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Postby Will » Sat May 11, 2013 2:16 am

Surprisingly I did not find a thread on this important topic. So here is a little from Harvey's Introduction to Buddhist Ethics (313) to start us off. The definition of a human being is clear.

Given the Buddhist view of embryonic life, it is not surprising that causing an abortion is seen as a serious act:

When a monk is ordained he should not intentionally deprive a living being of
life, even if it is only an ant. Whatever monk deprives a human being of life,
even (antamaso) down to destroying an embryo (gabbha-patanam· upadaya), he
becomes not a (true) renouncer, not a son of the Sakiyans. (Vin. .)

The penalty for a monk intentionally causing an abortion is permanent expulsion from the Sangha:

Whatever monk should intentionally deprive a human being of life . . . he is also
one who is defeated [in the monastic life], he is not in communion . . . Human
being means: from the mind’s first arising, from (the time of) consciousness
becoming first manifest in a mother’s womb until the time of death, here meanwhile
he is called a human being. (Vin. .)
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: Abortion

Postby Indrajala » Sat May 11, 2013 2:58 am

Yes, abortion constitutes homicide as far as basic Buddhist ethics go.

You conceive of a human, intend to end their life and succeed in the act. That constitutes homicide. If you have precepts, it constitutes a violation. If you don't have precepts, it still constitutes unwholesome karma and the act of killing, the result of which will ripen as suffering.

Are there cases when it would be permissible such as in rape or when the mother's life is in danger? These are extreme cases and even if it was felt that it was justified, it wouldn't undermine the earlier definition where abortion is carried out because the child is undesired for whatever reason.
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Re: Abortion

Postby Will » Sat May 11, 2013 6:12 am

A little more from Harvey (314-15):

A key reason why Buddhist principles treat abortion as such a serious matter is that human life, with all its potential for moral and spiritual development, is seen as a rare and precious opportunity in a being’s wandering in the round of rebirths. For a being to gain a foothold in a human womb and then be killed is to have this rare opportunity destroyed. Now it might be said: as all rebirth is due to past karma, might not a being with the karma for a human rebirth simply find another human womb if aborted from another? This is possible, but should no more ‘excuse’ abortion than the killing of an adult who might then be reborn as a human. In any case, the state of mind in which a being dies can affect its next rebirth, and the trauma of being aborted might lead to anger and fear in the foetus, meaning that it would have a less good rebirth than it was previously heading for, thus losing the opportunity for a human rebirth for some time. Now, being aborted might well be itself due to a foetus’s past karma, but again, this should no more excuse abortion than saying that if a person murders an adult, this is acceptable as the death is due to the adult’s past karma.
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Re: Abortion

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat May 11, 2013 7:47 am

cf here.

and here.

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