Buddhist Ethics: Reconciling Virtue and Happiness

Publish Place: 
The University of Hong Kong
Centre of Buddhist Studies
Publish Year: 
E-book Tag: 

This book is designed to introduce readers to contemporary issues and debates in the field of Buddhist ethics. It does this by stimulating a dialogue between Buddhism and Western ethics on the topic of well-being. The Four Noble Truths present us with a conundrum: is nirvana a state of virtue attained by following the Eightfold Path, or a state of happiness defined as freedom from suffering? If both, how are they related? Drawing on Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonia, the view advanced is that worldly goods of the kind gained through merit (puñña) have been undervalued by the orthodox tradition. Practitioners have been encouraged to eschew merit (puñña) and cultivate virtue (kusala) as if the two were antithetical. The failure to recognise that they form an inseparable and complementary pair and together constitute nirvanic well-being has caused problems of understanding from ancient times. Alternative conceptions of well-being proposed by consequentialist interpreters are considered, as are related subjects of contemporary interest like Engaged Buddhism and Human Rights. While the focus is on Theravada Buddhism the discussion is broadly based, and many of the topics considered transcend the boundaries of sect and school.



Keown, Damien. Buddhist Ethics: Reconciling Virtue and Happiness. The University of Hong Kong: Centre of Buddhist Studies. 2022