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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
16 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 1 4 Right now whatever you say will just be another opinion that she will take or leave, according to her own heart and circumstances. However, it will influence her in ways that won’t necessarily be healthy. Over the years I have been in your situation many times, and I have never offered advice. Perhaps at times I have leaned a bit, but afterward I hoped my slight leaning wasn’t picked up on. I have a teacher friend who told me once that in her early years of teaching, she would instruct yoginis who were preg- nant not to have abortions under any circumstances. She regrets doing so now. This is a decision that must be made by the person involved. Friends can help immensely by staying open and clear. This compassionate clarity provides a con- text within which one can inquire deeply into this question without fear of condemnation and shame. In general, I hold the perspective of being anti-abortion and pro-choice. I don’t think anyone in his or her heart of hearts is really “for” abortion. It is never desirable. At the same time, compassion means holding the greater picture and not leaving anyone or anything out. This requires the capacity to hold the complexity of things and the ability to recognize the mysterious nature of this world that is far from simple and basically unknowable. Do your best to bring the biggest mind and the greatest perspective possible to your friend and be willing to be open to the suffering of all involved without taking sides. In this way, you can be truly helpful. TENZIN WANGYAL RINPOCHE: There is no one clear or simple answer to this question. Any guidance I might offer would depend on the situation of the woman who conceived the child. If a woman is able to have a child without risk to her life and is willing and able to give the child love, care, atten- tion, nourishment, and education, then to intentionally termi- nate a pregnancy would, according to the Buddhist teachings, constitute taking a life. It is possible that the hesitation or uncertainty on the part of the mother-to-be is a result of a lack of emotional support or confidence to bring a child into the world. Deeply listening to all of your friend’s concerns and being warmly present without judgment could be the beginning of the support she needs to embrace her condition. However, if the mother-to-be is unwilling or unable to care for a child, then there is no virtue in giving birth, especially through a sense of religious obligation or fear. That is impure motivation and would prolong the suffering of both the mother and the child. Bringing someone into the world under unfa- vorable circumstances without the necessary supports for the child to grow and be nourished only increases suffering. This is equivalent to dying not just one time but many times in one lifetime, for both the mother and the child. Even though it is against Buddhist precepts to take a life, it is also not virtuous to give birth under circumstances that would increase suffer- ing for oneself or another—a suffering that seems greater than ending a pregnancy that is unwanted. We Offer Four Core Programs for Contemplative Living in the Digital Age: Nalanda Institute Certificate Program in Contemplative Psychotherapy for therapists, caregivers, coaches, and educators Nalanda Institute Four Year Program in Sustainable Happiness for everyone seeking personal self-healing, growth, and development Nalanda Institute Program for Mindful Families for families and caregivers seeking alternatives to labels and pills Nalanda Institute Program for Mindful Business for businesses and leaders seeking resilience and innovation www.nalandascience.org firstname.lastname@example.org (212) 362-3895 Nalanda Institute