During the present times, there is an excessive need to vaccinate people, but what I have noticed is that when one wishes to scrutinize this action, when one wants to ask viable, pertinent and objective questions regarding vaccination those emotionally intelligent, explorative endeavours are often shutdown and the person given the label of 'anti vaxxer' and 'conspiracy theorist'; the freedom to engage in a healthy dialogue is severely compromised. At the same time, I respect that people are afraid and in need to find a solution to the current issue.

In the sutras, we can find analogies that describe the Buddha as the doctor, knowledge of the Dharma as the medicine, monastics as the nursing staff, and all people as the patients. According to this medical analogy, Buddhism is considered a medication with a broad meaning - a medication that can cure the ailments in all aspects of life. In general, but with exceptions, Western medicine functions within a much smaller framework. Western medicine typically approaches illness through physical symptoms. This approach tends to temporarily reduce the suffering and remove the symptoms for a period, but a lack of symptoms does not mean that the root cause has been identified and removed. Therefore, the complete elimination of the disease has not occurred. Buddhism offers patients not only symptomatic relief, but also spiritual guidance to ensure overall and long-lasting health.

While Western researchers have conducted massive studies on pathology, pharmacology, immunology, and anatomy, enabling them to develop more sophisticated medical techniques, scientists still doubt that religion can help explain the cause of a disease. Without validating the role of religion in disease, scientists remain quite distant from the definition of disease, its causes, and its treatments as understood from a religious perspective. According to Buddhism, it is not enough to approach to medicine in a manner that simply eradicates symptoms; the spiritual aspect of disease and its mind-based causes and remedies must be the primary consideration.

Taken from the Buddhist Academy

As a practising Buddhist, it's my view that a person should uphold the ultimate position on what they choose to accept into their body. However, I'm prepared to look at this from other viewpoints.

From a Buddhist perspective, should choosing to have a vaccine under these interesting but challenging times be a discernment that concerns just our own body, or a discernment that should include others too?

From a Buddhist perspective, how does one reconcile with the huge moral and ethical shortcomings that allow pharmaceutical companies to indemnify themselves from any Ill effects caused by vaccination?

  • I would like to invite any down-voters to try to provide an answer. As I said in the question, I'm prepared to look at other viewpoints.
    – user17652
    Feb 13, 2021 at 12:32
  • It's unfortunate this was closed; I had a worthwhile answer to give, and got shut out half way through. But it's not so unfortunate that I'm going to vote to reopen... Feb 13, 2021 at 15:49
  • It was closed with this reason - This question does not appear to be about Buddhist philosophy, teaching, and practice, within the scope defined in the help center.
    – user17652
    Feb 13, 2021 at 18:56
  • @Ted Wringly - I would like to read your response. I voted for the question to be reopened for this purpose.
    – user17652
    Feb 13, 2021 at 19:03
  • It looks like I have the option to edit the question. Clearly it has ruffled some feathers somewhere. If any of the moderators can help me edit the question so that it fits within the bounds of Buddhist philosophy, teaching, and practice then I would appreciate it.
    – user17652
    Feb 13, 2021 at 19:14

5 Answers 5


Let's think for a moment about the choice this question (apparently) leaves us with. Do we:

  1. align ourselves with the set of anxieties and angers that coalesce around conceptions of highly transmissible and overtly deadly diseases, or...
  2. align ourselves with the set of anxieties and angers that coalesce around conceptions of overbearing sociopolitical actors and callously indifferent industries?

The first is tanhā related to the physical body, on the idea that the behavior of everyone must be moderated and restricted for the health and safety of all. The second is tanhā related to the egoic self-image, on the idea that there are inviolable rights inherent in the self that must not be violated by unconscionable actors. Of course, there's nothing unusual about this. I might even go so far as to say that politics itself (from the Buddhist perspective) is always the public stage on which different forms of tanhā fight battles for dominance. But still... The cessation of tanhā is the goal of Buddhist practice, so something in this question is leading astray.

If we allow both these vectors of tanhā to fade away — release the image of perfect health security for everyone, and release the image of perfect liberty for ourselves, with all their attached urgings and impulses — what's left? The only thing left is compassion for people (including ourselves) struggling through difficult times, caught in a confluence of fears. Ultimately it doesn't matter what we do or do not put in our bodies, because bodies (ultimately) thrive and then wither on their own schedules. Ultimately it doesn't matter if others abuse our rights and liberties, because who we are (ultimately) cannot be taken by anyone. There are always things gone wrong in the world, and while we should sit up and face those things squarely, we should do it gently, in the understanding that this 'wrongness' arises because people are trapped in their own fixated illusions. We must be able to embrace the delusions along with reality, because only by holding both at once can we find the compassion we need.

Protect yourself, protect those around you. Ease the heart of the world, which is already inflamed enough. There's no principle to apply here, aside from the generic rule that compassion is the response to suffering.

  • Perhaps there's another or a related principle: that harming others causes regret or remorse, so you aspire to behaving ethically i.e. to avoid being harmful.
    – ChrisW
    Feb 14, 2021 at 9:14
  • 1
    @ChrisW: Well... It seems to me the urge to avoid negative emotions (like regret and remorse) is another ego-based anxiety. I mean, sure: that approach might work at a certain level of development, but it will prove to be a stumbling block if it is entrenched as a foundational point of ethics. Feb 14, 2021 at 20:18
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    @Dhammadhatu: You're entitled to cast whatever vote you like. And I generally welcome feedback, too, though I'm having a hard time filtering out the unpleasantness in your comment to find any meaningful or useful critiques. Apparently you don't think I understand Buddhism very well. But you know, I don't think you understand Buddhism very well. Or maybe you understand it well enough, but fail to put it into practice in your writing; hard to say. However, I do agree we can disagree without being disagreeable. Maybe we could open up a private chat and hash things out? Feb 16, 2021 at 5:16
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    @Dhammadhatu: well... First: that's not what I said, and I'm saddened you read it that way. Second: I didn't critique your answer, I chided you for calling someone 'brainwashed' because they disagreed with you. What you are doing there and here is not right speech and it's not right action. I'd really like to cool this down and have a proper discussion, but I'm not sure how we can accomplish that. Do you have any suggestions? Feb 16, 2021 at 5:38
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    @Dhammadhatu: I don't have anything to let go of here, D. I'm not wrong in my answer, and I'm not wrong that you've fallen short of right speech and right action. I have not critiqued your answer even once (though you keep talking as though I have); I've critiqued your behavior because such behavior needs adjusting. That is the point you are studiously trying to avoid (even though there's no shame in missing the mark). And take care: not every one you meet will be the blind fool you assume them to be; best not to make the assumption at all. Feb 16, 2021 at 7:39

The monastic rules of the Vinaya has rules pertaining to food, lodging, medicine, conduct etc. There are rules pertaining to medical care. The Buddha ate, slept, wore robes, took medicine when he was ill etc.

The Middle Way of the Buddha avoids both extreme indulgence and extreme asceticism. It includes moderation in food, healthcare and living. To neglect healthcare is to go against the Middle Way of moderation.

From Kucchivikara-vatthu of the Theravada Vinaya, the Buddha taught:

"A sick person endowed with five qualities is hard to tend to: he does what is not amenable to his cure; he does not know the proper amount in things amenable to his cure; he does not take his medicine; he does not tell his symptoms, as they actually are present, to the nurse desiring his welfare, saying that they are worse when they are worse, improving when they are improving, or remaining the same when they are remaining the same; and he is not the type who can endure bodily feelings that are painful, fierce, sharp, wracking, repellent, disagreeable, life-threatening. A sick person endowed with these five qualities is hard to tend to.

"A sick person endowed with five qualities is easy to tend to: he does what is amenable to his cure; he knows the proper amount in things amenable to his cure; he takes his medicine; he tells his symptoms, as they actually are present, to the nurse desiring his welfare, saying that they are worse when they are worse, improving when they are improving, or remaining the same when they are remaining the same; and he is the type who can endure bodily feelings that are painful, fierce, sharp, wracking, repellent, disagreeable, life-threatening. A sick person endowed with these five qualities is easy to tend to.

Based on this Vinaya quote, I would say that the Buddha himself would have wanted his followers to practice moderation, and accept the advice of healthcare professionals and the government when dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of course, they should not accept advice blindly but they should ask questions and clarify their doubts before they accept the advice if they see fit, as taught in the Kalama Sutta (below):

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them.

Also, spreading misinformation about Covid-19, masks and vaccines is against the fourth precept of not speaking falsehood.

Wearing a surgical mask is more for the wearer to avoid spreading pathogens to others, than for the wearer's own protection from contracting an infectious disease. As such, wearing a mask with the explicit intention of reducing others' suffering, is also an expression of compassion (karuna).

Getting vaccinated with the intention of preventing others, especially the high risk group, from becoming infected, is also an expression of compassion (karuna).

The quote from DN 26 below, also shows that the Buddha did not promote anarchy or civil disobedience. He stated that the wheel-turning monarch should provide just protection and security to his subjects and also care for their welfare.

‘But sire, what are the noble duties of a wheel-turning monarch?’

‘Well then, my dear, relying only on principle—honoring, respecting, and venerating principle, having principle as your flag, banner, and authority — provide just protection and security for your court, troops, aristocrats, vassals, brahmins and householders, people of town and country, ascetics and brahmins, beasts and birds. Do not let injustice prevail in the realm. Pay money to the penniless in the realm.

I would even say that a responsible Buddhist should support his or her government and follow its advice (after clarifying it), if the government is discernibly doing the right thing, and if its advice is in accordance with the five precepts, Right Action, Right Speech and Right Livelihood. For e.g. conscription into military service is against Right Livelihood, and should be declined.

  • 1
    This is a very helpful and informative answer.
    – user17652
    Feb 13, 2021 at 14:07
  • i mark this answer down because the writer claims to know the efficacy of masks where countries such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark & Holland have not mandated the use of masks and Mr Fauci of the USA originally said to not wear mask, then said to wear one mask and then said to wear two. there is no evidence masks work and in fact masks can lead to false sense of security and carelessness. the pre-Covid WHO guidelines were social distancing & hand washing. this answer accuses others of false speech when it itself could be false speech Feb 14, 2021 at 7:34
  • 2
    @Dhammadhatu Some of your statements may be out of date -- e.g. Netherlands makes facemasks mandatory indoors -- or this says it's obligatory in Denmark in various places -- or in Finland it's recommended (even if not obligatory).
    – ChrisW
    Feb 14, 2021 at 9:25
  • appears the above has troubled discerning between reality & political correctness. Feb 14, 2021 at 12:09
  • The only issue with this answer is that I'm not sick. I'm being invited to use preventative measures just in case I get sick. Additionally, the Kalama sutta refers only to seeking a reliable teacher.
    – user17652
    Feb 15, 2021 at 13:27

I've read that one shouldn't sacrifice one's own welfare for the welfare of others, no matter how great. Clearly know your own welfare and be intent on the highest good.

It's from Dhammapada verse 166.

This aside, consider the legal argument of forced vaccination precedent as it was argued in "Jacobson vs Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905), wherein United States Supreme Court upheld the authority of states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws. The Court's decision articulated the view that individual liberty is not absolute and is subject to the police power of the state."

The base argument was that an individual doesn't have the liberty to endanger others.

However individuals do have the right to endanger others, clearly, ie operating a vehicle or owning a gun as is the mere existence of another being a liability to others.

Furthermore it has been argued that the vaccine is assumed to be safe if the state says it is safe, even tho side effects can occur for some it is the individual who has to prove that he is particularly susceptible to the side-effects and therefore the state can not be sued if the individual is made ill or crippled by the inaculation as it was his own responsibility to prove that this was going to happen.

From my own perspective say they cripple you and thus make it difficult to attain the destruction of taints, i think taking these chances would be sacrificing your own welfare for the welfare of others.

It is basically a group being willing to sacrifice an individual for the sake of the collective. Where have we seen this before?

Can you imagine Sariputta walking around and trying to inaculate people against their will or asking others to do it?

There are instances where a group would expell someone & forcibly removing them from an assembly but i really doubt that teacher would mandate the tracking down of recluses to inaculate them against their will.

As i see it, in general if a meditator is bothered by some rule such that it would cause them anxiety then at least sometimes allowances are made, precedent for this is ie the rule of eating once a day being modified as to accomodate the anxious.

I think the question is whether the teacher would say; "I allow monks to refuse the inaculations" or "Inaculations are not to be refused, whoever should refuse is an offense of wrong-doing."

I am not going to tell you what to think but these are the alternatives.

I really don't see this sarscov2 vaccine to be all that essential to the training and i doubt the teacher would mandate it for the Sangha because there are serious side effects which would make the training difficult to fulfill and there is a lot of stress & vexation caused by the ordeal in general as these inaculation side effects if not serious then often still, quoting Bill Gates:'super painful'.

Arahant's aren't known for following the wims of the government and there are plenty of incidents of defiance and that especially in the commentarial stories.

  • There you go, im not sure how much analysis you want and not going to tell you what to do. I can show what i think is the of the essence here.
    – user8527
    Feb 13, 2021 at 19:14
  • Thank you for the additions. Personally, I think many of your points are more in-line with dhamma. From a certain angle it may appear selfish, but from another angle it's completely acceptable. I would like to select this as a correct answer, but I don't understand the Bill Gates reference. There is a place for vaccination in this physical world and at this current time in whatever form it takes. Whether it is right or not should be left to the individual to decide - having made reasonable enquiries. Viruses have been around for a long time and nature seems to have managed them perfectly well.
    – user17652
    Feb 15, 2021 at 11:09
  • The reference was to a comment he made about a particular sarscov2 vaccine, my point being that a vaccine being a cause for vexation is not unheard of and one should weigh the pros and cons. In general i think the vaccine thing should be analyzed on a case to case basis as to the particulars of the vaccine and individual predispositions.
    – user8527
    Feb 15, 2021 at 12:49
  • Thanks. I selected Ted Wrigley's answer because of how he used the word 'tanha' in his answer.
    – user17652
    Feb 15, 2021 at 14:14
  • 1
    Let's not fret over which answer looks best to this or that person :) Have a good one and tnx for asking.
    – user8527
    Feb 15, 2021 at 14:49

From a Buddhist perspective, how does one reconcile with the huge moral and ethical shortcomings that allow pharmaceutical companies to indemnify themselves from any Ill effects caused by vaccination?

I agree with ruben2020's advice, but I want to add that I also like to follow doctor's orders -- i.e. it isn't only me, the government, and the pharmaceutical companies -- there are experts i.e. doctors who decide.

I want others to have medical advice, I think it's right that I do the same.

Incidentally I lived in one of the rare jurisdictions where they wanted everyone to get a flu shot. My doctor, recommending that I get one, was quite open with me that it was recommended "for the sake of the herd" as well as for my own benefit.

  • It seems the intention behind vaccination is well meaning. I agree with maintaining human life. It's a very precious existence.
    – user17652
    Feb 13, 2021 at 15:22
  • there are doctors out there carelessly prescribing antidepressants and getting people addicted to them. sorry but the above answer lacks yoniso manasikara. also, there is no medical consensus on this matter therefore the main argument in the answer of trusting a doctor is non-sequitur Feb 14, 2021 at 7:29

the question is unrelated to buddhism because buddhism is about what is verified to work to alleviate harm & suffering

the virus has been around for 12 months now and people are not dying in the streets

30 million Americans have been tested Covid positive, estimates have been made of 105 million Americans positive, yet around 500,000 Americans died with Covid

of those 500,000 deaths, 94% had an average of 2.9 comorbidities contributing to their deaths (thus regardless may have died within the next 5 years)

ignoring the spike in excess deaths for young people (who have probably died of drugs & suicides, as stated by the CDC), the excess American death rate has been calculated at around 14%, which is an increase in the overall death rate from around 0.9% to around 1.04%. Again, due to comorbidities, the excess death number may simply include a concentration of premature deaths of comorbid people therefore may not represent what would have occurred in the future

many western countries have not reported any excess deaths however the USA is a country with terrible comorbid health, especially obesity & diabetes, and terrible medical care for the masses. it is quite evident in the USA, UK & Sweden many of the deaths were due to medical malpractice, such as moving old sick people out of hospitals and into age care homes or refusing to attempt to use certain medicines which have been shown the work in a majority (but not all) cases

the vaccines have not been extensively tested on the high risk groups, such as the elderly, which is why many European countries have restricted some vaccine use on the elderly

Pfizer have clearly said they cannot guarantee their 'vaccine' can stop transmission

therefore, the vaccination program appears largely experimental and not known if it can stop the deaths of the tiny group of people vulnerable to Covid-19 death

it follows a Buddhist cannot be informed enough to make a clear decision about this and it also follows a clear-minded Buddhist would naturally be suspicious of the mainstream narrative.


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