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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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Transcending Ethics

Transcending Ethics

Chapter:
(p.109) 6 Transcending Ethics
Source:
Consequences of Compassion
Author(s):

Charles Goodman (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195375190.003.0007

This chapter explains the sense in which Mahāyāna practitioners must go beyond ethics, relating this concept to the doctrine of no self. Advanced Mahayanists internalize morality so completely that they do not have to think about moral rules, and will ignore them when doing so produces benefits for sentient beings. This model allows us to understand Vajrayāna ethics. The outrageously unconventional behavior of Tantric siddhas such as Padmasambhava is not amorality, but the perfection of act-consequentialism. Beings in such a state neither deliberate nor think of themselves as moral agents. This state requires the freedom and creativity made possible by a deep, experiential understanding of emptiness. Despite appearances, the Madhyamaka teaching of emptiness does not destroy ethics, though it may eliminate self-defeating attachments to following ethical rules.

Keywords:   Vajrayāna, Tantric, Padmasambhava, act-consequentialism, siddhas, emptiness, Madhyamaka

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