ABOUT THE BOOK:
The present work is an effort to discuss the resemblance, relevance and practicality of Buddhist ethics in contemporary world. Generally, it is opined that the ethical and moral principles of Buddhism advocated by the Buddha about 2600 years ago are not much relevant in present day society. Refuting all those allegations, the author has tried to prove that although the social customs, political set-ups and economic and business mindsets of the society has changed a lot and much water has been flown over the religious and ethical teachings and discourses, even then the ethical teachings play their important role in shaping and constructing the moral character of an individual thereby resulting in the establishment of just social set-up in the society irrespective of any class or caste.
The present day problems that include Politics, Social Life (Socialization), Science and Technology, Environment, Business (Economy), Literature, Culture, Education, Women &Youth, Laws & Legislation, Globalization etc. are thoroughly discussed and the way out has been traced in the light of the ethical path as prescribed by the Buddha.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Suresh Kumar is presently working as Assistant Director (Research) in Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), an autonomous organisation under Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India. He has also been nominated a Member of State Advisory Board for the Development of Pahari Speaking People by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. In his academic endeavour, he has attended more than 40 national and international seminars/ conferences in India and abroad so far and has the credit of publishing 15 Research Papers in the journals of international repute.
Dr. Suresh is also associated with many academic and social organisations. He is well-known for his writings and speeches on the contemporary issues of our nation.
It gives me immense pleasure in introducing the maiden research work of Dr. Suresh Kumar, Assistant Director (Research), Indian Council of Historical Research, an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India, entitled: Buddhist Ethics: Relevance & Impact on Contemporary Society. The research project carried out by Dr. Kumar is the outcome of his very intensive, sincere, dedicated and prolonged academic efforts. The Book goes deep into the core issues of Buddhist Ethics which provide a substantial foundation of Buddhism as a philosophy and ideal but pragmatic way of life. The Buddha's teachings delivered about 2600 years ago have been guiding principles for a healthy and harmonious society ever since their inception. The Buddha had very clearly revealed before his disciples that he avoided two extreme ways of life - severe austerity as well as excessive indulgence in worldly pleasures and prescribed a way which could easily be practiced upon by the people willing to eradicate suffering from their life.
The Buddha's ethics are based on truth, non-violence, austerities on sexual relations, unlimited and unbounded good-will, unconditioned compassion towards those in peril, selfless joy on seeing others in happiness, mental equanimity and so on. For the Buddha, good-will or loving-kindness cannot be limited to selected persons or objects, rather it expands everywhere and engulfs every being within its fold.
The author has divided his subject matter into eight chapters dealing with various aspects of Buddhist ethics. In the beginning he talks about the general meaning and scope of ethics with its historical evolution as well as its salient features. Further, he talks about the pillars or fundamentals of Buddhist ethics such as four noble truths, eightfold noble path, threefold step of sila, samadhi and panna, pancasila, dasasila, dasasikkhapadani and so on.
The author is very clear in his view that Buddhist ethics are differently prescribed for the recluses leading monastic life as well as for common followers. He has also talked about Buddhist ethics and politics as well as economic growth. There are certain current issues like poverty and unemployment, conflict resolution, ecology and environment protection, bio-ethics, science, technology and information revolution, composition of healthy literature, euthanasia and suicide and lastly Buddhist ethics vis-a-vis globalization. He has made a comprehensive study of Buddhist ethics and I trust it will prove quite useful to the common readers of Buddhism as well as researchers.
I congratulate the author on his detailed and meaningful scheme of things and wish him every success in his life and mission.
The present society has been passing through tremendous and rapid changes for the past few decades. Globalization, modernization, liberalization and the so called westernization have left its imprint on every nook and corner of the society. Information technology, industrialization and international trade relations have broken the physical barriers and the world has by and large converted into a global village. However, all these changes have not come alone. They have brought along with them certain changes which have lead to mental unrest, tension, distrust, disharmony etc. We are experiencing a gradual disintegration of our traditional institutions like family, neighborhood, society, working place etc.
Accordingly, morality and ethical values and principles have continuously been redefined to suit the interests of different sections. The concept of ethics has emerged as a theme of discussion among the present day teachers and students of philosophy and religion both in India and elsewhere throughout the world. In the western world, traditional thinkers generally believe that ethics is a theoretical science. It is a theoretical study of right, just or good as involved in human conduct. The study of ethics may or may not influence our conduct. It does not make us saints or sadhus. Ethics is a science as well as an art- an art of living meaningful life. The recent ethical thought of the west has gone even a step further. It only believes in the analysis of the statements of ethics and concludes that all ethical terms are meaningless or absurd and therefore useless too.
In India ethics was never conceived as a theoretical science. We have never drawn a line of demarcation between ethics and religion or ethics and metaphysics. Our thinkers even taught that ethical preparation is the ground on which metaphysical enquiry builds its structure of thoughts. To Indian mind even ethics and politics are inseparable. That is why Gandhiji says that those who say that religion and politics are two different things do not know what politics is. Our sages and seers used the word Rajadharma in place of Rajaniti. For them ethics was never a theoretical science. It has been construed as a study which has practical bearing on human life. It is not only to be taught but it is to be lived; it is to be applied to all aspects of human life. An unethical life is not worth living. Generally speaking, the term 'Ethics' stands for moral philosophy, principles or code of conduct, which is further concerned with goodness of character and behavior.
Today, when the modern world is in a state of turmoil, valuable ethics are being unturned. The forces of materialistic skepticism have applied their dissecting blades on the traditional concept of what are considered as human qualities. Any person who has a concern for refined culture, civilization and moral values, will concern himself with practical ethical issues. The need for ethics arises from the fact that man is not perfect by nature. He has to train himself to be good. Thus, the sense of being ethical becomes the most important aspect of living.
The surface of globe is now different from its surface, say, of 200 years back. During this span of time, we see tremendous development of science and technology which tends to create a wide gap between haves and have-nots. It has changed our outlook towards man and society and has given space for creation of many problems for all of us. All these changes, in individual as well as in social life have been compelling the philosophers of the world in general and those in India in particular to think over as to how we can get rid of this pathetic state of affairs. The only way, it seems, to get out of this malady is to create moral sense in individuals and in social life rather than creating merely the so called individualistic scientific temper. It has brought me to think over and discuss the issue of ethics in various dimensions such as politics, social life (socialization), science and technology, ecology, environment, business (economy), literature, culture, education, women & abortion, youth, laws and legislation etc.
Now the question that arised before me was, why ethics in terms of Buddhism only; and the answer as appeared is, Buddhist ethics finds its foundation on the prevalent social customs, although not changing very frequently. Buddhist ethical values are intrinsically a part of nature, and the perennial laws of cause and effect (Kamma). The simplest fact is that Buddhist ethics are rooted in the natural law which makes its principles both useful and acceptable even to the modern world. The Buddhist ethical code which was formulated nearly 2600 years ago does not detract from its timeless character. Furthermore, Buddhist ethics is a subject which still needs its analysis in the fast changing global scenario.
Buddhist Ethics emerged as a unique entity in the history of mankind in general and in the history of religions in particular. Therefore, in order to understand the practical utility and relevance of Buddhist ethics in the 214 century, efforts have been made in the first chapter. This chapter comprises of four sub-chapters, namely, Ethics- Meaning and Scope of Ethics, Historical Evolution of Ethics, Necessity of the Study of Ethics, Significance of the Study of Ethics and Buddhist Ethics and its Salient Features. In the first part, a detailed description has been made over the meaning and scope of ethics. Further, emphasis has also been laid on the historical evolution of ethics. In the Second and third part a thorough study has been carried out on the necessity and significance of study of ethics. In the last section a detailed description of the Buddhist ethics and its salient features have been given.