Charles Hallisey: "Compassion for the Evil-doing Person"
The great fifth-century Buddhist thinker Buddhaghosa recommends that anyone wanting to cultivate compassion should begin by first generating compassion towards an “unlucky, unfortunate person.” One of the examples that Buddhaghosa gives of such a person is “an evil-doing person,” and especially about to be executed for his crimes. In this talk, I will explore what we learn from this starting-point that Buddhaghosa commends about his understanding of the nature of compassion and what is involved in cultivating it. I will also consider what Buddhaghosa's understanding of compassion entails for our understanding of moral anthropology more generally and for our consideration of the respective places of compassion and justice in the moral life, as these were seen in the Theravāda Buddhist traditions of Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.
Charles Hallisey is the Yehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures at Harvard Divinity School; he is also the President of the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies. His teaching and research centers on Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, Pali language and literature, Buddhist ethics, and literature in Buddhist culture. He is completing a new translation of the Therigāthā, the poems of the first Buddhist women.