Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan by William R. LaFleur

By William R. LaFleur

Why may a rustic strongly encouraged by means of Buddhism's reverence for all times permit legalized, conventional abortion? both perplexing to many Westerners is the japanese perform of mizuko rites, within which the oldsters of aborted fetuses pray for the future health of those rejected "lives." during this provocative research, William LaFleur examines abortion as a window at the tradition and ethics of Japan. whilst he contributes to the Western debate on abortion, exploring how the japanese get to the bottom of their conflicting feelings privately and keep away from the pro-life/pro-choice politics that sharply divide american citizens at the factor.

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Its options·have become narrowed. How we tend to conceive of the problem of abortion is an obvious case in point. Because what is sometimes called America's new "civil war" over abortion divides us so deeply, we look to the courts or future changes in the courts to either retain or alter our laws. Just as we hope someone somewhere-probably a medic or a judge-will be able tell us exactly A WORLD OF WATER AND WORDS 15 what makes a person "dead," so we hope to be told at what "point" in time life begins.

Ours is a society that seems to have long cherished the belief that through adequate definitions it might achieve some salvation from its most troubling problems. There has been, in both private and public talk, a great fondness for the phrase "merely a matter of semantics "-as if matters of substantive difference do not exist and the only problem we have is the relatively easy one of clarifying a few key terms. We put a lot of stock in what can be accomplished by merely clearing away certain terminological mists.

Much of what we call religion and the attempt to be philosophical are born out of the human being's 10ngstanding desire to take something other than the simplest and most matter-of-fact view of life and death. Throughout human history, religion and philosophy-for the most part at least-have strongly resisted the assumption that a given "life" is neatly coextensive with that complex of chemicals we call the human body. Thus the priest at the graveside intones words about the difference between the corpse that is going into the earth and the soul that has gone on to be with God.

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