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Consuming Religion: Religious Ethics And Commodification In Islam And Buddhism

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The world religions have been witness dynamic changes as the impact of European Colonialism. The twentieth century brought modern nation states and the superpower rivalry between America and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Following those era, many challenges and rapid changes emerged in social life including religion, intellectual, political, economy, and moral context.

During nineteenth century, many Muslim area were colonized by the West and make them on the defense position against the European imperialism that endangered their political, religious, and cultural identity. However, Muslim response to that situation in various ways. In response to colonialism and Western culture and ideas, Muslim showed diverse expression from resistance and confrontation to admiration, imitation and appropriation.

After the World War II, many Muslim country reclaimed their independence. During the 1960s and 1970s, Islam enjoyed higher profile in personal and public life demonstrated by greater religious observance and Islamic dress as well as the growth of Islamic political and social organizations and institutions such as bank, publishing houses, schools, etc (Esposito, Fasching, & Lewis, 2002). By the late 1980s and 1990s a nonviolent revolution had occurred and make Islam significantly more visible and important in social life. Unlike in the past, speaking of Islam in the twenty-first century has been moved from Islam and the West to Islam in the West. Islam is considered the fastest growing religion in North America and Europe due to the high birthrates, immigration, and conversions (Espsito et al, 2002).

On the other hand, most of Asian nations faced the need to reinvent their societies politically and culturally. Rebuilding and renewal of Buddhism in China, Mongolia, Vietnam, and North Korea challenged by the the rise of Communist rulers who perceived Buddhism as superstition and the institution is parasitic in society. Disbandment of Buddhist community occurred in those nation, destroying their building and images as well as discredited their belief and practices. However, the Asia’s rapid industrialization and urbanization created new forms of social dislocation and wealth that brings Buddhism in new social context, political struggles, and global dialogue (Esposito, Fasching, & Lewis, 2002).

The surplus of wealth makes merit through pious donation increase and helped to rebuild venerable monasteries and temples as well ass supporting new reforms sects and modernize Buddhist institution. Nowadays, Buddhism is among the fastest-spreading religions in the world. It symbolizes a spiritual alternative to the ideologies of ‘‘materialism,’’ which was one of the main criticisms of the West coming from ‘‘Eastern-inspired’’ counterculture in the 1960s (Pardue, 1968). The Buddhist iconography or symbols have become stylish items in popular consumer culture: they can be seen on TV (in the United States), in music, in fashion, and aesthetics (Lopez, 1998).

Both Islam and Buddhism as globalized religion have been encountered some challenges and paradoxical expressions. The rapid grow of technology and economic development meet the need of expressing identity and boundaries makes Islam and Buddhism re-contextualize their ethical response to the modernity. In this paper , I will examine and compare how the commodification of Islam and Buddhism emerges in modern society? In addition, I will analyze how this phenomenon perceived by both religion especially based on their ethics toward the domination of global economy.

Foundation and Tradition of Ethic in Islam and Buddhism

This the author use Peter Harvey description to limit the term ‘ethics’ used in this study that covers: () thought on the bases and justification of moral guidelines (normative ethics), and on the meaning of moral terms (meta-ethics); () specific moral guidelines (applied ethics); () how people actually behave (descriptive ethics). Broadly, religious-based ethical systems support ethics by motivating and justifying positive other-regarding actions and discouraging actions harmful to others, and strengthening the character-traits which foster moral action. 'Ethics' for Buddhism is psychological analysis and mind control, not the search for a foundation of ethical principles, a hierarchical arrangement of ethical values, or an enquiry into their objectivity (1964: 4f.)

The first is its central place as the core of Islam, if we can include Islamic law as an integral part of ethics.1 The Quran repeatedly uses the phrase 'those who believe [in God] and do good works',2 taking it for granted that these two attributes belong to the same group in extension, and that the first is a prerequisite of the second - but also that the first would be insincere and not true belief without the second. Following this lead, the legal profession in the first two centuries of Islam tried to make the law of the sharlca cover every ethical situation and to make the study ofthis law the culminating study in Islamic education. Thus, since Islamic education was the most formative element in Islamic civilization, the important role of ethics in this civilization becomes obvious.

As an orthopraxis religion, ethics in Islam is much more a matter of living by the sharia than reflecting on moral questions. Islamic ethics are enacted more than they are thought about. Muslim thinkers, indeed, have contributed much to the history of ethical discourse as a branch of philosophy. But the Muslim community generally has not so much raised the question of what is good and how we realize it as manifestation of believe that God is the source f all value and he has commanded us to live the good life by obeying his commands.

Hourani (2007) describes fourfold scheme of types of writing on ethics in Islam: (A) Normative religious ethics. (B) Normative secular ethics. (C) Ethical analysis in the religious tradition. (D) Ethical analysis by philosophers. The normative religious ethics begins in the primary sources of Islam, the Qur’an and the Traditions, which prescribe many rules of law and morality for man. The Qur’an also contains suggestions for answers to some more general questions ofethics, but it is not a book of philosophy or even theology, and its suggestions are not without ambiguities. The normative secular ethics is represented by 'Mirrors for princes' in the Persian tradition, giving advice to sultans and wazirs about government and politics. The study of ethical principles in the religious tradition starts with the jurists' discussions of the sources of law in the eighth and ninth centuries A.D. In these controversies we have the roots of an analytical treatment of the concepts of justice and obligation, because they take theoretical stands on how the law is known. The ethical analysis in the religious tradition based on legal judgments according only to scripture and traditions or derived from them in certain approved ways such as analogy (qiyas). While the analysis by philosophers believe that in deciding questions of Islamic law and morals judges and lawyers might take their own rational judgments independently of scripture.

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In a Buddhist context, the effect of actions on the welfare of others is itself a key consideration, as is the effect of an action on spiritual progress, and what the Buddha is seen as having said on it. Religions often move imperceptibly from ethical concerns, relating to material welfare of others, to more ‘spiritual’ ones such as self-discipline and renunciation, though these may, in turn, have ethical spin-offs (Harvey, 2000).

Fundamental features of Buddhism’s world-view relevant to ethics are the framework of karma and rebirth, accepted by all schools of Buddhism, with varying degrees of emphasis, and the Four Noble Truths, the highest teachings of early Buddhism and of the Theravādaschool. In the Mahāyāna tradition, an increasing emphasis on compassion modified the earlier shared perspective in certain ways (Harvey, 2000),

In ethics as in other matters, Buddhists have three key sources of inspiration and guidance: the ‘three treasures’ or ‘three refuges’: the Buddha, Dhamma and Saṅgha. The Buddha is revered as () the ‘rediscoverer’ and teacher of liberating truths and the embodiment of liberating qualities to be developed by others. In addition, in the Mahāyāna, heavenly Buddhas are looked to as contemporary sources of teaching and help. The Dhamma is the teachings of the Buddhas, the path to the Buddhist goal, and the various levels of realizations of this goal. The Saṅgha is the ‘Community’ of Noble Ones (Pali ariyas; Skt āryas): advanced practitioners who have experienced something of this goal, being symbolized, ona more day-to-day level, by the Buddhist monastic Saṅgha (Harvey,).

The Dhamma, in the sense of teachings attributed to the Buddha(s), is contained in voluminous texts preserved and studied by the monastic Saṅgha. The advice and guidance that monks and nuns offer to the laity are based on these texts, on their own experience of practising the Buddhist path, and on the oral and written tradition from earlier generations of monastics and, sometimes, lay practitioners. Lay people are under no strict obligation to do what monks or nuns advise, but rather respect for their qualities and way of life is the factor that will influence them, depending on the degree of the lay person’s own devotion to the Buddhist way.

In early Buddhism and in the Theravāda tradition, the most central teaching is that on the Four Noble Truths. These express spiritually ennobling insights which basically assert that: the processes of body and mind and the experience of life are dukkha (Pali; Skt duh·kha): unsatisfactory, frustrating and productive of suffering, whether in a gross or subtle form; this situation is caused by ‘craving’ , demanding desires which lay one open to frustration and disappointment, and keep one within the round of rebirths, with its attendant ageing, sickness and death; () this situation can be transcended by destroying craving, and associated causes such as attachment, hatred and delusion, in the experience of Nirvān·a. Once this is attained during life, a person will no longer be reborn, but will pass into final Nirvān·a at death, beyond space, time and dukkha; the way to attain this goal is the ‘middle way’ consisting of the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path is the Middle Way of practice that leads to the cessation of dukkha. The Path has eight factors, each described as right or perfect (Pali sammā; Skt samyak): right view or understanding, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration or unification. These factors are also grouped into three sections . Factors – pertain to sı̄la (Pali; Skt śı̄la), moral virtue; factors – pertain to samādhi, meditative cultivation of the heart/mind (citta); factors – pertain to paññā (Pali; Skt prajñā), or wisdom.

Western analogue to Buddhist ethics is Aristotelian ethics, as argued by Keown and Shaner for Mahāyāna ethics and Mahāyāna-shaped Japanese ethics respectively. For Aristotle, ethics is about developing one’s ethos or ‘character’ by the cultivation of virtues – wholesome dispositions and inclinations – which conduce to the goal of eudaimonia. This goal involves true happiness and a human flourishing in which the psyche is marked by excellencies of both reason and character . Both Aristotle and Buddhism aim at human perfection by developing a person’s knowledge and character, his or her ‘head’ and ‘heart’ . In Buddhist terminology, this is done by eliminating both spiritual ignorance and craving, which feed off each other, by cultivating intellectual, emotional and moral virtues sharing something of the qualities of the goal towards which they move. In both Aristotelian and Buddhist ethics, an action is right because it embodies a virtue which conduces to and ‘participates’ in the goal of human perfection. Both are ‘teleological’ in that they advocate action which moves towards a telos or goal/end with which they have an intrinsic relationship. Buddhism agrees with each in respectively acknowledging the importance of a good motivating will, cultivation of character, and the reduction of suffering in others and oneself. This is because the first two of these are seen as crucial causes of the third of them, while aiming at the third, in a way which does not ignore aspects of the full karmic situation, is a key feature of the first two.

In the modern world, a number of Buddhists have come to advocate what has been called ‘Engaged Buddhism’, a term coined in by the Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh, at a time when war was ravaging his country. This draws on traditional Buddhist ethical and social teachings, but applies them in a more activist way than has sometimes been the case in the past, so as to improve society. Christopher Queen holds that ‘the most distinctive shift of thinking in socially engaged Buddhism is from a transmundane . . . to a mundane liberation’, so as to focus on ‘the causes, varieties and remedies of worldly suffering and oppression’ through the reform of social and political conditions, as well as of the mind.

It must be said that the Buddhist tradition throughout its long history has shown little initiative in developing and refining the tools of ethical analysis which might assist us in formulating such responses. In comparison with the Semitic religions, for instance, Buddhism has hardly made a start. The expectation in Buddhism seems to be that ethical problems will be entirely resolved or 'dissolved' in the pursuit of the religious life. To this extent Buddhist ethics is aretaic: it rests upon the cultivation of personal virtue in the expectation that as spiritual capacity expands towards the goal of enlightenment ethical choices will become clear and unproblematic.

According to Buddhist doctrines, money is thus ‘‘impure’’ and everything relating to inner-worldly affairs is antagonistic to the ethics of Buddhist asceticism. Buddhism could therefore be considered as an economy-free religion. Things are, however, not as simple as that. Buddhism – as a religion – was born (it is worth mentioning) in a wealthy milieu; Shakyamuni was a prince living in luxury and comfort before giving up his high status, privileges, and prosperity. Buddhist traditions (monastic orders) have furthermore always had close, if not direct, relationships with the economic development of their host countries, have been shaped by them, and have even participated in the contemporary spread of Buddhism; bypassing political and geographic frontiers, they have additionally had a close relationship with globalization, in the economic (and most common) sense of the term. Buddhist ideas indeed circulate by way of technological circuits (the Internet), Buddhist virtuosi (e.g., lama, roshi, and bhikkhu) use modern modes of transportation, and Buddhist or Buddhist-inspired artefacts are sold all around the world as decorative or liturgical items. In short, to borrow a slogan from a French historian, the contemporary international spread of Buddhism is conveyed by ‘‘the carriages of free-trade’’ (Vallet, 1995, p. 53), and therefore is, time and again, linked with economic affairs (Obadia, 2011)

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