Buddhist View On Abortion Essays Samples

The best overview of the subject can be found in Harvey 2000. The reference works included here also provide a useful place to start. The remainder of the publications listed discuss the topic from a variety of perspectives and include global surveys of abortion law and practice that help to place abortion practice in Buddhist countries in context. Hall 1970 and Simon 1998 provide global surveys of abortion law and practice, and the WHO publication Mundigo and Indriso 1999 reviews aspects of abortion in the developing world. Hughes and Keown 1995 provides an introduction to the specifically Buddhism-related literature. Harvey 2000 offers an excellent one-chapter overview, while Keown 1999 provides a collection of more-focused articles. Sasson and Law 2009 examines how the fetus is depicted in Buddhism and other religions. McDermott 1999 and Taniguchi 1987 provide useful supplementary information on the early Buddhist position.

  • Hall, Robert E., ed. Abortion in a Changing World. New York: Columbia University Press, 1970.

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    Proceedings of an international conference convened in Hot Springs, Virginia, 17–20 November 1968, by the Association for the Study of Abortion. Includes a global survey of abortion practices, including Asian countries with large Buddhist populations.

  • Harvey, Peter. An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics: Foundations, Values and Issues. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511800801E-mail Citation »

    Chapter 8, “Abortion and Contraception,” provides an excellent introduction to all relevant aspects of the issue from a Buddhist perspective. Includes a useful discussion on the relationship between morality and law, a topic not covered elsewhere.

  • Hughes, James J., and Damien Keown. “Buddhism and Medical Ethics: A Bibliographic Introduction.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 2 (1995): 105–124.

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    Although now somewhat dated, this article provides an introduction to the literature addressing issues in medical ethics from a Buddhist perspective. The first part of the article discusses Buddhism and medicine and outlines some of the main issues in modern medical ethics. In the rest of the paper, three subjects are considered: (1) moral personhood, (2) abortion, and (3) death, dying, and euthanasia.

  • Keown, Damien, ed. Buddhism and Abortion. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1999.

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    The only book specifically devoted to Buddhism and abortion. This edited collection contains ten chapters discussing abortion from a range of perspectives and with reference to specific Asian countries. The chapters are discussed individually in the relevant sections of this bibliography. First published in 1998 (Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan).

  • McDermott, James P. “Abortion in the Pāli Canon and Early Buddhist Thought.” In Buddhism and Abortion. Edited by Damien Keown, 157–182. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1999.

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    Provides a good introduction to the orthodox Theravāda position on abortion in early Buddhism, as documented both in popular and canonical sources. Volume first published in 1998 (Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan).

  • Mundigo, Axel I., and Cynthia Indriso, eds. Abortion in the Developing World. World Health Organization Report. London and New York: Zed Books, 1999.

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    This World Health Organization publication contains twenty-five chapters reviewing different aspects of abortion in countries in the developing world, including China, Korea, and Sri Lanka.

  • Sasson, Vanessa R., and Jane Marie Law, eds. Imagining the Fetus: The Unborn in Myth, Religion, and Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    A collection of essays exploring how the fetus is depicted in the world’s major religions and showing how the fetus emerges as a powerful symbol and metaphor representing human needs and emotions. Contains four essays on Buddhism, which are cited separately (Sasson 2009, cited under Pali Buddhism; Kritzer 2009, cited under Sanskrit Buddhism; McDaniel 2009, cited under Thailand; and Garrett 2009, cited under Tibet).

  • Simon, Rita J. Abortion: Statutes, Policies, and Public Attitudes the World Over. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998.

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    Provides information on the current legal status of abortion in selected countries worldwide, including reference to public opinion as reflected in opinion polls and the relation between policies on abortion and population management.

  • Taniguchi, Shoyo. “A Study of Biomedical Ethics from a Buddhist Perspective.” MA diss., Graduate Theological Union/Institute of Buddhist Studies, 1987.

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    Master’s thesis sketching out a Buddhist approach to bioethical issues such as abortion and euthanasia. Adopts a conservative interpretation of traditional teachings that excludes incest and rape as valid grounds for abortion (p. 78). A summary of the views expressed can be found in Taniguchi’s article “Biomedical Ethics from a Buddhist Perspective,” Pacific World Journal, n.s., 3 (Fall 1987): 75–83.

  • Around the world that are numerous religions and sects to those religions. Many people without knowledge believe that Buddhism is also a religion. Buddhism is in actuality a way of living based on the life and teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, also known as Shakyamuni, or Gautama Buddha. Many people refer to him simply as Buddha. Legend states that Buddha lived a life of extreme privilege as the son of a king. It was not until he left home and saw human suffering that he opted to turn away from his wealthy and spoiled life a more enlightened and compassionate life based on what would become the core beliefs of Buddhism.


    Practicing Buddhist understand the importance of meditation. Meditation is a means for the removal of negativity from the mind considered to be ‘delusions.’ With the removal of negativity from the mind comes ‘virtual minds’ which possess more positive and peaceful thought processes and states of mind. The end result of meditation and control of ones thoughts comes a life filled with more love, wisdom, and compassion which leads to a life of happiness and peace.


    Buddhists believe that there is a cycle to life. A person is born, lives their life, dies, and is reborn. This is an endless cycle for people. The type of life one has when reborn is believed to be based on the previous life.

    The Four Noble Truths

    The Four Noble Truths are central to Buddha’s teachings. Buddha realized the following truths:

    • All beings experience some type of suffering
    • Suffering is the direct result of greed and/or selfish cravings
    • The ability to end suffering exists
    • The end of suffering comes by following the Eightfold Path

    The Five Precepts

    In Buddhism, the Five Precepts are the basic ethical guidelines for practicing Buddhists. These are not orders, like God’s commandments, but voluntary guidelines. The messages of each of the precepts sound very similar to Catholic/Christian beliefs.

    • Do not kill – All beings are precious and valuable and should not be extinguished
    • Do not rob or steal – Taking things not offered or earned is not approved
    • Do not spread false information – In essence do not lie, spread gossip, or other false information that could do harm
    • Abstain – Buddhists are not to engage in deviant sexual activity, adultery, the exploitation of sex or engage in sexual harassment
    • Avoid intoxicants – the consumption or ingestion of alcohol or drugs which alter the mind’s ability to think clearly are forbidden as the help prevent mindfulness

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    The Eightfold Path

    The Eightfold Path consists of three sections, the Panna, Sila, and Samadhi. The first two points of the Panna speak to wisdom and discernment, the three points of the Sila deal with morality and virtue, and the final three points of the Samadhi deal with meditation and concentration. Each of the eight points speaks to living a moral life in all aspects. The eight points are as follows:

    • Right understanding or view – Understanding of the Four Noble Truths
    • Right thinking/attitude – Live a life revolving around compassion, kindness, empathy and not one devoted to selfishness or personal cravings
    • Right speech – Avoid lying, gossiping, harsh language, condemning or criticizing others
    • Right conduct – live a life following the Five Precepts
    • Right Livelihood – Obtain a job that provides support without doing damage or harm to other people
    • Right Effort – Focus thoughts on positive things and squelch negative or evil thoughts
    • Right Mindfulness – Pay attention to how you think, feel, and what you do
    • Right Concentration – Learn to meditate on a regular basis to elevate one’s state of consciousness to a higher plain

    Living the life of a Buddhist is one that requires a great deal of self-understanding, mindfulness, and mental awareness. Meditation, one of the most important elements to Buddhism, helps the individual live a more enlightened life that focuses on the positives in the world. Fully enlightened Buddhists can achieve a state of Nirvana, or ultimate peace and happiness, through meditation, as well as understanding and following the core beliefs of Buddhism described above as the Four Noble Truths, the Five Precepts, and the Eightfold Path.


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