[INDOLOGY] Caste system and Buddhism

David and Nancy Reigle dnreigle at gmail.com
Tue Jun 7 22:47:38 UTC 2016

Alakendu Das was able to find the specific reference for the statement that
I had asked about, and has kindly provided me with it. It is not the
Bodhisattva-bhūmi directly, for which we already have the references thanks
to Matthew and Dan, but rather is the 1932 book by Har Dayal, *The
Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature*, pp. 207-208. In
Chapter 5, "The Pāramitās," in the section on śīla-pāramitā, Har Dayal
discusses the ten constituents of śīla and then writes about the motives
and sanctions for such right action, concluding (p. 205): "Pure hedonism
thus seems to be the ruling theory of Buddhist ethics."

A few pages later we come to the doctrine in question (p. 207): "The
have thus gone through the entire gamut of the motives that govern human
conduct. But they have rather stultified themselves by teaching the strange
doctrine that a bodhisattva may violate any or all of the precepts of śīla,
if he is moved by compassion for others. This view has led to much subtle
casuistry. The Bo. Bhū. [Bodhisattva-bhūmi] and other treatises explain
that the ethical rules are not absolute. They may be infringed, if a
bodhisattva can thereby render service to an unfortunate creature. . . .
The medieval monks of Europe also passed through a period of widespread
corruption; but they did not formulate a regular philosophy of degeneracy.
The later Mahāyānists sought to justify the sensual escapades of the monks
(alias bodhisattvas) by referring to the assumed motive of karuṇā. Tantrism
cast its shadow before." (p. 208): "The author of the Bodhisattva-bhūmi
indicates the circumstances, in which a bodhisattva may infringe the seven
chief precepts. He may kill a person, who intends to murder a monk or his
own parents. . . . In this way, the Mahāyānists teach that the end
justifies the means and that a bodhisattva may sometimes adopt St. Paul's
device of 'becoming all things to all men'."

I had never read this book by Har Dayal, and I can only say that I
understand the Bodhisattva-bhūmi differently than he does. Nor do I think
that Har Dayal's understanding is supported by the good examples from
history provided by Dan and Matthew, of the killing of the "evil king"
Glang-dar-ma, or more recently the justification by the Tibetan president
of the Chinese Buddhist Association of some of the excesses of Maoist
policy. Of course, we today have a major advantage over Har Dayal in that
we have direct access to the Tibetan tradition of exegesis, so that we can
see how this book was there understood, and to Tibetan culture and history,
so that we can see how these ethics played out in real life.

Best regards,

David Reigle
Colorado, U.S.A.

On Sun, Jun 5, 2016 at 7:47 AM, David and Nancy Reigle <dnreigle at gmail.com>

> Many thanks to Matthew and Dan for providing references to where the
> Bodhisattva-bhūmi describes situations in which a bodhisattva may perform
> an act such as killing, which is otherwise prohibited by the Buddhist
> precepts. In the new English translation by Artemus Engle these can be
> found on pp. 276-282.
> I had heard the story from the Buddhist Jātakas of a ship captain who
> killed a robber on board his ship. The captain was actually a bodhisattva,
> who with his infallible prevision knew that the robber would kill all 500
> of the merchants on board the ship. So to prevent this, and to prevent the
> awful karma that the robber would generate by doing this, the bodhisattva
> captain out of compassion took upon himself the negative karma of killing
> and killed the robber.
> To me, such examples do not at all show that Asanga in his Bodhisattva-bh
> ūmi "categorically stated that a devout Buddhist may deviate from any of
> the 5 Panchasheelas if he finds anybody who is violating the ethical code
> viz. showing scant respect to parents or elder brother, or to a fellow
> Bhikkhu."
> Best regards,
> David Reigle
> Colorado, U.S.A.
> ------------------------------

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