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For these reasons, it is no surprise that the now-retired Prebish looks to the future with hopes that the new young generation of scholars will emulate "a [previous] generation of wonderful scholars Prebish offers a roadmap toward this sort of idealized teaching and scholarship in the form of a memoir.

In addition to its possibilities in terms of enriching our qualitative experience of the field itself, he points out in the "Membership Spotlight" that more autobiographical work by scholars themselves might also aid in the historiography of Buddhist Studies by providing "great historical insight into the developing North American School of Buddhist Studies.

This is without question a life and a career that are uniquely rich fodder for memoir. Indeed, Prebish hardly requires an introduction: it was he who firmly established the study of Buddhism in North America as a sub-discipline within academic Buddhist Studies. Prebish in , which acknowledges the field's debt to him for all of his myriad efforts on its behalf. Honestly even, at times, surprisingly so and engagingly written, An American Buddhist Life succeeds brilliantly at pioneering memoir as an absolutely essential area for development in Buddhist Studies: with his own earnest stab at it, Prebish effectively conveys by example why it is that we need to see more contributions of this sort from Buddhist scholars, practitioners, and scholar-practitioners.

Organized across nine chapters that represent momentous points in his career-sometimes geographic career shifts, other times academic legacies, and also periods and issues of more personal importance-the book "makes history come alive" with the author's reflections on the extraordinary figures everyone from his mentor Richard H. An unknown error has occurred. Suggestions for social workers are provided.

Buddhism has been growing in the United States for the past 50 years. Changes in immigration laws and participation of Americans in Buddhism have contributed to a continuing sharp rise in the number of Buddhists in America. During the period from to , the number of Buddhist centers in the United States increased fivefold.

The number then doubled by and doubled again by with over 1, centers operating in the country Prebish, Prebish , C.

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Luminous passage: The practice and study of Buddhism in America. Berkeley : University of California Press. There are now an estimated 3—4 million Buddhists in the United States with about , of them Euro-American converts to the religion Prebish, Prebish , C. Buddhism developed in Asian countries that had not experienced the Age of Enlightenment of 18th century Europe and the rise of science.

As it has moved to the West, practitioners of the religion are confronted with medical ethical questions that had not arisen for Buddhist teachers. Buddhism and bioethics. Hampshire , United Kingdom : Palgrave. Many Westerners have found the spiritual perspectives of Buddhism refreshing and have been seeking a way to apply the teachings they have learned to life's problems including medical ethics questions Keown, Keown , D.

This review focuses on ethics in end-of-life care decisions. I first summarize Buddhist beliefs and ethics and then distill the exegesis of Buddhist scholars who have reviewed primary texts into an overview. In the process I will use a few terms in Sanskrit for which there are poor English equivalents but many of them are recognizable by English speakers. Buddhism began about 2, years ago in India when Siddhartha Gautama, the protected son of wealthy parents, left his home to confront the reality of life. His charioteer explained that old age, sickness, and death come to all people.

He also met a mendicant who explained that suffering was a reality in the world but that Gautama could learn to overcome it. Once successful, he began a life of teaching which spanned the next 45 years until his death in about BCE. What remains of the teachings of the Buddha are compiled in the Theravada Pali Canon, which is respected by the three main branches of Buddhism as the primary source of the Buddha's teaching.

It had been committed to memory by generations of monks and was the earliest of all the texts to be transcribed when it was put into writing in Sri Lanka in about 40 BCE Harvey, Harvey , P. An introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, history and practices. The canon is comprised of a number of documents including the Vinaya Pitaka , the Monastic Rule set down by the Buddha, and Buddhaghosa's Buddhaghosa. Hirakawa , Trans. An introduction to Buddhist ethics: Foundations, values and issues. Eastern Buddhism is stronger in the Mahayana tradition which emphasizes compassion karuna as described in the writing of Santedeva and in the Lotus Sutra Harvey, Harvey , P.

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Zen Buddhism first reached the United States in Tibetan Buddhism is well represented in the United States. It is a more secular form of meditation practice emphasizing psychological and personal growth. The Theravada school from Southeast Asia is also represented and it includes an adaptation called Insight Meditation developed by Mahasi Sayadaw. It focuses on the vipassana meditation technique and has become quite popular among American practitioners. Buddhism is a fluid religion. Almost all of the above-mentioned Buddhist traditions are practiced in the United States creating a unique situation in the world.

In other countries one practice tradition dominates and young people grow up practicing Buddhism as their family has with little exposure to other forms of practice. In the United States the presence of many traditions of Buddhism provides a range of choices and sometimes hybrid practices among American converts to the religion.

Asian immigrants tend to remain in the tradition they learned in their country of origin. Some of these practitioners of Buddhism may also participate in older indigenous traditions and carry on local customs such as following the nature gods of Sri Lanka, Confucianism in China, and Shinto in Japan Harvey, Harvey , P. This sharing of religious expression also occurs in the West Boorstein, Boorstein , S.

That's funny, you don't look Buddhist: On being a faithful Jew and a passionate Buddhist. It is also in keeping with Buddha's approach. Since he was most concerned with the practice that led to enlightenment, he was not concerned about people's involvement with other religions Armstrong, Armstrong , K.

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Americans who experiment with Buddhism or convert to the religion tend to seek a variety of teachers and experiences and are less loyal to one tradition. This variety in practice poses potential problems for social workers and other health care practitioners in their approach to Buddhists in discussing end-of-life care issues for not only do they have to know something about Buddhism but they must also be aware of some of the differences within Buddhism.

The essence of Buddhism is that the Buddha's experience of enlightenment is available to anyone who is willing to pursue the training and practice. He taught that all beings experience the continual cycle of rebirths samsara and the suffering dukkha that ensues. The form of rebirth a person experiences is influenced by karma , the natural consequence of their actions. The state of a person's mind at the time of death and the karmic merit they have earned will determine the type of rebirth they will experience.

After the Buddha reached the state of awakeness nirvana , he began to share his teachings dharma on how to reach nirvana and attain freedom from samsara. As he traveled, he formed a community of followers sangha in each of the areas where he taught. The sangha was originally a community of monks and nuns which evolved to include lay people to provide support for all practitioners. Buddha's preaching emphasized awareness of and preparation for death as a guiding principle for actions that will promote positive karma.

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However, most people are quite frightened of death Yalom, Yalom , I. Staring at the sun: Overcoming the terror of death. London , United Kingdom : Piatkus. Buddhists have learned that this awareness of death provides two ways to motivate practitioners. Facing death, gazing inward: End-of-life and the transformation of clinical subjectivity in Thailand.

Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry , 35 , — The Buddhist practice of meditating on death and the decay of the body is designed to lead the practitioner to an experience of disgust with the body and its desire for attachment to things and people. Once reaching the realization of the futility of seeking these attachments, the practitioner can more easily forsake them and face death with no attachment for life.

From a different perspective fear of multiple deaths following rebirths can spur practitioners to seek the enlightened state, which will free them from the cycle of rebirths. Once freed from fear in this way, a practitioner will be in a position to welcome death as a final release from samsara. Such a view does not contradict the belief that a rebirth as a human being is extremely fortunate for it is only as a human being that one may attain enlightenment. Even if a person is not fully enlightened, an acceptable goal of life is to be reborn as a more enlightened person with greater ability to attain nirvana.

Decisions about events in life including those at the end of life will have an impact on the merit attained at death. Making ethical choices will be important in this process. A difficulty for Buddhists today is that there is not a systematic presentation of ethical principles upon which they can base their decisions about medical matters since they could not have been foreseen when Buddhism developed Keown, Keown , D. Ethical guidance is provided in part by Buddhist scriptures which list five precepts which apply to all, other precepts which can be accepted voluntarily on holidays or during periods of study or retreat, and still others which apply to monks.

The first precept is respect for life or non-harming ahimsa. It prohibits the killing of living things and is the most important precept regarding end-of-life care. Keown Keown , D. Suicide, assisted suicide and euthanasia: A Buddhist perspective. Journal of Law and Religion , 13 2 , — Life is a basic good in Buddhism and its preservation is important, for it is only when in human form that one can freely choose morally good actions to improve chances for a higher rebirth thus bringing one closer to nirvana and the end of suffering.

Buddhists give credence to four authorities in testing an opinion on an issue.


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The four are: a what is written in scripture, b what would be in conformity with scripture, c the tradition of commentary, and d a personal opinion based on study of the other three Keown, Keown , D. The Theravada tradition upon which Keown Keown , D. Buddhist ethics: A very short introduction. The Mahayana tradition is based more on commentary, in particular that by Santideva, and will allow for motivation based on compassion and more latitude for personal opinion Goodman, Goodman , C. Consequences of compassion: An interpretation and defense of Buddhist ethics.

Prebish, Charles S.

In all cases, when a practitioner relies on personal opinion, a clear mind free of prejudice is required so that the decision is based on skillful means upaya. The act must be undertaken with the purest intentions of helping another. This role of personal opinion is important to keep in mind if someone is contemplating a decision that would violate strict interpretation of a precept.

Social workers can help that person sort through their concerns about such a violation which may include the karmic consequences to both the patient and a family member who is making a decision that has the potential for relieving suffering and promoting a peaceful death, but may hasten death. For example, the decision to use intravenous morphine at the end of life will require good information and a clear mind to help a person maintain congruency with their religious beliefs, ethical standards, and the wishes of the patient.

Other end-of-life care decisions will be discussed in the sections that follow. These ethical principles function to guide a Buddhist toward the important goal of establishing a moral character built by behaving ethically. The quality of character results from karma earned by previous behavior. Harvey, Harvey , P. However, it is not the karmic merit which determines the goodness of an action. Further development of character will deepen awareness regarding the intention of an action, which for Buddhists is almost as important as the action itself.

Latitude is given and less bad karma is accumulated if a person's intentions for an action are good. For example, in the Mahayana tradition a person who acts from compassion will be held less culpable if the action turns out badly. Because of differences in traditions and local customs, Buddhists will differ in how much they emphasize the karma earned from specific decisions made at the end of life.

Such decisions regarding organ donation, withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment such as artificial nutrition and hydration and mechanical ventilation, physician-aid in dying assisted suicide and euthanasia all hold the potential for creating good or bad karma.