November 15, 2018

Recently I have been turned on to ideas of “Buddhist economics” through a class I am teaching on Buddhist ethics in Hong Kong. The idea of “Buddhist economics” is a relatively new one, like Buddhist ethics and, well, Buddhism. All arise in the modernist milieu of the mingling of Buddhadhamma and Western ideas and concepts. That’s not to say that Buddhist economics isn’t real or isn’t based in longstanding historical traditions. But it does mean that whatever it is, it will… Read more

November 2, 2018

And horrifies everyone: (and ‘solves’ definitely isn’t meant in the sense of ‘resolves’) The trolley problem, shown above, was developed by 20th century Moral Philosopher Philippa Foot and is a favorite among moral philosophers (also disdained by some) for testing the moral intuitions of students. Do we do a quick calculus and push the lever, saving the 5 and killing the 1. Do we let the train kill the five, considering ourselves blaimless because we did nothing, whereas pushing the… Read more

October 2, 2018

The online Buddhist magazine Buddhistdoor Global* published a great interview last week: “On Bells, Whistles, Hats, and Number Sets: An Interview with Jeff Watt on Buddhist Iconography and Himalayan Art” By Anne Wisman. Jeff Watt, the person interviewed, is noted as “one of the world’s foremost scholars and curators of Tibetan and Himalayan art.” One of the most important parts comes when Watt gives the various reasons for the creation of Himalayan art. He lists six: Devotional; Didactic: nobody bows… Read more

September 28, 2018

If you’re like me, your social media feeds have been on fire with discussions and news postings about the Ford and Kavanaugh testimonies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And, if you’re like me, you have a lot of Buddhists (teachers, scholars, and practitioners) on your friends list and you saw them engaging: often very deeply, passionately, empathetically, and personally, with the process unfolding on live television and the radio. And it shouldn’t need to be said any more, but it… Read more

September 26, 2018

I am sometimes asked for resources or tools for studying Pali, the language of the Theravadin canon, encapsulating more or less the very language of the historical Buddha. My own instruction in Pali has been on my own with a good friend using Gair and Karunatillake (see below). I then went on to study with Prof. Richard Gombrich in Oxford in 2011; which I thought I wrote about at some point, but I see only a couple other posts on… Read more

September 19, 2018

Last month I covered the revived discussion amongst Buddhists in North America about psychedelic drug use. One fascinating aspect of this work was seeing the various forms of reasoning used by those involved in the debate. In the study of ethics, forms of reasoning are important. If the Buddhists had focused heavily on the intentions of the psychedelic drug users, they might have had what we’d call deontological moral frameworks. If the Buddhists had focused on the character development of those… Read more

September 11, 2018

In the ongoing rounds of Buddhist #MeToo work, survivors and allies of abuse at the hands of Buddhist teachers have created a video and petition in hopes that the Dalai Lama will accept their invitation to meet during his visit to the Netherlands this week (September 14-17). The survivors of the abusive Tibetan teacher, Sogyal Lakar, and others hope that the Dalai Lama will continue his activities to promote secular ethics and women’s rights. As they say, however, the Dalai… Read more

September 10, 2018

Today I have some early thoughts on a topic that I hope I will return to, perhaps again and again, over the months and years to come. I live and work currently in Hong Kong, which some might mistakenly say is “part of China” or might also mistakenly say is “not part of China.” The confusing middle ground is best exemplified by the phrase, “one country, two systems.” But that just scratches the surface. The first system is, of course,… Read more

September 5, 2018

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ll be starting (today) a semester-long position as a Visiting Lecturer at the Centre of Buddhist Studies at Hong Kong University. I will teach courses on two of my favorite topics: Buddhism in Contemporary Society and Buddhist Ethics. As it turns out, the readings on the two have a relatively large amount of overlap (largely because Peter Harvey’s great Introduction to Buddhist Ethics has great material for both). For the Buddhist ethics class I’ll also be… Read more

September 3, 2018

The recently reviewed book, Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk about It) by Elizabeth Anderson comes at a perfect time: Labor Day Weekend. The book’s title also points to a central problem in employment today: our lack of discussion of the terms of our work. Just as the rise of “Bullshit” jobs has given rise to resentment and envy, a lack of discourse around employment has given rise to dictatorship by employer. Through dozens of quick… Read more

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