A recent study indicated that people with strong Buddhist beliefs are more likely to be blood donors. The research, conducted in China and published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychologysuggests that this is due to higher levels of moral attentiveness among Buddhist practitioners.
Cited in a recent article on the psychology and neuroscience news website PsyPost, the research comes as blood donation centers around the world struggle to fill depleted supplies. In the United States, the Red Cross has experienced a 10% drop in overall blood donations, and Red Cross supplies of type O positive blood, type O negative blood and platelets have reached critical levels. Blood donations are of vital importance as they are used in transfusions for surgeries, accident victims, childbirths, cancer patients, etc.
The study, titled “How Buddhist Beliefs Are Linked to Intention to Donate Blood: The Role of Moral Care and Self-Monitoring,” was conducted by Liangyong Chen, Sai Zhang, Yufeng Zhou and Mo Xiao, with the help of 508 survey participants, who answered questions about moral care, self-monitoring and their intention to donate blood.
Researcher Liangyong Chen suggested that the link between respondents with a strong willingness to donate blood and strong Buddhist beliefs could be attributed to Buddhism‘s emphasis on morality. Many Buddhist traditions teach that moral discipline provides an essential foundation for practitioners hoping to attain enlightenment. The practice of Dana (Skt. generosity) is one of the six perfections that students are encouraged to practice.
The researchers noted that practicing Buddhism does not automatically increase a person’s moral focus. According to the study, Buddhist practitioners who were high in self-monitoring in addition to being high in moral caring were the most likely to show an intention to donate blood.
Describing their findings, the study authors said:
This research provides a nuanced explanation of how Buddhist beliefs are associated with intention to donate blood. Recruitment campaigns for blood donation can incorporate instrumental elements of Buddhist teachings, such as the pursuit of moral perfection, the cultivation of the virtues of selflessness, benevolence and understanding, and the laws of karma. Meanwhile, mindfulness as a core practice in Buddhism can be used to enhance moral mindfulness and self-monitoring, thereby promoting blood donation intention.
(Journal of Applied Social Psychology)
The study has several interesting implications in terms of marketing and recruitment that take place before blood drives. For example, a blood drive organizer might try to encourage members of Buddhist communities to participate by referring to Buddhist teachings on generosity, karma, and the transfer of merit.
Future studies will likely consider other mental habits that show a correlation with self-monitoring and moral attentiveness. Research topics may include mindfulness, culture, and a strong focus on collectivist ideologies.
The results of the study are reflected in this passage from the Master of Medicine Sutra:
They will not revel in worldly pleasures, but will rejoice in giving and praise others for giving. They will not regret giving what they have. Little by little, those who come to beg will be able to give their heads, their eyes, their hands, their feet and even their whole body, not to mention their money and their goods!
(City of Ten Thousand Buddhas)
Reading passages like this could potentially nurture practitioners’ moral focus, which scholars define as the recognition and consideration of morality in day-to-day decisions. In other words, people who regularly reflect on moral issues are more likely to engage in moral actions. Similarly, the study of Buddhism raises many moral questions, so it is not surprising that strong Buddhist beliefs show an indirect correlation with moral care, for example: “I often reflect on the moral aspects of my decisions/ behaviours”.
People with stronger Buddhist beliefs are more likely to donate blood due to greater sensitivity to morality (PsyPost)
National Red Cross blood shortage crisis (American Red Cross)
Master of Medicine Sutra (City of Ten Thousand Buddhas)
Link between Buddhist beliefs and the intention to donate blood: the role of moral care and self-monitoring (Journal of Applied Social Psychology)
1.5 million units of blood to be mobilized in 2022 (VietnamMore)
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