[Buddha-l] Ethical Dilemmas

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Fri Jun 11 14:55:43 MDT 2010

Dear Barnaby,

> I don't readily recall an effort to articulate a universal framework for 
> ethics that withstood much scrutiny or felt persuasive -- are you arguing 
> on behalf of the existence of such frameworks?

Perhaps. A turning point for me away from the cultural relativism that would 
oppose such an effort ("when in Rome...") came many years ago in the 
American Museum of Natural History, when they opened a new exhibit on the 
Aztecs that neither minimized nor glossed over the human sacrifice that was 
the daily core of the culture. Every day a victim was led up the stairs of 
the pyramid, laid on a table, and a priest would slash open the chest and 
pull out the still-beating heart and hold it up to the cheering crowd. All 
salubriously enveloped in holiness and prayers. The more details I learned, 
the more disgusted I became, and the more I decided there is a transcultural 
right and wrong, and one would be obligated to try to stop this sort of 
thing, regardless of what the Aztecs themselves thought they were doing. 
They were deluded, harmful sentient beings inflicting harm -- systematically 
and institutionally -- on other sentient beings, and it was simply wrong. 
Mutatis mutandi same would go for Nazis, Pol Pot, etc.

If you are more comfortable with "transcultural" instead of "universal", 
that's ok.


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