From Huxley A to Nietzche

Among the early Buddhists, the metaphysical theory was neither affirmed or denied, but simply ignored as being meaningless and unnecessary. Their concern was with the immediate experience, which, because of its consequences for life, came to be known as ‘liberation’ or ‘enlightenment’. The Buddha and his disciples of the southern school seem to have applied to the problems of religion that ‘operational philosophy’ which contemporary scientific thinkers have begun to apply to the natural sciences.

The modern conception of man’s intellectual relationship to the universe was anticipated by the Buddhist doctrine that desire is the source of illusion. To the extent that one has overcome desire, a mind is free from illusion. This is true not only of the man of science, but also the artist and the philosopher. Only the disinterested mind can transcend sense and pass beyond the boundaries of animal or average-sensual human life.

Perfect non-attachment demands of those who aspire to it, not only compassion and charity, but also the intelligence that perceives the general implications of particular acts, that sees the individual being within the system of social and cosmic relations of which he is but a part. In this respect, it seems to me, Buddhism shows itself decidedly superior to Christianity. In the Buddhist ethic, stupidity, or unawareness, ranks as one of the principal sins. At the same time, people are warned that they must take their share of responsibility for the social order in which they find themselves. One of the branches of the Eightfold Path is said to be ‘right means of livelihood’, the Buddhist is expected to refrain from engaging in such socially harmful occupations as soldiering, or the manufacture of arms or intoxicating drugs.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
British author, playwright and thinker

It is a remarkable indication of the subtlety of Indian speculation that Gautama should have seen deeper than the greatest of modern idealists. The tendency of enlightened thought of today all the world over is not towards theology but philosophy and psychology. The bark of theological dualism is drifting into danger. The fundamental principles of evolution and monism are being accepted by the thoughtful.

Prof Julian Huxley (1887-1975)
British author, zoologist and Director General of U.N.E.S. C.O.

I am ignorant of Buddhism and speak under correction, and merely in order the better to describe my general point of view; but as I apprehend the Buddhistic doctrine of karma, I agree in principle with that.

William James (1842-1910)
American philosopher and psychologist

When a modern western psychologist reads the Pali Nikayas*, (Buddhist scriptures) he again finds passages which he recognizes as belonging to his field and are concerned with typical psychological problems. Perception, imagination and thinking are described and the idea of psychological causality is developed, although in very vague terms. Behaviour and consciousness are explained as dynamic processes, governed by needs. There are the rudiments of an understanding of unconscious processes. We find interesting descriptions of different personality types. And the literature is full of advice on how to change the conscious processes - evidently based on careful observation and experimentation.

Dr Rure C. A. Johnson
M.A. D. Phil. Swedish psychologist and
research psychologist for the Swedish National Defence

As a student of comparative religions, I believe that Buddhism is the most perfect one the world has even seen. The philosophy of the theory of evolution and the law of karma were far superior to any other creed.

It was neither the history of religion nor the study of philosophy that first drew me to the world of Buddhist thought but my professional interest as a doctor. My task was to treat psychic suffering and it was this that impelled me to become acquainted with the views and methods of that great teacher of humanity, whose principal theme was the chain of suffering, old age, sickness and death.

Dr C. C. Jung (1875-1961)
Swiss psychologist and founder of
The Jungian school of psychology

Paul couples love with faith and hope, and his conception of love involves faith and hope: “Love,” he says, “believes all things, hopes all things.” The love I mean does not believe all things and hope all things. It survives disillusionment and persists in despair. Love is not love that ceases without hope or faith. As long as faith and hope support it, it is hardly more than puppy love. That love is pleasant is a fashionable myth, or, to be more charitable about it, an exception. The Buddha knew that love brings “hurt and misery, suffering, grief and despair” and he advised detachment. The love I consider a virtue is not a blind love of the lovers or the trusting, hopeful love of Paul, but the love that knows what the Buddha knew and still loves, with open eyes.

Prof Walter Kaufmann
American philosopher and author

He read widely and deeply in Buddhist text, translated sutras from French, and even wrote a biography of the Buddha. But at the root of his absorption in Buddhism was the fact that he felt it offered him direct philosophical consolation for the disappointment in his life . . . Jack embraced the first law of Buddhism above all others, the statement that “All life is suffering” . . . It was as if the words had been written for him.

Ann Charters comments on American author and poet Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)

The idea of unity-in-diversity can be followed all the way back to the Pythagorean ‘Harmony of the Sphere’ and the Hippocratic’s ‘sympathy of all things: ‘there is one common flow, one common breathing, all things are in sympathy’. The doctrine that everything in the universe hangs together partly by mechanical causes but mainly by hidden affinities (which also accounts for apparent coincidences), provides not only the foundation for sympathetic magic, astrology and alchemy: it also runs as a leit-motif through the teachings of Taoism and Buddhism, the neo-Platonists, and the philosophers of the early Renaissance.

Arthur Koestler
Hungarian novelist and journalist

If I knew the Buddha would be speaking here tomorrow, nothing in the world could stop me from going to listen to him. And I would follow him to the very end.

J. Krishnamurti
Indian philosopher (1895-1986)

In the Buddha's last meditation before he achived enlightement, he was beset by deamons and his only respones was to touch the Earth. That fearlesness is the final release from anything that the can be thrown at one. it goes beyond the courageous.

R. D. Lang (1927-1989)
British psychoanalyst

The Indian, the Aztec, old Mexico! All that fascinates me and has fascinated me for years, there is glamour and magic for me. Not Buddha. Buddha is so finished and perfected and fulfilled and ‘volendet’ and without new possibilities - to me I mean.

D. H. Lawrence
British novelist

Buddhism has conquered China as a philosophy and as a religion, as a philosophy for the scholars and a religion for the common people. Whereas Confucianism has only a philosophy of moral conduct, Buddhism possesses a logical method, a metaphysics and a theory of knowledge. Besides, it is fortunate in having a high tradition of scholarship in the translation of Buddhist classics, and the language of these translations, so succinct and often so distinguished by a beautiful lucidity of language and reasoning, cannot but attract the scholar with a philosophical bias. Hence, Buddhism has always enjoyed a prestige among Chinese scholars, which so far Christianity has failed to achieve.

Lin Yutang (1895-1976)
Chinese writer, thinker.
journalist and playwright

The message of the Buddha is a message of joy. He found a treasure and he wants us to follow the path that leads us to the treasure. He tells man that he is in deep darkness, but he also tells him that there is a path that leads to light. He wants us to arise from a life of dreams into a higher life where man loves and does not hate, where a man helps and does not hurt. His appeal is universal, because he appeals to reason and to the universal is us all: 'It is you who must make the effort. The Great of the past only show the way.' He achieved a superior harmony of vision and wisdom by placing spiritual truth on the crucial test of experience; and only experience can satisfy the mind of modern man. He wants us to watch and be awake and he wants us to seek and to find.

Juan Mascano
Spanish academic and educationalist,
lecturer at Cambridge University

I have so often tried to isolate the quality of “Zen” * (The Japanese meditation tradition) which attracted me so powerfully to its literature and later to the practice of zazen. But (meditation) since the essence of Zen might well be what one teacher called the moment-by-moment awakening of mind, there is little that may sensibly be said about it without succumbing to that breathless, mystery-ridden prose that drives so many sincere aspirants in the other direction. In zazen, one may hope to penetrate the ringing stillness of the universal mind.

Peter Mathiessen
American novelist, naturalist and explorer
Winner of the National Book Award in 1979

Maugham’s interest in mysticism and Eastern philosophy is not a sudden development of his later life. Although his early questioning of Christianity culminated in the atheism represented in Philip Carey, he continued his examination of the religions of the East and his enquiries into mysticism. ‘Faith’ a short story published in 1899, considers sympathetically the dilemma of a young monk who loses the ability to believe in God. ‘The Painted Veil’ treated in however a superficial manner, the serenity of the belief in ‘The Way’. In the ‘Gentlemen in the Parlour’, Maugham discusses the philosophy of Buddha, and he confessed to finding considerable attraction in the belief in the transmigration of souls . . . Because of the impact which the ‘Razor’s Edge’ made in 1944, it has generally been overlooked that in the ‘Narrow Corner’, Maugham had already treated in considerable depth the philosophy of Indian religion. In this understated serious novel there is extensive discussion of Buddhism, and the progress of the story is a movement in the direction of that belief by the central figure.

R. L. Calde’'s comments on
the works of English novelist
W Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)

Buddhism is much less a matter of organized and institutional orthodoxy than a state of mind. Buddhism does not aim directly at theological salvation but a total clarification of consciousness. It is not so much a way of worshipping as a way of being. Exterior cultural accretions are much less important than they may seem, and the Buddhist cultural awareness is endowed . . . with mercury like formlessness which erodes the statistical eye of the Western scholar.

Father Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
American Catholic priest,author and social critic

Lord Buddha's message of truth, peace, compassion and tolerance is as relevant as it was many centuries ago. The passage of time has made its flame shine with greater luminosity. Rampant materialism and the pursuit of individual success at all costs have eroded the ties of brotherhood and community. In these circumstances it is necessary to remember and propagate the message of compassion of Lord Buddha so that hatred can be replaced by love, strife by peace, and confrontation by co-operation.

Dr. Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow’
Director-General. UNESCO

Of all the great religious teachers of the world, none has incarnated and lived the idea that ultimate reality is beyond the grasp of the ordinary mind with such purity and concentration as the Buddha. This, in part, explains why the Buddha’s discourses say nothing about the existence of a Supreme Being, for example, or about immortality . . . Its strategy of negation has misled many Westerners into thinking Buddhism is pessimistic and anti-life. Some have even thought of Nirvana, the ultimate goal of Buddhist discipline, as a sort of spiritual suicide. Nothing could be further from the truth and, in fact, there is no religion which has a higher estimation of human possibility.

Prof Jacob Needleman
Scholar, author and professor for philosophy
at San Francisco State College

Whenever one thinks of the Buddha, one inevitably thinks of His great teaching; and I often feel that, perhaps, if we think more of that basic teaching of the avoidance of hatred and violence, we may be nearer the solution to our problem.

In this world of storm and strife, hatred and violence, the message of the Buddha shines like a radiant sun. Perhaps at no time was that message more needed than in this world of the atomic and hydrogen bombs . . . Let us remember that immortal message and try to fashion our thoughts and actions in the light of that teaching . . . and help a little in prompting right thinking and right action . . . If any question has to be considered, it has to be considered peacefully and democratically in the way taught by the Buddha.

Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)
Indian Prime Minister

Here it is grasped that one must not hate even evil, that one must not oppose it, that one must not hate even oneself; that one should not merely acquiesce in the suffering that such a way of lie entails, that one should live entirely in positive feelings, that one should take the side of one’s opponent in word and deed, that through a superfetation of the peaceable, good natured, conciliatory, helpful and loving states one impoverishes the soil in which other states grow - that one requires a perpetual way of living . . . this standpoint is possible only when no moral fanaticism prevails, i.e., when evil is hated, not for its own sake, but only because it opens the way to states that are harmful to us (unrest, work, care, entanglements, dependence). This is the Buddhist standpoint: here sin is not hated, here the concept of sin in lacking.

Buddhism is hundred times more realistic than other religions. It has entered upon the inheritance of objectively and cooly putting up with problems. It came to life after several hundred years of philosophical development. The notion of God is done away with as soon as it appears, prayer is out of the question. So is asceticism. No categorical imperative. No coercion at all, not even within the monastic community. Hence it also does not challenge to fight against those of different faiths. Its teaching turns against nothing so impressively as against the feeling of revengefulness, animosity and resentment.

Frederich Nietzche (1844-1900)
German philosopher

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