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Universal ethics in the context of globalization and Humanistic Buddhism

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This article starts with a discussion on the nature of universal ethics. By reviewing ideas from Confucius, Mencius, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Kant, John Stuart Mill, John Dewey and modern moral philosopher Louis Pojman in regard to this issue, the author tries to define universal ethics as indispensable for human beings, for creating better well-being of individuals and communities. Universal ethics is also defined as expedient, valid and flexible in its reaching out from philosophers' metaphysical thinking to human lives for daily application. This application endows ethics with value, and makes it an inseparable part of human progress. At the same time, this application makes the character of ethics evident as from its many faceted variations in human use though its core principles are usually very few. Universal principles are not in change, but their applications should be. This implies a two-in-one character of universal ethics. The permanent and the impermanent are not in conflict. On the contrary, they are two in one. The same is with the relation between the one (few) and the many, or the principle and the application. These ideas underlie many important philosophies, and they are explicitly expressed in Buddhism.

According to Yogācāra Buddhism, concepts and language are basically in the form of "universal attachment." "Universal ethics" is also a concept, in one sense. Concepts are created by human beings, and of course originate in accord with the law of dependent origination. Due to the ignorance of their nature, many sentient beings misconceive them as fixed and permanent, and are attached to them as if they are sacred goals. Why can sentient beings create the concept of universal ethics? It is because sentient beings have the purest nature that is the core or the true reality of universal ethics. They project that purest seed in their contemplation. Therefore, universal ethics is both inherent and created.

Humanistic Buddhism as propagated by Master Hsing Yun is a Bodhisattva Way leading towards perfect enlightenment. Based on unlimited compassion and wisdom, sentient beings may practice Bodhisattva Way to benefit themselves and other sentient beings. Bodhisattvas should not only learn the highest and perfect wisdom, but also all kinds of worldly knowledge and skills. They learn to know themselves as well as other sentient beings. Their practice is beyond space and time limit, and signifies a globalization of teaching universal truth to all sentient beings at all times and through all generations from the past, present to the future, based on a kind consideration of individual difference among sentient beings, cultural and other factors. This consideration requires a localization of Buddhism. One uniqueness of humanistic Buddhism among many is to use expedient, valid and beneficial methods to teach universal truths inherently shared by all sentient beings, in order to help them awake from ignorance, greed, hatred and arrogance.

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