Blog 2-Nihu Bhardwaj

In looking at the way both authors approached reproductive technology, I think it’s important to remember that Broyde approaches Judaism from an already well-established perspective towards reproductive technology and argues certain perspectives within this. Bhattacharya, on the other hand, is trying to build up Hindu bioethics. Up until this point, there hasn’t been a defined bioethics for Hinduism, specifically one that is in the Western world or that fits the Western world’s views. Thus, in looking at the two approaches the two authors take, they seem steps behind: one is building upon something that has been built upon for centuries, while the other is starting to build the foundations for a, basically, non-existent perspective.

Nevertheless, there are other fundamental differences between their approach to reproductive technology. Broyde focuses a lot on the definition of kinship-who’s the correct mother, what about if it was the father, how would the child be considered a Jew and through whom, how could this be done so it is not problematic for any of the parties. This is something that we saw in Susan Kahn’s book on IVF in Israel. Judaism focuses a lot on making sure that a child that is born, is born properly as a Jew. Bhattacharya, on the other hand, approached reproductive technology by basing it off 6 basic Hindu principles. She uses these principles to show how they would be used in a case-to-case situation. Additionally, she used one of the texts of Hinduism to base her reasoning off. Broyde didn’t necessarily base his arguments from any scriptures, however, the ideals discussed were based off rules that had been established by interpretations of the first and second chapters of the Genesis.

There were a lot more differences between the two approaches the authors took, yet, it would be difficult to properly compare the two when Broyde is looking at reproductive technology from a specific aspect, whereas, Bhattacharya is looking at a more general perspective of it. Again, as I mentioned before, this isn’t necessarily a difference in the religions, but a difference in how well established the ideologies on this topic are. Bhattacharya is trying to make a very diverse religion into something that can be understood simply, which is very difficult. By defining these six principles, she is trying to define a set of fundamentals for the religion, as seen with Christianity and Judaism. However, that isn’t really possible. From a personal point of view, Hindus come from one God. From this God comes all beings, including the other common forms of Brahman, like Vishnu, Shiva, etc. When God comes to Earth, He takes on different forms, as seen in the Mahabharatawith Krishna (a form of Lord Vishnu). Wherever He comes, that area of India is more likely to worship that form of Him. This makes Hinduism a very diverse and complex religion. For Bhattacharya to try to put all that diversity into a box by only talking about Mahabharatais bold but terribly difficult. In a religion where there is no one set scripture, like there is with other monotheistic religions, trying to find one scripture that can be interpreted for a topic that isn’t talked about is challenging. Bhattacharya does a good job at it, however, throughout her book, it seemed like she was explaining what Hinduism was more than how it significantly differed in bioethics compared to Judaism or Christianity.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean some of the differences in reproductive technology weren’t due to religion. Judaism has a more stricter view on the use of reproductive technology than does Hinduism. The six elements of Hindu thought – emphasis on centrality of societal good, a firm belief in the underlying unity of all life, the expectation and requirements of dharam, the multivalent nature of Hindu traditions, a theory of Karma and a commitment to ahimsa- are all ideas that are not concrete; there is no one right way to interpret them. Thus, grouping things into categories is difficult. Judaism, on the other hand, has a set of principles that one needs to keep in mind and abide by when conceiving. For example, Broyde talks about whether the “process is permissible (mutar), prohibited(asur) or a good deed( mitzvah)” (Broyde 296). This is brought up when he discussed activities that were obligatory, like having 2 kids or acts that were permissible, like getting artificial insemination with sperm other than the husband’s (with his consent). Cloning, though not the best option, would be something that would be permissible. The problem comes when defining who the mother is. Here we see a fundamental difference between Hindu thought and Judaic thought. While Hindu principles seem to be up to the interpretation of the individual, for Jews, though it is case-by-case, their principles are more concrete and distinct.

In looking at a specific example of this difference, one can see this underlying distinction through motherhood. Broyde, when looking at cloning, said that motherhood could either go to the gestational mother or the clonor. He agreed with it going to the gestational mother because she was the one who had “conceived” the baby, although the clonor was genetically related to the mother. This is an idea that aligns with was discussed in Susan Kahn’s book, in regards to an IVF. Bhattacharya didn’t necessarily disagree with this idea, but she believed it depended on the situation. The first-born of Kunti, for example, was conceived and genetically-related to Kunti but he didn’t think of her as a mother-figure because she didn’t raise him. Additionally, in the Jaycee case, the surrogate parents wouldn’t be considered the parents and neither would the individuals who donated their egg/sperm; it would be John and Luanne. These two cases do align with Jewish thinking as well, if everything is planned so that the child is Jew and not related to either the husband’s family or the wife’s. Through the stories talked about by Bhattacharya, it is important that the child is related to either parent, but does not necessarily have to be from both parents if one of them cannot procreate. Nevertheless, the extra details of making sure the child is Jew and relatedness aren’t emphasized in Hinduism.

If Bhattacharya and Broyde were to discuss genetic testing, I believe it would have some similarities and differences. Bhattacharya would deal with it based on the 6 elements. If the results of the prenatal testing came back positive for something like Down’s Syndrome, not only would it be analyzed in terms of how to deal with it, but it would also be looked at to see what had the parents done through their actions or practices that they had gotten a child with problems. Using those same elements, they would then make their decision about what to do with that information, such as should the child be aborted or should the child live. If a Jew couple went through this same test with the same result, they would probably go ahead with the child because of the emphasis on having kids to fulfill your duty. Broyde would see how well it fit in with the halakhah. Both of them would agree that aborting the child would be seen as a sin. The reasoning behind each is complex, nevertheless, the common idea that life begins at conception and that having a child is part of one’s duty in life holds greater value than does (or should) the problems the child has been screened for.

After reading Bhattacharya’s work, it was interesting to see how she was trying to fit Hindu bioethics into Christian and Jewish bioethics.  By attempting to westernize Hindu principles, she was able to build a basis for bioethics. However, it was a very broad base that was very similar to Christian and Jewish ones. While she was trying to show how straightforward and simple their bioethics was, she was also trying to simplify Hindu’s bioethics by attempting to mimic it. This is seen through her use of one scripture, as well as defining a set of thoughts/principles that guide Hindu decisions. Through defining Hinduism as a very interpretive religion, it’s important to recognize that all religions can be interpreted in different ways. Broyde’s work helped emphasize this point by looking at the rules we see in Judaism on who the rightful parents, which depended interpretation of who the rightful mother or mothers are. Additionally, by looking specifically at Roman Catholicism, it diminishes the broadness of the Christian view to a specific, orthodox sect. So, while her work attempts to show Hindu bioethics like the Western religions, it is done at the expense of a more constrained view on all 3 religions.

Works Cited:

Bhattacharya, S. (2006). Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology. Suny University Press.

Broyde, M. J. (2005). Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law. Marriage, Sex, and the Family in Judaism, 295-328. Rowman & Littlefield Pub, Inc.

5 Replies to “Blog 2-Nihu Bhardwaj”

  1. I agree with mostly everything you’ve described about Broyde and Bhattacharya and their viewpoints on bioethics and assisted reproductive technology. I also like that you considered the fact that differences arise not just from religion, but also from interpretation, which I agree with as religion is only one piece of the puzzle. However, I don’t agree on the part where you said Bhattcharya is trying to “fit” Hindu bioethics into Christian and Jewish bioethics. I feel that she was trying to establish or rather, invent a voice for Hinduism in the field where it wasn’t already established as much so as other religions, but not mold it into the already made field for other religions. Overall, I agree with your opinions and statements made about Broyde and Bhattacharya, and how interpretations can come in many forms.

  2. Nihu, this is a great post. While Monica disagrees with your assertion of Bhattacharya trying to “fit” Hindu bioethics into Christian and Jewish ethics. I would like to suggest a different take on this. To me at least, it seems as if there has been a template of ethics in most western religions, and Bhattacharya is trying to place hindu into this template. I also like how through the reading you referenced Susan Kahn’s work in reference to IVF in is real.

  3. Hi Nihu, great post! The beginning points about Bhattacharya starting from scratch with Hinduism is a great way to start because it puts in perspective the two main works. The continuation of this point throughout is a really great way to remind readers that these authors are trying to do two slightly different things, which you state very well. In terms of Hindu bioethics fitting with that of Jewish and Christian religions, I like James’ point about trying to find a place for Hindu ethics in a Western framework. Because Bhattacharya is introducing new ideas, I think providing a comparison is a good idea to give readers a better idea of the values.

  4. Hi Nihu,

    Thank you for your post. It is very clear, well-written, and thoughtful. Each question was addressed very thoroughly in turn, and you tied it together very well. One suggestion would be to include a conclusion and introduction, no matter how short. This would tie your post together perfectly!

    Another one would be to include citations like page numbers here and there, especially when you say, “Battacharya says,” or “Broyde says,” so we have clear evidence this is what we said.

    Keep up the great work!

  5. I really agreed with everything you posted here. You bring up really important points about the differences in Hinduism and Judaism. It is difficult to compare the 2 religions because of their vast differences. Overall, I think you made some very accurate and informed statements.

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