Online Conference on Buddhism and Human Rights

1-14th October 1995

Sponsored by the Journal of Buddhist Ethics

Closing Statement

The online conference on Buddhism and Human Rights sponsored by the Journal of Buddhist Ethics has now concluded. The editorial staff of the journal would like to thank everyone who graciously supported the conference and contributed to its success by freely sharing their views, opinions, and comments. No more e-mail contributions from subscribers will be accepted for publication on JBE-L.

 During the two weeks of the conference, the journal's homepage at its United States site was accessed 1,350 times, while the "conference page" was accessed 249 times. If accesses from the journal's others sites were included, the total accesses would be substantially higher. Additionally, more than 400 messages were submitted to the journal and posted to subscribers through JBE-L. Moreover, each of the online articles was accessed many many times, suggesting to the editors that there is healthy and vigorous support for electronic conferences of this type. We are clearly hoping to make a yearly online conference part of the journal's regular activity. Coupled with its new and timely book review section, the editorial staff believes it is offering to its subscribers an exciting package of features not available in any other Buddhist Studies publication. We are delighted to be able to continue to offer this service free of charge to all Internet users.

 Because of the grave importance of this year's topic, it seemed appropriate to produce a "Declaration on Buddhism and Human Rights," developed from the formal papers, panelists' position statements, and subscribers' comments. In the preparation of the formal Declaration of the conference, the editorial staff consulted with Dr. Peter Harvey, who perhaps more than any of the conference participants, made an enormous contribution of time and energy to ensure the success of the conference. His work was instrumental in creating the statement that follows, and we are deeply grateful to him for his guidance and leadership. We are also indebted to Mr. Ron Moss ( for the title "Declaration of Interdependence."

 Once again, thank you for making this first attempt at electronic conferencing a resounding success.

 Damien Keown, Co-Editor
Charles Prebish, Co-Editor
Wayne Husted, Technical Editor
Karen Lang, Book Review Editor

Declaration of Interdependence


Those who have the good fortune to have a "rare and precious human rebirth," with all its potential for awareness, sensitivity, and freedom, have a duty to not abuse the rights of others to partake of the possibilities of moral and spiritual flourishing offered by human existence. Such flourishing is only possible when certain conditions relating to physical existence and social freedom are maintained. Human beings, furthermore, have an obligation to treat other forms of life with the respect commensurate to their natures.

 To repress our basic sympathy by abusing other sentient beings, human or otherwise, cripples our own potential, and increases the amount of suffering in the world for both others and ourselves. The doctrine of Conditioned Arising shows that our lives are intertwined, and abusing others can only be done when we are blind to this fact. As vulnerable beings in a conditioned world, our mutual dependency indicates that whatever can be done to reduce suffering in the world should be done.

 The Buddhist teaching that we lack an inherently existing Self (anattaa) shows that suffering does not really "belong" to anyone. It arises, in the life-stream of various sentient beings. To try and reduce it in "my" stream at the expense of increasing it in another life-stream is folly, both because this will in fact bring more suffering back to me (karma), and because it depends on the deluded notion that "I" am an inviolable entity that is not dependent and can treat others as if only they are limited and conditioned.

 Whereas in its teachings Buddhism recognizes:

1. The interdependency of all forms of life and the reciprocal obligations which arise from it, such as the duty to repay the kindness of those who in previous lives may have been our parents, relatives and friends;
2. The need for universal compassion for sentient beings who are all alike in that they dislike pain and wish for happiness;
3. The inalienable dignity which living creatures possess by virtue of their capacity to achieve enlightenment in this life or in the future;
The Conference affirms:

1. Every human being should be treated humanely both by other individuals and governments in keeping with the Buddhist commitment to non-violence (ahi.msaa) and respect for life.
2. Every human being must be treated equally and without discrimination on grounds of race, nationality, religion, sex, color, age, mental ability, or political views.
3. Human beings have obligations to other sentient beings and to the environment that all depend on for life and flourishing, now and in the future. Accordingly, humans have an obligation to present and future generations to protect the environment they share with other sentient beings, and to avoid causing direct or indirect harm to other forms of sentient life.
Dated: 14 October 1995

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