Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Buddhist View of Abortion

My friends at the Facebook group Pro Life Pagans asked me to share some information on the Buddhist view of abortion.  Rather than post it all to Facebook, I thought I would post a link to this page.

First, some background on Buddhism.  The Buddha was born as an ordinary human being.  His name was Siddhatta, and he was born as a prince, the son of King Suddhodana.  In time, he came to realize that the life of luxury did not bring an end to suffering.  So he left the palace, and followed the path of a self-mortifying ascetic, which was what some spiritual people of his time did. After seven years, he realized that punishing his body did not bring an end to suffering, either.  So he discovered the Middle Way, and eventually attained full enlightenment and an end to suffering.  For the rest of his life, 45 more years, he taught the truths he discovered, The Four Noble Truths, including the way he had followed to attain enlightenment, the Noble Eightfold Path.  It is a path of gentleness and kindness.  He taught the Four Noble Truths first to other ascetics, and they become the first monks.

As the Sangha (the community of monks) became larger, there came to be some monks who did not realize intuitively how a monk should conduct himself, and so the Buddha established rules for monks and nuns, called the Vinaya.  Over the rest of his lifetime, the Buddha came up with about 1000 rules (including 220 basic rules) for the Sangha.

The Buddha realized that Buddhist householders could benefit from a subset of these rules, so he chose the ones that were most important, and called these the Five Noble Precepts.  The Five Precepts begin with the most important, the First Noble Precept, Not Killing. 

Of the approximately one thousand rules for monks, there were four that were so important that if a monk or nun broke one of these, he or she was no longer a monk or a nun and could never again (in this lifetime) be a monk or a nun.  One of those four, as you might guess, was abstaining from murder (the killing of a human).

One time there was a monk who committed abortion.  The Buddha was asked if that was parajika, defeat.  The Buddha said, yes, committing abortion was murder, and so the monk was guilty of parajika, and any monk or nun who ever committed abortion was no longer a monk or a nun and could never be a monk or nun in that lifetime.

In addition, there are other places (which I posted to Pro Life Pagans Facebook page) in the Tipitika (the Three Baskets, the Buddhist canon) where abortion is condemned.

So the Buddha was unmistakably clear on this.  Anyone who suggests that there is more than one Buddhist view on this is either lying or misinformed.  You may hear that there are different Buddhist schools.  While it is true that there have been tangents upon tangents off of the Buddha's teachings for the past 2600 years, no school can change the dhamma, what the Buddha actually taught.  Many of the views of later schools are views which the Buddha explicitly rejected.

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