実導仁空 Jitsudō Ninkū (1308-1388) and the Ethics of Killing - in progress Jitsudō Ninkū was a scholar and abbot of two Kyoto area temples in the 14th century. Rather than focusing on meditative practices, Ninkū took his temples to be places of scholarship, lectures, and debate. To this end, he was a prolific writer and he was particularly concerned about the nature of monastic precepts. So far, my work has focused on the Bosatsukaigiki-kikigaki (菩薩戒義記聞書). It is a transcription of a long list of Ninkū's lectures that discusses the famous commentary on the Brahma Net Sutra（梵網経) that has been traditionally attributed to Zhiyi (智顗, 538-597 CE), the de facto founder of T'ien-t'ai （天台) Buddhism. In these lectures, Ninkū thoughtfully considers how we ought to interpret the monastic precepts. He has a particularly lengthy discussion of the precept against killing and when killing may, in fact, be permissible.
This project consists of two parts. 1. Translation: I am working on English translations of the lectures that pertain to the precept against killing. 2. I aim to put Ninkū's work in dialog with broader discussions in Buddhist ethics as well as ethics more generally.
Does Shinran's Doctrine License Evil? / 「親鸞の悪人正機と「造悪無碍」という批判」
Shinran (親鸞, 1173-1263), the founder of the Jōdo Shinshū (True Pure Land, 浄土真宗) school of Buddhism, was deeply affected by the idea of mappō (The Latter Age of the Dharma, 末法). Many in Kamakura period Japan believed that the world had just entered this age and that it meant that the true teachings of the Buddha would be particularly hard to come by and understand. Shinran argued that what we ought to do is give up our self-centered attempts to attain enlightenment via our own efforts. Instead, he proclaimed that chanting the name of Amida Buddha and surrendering oneself to Amida would guarantee rebirth in Amida's Pure Land, a wonderful place wherefrom one could easily achieve enlightenment. Shinran was adamant that it is the evil person who is in a particularly good position to undergo this transformation through Amida's vow. The good person is too reliant on their own discernment and effort to truly entrust themselves in the required manner. Some people interpreted this as a green light to ignore social and moral rules. After all, as long as you entrust yourself to Amida, it doesn't matter what else you do. Shinran abhorred this interpretation and argued that his doctrine does not have this implication. In my paper, I examine the arguments that Shinran provides against licensed evil. I show that the arguments that commentators frequently take to rebuff the licensed evil interpretation fail to do so.
For an English language draft of this paper, English version For a Japanese language draft of a conference version of this paper, 日本語バージョン
A Buddhist Argument for Prison Reform - in progress (co-authored)
Many Buddhist philosophers and Buddhaghosa (5th cent. CE) in particular argue that in order to cultivate one's morality, one must train in attuning how one perceives and attends to things. That is to say that we frequently fail to see the moral choices before us in the right light because prior to these choices we perceived, felt, and engaged in patterns of thought that limited our ability to do so. Therefore, to develop as moral agents, we have to be in a position to free ourselves from negative perceptions, feelings and patterns of thought. To keep someone in an environment that reinforces these things, then, stymies their ability to develop and make moral choices in the future. We argue that this provides us with a Buddhist framework to argue against the way that the US prison system is set up.
Reframing Bodhicitta - in progress (co-authored)
Bodhicitta or the aspiration for enlightenment is a key concept in numerous Buddhist traditions. We analyze the concept of bodhicitta to try to determine how to understand bodhicitta in a modern psychological framework. We argue that one productive way of interpreting bodhicitta is as a type of mood.