Prose memoir, in Southerly Journal Issue 78.3: Violence (publ. in print May 2019; print edition):


pdf: Necessary Rites M Kovan

The first Buddhist precept prohibits the intentional, even sanctioned, taking of life. However, capital punishment remains legal, and even increasingly applied, in some culturally Buddhist polities and beyond them. The classical Buddhist norm of unconditional compassion as a counterforce to such punishment thus appears insufficient to oppose it. This paper engages classical Buddhist and Western argument for and against capital punishment, locating a Buddhist refutation of deterrent and Kantian retributivist grounds for it not only in Nāgārjunian appeals to compassion, but also the metaphysical and moral constitution of the agent of lethal crime, and thereby the object of its moral consequences.

In the Journal of Buddhist Ethics Vol. 26 (March, 2019):


Poem, in Southerly 78.1 Festschrift: David Brooks (print, Oct. 2018)

pdf: Tabula Rasa (with Stray Figure)

The Aid Worker

Short story published in Mascara Literary Review, Issue 22 (June, 2018):


Literary review published in Mascara Literary Review, Issue 22 (June, 2018): On Exile—Inner, and Outer: A Tibetan Odyssey in Coming Home to Tibet: a Memoir of Love, Loss, and Belonging by Tsering Wangmo Dhompa (Shambhala Boulder, 2016)


Literary review published in Mascara Literary Review, Issue 22 (June, 2018):


Chapter contribution to The Oxford Handbook of Buddhist Ethics (ed. Shields & Cozort) Oxford University Press, 2018. See:




Published (print & online) in Overland Literary Journal #227 (August, 2017):


On Being Released

poem, published in PERIL MAGAZINE, Melbourne, April 3, 2017:


Capital punishment is practiced in many nation-states,
secular and religious alike. It is also historically a feature
of some Buddhist polities, even though it defies the first
Buddhist precept (pāṇatipātā) prohibiting lethal harm.
This essay considers a neo-Kantian theorization of capital
punishment (Sorell) and examines the reasons underwriting
its claims (with their roots in Bentham and Mill) with
respect to the prevention of and retribution for crime.
The contextualization of this argument with Buddhist metaphysical
and epistemological concerns around the
normativization of value, demonstrates that such a retributivist
conception of capital punishment constitutively
undermines its own rational and normative discourse.
With this conclusion the paper upholds and justifies the
first Buddhist precept prohibiting lethal action in the case
of capital punishment.

Published July, 2017, in the Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Vol. 24 (2017):


Click to access Kovan-Capital-Punishment-final-July-2017.pdf