Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

Abortion

JaySonJaySon Everywhere in the Cosmos Veteran

Without starting a heated debate... is this the universal Buddhist view on abortion?

http://www.buddhisma2z.com/content.php?id=3

Comments

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    To find this out, wouldn't you have to go around and ask every Buddhist if this is their opinion? Which Buddhists are referred to in the article? Big important ones (monks, etc.)? I'm curious why you ask.

  • JaySonJaySon Everywhere in the Cosmos Veteran

    @silver said:
    To find this out, wouldn't you have to go around and ask every Buddhist if this is their opinion? Which Buddhists are referred to in the article? Big important ones (monks, etc.)? I'm curious why you ask.

    I'm wondering if it falls under the first precept.

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran
    edited January 23

    @JaySon said:

    @silver said:
    To find this out, wouldn't you have to go around and ask every Buddhist if this is their opinion? Which Buddhists are referred to in the article? Big important ones (monks, etc.)? I'm curious why you ask.

    I'm wondering if it falls under the first precept.

    Oh - good question....I should've said that I don't believe there is such a thing as a 'universal Buddhist view on abortion' (or any other topic).

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    IMO, abortion is a personal choice and the karmic results of it will differ per situation. I feel sorry for people who are put in a position where they have to choose.

    spencerstonedhammachickKaydeekay
  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    @JaySon said:
    Without starting a heated debate... is this the universal Buddhist view on abortion?

    I don't know if you can avoid a heated debate here #thingspeopleliketoargueabout

    I would say it does fall under the 1st precept as you're killing a living being intentionally. If the Buddhists view is that life begins at conception (as per article) then abortion would be breaking the precept unless you must do so to save the life of a mother or another good reason (i.e. rape and incest). I believe that it's a womens right to choose so I am very curious about what others will say on this one.

    JaySonNMADDP
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited January 23

    Here's a previous thread...

    And here is an article, though not the article I sought....

    And another. Ditto.

    JaySon
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I think it's up to the individuals involved to determine whether they want to accept the karmic consequences of the action they're contemplating. I do think there is some argument around at which point a foetus becomes an independently living human being... before that any intervention could be viewed as an operation on the mother's body, afterwards it becomes killing a living being.

    Tigger
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Without starting a heated debate... is this the universal Buddhist view on abortion?

    No :)

  • Lee82Lee82 Veteran

    How does right intention feed in to this discussion? What if the intent for having an abortion was to avoid placing an unborn life in to a situation where it could not be brought-up reasonably well, safely or loved. What if the well considered view of the parent/s was that it is not in the best interests of the unborn child, or the interests of the parent/s or of any siblings? I've heard a number of throw-away comments in the past about this not being the sort of world where you would want to bring up a child. For many this is a reality, even more so for people struggling in other lands where war and famine are an everyday problem.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited January 24

    There's a video online of Ajahn Brahm presenting his much softer view of it. He says that the circumstances of the mother must be taken into account. Also, IMO the circumstances in which the child would be born should be taken into account. This, of course, is highly debatable. And Ajahn Brahm is a Westerner.

    lobster
  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    So it sounds like there is a consensus here. Some people on this thread have mentioned a child being brought up in a unhappy home, can those type of situations not benefit from adoption? Just saying

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    For most people this is a heart-wrenching decision. If all the babies that were aborted in the past, say, 10 years, were to have been born, would that really have been the best case scenario for all involved including the planet when the mom or parents did not want to have the baby?

    Adoption is a wonderful gift. To choose to go through almost a year of bodily, mental, emotional and hormonal changes for a child you have no intention of raising yourself and that you felt you couldn't keep is a lot more to ask on top of all of that. I am grateful for all those who do make that choice. But I'd never force it on anyone. It has to be a gift of sacrifice and love.

    I found the article to be rather...pokey? When I read it I got about 3 sentences in because I knew it had been written by a man, lol. To assume that "most abortions happen because of embarrassment or wanting to avoid inconvenience" is to completely invalidate the women who make this choice. Pregnancy and delivery are extremely taxing in every way imaginable. Even for someone who wants a baby more than anything in the world.

    The people I know who have had abortions, it was an extremely difficult choice and inconvenience had nothing to do with it. Most of them had to consider if it was fair to bring a child into the lives they were living, and if they were remotely capable of giving a child the things they needed. Those who were unable to consider those questions are those who were on drugs, drinking or partying a lot, etc. In which case it's hard to argue that bringing a baby into that even for adoption would be a good choice.

    All of the problems with abortion, within religion or outside of it, come attached to the question of what is life, really? When does it start? When does the essence of who we are become present? Is a mass of growing tissue a person?
    And the thing is, we have no answers for those questions except for within ourselves based on, as usual, our causes and conditions. For that reason, it is an individual question and decision in my mind. Because I simply cannot answer those questions for another person. And neither should (IMO) anyone else.

    Steve_B
  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    I agree @karasti

    The sad thing about abortion is the regret that comes with it sometimes and not knowing later on in life if you made the right choice or not. I am a man so this is a man’s point of view and I would never say I understand it from a women’s perspective.

    My girlfriend and I had an abortion in 2000 and only because we did not feel we were financially ready for a child. We were living in a basement apartment and only 21 years old at the time. Every year since 2000 I think about how old he/she would have been (16 years old today). Every time I see a kid the age my kid would have been it makes me wonder what life would have been like. This is a memory that I will die with. I will never know if I made the right decision.

  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Recidivist Samsarist Veteran

    My grandmother chose to follow down the path of single motherhood in the late 30s, at a time when being a single mother was pointed out with the finger.
    If my grandmother had chosen to abort, neither my mother, nor my brother, nor me, nor my son would exist.
    Though I was very responsible about preconception the moment I began to have sexual intercourse, my mom always told me that should I ever get pregnant, she would back me 100% with the baby.
    I don't misjudge women who choose to abort but know that I would never do it.
    The possibility to carry a new life in one's womb is a privilege.

    Bunkslobster
  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @DhammaDragon said:
    My grandmother chose to follow down the path of single motherhood in the late 30s, at a time when being a single mother was pointed out with the finger.
    If my grandmother had chosen to abort, neither my mother, nor my brother, nor me, nor my son would exist.
    Though I was very responsible about preconception the moment I began to have sexual intercourse, my mom always told me that should I ever get pregnant, she would back me 100% with the baby.
    I don't misjudge women who choose to abort but know that I would never do it.
    The possibility to carry a new life in one's womb is a privilege.

    This 100% :+1: :+1:

    BunksDhammaDragon
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    For myself, I agree. I always hoped my best friend and his husband would want children so I could be their surrogate :awesome: . I mostly loved being pregnant and would love to have done it a couple more times, but 3 kids is enough for us.

    But indeed, I won't put that on other women. Many of whom don't have the benefit of familial support and are threatened with being thrown out on the streets. Though, I can't say never. It's not much of a concern (though strange things happen) since my husband got a vasectomy after our last son was born. But I most definitely would consider abortion if my health were at risk to complete a pregnancy, were one to happen again. It would be an awful, awful choice, but I would make it if I had to. Because my devotion is to the family that is already here and dependent on me and I won't risk my life for an unborn one. And perhaps in other circumstances, though I can't say for sure (such as if I were raped). I am grateful the option is still there for those who need it and I hope it stays that way.

    I'm truly baffled by what anti-abortion folks think will really happen if abortion is made illegal. If they think all those women will simply have the babies and adopt them out, I think they are mistaken. Not only will abortions continue, but it will put the mother's lives at risks again. Perhaps that is what some of them hope will happen :scream: I tend to believe that a stream of consciousness that is ready to be reborn will simply do so with another pregnant woman. I tend to be a believer (UnBuddhist as it is) that part of our rebirth cycle is to experience all that human life has to offer, good and bad, and perhaps abortion ends up being a part of that. I'm not sure if we can land in enlightenment without doing so.

    TiggerKeromeKannon
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    Listened to a talk today by Ajahn Brahm on abortion and euthanasia. He said the Buddhist precepts are guides rather than absolute laws and compared decisions that go against them as like a red traffic light. Red means stop, but if it's an emergency like getting someone to the hospital the right thing to do isn't to wait at the light for it to turn green but to approach and check carefully to see if it is safe then go through the light. So in relation to something like abortion, in general we want to avoid taking life but in some situations we can justify being deliberate and careful about making the opposite choice.

    Of course someone could get all legal and try to make a justified case in any situation. Buddhism is about the effects these decisions have on us directly so you could convince the world you are justified but you still have to live with the consequences.

    Bunks
  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    I know this thread is about abortion but since we are on the topic of the 1st precept, let me pose a question I was thinking about last night. I didn't want to start an entire thread on this sad topic.

    When I read about the 1st precept it discusses how we should not take a life because everyone values life and is afraid of death which causes suffering. What about suicide? If I want to die then technically I am not harming myself or taking a life that wants to live.

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    @Tigger said:
    I know this thread is about abortion but since we are on the topic of the 1st precept, let me pose a question I was thinking about last night. I didn't want to start an entire thread on this sad topic.

    When I read about the 1st precept it discusses how we should not take a life because everyone values life and is afraid of death which causes suffering. What about suicide? If I want to die then technically I am not harming myself or taking a life that wants to live.

    Interesting poser. My understanding of Buddhism its attitude is one of acceptance of all in life. If that's how a person thinks, that's how a person thinks. Buddhism accepts and honors all life choices we make- including our reactions/emotions - there is no escaping life's realities. There isn't any real 'coping' either. Yet we do. <3

    Tigger
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    The First precept is the Mother of the remainder, and it includes first and foremost, above all, yourself.

    Tigger
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    I'm under the impression "Karma" has a lot to do with whether or not 'birth' is meant to happen/takes place ....

    I also feel that we (bundles of karmic energy flux) are each part & parcel of each other's cause-condition-effect directly and indirectly ,intentionally and unintentionally...action & reaction -action & reaction.....

    Karmic seeds are continually being planted, and if the conditions are right they'll germinate and grow...and if not, they will not....

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    this is only my belief, @Tigger based on experiences. I think we only enjoy autonomy to a certain point. We are completely free to make decisions for only ourselves (I do agree with fede that no harm for ourselves is high on the list). But when we are part of a family, especially when we choose that family by marrying and having children, I think that shifts, at least some. Our lives are no longer only our own, and our decisions can no longer solely reflect our wants and needs.

    Tigger
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited January 28

    @JaySon said:
    Without starting a heated debate... is this the universal Buddhist view on abortion?

    http://www.buddhisma2z.com/content.php?id=3

    I wouldn't say it's universal, but it's certainly a very common POV throughout Buddhism. My own position on abortion has evolved over time.

    I was more or less what you'd call 'pro-life' early on, politically and in relation to the first precept due to my rather strict, absolutist interpretation the precepts, but have since become pro-choice politically and have also taken a more nuanced position in terms of the first precept due to a fair amount of thought and discussion about the subject.

    My position on the former has change in that I now believe in a woman's right to choose for the simple fact that the fertilized egg/embryo is, for all intents and purposes, a part of her body, and no one should have the right to tell another person what to do with their own body. Also, having abortion legally available and easily accessible makes it safer for women. Without it being so, women who aren't ready to have children, are impregnated against their will, etc. will either be forced to have unwanted children or to rely on alternative and often unsafe methods of terminating pregnancies, e.g., herbal abortifacients that may be toxic; illegal and unsafe 'back-alley' abortions (which result in an estimated 70,000 deaths per year worldwide); etc. I also support easy access to things that actually help prevent unwanted pregnancies like birth control.

    As for the latter, my position has changed for three main reasons: First, the idea that life begins at conception (i.e., that consciousness immediate arises) is debatable. Second, I interpret the precepts more like guidelines or training rules than commandments. Third, a full breach of the precept depends on the intention and perception of the individual terminating an unwanted pregnancy.

    Regarding the issue of conception and the moment when consciousness arises in an embryo, I think that Ajahn Brahmavamso makes some good points in support of his view that fertilized ova and very early embryos outside the mother's womb aren't reckoned as human life because they lack sensitivity to painful or pleasant stimuli. In his words, "[O]nly when the embryo-fetus first shows sensitivity to pleasure and pain (vedana) and first shows will (such as by a purposeful shrinking away from a painful stimulus) has consciousness and nama-rupa first manifested and the new human life started." There's still a fair amount of controversy over this subject, though, because the Buddha himself never explicitly states when consciousness arises in an embryo; although he does state in MN 38 that "the descent of the embryo" requires the union of three things: (1) the union of the mother and the father, (2) the mother is in season (i.e., fertile egg), and (3) the gandhabba is present. It should be noted, however, that this last term has engendered a fair amount of controversy itself.

    Gandhabba generally refers to a class of devas or 'heavenly being,' and the term in relation to rebirth isn't explained anywhere in the Suttas. In fact, it only occurs in one other place in a similar context. Some, such as Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, translate it as 'sperm' or 'seed' based on its association with fragrant substances like flowers (the stem gandha meaning 'scent'); but that's not how it's traditionally been defined in this context. Bhikkhu Bodhi, for example, believes that the traditional interpretation of gandhabba as the being-to-be's 'stream of consciousness' (vinnanasota) is a reasonable one, mostly stemming from the passage in DN 15 that mentions consciousness "descending into the mothers' womb" (The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, n. 411).

    But since the Pali Canon is rather vague when it comes to conception and the arising of consciousness, it can also be reasonably argued that sentient life begins at conception (e.g., Ajahn Sujato's essay, "When Life Begins, and that things like abortion and the use of emergency contraception may transgress the first precept. In essence, there's no way to be absolutely sure of the moment when consciousness arises in an embryo simply going by what the Pali literature has to say on the matter.

    Worst case scenario, I'd say that having an abortion can be considered a violation of the first precept assuming that there's some level of consciousness present in the embryo at such an early stage (which is a mighty big assumption since there's basically just rupa, matter, and no perceptible sense organs, and most likely no thoughts, perceptions, volitions, or even consciousness); but I certainly wouldn't consider it unethical or evil unless the intent behind it was truly malicious ("Intention, I tell you, is kamma" (AN 6.63). However, in the end, I think the answer really comes down to how we choose to view embryos — whether as a collection of cells, potential living beings, or both — and this is where science should come into play more than some ancient religious texts, which I believe actually has a lot of bearing on how abortion is perceived in relation to the first precept and its ethical implications.

    As Bhikkhu Bodhi notes in his tract, "Taking the Precepts," a full violation of the first precept involves five factors: (1) a living being; (2) the perception of the living being as such; (3) the thought or volition of killing; (4) the appropriate effort; and (5) the actual death of the being as a result of the action. Therefore, if there's no perception of a living being, only a small collection of dividing cells that have yet to develop into one, then there's no violation of the first precept, or at least not a full one. And even assuming that it is, Buddhist ethics aren't entirely black or white, i.e., they aren't seen in terms of ethical and unethical or good and evil as much as skillful and unskillful, and intention plays an important role in determining whether an action is one or the other.

    In Buddhism, all intentional actions are understood to have potential consequences, and actions that cause harm to others and/or ourselves are considered to be unskillful and something to be avoided. But the Buddha never condemns people merely for making unskillful choices or breaking the precepts; he simply urges them (albeit with strong language sometimes) to learn from their mistakes and to make an effort to renounce their unskillful behaviour with the understanding that skillful behaviour leads to long-term welfare and happiness.

    federicakarastisilver
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Jason, you're a breath of fresh air.....

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Wonderful @Jason . Nice to see you in these parts!

    silver
  • Thank you

    Abortion is a personal decision made by a woman. Rarely is it simple. For (us) men to be weighing in with any judgement is pure arrogance. Th legislate (limit) a woman's decision is the ultimate in the disrespect and subjugation.
    Life is sacred but it is not up to those of us not facing such a decision to force our own preconceptions or dogma upon those who are placed in that situation.

    Peace to all

    Shoshindhammachick
Sign In or Register to comment.