

對這種立論方式產生相當可疑的猜測。把涅槃當作佛教修持的基礎, 曾經被大乘批評過,但大乘並未做太多的更動。在西方,我們有自己的目的論,倫理哲學家已經找到道德基礎的不同概念,一方面是受到亞里斯多德的啟示,他最先 主張「道德……是做而非製造的形式……做的目的,與動作本身並無分別,做得好,本身就是目的了。」大乘哲學家不再拘泥於嚴格的目的論,但在大乘的倫理和神話省思中,曾經呈現現世倫理的種種因素,這時候卻被救 世目標的迫切性所遮掩了。

        不過,問題的癥結,並不在於道德的目的論定義或 立論基礎是否正式(或優先)無效,而是在於我們從涅槃的特殊概念所獲得的道德具有什麼性質。[7]

        毫無疑問的,在道德和宗教思想中的那些「引 伸」,常常是溫和的,而且常常植基於推測性的公理原則之外的價值、考慮和立論。不過,把涅槃當作「至善」,卻可以有兩種矛盾的概念,[8]其中一個模式說,涅槃的超越,從字面上可以理解為「與我們目前的生存狀態完全無關的情況」。世親對於涅槃的檢討, 就是這種概念的一個例子。第二種模式,把超越理解為一種譬喻,指的是一種心境:解脫者在存在中的位置,與別人的位置並無不同,但他對於事情的認知卻大為不 同。我們可以在某些中觀著作中發現這種模式。不過,第二種模式是否完全不把解脫當作他方世界,則我們一點也不清楚。毫無疑問的,某些矛盾的觀念仍然存在, 而且在大乘的倫理著作中,在美德的層次中,在「筏喻」和「無相之戒」的討論中,特別明顯。

        受到大乘影響而產生的涅槃定義的改變,事實上是 一種立論的改變:從超越性的倫理,改變到現世性的倫理。無論如何,大乘還是保有早期苦修主義和厭世的味道,它還是一個以僧團為主的宗教。[9]但至少在意識型態上,已經發生了重大的轉變。這


7. 請參閱 Bhasya ad Akoś(IV: &IV: 66)中有關世親對於「善」的觀點,頗具啟發性。

8. 我用「涅槃」一詞泛指佛教的解脫境界的概念。在這種用法中,「涅槃」是指各式各樣的「涅槃」。這些概念所共通的是它們的角色:它們都是指最高或終極的價 值,它們也是修「道」所期望的最後結果。不用說,這些抽象觀念也可以當作具體或符號的階層宇宙論中的組織原則。

9. 在基督教的歷史中,至少一直到後改革時代為止,對於道個世界既愛又恨的矛盾情結也是一個常見的問題。本論文有一個論點是:促使基督教改變的社會環境,目前 已經受到佛教機構的正視(如果說還未超越的話)。

 

 

頁360 談戒與持戒

中華佛學學報第六期 (1993.07)

種轉變與佛教倫理的第二個傳統原則(慈悲原則)的發展密切相關。

        「慈悲」並不是支持倫理行為的一種立論,而是一 個廣泛和非常模糊的語詞,代表著一組美德──善良的情感,可能還包括善良的行為。不過,在佛教的討論裏,「同體大悲」本身被當作基本的倫理規則。傳統上, 對於慈悲的討論,似乎都把同體大悲當成公理,它的終極意義可能是如此。但它與其他基本規則的關係,則從未被充分發展過。[10]即使是那些把慈悲當作主要或基本角色的人(如蓮華戒),也是把它看成是一種前行,顯然與靜心的修行有關,而與 倫理規則的細節無關。[11]將古代的說法賦予新義,其必要性只是新戒律第二個條件的正面而已:

        (2)現代倫理,也就是僧俗二眾的現代信條,必 須考慮到目前的時空。社會的目前時空,當然也包括個人的目前時空。

        這裏的困難是:找出一個具有足夠彈性的方式,以 適應社會環境和文化常模的改變,而不喪失一切的連續感和穩定感,也不傷害到宗教扮演社會評論者的功能。佛教在這方面所面臨的重要挑戰是:改變中的在家眾角 色,尤其是當我們以迅速進化的人類世俗觀念來界定它時,更是如此。在這個其實並不怎麼新穎的觀念中,人類被界定為生物實體,當他們的人類實體被建構時,並 沒有脫離活的有機體的盲目驅力,限制性和脆弱性。更有甚者,在討論人類的本體和思想時,並沒有忽略頭腦的生理特性,而人類至少部分繼承了這種生理特性。然 而,個體的人類人格更進一步被看成在遺傳上具有價值,除了政治或精神的階層以外。如果這只是一種理想,二種知識化作用和一個精密的神話,它仍然是一個強大 而主要的神話,這種神話需要我們把倫理看成是一種限制和達成完美境界的潛力,這與古典的(和現代的)佛教倫理討論迥異。

        不管如何,佛教道德思想的(神話、救世或哲學) 基礎,可能還要加上(俗僧二眾)組織的基礎,都必須符合這些激烈的歷史轉變。由於社會正義的發明,我們已經知道把精神上的高階層和高僧懷疑為精神意識型態 的提倡者,並以之為控制和剝削的


10. 印度形而上學的精細,與它以不太批判的態度來處理倫理問題,可以說是大異其趣。印度對於認知的研究,發展出細膩的認識論,但對於情緒和美德的概念,卻只是 就表面事實而談。對於倫理的處理方式為什麼會這麼偏頗呢?自然有它的社會和哲學原因。那些社會環境已經改變了。事實上,它們是一直在改變之中。不過,佛教 對於那些改變的反應很緩慢,有助於倫理的討論方式,我們很難翻譯成我們自己的模式、輪迴的神話、功德的教理、菩薩的神話。不過,也有著名的例外,印度的寂 天及其註疏者般若喀喇瑪蒂、戒賢,東亞的智顗等人,都偶爾會有其知卓見的倫理立論。

11. 這個問題的歷史根源,可能是早期對於「慈悲」賦以神話和儀式的氛圍。它似乎與社會倫理或美德倫理無關,但與一個人命終時諸佛的超人力量以及培養彼岸的心境 有關。

 

 

頁361 談戒與持戒

中華佛學學報第六期 (1993.07)

工具。由於(醫學界)發現了(過去所說的)心原來就是頭腦、潛意 識和情緒生物學等新學科,我們已經知道把美德懷疑為一種簾幕,而不再是那麼具有精神上的動機。這兩種重要的轉變,威脅著傳統佛教道德的兩大支柱:價值層次 和道德高階層的觀念、把美德當成「限制」的道德。

        由於對個體的看法有了新觀念,就產生了我相信已 經影響到佛教機構(甚至在亞洲也是如此)的改變。對於戒律的反省和對於佛教倫理的反省,一般來說,都必須忠實而具有批判性地面對種種問題:對於婦女的傳統 立場和公開歧視、對於下述倫理問題的模糊立場──戰爭與和平、同性戀、社會正義(而不只是主張以仁慈來對待奴隸和僕人)。

        新戒律必須建立在衍生自過去的倫理原則上。支配 社會的道德原則,必須建立在社會所有成員共同遵守的美德目標或定義上。這種過程的完成,不能依靠世俗生活的僧團化(或僧團生活的世俗化,如果我的預測(僧 團將持續下去)成真的話)。但它需要對「限制」建立新概念,考慮到現代人接受人類生物性(或為什麼不可以率直地說動物性)的意願。這就是赫胥黎所看到來自 當時新生物學的挑戰,也是今日我們所面臨的挑戰。

        這些改變,似乎會威脅到傳統佛教倫理思想家最為 堅持的某些概念。在僧團高階層方面,這些改變將對他們適用高階戒或無相戒的特權,甚至他們的倫理持守能力構成挑戰。它們也將對俗眾道德的次等地位構成挑 戰。在道德心理學方面,這些改變將對「不執著就是出離」的觀念構成挑戰,事實上,它們將對出離的可能性構成挑戰,不用說,將對完全掃除性驅力的可能性構成 挑戰。

        因此,佛教道德必須建立在「真正的人類」之上, 不是把他們的精神性從他們的動物性分離,而是要面對精神性和動物性並存(如果不是同一的話)的事實。赫胥黎認為十九世紀科學革命所帶來的許多挑戰中,有一 項是:我們的知識和精神實體,不可能被化約為生物實體,而是生物實體中不可分離的一部分。因此,雖然我們的(社會)機構、大眾科學、尤其是自我實現的心理 治療法日益普遍,一直在鼓吹價值的世俗化和自私心的高尚化,但我並不如此認為。

        宗教討論可以遮蓋和保存,也可以揭發、發現和挑 戰。這兩種功能都是必須的,兩者必須維持不確定的平衡。我擔心太多的精力被花在不計任何代價地遮蓋和保存上。在這麼做的時候,佛教對於倫理的討論,無法實 現它的一個目的:幫助我們有效地適應這個世界,並在世界上運作。這個功能,我把它包括在第三個「條件」內:

        (3)彿教對於倫理的討論,必須有效、有影響力 和有效率。換句話說,它必須針對目的而談,必須充分達成目的,並且儘量減少神秘色彩和浮誇虛飾。這就包括承認某些信條之所以必須制訂的環境。某種信條之所 以必須制訂,必然有其人類現實的考

 

 

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慮,如果光是哀怨或排斥,是無補於事的。

        產生信條的現實,就是人際的環境和人類的熱情。 提倡或強迫布施和知足的倫理規則,可能是建立在理想的模式上,但促成它們的最大因素卻是下述現實:我們不能想要什麼就有什麼,我的薪水不能像同事那麼高, 而最重要的就是我堅持貪求別人所擁有的。換句話說,規矩和美德的形成都是因為先有邪惡。但如果被當成理想的規矩和美德想要發揮功效,就必須符合熱情的現實 ──極力想符合理想的人類的現實。

        因此,這種倫理討論(甲)必須採取說服的方式, 而非強迫的方式。(但這句話並不表示必須掩飾恐懼、危機和恐怖,或忽視暴力,不管它們是明顯的或潛在的。)它也必須(乙)承認凡是人就有錯誤和缺陷,不管 這個人是凡夫或聖人、卑微的信徒或坐禪功夫高深的老參。換句話說,新倫理的建構,必須以人類為考量依據。這就是「條件」四:

        (4)信條必須考慮到個體及其社會現實。它必須 是給每一個人和任何人遵守的信條。

        這第四點是警惕我們不要落入倫理討論的兩種常見 謬論──在規矩和人類環境之間,必然不能配合得很完美,由此產生混亂狀態,從而造成這兩種常見的謬論。第一種謬論是把問題化約成「認知的人的不完美性」, 第二種謬論是把問題化約成「臆測的規矩的不完美性」。道德的語言,必須能夠平衡這兩種缺憾。道德的陳述,必須承認(確實要接受)個體的環境和感覺、個體的 認知、個體的熱情。不過,如果要以它們為指導原則,必須超越個人的奇想和偏好。因此,我們必須從判斷的規矩分辨出指導原則的規矩,從內心感覺的規矩分辨出 社會行為的規矩。換句話說,我們必須面對「人陷於兩個極端之間的」事實:一端是普遍適用性的權威,另一端則是慾望的奇想;一端是把普遍情況當成僵化的絕 對,另一端則是把個人情況當成不可預測的不穩定。

        我們也許可以舉出一個比較具體的例子:很少人對 自我檢討和自我發露做反省功夫。雖然迴向功德和懺悔的儀式在佛教儀式中很重要,但我們從未針對它們在修行之道上的地位做過現代倫理的反省;至於懺悔、自我 發露和倫理理想之間如何交涉,更少有反省。除了把這些儀式解釋成「前行」的陳腔爛調以外,現代作者並不想詮釋它們的重要性。

        條件(3)和(4)說明了:我理想中的倫理討 論,其型式還是根源於傳統的佛教理論。這最後兩點讓我們想到佛教倫理立論最常引用的兩個原則:慈悲和方便。我之所以反對佛教辯證經常引用這兩個語詞,並非 認為:慈悲和方便這兩個概念的內在價值,僅能嚴謹地用在了解和行動的原則上。相反的,我發現困擾的關鍵在於把這兩個語詞當作自家行內話來使用(或濫用), 從來不想認真地加以發展、修正和(最重要的)批

 

 

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判。值得重視的是:一直到今天,只有兩篇重要論文探討這些主題, 但都沒有談到哲學問題。

        不幸,這兩個語詞只有在它們模糊和混沌時,才能 發揮它們最佳的辯證力,它們經不起嚴厲的檢驗。對這兩個概念做嚴厲的檢驗,將證明可以提供肥沃的園地,作佛教符號的發展和改進之用。但方便不僅是「只准談 不准批判」的執照而已,慈悲也不僅是「搪塞我們必然做不到」的咒語而已。

        大慈悲的神話,需要翻譯成社會行動的語言;另一 方面,把慈悲當作一種感人的美德來培養(尤其是在它與觀想自我同時運用時),在我們反省道德價值和本體之間的關係時,能夠提供有用的符號。

        「方便」的概念,在「意義的協談」這個現代概念 裏獲得迴響。因此,發展後的「方便」的概念,對於佛教的意義倫理學和倫理學的意義理論,可以說是適時的理論進路。

        除了它多層面而頗引起爭議的辯證用途之外,「方 便」這個概念也是「道」的理論,在道德上,它是不執著「道」的教理,也是空性或空的對治;在認識論上,它是意義動力學的教理。在最後一種意義裏,「方便」 隱含「意義就是做」的理論,也隱含「真理就是做和意識的協談」的理論。[12]這些概念對我們最有用了,因為我們想要尋找用什麼方式把目前正在發生,而且將在佛教機構和理想中繼續發生的變 遷予以概念化。把「方便」當作是文化調適的教理性或理論性立論基礎,這種現代認知並沒有受到誤導,雖然它的應用一點也不精密。

        「方便」的教理,以及和它密切相關的空,是雙刃 劍,它們可以用來佐證任何以佛教自居的陳述,但也可以把它們看成佛教本身的剋星。不過,充其量,它們是批判性的工具,建立在對於人類現實的建構性質的直覺 上。它們不見得可以協助我們構造經驗(同樣情形,涅槃也無法給我們什麼倫理),但在我們構造現實的過程中,它們卻給予我們一種批判的角度。充其量,它們是 因緣論的延伸──延伸到佛教教理本身。我們建構佛教的方式有很多(出於「意圖」、個人動機),也用一套語言來建構痛苦的世界。對於這種種的認識,便延伸出 「方便」和空。它們並沒有把批判性的思想繳械,也沒有把一切「真理」解釋為同等無意義(或有意義)。它們也沒有把道德的思想繳械。但它們卻意謂著: 「真」、「善」或「對」並不能在原始的、最初的和純粹的現貨中發現,而獨立於吾人情緒的社會的和語言的生活現實之外。「對」是經


12. 我特意用「隱含」這兩個字,因為我不相信傳統的論述,已經對這些觀念做過清晰的說明。我們自然不能期望在古典經論中發現這種說法。但我們可以站在它們的貢 獻上,嘗試發現對我們可能會更具意義的概念。

 

 

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由個人成長的過程而發現的,我們稱之為「道」,稱之為意義的協 談。但在成長的過程中,我們領受了一個世界,在領受這一個世界的過程中,我們又改變了它。被領受的世界,是情感、記憶、教理和儀式的宇宙,既無定型又是無 意識的。被變形(應當說是變形中)的世界,是被生活的「道」,既不是已經證得的目標,也不是可以證得的目標。佛教徒一直在宣揚空和虛無的哲學,卻很害怕這 種倫理的真理和一般的真理,實在是太諷刺了。

        傑羅姆.布魯諾在挑戰傳統的西方根本主義時,精 彩地描述了隱含在上文的「真理」概念:

我們建構了許多事實,而且是以不同的意圖來建構的。但我們不是從「羅斯巴克的污點」中建構的,而是以我們構成經驗的許多方式來建構的,不管它們是不是感官 的經驗……是不是我們透過與吾人社會世界互動而獲得的極高度符號經驗我們從閱讀中所獲得的替代性經驗……心(或文學意義)的建構主義哲學,並不能在本體論 上或倫理上讓一個人繳械。不管是書本或世界經撿的詮釋,都可以就它們的正當性來加以判斷。但是,我們不能夠因為它們與「彼岸」的原始「真實」世界相應,就 承認它們的正當性。這是因為此一「真實世界」不但在認識 論上是模糊不清的,而且就信仰的行為而言也是空的。反之,意義(或「現實」,因為兩者終究是不可分辨的)是反映人類意圖的事業,不能脫離人類意圖而判斷它 的正當性。然而,「世界製造」……始於我們認為是被給予的先驗世界……如果在世界上(或在我們所開始的書本上)有意義的「化身」,我們就會在領受它們的行動中,把它們樊形為我們這個已經被變形的世界,而那個 變形的世界接著又變成別人所開始的世界……。

        因此,當我們在反省佛教戒律時,如何重新建構佛 教倫理時來重新建構我們自己,以便能夠重新發現和了解它的意義,便成為我們的挑戰──屬於「發現」性質的挑戰。雖然這個過程包含研究、修正和產生一般的倫 理原則、陳述、命題和禁令,但終究與規矩無關,而是關係到行為和行為的意義。規矩是界址,不但引導道德的選擇和行為,還引導它們所攜帶的意義。

        然而,因為意義是一種語言和社會的事實,不只是 心理動機的創造而已,所以討論倫理或討論戒律就是討論文化(和歷史)的現實,而不是討論已經被解體的理性原則。因此,我們是在尋找一個共同的語言、一個產 生意義的共同方式、一個共同的故事。「意義的產生」這個概念,麥克.羅薩爾多曾經做過貼切的描述:

 

 

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意義是一種大眾生活的事實……文化模式(社會事實)提供了一 切人類行動、成長和了解的繩墨。在這種解析下,文化與其說是……命題、規矩、計劃或信仰的東西,倒不如說是聯想的鎖鍊和印象,它所指涉的東西能夠被人理性 地聯想到。集體的故事,可以說明動作者世界的連貫性、可能性和意思的性質,我們便是透過這些故事來明瞭文化的。因此,文和總是比人種學者的描述所記錄的特 徵來得豐富,因為它的真實情況並不存在於日常生活儀式的明顯形式上,而是存在於人們的日常作為上,人們在行動中,自然會透露出自己的身分和同胞的動機。

如果我們把「文化總是比人種學者的描述所記錄的特徵來得豐富」這句話,改成「倫理的經驗和實踐,總是比僧規和哲學家的臆測所制訂的規矩來得豐富」,那麼唐 羅薩爾多對於文化的陳述,就能夠摘述我在這裏所要表達的立場之精華:規矩和觀念都是互動結構的一部分,這個結構比較不那麼理性、合乎邏輯或與本體論相關, 它是人際和語言的產物。一個宗教的儀式和故事,最能表達、保存和轉變這個結構。[13]但,這並不是說儀式和人類互動的書本不需要加以詮釋,不需要在知識性和理性了解的層次上加以「表顯」。今天我 們出席這項會議,不需要更多的證據就可以說明:在我們所生存的這種社會裏,理性探討是產生意義的人際過程的主要部分,學者和學派是機構的一種,是意義協商 的一種「討論會」。

        今天我們聚集在這兒,就是為了要重新協商,或最 好說是為了繼續重新協商的過程。但如果我們把不確定的溝通基礎、意義的分歧和緊張,以及文化的流動性看成一種威脅,那麼就像任何其他協商一樣,這種類型的 協商是不可能進行的。我們千萬不要把吾人世界的不確定性看成是災難;反之,在重新協商能夠回應當今時代的廣泛倫理需求的佛教倫理時,我們必須把吾人世界的 不確定性看成是隱藏於其中的危險。

        我們有必要對古代某些神秘東西做批判性的檢驗, 我們有必要更新那些支持佛教倫理生活的神話和符號,但這不表宗教敬畏的結束。古代的了解系統的崩潰,並不會帶來美和敬畏的消失。誠如丹尼爾.滇涅特在《被 解釋的意識》一書中所極力主張的:

讓我們提醒自己在早期解除迷信之後,到底發生了什麼事情?我們發現過沒有


13. 布魯納(Bruner l986: 122)「社會和社會生活的「現實』本身,經常是語言使用方式的產物,譬如一些演講中的動作、保證、發誓、辯解、命名等。一旦我們承認文化本身包含經常需 要文化成員加以詮釋的模糊文字時,語言在創造社會現實的結構性角色,就可以變成實際關心的課題了。」

 

 

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減少驚奇;反之,我們發現浩瀚宇宙如此的美,如此的瑰麗眩目,遠 過神秘的護衛者所曾構想到的。早期視野中的「神奇」,最大功能是在掩藏想像的澈底失敗,是無可奈何地閃避「人造神」的概念。駕著金車駛過天空的憤怒神祇, 是心術單純的漫畫書故事,有如現代天文學的迷人新發現,DNA複製機器的極端錯綜複雜,使得「原始生命力」像超人的恐怖秘密武器那麼有趣……(當)不有神 祕時,(事情將)變得不一樣,但還是會有美,也比從前更有敬畏的空間。

 

 

"Talking about Precepts and Practicing Precepts"

By Luis O. Gomez
Department of Asian Languages and Cultures
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal
No. 6 (July 1993)
pp. 351-389


 

 

p. 367 "Talking about Precepts and Practicing Precepts"
Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal, Vol. 6 (July 1993)

Summary

    Buddhism has been very attached to codes and rules. Morality or ethics are preliminaries to the higher goals of Buddhism and the essential basis of the higher life. Buddhism adapted its ethical ideals to new cultural situations not so much by reasoning the subtleties of a moral theology but by an appeal to extra-ethical values: (l) by affirming its transcendence, and (2) by appealing to its more general soteriological principles.

    Traditional Buddhist rhetoric is not responding adequately to the crisis in Buddhist ethics today. A meaningful reexamination of the Vinayas will require a revision of both the content and the foundations of Buddhist ethical ideals. It will not do to deny the shortcomings of Buddhism.

    A meaningful Buddhist ethics for our times should have four overlapping requirements: ① To be rooted in the past and in traditional Buddhist discourse. ② To take the social and the individual present into account. ③ To serve its purpose well with a minimum of mystification and pomp in Buddhist ethical discourse. ④ To take into account the individual as well as his or her social reality. It must be a code for each and every one.

    We need to examine critically some of the ancient mystifications and to renew the myths and symbols that sustain Buddhist ethical life. However, it does not mean the end of religious awe.

 

 

p. 368 "Talking about Precepts and Practicing Precepts"
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    A common interest in "Vinaya" in the broad sense has brought us together in this conference. Many among us are fascinated by the history and the minutiae of Buddhist monastic codes, by their ritual and sociological contexts, but we share above all a respect for Buddhist ideals of human conduct generally. In other words, interest in Vinaya, I assume, implies interest in the broad issues of ethics, virtue, concern for others, and self-cultivation. The high esteem in which we hold Buddhist ethical ideals, I am sure also leads to a concern for their future, for their survival, and for the preservation and clarification of their meanings. I would therefore like to invite the participants in this conference to reflect on the ideals embodied in the Vinaya literature, as well as on the historical specifics of that literature.

    In some way or another Buddhist monastic codes have provided models for human virtue and human perfection for over two thousand years. The "virtue" of Buddhist monks has been proverbial in the West for centuries. Already more than half a millennium ago, Marco Polo spoke of the exemplary life of the followers of Buddha, although he saw their belief system as a "superstition." [1] As Western understanding of, and respect for, Buddhism grew, the perception of Buddhism and Buddhists as highly ethical did not diminish. It is not uncommon, even today, to hear of Buddhist "virtue" or "morality" as being somehow special, more subtle than any of the Western systems of morality.

    In 1913, Carolyn Rhys-Davids wrote with inimitable fondness of the Pali term sila, as she seemed to apologize for translating the word as "morals.":

I was tempted to retain the pretty word śīla for our more cumbrous "morality," etc. "Virtue" is more elegant, but a little vague. Sīla is moral habit, habitual good, or moral conduct -- the conduct of one who does not hurt or rob living things, is sexually straight, truthful, and gentle of speech, and sober as to drink. (C. A. F. Rhys-Davids, 1913: 269, n. 2)


1. Things have not changed much in the six hundred years since. Perhaps the same mixture of admiration and fear of the exotic moved Carl Jung in our century to see "Oriental" wisdom as the repository of profound psychological truths, but not a place for Westerners to dwell in.

 

 

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As if this took care of the matter, she added "That is all."

    And in a certain manner of speaking, that has been all. Modern writers on "Buddhist ethics" often have been content with expanding on definitions and assumptions similar to those implied by this brief reflection of Rhys-Davids. [2] It is also customary to claim a central role for śīla in the Buddhist paradigms for human behavior and fulfillment, while at the same time (and perhaps this is what has attracted contemporary Westerners the most) asserting that morality or ethics are only preliminaries to the higher goals of Buddhism. In the same note just quoted, Rhys-Davids states categorically, "Such conduct is only the essential basis of the higher life." [3] And then, revealingly, adds, "The sermon is addressed to hired assassins, not to bhikkhus"!!

    Śīla, however, is seen not only as a foundation for the path, but also as derivative from the content of Buddhist doctrine. Almost a hundred years ago Thomas H. Huxley wrote admiringly, and with typical Victorian flair, of the "metaphysical tour de force" that lead "Gautama" to conclude that in "the whole universe there is nothing permanent, no eternal substance either of mind or of matter," that "personality is a metaphysical fancy; and in very truth, not only we, but all things, in the worlds without end of the cosmic phantasmagoria, are such stuff as dreams are made of." (Huxley, 1893/1989: 124-125).


2. B. C. Law (1936/1966) uses Rhys-Davids' footnote as the guide for his summary of Buddhist sila in Concepts of Buddhism.

3. Emphasis mine. This quotation is rife with implications. The length and circumstances of this address do not allow me to go into full detail into these implications, but one should remember the long debate, in Asia and in the West, about the Parable of the Raft, the arhant's status "beyond good and evil," the "formless precepts," etc. All of these, important, and highly problematic issues can only be touched in passing in an article of this length.
    Whether the verses translated by Rhys-Davids (Thg 608 ff.) were addressed at assassins or not is impossible to tell, the frame story being from the much later commentary. But the verses clearly refer to a provisional, or non-religious, conception of morality, based on expediency, since the fruits of morality are listed as fame, gain, and heaven (Thg 609).

 

 

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    Huxley argued that Gautama, like his predecessors, could derive "only one rule of conduct" (122) from his metaphysics -- the rule of renunciation. But, Huxley reasoned, Gautama, unlike his predecessors, "doubtless had a better guarantee for the abolition of transmigration, when no wrack of substance, either of Atman or of Brahma, was left behind, when, in short, a man had but to dream that he willed not to dream, to put an end to all dreaming." (125-126)

    This appraisal of Buddhist philosophy and theory of liberation was followed by Huxley's enthusiastic endorsement of what he perceived to be the ethics and social practice of Buddhism (126-127):

The appetites and the passions are not to be abolished by mere mortification of the body; they must, in addition, be attacked on their own ground and conquered be steady cultivation of the mental habits which oppose them; by universal benevolence; by the return of good for evil; ... in short by total renunciation of that self-assertion which is the essence of the cosmic process.
Doubtless, it is to these ethical qualities that Buddhism owes its marvelous success. A system ... which denies a soul to man; which counts the belief in immortality a blunder and the hope of it a sin; which refuses any efficacy to prayer and sacrifice; which bids men look to nothing but their own efforts for salvation; which in its original purity knew nothing of vows of obedience, abhorred intolerance, and never sought the aid of the secular arm; yet spread over a considerable moiety of the Old World with marvellous rapidity, and is still, with whatever base admixture of foreign superstitions, the dominant creed of a large fraction of mankind.

    To us, Huxley's panegyric suggests inadequate knowledge of Buddhist texts and history. It also reveals the scholar's uncritical faith in the power of disembodied ideas. Seen from the vantage point of the hundred years that have since given shape to various disciplines for the scholarly study of Religions, and a hundred years of Buddhist Studies, seen likewise on the looking glass of our own expectations, Huxley's appraisal appears idealistic, if not outright naive. Yet, thought the modern scholar may have little use for concepts such as the "admixture of

 

 

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foreign superstitions," one must recognize that Huxley was struggling with issues similar to those that concern us today. In Evolution and ethics Huxley also confronted the question of what happens to moral responsibility when there is no self, no eternal life, and no God. This is not the facile, and crusty, academic debate of how can a Buddhist believe in karma if there is no self, or the philosophical question of the metaphysical foundation for ethics, rather it is the question of the meaning, function and nature of ethics in a world without transcendence. Huxley, like we today, and perhaps like the Buddha Śākyamuni himself, was confronted by the loss of self of his own age long before he knew of a "doctrine of no-self." But loss of self can have many meanings and many outcomes -- it can lead to more than one restructuring of a person's horizons of meaning and purpose (Taylor, 1989).

    In the West -- as perhaps in ancient India -- social loss of self has been accompanied by an ontological loss of self. In the West, however, this loss generally is seen as leaving behind a joyless void. The main-streams of Western thought in the past have tended to derive only despair and hopelessness from negation, to infer nihilism and nothingness from groundlessness. [4] The Buddhist tradition, on the other hand, conceived of this loss as both a mark of the possibility of escape, and a reason for escaping from the world, not a reason for despair and lamentation. For the Buddhist, a desolate, homeless Earth, calls for renunciation, but renunciation leads to the highest bliss.

    Huxley perceived this important difference: the collapse of cosmological and metaphysical security lead in the West to despair, yet, in Buddhism it seemed to lead to joyful detachment. But, ironically, for all his unveiled admiration for Buddhism, Huxley was at the same time critical of Buddhist detachment. Huxley saw the Buddhist insight into non-substantiality as one of several classical approximations to the evolutionary perspective, but the believed the ethical principles that had been derived from these approximative insights were faulty. The Greeks had given us an overconfident faith in human perfectibility -- while hinting at both renunciation and despair in the teachings of the Stoics. In Gautama, India had given us a more perfect form of withdrawal. But withdrawal is only half the


4. This is no longer the case. See Taylor, 1989.

 

 

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answer: between the two extremes of total despair and total withdrawal, Huxley saw a future ethics that would both accept human limitation and strive to correct it. One must "throw aside," he wrote, both "youthful overconfidence and the no less youthful discouragement of nonage." (144)

    Huxley was no naive Romantic. His essay is at times sobering, and his genius surfaces repeatedly as he anticipates many of the insecurities of self and value that have shaped our century. But there is no question that his perception of Buddhism reflects what the Victorians expected from Buddhism and from "the East."

    As Western intellectuals lost their faith in their own institutions, they sought exotic models of ideals without institutions. It is not surprising, therefore, to read Huxley's description of Buddhism as a "philosophy" that no only shares in the insights of evolutionary biology, but also "counts the belief in immortality a blunder and the hope of it a sin; which refuses any efficacy to prayer and sacrifice; which bids men look to nothing but their own efforts for salvation; which in its original purity knew nothing of vows of obedience, abhorred intolerance, and never sought the aid of the secular arm." One has to wonder how much of this portrait is only a reflection of a Western intellectual's hopes.

    Buddhism has been, if anything, very attached to codes and rules, and even if we grant that the term "obedience" may not be the most accurate, one would be hard pressed to find historical evidence for the disembodied Buddhism described by Huxley, It is obvious that Buddhism has had political positions, and has had to manipulate political and social realities. In doing so, Buddhism has also had to forge its own ethical ideals -- often in directions far from the simple assertion of no-self.

    Regrettably, Huxley's profound insights into the psychology of renunciation and the sociobiology of perfection are not well known among writers on Buddhist ethics, but the Victorian image of Buddhism on which he relied is still with us.

    Today we would like to believe that we have outgrown the agendas of the Victorian era. Our scholarship has made at least some faint progress and we can safely assert that Huxley's perception of Buddhism is at best an idealized abstraction. Yet, it is still common to assume, like Huxley did, that there is a clear, and logically necessary connection between Buddhist ontology on the one hand, and its ethical ideals and its ethos, on the other. There is also a tendency to assume

 

 

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the forms it takes as an ethos are or should be reflections of an ethical theory. It is also still common to express, either as historical fact or as apologetic that Buddhism has been free of ritualism, legalism, and political interests. All of these claims fly in the face of the evidence of history, but they appear to have had a certain apologetic success.

    This not wholly a modern proselytizing strategy , however. "Disembodied religion" is a common strategy of apologetics -- "my religion" is always the true, it is defined by its ideals, whereas the religions of others are always the flawed human realities of lived religion. This is sometimes an effective apologetic strategy, and may have been very successful in certain circles during this past century. I believe this success is bound to be short-lived, and, what is worse, it is bound to thwart whatever salutary effects Buddhism may have as a force for positive change -- especially as a force in our common search for social consensus through humane ideals, rather than through coercion. The presentation of Buddhism as an ideal disembodied entity, without reference to the concrete codes of action and ritual traditions that have shaped its institutional history renders a disservice both to truth (or shall we say honesty?) and to Buddhism as a treasure-house of human insight.

    Why this tendency to see Buddhism as a disembodied theory of ultimate insight and liberation, rather than as a body of modes of conduct? Radical differences between the social histories of Europe, India, and China no doubt are one of the most important contributing causes. A closer study of the interaction between, say, Brahmanism and Buddhism could tell us much about the nature of Buddhist ethical discourse. But in this essay I rather look at the discourse itself, and how it may change in the future.

    It appears that Buddhism adapted its ethical ideals to new cultural situations not so much by reasoning the subtleties of a moral theology but by an appeal to extra-ethical values: (1) by affirming its transcendence (epistemologically in the mode of a two-truth doctrine, ethically as world-renunciation), and (2) by appealing to its more general soteriological principles (that is, ethics as a teleology). [5] These strategies serve well the function of Buddhism as a religious ideology, and monasticism as a self-perpetuating institution. The Christian West knows of similar ideologies.


5. The first of these strategies has been followed by Dharmasiri in his recent (1989) Fundamentals of Buddhist Ethics. The second strategy is implicit in the passage I quoted earlier from Carolyn Rhys-Davids' Psalms of the Earlier Buddhists. The problem is of course more complicated than this. Whereas Christian apologists learned the value of independent ethical arguments and independent theories of philosophical anthropology (a skill they no doubt inherited from the Greeks and the Romans, and honed by sparring with secular philosophers), any code or theoretical system of ethics that defines itself in religious terms runs the risk of devaluing ethics itself. Moreover, in spite of the reservations I will express presently regarding Buddhist teleology, I do not believe there is anything inherently flawed in teleological arguments, and they are historically of the greatest important for religious ethical thought. I side with the deontologists, however, when teleological arguments lead, to a devaluation of the social and human realities that give rise to the need for an ethics, or to a hierarchy of the two fundamental dimensions of religious ethics: relating to others and relating to oneself.

 

 

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    These approaches to ethical justification lead on the one hand to a paradoxical localization of ethics -- the ethics of non-monastic Buddhists defined by the moral customs of the locality. They also lead, on the other hand, to the disembodied ethical ideals of the monastics; paraphrasing Rhys-Davids, ethics is literally ethics only when preached to brigands, and only a springboard when preached to monks.

    Be that as it may, today we face a crisis in Buddhist ethics. A crisis to which traditional Buddhist rhetoric is not responding adequately. The crisis is not so new, and was pointedly described by Huxley. This moral crisis cannot be interpreted merely as a weakening of moral resolve. The traditional foundations of ethics -- the social, the metaphysical, and the religious -- have been seriously questioned. A new Buddhist ethical discourse, and, by extension, a meaningful reexamination of the Vinayas, will require a revision of both the content and the foundations of Buddhist ethical ideals. We have again to rethink the broad principles that form Buddhism and we have to look at the specific rules from the perspective of those broad principles. It will not do to argue that Buddhism is the

 

 

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answer and that the "real" the answer is somewhere in another realm, the realm of liberation -- that ethics will make sense, or not make sense, only from the perspective of one who is liberated.

    Furthermore, it will not do to deny the shortcomings of Buddhism -- in particular human beings, in particular moments in history, but also in its traditional dogmatic formulations.

    It is not enough to argue on the basis of a presumed ideal, or original, Buddhism, on the basis of the Vinaya of what the Buddha ought to have said ... or even of what the Buddha actually said.

    It is not enough to say that Buddhism is the solution. It is not enough to say even that Buddhism is a solution. One must say how and why Buddhism can offer solutions, and accept the extent to which Buddhist traditions may not have a solution to offer ... or may be able to offer something else, something that cannot be termed "solution." And one must show that Buddhism can meet at the very least the basic requirements of content and form for a universal ethics for modern Buddhists.

    We live in an age of great disillusions -- if not an age of cynicism. We witness the disillusion of the scholar and the practitioner. It is not so much that humanity has become more cruel and callous, but that we are rapidly losing our sense of grounding, including the social confirmation of self and value, so that we can now unabashedly express and cultivate our selfishness in the name of being honest with ourselves. Thus, this is an age in which the ideals of selflessness lack a social context, in which public pronouncements and behaviors support neither the spiritual ideals nor the models of conduct upon which Buddhism relied in the past to maintain its viability as a set of living behaviors.

    Buddhism is not immune to the effects of the erosion of public values so well described by Alasdair MacIntyre in After virtue. Writing ten years ago, MacIntyre could not fantasize with "a new world order," rather he compared our age to the last days of the Roman Empire (MacIntyre, 1981: 244). As the moral consensus of the Empire disappeared, "virtue" became the ward of small communities of new believers and renunciants. MacIntyre sees a need today too for a moral life based on the support of small communities. Thus, he sees a need for

 

 

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the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness... (244)
[But] this time the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another -- doubtless very different -- St. Benedict." (245)

There is indeed a need for another St. Benedict (or, better, I would say, for many Benedicts), but this new founders of spiritual communities will "doubtless be different" from St. Benedict, and, I hasten to add, from Gautama, from Tsong-kha-pa, from Dogen.

    It is always dangerous (and, depending on how many years one lives, potentially embarrassing) to try to play the prophet, but I will venture to say nevertheless that even if the next fifty, perhaps the next twenty, years see (and I believe we will) a revival of monasticism as the core moral and spiritual institution in the industrialized world, it will be a very different monasticism. It will have to be a very different Vinaya.

    Even the fact that we are gathered here suggests that we, or an indeterminate group to which we are responding, are groping for a new definition of the spiritual community, and its guiding principles. This is, after all, what is meant by any serious reflection on Vinaya.

    In this quest we will have to question many of our past assumptions. Faced by the challenge of modern ethics, and the challenge of secular morality, we will have to ask something more than questions of detail about quaint monastic rules and customs. We will have to ask ourselves, "What does it mean to have 'a Buddhist ethics,' rather than ethics in general? What is it that we want to find or expect to find in the Buddhist tradition that will make any difference in constructing, deriving, or maintaining an ethical ideal for our age -- and for our very diverse, yet converging cultural universes? What could a monastic ideal offer to those who are not monastics?"

    These are all complex and controversial issues. Today I will limit myself to

 

 

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inviting you to reconnoitre the field with me by considering some of the general and formal requirements of the new ethics, and of the new Vinaya. I can think of several, overlapping requirements for a meaningful Buddhist ethics for our times.

    (1) First, and paradoxically, any rethinking of Buddhist ideals of behavior has to be rooted in the past, and in traditional Buddhist discourse. A connection with the past is a requirement for any effective ethics. Our problem is not only one of philosophical ethics, but of practical ethics, and of religious ethics. I would argue that the symbolic and historical connection with ancestors is part of both the foundation and the meaning of ethical behavior generally, and of religious ethics in particular. A sense of continuity and identity is perhaps more crucial than a philosophical cogency.

    At the same time, however, we have to break with the past. The problem for us today is how to connect with a past, be it a quasi-historical past or a composite picture of an ideal past, while at the same we seek new ways of constructing ethical meaning. But, how is this "ethical meaning" constructed and maintained? Meaning in ethics is generated and preserved when the system of ethical symbols -- ideals, myths, codes, and rituals -- can be understood and articulated in terms of the intellectualizations of our cultures, the behavioral dilemmas of our public interactions, and the private dilemmas of our inner sense of identity. Concord in articulation, not agreement, is all that is needed. Disagreement is in fact essential if religious discourse is going to act as a goad or critic of secular discourse.

    Notice that meaning does not arise from "truth," or from the discovery or restoration of "the true, and original" values of Buddhism, or from values "free from the cultural baggage of generations." There can be no ethics apart from culture -- the cultural baggage of past generations is what a religious tradition is all about, though we may choose not to carry all of it.

    More about this presently -- suffice it to say here that the dilemma for us today is that we must generate new meanings and applications while we preserve a mythical past -- we can neither pretend to "purify" ourselves of myth, nor pretend that present actualities do not exist.

    By the same token, we have to find alternatives to the traditional intellectual discourse of Buddhist ethics, yet preserve our connections with it. Consider, for instance, two of the doctrines often used by classical as well as by modern apolog-

 

 

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ists as foundational doctrines: Buddhist have appealed to "the ultimate goal" of the path or to the principle of compassion as purported foundations for ethical action. Perhaps there are ways to use these principles as inspirations for further reflection without falling into the simple repetition of variations on the same themes.

    It appears that the first of these two principles is not meant to be a fundamental ethical principle but a non-ethical foundation for ethical principles. Yet, it is not at all clear how one is to derive an ethics from it. Traditional Buddhist ethical discourse focused on the stratification of the cosmology of rebirth, not on the so-called "ultimate goal." [6]

    The argument from the goal is, in my mind, the weakest of all, and has led to much questionable speculation, both in classical Asia and among modern Buddhists in the West. Nirvana as a foundation for the path was criticized, but not quite superseded, by the Mahayana. In the West, where we have had our share of teleologies, ethical philosophers have sought a different conception of the foundation of morality -- inspired in part by Aristotle who first argued that "morality" ... is a form of doing (Praxis) and not of making (Poiesis), ... the end of doing is not something distinct from the action itself -- doing well is in itself the end." (Frankena, 1980:31) Mahayana philosophers moved away from a strict teleology, but the primacy of the soteriological goal obscured those elements of an ethics of immanence present in Mahayana ethical and mythological reflection. [7]

    The problem, however, is not so much in whether a teleological definition or justification of morality is formally, or a priori, unjustifiable, rather the issue is the nature of the morality that one could derive from particular conceptions of Nirvana.

    Naturally, derivations" in moral and religious thought are always soft, and


6. Naturally, the properly ethical underpinnings of these constructs have been traditionally the doctrines of merit, and of kusala (we have as yet to find an English equivalent for this all-important term). I believe there is a place for the rhetoric of merit in a modern discourse on Buddhist ethics, and I regret the tendency to ignore this doctrine in modern attempts to describe Buddhist ethics.

7. Cf. also the extremely suggestive reflections of Vasubandhu on śubha and kuśala, in the Bhāśya ad Akoś IV:8 & IV:66.

 

 

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often depend on values, considerations, and arguments external to the putative axiomatic principles. Nevertheless, one can speak of two competing concepts of Nirvana as summum bonum. [8] According to one model, the transcendence of Nirvana is understood literally as a condition wholly other than the present state of our existence. Vasubandhu's reflections on Nirvana are an example of this conception. The second model, understands transcendence metaphorically as denoting a state of mind: the liberated person's place in existence is no different from that of others, but his perception of things is radically different. One may see this model in some of the writings of the Madhyamaka. It is not at all clear, however, that the second model is totally free from the tendency to see liberation as wholly other. Some ambivalence remains no doubt, and is especially obvious in Mahayana ethical writings, in the hierarchy of the virtues, and in treatments of the Parable of the Raft and the "formless precepts."

    The change in the definition of Nirvana effected by the Mahayana was in fact a change in argument from one of ethics derived from transcendence to an ethics of immanence. The smell of earlier asceticism and contemptus mundi remains, Mahayana continued to be, after all, a monastic religion. [9] But at least in ideology a major shift began to occur. This shift was closely connected to the development of the second traditional principle of Buddhist ethics, the principle of compassion.

    "Compassion" is not an argument for ethical behavior, but a general, and very vague, term for a cluster of virtues -- virtuous emotions, and, perhaps, behaviors. In Buddhist discourse, however, "Universal Compassion" is itself used


8. I use the word Nirvana loosely to denote Buddhist conceptions of the state of liberation in general. In this usage, "Nirvana" refers to a variety of "nirvanas." What these conceptions have in common is their role as intellectualizations of the highest or ultimate value, and the desired final outcome of the Path. Needless to say, these abstractions can also serve as principles of organization in concrete or symbolic hierarchical cosmologies.

9. Ambivalence towards the world is also a common issue in the history of Christianity, at least until the Post-Reformation. On of the contentions of this paper is that the social circumstances that brought about a change in Christianity have now caught up with (if not passed by) Buddhist institutions.

 

 

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as an fundamental ethical rule (a "Gen," as the more general statements of moral rule are called by Frankena, 1980). Traditional discourse on compassion appears to regard universal compassion as axiomatic -- which it may ultimately be. But its connection with other Gens was never fully developed. [10] Even those who argued for a primary or foundational role for compassion (e.g., Kamalaśīla) saw it as a preliminary, explicitly connected with the practices of calming the mind, not with the specifics of ethical rules. [11]

    The need to renew ancient rhetoric is only the obverse of the second requirement of the new Vinayas: (2) A modern ethics, and consequently, a modern code for lay and monastics, must take into account the present: the social present, of course, but the individual present as well.

    The difficulty here is finding a way to be flexible enough to adapt to changes in social circumstances and cultural mores without losing all sense of continuity and stability, and without relinquishing the function of religion as a critic of society. An important challenge facing Buddhism in this sphere is the changing role of the laity, especially as it is defined by a rapidly evolving secular conception


10. The sophistication of Indian metaphysical discourse contrasts sharply with the less critical treatment of ethical issues. A subtle epistemology of cognition contrasts with an actuarial conception of the emotions and the virtues. There were social, as well as philosophical reasons, for this lopsided treatment of ethics. Those social circumstances have changed. In fact, they have always been changing. Buddhist reaction to those changes, however, was slow, and ethical discourse took forms that we find difficult to translate into our own rhetorical modes: the mythology of re birth, the doctrine of merit, the mythology of the bodhisattvas. Notable exceptions to this description do exist -- witness the occasional, but insightful, ethical arguments of Śāntideva and his commentator Prajñākaramati, and of Kamalaśīla, in India, and Chih-I and Jiun in East Asia, among others.

11. The historical roots of this problem may be in the early mythical and ritual contexts of compassion. It appears to have been associated not with social ethics or an ethics of virtue, but with the extraordinary powers of buddhas at one end of the spectrum (cf. Abhidharmadīpa 508, Abhidharmakośa 7.34) and the cultivation of states of mind at the other end (cf. Aronson, Gomez).

 

 

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of the human being. In this conception -- which is really not so new -- the human being is defined as a biological entity, and its human identity is no longer constructed apart from the blind drives, the limitations, and the fragility of a living organism. What is more, human identity and thought can no longer be separated from the physical realities of the brain in which they at least partly inhere. And yet, the individual human personality is furthermore conceived as inherently valuable -- apart from political or spiritual hierarchies. Granted this is only an ideal, an intellectualization, and a sophisticated myth, but it is a powerful and dominant myth, a myth that requires of our ethical reflections a conception of restraint and perfectibility that is very different from that expressed in classical (and contemporary) Buddhist ethical discourse.

    At the very least the foundations (mythical, soteriological, or philosophical) of Buddhist moral thought, and possibly the institutions (lay and monastic), will have to conform to these radical historical shifts. With the invention of social justice we have learned to suspect spiritual hierarchies and hierarchs as promoters of spiritual ideologies that serve as tools of control and exploitation. With the invention of the mind as brain, of the so-called unconscious, and of the biology of emotions, we have learned to suspect virtue as a screen for less spiritual motivations. These two major shifts threaten two pillars of traditional Buddhist morality: the notion of levels of value and hierarchies of morality, and the morality of virtue as restraint.

    With the new conception of the individual come changes that I believe are already affecting Buddhist institutions even in Asia. Reflections on the Vinaya and reflections on Buddhist ethics generally must face squarely and critically the traditional position and open disparagement of women, and more ambiguous positions in a range of ethical issues -- such as war and peace, homosexuality, social justice (in contrast to merely recommending kindness in the treatment of slaves and servants).

    The new Vinaya will have to be based on ethical principles that spread out on a continuum. The moral principles governing the community will have to be grounded on the same goals or definitions of virtue for all members of the community. This process cannot be accomplished by monachizing the lay life (or, for that matter, by secularizing monastic life -- if my prediction that monasticism

 

 

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will endure turns true). But it will require a new concept of restraint, a concept that will take into account the modern willingness to accept the biological (or, why not call it with a less euphemistic term, the animal) nature of the human being. Such was the challenge Huxley saw in the new biology of his days, and such is still the challenge today.

    These changes will seem as threats to some of the concepts held most dear by traditional Buddhist ethical thinkers. On the side of hierarchy, these changes would challenge the privileged access to the higher, or formless, precepts, or even their ethical viability. It would also challenge the second class status of lay morality. On the side of the psychology of morality, these changes would challenge the notion of detachment as renunciation -- in fact, it would challenge the possibility of renunciation, and, needless to say, the possibility of totally eradicating sexual drives.

    This would then be a Buddhist morality that seeks to account for real human beings, not by separating their spirituality from their animality, but by confronting the coexistence, if not identity, of those dimensions of experience that have been isolated by these two constructs. Huxley saw this as one of the challenges of the scientific revolutions of the nineteenth century: to understand the sense in which our intellectual and spiritual is not reducible to our biological reality, but is nevertheless an integral part of it. I am not arguing, therefore, for the secularization of values and the glorification of selfishness promoted by our institutions, and by popular science, and, especially, by the popularization of the psychotherapies of self-fulfillment.

    Religious discourse can serve to cover and preserve, or it can serve to uncover, discover, and challenge. Both functions are necessary, and must remain in precarious balance. I am afraid too much energy has gone into covering and preserving, at all costs. In doing so, Buddhist discourse on ethics has failed to fulfill one of its purposes: to assist us in effectively adapting to and acting on the world. This function include under a third "requirement": (3) Buddhist ethical discourse should be efficacious, effective, and efficient. In other words it must serve its purpose, and must serve it well, with a minimum of mystification and pomp. This includes a recognition of the circumstances that make the code necessary. Nothing is served by lamenting or disparaging the human realities that make the

 

 

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code necessary.

    The realities giving rise to the code are interpersonal circumstances and human passions. Ethical rules advising or compelling generosity and contentment with what we have may be based on ideal models, but they are mostly prompted by the reality that we cannot all have what there is to have, that I cannot have my colleagues salary, and, above all, that I insist, nevertheless, in coveting what others have. In other words, the rule and the virtue are modeled on the vice. But, if the rule, and the virtue as ideal are to be effective, they must conform to the reality of the passion, the reality of the human being who struggles to conform to the ideal.

    As corollaries, this ethical discourse (a) must persuade without coercion (which does not mean it should gloss over fear, peril, and terror, or ignore violence, manifest or latent). It must also (b) allow for human error and imperfection, in both the unholy and holy, in the humble believer and in the virtuoso of meditation.

    In other words, the new ethic must be constructed to the measure of the human being. And this is "requirement" four: (4) the code must take into account the individual, as well as his or her social reality. It must be a code for each and every one.

    This fourth point is a warning against two common fallacies of ethical discourse that are both based on a natural confusion brought about by the necessarily imperfect match between rule (signed) and human circumstances (signified). In one case one reduces the problem to a perceived imperfection in the human person, in the other one reduces the problem to a putative imperfection in the rule. The language of morals has to be of such a nature that it balances both insufficiencies. Ethical statements of Gens must acknowledge, indeed make allowances, for individual circumstances and feelings, for individual perceptions, for individual passions. Yet they must serve as guidelines from beyond individual whim and preference. It is necessary then to separate the rule as a guideline, from the rule as a judgement, the rule of social behavior from the rule of inner feeling. In other words, one must face the fact that one is trapped between two forms of arbitrariness: the authority of universal applicability, and the whim of desire; the universal as rigid absolute and the individual as unpredictably capri-

 

 

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cious.

    As a more concrete example of the problem, one may mention the dearth of reflections on self-examination and self-disclosure. In spite of the importance of dedications of merit and repentance formulas in Buddhist ritual, we do not have as yet a modern ethical reflection on their position in the Path, much less a reflection on how repentance, self-disclosure and ethical ideals are supposed to interface. Except for the hackneyed explanation of these rituals as "preliminaries," modern writers do not attempt to interpret their significance.

    Requirements (3) and (4) illustrate well how the type of ethical discourse I envision is still rooted in traditional Buddhist rhetoric. These last two points bring to mind two principles often appealed to in Buddhist ethical argument: compassion and skillful means. My objections to the frequent use of these terms in Buddhist apologetics stem not from any serious reservations as to the inherent value of the concepts of compassion and skillful means as principles of understanding and action. Rather, what I find disturbing is the use (or abuse) of these terms as shibboleths, without any serious attempt to develop, refine, and above all, criticize the terms. It is significant that there are to this date only two major monographs on these topics (Nakamura, and Pye), neither of which addresses the philosophical issues.

    Unfortunately, the two words are at their apologetic best when they are vague and mushy, and not open to critical examination. A critical examination of these two conceptions may prove fertile ground for the development and refinement of Buddhist symbols. But upāya will have to be more than a license to speak uncritically, and compassion something more than a mantra to guard off the consequences of our inability to act.

    The mythology of the Great Compassion needs to be translated into a language of social action, while the cultivation of compassion as an affective virtue, especially in its association with the practice of meditation on the self, could provide useful symbols in our reflections on the connection between moral values and identity. This is especially timely today, when traditional Western notions of the self are under attack (Taylor, Dennett).

    The concept of "skillful means" finds an echo in modern concepts of the negotiation of meaning (about which more in short). Thus developed concept of

 

 

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upāya could be a timely theoretical approach to a Buddhist ethics of meaning and the theory of meaning in ethics.

    Apart from its multiple, and problematic, apologetic uses, "skillful means" is also a concept of Path theory -- morally as a doctrine of detachment from the Path and a counterpart to the emptiness or emptiness, and epistemologically as a doctrine of the dynamics of meaning. In the last sense, "skillful means" suggests a theory of meaning as doing, and of truth as the negotiation of doing and meaning. [12] These conceptions would be most useful for us, as we seek ways of conceptualizing the changes that are occurring and will continue to occur in Buddhist institutions and ideals. The modern perception of "skillful means" as a doctrinal or theoretical justification for cultural adaptation is not misguided, although its application has been far from sophisticated.

    The doctrine of "skillful means" and its close relative, emptiness, are double edged swords: they can be used to justify any statement trying to pass for Buddhism, or they can be seen as undermining Buddhism itself. At their best, however, they are critical tools based on an intuition of the constructed nature of human realities. They do not necessarily assist us in structuring experience (any more than Nirvana can really give us an ethics), but they give us a critical perspective on the process of structuring reality. At their best, they are extensions of the doctrine of causal interdependence -- extension into the Buddhist doctrine itself. As such they derive from a recognition of the myriad ways in which we construct Buddhism, out of "intentions," personal motives, and the very same linguistic reality that constructed the world of suffering to begin with. They do not disarm critical thought, nor do they render all "truths" equally meaningless (or meaningful). They do not disarm moral thought either. But they suggest that the "true," the "good" or the "right" are not to be found in a primal, original, and pure reality independent from the reality of our own emotional, social and linguistic life. The "right" is discovered through a process of personal growth, call it Path, call it


12. I use the word "suggests" advisedly, since I do not believe these ideas are explicitly stated in traditional treatments of the subject. Naturally, one should not expect such formulations in classical texts. But one can stand on their contribution to try to see beyond to conceptions that may be more meaningful to us.

 

 

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negotiations of meaning, but a process of growth in which we receive a world and transform it in the process of receiving it. The received world is an amorphous, and for the most part unconscious, universe of emotions, memories, doctrines, and rituals. The transformed (or, rather, transforming) world is a lived Path, not an attained goal, not an attainable goal. It is indeed ironic that such a view of ethical truth, and truth in general, is so much feared by Buddhists, who after all claim to advocate a philosophy of non-substantiality and groundlessness.

    The conception of "truth" implicit in the above remarks has been formulated eloquently by Jerome Bruner in a challenge to traditional Western foundationalism:

We construct many realities, and do so from differing intentions. But we do not construct them out of Rorschach blots, but out of the myriad forms in which we structure experience -- whether the experience of the senses..., the deeply symbolically encoded experience we gain through interacting with our social world, or the vicarious experience we achieve in the act of reading... It is not the case that a constructivist philosophy of mind (or of literary meaning) disarms one either ontologically or ethically. Interpretations, whether of text or of world experience, can be judged for their rightness. Their rightness, however is not to be reckoned by correspondence with an aboriginal "real" world "out there." For such a "real world" is not only indeterminate epistemologically, but even empty as an act of faith. Rather, meaning (or "reality" for in the end the two are indistinguishable) is an enterprise that reflects human intentionality and cannot be judged for its rightness independently of it. But "World making," ... starting as it does from a prior world that we take as given, is constrained by the nature of the world version with which we begin the remaking... If there are meanings "incarnate" in the world (or in the text with which we start) we transform them in the act of accepting them into our transformed world, and that transformed world then becomes the world with which others start... (158)

    As we reflect on the Buddhist Vinayas our challenge is therefore one of discovering, rediscover and understand meaning by reconstructing ourselves in the

 

 

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process of reconstructing a Buddhist ethics. Although the process involves the study, revision, and generating of Gens, of general ethical principles, statements, propositions and injunctions, it is ultimately not about rules, but about behaviors and their meanings. The rules are benchmarks that guide not only moral choice and behavior, but the meanings that those choices and behaviors carry.

    But, since meaning is a fact of language and society, and not simply a creation of psychological motivations, ethical discourse, talk about the Vinayas is talk about cultural (and historical) realities, not about disembodied principles of reason. We are therefore in a quest to find a common language, a common way of generating meaning, a common story. This conception of the generation of meaning has been so aptly expressed by Michelle Rosaldo (1984: 140):

[M]eaning is a fact of public life, ... [C]ultural patterns -- social facts -- provide the template for all human action, growth and understanding. Culture so construed is, furthermore, a matter less of ... propositions, rules, schematic programs, or beliefs, than of associative chains and images that tell what can be reasonably linked up with what; we come to know it through collective stories that suggest the nature of coherence, probability and sense within the actor's world. Culture is, then, always richer than the traits recorded in the ethnographer's accounts, because its truth resides not in explicit formulations of the rituals of daily life but in the daily practices of persons who in acting take for granted an account of who they are and how to understand their fellows' moves.

If we change the phrase "culture is always richer than the traits recorded in the ethnographer's accounts" to read "the experience and practice of ethics is always richer that the rules promulgated by the monastic codes and the philosopher's speculations," Rosaldo's statements about culture summarize the gist of the position I have tried to formulate here: that rules and ideas are part of the interactional fabric, and that this fabric is not so much rational, logical, or ontological, as interpersonal and linguistic. This fabric is best expressed, preserved, and transformed in the rituals and the stories of a religion. [13] But, this is not to say that the text of ritual and human interaction is not in need of interpretation, in need of being


13. Bruner (1986: 122): "the 'realities' of the society and of social life are themselves most often products of linguistic use as represented in such speech act as promising, abjuring, legitimizing, christening, and so on. Once one takes the view that a culture itself comprises an ambiguous text that is constantly in need of interpretation by those who participate in it, then the constitutive role of language in creating social reality becomes a topic of practical concern."

 

 

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made "explicit" at the level of intellectual and rational understanding. We need no more proof that our presence here today to show that in the type of society in which we live, rational exploration is an integral part of the interpersonal process of generating meaning -- scholars and schools are one of the institutions, one of the "forums" for the negotiation of meaning (Bruner).

    This is what we are here for today to renegotiate or rather to continue the process of renegotiation. But negotiations of this type, like any other negotiation, are not possible when one sees the uncertain ground of communication, the diversity and tensions of meanings, and the fluidity of culture as a threat. We must see the precariousness of our worlds not as hazards, but as risks inherent in opportunity for renegotiating a Buddhist ethics that responds to the broad ethical needs of our age.

    The need to examine critically some of the ancient mystifications, the need to renew the myths and symbols that sustain Buddhist ethical life, does not mean the end of religious awe. The collapse of ancient systems of understanding does not entail the disappearance of beauty and awe. As Daniel Dennett eloquently argues in Consciousness explained (Dennett, 1991: 25):

[L]et us remind ourselves of what has happened in the wake of earlier demystifications. We find no diminution of wonder; on the contrary, we find deeper beauties and more dazzling visions of the complexity of the universe than the protectors of mystery ever conceived. The "magic" of earlier visions, was, for the most part, a cover-up for frank failures of imagination, a boring dodge enshrined in the concept of a deus ex machina. Fiery gods driving golden chariots across the skies are simpleminded comicbook

 

 

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fare compared to the ravishing strangeness of contemporary cosmology, and the recursive intricacies of the reproductive machinery of DNA make élan vital about as interesting as Superman's dread kryptonite... [When] there is no more mystery, [things will] be different, but there will still be beauty, and more room than ever for awe.

 

Key words: 1. Buddhist ethics 2. Buddhist morality 3. Vinaya 4. Practicing Precepts

 

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