Last weekend a white terrorist with a gun shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. The United States needs tougher anti-gun laws. This is not an opinion or a political position. It is an indisputable fact.
Do you know how many times the Bible mentions abortion? How about none? The website Christian Bible Reference says, “Abortion, infanticide and child abandonment were permitted under Roman law at the time of Jesus. Surprisingly, abortion is never mentioned in the Bible, despite the fact that it has been practiced since ancient times by a variety of means.” So Jesus himself was aware that abortions, infanticides and child abandonment were happening all around him and did not say a single thing about it.
In its entry on the Buddhist view of abortion Wikipedia says, “all traditional sources, such as the Buddhist monastic code, hold that life begins at conception and that abortion, which would then involve the deliberate destruction of life, should be rejected.” I found this surprising. I’ve never come across this view before. It seemed like some Wikipedia editor wanted the Buddhist position to sound as much like the current “Pro-Life” position as possible. So I looked up the reference.
It’s from a book called Introduction to Buddhist Ethics by Peter Harvey, published in 2000 by the Cambridge University Press. The entire book can be downloaded as a PDF for free. Wikipedia seems to be paraphrasing a line that appears early in the chapter on abortion and contraception. The actual line is, “The monastic code recognizes human life as starting at conception; for the minimum age for full ordination, twenty, is reckoned from then, not from leaving the womb.” So Wikipedia’s paraphrasing is a bit, shall we say, “liberal.”
The chapter also cites the following conversation between the Buddha and his attendant and cousin Ananda:
BUDDHA: Were consciousness Ananda, not to fall into the mother’s womb, would the sentient body be constituted there?
ANANDA: It would not, Lord.
BUDDHA: Were consciousness, having fallen into the mother’s womb, to turn aside from it, would the sentient body come to birth in this present state?
ANANDA: It would not, Lord.
This is a very different view from the one that most “Pro-Life” folks in the US these days hold. Consciousness is one of five factors that make up a human being. The others are form, feeling, perception, and impulses to action. There is no idea that consciousness is a single unique unified entity that constitutes the real essence of a person, as in the idea of a soul.
A little further down, the same book quotes another passage from the early Buddhist scriptures. This one says:
“If there is, here, a coitus of the parents, and it is the mother’s season, and a gandhabba is present: it is from the conjunction of these three things that there is descent of the embryo [and not if only the first, or only the first and second, condition is met].”
A gandhabba is an already existent being who is ready to be reborn once more.
So, yeah, maybe you can make the case that there is a Buddhist view that “life begins at conception” but you ought to say something like, “this life begins at conception.” Life, in Buddhist terms, has no beginning or end. It doesn’t start at conception and it doesn’t end if there’s an abortion.
As for the statement that “all traditional sources … (say) that abortion … should be rejected,” that too is arguable. So arguable, in fact, that I’d go as far as to say it’s bullshit.
The Wikipedia entry itself quotes the Dalai Lama as saying, “Of course, abortion, from a Buddhist viewpoint, is an act of killing and is negative, generally speaking. But it depends on the circumstances.” In Buddhist Japan, abortion is legal and nobody protests against it. In fact, there is a Buddhist tradition for mourning the loss of aborted children. Little statues of the Buddhist saint Jizo are placed on street corners all over the country. There was one about half a block from my apartment. I passed it on my way to work every day and often it would be surrounded by boxes of candy and little toys as gifts for someone’s unborn child.
I think most Buddhists, like most people of any religion or philosophy, would avoid having an abortion unless there was no other choice. But to imply that Buddhism is a kind of Asian version of the American “Pro Life” movement is, quite frankly, a load of crap and Wikipedia ought to change their entry.
Officially, the motive for the shooting in Colorado is unknown. But we all know what it was. He saw that video created by a group called the Center for Medical Progress in which a Planned Parenthood spokesperson is edited so that it seems like she’s talking about selling fetal baby parts. She isn’t. The video also shows a bunch of clips of stillborn babies and gross-out medical procedures with the implication that these unrelated scenes were shot at Planned Parenthood clinics. They were not.
The shooter was also batshit crazy. And it was easy as pie for him to get a firearm.
The people who made that video are now trying to claim the shooting is not their fault. David Daleiden, the head of the Center for Medical Progress, said, “The Center for Medical Progress condemns the barbaric killing spree in Colorado Springs by a violent madman. We applaud the heroic efforts of law enforcement to stop the violence quickly and rescue the victims, and our thoughts and prayers are with the wounded, the lost, and their families.”
Condemnation and applause, thoughts and prayers. That’ll fix things. Works every time.
David Daleiden and the folks at the Center for Medical progress are far from the first ones to absolve themselves of responsibility for the actions their rhetoric has inspired and they won’t be the last. It’s hard to draw a straight line of connection, but we all know there is one. It’s like the connection between violent video games and actual violence. Not everyone who hears the message becomes a killer, but some do. There are lots of batshit crazy people out there and, at least in America, quick and easy access to guns of all kinds to anyone who wants them.
It’s probably pointless for me to condemn the shooter or applaud the cops here on this little blog. I doubt any of my audience are the kinds of twerps who post tweets about how the shooter saved the lives of innocent babies. If you are, please go away.
I mourn the dead and hope that this kind of completely unnecessary misery will someday be a thing of the past. Please always remember that people have shitty enough lives already without you adding more shittiness to them in any form. So cut it out.
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April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”
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