Key Tenets of Classical Buddhist Dharma Leave Space for the Practice of Abortion and are Upheld by Contemporary Japanese Buddhist Mizuko Kuyo Remembrance Rituals
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Core Buddhist principles of continuity, karmic assignment, and emphasis on separation of mind from body, permit, though do not expressly advocate for, the practice of abortion. Further, in certain contemporary contexts, Buddhist practices exist to mitigate the suffering experienced by women who have lost an unborn child, whether through abortion or miscarriage. In modern-day Japan for example, many Buddhists practice mizuko kuyō, a set of formal remembrance rituals, which provides structured support to families in their efforts to mourn, to remember the departed, and to celebrate the redirection of human potential. This contemporary practice is consistent with aforementioned tenets of early Buddhist thought. Although seemingly oxymoronic, the Buddhist view of abortion and the mizuko kuyō rituals are human-centric, not only for the families but also for the redirected. Other societies, cultures, and theological perspectives have and may further benefit from reframing any interpretation of abortion, not as an inherently moral or immoral act (i.e., a binary), but rather as an act overwhelmingly characterized by the complexity of human emotion in the face of unimaginable loss. This humanistic conceptualization of abortion is manifested by the modern Buddhist practice of mizuko kuyō.
KeywordsReligious studies Buddhism Abortion Japanese Mizuko kuyō
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Conflict of interest
The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.
This manuscript does not contain any studies with human participants or animals.
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