Bioethics – a Hindu Perspective

By : Dr Raj Maheshwari.

(The following is an abstract of the talk delivered by the author at the conference on “Core Ethical Teachings” at NSW Parliament House on 4 March 2011).

Dr Raj Maheshwari
Forensic Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist at St John of God Health Care
Sydney, Australia

Bioethics addresses specific ethical issues relating to science and medicine. With the advancement in technology, we are constantly faced with new scientific scenarios where ethical decisions need to be made. The principals of ethical decision making in Hinduism is informed by some of the ancient texts, namely Vedas, Upanishads, and two main epics: Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Core Philosophy

Cycle of rebirth is one of the core concepts in Hinduism, based on the belief that the body is just a carrier for the soul, which passes on through the repeated cycles of birth-life-death-rebirth until the soul has been purified and can ultimately join the divine cosmic consciousness, also called as Moksha.

Hindu View of Life and Suffering

Contrary to the western view of health, Hinduism doesn’t view health as mere absence of disability; instead it is assessed as a product of sound mind and body, which off course is one of the goals of a Dharmic life. Likewise illness is accepted as part of ordinary life experience, which is instigated as a consequence of a bad past karma or a test from god to assess your commitment to a dharmic life.

Hindu views death as not opposite to life, rather, it is opposite to birth, and life is a journey between birth and death. Hinduism accepts suffering as inevitable even in death, so discomfort is accepted over drugs, while a conscious dying process is seen as a good death that would determine the properties of your rebirth. Thus death is seen as just another step in this cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

Hindu View on Organ Transplant

Cremation in Hinduism is considered as both a destructive process and a course of creation; physical body and mind reunites with the earth, while atman wanders for about 12 days before continuing again the cycle of rebirth. Although in short no religious law prohibits organ transplant or donation in Hinduism, however there are contrary views. Some argue it to be a charitable act which is likely to attract karmic benefits; while others argue that if the body is incomplete during reuniting with the earth, the atman of the dead is suspended in a “state of animation” risking a karmic burden for family members. However, it is commonly insisted that the permission should be explicit.

Hindu view on contraception and abortion

Hindu bioethics agrees that there are two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning that brings husband and wife together, and the procreative meaning that capacitates them for the generation of new lives; and each and every sexual act need not be valued for its procreativity.

On abortion, the Hindu ethical decision making is based on the belief that the foetus is not just a foetus but a complete soul advancing into the next cycle of rebirth, so abortion is akin to murder; however, if mother’s welfare is in danger then the dharmic principle of duty to oneself takes precedence and abortion is permissible.

Hindu View on Biotechnology

Hinduism supports the idea of somatic cell genetic engineering which can address issues like sickle cell anaemia, haemophilia, or AIDS, on the principle of obligation to ensure survival of the present and future generations. However, it does not supports the idea of using genetic engineering for mere achieving perfection in body or bodily functions, again because Hinduism’s focus is on perfection of the soul rather the carrier body.

Regarding Cloning there are complex arguments in absence of any direct scriptural reference. The decision-making is guided by the principles of nonmaleficence (anyone’s well-being must not be sacrificed on some high altar of promoting a greater social and scientific good), beneficence (someone with leukaemia needing a compatible source of bone marrow), and autonomy (procreative or recreative rights along with rights to self-replicate).

Hindu View on Fertility Related Matters  

In ordinary cases, Hindu bioethics would want to limit IVF to married couples, using their own gametes in order to maximize the chance of both physical and emotional success for the child. However, there is provision for use of other person’s sperm in exceptional circumstances. One of the UpanishadsNiyoga, supports it if its purpose was the impregnation of a wife of an impotent or dead man so that his family may be preserved, and he may have sons to offer oblations for the welfare of his soul in the next world.

In summary, Hindu bioethics is philosophically pluralistic and ethically contextual, giving it the conceptual flexibility demanded by today’s complex moral problems. It is based on a multi-legged ethical decision making model involving the laws of Karma (good and bad actions), Dharma (righteousness), life after death, and Moksha (eternal freedom).

References and Advanced Readings

– Crawford, S. C. Hindu bioethics for the Twenty-first Century 2003; Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

– Lakhan, S. E. Hinduism: life and death. Student BMJ2008;16:294-336

– Coward, H. and Sidhu, T. Bioethics for clinicians: Hinduism and Sikhism. CMAJ, October 31, 2000; 163 (9)

Hits: 6

Selling Burgers to eliminate world hunger and save the earth

By : Surinder Jain.

Amit Tiwari, founder of Soul Burgers fast food chain of restaurants in Australia, prides on selling tasty burgers with no animal meat in them. A burger without cruelty to animals (assuming killing is cruelty) and good for the environment (meat production is one of the major factors for climate change) is certainly good for the Soul, a soul burger.

Source : www.soulburgers.com.au

According to Soul Burger’s web site, plants are the future of meat! Although we make look at Amit and his Soul Burger joint as a fast food outlet, he doesn’t see it that way.  He sees himself and his burgers as leading a global movement in keeping animals out of slaughterhouses and off our menus. Plant-based foods also reduces the risk of chronic disease and are lower in calories than a typical meat burger.

Source : www.soulburgers.com.au

Amit Tiwari also believes that he is selling more than burgers. He sees himself on the forefront of fighting climate change as a global shift to a vegan diet will cut food related GHG emissions by 70%. Every plant based burger helps save the planet!

If cruelty and climate change were not enough, Amit also believes that his burgers can eliminate poverty. How? Well, by shifting to plant based foods, we cease contributing to inflated grain prices used to feed livestock, creating stronger food security in developing countries. He sees a shift to his burgers will thus help feed millions of hungry mouths.

Next time, I am out and about, I will eat Soul Burgers. It will help me stay healthy, help keep earth from becoming an inferno and will help me gain punya (merit) by feeding the poor.

You can read more about Amit Tiwari and Soul Burgers in this ABC News report.

Hits: 25

ASMY Donates to help Regents Park Mandir rebuild after vandalism

By : Madya Lila.

Mark Orwin from the Australian School of Meditation & Yoga recently visited Regents Park Mandir to present the devotees with the holy scriptures Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.  
 
He also offered a donation of a thousand dollars on behalf of ASMY to Indrajit Rai, President of the Satsang Hindu Maha Sabha of Australia, with Shailendra Tiwari and the members of Regents Park Mandir.
 

Mark Orwin from ASMY at Regents Park Bhartiye Mandir

 
The temple was recently broken into and vandalised and now needs renovating. Devotees also lost their scriptures in the attack. Mark addressed the community of devotees and said in times of adversity we grow and come together in friendship like never before. The devotees meet at the Mandir – 42 Kibo Rd, Regents Park every Friday night for Rama Katha at 7.30. Everyone is welcome.  
 
Regents Park Mandir devotees have set up a fundraising page where online contributions can be made https://www.gofundme.com/bhartiyemandirsydney

Hits: 13

Christian missionaries who won’t take no for an answer

By Robert Burton-Bradley. ABC.

Christians who won’t take no for an answer — touched by God or ‘white saviour complex’? According to the Centre for the Global Study of Christianity, there are 440,000 long term missionaries in foreign countries. There are more than 1.6 million young Americans going abroad on short missions for weeks or months every year.

Hits: 0

Australia’s first Hare Krishna schoolies: No sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling or meat

 
Australia’s first all-Hare Krishna Year 12 class is shunning traditional Schoolies Week celebrations in favour of a trip to India, while vowing to forgo sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling and meat.

Hits: 0

Muslim leaders boycot discussions to stop terrorism

A proposed round table to discuss how Australia could better identify and stop extremism will be boycotted by Muslim leaders this week in response to comments from Prime Minister Scott Morrison who said religious leaders were “making excuses”.

On 9 November 2018, at around 4:10 pm, a man set fire to a Holden Rodeo ute on Bourke Street between Swanston Street and Russell Street, in Melbourne’s Central Business District. The attacker emerged from the vehicle before it burst into flames. Police stated that there were propane gas cylinders in the vehicle, but they did not explode.[2]

Bourke STreet Mall East, Melbourne

The man then went on a stabbing spree with a large knife and wounded three pedestrians, one of whom was later pronounced dead at the scene. The attacker was then confronted by two Victoria Police patrol officers who arrived at the scene. A member of the public also attempted to ram a shopping trolley into the attacker.[3] After slashing at the police officers, the attacker was shot once in the chest by one of the officers. The attacker was then restrained and taken to receive medical treatment under guard, but later died in hospital.[4]

The attack is considered to be “terror-related” by police.[5] Police have confirmed that the attack was ISIS-inspired.[6] Islamic State has taken responsibility through its Amaq news website.[7][8][9]

Police identified the attacker as 30-year-old Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, who moved to Australia from Somalia in the 1990s with his parents and siblings, and attended Al-Taqwa Islamic College. He was married with a young son.[10]

Sisto Malaspina, aged 74, was killed when the perpetrator stabbed him above his collar bone. Eyewitnesses said it appeared Malaspina was walking over to the car after it burst into flames to offer assistance, when he was stabbed. A former nurse tried to revive him by performing CPR but the stabbing had punctured a major artery causing too much blood to be lost.[18]

Those injured were a 58-year-old retired businessman from Launceston, Tasmania,[20] who suffered knife injuries to the head and was taken to the Alfred Hospital for surgery[21] and a 24-year-old security guard from Hampton Park who received lacerations and was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.[22]

Prime Minister Scott Morrison received criticism for a statement he made on television suggesting that Muslim communities in Australia were partly responsible for failing to report extremism,[24] with the Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, responding that Morrison’s position constituted “serious discrimination” against Muslims and blaming security agencies for failing to prevent the attack.

Read more by clicking here

(Credit:Wikipedia)

Hits: 2

A scholarship offered to Racist by Melbourne Law Firm

The Global Mobility Immigration Lawyers Scholarship is an annual initiative, open to all students enrolled in a course of secondary, tertiary or post-graduate practical education/training.

The topic for 2019 is:

The Racist Inside Me Discuss a time when you felt xenophobic and how you have since evolved.

The web site explains how to obtain this scholarship. Click here.

Have you been a Racist? You could be running for $1000 scholarship

 

Hits: 2

Annual Shankabhishekam at Darwin Varasiddhi Vinayaka Temple

By : Shashi Khanna.

An idol in a Temple is given life by reciting mantras on  an auspicious day. The idol is considered to have been born on that day whilst the birth star is calculated by time of Its consecration. Every year the idol’s

Birthday and Star is celebrated by renewing the mantras and rejuvenating the Shakti, power or life force of the idol. The Vara Siddhi  Vinayaka Temple is no different. Over the weekend we conducted the annual Shankabhishekam to rejuvenate and reinforce Darwin Siddhi Vinayaka on His birthday and birth star.
 
Festivities concluded with a mass Lakshmi Pooja performed by about 40 female devotees. It was a sight to behold, of beauty, grace, colour and devotion. They each invoked and brought to life Mahalaxmi in the form of a lamp to Whom flowers and fruit were offered in reverent worship. The Mahalaxmi mantras chanted by the visiting priest rend the air, which vibrated with auspiciousness and piety.

Hits: 1

Memorial dedicated to Indian Anzacs to be unveiled in Sydney

Twelve Indian-origin soldiers volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force during WWI, according to the records in the National Archives of Australia

Hits: 0

SBS News reports Diwali celebrations

SBS coverage of Deepavali celebration in Parramatta

Hits: 0