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Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 1–12 | Cite as

Developmental Levels of Conceptions of Compassion in the Ethical Decision-Making of Western Buddhist Practitioners

  • Albert Erdynast
  • Lobsang Rapgay
Article
  • 137 Downloads

Abstract

This study used Rawls’ social contract theory of right to examine the conceptions of compassion of Western Buddhist practitioners as they made ethical decisions. The study, which used a construction sample of 140 subjects in order to study the developmental levels of thinking among the Buddhist practitioners, identified five structural-developmental levels of conceptions of compassion along with a level of pre-compassionate thinking. Only a sparse amount of thinking at the level of ethical principles of compassion was found among the Buddhist practitioners. Buddhist practitioners gave priority to issues of karma over issues of rights in ethical decisions involving dilemmas related to life and death decisions. Scoring manuals were constructed for assessing ethical reasoning and justice-reasoning based on Rawls’ meta-ethical theory of justice and right. Different dilemmas seem to elicit different levels of conceptions of compassion, which supports the view of compassion as “levels of conceptions” rather than a singular state.

Keywords

Compassion Ethical development Developmental levels 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the Balm Foundation, New York and Plum Foundation, Los Angeles for a partial grant to conduct the research and the Land of Medicine Buddha in San Jose, California for their assistance in helping to recruit research subjects.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyAntioch UniversityLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUCLALos AngelesUSA

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