The shocking news of finding over 2,000 aborted fetuses at a Thai temple is still circulating and has reached the international press now. Now we get to observe how news is colored by cultural foundations as the story is reported. Today’s example was a story by the BBC. First quote, referring to offerings left at the place where the fetuses were found:
The offerings have been left to ease the transition of restless souls from this life to the next.
Fundamental flaw number one. Buddhism recognizes the fundamental truths of existence, one of which is non-self. Non-self is a rather subtle concept and is lost on most people. Basically it identifies existence as a process, not an entity. There is, in fact, no abiding entity in anything that exists. Everything arises and dissipates from the effects of processes. Upshot – there is no soul. The idea of soul is fundamentally flawed as easily demonstrated by several simple mental experiments. Applying western cultural notions to the act of making offerings in Thailand is a mistake. But the classic mistake is when westerners describe Buddhist chanting as “praying to Buddha”. Fundamentally flawed thinking.
The bulk of the BBC story is about how this shocking story is going to change the way abortion is viewed by Thais. That is also a mistake. In Buddhism there is no confusion about when life begins and when it is wrong to kill. So there aren’t any of these impertinent arguments about how a fetus is not a human being because it can’t live outside the body. That specious argument is irrelevant. In Buddhism it is wrong to kill any being under any circumstances. Doing so means you will eventually suffer the karmic consequences. Also in Buddhism life is recognized to begin at the moment of conception. A person’s “true” age includes the nine months in the womb. That is the age used to determine if a man is eligible to ordain.
The only change, if there will be any, will perhaps be more discussion about how to prevent unwanted pregnancies among teens, which is the group that is probably having most of the abortions. And also, perhaps, more support of young women who get pregnant and have the baby.