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Friday, September 05, 2008

Buddhism and Abortion.

(Note: These words are purely mine and represent my views and reflections alone. I am not a Buddhist teacher nor represent a specific tradition or teacher) There has been some heated discussion in my last post about whether a Buddhist can be pro-choice (allowing women a legal right to an abortion). But before I get into my views of abortion I think it is helpful to speak to the sutras/texts first. It is true that it appears that Buddha advised against abortion in the sutras and cannons but there is a certain amount of faith that one must have that all of these sutras/texts indeed were the historical words of Buddha. I say this because the earliest texts only go back to the 1st century whereas the Buddha lived and taught 400-500 years earlier.

It is probable that some of his teachings changed over time and some even lost. It is also probable that at least some of the teachings of the Buddha were the work of monks (not Buddha) who came years after his death. And just because one is a monk does not mean that they have the best interests of all at heart. Therefore it can be argued that some of the teachings on abortion and other issues could have come from the minds of others with political, patriarchal or other personal motives. I realize that Theravadans and other Buddhists claim the sutras and texts to be the literal words of the Buddha but many scholars and other Buddhists disagree.

So what are we to do? Well we all have to decide for ourselves and for me I use the Kalama Sutra or Buddha's charter of free inquiry as my measuring stick. In my opinion the sutra exists for one of two reasons: 1). One is that it actually took place where the Buddha advised the Kalama people on how to know what religious teachings to accept as truth. From Wikipedia: The Buddha tells the Kalamas to not just believe religious teachings because they are claimed to be true by various sources or through the application of various methods and techniques. He urges that direct knowledge from one's own experience should be called upon.

So while I follow the sutras in many cases, I also use my meditations, scholarly works, mind-set, values instilled by my family, pondering and personal reasoning to come to that direct knowledge of what I believe to be "truth." I try to use various methods to exhaust all avenues because I do not like to make decisions lightly. 2). The other reason being that it is possible that some monks realized that there were parts of these texts that contradict each other and that faith alone isn't sufficient for everyone. Thus a teaching was needed to help others who are more reason based folks to come to a decision of what the Dharma means in their lives. And thus, the creation of the Kalama Sutra.

Now some argue that the Buddha wasn't saying this method of inquiry should be applied to his teachings but seeing how Gautama was speaking to a group of non-Buddhists surely in his perfect wisdom he knew that they would do just that--apply that very admonition to his teachings as well as to the other holy men and wandering aesthetics. Why would one who didn't set out to start a religion say to those honestly seeking spiritual enlightenment to question every other teacher/source but to not question his teachings and to blindly accept them? And why would an enlightened one be threatened of people questioning and testing his claims on their own? Especially knowing that one can not force enlightenment upon another or give it to you but that it is, in the end, up to you to realize it. That is not to say that we shouldn't place a high importance upon his "words/teachings" when making our spiritual decisions and forming our beliefs because we should.

So now I'm finally getting to abortion, it is because of the Kalama Sutra that I don't agree that we know for sure that the Buddha actually said that abortion is wrong and/or wrong in all cases (It's possible that he didn't even address it. He was known to not answer many philosophical questions and that it was added later by monks looking to set up a codified religion). I say this because the scriptures saying that the Buddha was against abortion in all cases just don't jive with other things he has taught such as the five aggregates/skandhas that make up human life (at least according to the Mahayana tradition and the "Tathagatagarbha" scriptures). Other sources that the five aggregates make up human life: Source 2. Source 3. Source 4. Source 5. I will go into detail a bit about these which are also called the skandhas a bit later but first some information/statistics about abortion:

-Over 90% of abortions are done in the first trimester (the first three months from conception). At two months only half of the brain is formed and while the embryo responds to touch and while pain sensors have appeared, the path ways between the brain and pain sensors are not connected thus most conclude the embryo can not register pain at this stage.

And if you have an abortion earlier (within one month of becoming pregnant) the embyro is only 1/5" and looks something like a tadpole. It has no arms and legs but a tail and fish like gills that eventually become the throat.

Now, with that information let's have a look at the skandhas (the five aggregates of human life/being). I believe in the skandhas because I have meditated upon them, pondered them, can see logically how they would make up life and they ring true to me based on my use of the advice in the Kalama Sutra. So let's see how they match up to the above information which is widely accepted by the medical community:

First Skandha: Form. Which consist of the six sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and touch) but in order for form to be life there must also be corresponding material objects of those senses. (eyes-visible objects, ears-audible objects, nose-olfactory objects, tongue-objects of taste and touch-tangilble objects). Vision is the last sense to develop and using the Buddhist aggregates there are no eyes yet that can see just holes (according to the world renowned Mayo Clinic eyes are still shut in the first week of the third trimester so a baby certainly can't see during the first trimester when most abortions occur and my measuring stick of when abortions are acceptable) And an embryo (embryo is the name used during the first trimester) can't hear anything (a fetus can hear at week 18-20 which is well after the first trimester and the first trimester is when most abortions occur). There isn't a fully functioning tongue for tasting until week 13-15 within the second trimester. While not unanimous, most medical studies show that a fetus can not feel pain or register touch in it's brain until the 28th week (seventh month). Well after the first trimester when I believe abortion is acceptable:

Fetuses cannot feel pain until at least the 28th week of gestation because they haven't formed the necessary nerve pathways, says Mark Rosen, an obstetrical anesthesiologist at the University of California at San Francisco. He and his colleagues determined that until the third trimester, "the wiring at the point where you feel pain, such as the skin, doesn't reach the emotional part where you feel pain, in the brain." Although fetuses start forming pain receptors eight weeks into development, the thalamus, the part of the brain that routes information to other areas, doesn't form for 20 more weeks. Without the thalamus, Rosen says, no information can reach the cortex for processing.
A nose doesn't even begin to form until at least the last week of the first trimester let alone be able to smell because their isn't a fully formed nervous system or brain to register the messages of smell sent through nerve pathways.

The form aggregate also includes secondary elements. The first are the Five sensory receptors: Eye, nose, tongue and body which we basically discussed above. Then four sense data: These are color, sound, smells and taste. And above I argued that a fetus in the first trimester can not sense these things. Form aggregate also includes life faculty which is the faculty that vitalizes the body and keeps it alive. An embryo in the first trimester (up to week 12) can not keep itself alive without the host body of it's mother. Form aggregate also includes mental base which the mind for Buddhists is not a simple unit, but a complex cooperative activity involving four factors: Feeling, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness: It can be argued that an embryo has consciousness though we don't know for sure and despite that a form must have all four to be considered a life if we follow the teachings on the five aggregates. And since an embryo does not have a fully formed and functioning brain and nervous system it can not register mental feelings, perceptions and mental formations.

Second Skandha: (Sensation or feeling). Which is being able to sense an object/phenomenon as either pleasant, neutral or negative. So given that an embryo in the first trimester doesn't have a fully formed brain and nervous system then they can not sense something as pleasurable, neutral or negative.

Third Skandha: (Perception, conception, appreciation, cognition, discrimination) Registers whether an object of phenomenon is recognized or not (for instance the sound of a bell, of the shape of a tree). This again requires a fully functioning brain, nervous system.

Fourth Skandha: (Mental formations, volition or conceptional factors). This includes all types of mental habits, thoughts, ideas, opinions, compulsions and decisions triggered by an object. Loving kindness is also considered a mental formation. These are not possible in the first trimester due to the lack of a fully developed brain and nervous system.

Fifth Skandha: (Consciousness). It is argued by some that consciousness is present from the minute of conception but that only fulfills one of the five skandhas/aggregates and according to the majority of sources that I've read all five must be present for something to be considered human life. In conclusion, I have submitted in this essay that an embryo (which is the potential human being) during the first trimester does not meet the requirements of all five skandha/aggregates and is therefore persmissable to believe in first trimester abortion as a Buddhist. I do not, however, agree with late term abortions except if the life of the mother is in jeopardy.

So I am for abortion during the first trimester and only for abortion in the second trimester in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk. In regards to the second trimester and rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk then I believe the middle path must be used to create these exceptions out of compassion for the mother. This is because the mother's life is extremely developed and would therefore experience more suffering than a child just being born with no life experience or even a sense of its presence in this world.

Imagine the suffering of a young woman forced to raise a child of her rapist or perpertator of incest. She would most likely not be capable emotionally or otherwise capable to raise that child with the love and caring that it needs to survive. Both mother and child would suffer needlessly. And suppose the child looks exactly like the perpetrator, both the mother and child would suffer greatly. The mother would re-experience and be reminded of the suffering she endured by that person with the same face as that child and chances are she'd avoid all connection with that child from subconscious self-protection. And the child would suffer from lack of love and caring on the mother's part.

Of course adoption is a more than acceptable way to go, however, many unwanted children needlessly suffer from being exported from one foster home to another where many foster parents are abusive and only take on the children for the financial gain. And besides, I do not believe it is my right to choose if a teen-age mother wishes to keep a rapist's child or one that came about via incest. And what kind of quality of life does an incest baby have? Most would be born with severe deformaties that would often die within a few months.

As for making the case for abortion in the second trimester and partial birth in regards to the life of the mother at risk the same argument for me applies because again like I argued above, the mother's life is extremely developed and would therefore experience more suffering than a child just being born with no life experience or even a sense of its presence in this world. And I especially support it when other children are already apart of the mother's life. It is not compassionate in my opinion to sacrifice the life of the mother (who is the main care-giver of the existing children) for the life of a fetus that has no idea of itself, nor that it is even alive.

The Dalai Lama has said about abortion that it should be a case by case evaluation. I don't believe in a world that is black and white, it simply does not exist. Yes, somethings are black and white but there is much grey area too. Simple observation and mindfulness reveals that truth in my mind.

---End of Transmission----

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30 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is such a wonderful post. There was no hint of "this is completely right" or "this is completely wrong"... There is only an action which is followed by a consequence. Whatever way we chose.

Kibs said...

I have long debated the "right vs. wrong" when it comes to abortion with many people. I, myself am not for nor against it. I believe it is a decision to be made separately, by the woman in the situation, as long as, and as you mentioned, early on in the pregnancy or under certain circumstances, such as rape or risk of the mother.
My question to you pertains to yet another case. I have a 16-yr. old cousin who has, unfortunately, gotten herself pregnant, and many in our family have opted for an abortion. I am pleased of her choice to keep her baby, but I am wondering of your opinion on abortion pertaining to teenage pregnancies?

Signed,
Kibs

EZG said...

I feel sort of honored that I have contributed to this post by starting a minor comment skirmish with our friend Dhamma81. It's very interesting, this post. I'll admit I'm more of an Admirer of Buddhism than an outright follower--much of this is new to me and is very interesting. A lot of the scientific information was news to me, too. But it supports what I was saying about abortion of early stage fetuses bringing less suffering into the world than swatting a fly.

I agree with what the Dalai Lama says about case to case evaluation. That's the trouble with many of us Americans is that we tend to see complex things in simple ways--in "black and white" as it were. That was how he described our president, as a "man who saw things in black and white." It can be a dangerous thing to be uncompromising.

Regardless, excellent post, James, and a good read.

Dhamma81 said...

James-

I agree with ezg that this is an excellent post. You make a very strong case for your views and although I do not agree with you on abortion I applaud you for the time and effort you put into researching this topic and laying out your beliefs.


ezg-
I hope you don't think my reaction to your comments on the last post was persoanl at all. I'm quite conservative on some things and ocassionaly perhaps I step out of line in the way I say things. If I offended you then I'm sorry.

At any rate I wish you both well in the Dhamma.

G said...

Hi James et al.

The Kalama Sutta is often cited as supporting personal interpretations of the Buddhadharma that may differ from traditional ones. However, it should be noted that whilst the first half of the sutra advises people to carefully reflect on issues based on their own experience as to whether they are beneficial to the holy life or not, the second half of the sutra goes on to praise the specific benefits of being a "disciple of the noble ones"(a Buddhist). Hearing this, the Kalamas became lay followers of the Buddha. The Kalama Sutta isn't a charter for free-thinkers to make up their own versions of the Buddhadharma; it simply argues that if contemplated correctly, the Buddhdharma will be accepted.

Having stated the above, James, I don't think that you are promoting an 'anything goes' philosophy, but rather reflecting carefully on the issue of abortion and coming to your conclusions in a considered manner. This is to be applauded, whether one agrees with you or not.

Is abortion ever justified from the Buddhist point of view? Is there a single Buddhist point of view to cite? Volition is karma, that's what the Buddha taught. If a mother aborts a pregnancy due to some kind of compassion, then I guess it would be okay. Imagining such a scenario is a little difficult, but keeping an open mind on this is being compassionate, isn't it? Simply thinking that she doesn't want a baby and then having its fetal life terminated isn't being compassionate, however, is it? Certainly not for the child-to-be.

Considering some sutras to be spoken by the Buddha & some not, presumably accepting the ones that one agrees with & rejecting the others, is a response to the Buddha's teachings that should be done carefully, though, isn't it? How do we know that the Buddha's teachings on abortion are in fact someone else's and that the five skandhas teachings are not that someone else's also? Even if such teachings do come from another source, perhaps that source was an arhat or bodhisattva as wise as the Blessed One, and therefore just as valid as anything the Buddha said himself.

Whatever our responses to these varied issues, if we do so out of compassion & wisdom, then what we do is at least motivated correctly, from the Buddhist perspective. (Volition is karma.) Seeing all this in the clarity of the emptiness at the heart of everything puts it all into a wider perspective, which also helps point the Way to wiser decision-making. Simply coming to conclusions on important issues because that's what the discursive mind thinks isn't really the Buddhist Way. Acting, thinking and speaking from wisdom & compassion - that is to say, from this aware void - is to act, think, & speak from the knowing of the Buddha.

May you all be happy,
G at 'Buddha Space'.

Barry said...

The most striking thing about Buddhism, for me, is that it doesn't provide operating instructions for life.

Even the precepts, at least in my Zen tradition, must be kept alive through meticulous awareness in each moment. An old Zen teachers once said about the precepts, "Know when to keep them and when to break them; when they are open and when they are closed."

Really, we have to do the work of being human by ourselves.

This means that we must accept that every action, no matter how small, has consequences. And then we must deal with the consequences, which produces new consequences.

I've thought hard about abortion for many years but I've never had to make this particular decision. So my thinking is just....thinking.

How could I know what it would be like to confront such a decision? And how could I impose my "values" (thinking) upon others?

Dhamma81 said...

barry-


I would be cautious in fostering a view based on a Buddhism that doesn't give "operating instructions for life." In Zen that sometimes seems to be the case which is probably why the eminent Forest master Tan Ajahn Maha Boowa once was quoted as saying that "Zen is good for people who already have a lot of wisdom but not so good for people who don't."

I'm not personally questioning your wisdom, but a lot in the Western Zen community seem to be lacking in just that, which is why there have been so many sex scandals involving monks among other things.


In the Theravada Canon as well as the Mahayana one the Buddha laid out very clear operating instructions for life in many ways, but for lay Buddhists the minimum is the five precepts. In traditional Buddhism the precepts are to be kept as purely as possible in order to make your life and the lives of others better. These are not commandments from on high, but they are something that eventually must be taken seriously if one is to follow the teachings of the historical Buddha. Will you make mistakes and break the precepts? I'm sure most of us do at times, even if it is just in the realm of speech, but we ought to just pick ourselves up and try again. I used to think getting high was ok with Buddhism, but eventually saw the folly of that and dropped it. You start where you are as that Pema Chodron book states.
A Buddhism without morality is not really in keeping with the spirit of what the Buddha taught. Remember that the name for his teaching was not simply the "Dhamma" but "Dhamma-Vinaya" which is sometimes translated as "The Doctrine and the Discipline."


I don't see why Zen itself couldn't lead to Nibanna but the precepts in my opinion and in the opinion of the Buddha from both the Mahayana and Theravada scriptures are absolutey integral for the practice. In terms of the stages of Awakening themselves, it is said that one who is a full Arahant cannot transgress the precepts at all for any reason. Ajahn Chah once said that he wouldn't even kill a single ant for any money in the world.

The problem I see with secular ethics in general is there is no black and white which means things change as opinions do which can lead to danger. So often people justify things like animal experimentation, euthanasia or abortion simply based on what they feel might lead to the greater good or some variation on that theme, but look at all the suffering those things cause. Look at Pol Pots vision for the "greater good" and how much suffering that caused in Cambodia.

At least the precepts give us a very clear cut guideline for what is appropriate and what is not, and if we are more conservative followers of this tradition such as myself, I give more credence to the Buddha and his way of looking at issues then anyone in the secular ethics or science community, hence my stance on abortion. I can disagree with James and still think that he makes a good case in his piece here.

It's not my place to tell people how to hold or use the teachings of the Buddha, but it might prove fruitful to investigate beyond some of the modern Western interpretations of it and then decide which way of looking at the Dhamma is best for you.

In the Buddha's teachings from the Canon we have very clear cut, black and white guidelines for conduct that are said to be conducive to full liberation from suffering. Many of those guidelines are not harmful but they fly in the face of societies opinions and when they do, people want to wiggle out of them or cast them aside as outmoded or whatever. This is a tradition that has lasted pretty intact for over 2600 years and has been a source of refuge and wisdom for probably millions of people throughout the ages. If we start toying with it too much and trying to put 21st century values on it then we risk destroying all that the Buddha and his Noble Disciples have worked so hard to maintain. Whether you agree with me or not I still think this is something to consider. I wish you all well in your practice, whatever it may be.

They call him James Ure said...

Anonymous:

Thanks. Yes I don't mean to tell anyone else what to do as long as no one tells me what to do/believe either.

Kibs:

I agree that having an abortion is an extremely personal matter. I wouldn't presume though to know what to say about your cousin. I haven't decided on that issue anyway.

Part of me wants to allow the teen-ager the choice and part of me wants the parents to make the choice with her. I do not think though that parents should just make the decision irregardless of the young mother's opinions.

G:

Having stated the above, James, I don't think that you are promoting an 'anything goes' philosophy, but rather reflecting carefully on the issue of abortion and coming to your conclusions in a considered manner. This is to be applauded, whether one agrees with you or not.

Indeed I am not promoting "anything goes." Overall I agree with the vast majority of what the Buddha supposedly said. And I think the main aspect in being a Buddhist is taking refuge in the three jewels, agreeing with the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold.

And we must remember that we all have our own karma that finds us all along different points in the great journey of Buddhism.

EZG:

Yeah the black and white thinking doesn't always work in a world that is anything but black and white.

Dhamma81:

Thank-you for the compliments. I respect you and your beliefs too. I think in the end there is more in common between us than not. :)

Barry:

Yes sometimes the more skillful thing to do might not also be the "Buddhist" thing to do.

尼克 said...

Even if the unborn child looks like a tadpole at the beginning, the Buddha and the teachings of Buddhism tell us not to even kill a tadpole. So how could we kill a life simply because this life looks like a tadpole? Buddhism as a whole, minus even this sutra, seems to say taking any life is wrong, and Buddhists should not kill any life, whether an animal or their own human child in the womb.

They call him James Ure said...

To the person using the Asian character for their screen name (I apologize for not knowing what it means or what language it represents):

For me it's about acknowledging that we live in a world of black and white but also a world with a lot of gray area. I think that is why the middle-path is so important because life is hardly ever just black and white.

PeterAtLarge said...

I think it's clear that, in principle, Buddhism abhors the taking of life--and that would surely include abortion, no matter what the term. We may argue about the point at which the fetus should be seen to be a "human being," but surely no one would argue that it is not "life." But things get complicated between principle and practice. The "do no harm" injunction might apply, for example, when the life of the mother is at stake. The wonderful thing about Buddhism is that encourages us to question absolutes, rather than taking them for granted. It all comes back to the individual conscience, the individual belief, the individual circumstance. Which, in my view, is what "choice" is all about.

Anonymous said...

I think it is up to the parents whether or not they carry out an abortion.

From my research different Buddhists have different views on abortion. I have also found out that the it depends on the situation that the parents are in.

If the parents have to do an abortion for the babies well being or it is going to die, or even if the mother will die from it the parents have a hard decision to make. I think the buddhist customs will support them in this case.

I don't think Buddhism has many rules on this and the rules they do have have certain cercumstances.

Padma said...

There is a book called 'Buddhism and Bioethics', by Damien Keown which includes a detailed discussion of abortion, largely from the perspective of the Pali canon. Well worth a read for people interested in this issue.

Padma

buddhistphilosophy said...

You can create Cbox to make easier the writer to comment. Thanks. I have some doubt about the ways you say that you are not a Buddhist teacher. Thanks you for you posts. and share your knowledge with others.

DigitalZen said...

I have no problem with being both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice. The reality of others is not mine, and it is not for me to judge their actions, nor to assume that I know what I would do if faced with the same combination of circumstances.

As in all things, I must consider all factors and strive for the middle path. Where I do not understand all the factors, I must allow others the respect of staying out of their business. There are greater wrongs than the termination of a fetus.

The color of truth is gray.

They call him James Ure said...

Digital Zen:

Exactly. I don't have a right to tell a woman either way what to do with her body. Religious beliefs are almost secondary here.

It's more of a health issue than anything as abortions will always exist and if women are always going to do it then why not regulate it and make it as safe and rare as possible?

Arun said...

When I was younger, I was told by the abbot at temple, an Agga Maha Pandita, that someone who committed an abortion in this life would be killed in the next. Now, I don't know the textual basis of his claim, but his response points to a more general concern. The question shouldn't be about right and wrong, but rather cause and consequence. I think by any Buddhist yardstick (including the aforementioned abbot's), an abortion is not the same as a premeditated murder. My question is not "What counts as taking a life?" but rather: "Do we incur any negative result from preventing a being from receiving the Buddha Sasana by ending its human birth before it has even begun?" I suppose that if, unlike me, you don't believe in rebirth or in the difficulty of a human birth, then my question might just be moot. All I'd say is do what you think is right, but deal with whatever consequences may arise.

Anonymous said...

Actually, an unborn baby can feel pain at 12 weeks. Consider that infants born at 23 weeks can survive. And they can certainly feel pain.

That said, I think abortion cannot be a black and white issue and you did a good job of addressing the topic.

simmie said...

Thankyou for your post, and thankyou to those who have already commented. I don't agree with everything said, but I think it is thought-provoking discussion.

I have a couple of responses to the above discussion. Firstly, in terms of Buddhist scriptures -- the problem I have with the perspective that wants to treat Buddhist scriptures as authoritative is that the different Buddhist traditions cannot agree on which scriptures are authoritative. A Theravadin might urge me to accept everything written in the Pali Canon, rather than picking and choosing parts of it -- yet, aren't they picking and choosing the Pali Canon over the Mahayana and Vajrayana texts? I think, the answer in either case, is we have to judge what we are presented with in accordance with our own experience -- we'll, that's what I'm going to do anyway.

Secondly, and more to the point of this discussion -- I think it's useful to ask, Why refrain from killing? Why does it have negative karmic consequences? Is killing unskillful in itself, or is killing unskillful for a reason? Most adults or children want to live, and so to kill them is to disrespect their wants (on the other hand, if they want to die, is it disrespecting their wants to stop them? -- suicide is often due to mental illness or despair, so sometimes it is compassionate to not adhere to someone's wants). Also, other people (their friends, family) want them to live, and so to kill them is to cause these other people pain. Newborn infants may lack the want to live, because they don't yet understand the fact that they are alive and might be dead instead, so they can't prefer one state to another. But it's still wrong to kill them, because they are already part of a network of familial bonds, and killing them would harm the other members of that network (e.g. their parents). However, in the case of abortion, they neither participate in social networks, nor have a desire to continue to live. So, if killing is unskillful for a reason, those reasons might not apply to the case of abortion.

尼克 said...

No desire to live? How can you make this judgment of their desires?

simmie said...

尼克, I would say that, to desire one thing over another, you need to have some understanding of what each thing is, and that there is a difference between them. Since I don't think newborns or the unborn understand the fact that there are such things as life and death, and there is a difference between them, I'm not sure how they can be said to desire one over the other. On the other hand, as soon as an infant forms particular attachments [e.g. to its particular parents], which would be within the first few days after birth at most, it forms a desire for maintaining its current life since death would likely result in separation from those particular persons it has become attached to. But before this stage, when the infant has not yet formed particular attachments, I can't see how or why the infant would care whether it lives or dies. Thus, at this stage, I can't see how the wrongfulness of killing the infant can be based on any principle of respecting the desires of the infant, although certainly it could be justified in terms of respecting the parents' desires.

Peace, simmie

尼克 said...

Most living beings want to live, even the most simple life forms that are less complex than a human fetus or even a zygote, so I do not think we can say that an infant in the womb has no desire to live and as such is okay to kill.

Simmie said...

尼克, I'm not sure I agree that "most living beings want to live, even the most simple life forms that are less complex than a human fetus or even a zygote". My personal experience is that humans want, and at least some animals want (e.g. its obvious to me that my dog has wants and desires.) But do plants want? Do bacteria or viruses want? Desiring or wanting is a mental quality, and so to desire you need to have a mind. Many living things seem to me to lack minds (e.g. plants, bacteria, viruses), and lacking minds, cannot be said to have any wants or desires, including the want or desire to live. Whereas, my dog for instance, obviously has a mind (not as an advanced mind as my own, but one nonetheless), and hence can be said to have wants or desires.

Peace, Simmie

尼克 said...

Desire to continue existing is sometimes the only inclination a creature has, I am pretty sure science has proven that even if a creature is just being beholden to its nature that wanting to exist is part of that nature. This is in part why living beings eat, drink, and breathe.

AtheravadanBuddhist said...

Although eloquently argued , the author did not take into account the rarity of the chance of being born as a human, especially a human being in developed society like the US where childern with disabilities will be cared for by human services that are available . To be born as a human is fortunate and surpass the live of the most fortunate animal , who are we to take that chance away from a being? I fully sympathize with the trauma and suffering of a woman , but in the US , if she does not want to keep the child , she can give the baby up for adoption or right after birth . It is unfortunate that sufferings happen in life . Some people suffer more than others due to their bad Karma as Buddhists believe ,we can not control the fruition of our Karma ,however , we can make a choice on how we confront that fruition . A woman who has the courage of bearing a child and let that child lives deserves the greatest respect from us . She can give up the child after birth without even looking at his or her face in case of rape or incest . This is a much better option for a woman too, knowing years after that the child lives yet she does not have to be reminded by his or her presence . A lot of woman regret abortion afterward .Also , even as we have choices over our bodies , that choices should be limited when involved the sufferings of another being . In Asian countries , the owners of dogs can kill the animal and dog meat is a delicacy but in the US , it is illegal . Although we own the dog , it is illegal to hit or treat the animal inhumanly , why do we have loving kindness and make law to protect animals and NOT a future fellow human being ?In case of cruelty and taking lives of other beings , I think our argument of freedom of choice lacks ligitimacy and no longer applies !

DThomas said...

The author of this article assumes that a women that was raped, and a chilled was produced would not or could not mentally take care of the chilled. Where is the facts, or the study’s that would support this statement? It’s just an opinion, and a opinion with out sound facts is nothing. I have personal experience with this. My wife was a product of a rape, and my mother-in-law was talked in to keeping her. I’m glad that she decided to keep her; for I have a great deal of lover for her. Can you guess who was my mother-in-laws favorite chilled out of 5 is?

Phil Meta said...

Thank you for your post which does provoke some questions for me.
I read a reference by Thich Nhat Hanh...the Buddha is described as the moon crossing within the empty space of the dark sky...a free space of being.
Perhaps we should keep this in mind rather than depending on the limitations of scientific descriptions of the physical development of a child in the womb.
Perhaps rather like the Buddha, a child within the free empty space of the womb, is more human in potentiality and perhaps most original actuality, than you or I, as those who have long forgotten and wandered from our own beginning so originally full of potential.
You mention "consciousness" at conception and then abruptly move on. Perhaps this is where we should focus...perhaps with ones most original present moment.
I believe I witnessed this with the birth of my granddaughter. Within minutes of birth she lifted her head and with an expression of awe,looked around the room. She had no regretful past and was not preoccupied with tomorrow, being fully in the wondrous space of her present moment. And I believe it was the same for her moments before birth, and weeks before, and perhaps at the moment of consciousness mentioned in this blog.
Perhaps it is rare that one ever experiences so fully this unshielded awe of the present moment again over a lifetime. Maybe this is because we value having the shielded security of even contrived answers over the awesome frightening space of authentic questions. We answer by calculating the uncalculable and measuring the immeasurable. And perhaps this is why this blog favors an experienced "extremely developed" adult over an undeveloped child.
And perhaps this is why this blog questions that perhaps it is compassionate to abort a child even if the child is only associated with a very painful past event such as a rape. Should a child's life be ended because there is a mental association with a rape? No. Should a child's life be taken because the adoption system needs improvement? This is a very dangerous mindset. Isn't the compassionate solution to improve the system?
My question is whether an "undeveoped" child, perhaps being most originally in the present moment, is more original, full of open potentiality, and authentically human than an "extremely developed" adult.
Thanks again for provoking some questions.

尼克 said...

Here is a great post on the teachings of Buddhism on both ContraCeption and Abortion: http://ecumenicalbuddhism.blogspot.com/2008/12/buddhism-on-contraception-and-abortion.html

kat said...

I knew life could be more grey than "black & white," but I had never experienced it until now. I recently terminated a very wanted pregnancy. It was discovered that my baby had a part of his brain missing as well as two other brain abnormalities. He also had a heart defect, bowel defect and bladder defect, a mishapen head and his bones were not growing correctly. I was told he probably wouldn't live through birth, but if he did, he would have very poor health and severe mental disability--most likely no talking, walking, eating or going to the bathroom...all after he made it through expensive surgeries to live. I also was starting to experience preeclampsia, but I could have cared less about my own life at that time. All I cared about was my baby and my other son at home, who has his own set of medical issues. I felt like letting him go was the most compassionate option, although I still can't say if it was the right way. All I know is my baby is not suffering, my son and husband have moved on, and I am the only one who is crying. And I feel like if I cry every day for the rest of my life, at least I am the only one suffering.

They call him James Ure said...

@Kat...I am truly saddened that you have had to endure your recent tragedy. I can't imagine the turmoil it must have been to make such a decision, and I admire you for being able to do so.

I'm a nobody, but for what it's worth, it seems to me like you made the right choice. You laid out the situation well and given those realities, I hope you don't mind if I say that I think it was the right option.

In saying so, I realize that making the right choice isn't always easy or satisfying. I can't image how excited you were to meet that child, but you were truly compassionate to think of that child's quality of life.

I'm sure that it's still hard...and it's understandable that you'd still be in mourning. That's normal when we go through trauma--even if it was the right decision.

I admire your courage, and honesty. I encourage you to reply, if you need someone to talk to about this. You should be able to fully mourn and talk about it, if you want to do so.

If it's too uncomfortable to talk to "strangers" than maybe you could find a good therapist. Also, have you checked into Post-Partum-Depression? I hope I'm not imposing, but I have depression issues and I realize how dangerous depression can be. If you need some help, just ask.

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