Hindu Ethics: Purity, Abortion, and Euthanasia

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

2. The Classical Hindu View
on Abortion and the
Moral Status of the Unborn*

JULIUS J. LIPNER


I. Clarification of Terms

LET US start with a few clarifications, the better to focus our perspective and concerns. At present, the nature and moral status of the human unborn, considered in various contexts (genetic research, in vitro fertilisation, abortion, surrogate motherhood, and so on), form a topic of intense discussion in the West. In India, however, these issues, for the most part, still lie below the surface in the public mind, or, to change the metaphor, have yet to come out of the closet. 1 It is all the more important, therefore, to broach this topic in preparation for the Indian debate that needs must arise, especially from the Hindu viewpoint -- the viewpoint of the majority of Indians. In the process, I hope some light will be shed on the complexities of the Western discussion. The approach in this essay has primarily the moral angle in view, though it will also be necessary, where relevant, to make philosophical, historical, medical, and other observations. Further, in the Hindu context, this vast area of study is, for the most part, uncharted in any systematic way. For this reason, we shall focus on the concept of abortion as being the most suitable handle to come to grips with the complex web of ideas which makes up the Hindu view of the moral status of the unborn. Indeed, it will bring us to the heart of the matter.

____________________
*
This essay is dedicated to Fr. George Gispert-Sauch, S.J., of Vidyajyoti, Institute of Religious Studies, Delhi -- sound scholar and good friend.

-41-

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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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