Buddhist Behavioral Codes and the Modern World:
An International Symposium
Edited by Charles Weihsun, Fu and Sandra A. Wawrytko.
Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1994. Pp. xvi + 352
Philosophy East and West
Vol.46 No.3, July 1996, pp.427-428
Copyright by University of Hawaii Press
The conference proceedings presented in Buddhist Behavioral Codes and the Modern World constitute a companion volume to Buddhist
Ethics and Modern Society (1991, same editors and publishers), and follows the pattern of that book in grouping its contributions into historical studies, examinations of contemporary issues, and discussions of the future of Buddhism. The "behavioral c odes" of the title of the present volume refers to issues raised by the concepts of siila (moral discipline) and vinaya (monastic discipline). The topic prompted a significant proportion of the contributors (in all three sections) to compare the codes and attitudes toward codes in different parts of the Buddhist world.
In part, differences are due to tensions over how strict discipline should be－tensions that are evident in early anecdotes and dialogues involving the Buddha－but in large measure differences arise from preexisting cultural attitudes in areas beyond I ndia where Buddhism spread. The Chinese, as Tso Sze-bong explains, had difficulty grasping the Indian "cultural and environmental background against which the vinaya rules were promulgated" (p. 112), and they had enough cultural self-confidence to reject some Indian precepts. The siila/vinaya waned in China, but were totally eclipsed in Japan as more and more stress was laid on praj~naa (wisdom) discipline (see Charles Weihsun Fu, pp. 245 ff.). Tibet, by contrast, was able to accept and sustain a Buddhist monastic culture relatively close to that which originated in India (see Karma Lekshe Tsomo, pp.129 ff.). The story of cultural templates leaving imperfect reproductions continued into this century as Imperial Japan tried to influence the revival of Budd hism in Korea (Robert E. Buswell, jr., pp. 141 ff.).
The historical record opens the question of what is essential to Buddhism and what is cultural accretion. At least two contributors (Chatsumarn Kabilsingh, pp. 161 ff., and Sandra Wawrytko, pp. 277 ff.) take what they see as sexism in many Buddhist cul tures to be an accretion that needs to be removed. But the Korean/Japanese experience raises questions about the centrality of celibacy (pp. 150 ff.) and the distinction between the sa^ngha and the laity, which invites speculation about the kind of Buddhi sm that might take hold in the secular West (p.134).