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Consequences of CompassionAn Interpretation and Defense of Buddhist Ethics$
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Charles Goodman

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195375190

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195375190.001.0001

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Mahāyāna Ethics before Śāntideva

Mahāyāna Ethics before Śāntideva

(p.73) 4 Mahāyāna Ethics before Śāntideva
Consequences of Compassion

Charles Goodman (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the ethical views presented in texts from the Indian Mahayana Buddhist tradition, focusing on the Chapter on Ethics of Asanga. Mahāyāna texts advocate the Bodhisattva path of compassionate service to all sentient beings. Though this path leads to benefits for the practitioner, the important ritual of the dedication of merit makes sense only if the justification for following the path is the welfare of all beings. Asanga presents a form of indirect consequentialism: morality consists of rules which are justified by their tendency to produce good consequences when followed. He allows the rules to be broken when doing so would benefit all those affected. The Mahayana tradition is not closely similar to “Situation Ethics.” Although its view of well-being can be understood as hedonism, it makes more sense to understand the Mahayana as regarding virtue and happiness as two separate intrinsic goods.

Keywords:   Mahāyāna, Bodhisattva, dedication of merit, indirect consequentialism, virtue, Asanga

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