Buddhist ethics as upāya
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While there have been attempts at construing Buddhist ethics in terms of the familiar Western ethical theories, notably Utilitarianism and Virtue Ethics, none of them fully captures the complexity of Buddhist ethical landscape. I suggest that Buddhist Ethics can be best described by non-theoretical approach such as moral particularism. That is, the nature of Buddhist Ethics can be best described as particularist in their rejection of generalizable universal moral principles which partly explains the observed ethical plurality in Buddhism. I consider some reasons as to why Buddhist ethics takes a particularist form, for instance, such as one provided by the notion of emptiness or śūnyatā: that general principles are empty of any ultimate, and consequently only provisional, existence. But there is a deeper underlying reason: Buddhist teachings, including ethics, should be interpreted from the lens of Upāyakauśalya (Upāya) or the skillful means—the framework motivated by the emphasis on the solution to sufferings which requires many creative interventions. I defend this broader interpretation of Upāya primarily through interpreting the similes of the Water-Snake and the Raft that the Buddha is said to have expounded. These two similes suggest that the teachings of the Buddha should not be taken as ultimately metaphysical in any sense of relating to the way the world is, but instead as Upāya, as rafts to transport people to the cessation of suffering. As such I suggest that Buddhism—and by extension its ethics—itself is an Upāya through which everything is understood as conventionally true, that is, in its proper—phenomenological—relation to the soteriological aim of ending suffering.