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Philosophical Thought
Reference:

Methodological basis for studying the ethical component of the Buddhist creed

Erendzhenova Yuliya Yur'evna

ORCID: 0000-0001-5387-9731

PhD in Philosophy

Leading Research Associate, Kalmyk State University, Scientific laboratory "Compehensive Buddhist Studies"

358000, Russia, Republic of Kalmykia, Elista, Pushkin str., 11, room 102

yulia.er16@gmail.com

DOI:

10.25136/2409-8728.2023.11.68947

EDN:

NEMWHG

Received:

11-11-2023


Published:

28-11-2023


Abstract: The subject of the study is a methodological toolkit for a comprehensive study of ethical ideas contained in the creed of traditional Russian Buddhists Kalmyks, Buryats, Tuvans, Altaians. The purpose of this study is to substantiate philosophical understanding of the ethical component of the text Refuge, recited by traditional Buddhists of Russia. The choice of methodological approaches, principles and methods is determined by the philosophical orientalist paradigm, when Buddhist materials are considered in their integrity, in their inextricable connection with human and culture. Important addition is taking into account ideas of Buddhologist O. O. Rosenberg, who advocated the study of the living tradition of Buddhism. The novelty of the study lies in substantiation that a holistic understanding of the ethical component of the Russian Buddhists' creed can be obtained by combining three approaches: philosophy of culture, philosophy of religion, and philosophical anthropology. Philosophical cultural dimension will allow focusing on categories of Buddhist ethics set out in the text Refuge and taking into account comments of Buddhist authors in accordance with the principle of cognitive modesty of intercultural philosophy. The philosophical religious approach allows to consider the ethical component of the text Refuge in a soteriological context and show its place in the Buddhist religious complex. Philosophical anthropology will make it possible to identify the probable subjective meaning of the ethical component of the text Refuge for Buddhists. Such a comprehensive philosophical analysis of Russian Buddhists' creed will lead to the discovery of the foundations of their spiritual and moral values.


Keywords:

Buddhism in Russia, Buddhist creed, Refuge, Three Jewels, Buddhist ethics, Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist culture, research methodology, philosophical oriental studies, Four Immesureables

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

Introduction

The problem of preserving and strengthening the spiritual and moral values of Russian society determines the relevance of the study of ethical ideas set forth in the basic sources of religious cultures and have a significant impact on the consciousness of believers. In this regard, it is important to study the ethical ideas contained in the fundamental texts of the traditional Buddhists of Russia Kalmyks, Buryats, Tuvans, Altaians.

The Buddhist culture of these peoples was formed on the basis of Tibetan Buddhism, which is known for its adherence to Mahayana ideas and Vajrayana practices [1, pp. 933-936]. The basic text recited daily in this tradition is called "Refuge" and, at the suggestion of pre-revolutionary researchers, is translated as a "symbol of faith" [e.g., 2]. In search of deliverance from suffering, Buddhists of the Tibetan tradition find refuge in the Three Jewels the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha, as well as in the spiritual teacher as the focus and manifestation of these sacred objects. Every Buddhist's day begins with prayer and taking a vow of Refuge, which implies a special form of behavior [3]. Following the precepts of the text of the "Refuge" is traditionally considered the key to successful reincarnation [4].

Thus, the Buddhist creed takes the form of a bulwark and a specific guarantee of solving life's difficulties, provided that the vow of Refuge is fulfilled. Based on this, researchers conclude that adherents of Tibetan Buddhism, including Russian Buddhists, tend to rely on the Three Jewels and the vast Tantric pantheon as a source of salvation [5]. However, it is not entirely clear to what extent this is consistent with Buddhist teaching, which proclaims the absolute responsibility of a person for everything that happens in his life, including getting rid of suffering.

In one of the cult texts recited by Buddhists as a daily preliminary practice, stanzas from canonical scripture are quoted: "Buddhas do not wash away the filth of beings, do not eliminate their suffering, do not transfer their spiritual realizations to them, beings are liberated only through the teaching of the truth of suchness" [6, p. 8]. In this case, Three Jewelry should be evaluated not only as a source of salvation, but also as an ideal that Buddhists strive for, as their guide for self-improvement.

It follows from this that the Buddhist creed should contain moral imperatives, adhering to which believers can simultaneously find salvation and get closer to their ideal. The identification of these imperatives can be facilitated by a holistic vision of the Buddhist creed, its comprehensive analysis within the framework of philosophical methodology. Based on this, the purpose of this study is to substantiate the philosophical methodology of understanding the ethical component of the text "Refuge", recited daily by traditional Buddhists of Russia.

The choice of methodological approaches, principles and methods is determined by the philosophical and Oriental paradigm [7], when Buddhist materials are considered in integrity, in their inseparable connection with man and culture. An important addition is taking into account the ideas of the Russian Buddhologist O. O. Rosenberg, who advocated the study of the "living" tradition of Buddhism [8]. This methodology made it possible to develop a research program according to which a holistic view of the ethical component of the symbol of faith of Russian Buddhists can be obtained through a combination of three approaches: philosophical and cultural, philosophical and religious studies and philosophical and anthropological.

Philosophical and cultural dimension of the ethical component of the Buddhist Creed

The philosophical and cultural approach to the study of Buddhism allows us to consider it as a special form of culture, the categories of which, in accordance with V. S. Stepin's theory, represent ideological universals [9]. In the system of these categories, Buddhists comprehend the world around them and evaluate it. This approach to the study of Oriental cultures, as well as Buddhist culture proper, has been applied in the works of Russian philosophers [10, 11]. To highlight the categories, they translated and analyzed the fundamental texts of Buddhist culture. Following this methodology, it is necessary to translate the text "Refuge" and identify the ideas contained therein that most fully characterize Buddhist ethical concepts. First of all, you should pay attention to the following lines:

"Let all living beings find happiness and the cause of happiness,

Let all living beings get rid of suffering and the causes of suffering,

Let all living beings with happiness without suffering never part,

All living beings, having got rid of attachment to loved ones and aversion to distant ones, let them adhere to equality!" [12].

These benevolences correspond to the Buddhist concept of the "Four Immeasurable" (Tib. tshad-med bzhi, Skt. apramana), otherwise called "Brahmavihara", or "the four abodes of Brahma". "Four immeasurable" is immeasurable love (Tib. byams-pa, Skt. maitri), immense compassion (tib. snying-rje, skt. karuna), immeasurable joy (tib. dga-ba, skt. mudita), immeasurable equanimity (tib. btang-snyoms, skt. upeksha). The epithet "immeasurable" implies the development of these qualities in relation to an unlimited number of living beings.

For a deep understanding of these categories, it is important to adhere to the principle of "cognitive modesty" developed in intercultural philosophy [13]. This principle requires recognition of the equivalence and equivalence of Western and Eastern cultures, their theoretical and methodological developments. Thus, when comprehending the categories of Buddhist culture, it is important to take into account the comments of Buddhist authors. Since in Tibetan Buddhism there is a differentiation into Gelug, Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu schools, it is quite justified to refer to the works of their representatives: His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV [14], Dudjoma Rinpoche [15], Sakya Trichena Rinpoche [16], Kalu Rinpoche [17].

In a generalized form, the comments of Buddhist teachers can be reduced to the following theses. Immeasurable love implies a sincere wish that all living beings become happy, having received one of the best states of rebirth or having achieved the highest happiness of enlightenment. This love is more than a mother's love for her only child. Immeasurable compassion is the wish that all beings would quickly be freed from all types of samsaric suffering (suffering of suffering, suffering of change, allencompassing suffering). Immeasurable compassion contributes more than other qualities to the transformation of consciousness, when a compassionate person shows a willingness to take away the suffering of others and give them his happiness in return.

Immeasurable joy is a state of rejoicing in the happiness and prosperity of others, in the absence of envy, wishing them to experience more of such happiness. The feeling of immense joy evokes something similar to gratitude or appreciation to others for their kindness shown in countless previous lives. Immeasurable equanimity is interpreted as a state of mind free from attachment and aversion to all living beings, as well as free from considering some beings as close and others as distant. Immeasurable equanimity presupposes an impartial attitude towards everyone.

The "Four immeasurable" are considered as ethical ideals that acquire meaning only in the context of altruistic striving for enlightenment (Tib. byang-chub-kyi sems, Skt. bodhichitta). Based on this, the main condition for the development of the "four immeasurable" is the intention of a Buddhist to achieve the highest goal enlightenment and acquiring the Body of a Buddha for the benefit of all living beings. Along with this, Buddhists believe that the possibility of the development of the "four immeasurable" is present in every living being due to the presence of a permanent and unchanging "Buddha nature" in them.

Each of the above theses requires careful research, because it is not entirely clear how the exchange of suffering and happiness is possible, if we take into account the commitment of Buddhists to the law of cause and effect. There is also doubt about the realism of an impartial attitude towards everyone, especially in combination with a love like a mother's love for her only child. These and other questions can be resolved in the course of a categorical analysis of the ethical component of the Buddhist creed.

The results obtained will serve as a basis for further comparison of Buddhist ideas with the moral values of other religions. As for the very concept of the Buddhist refuge in the Three Jewels, one of the comparative studies revealed its influence on late medieval Taoism [18]. Undoubtedly, such a conclusion significantly expands the view of the role of Buddhism in the formation of traditional Chinese culture. Such a comparison of the ethical ideas of the Buddhist creed with the moral ideals of pre-Buddhist beliefs will allow us to assess the degree of influence of Buddhism on the traditional culture of the Kalmyks, Buryats, Tuvans, Altaians.

In philosophical discourse, comparative studies are conducted in order to discover absolute moral values that are hypothetically present in the ideological attitudes of all cultures, and form the basis of "global ethics", or to refute this hypothesis [19]. It is worth noting that the Dalai Lama XIV gained worldwide fame for popularizing "secular" ethics. In his book, he attempts to prove that the "four immeasurable" are not limited only to religious ideas, but turn out to be very useful and effective for any person, regardless of religious beliefs [20]. A comparative analysis of the "four immeasurable" Buddhism with the ethical ideas of other cultures will help to study their potential for substantiating universal values.

Philosophical and religious approach to the study of the ethics of the Buddhist text "Refuge"

Knowledge and understanding of the ethical categories of the Buddhist creed makes it possible to begin to determine the place of the ethical component of the creed in the structure of the Buddhist religious complex. The main idea is that the symbol of faith is considered as a kind of way to protect believers in the context of five dimensions: at the level of language, consciousness, properties, fundamentals and practices [21]. Through this methodology, attention is focused on the soteriological aspect of the Buddhist text "Refuge", therefore, the realization of ethical ideas by Buddhists is seen as their attempt to escape from personal suffering by observing the vow of Refuge.

Studies by foreign religious scholars have shown that constant remembrance of the Three Jewels is perceived by believers as creating conditions for trust and security [22], and in the life of Canadian immigrants from Sri Lanka, this has led to quite positive results [23]. In Malaysia, an in-depth interview with Chinese Buddhists proved their conscious acquisition of Buddhist identity as a result of seeking refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha [24].

The soteriological perspective of the study to a certain extent justifies the interpretation of the text "Refuge" as a Buddhist symbol of faith, despite the fact that the concept of "symbol of faith" as a summary of the main doctrinal provisions was developed and used in Christianity [25, pp. 1165-1166]. If we turn to Tibetan Buddhism, the definition of Refuge boils down to a continuous search in the Three Jewels for salvation from the fear of suffering in unfavorable destinies [26, pp. 247-248]. At the same time, according to A.M. Donets, the realization of "coming to Refuge", along with fear, is facilitated by hope as a mental element that is mandatory for solving a soteriological task [27].

The interrelation of the symbol of faith with fear and hope necessitates the study of mental prerequisites and psychotechnics in Buddhism. The wellknown Buddhologist E. A. Torchinov pointed out that the Buddhist religion prioritizes psychotechnical experience as a means for "awakening" after the root teacher - the Buddha [28]. The psychological aspect of the Buddhist creed should be sought in the meditative practice of Refuge, which was briefly studied by B. A. Bicheev [29].

A further study of the psychotechnical practice performed by Buddhists during the recitation of the text "Refuge" will allow us to establish the levels and ways of fixing the ethical attitudes set forth in this text in the minds of believers. The necessary materials for such a study are the works of Buddhist authors, which provide instructions on the practice of Refuge. One of the first to be analyzed are the recommendations of Zhe Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), a recognized spiritual teacher of Tibetan Buddhism and the founder of the Gelug school, on the basis of which the tradition of Russian Buddhists was formed [30].

It would be interesting to conduct experimental measurements of the impact of the ethical ideas of the creed on Buddhists, as Indonesian psychologists have done. They attempted to determine the influence of the "four immeasurable" on human consciousness and behavior. During the experiment, students of the college "Kertarajasa", noticed in the manifestation of bullying, were asked to reflect on the "four immeasurable". Six months later, they admitted that they realized the importance of treating other students with respect in order to create a favorable, harmonious atmosphere in college [31]. Conducting such an experiment would allow us to record the degree of influence of the practice of immeasurable love, immeasurable compassion, immeasurable joy and immeasurable equanimity on the consciousness and behavior of traditional Buddhists in Russia.

Philosophical and anthropological understanding of the ethical component of the Buddhist creed

A comprehensive philosophical analysis of the ethics of the Buddhist creed, along with objective factors, requires research on the subjective side of the issue. In modern philosophical discourse, methodological difficulties in cognizing someone else's subjective reality are still noted, but certain results can be obtained thanks to philosophical hermeneutics [32]. Since at this stage of the study there will be a structural vision of the Buddhist creed, as well as some conclusions of psychoanalysis about the role of fear and hope in the practice of Refuge, it will be possible to form an idea of the "archeology" of the subject in accordance with the regressive-progressive methodology of philosophical hermeneutics by P. Riker [33]. Next, it will be necessary to add a phenomenological analysis to determine the "teleology" of the subject, which will eventually lead to the identification of the subjective meaning of the ethical component of the creed for the Buddhists themselves.

As examples of similar studies, we should cite the works of foreign authors who focused on the meaning of Refuge for female Buddhists. K. Fitzgerald came to the conclusion that the regular religious practice of taking Refuge together with intense bodily prostrations for Tibetan women means liberation from attachments and approaching spiritual enlightenment [34]. Sh. Suh shared the results of her introspective research in the process of meditative practice of Refuge for a long time, noting that this experience was a way to overcome the problems arising in her life due to racial prejudice [35].

Due to the fact that believers may have different motives and, consequently, different intentions, the typology of religious personalities can be used as an additional tool. According to the classical typology of G. Allport, the motives of believers are related to the type of their religiosity, which is external, that is, oriented to the use of religion for personal gain, and internal, in which a believer measures his life goals and values with religion [36, pp. 130-137].

Bearing in mind that within the limits of the spread of Tibetan Buddhism, the Buddhist typology of personalities according to the "lamrim" system is widely popular, it is proposed to consider the subjective reality of believers through this prism as well. Based on this typology, those who are imbued with the Buddhist religion are divided into three groups. The lower type of personalities sees Buddhism as a source of solutions to pressing problems, the middle type of personalities relies on Buddhist teachings for personal liberation from samsara, and the higher type of personalities fully devote their lives to spiritual development up to enlightenment in order to help all living beings get rid of suffering and become happy [37].

Based on the combination of two typologies of religious personalities and their motives regarding the practice of Refuge, it will be possible to identify the probable intentions of Buddhists and the corresponding subjective meaning of the ethical ideas contained in the creed.

Conclusions

Thus, the research program, which includes philosophical-cultural, philosophical-religious and philosophical-anthropological approaches to the study of the ethical component of the Buddhist creed, will consistently solve the following tasks: to identify ethical categories in the text "Refuge", to establish their place in the Buddhist religious complex, to trace their influence on believers in the process of meditative psychotechnics, to identify the subjective significance of the ethical ideas studied for the Buddhists themselves. Relying on primary sources and extensive empirical material obtained as a result of Oriental studies, such a comprehensive philosophical analysis of the creed of Russian Buddhists will lead to the discovery of the foundations of their spiritual and moral values.

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First Peer Review

Peer reviewers' evaluations remain confidential and are not disclosed to the public. Only external reviews, authorized for publication by the article's author(s), are made public. Typically, these final reviews are conducted after the manuscript's revision. Adhering to our double-blind review policy, the reviewer's identity is kept confidential.
The list of publisher reviewers can be found here.

The reviewed article is an attempt to identify the "foundations of ethical values" of "Russian Buddhists". The author draws the reader's attention to the so-called "Buddhist creed", which carries the idea of the "Three Jewels". At the same time, he points out that these religious symbols (the Three Jewels) "should not be evaluated as a source of salvation, but as an ideal that Buddhists strive for, as their guide for self-improvement," that is, "salvation" can take place only through the efforts of the supporter of Buddhist teaching himself, and not "given to him from above", as one might expect a reader who is not familiar with the peculiarities of Buddhism on the basis of "false analogies" with Christianity or Islam. As far as one can judge, it is precisely in the need to recognize the significance of the follower's own efforts of Buddhist teaching that, in the author's opinion, lies the source of the "ethical interpretation" of the "Buddhist creed". However, this idea is not presented very clearly in the text, and the reason for the confusing presentation (in which the description of Buddhist ideas, almost devoid of analytical components, prevails), it seems, is a rather artificial attempt to link the presentation of the Buddhist moral concept with "approaches" external to it "philosophical-cultural, philosophical-religious and philosophical-anthropological". The author needlessly follows the "philosophical fashion", which encourages him to conceptualize his worldview in the form of certain "approaches", which in fact have nothing to do with the moral attitudes of Buddhism and the Buddhist worldview as a whole. Something similar can be said about the title of the article, in which the expression "discourse of philosophical Oriental studies" is simply superfluous, and about the first sentence of the main text, in which the need to "study the foundations of ethical values of Russians influenced by religious ideas" is justified by "orientation to the progressive path of development of a multi-confessional Russian society in difficult conditions of modern reality". It is difficult to get rid of the impression that the "progressive path of development" was borrowed by the author from completely different worldview concepts that are not related to Buddhism in any way. A number of criticisms should also be made regarding the way the material is presented. It is unclear why the author violates the order of references and citations, because the text of the article should not include a description of the source, only the figure corresponding to the serial number in the list of references is indicated, and if necessary, an indication of the pages. Further, a number of expressions need to be explained, especially many such expressions in the final part of the article. For example, what is "global ethics"? The main meaning of the term "ethics" is a "branch of philosophy", a "philosophical discipline", and not a set of certain moral institutions (even if a "global list" of such can be thought of). Or, for example, the author talks about the possibility of "tracing them ("ethical categories", the reviewer) stabilization in the process of meditative psychotechnics." How can categories "stabilize"? There are many simply unfortunate expressions that, I think, the author can remove or reformulate: "the probable subjective meaning of the ethical ideas under study for the Buddhists themselves" (why "probable?), "the daily routine of a Buddhist", etc. There are also stylistic and punctuation errors ("taking into account these provisions, how ..."- extremely unfortunate syntax; "based on this, the goal...", there is no adverbial turnover, a comma is not needed; "inseparable connection with a person", "inseparable"? etc.). Based on what has been said, it seems correct to conclude that the article should be substantially revised before publication in a scientific journal.

Second Peer Review

Peer reviewers' evaluations remain confidential and are not disclosed to the public. Only external reviews, authorized for publication by the article's author(s), are made public. Typically, these final reviews are conducted after the manuscript's revision. Adhering to our double-blind review policy, the reviewer's identity is kept confidential.
The list of publisher reviewers can be found here.

The subject of the research of the article "Methodological foundations of the study of the ethical component of the Buddhist creed" are: philosophical and cultural, philosophical and religious studies and philosophical and anthropological approaches. The author evaluates their heuristic potential in relation to the study of the doctrinal texts of Buddhism, known as the "Refuge" or "creed" of Buddhism. At the beginning of the work, the author notes that it is "Refuge" that is the cornerstone of Tibetan Buddhism, following its canons is traditionally considered the key to successful reincarnation. However, as follows from the text of the article, the methodology of the study of this set of rules has not been fully developed, and errors in its definition are fraught with internal contradictions that a researcher may encounter. In order to avoid such contradictions in the future, the author of the article suggests determining the methodological basis for studying the "Refuge". Thus, the article in question serves as a methodological introduction to the future study of the ethical component of the Buddhist "creed". The author aims to substantiate the philosophical methodology of the study of the "Refuge", quoted daily by traditional Buddhists in Russia. The methodology of the study of the methodological foundations of the study of the named doctrinal text is based on a comparative analysis of existing approaches of the philosophical and Oriental paradigm, a historical analysis of the practices of studying the text of the "Refuge", as well as the principle of abduction. The relevance of studying the ethical attitudes of Tibetan Buddhism stems from the need to preserve and strengthen the spiritual and moral values of Russian society, which includes not only followers of the Christian faith, but also Kalmyks, Buryats, Tuvans, Altaians - traditional Buddhists of Russia. The scientific novelty of the research lies largely in the research program, the beginning of which is this article. The methodology of the study of the "Refuge" developed in it will further identify the main ethical categories in the text, establish their place in the Buddhist religious complex, trace their influence on believers in the process of meditative psychotechnics, and identify the subjective significance of the ethical ideas studied for the Buddhists themselves. The style of the article is typical for scientific publications in the field of humanitarian studies, it combines the clarity of the formulations of key theses and their logically consistent argumentation. The structure and content fully correspond to the stated problem, reflecting the three main methodological approaches declared by the author as a research paradigm. In the part "Philosophical and cultural dimension of the ethical component of the Buddhist creed", the author examines the heuristic potential of the principle of "cognitive modesty", which requires recognition of the equivalence and equivalence of Western and Eastern cultures, their theoretical and methodological developments, in relation to the study of ethical institutions of "Refuge". With the help of this passage, it will be possible to evaluate the ethical ideals known as the "Four Immeasurable", which acquire meaning only in the context of an altruistic striving for enlightenment. A comparison of the ethical ideas of the Buddhist creed with the moral ideals of pre-Buddhist beliefs will allow us to assess the degree of influence of Buddhism on the traditional culture of the Kalmyks, Buryats, Tuvans, and Altaians. And in the future, it is possible to try to see the intersection of these institutions with Western ethical principles, which indicates the possibility of successful application of comparative studies. In the part "Philosophical and religious approach to the study of ethics of the Buddhist text "Refuge", the author addresses the psychological aspect of the Buddhist creed and its connection with meditative Oriental practices. "Philosophical and anthropological understanding of the ethical component of the Buddhist creed" shows the possibilities of applying the hermeneutic analysis of the text "Refuge" and the productivity of using the typology of religious personalities of G. Allport. The bibliography of the article includes 37 titles of works by both domestic and foreign authors devoted to the problem under consideration. The appeal to the opponents is present throughout the text. The author is very attentive to the experience of studying Buddhism in general and Tibetan Buddhism in particular, points out the authorship of certain approaches, compares his work with the ideas of V. S. Stepin, A.M. Donets, B. A. Bicheev, K. Fitzgerald, Sh. Sukh, etc. The text of the article will be of interest to all researchers of Buddhist doctrinal texts, beliefs of the Buddhists of Russia, as well as researchers working in the field of methodology of the humanities.
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