Bio Ethics

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Bioethics is a very diverse and subjective issue in Buddhism that bases its self around fundamental Buddhist laws such as the five precepts, the four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold path. Each Buddhist variant approaches bioethics differently based on the variants primary goal, ideals or practices. However all Buddhists views of bioethics are somewhat influenced by the universal goal of Buddhism to become liberated from the constant cycle of reincarnation or samsara. In conjecture with Buddhism, the occurrence of samsara allows for one to attain a new view on everything including bioethics allowing for the chance to discover or come to an ultimate realisation which in turn allows for the ultimate realisation of issues relating to bioethics. A Buddhists view of bioethics has many influencing factors but all stem from the main ideal of doing good, avoiding evil and meditation to clear the mind and allow for unbiased or untainted thought.

Buddhism is a religion based on ethical equality, which goes hand in hand with views on bioethics. However being an ancient religion, the bioethics of the modern day complicate the judging of an action as good or bad and leaves it to the knowledge or esteem of an individual’s mind to decide what is right and what is wrong. This then brings into play basing judgement on what kind of consequences will occur from the decision, and how that will in the end be of benefit or of least ill consequence to the bioethical issue as well as keeping true to Buddhist law as much as possible.

Abortion (the terminating of a foetus) is a highly controvertible issue and is approached by all Buddhism forms of Buddhism in a very serious manner. The central questions concerning abortion however are approached in the same manner; when does the foetus acquire human status and is abortion ever justifiable? Mahayana Buddhists in particular have adopted a classical Hindu view that state that consciousness occurs at conception, and therefore that all abortion is killing. But before modern embryology, however, ideas about conception were scientifically inaccurate, and often associated the beginning of life with events in the third or fourth month of pregnancy. Based on the findings of modern embryology, Buddhists today might maintain that the foetus does embody all five skandhas (constitutions of a human being) until after birth, thus abortion is acceptable. This neurological interpretation of the skandhas may be more consistent with Western Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism argues that murder can be a compassionate act with positive karmic consequences, taking into account factors such as the health of the foetus or mother, the population crisis, and the readiness of the parents to raise a child. The XIV Dalai Lama was quoted to say "Of course, abortion, from a Buddhist viewpoint, is an act of killing and is negative, generally speaking. But it depends on the circumstances. If the unborn child will be retarded or if the birth will create serious problems for the parent, these are cases where there can be an exception. I think abortion should be approved or disapproved according to each circumstance." The attitude and motivations of the pregnant woman are hence taken into account and this would determine the ethics of an abortion. Abortion in this light is related to whether the person became pregnant and made her decision to abort without serious mindfulness Although this violates the first Buddhist precept of not to kill, it is a view that takes into account the modern world and its issues and supports the Buddhist belief of relieving suffering and pain, being in the end, more beneficial to parent and child. The much discussed Japanese Zen tolerance for, and reutilization of, abortion appears to combine both utilitarian and virtue approaches. The Japanese believe that abortion is a "sorrowful necessity," and Buddhist temples sell rituals and statues intended to represent parents’ apologies to the...
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