Saturday, 28 February 2015

Buddhist Fideism or Fideism in Buddhism?

As usual, whenever I ponder over a question as to whether there is an idea or theory of “x” in Buddhism. I try to see how the word “x” is understood outside “Buddhism.” In this case, it is “Fideism.” What is “Fideism” supposed to mean and is there such a thing as “Fideism” in Buddhism? It is supposed to be “an epistemological theory which maintains that faith is independent of reason, or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths…. The word fideism comes from fides, the Latin word for faith, and literally means ‘faith-ism.’ Theologians and philosophers have responded in various ways to the place of faith and reason in determining the truth of metaphysical ideas, morality, and religious beliefs. A fideist is one who argues for fideism. Historically, fideism is most commonly ascribed to four philosophers: Pascal, Kierkegaard, William James, and Wittgenstein; with fideism being a label applied in a negative sense by their opponents, but which is not always supported by their own ideas and works or followers. There are a number of different forms of fideism” (Wikipedia, s.v.). 

The question in the Buddhist context would be what we mean by “faith” and whether there is at all such a thing as “faith.” Some of the words that come to my mind are dad pa, dang ba, mos pa, and so on. We can also consider Sanskrit, Pāli, and Chinese terms for these. We shall have to see how these words have been explained or defined, for example, in Abhidharmic sources. While mos pa (adhimokṣa or adhimukti) is a kind of “believing trust” (in something or someone), dang pa and dad pa seem to be described as a clear state of mind which is able to reflect the good qualities of others (i.e. of the Three Jewels); a state of mind which is capable of appreciation (and emotions such as compassion, although objects  of appreciation and compassion are different). A person with dad pa and dang ba is often touched or moved by the good qualities of others; is capable of tears of appreciation (e.g. upon hearing the teaching of emptiness)(and compassion, e.g. upon witnessing sentient beings in pain and suffering). The former case is expressed very eloquently by Candrakīrti in his Madhyamakāvatāra. Faith, if it is one and in this sense, is, of course considered positively in Buddhism. 

But the question is whether faith in this sense is seen (a) as self-sufficient and independent of reason and is thus capable of causing one to gain direct meditative access to the true reality thereby causing one to attain one’s soteriological goal; (b) if faith is seen hostile or contradictory to reason, and (c) if faith is superior to reason. Most Buddhist philosophers would perhaps propose that (a) faith is inadequate and not totally independent of reason, (b) faith and reason are not mutually exclusive, and (c) faith is not superior to reason. An aspirant would need both faith and reason; a reason-based faith is ideal and possible. One can, however, begin one’s spiritual aspiration with either faith or reason, or both at the same time. A faith-oriented person is usually considered dull and a reason-oriented person usually sharp (i.e. in terms of cognitive faculty) but to be noted is that theoretically one can also consider dull or sharp in terms of one’s “faculty of faith” (dad pa’i dbang po). It seems that both faculties of faith and reason are seen as means of gaining direct access into the true reality and for some faith works better and for others reason works better. In either case, what counts is that one is capable of penetrating the true reality with one’s direct meditative insight for which there is no other alternative.

There is, however, a statement according to which one can realize the ultimate truth only through faith. Such a position seems to be indicate Fideism in Buddhism but even faith in such a context may be easily reconcilable with reason. Buddhism would normally deprecate faith (such as faith in the Creator God) as being completely detrimental to one’s aspiration for one’s nirvāṇic release, for a faith in an non-existent God or substantial (or metaphysical) Self is an “acquired/superimposed ignorance/nescience” (kun tu btags pa’i ma rig pa), induced through indoctrination. Ignorance is Buddhism can perhaps never be bliss!

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Buddhist Iconology/Symbology

If “iconology” is “the study of icons or artistic symbolism,” “Buddhist Iconology” may be defined as the “study of Buddhist icons and symbols.” Cf. “Symbology, the study or use of symbols.”

Buddhist Bromatology/Nutriology/Sitiology/Sitology

“Bromatology” is defined as “the science of aliments or food.” In the Buddhist context, I would like to define “Buddhist Bromatology” or “Buddhist Nutriology” simply as “the Buddhist philosophy of food or nutrition.” Note that “sitiology/sitology” is said to be “the science of food and nourishment.” Cf. Trophology.

While reading the bSam gtan mig sgron, I just happened to wonder if there is something called “a philosophy of food” and specifically if there is something called a “a Buddhist philosophy of food.” So what do we nowadays? Just google and see if something pops up. And lo the first thing I find is “The Philosophy of Food” (a Sammelband edited by David M. Kaplan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012). I did not read the book but people are talking about the book. The publisher ad says: “This book explores food from a philosophical perspective, bringing together sixteen leading philosophers to consider the most basic questions about food: What is it exactly? What should we eat? How do we know it is safe? How should food be distributed? What is good food?” According to a reader, it is said to take up a “a number of philosophical/ethical issues related to food, food production, and the aesthetic experience of eating and enjoying food” and about “ethical gourmandism, the myth of happy meat, veganism as a moral baseline, and nutritionism and functional foods.”

I also googled up “Gastronomology,” but this does not seem to be a serious attested word. I also googled to see if I could find “Nutritionology.” I could not find any occurrence of it, although “nutritionism,” as we just encountered, can be found.

Now can we speak of a “Buddhist philosophy of food,” or, perhaps “A Buddhist Nutritionology”? I think, we can. I have a feeling the Buddhist sources would have a great deal to tell us about food. Buddhist philosophy of food or Buddhist Nutritionology would be intricately linked with the Buddhist perception and conception of the body, its nature, status, value, and function, and this in turn, with Buddhist soteriology.

Again here, too, it would be ideal if we can obtain a diachronic and synchronic view of the issues. Here are some random points: (a) First of all, a definition and typology of food should be examined. Can food be defined as a “means of sustenance”? What about the types of food? In this regard, one immediately would think of the four types of food discussed in Abhidharmic sources: kham gyi zasreg pa’i zassems pa’i zas, and rnam par shes pa’i zas (or rnam shes kyi zas). Also Vinayic sources would be valuable for extracting information about food. (b) Foods and medicines would often be discussed together in the Vinayic sources. (c) Ethically/ascetically/spiritually permissible foods and drinks. (d) The problem of meat-eating and vegetarianism. (e) The idea of “right livelihood” (yang dag pa’i ’tsho ba) and log pa’i ’tsho ba would become relevant. (f) Most Buddhist sources would look at food from an ascetic point of view and hence simply regard it like a fuel for the automobile. I think we will also find sources that tell us that we should eat food to feed micro-organism in our body. Not eating too much or too little. One third of the stomach must be filled with solid food, one third with water, and one third with air. (g) The topic of fasting might be relevant as well. The issue of starvation? (h) The topic of avoiding dinner would be an issue as well. (i) The issue of alcohol consumption would be relevant as well.  (h) Perhaps like the types of food in general, the types of plant ingredients: roots, stem, flowers, fruits, and seeds. (i) As one enters the terrains of Tantric Buddhism, one would the encounter “white foods” (vegetarian) and “red foods” (non-vegetarian). Why does Kriyā system prescribe “three whites” and “three sweets” whereas some Mahāyoga systems prescribe “five meats” and “five nectars.” (j) Foods one adopts/avoids in general or only during specific occasions and situations. So it seems the venue for exploration is very vast.

In addition, the various kinds of tastes (i.e. 6 as described in the Abhidharmic literature) and also the sense of taste and enjoyment and its pros and cons from a Buddhist spiritual point of view would be relevant. What about the idea of “Tantric feast” (gaṇacakra: tshogs kyi ’khor lo)? Of course, we also find references to “table manners” (in Vinayic sources): making noises, playing with food, forming food into a shape of animals, etc. Consider: lha bshoszhal zas ro rgya ldan palto mchodja mchodchang mchod. Food prohibition? What about kha srung “dietary restriction”? Where does the idea of nya phag gong gsum come from? From the idea of dug gsum? I think veganism was not known. Any discussion on cannibalism? All in all, we may see that Buddhist philosophy of food is influenced by the Buddhist philosophy of life and soteriology.

Buddhist Somnology

“Somnology” (or “hypnology”) is said to be “the scientific study of sleep.” It would be of some interest to see what Buddhist sources have to say about asleep. Buddhist reflections of discourse on the phenomenon of sleep may be called “Buddhist Somnology.” “Buddhist Somnology” may be defined as a “Buddhist philosophy of sleep.” Some points to ponder about: (a) Is sleep not considered a mental state or factor (cittasika/caitta: sems las byung ba). One of the 51 such mental factors. It is also one of the gzhan ’gyur bzhi. That is, it axiological value is not fixed and hence can be transformed into positive, negative, or neutral. (b) Sleep is conceived of as having two levels or layers, namely, so to speak, light sleep in which dreams can be dreamt, and deep sleep (gnyid ’thug po), which is one of the five states of mindless-ness (sems med pa’i gnas skabs lnga), and is comparable to a state of coma.   

Here is some thoughts that I have made previously and hence there are some repetitions:

I just happened to reflect on what Buddhist sources say on the phenomenon of sleep. Do they at all say something on the topic and if so what? Here are some random thoughts that occur to me. So what I say here should not be taken as representing my fixed position.

§1. I should first study James Hill, “The Philosophy of Sleep: The Views of Descartes, Locke and Leibniz.” Richmond Journal of Philosophy 6, 2004, pp. 1–7. A copy can be found here:

§2. What is sleep? Abhidharmically speaking, “sleep” (gnyid) is considered a “mental associate/factor” (caitta/caittasika: sems las byung ba), that is, one of the (usually) fifty-one caittas “cognitive factors/states” associated with cittas (or vijñānas), the principal cognitive subjects/agents, consisting of the six or eight perceptual-conceptual apparatuses. “Sleep” as a caitta should actually be understood a certain state of citta. It is also counted as one of the so-called gzhan ’gyur bzhi (Sanskrit terms will be added later). That is, gnyid, together with ’gyod pa, rtog pa, and dpyod pa, are considered to be “transformable” into either wholesome, unwholesome, or neutral, depending on the wholesome, unwholesome, or neutral state in which the principle mind, that is,  I guess manovijñāna, finds itself, when the process of sleep takes place. The implication of such a theory for Buddhists is that if one spends half of one’s life in sleep, then at least the time spent sleeping would become meaningful. There may be other Abhidharma positions on this.

§3. Tibetan Buddhist sources seem to classify sleep into what one might call “[light] sleep” (perhaps just gnyid) and “deep sleep” (gnyid ’thug po). The difference between the two is that one is capable of dreams in the former state and not in the latter state. That is, no mental or cognitive activity would take place in a state of deep sleep. In fact, deep sleep is considered one of the “five situations in which citta is absent” (sems med pa’i gnas skabs lnga). (Sources for this will have to  be added later.) Deep sleep, thus, may be said to be somewhat similar to a state of coma (although nowadays people seem to talk about different types/levels of coma). Such a concept of state must have posed doctrinal and exegetical problems. For example, why is a living person in a state of deep sleep not dead? The Yogācāras can be said to have come up with a solution, namely, a subliminal vijñāna called the ālayavijñāna. So for them, what ceases during a state of deep sleep and other states of mind-less-ness is the manovijñāna and others but not ālayavijñāna; ālayavijñāna can continue until one becomes a buddha.

§4. The “four states” (gnas skabs bzhi)—namely, “state of being awake” (sad pa’i gnas skabs), “state of dream” (rmi lam gyi gnas skabs), “state of deep sleep” (gnyid stug po’i gnas skabs), and “state of sexual union or meditative poise” (snyoms ’jug gi gnas skabs)—seem to comprise all possible states of one’s existence. Although the last state is understood by some to be only “state of sexual union,” I think, it should include any ecstatic or orgasmic state in which all conceptual constructions or conceptualisations cease.

§5. What is known as the “six intermediate states” (bar do drug) popular in certain Tibetan Buddhist traditions seems to encompass the entire states of existence. 

§6. The Buddhist ideas about “dreams,” though related with the idea of “sleep” should be treated separately. My concern here is not “dreams” but “sleep.”

§7. Buddhist sources negatively associate “sleep” or “slumber” with “ignorance” and “dreams” with “delusions” and “illusions.” The Summum bonum in Buddhism (particularly for the Mahāyāna) is the state of being “Awakened” (buddha: sangs rgyas). Sleep is associated with “eye-closing” and “ignorance” whereas state of being awakened with “eye-opening” and “insight.” Metaphorically speaking, therefore,  all of us (who are not yet buddhas) are still sleeping and dreaming.

§8. The statues of the reclining Buddha is described often as the “Sleeping Buddha.”  I do not see any online references to a living (Tibetan) Buddhist master who is referred to as a “Sleeping Buddha.” But I do recall some Chinese Buddhist friends who referred to sMin-gling-khri-chen Rin-po-che (1931–2008) as a “Sleeping Buddha.” But why? Of course because he is said to be practising rDzogs-chen teachings, so to speak, in a sleeping mode! We critics and skeptics would have all kinds of explanations but let us withhold them for the time being. Our question here is that if the rDzogs-chen tradition takes for granted that there is a practice that can be practiced while sleeping (or perhaps just lying down), how does it doctrinally legitimise such a practice?

§9. Two kinds of ideas seem to be relevant for such a practice. First, the rDzogs-chen tradition maintains that its teachings can be practiced both by “hard-working ones” (brtson ’grus can) and “lazy ones” (le lo can). (Sources should be added later.) The implication is that just because one is “lazily” reclining down or sleeping, it does not mean that one is not practicing. The legend of Śāntideva (Śāntadeva) would be easily used to illustrate this. Most of us have no way to verify such a claim. Only the practitioner himself or herself would know if he or she is indeed practicing or just whiling away her or her time in sleep. Second, gNubs-chen’s bSam gtan mig sgron (pp. 351–352) seems to provide yet another doctrinal justification. The expression employed there is the “Mode of Great Meaningful Sleep” (don chen nyal mo’i tshul), that is, a mode in which the “king of awareness” (rig pa’i rgyal po) “sleeps or reclines” (mnal) in (ngang) the sphere of true reality (chos kyi dbyings). This idea is explained in a purely rDzogs-chen context.

Buddhist Thanatology

The Merriam-Webster defines “Thanatology” as “the description or study of the phenomena of death and of psychological mechanisms for coping with them.” Buddhism has a great deal to say about death and hence it will be beneficial to discuss everything that Buddhism has to say about the phenomenon of death  under the term “Buddhist thanatology.” Prince Siddhārtha might not have become a buddha had he not witnessed death. What is death? What are the causes of death? What are the signs of death? What is the Māra of Death? Can one overcome death? How can one overcome death? Who can overcome death? What is deathlessness? Is there such a state called immortality? Is immortality desirable? What is command over the span of life? What happens during the death? What happens after the death? How should one deal with the dead? What are the procedures and rites and rituals connected with death? What is a ’das log? What is “buying” or “cheating” death? There may be many more issues that can be discussed under this term “Buddhist Thanatology.”

Buddhist Deontology

The term “deontology” is said to be derived from Greek deon “obligation, duty” and logia “discourse.” Deontology (or deontological ethics) is said to be “the normative ethical position that judges the morality of an action based on the action’s adherence to a rule or rules. It is sometimes described as ‘duty’ or ‘obligation’ or ‘rule’-based ethics, because rules ‘bind you to your duty.’ Deontological ethics is commonly contrasted to consequentialism, virtue ethics, and pragmatic ethics. In this terminology action is more important than the consequences” (Wikipedia). The question for me is whether we can speak of “Buddhist deontology.” I feel that we can speak of “Buddhist deontology,” particularly in the Mahāyāna context, insofar Buddhism accepts that the rightness or wrongness (or perhaps better, in the Buddhist context, the wholesomeness or unwholesomeness or neutrality) of one’s verbal and physical conduct is determined by the wholesome, unwholesome, or neutral character or nature of the behavior itself rather than the outcomes of the conduct. Two related arguments seem to support the fact in Buddhism even if the action carried out out of a compassionate motive or intention turns out to harm other people, it would nonetheless be considered wholesome.

We are told by some that Kantanism (or Immanuel Kant’s theory of ethics) is deontological for at least two different reasons: First, Kant has argued that to act in the morally right way, people must act from duty (deon). Second, Kant has argued that it was not the consequences of actions that make them right or wrong but the motives of the person who carries out the action. 

Kant’s first argument that to act in the morally right way, people must act from duty (deon) is said to be based on the argument that the highest good must be both good in itself and good without qualification. Does this argument makes any sense from the perspective of Buddhist axiology? Not being sure if Kant’s position has been represented accurately, it is difficult to to say. What does seem questionable is the idea of “duty” in Buddhism. Does it exist in Buddhism and what does it mean? On the one hand, prima facie, at least, we might get an impression that in Buddhism no one is obliged to do anything for anyone, and thus the idea of duty in the sense of obligation simply makes no sense. Such an impression is perhaps created by the fact that Buddhism proposes karmic mechanism and presupposes what Srinivasan has once called Heilsprivatismus (“Salvific Privatism”), which means that each person is responsible for his or her this-worldly or other-worldly mundane destiny and also for one’s soteriological destiny. Whatever one does, one does so out of self-responsibility and not on account of one’s obligation or responsibility towards others. What about one’s duty towards one’s parents, family, and the like? One may perhaps state that this is nothing specifically Buddhistic but rather a societal norm accepted by the society at large. One might thus argue that duty is akin to a penalty and it robs one’s personal freedom to choose and decide. Thus the very word “duty” sounds somewhat contrarious to the Buddhist pattern of thinking. On the other hand, it should be emphasized that Buddhist axiology does prescribe ethical-moral-ascetical commitment and responsibility. Although “duty” or “obligation” may be synonymous to “commitment,” the latter term seems more appropriate in the Buddhist context. The basic idea here is that although one is not obliged to do anything for anyone, one does have the complete freedom to commit oneself to do something or not to something. But once one has taken a commitment upon oneself, one is usually bound by one’s commitment. Even here, one take full responsibility for keeping or breaking one’s commitment. This distinction, in my view, seems crucial. For a person who has not committed himself or herself to refrain from killing, abstaining from killing a human being out of maliciousness is not a duty. For a person who has committed himself or herself to refrain from killing, abstaining from killing a human being out of maliciousness is a duty.

Kant’s idea of “good in itself and good without qualification” seems to be reconcilable with the Buddhist idea of certain mental factors/associates (caitta: sems las byung ba) that are by nature wholesome (ngo bo nyid kyis dge ba). By the way, its opposite, those that are by nature unwholesome (ngo bo nyid kyis mi dge ba), too, is possible in Buddhism. If to (re)formulate Kant’s argument in Abhidharmic terms, it would be thus: “To act in the ethically-morally right way, people must act with wholesome mental factors (dge ba’i sems byung).” Better still: “Any action carried out with wholesome mental factors (dge ba’i sems byung) is ethically/morally right.”

Kant’s second reason, in my view, seems to be ad sensum same as the first argument and thus both arguments seem readily acceptable from a Buddhist perspective. This is also the reason why I think Buddhist axiology proposes deontological ethics.

What would a Buddhist philosopher think of Kant’s categorical imperative? “Act only according to that maxim by which you can also will that it would become a universal law.” I think it would be found laudable and endorsable. I have a feeling that the Mahāyānic values crystalized in the six kinds of perfections (pāramitā: pha rol tu phyin pa) imply categorical imperative.

Does Buddhist axiology propose “moral absolutism,” according to which certain actions are absolutely right or wrong, regardless of the intentions behind them as well as the consequences? From a Buddhist perspective, it would seem that the very idea of “moral absolutism” (i.e. if what I read is what it says) seems to be based on the presupposition (or rather on the misconception) that there is an intention-free action. Action, deed, or exertion in Buddhism must be volitional. Action is not a motivation-free or intention-free motion. The rustling of dry leaves in the wind is not an action. One may, however, conceive of a Buddhist version of “moral absolutism,” according to which certain mental actions are absolutely right or wrong, regardless of their consequences. In other words, a unwholesome mental action is always and absolutely wrong, and a wholesome mental action is always and absolutely right. 

On the one hand, the so-called “Divine Command Theory,” according to which “an action is right if God has decreed that it is right” would be deprecated by a Buddhist philosopher as utterly nonsensical because it would be tantamount to stating that “an action is right if the Son of a Barren Woman (or Rabbit’s Horn) has decreed that it is right.” On the other hand, Buddhist sources classify misdeeds that are considered by nature unwholesome and thus by nature reproachable (prakṛtisāvadya: rang bzhin gyi kha na ma tho ba) and those that are reproachable in virtue of prohibition or decree (pratikṣepaṇasāvadya, also rendered into Tibetan as bcas pa’i kha na ma tho ba). The question here is to find something to be “reproachable” by whom? The answer is: a wise person (e.g. the Buddha). A fool’s judgement of something as “reproachable” or “irreproachable” is not valid.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Buddhist Kalology

“Buddhist Kalology” may be defined here as the Buddhist concept or theory of beauty, and may be seen as a branch of Buddhist axiology (dealing with aesthetic values).

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Buddhist Killology or Cideology

Killology is said to be “the study of the psychological and physiological effects of killing and combat on the human psyche” and the term is said to have been coined by the retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (US Army). Perhaps I may be the first person to try to employ the word “killology” in a Buddhist context. I would, however, propose to define “Buddhist Killology” (or perhaps better “Buddhist Cideology,” from French -cide, from Latin cida “cutter, killer”) as a “scholarly study of the Buddhist attitude towards the act of killing.” For the sake of discussing the Buddhist attitude toward killing, one might primarily consider those x-cide words. To be noted is that an x-cide word usually mean one of these four things: (a) “killing x,” where x is an animate or sentient being (e.g. matricide), (b) “killing through or by means of x,” where x is often a tangible entity (e.g. autocide),(c) “a kind of substance that is used to kill x,” where x is often a nuisance-causing and hence unwanted small creature such as bug or vermin (e.g. German Ungetier and Ungeziefer) (e.g. pesticide), or (d) the act of destroying x (literarily or figuratively), where x is usually an inanimate and intangible entity (e.g. chronocide “the killing or wasting of time,” famacide “the killing of another’s reputation, a slander,” liberticide “the destruction of liberties, linguicide “intentionally causing the death of a language,” and libricide “the destruction of books and libraries mainly with a religious or political ideology”). Our main concern in this context would be x-cide in the first sense.

Some random points may be made in this regard. First of all, killing may be defined by Buddhist sources as a physical act of the destruction or cutting (short) of or putting an abrupt end to life or life-faculty (jīvendriya: srog gi dbang po) of a sentient being. Naturally therefore the issue of what is sentient is crucial in Buddhism. Lambert Schmithausen’s study of the issue of sentiency of plants in Buddhism should be presupposed here. According to him and if I remember correctly, Buddhists in the beginning were reticent about the sentiency of plants and that plants were considered borderline cases by them but in course of time, they decided in favor of the in-sentiency of plants. In other words, according to Buddhism, plants may be considered living things but not living or sentient beings. Killing here thus refers to only killing of sentient beings. 

Second, killing, being a physical or bodily act or deed in Buddhism, can never be considered categorically or apodictically unwholesome, wholesome, or neutral, although most acts or deeds of killing would be committed through motives tinged by intellectual-emotional defilements (kleśa: nyon mongs pa) such as desire, hatred, greed, jealousy, and so forth, and thus considered unwholesome ethically, morally, spiritually (or ascetically), and karmically (or legally). The most decisive factor is thus the wholesomeness, unwholesomeness, or neutrality of the preceding, accompanying, or concluding volitional impulse or motivation of the main agent of the act of killing. I specify here “main agent” to exclude a “commissioned killer” (who may be mostly considered an instrument of killing). A “commissioned killer” may or may not be an accomplice in the volitionary act of killing. The equivocality or equivocacy of the act of killing in terms of ethical, moral, spiritual (or ascetic), and karmic positivity, negativity, or neutrality, makes the act of killing one of the greatest challenges in Buddhist philosophy. I may have killed a person and claim that I did it out of pure compassion and benevolence. I may have killed a person out of pure hatred and maliciousness. I may have killed someone in the course of a sleep-walking. Can one, who can, and how can one determine the positivity, negativity, or neutrality of the motive behind an act of killing and thus judge accordingly as wholesome, unwholesome, and neutral? 

Third, one may classify types of killing in several ways. Killing may be classified based on (a) the kind of species of sentient being killed (e.g. homicide “killing of a human being”), (b) the killer’s family and other relationship with the victim (i.e. matricide and patricide), (c) spiritual or social status (e.g. regicide “the killing of a monarch”), (d) ways of killing (i.e. capital punishment “the judicial killing of a human being for odious crimes” and euthanasia (also mercy killing) “the killing of any being for compassionate reasons i.e. significant injury or disease,” and so on. But perhaps all types of killing maybe subsumed under suicide (i.e. intentional killing oneself) and paracide (i.e. intentional killing of other sentient beings). For suicide, see q.v. Buddhist Suicidology.

Fourth, the gravity of the act of killing and thus also the karmic (or legal) accountability for it would be determined by a number of factors. Some of such factors presupposed in Buddhism seem to be (a) the size of physical size of a sentient being (e.g. it is not the same killing an ant and an elephant),  (b) number of sentient beings (e.g. whether one kills one cow or a thousand cows), (c) the frequency (e.g. whether one kills a sentient being once or regularly), (d) the intensity or extensity of preceding, accompanying, and concluding volitional impulse, (e) the degree or extent to which the victim happens to be a guṇakṣetra (yon tan gyi zhing) or puṇyakṣetra  (bsod nams kyi zhing), that is, even among human beings it would depend whether the victim is a parent, patient, saint, and the like.

In Buddhism, I doubt that a human being can kill a celestial being (i.e. god) and hence deicide would be, according to Buddhism, an impossibility. Similarly, Buddhocide (i.e. “the killing of the Buddha or a buddha”) would be an impossibility. Nobody can ever kill the Buddha or a buddha! To be noted is that not everyone who is said to possess the Buddha (or Buddhomorphic) Element (buddhadhātu: sangs rgyas kyi khams) can be considered a buddha. Perhaps hagiocide (i.e. killing of a saint), however, is possible insofar as one may be able to kill an arhant or a bodhisattva would get killed. The killing of Tibetan king ’U-dum-btsan may be regarded by Tibetan Buddhists as tyrannicide (i.e. “the killing of a tyrant”), which would be theoretically endorsable. Self-immolation (i.e. suicide by setting oneself on fire, a form of extreme protest), like any other form of suicide or paracide, is subject to equivocality. From a Buddhist point, there would be nothing honorable about the so-called “honor killing” (i.e. the act of killing a family member who has or was perceived to have brought disgrace to the family) would be categorically and apodictically considered reproachable and dishonorable. What about judicial killing? Judicial system is a worldly system and Buddhism (initially and mainly as a discipline of attaining release from the bondage of saṃsāra) would not normally lay down legal systems for the society unless a king or a country happens to follow Buddhist teachings. Some Buddhists may even see a country’s law a kind of jungle’s law and would only hope that people in the jungle would not unjustly send one to the gallows. To change a political or legal system of a country, lay and ordained Buddhist community would have to meddle into and muddle in the dirty waters of politics. One would be free to do so if one can and will but would that be the raison d’être of Buddhist teachings in the first place? What about Euthanasia? Difficult! How can one ensure and be sure that “mercy killing” is indeed merciful and beneficial? Buddhism is bound to view the very intent of genocide (i.e. the systematic extermination of an entire national, racial, religious, or ethnic group) and particularly omnicide (i.e. the act of killing all humans, to create intentional extinction of the human species) heinous. How might Buddhism view human sacrifice (i.e. the killing of a human for religious reasons)? Perhaps it would be viewed as a practice based on completely erroneous views. What about dominicide (i.e. the act of killing one’s (Buddhist) master? It would be usually viewed very negatively. What about episcopicide (i.e. the act of killing a bishop) or vaticide (i.e. the act of killing a prophet)? It may depend on what kind of person that particular bishop or prophet is. If he or she happens to be a person who spreads religion of hate and destruction, a bodhisattva or tāntrika might consider “liberating” him or her. If he or she happens to contribute to compassion, insight, happiness, and peace in the world, episcopicide and vaticide would be a heinous crime.