From Arnold to Humphreys

In point of age, therefore, most other creeds are youthful compared with this venerable religion, which has in it the eternity of a universal hope, the immortality of a boundless love, an indestructible element of faith in final good, and the proudest assertion ever made of human freedom.

Sir Edwin Arnold (1832-1904)
British poet, journalist and
Poet Laureate of England

The teachings of the Indian Prince has indeed nothing to dread from science . . . Words would fail me if I attempted to express how necessary 1 think knowledge of this high faith and philosophy is to leaven the materialism of the West . . . It is, at all events, a truth which influenced not only the mightiest thinkers of Greece and Rome, but also the beginnings of Christian teachings --- which it antedated by five or six hundred years. It may well claim kindred with all the great faiths, persecuting and opposing none which differ with it, and this for reasons which are easily seen in the teachings themselves. In relation to its noble and scientific austerity no words are needed.

L. Adams Beck
American traveller and author

To the Christian, Love is the highest virtue; to the Buddhist, Wisdom, for they hold that ignorance is the root of all evil. Love, all the same, ranks high . . . Tolerance and loving kindness, both based on Buddhist wisdom, are perhaps the chief reason why the middle way of Gotama has come down through 2500 years.

Sir Charles Bell
British diplomat and lexicographer

The only one of the great religions which makes any appeal to me is Buddhism; and that, as I understand it, is rather a philosophy of the world, and a way of life for the elite founded upon it, than a religion in the ordinary sense of the word.

C D Broad (1887-1971)
British philosopher

The recent evolution of man certainly begins with the advancing development of the hand, and the selection of a brain which is particularly adept at manipulating the hand. We feel the pleasure of that in our actions, so that for the artist the hand remains a major symbol; the hand of the Buddha, for instance, giving man the gift of humanity in a gesture of calm, the gift of fearlessness.

J. Bronowski (1908-1974)
American author and philosopher of science

Whether the Westerner who first approaches the Buddha’s teachings be accustomed to modern scientific or to Christian terminology, he should always bear in mind that the Buddha was not interested in the existence or non-existence of a Supreme Being or any other abstract philosophical proposition. He was interested only in the Way, the practical way, by which suffering may be ended, both here and hereafter;

Marie B. Byles (1900-1979)
Australian author and mountaineer

It cannot be denied that there is a real beauty of an Oriental kind in the various expressions which the Buddhists use; and that there was real grounds for the enthusiasm which gave them birth. Never in the history of the world had such a scheme been put forth, so free from any superhuman agency, so independent of, so even antagonistic to the belief in a soul, the belief in God, and the hope of a future life . . . Whether these be right or wrong, it was a turning point in the religious history of man when a reformer, full of the most earnest moral purpose and trained in all the intellectual culture of his time, put forth deliberately, and with a knowledge of the opposing views the doctrine of salvation to be found here, in this life, in an inward change of heart, to be brought about by perseverance in a mere system of self culture and self control.

Buddhist or non-Buddhist, I have examined everyone of the great religious systems of the world, in none of them I have found anything to surpass, in beauty and comprehensiveness, the Noble Eightfold Path and the Four Truths of the Buddha.

Prof. T. W. Rhys Davids (1843-1922)
British orientalist, lexicographer and
the first person to hold a chair in
Comparative Religion in a British university

Buddha's message of compassion and devotion to the service of humanity is more relevant today than at any other time in history. Peace, understanding and a vision that transcends purely national boundaries are imperatives of our insecure nuclear age.

Javier Perez De Cuellar
Peruvian diplomat and from 1982 to 1992
Secretary General of the United Nations

Like the other teachers of his time, Buddha taught through conversation, lecturers and parables. Since it never occurred to him, any more than Socrates or Christ, to put his doctrine into writing, he summarised it in sutras (threads) designed to prompt the memory. As preserved for us in the remembrance of his followers these discourses unconsciously portray for us the first distinct character of India's history: a man of strong will, authoritative and proud, but of gentle manner and speech, and of infinite benevolence. He claimed enlightenment but not inspiration; he never pretended that a god was speaking through him. In controversy he was more patient and considerate than any other of the great teachers of mankind . . . Like Lao-tze and Christ he wished to return good for evil, love for hate; and he remained silent under misunderstanding and abuse . . . Unlike most saints, Buddha has a sense of humour, and knew that metaphysics without laughter is immodesty.

Will Durant (1885-1981)
American historian and
Pulitzer Prize winner

The individual feels the nothingness of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvellous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. He looks upon individual existence as a sort of prison and wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole, the beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear in early stages of development – e.g. in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learnt from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer especially, contains much stronger elements of it.

The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual and a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description . . . If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
German physicist, mathematician,
winner of the Nobel Prize

But Eliot’s attraction to Buddhism was not simply a philosophical one. Nirvana is extinction * (The extinction of greed, hatred and delusion) - the annihilation of desire, the freedom from attachments - and there was, as can be seen from his poetry, an over-riding desire in the young Eliot to be free. The absolutism of Buddhism is quite as relentless as anything he had found in Maurras and, although he was perhaps attracted to it for much the same reasons, the Eastern religion had more romantic affiliations for someone who wished to break free from the familial bonds which otherwise held him.

Peter Ackrayd’s comments on
English poet T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Man gave up the illusion of a fatherly God as a parental helper - but he gave up also the true aims of all great humanistic religions: overcoming the limitations of an egotistical self, achieving love, objectivity, and humility and respecting life so that the aim of life is living itself, and man becomes what he potentially is. These were the aims of the great Western religions, as they were the aims of the great Eastern religions. The East, however, was not burdened with the concept of a transcendent father - saviour in which the monotheistic religions expressed their longings. Taoism and Buddhism had a rationality and realism superior to that of Western religions. They could see man realistically and objectively, having nobody but the ‘awakened’ ones to guide him, and being able to be guided because each man has within himself the capacity to awake and be enlightened. This is precisely the reason why Eastern religious thought, Taoism and Buddhism - and their blending in Zen Buddhism* (The Japanese meditation tradition) assume such importance for the West today. Zen Buddhism helps man to find an answer to the question of his existence, an answer which is essentially the same as that given in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and yet which does not contradict the rationality, realism, and independence which are modern man's precious achievements. Paradoxically, Eastern religious thought turns out to be more congenial to Western rational thought than does Western religious thought itself.

Erich Fromm (1900-1980)
German American psychoanalyst
and social philosopher

At the back of the shrine outside the temple, grows the sacred tree under which, or rather the ancestor of which, Buddha sat. Squares of gold leaf have been stuck on to the trunk and boughs. The temple, together with several acres of garden full of trees and flowers and votive stones, chapels, bells, and statues, lies on a deep courtyard below the level of the surrounding country. The view when one drives up and sees everything suddenly from the edge of the embankment is, as the books say, not easily forgotten’. There can’t be anything like it in the world.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970)
British novelist

There may be a great significance in the fact that Pythagoras in Greece and the Buddha in the Orient occur at the same time - in the sixth century B.C. Both are powerfully, perceptively thinking and acting human individuals who, coming out of a past in which only mystically ordained kings counted and humans were omniexpendable pawns, produced mathematical tools and philosophic breakthroughs for individual humans forever thereafter to employ.

R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1984)
American inventor, social engineer
and philosopher

I have no hesitation in declaring that I owe a great deal to the inspiration that I have derived from the life of the Enlightenment One.

Asia has a message for the whole world, if only it would live up to it. There is the imprint of Buddhistic influence on the whole of Asia, which includes India, China, Japan, Burma, Ceylon, and the Malay States. For Asia to be not for Asia but for the whole world, it has to re-learn the message of the Buddha and deliver it to the whole world.

His love, his boundless love went out as much to the lower animal, to the lowest life as to human beings. And he insisted upon purity of life.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
Indian thinker and apostle of
non violence

It was when I was up at Oxford in the early 1970’s that I became interested in Buddhism. My life was full of confusion and distress of every kind, and I found in Buddhist philosophy a way of thought that enthralled me by its calm and radical analysis of desire, its rejection of all the self-dramatising intensities by which I lived, and its promise of a possible strong and unsentimental sincerity.

Andrew Harvey
British author, poet and
Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford

I left India and returned to Colombo, where I was the guest of a Singhalese student I knew in Perth. They were Buddhists, their house was in the grounds of a temple, and the atmosphere of the household was very peaceful and unbelievably gentle. I talked a lot about Buddhism with them, and they took me up to a temple in the hills, in Kandy, where I met the monks and talked to a very old abbot, who explained more about Buddhism to me. I found Buddhism fascinating. Their concept that you progress towards the Ineffable through a number of existences seemed to me much more intellectually satisfying than the Christian belief that you come just once and are cast into circumstances maybe of great wealth or of great moment, but that you come to God or don't come to God on the basis of that one life. The logical attraction of Buddhism after the devastating experience of India was a further part of my breaking down. I was never on the point of embracing Buddhism but I found, and still find, it infinitely more satisfying than the Judeo-Christian philosophy.

Rhodes J. Hawke
Rhodes Scholar, trade union leader,
and from 1983, Prime Minister of Australia

Now in this realm Buddha’s speeches are a source and mine of quite unparalleled richness and depth. As soon as we cease to regard Buddha’s teachings simply intellectually and acquiesce with a certain sympathy in the age-old Eastern concept of unity, if we, allow Buddha to speak to us as vision, as image, as the awakened one, the perfect one, we find him, almost independently of the philosophic content and dogmatic kernel of his teachings, a great prototype of mankind. Whoever attentively reads a small number of the countless speeches of Buddha is soon aware of harmony in them, a quietude of soul, a smiling transcendence, a totally unshakeable firmness, but also invariable kindness, endless patience. As ways and means to the attainment of this holy quietude of soul, the speeches are full of advice, precepts, hints. The intellectual content of Buddha’s teaching is only half his work, the other half is his life, his life as lived, as labour accomplished and action carried out. A training, a spiritual self-training of the highest order was accomplished and is taught here, a training about which unthinking people who talk about “quietism” and “Hindu dreaminess” and the like in connection with Buddha have no conception; they deny him the cardinal Western virtue of activity. Instead Buddha accomplished a training for himself and his pupils, exercised a discipline, set up a goal, and produced results before which even the genuine heroes of European action can only feel awe.

Herman Hesse (1877-1962)
German author and winner
of the Nobel Prize

The more I studied satipathana*, (Buddhist meditation) the more impressed I became with it as a system of mind training. It is in line with our Western scientific attitude of mind in that it is unprejudiced, objective and analytical. It relies on personal, direct experience, and not on anyone else’s ideas or opinions. It is exceedingly simple and makes use of ‘bare attention’ basically as simple as a sustained ‘ah look’ but within a carefully chosen and disciplined system. It therefore explores all premature judgments, all talking ‘about it and about’, all arguments, discussions and such waste of time as we in the West are inclined to be fond of. In fact, it gets you out of the rut and bondage of yourself, your prejudices, your cliches, your blindness and your selfopinionatedness, to set you free to see and prove a real world.

Dr E. Graham Howe
Eminent British physician

The way of Buddhism is a Middle Way between all extremes. This is no weak compromise, but a sweet reasonableness which avoids fanaticism and laziness with equal care, and marches onward without that haste which brings its own reaction, but without ceasing. The Buddha called it the Noble Eightfold Path to Nirvana, and it may be regarded as the noblest course of spiritual training yet presented, in such a simple form, to man.

Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor ‘escapist’. It is a system of thought, a religion, a spiritual science and a way of life which is reasonable, practical and all-embracing. For 2,500 years it has satisfied the spiritual needs of nearly one third of mankind. It appeals to those in search of truth because it has no dogmas, satisfies the reason and the heart alike, insists on self-reliance coupled with tolerance for other points of view, embraces science, religion, philosophy, psychology, mysticism, ethics and art, and points to man alone as the creator of his present life and sole designer of his destiny.

Justice Christmas Humphreys (1901-1983)
Eminent British judge

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