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From is to ought: Natural Law in Buddhadasa Bhikkhu and Phra Prayudh Payutto

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The contemporary Thai Theravada Buddhist monks Buddhadasa Bhikkhu and Phra Prayyudh Payutto espouse a version of natural law thinking in which the norms of good behavior derive from the nature of the world, specifically its features of conditionality, causality, karma and interdependence. An ethic which stresses non-egoic harmony is the result. This paper (1) develops the notion of natural law in their thinking and (2) critically evaluates these ideas as a foundation for ethical thought, specifically asking whether such ideas recognize something of value in the individual per se and in individual freedom and, in an interdependent world, how one can challenge injustice or a brutal government.

Keywords: Buddhist ethics; Theravada Buddhism; natural law theory

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9795.00107

Publication date: June 1, 2002

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