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27 - Mindfulness, non-attachment and other Buddhist virtues

from PART II - TYPES OF VIRTUES

Leesa S. Davis
Affiliation:
Deakin University
Stan van Hooft
Affiliation:
Deakin University, Australia
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Summary

Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering, hence it is the cause of suffering.

Dalai Lama (1988: 37)

Buddhism, as a system of thought and practice, is centred on the resolution of one all-pervasive problem – the eradication of suffering. Like a physician, the Buddha is traditionally thought to have diagnosed an illness, identified the cause and prescribed a cure. The insight of the Buddha's realization is expressed in the formula of the Four Noble Truths: (1) the human condition is characterized by suffering (duḥkha); (2) suffering is caused by grasping or desire; (3) suffering can be extinguished by eliminating its causes; (4) the way to extinguish suffering is to follow the Middle Way (madhyamā pratipad) in the form of the Noble Eightfold Path. Although different Buddhist schools have developed various ways of putting this “prescription” into practice, the Eightfold Path of right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration is the fundamental starting point of all Buddhist ethical life.

This chapter will offer an introduction to Buddhist ideas of the ethical life by outlining key Buddhist virtues and situating them in the broader framework of Buddhist metaphysics. Although Buddhism displays some similarities with the ethical system of utilitarianism and, perhaps to a lesser extent, some parallels to forms of deontology, many contemporary scholars regard the virtues approach to interpreting Buddhist ethics as the most fruitful entry point (see Keown 1992, 2005, 2007; Whitehill 1994).

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Publisher: Acumen Publishing
Print publication year: 2013

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