FTFY Buddhist ethics

tiny_disagreement
Monkey explains why he lives in an underworld, in Journey to the West

Traditional Buddhist morality is obviously wrong. But the Buddha was enlightened, and Buddhism is the correct religion; so it seems that, due to some minor mistake, the tradition does not represent the true Buddhist ethics.

Since we know what is ethically correct—and Buddha would surely agree!—we can fix it for him. That is the principle of FTFY Buddhist ethics.

[Note to future historians: “FTFY” is 2015 internet slang for “fixed that for you.”]

Current “Buddhist ethics” is identical to current Western leftish secular ethics. How can Buddhist leaders pretend that it has anything to do with Buddhism? How can traditional Buddhist moral teachings be explained away? FTFY is the main rhetorical strategy.

FTFY ethics explains what the Buddha would have said about something he didn’t discuss. For example, we can easily see that he would have approved of homosexuality. Also, he certainly would have supported intellectual property ownership.

Also, the Buddha got many things wrong, for various excusable reasons. However, we know what he should have said. For example, he surely knew slavery was wrong. However, he had to work within the constraints of the existing regime, so he had to endorse it anyway due to politics. How fortunate that we can fix that for him!

How to fix Buddhist ethics

“Compassion” is the essential tool of FTFY Buddhist ethics. “Buddhist ethics says compassionate motivation is the important thing, and we derive everything from that, so our ethics is Buddhist.” Compassion is wonderfully subjective, so you can justify anything using it—including torture and genocide, as Buddhist authorities sometimes have.

FTFY Buddhist sermons generally go like this:

  1. Buddhism says we should be compassionate.
  2. Here are some holy quotes about how important compassion is.
  3. Now consider this hot-button Western ethical issue: (abortion, income inequality, transphobia, GMOs, whatever).
  4. Clearly, the compassionate approach to this issue is [the leftish secular opinion].
  5. Since Buddhism is a religion of compassion, we can see that the Buddhist ethical approach to this is [the leftish secular opinion].
  6. Therefore, [the leftish secular opinion].
  7. Because Buddhism is right.
  8. We know it is right because [the leftish secular opinion] is compassionate, and Buddhism endorses [the leftish secular opinion], as I explained.
  9. Which proves that Buddhism is a religion of compassion, and therefore right.
  10. Here’s a Dalai Lama quote. It’s not about this issue, but you must agree he’s extremely compassionate.

This is perfectly legitimate, historically. The tradition of putting your own words in the Buddha’s mouth goes back a couple thousand years at least. But if you are going to put the whole of contemporary secular morality in his mouth, why bother?

(I’ll answer that in the next post.)

How Consensus Buddhist leaders fixed the lay precepts

Consensus “Buddhist ethics” pretends to be based on the first five lay precepts, plus the paramitas. (It ignores the other five lay precepts, and the other quasi-moral systems, and the Sigalovada.)

The paramitas are so vague that they can be safely held as theoretical ideals with little practical consequence. The precepts, however, are incompatible with contemporary American morality, so they had to be radically loosened, replaced, and/or ignored in practice.

Loosening

The following quotes are from Gil Fronsdal’s “Virtues without Rules,” about ethical teaching in the Insight Meditation Society, with some phrases omitted for concision:

[The precepts] are not to be understood as strict or absolute rules. Goldstein states: “The precepts are not taken as commandments but are followed for the effect they have on our quality of life. There is not a sense of imposition at all because they are natural expressions of a clear mind.” Kornfield insists that the precepts are “not given as absolute commandments.” And Salzberg writes, “In Buddhism morality does not mean a forced or puritanical abiding by rules,” and observes that the five precepts “are not intended to be put forth as draconian rules.”

The teachers’ insistence that the precepts are not commandments is also reflected in the seeming reluctance to apply them specifically as rules of restraint with any particularity. For example, in explaining the first precepts, Salzberg recommends the avoidance of killing. While this may be her implied intent, what she explicitly recommends is using the precept as a reflection on the “oneness of life.” In discussing the precept not to lie, she doesn’t recommend the avoidance of lying but rather the more vague “attempt not to lie.” And in discussing the fifth precept, she writes about the usefulness of temporarily “experimenting” with avoiding intoxicants. Salzberg and other teachers who explain the precepts do so mostly in general terms, focusing on principles behind them, such as non-harming and a sense of interconnection.

What’s important is not what you do (the traditional point of the precepts), but that you examine your conscience carefully, and maintain an appropriately pious attitude. “In America the precepts are generally defined in terms of intention, rather than in terms of action.”1 This is characteristic of Protestant morality.

Replacing

Since the lay precepts are contrary to Western secular morals, “Buddhist ethics” fixes them by explicit rewriting.

American teachers more often describe the positive aspect of skillful conduct, what is to be cultivated. Steven Armstrong, for instance, gives a very flexible, though inclusive, rendition of the five precepts: “a commitment to not harming,” “a commitment to sharing,” “making and keeping clear relationships,” “speaking carefully: the power of intention,” and “keeping the mind clear.”2

“Not killing” is a nice idea in theory, but:

At IMS, when issues such as a cockroach infestation arise, the teachers are not innocent of the decision to use poison… Causing an abortion is considered [traditionally] to amount to killing a human being. This formulation is consistent with the Theravādin understanding of consciousness and rebirth, but what does it mean for American laywomen trying to maintain the precepts?3

So Spirit Rock redefines the first precept as struggling to attain the correct mental attitude, the essence of Protestant ethical practice:

In undertaking this precept we acknowledge the interconnection of all beings and our respect for all life. We agree to refine our understanding of not killing and nonharming in all our actions. We seek to understand the implication of this precept in such difficult areas as abortion, euthanasia, and the killing of pets. While some of us recommend vegetarianism, and others do not, we all commit ourselves to fulfilling this precept in the spirit of reverence for life.

As for sex and drugs:

The IMS community generally gives the proscriptions against sexual misconduct and intoxicants much less scope and force than do Burmese renditions… As one teacher has put it, “Buddhists are required to avoid sexual misconduct, but it is not clear what this means in California.”4

[Traditional Burmese teacher] U Pandita does not compromise on the fifth precept.5 “Even in small amounts, intoxicating substances can make us less sensitive, more easily swayed by gross motivations of anger and greed. Some people defend the use of drugs and alcohol, saying that these substances are not so bad. On the contrary, they are very dangerous…” While I do not think that any of the senior teachers at IMS would advocate alcohol as a tool for awakening, for most of them it would be rather hypocritical to proscribe moderate social drinking as totally incompatible with dedicated practice.6

These revisions are consistent with the Protestant approach. Consensus Buddhism does not recommend renunciation (giving up all sense pleasures). Instead, it has an “ethics of mindfulness” (a rebranding of Protestant soul-searching). “Mindfulness” includes working to be satisfied with a moderate amount, simplicity, modesty, and all-around niceness.

Here’s Thich Nhat Hanh’s rewrite of the fifth precept:

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family and my society, by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant, or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.

This is interestingly parallel to Dharmapala’s wholesale importation of then-current Western secular morality to provide “Buddhist ethical” norms for forks and buses. Healthy eating is a central commandment of current secular morality; now it’s Buddhist! The Buddha probably didn’t have an opinion about TV programs; FTFY.

Ignoring

For traditional Theravada, morality consists in submitting to an objective code of prohibitions. For the Consensus, it’s a matter of being authentic to your True Self, which is spontaneously virtuous.

Jack Kornfield:

“We use the form of rules until virtue becomes natural. Then from the wisdom of the silent mind true spontaneous virtue arises.” Elsewhere he writes, “Our actions come out of a spontaneous compassion and our innate wisdom can direct life from our heart.” The implication of the teaching that a person with spiritually developed character and insight will naturally act ethically is that, for such a person, the precepts themselves become unnecessary.7

“Trust your feelings, Luke!” Thanissaro Bikkhu, a more traditional American Theravada teacher, strongly opposes this approach. In “Romancing the Buddha,” a major influence on my understanding of modern Buddhism, he suggests that the idea derives from German Romanticism, not any Buddhist source.8

On the previous page, I wrote “few Western Buddhist teachers even attempt or pretend to live by the lay precepts.” I am not accusing them of hypocrisy in failing to live up to their chosen ethical system. I am accusing them of duplicity in pretending that the ethical system they have chosen is Buddhist.


  1. Strong Roots, p. 140. 
  2. Strong Roots, p. 140. 
  3. Strong Roots, pp. 140-1. 
  4. Strong Roots, p. 145. 
  5. Bikkhu Bodhi also wrote a fine article pointing out the importance of the fifth precept forbidding the drinking of any amount of alcohol. 
  6. Strong Roots, p. 146. 
  7. Quoted in “Virtues without rules,” p. 12. 
  8. Although I think he’s importantly right about Romantic influence on Consensus Buddhism, I’m not sure Romanticism is the only source of “spontaneously compassionate action.” That is a principle of Dzogchen (“lhündrüp”), and Kornfield has studied Dzogchen extensively. 
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Author: David Chapman

Author of the book Meaningness and several Buddhist sites.

33 thoughts on “FTFY Buddhist ethics”

  1. Great stuff. I thought the lay precepts were originally intended to guard against spider bites, AIDS, and alien space rapes. She gets upset if you fuck around with it too much. Oh the horror indeed.

  2. I have a modified version of the FTFY morality, which I’ve usually seen in Christians:
    1) I am a reasonably good person.
    2) I believe X about current social issue
    3) Jesus was a super-good person
    4) Jesus would want X about current social issue.

    It’s simple, efficient and applicable to both left and right wing Christians.

  3. Again, you have said what Buddhist ethics is NOT. You haven’t yet said what it IS. We’re just talking circles around something that hasn’t been carefully defined yet, a specious argument.

  4. I mean today, you haven’t defined ‘ETHICS’ at all, much less Buddhist ethics. (I do wish there was some way to edit comments.) Until you fully explicate what you mean by “ethics”, the principles, the generation of those principles, their justifications and how they apply in various situations, this whole argument is a sham.

  5. antheahawdon — Nicely put! My version was probably unnecessarily complicated.

    Sabio — Thanks!

    roughgarden — I am assuming readers have a general basic understanding of Western ethical theory. This blog series takes that for granted. I use standard ethical terms with their standard meanings.

    If you are unfamiliar with the basics of Western ethics, the Wikipedia article is a pretty good introduction. It starts with a section on definitions, which might answer your questions. The next section, on “normative ethics,” explains what sorts of principles Western ethical theories bring to bear on moral questions.

    I am not going to explain basic Western ethical theory because it’s common knowledge that can be found easily elsewhere.

  6. Roughgarden isn’t he saying that there is no actual Buddhist ethics system, only a tradition of precepts. and that we have been hustled and told that our own ethics system is the Buddhist ethics system. I ordered and am now reading “Buddhist Ethics: A very short introduction” by Damien Keown, and in there he is discussing what Buddhist ethics could be. Keown mentions a more complete text by Peter Harvey “Buddhist Ethics: Foundations, Values, and Issues”. He is also making the point that if people realized the actual values behind their Consensus Buddhist tradition that they wouldn’t like it; and if many of the people who are pushing this modern secular mindfulness approach thought about it and examined tantric and dzogchen approaches then they would realize that these are the approaches that would best suit them. Also, we should all be clear about what these traditions are actually teaching and not just making up our own theory about them. If we did that then we could choose more carefully which tradition we followed and then update that tradition’s presentation as needed without having to change any of their basics- the change would more likely be a modification of presentation without messing with the machine itself, which probably isn’t wise- but anyway, we should at least be clear about what’s actually going on.

  7. there is no actual Buddhist ethics system, only a tradition of precepts. and that we have been hustled and told that our own ethics system is the Buddhist ethics system.

    Thanks, yes, that’s a clear summary!

    a more complete text by Peter Harvey “Buddhist Ethics: Foundations, Values, and Issues”.

    I got this and read quite a lot of it. I can’t really recommend it; it’s not bad but it mostly covers the same ground as Keown with a lot more words.

    I agree with the rest of what you said as well!

  8. It seems kind of hard not to just make stuff up, being for the most part a secular leftish person as well as a Buddhist is it any wonder we reinvent the ethics to fit with the spirit of the times. Still there is the deeper tantric logic of the charnel ground which makes our shifting consensus moralizing look pretty transparent and pathetic. Sometimes if faced with an ethical dilemma I think “What would Yeshe Tsogyal do?”.

    Sell weapons to Saudi Arabia? Who knows?
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-election-2015-saudi-arabia-neil-macdonald-1.3251239

  9. The definitions section of the Wiki page on ethics carries a warning “The neutrality of this section is disputed.” How can this be a good introduction to the subject? It also raises many questions that aren’t addressed by these essay – we seem to be saying that because traditional Buddhism is usually presented as normative ethics, for example, that it has no meta-ethics. But I’m certainly aware of metaethical discussions.

    I’m really not convinced by this essay that modern attempts to identify ethical principles and apply them, amounts to what you say it does. The examples used don’t really establish the points you claim they do. Apparently your assumptions about what readers will understand and know about goes far beyond the terminology of moral philosophy. I think your underlying (and as yet unspoken) agenda shows here more than ever and it weakens your argument. While I appreciate the polemical tone of the essays generally, I think here you let yourself get carried away with mockery. It’s an old Buddhist rhetorical technique deriding the opposition before making a positive alternative proposition, but as with historical precedents one struggles to recognise the opposition in the caricature. And I no longer seem to be amongst the intended audience – it’s become a smug incrowd sniggering at the the mainstream affair. As always this aspect of your writing is a real turn off for me.

  10. very entertaining and enjoyable reading, though I think it has some weaknesses. Hopefully I will find some time later to talk about some issues with which I have about the post.

  11. jayarava // “It’s an old Buddhist rhetorical technique deriding the opposition before making a positive alternative proposition”

    deriding the opposition before making a positive alternative proposition, is it a distinctively Buddhist rhetorical technique? I expect that you probably don’t think so. Anyway, your statement made me smile.

  12. jayarava — Yes, I’m sure there’s a better introduction to Western ethics available. Could you suggest one for roughgarden? I chose the Wiki page just because it was the first thing I thought of, and it does cover the necessary points.

    It also raises many questions that aren’t addressed by these essays

    Sure. This series is not meant to include a general discussion of the ways Western ethical theory can be brought to bear on Buddhist thought. Keown’s and Harvey’s books are good surveys of that.

    My overall subject is “Buddhist ethics” as taught and practiced in contemporary Western Buddhism; and I’m making a particular analysis of it. I won’t discuss anything not relevant to that analysis, because it is quite long enough (~50,000 words) as it is!

    The analysis is:

    1. “Buddhist ethics” is simply contemporary secular ethics. There is no difference between them, and “Buddhist ethics” has no basis in tradition. (This page completes that part of the analysis.)
    2. The reason for claiming that it’s something other than secular ethics is that this pretense was an effective marketing strategy—for the religion and for individuals—in the 1990s. (That’s the next post.) It’s no longer effective, so the Consensus no longer has a coherent selling proposition. (Post after that.)
    3. The version of secular ethics taught by the Consensus is simplistic (“stage 3”). More sophisticated secular ethical approaches are available. Future Buddhisms could incorporate them. I advocate doing so. (Remainder of series.)

    I’m really not convinced by this essay that modern attempts to identify ethical principles and apply them, amounts to what you say it does.

    This essay isn’t about that, at all! Something I wrote must have been unclear. If you point out what it was, I can try to fix it!

    This essay is about the way Western Buddhist teachers disguise contemporary secular morality as Buddhist. There’s two parts to that:

    1. Contemporary morality has to be justified in “Buddhist” terms, even when it contradicts all traditional teachings. The strategy for that is to explain that the contemporary teaching is “compassionate.” For example, abortion is “compassionate” because the mother would suffer if the fetus were brought to term, and the baby might suffer due to being unwanted. This gambit is all-purpose because compassion is purely subjective.
    2. Traditional morality (such as the lay precepts) has to be gotten rid of, while continuing to pay lip service to it. I pointed out the methods of loosening, rewriting, and ignoring, with examples.

    The examples used don’t really establish the points you claim they do.

    Oh. Could you be more specific about which example fails to establish what point? I would like to fix this if possible.

    Apparently your assumptions about what readers will understand and know about goes far beyond the terminology of moral philosophy.

    I’m puzzled. What do you think I’m assuming readers know that they may not?

  13. ““In America the precepts are generally defined in terms of intention, rather than in terms of action.” This is characteristic of Protestant morality.

    It’s not a unique characteristics of Protestant morality to taking intention into consideration. Traditional Korean lay Buddhists used to interpret the fifth precept that way even in pre modern times. and Intention is what makes Buddhist concept of Karma ‘Buddhist’. For example, in Jainism, intended killing and unintended killing is not discriminated.

  14. Another problem or weakness in your argument is that you tend to commit fallacy of cherry picking evidence in your representation of the so-called ‘traditional (Asian) Buddhism’.

    Lay Buddhist ethics in Theravada Buddhism in South eastern Asia may serve as an example for your purpose. In other words, a traditional Buddhist ethics accepted and practiced at a certain time, in a certain place by a certain sect of traditional Buddhism might be in opposition to the current Western ethics. But it does not necessarily mean all of traditional (Asian) Buddhism’s moralities are in opposition to it.

    I often find your representation of Traditional Buddhism selective (intentionally or unintentionally).

  15. It’s not a unique characteristics of Protestant morality to taking intention into consideration.

    Sure, any sane ethics needs to take intentions into consideration. My point was that the Consensus approach to the lay precepts manages to define them out of existence by overlooking what you actually do. That is because secular Americans don’t think killing, drinking, and most sex acts are wrong. The precepts say they are wrong, and to get around that, the actual actions are defined as irrelevant by Consensus teachers.

    Lay Buddhist ethics in Theravada Buddhism in South eastern Asia may serve as an example for your purpose…. But it does not necessarily mean all of traditional (Asian) Buddhism’s moralities are in opposition to it.

    Yes, Buddhisms are extremely diverse. But, Theravada is a large fraction of all Buddhism; and (more important) it is the historical root for the Insight Meditation Society, which is the largest contributor to Consensus Buddhism.

    I know less about East Asian Mahayana than Theravada. However, my impression is that pre-modern East Asian Buddhists also thought that the lay precepts actually forbade the actions they say they do. So, I would guess Korean Buddhists thought you should not kill insects, have an abortion, commit adultery, or get drunk. Am I wrong? (Consensus Buddhists think all those are OK in some circumstances, so long as you have good intentions.)

  16. “Theravada is a large fraction of all Buddhism; and (more important) it is the historical root for the Insight Meditation Society, which is the largest contributor to Consensus Buddhism.”

    I see. I got it. If the largest leading sect in Consensus Buddhism is the Insight Meditation Society and its historical root is Theravada Buddhism, then it’s not a fair criticism to accuse you of cherry picking evidence.

  17. So, I would guess Korean Buddhists thought you should not kill insects, have an abortion, commit adultery, or get drunk. Am I wrong?

    You are not wrong. I also think you are probably right in saying that the mainstream western Buddhists tend to distort the meaning the 5 precepts for lay Buddhists by rephrasing them, as follows.

    Honor the body – Do not misuse sexuality ( https://zmm.mro.org/training/receiving-the-zen-precepts/ )

    What I’m not convinced of is just that western Buddhism’s attitude – sensual/sexual pleasure is basically good and O.K – really comes from protestant moralities.

  18. I was getting ready to write ths comment on a site called the Unrepentent Marxist in which politcal dilemmas and choices was under discussion. Then I figured what the hell, I am probably taking an unauthorized short cut, to the final solution of the human problem. Yet since the Wannsee is not to far away I might be able to get away with it.
    One will not find the final solution to the problem of human suffering in the works of Trotsky, or Marx, or the Bible, or even in the writings of Thomas Paine. No an ethical final solution to all political dilemmas and all human suffering can in the end only be achieved through a firm commitment to birth control.
    Whose toes would this commitment step on? Who would lack the will to carry out the final solution?

  19. Many Western Buddhist teachers interpret precepts in a way that agrees with the already existing ethical system. But I don’t agree that it is completely non-distinguishable from non-Buddhist ethics. One of the things you quote refers to “mindful eating, drinking, and consuming”. I don’t think any non-Buddhist would put any importance on mindful eating or drinking. In mainstream Western culture excessive drinking is not seen as anything wrong (it’s your private business, as long as you don’t harm others). But according to that quote, getting completely drunk is out of the question – it’s impossible to do it mindfully.

    I also see a problem with the claimed opposition between Western Buddhists, who supposedly bend the rules to match them with the pre-existing moral system, and Eastern Buddhists, who supposedly treat the rules literally and don’t try to bend them. For one thing, most of Western Buddhist figures I’ve read have relatively orthodox view of the Buddhist ethical rules (e.g. Thanissaro Bhikkhu or Yuttadhammo), so I don’t see any “consensus” that you keep talking about. And for another, how come you believe that Buddhist in Asia didn’t bend the rules? Thailand/Siam, despite being a Buddhist country, has had a capital punishment for a long time, and that’s a pretty obvious violation of the first precept. Do you really believe that Thai Buddhists simply admitted “that’s clearly against our morality, but so what”? That’s not what people do. I’m not a scholar, so I don’t have proofs, but I’m pretty sure that they invented tons of rationalisations of why the capital punishment wasn’t really against the first precept. And that’s just one simple example.

  20. Hi michau,

    mindful eating

    This is a Consensus invention; it is not found in traditional Buddhism, as far as I know. The nearest traditional practice is the development of revulsion for food by imagining that it is dog’s vomit as you eat it.

    mindful drinking

    This is also a Consensus invention based on Calvinism. The fifth precept is traditionally interpreted as forbidding any amount of alcohol. In many traditional Buddhist societies, that was modified in practice, but as far as I know, there was no “mindful drinking.”

    the claimed opposition between Western Buddhists, who supposedly bend the rules to match them with the pre-existing moral system, and Eastern Buddhists, who supposedly treat the rules literally and don’t try to bend them

    I didn’t say that. Where does it seem I said that? Maybe it needs clarification.

    Thanissaro is definitely not a Consensus Buddhist. I have often praised him for his opposition to the Consensus. I don’t know anything about Yuttadhammo, but I expect that you are right that he is also not Consensus.

  21. Well, according to my understanding of Buddhism, it’s pretty uncontroversial that whatever you do, it’s better if you do it mindfully.
    Is there any major Buddhist group that wouldn’t agree with that? In what way is it closer to Calvinism than to Buddhism?

    I know that according to traditional interpretation, the fifth precept means “no alcohol at all”. But I’m not arguing that Thich Nhat Hanh’s interpretation is traditional, I’m just arguing that it isn’t identical to “current Western leftish secular ethics”, which has nothing against excessive drinking.

    I didn’t say that. Where does it seem I said that? Maybe it needs clarification.

    Right, you didn’t say that explicitly. But if FTFY ethics was present not just in some parts of Western Buddhism, but also in Thai Buddhism, and probably in any other kind of Buddhism that involved non-monks that lived in a society with a pre-existing ethical system, then what is the point of this blog note?

  22. “current Western leftish secular ethics”, which has nothing against excessive drinking.

    This may vary according to where one is in the West. American middle class morality (derived from Puritanism) does definitely condemn excessive drinking.

    if FTFY ethics was present not just in some parts of Western Buddhism, but also in Thai Buddhism, and probably in any other kind of Buddhism that involved non-monks that lived in a society with a pre-existing ethical system, then what is the point of this blog note?

    The point is to explain how American Consensus Buddhists can pretend that their morality is Buddhist when it actually isn’t.

    The same explanation may also apply to Thai Buddhists; but that is not the subject of this blog post.

  23. I see. Perhaps it’s just the problem that you too often write “Western” when you actually mean “American”. “The West” is a pretty large place, and much less homogenous than it may seem.

  24. That is quite possible; I definitely made that mistake early in this series. Jayarava, among others, pointed out that the Consensus is not big in the UK, so I’ve tried to be more careful.

    I didn’t use the term “Western Buddhism” in this post at all. I did refer to “Western Buddhist teachers.” This case is a bit tricky, because there are traditionalist American Buddhist teachers who are not Consensus. There is “American Buddhism” (which usually refers to the Consensus, even though a large majority of American Buddhists are ethnically Asian and not Consensus), but “American Buddhist teachers” might be understood as “Buddhist teachers who are American” rather than “Consensus.” Consensus teachers frequently refer to “Western Buddhism,” by which they mean “Consensus,” but obviously there are many non-Consensus Buddhisms in the West.

    This is why I had to invent a new term!

  25. Yeah, in this case I meant references to “Western ethics”. Many Western countries aren’t even Protestant, so your linking of some norms with Protestant morality cannot be true in general for the “Western ethics”.

  26. I have another example: polyamory. It goes against mainstream Western morality. But as far as I know, Western Buddhism has nothing against it, just like, say, traditional Tibetan Buddhism. I would assume that Consensus Buddhism doesn’t condemn polyamory, does it?

  27. As it happens, we had a discussion of Consensus Buddhist sexual ethics (implicitly including polyamory) recently here and in the follow-up comments. In short, Consensus Buddhism has nothing to say about it.

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