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Buddhism Religion

Buddhism is a religion that focuses on ones’ spiritual connections and paths that may come from this. They focus purely on the nature of living and their goal is to do this in the most humane way. Abortion is a medical issue that is widely known. It is defined as being the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy and it is most often performed within the first 28 weeks. It can be hypothesised that the extent at which Buddhism’s ethical imperatives enable a dynamic moral balance for adherents when responding to abortion is a low extent.

The first precept of Pancha Shila is to: Avoid killing or harming any living thing and the third precept of Pancha Shila is to: Avoid sexual irresponsibility which can lead to many issues and for one to seek an abortion. On top of this, Buddhists believe in rebirth of a recently deceased person. Abortion breaks both of these ethical imperatives as it is a deliberate act of aborting an unborn baby. It is also seen that traditional Buddhists have a very different view to modern Buddhists.

In Buddhism, all lives are seen as important thus leading to the theory that abortion for them is morally wrong and unjust. Buddhists have multiple ethical imperatives that they have based their beliefs around. The main imperative is The 5 Precepts. These guidelines give a base for Buddhists on how to live the most peaceful life possible. Included in these is the important rule to Buddhists of not killing or harming any living thing.

Before any Buddhists can say it is killing, 5 conditions must be met, these include: The thing being killed must be a living being. You, the killer, must know or be aware that it is a living being. You must have the intention to kill it. There must be an effort to kill it. The being must be killed as the result. ” (BBC, 2009) After understanding that an abortion is a deliberate termination of a pregnancy, it is seen that this is an act of killing and is a sin for Buddhists. As the pregnancy progresses, the issue of when it is seen as too late to terminate becomes very relevant.

Buddhists believe that the foetus becomes a new life at conception, although they will not know whether they are pregnant until the 5th week. Therefore, the life is seen as a human and the first precept is now broken. As the third precept is uncovered, it says that Buddhists are to avoid sexual irresponsibility. For Buddhists this includes abortion that have come about from: ‘extramarital affairs, preventing inheritances and domestic rivalry between co-wives’ (Barnhart, 1997) An abortion on these terms would not be seen as morally just and would not be accepted by traditional or modern Buddhists.

This is because it is in violation to the third precept and the first in conjunction as it is not avoiding sexual irresponsibility and it is a murder if an abortion is had. Buddhists believe that everything should be treated equally and this is their main goal in not permitting abortions. This stems from the belief of reincarnation and rebirth. After someone conceives, Buddhists believe that the soul of someone who has recently passed, is being held inside the new being, thus the reincarnation belief.

Damien Keown, a prominent bioethicist and authority on Buddhist bioethics, states that, Buddhism believes in rebirth and teaches that individual human life begins at conception. The new being, bearing the karmic identity of a recently deceased individual, is therefore as entitled to the same moral respect as an adult human being. ” (Keown, 2004) Which explains the beliefs of Buddhists behind this that each living being has a right to live. The baby is seen as a living being as soon as it is conceived, therefore as said by Keown, it deserves the same moral respect as an adult human being.

This helps to understand that it is a low extent at which it affects Buddhists as they see life from the very beginning and to have an abortion would mean that they would be outweighing the faith over living their own lives. For Buddhists, there are many ethical consequences that affect the decision to abort. The person making the decision, in modern Buddhism, must have thought about the whole situation and to not receive any bad spirits from having one, must therefore have only good intentions and be doing the best for all people involved.

Even after this, it is still not seen as morally correct for a Buddhist to have an abortion. “The ethical consequences of the decision will also depend on the motive and intention behind it and the level of mindfulness with which it was taken. ” (Hughes, 2009) James Hughes, an American Sociologist and bioethicist and Executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, states that although the religions guidelines may say that it is not morally right to have an abortion, under different circumstances and with great understanding, it can be done.

The extent is still not a full extent as traditional Buddhists would not allow an abortion even with dire consequences. For Buddhists, there are the traditional beliefs and the modern beliefs. Each denomination has very similar moral standards on what is morally right and correct. For biomedical issues, traditional Buddhists often go with the beliefs that it shouldn’t happen. Modern Buddhists believe it is permissible to have an abortion whereas traditional Buddhists believe it should not be done purely because of the ethical imperatives that are being broken should it be done.

Traditional Buddhists deny abortion because it involves the deliberate killing of a living being, which is in violation to the First Precept, do not kill or harm any living thing. This is a similar view for modern Buddhists although modern Buddhists may have a varied opinion on the ethical imperatives allowing them to find balance and live the life they need. Modern Buddhists will allow for an abortion if there is known difficulties about the pregnancy that could result in the baby being severely disabled, or a serious threat to the mothers’ life.

This is because Buddhists aim to reach Nirvana; thus one person is preferred to be able to live to reach this. Modern Buddhists would allow this abortion as the mother has already lived so many years and is therefore closer to reaching Nirvana rather than a baby that is severely disabled. Abortion is also permissible if there is a serious threat to the mothers’ health during the pregnancy.

The 14th Dalai Lama, who is an important monk of a school, says Of course, abortion, from a Buddhists viewpoint, is an act of killing and is negative, generally speaking. But it depends on the circumstances. ” (Lama, 1993) This does touch on the ethical imperatives the 5 Precepts, especially the first one about not killing or harming any living being. Although, the information is from a modern Buddhists view, it does not comply with traditional Buddhist beliefs. Abortion is generally seen as impermissible in Buddhism as it violates one of the main ethical imperatives.

There are divergences between modern and traditional Buddhist views, but they are mainly based that abortion shouldn’t be done as it is breaking the First Precept and thus leads to the Buddhist not being able to live a whole and morally correct life. It is proven that it is not a full extent because there are divergences between the denominations, but it is a low extent because abortion is not something that Buddhists would look towards, unless absolutely necessary. It is difficult for adherents to find a balance between faith and living their lives.

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