Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 35–41 | Cite as

The bodhisattva ideal and organ transplantation

  • Phillip A. Lecso


Mahayana Buddhism has as its ideal thebodhisattva (Sanskrit: enlightenment being). The bodhisattva practices are based on the Six Perfections, the first of which is the perfection of giving. This perfection of giving involves not only one's possessions but also includes one's body. Numerous scriptural quotations relate to bodhisattvas offering their bodies and organs to those in need. Therefore, Mahayana Buddhism firmly supports organ transplantation as benefiting both the donor and recipient. While Mahayana Buddhism does not accept the concept of brain death as meaning the true death of the individual, the severely limited life span of such individuals and their apparent lack of awareness permits the collection of organs from such individuals as long as the organs are freely given without any profit or obligatory motives involved. As the consciousness is felt to reside within the corpse for a period of time after physical death is manifest, some Buddhists, especially those practicing Tantra, feel that disturbing the corpse at that time could adversely affect the consciousness still residing within. Tantric practitioners may choose not to donate their organs so as to leave their corpse undisturbed, since it is felt that the time of death is an especially powerful moment in which to practice certain yogas in order to realize spiritual advancement.


Life Span Organ Transplantation Brain Death Apparent Lack Limited Life 


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Copyright information

© Institutes of Religion and Health 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Phillip A. Lecso
    • 1
  1. 1.The Medical College of OhioToledo

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