Hindu Ethics: Purity, Abortion, and Euthanasia

By Harold G. Coward; Julius J. Lipner et al. | Go to book overview

practice sallekhanā, the fast to death, and carefully distinguish it from nonreligious suicide which is prohibited by the Indian Penal Code. The modern reassessment of euthanasia in India has been led, in fact, by the Jains who argue that in Jainism sallekhanā was not abused; on the contrary, it provided a meaningful and dignified death that was in tune with the religious perspective.

Young concludes from her study of euthanasia in Hinduism and, by extension, in other Indian religions that it was extremely difficult to limit euthanasia to certain contexts and to prevent abuse even when there was a strong religious predisposition to live out the natural life span. She suggests that there are two basic approaches regarding the reassessment of euthanasia in India today. One is to see if fasting to death has modern relevance in today's world where medical technology keeps people alive for longer and longer periods. Ways of relating the traditional Hindu notion of the religious "good death" with the modern notion of the "meaningful death" are examined. The second is to suggest that, on the evidence of past history, Indian law should not legalize euthanasia, even taking into consideration the new definition of euthanasia which insists on medical diagnosis of terminal disease, due process of decision making, and so forth.

These three case studies in Hindu Ethics demonstrate that Indian thought has not ignored deep reflection on problems which are presenting serious challenges to the modern world. They also demonstrate that Hinduism is more than metaphysics -- that it has a firm grounding in ethics even when the most difficult questions are raised.


NOTES
1.
See, for example, the debates of Rammohun Roy ( 1772-1833) with the Christian missionaries of his day. An overview is offered by James Pankratz, "Rammohun Roy," as Chapter 7 in Religion in Modern India, edited by Robert Baird. New Delhi: Manohar, 1981.
2.
P. T. Raju, Structural Depths of Indian Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1985.
3.
Ibid., p. xvi.
5.
Brahmasūtrabhāya Śaṁkara, 1.1.1, as summarized by Karl Potter in Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies; Advaita Vedānta up to Śakara and His Pupils. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 121.
6.
Patañjali, Yoga SBtras 11.30-32. See translation by J. H. Woods, The Yoga System of Patañjali. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1966.
7.
See discussion of Jaimini MĪmṂsāsŪtras by P. T. Raju, Structural Depths of Indian Thought, pp. 40-41.

-7-

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Hindu Ethics: Purity, Abortion, and Euthanasia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 7
  • 1 - Purity in Hinduism: with Particular Reference to Patañjali's Yoga Sūtras 9
  • Notes 34
  • 2 - The Classical Hindu View on Abortion and the Moral Status of the Unborn 41
  • Notes 61
  • 3. Euthanasia: Traditional Hindu Views and the Contemporary Debate 71
  • Notes 121
  • Bibliography 125
  • About the Authors 131
  • Index 133
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