From Oppenheimer to Younghusband

If we ask, for instance, whether the position of the electron remains the same, we must say ‘no’; if we ask whether the electron’s position changes with time, we must say ‘no’; if we ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say ‘no’; if we ask whether it is in motion, we must say ‘no’. The Buddha has given such answers when interrogated as to the conditions of a man’s self after his death; but they are not familiar answers for the tradition of seventeenth and eighteenth century science.

J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967)
American Physicist.

Today science is challenging the finite quality of the human brain, a brain consisting of some 10,000 million electrically stimulated cells programmed with the instincts of our long history and receptive to new notions whether true or false: The aggregate of these cells provides our ever-changing personality, and their partial removal by surgery or altered rhythm by shock treatment changes our character. By such crude methods, aggression can be turned into fear, hatred to affection - how much better that they should be changed by appreciation of the realities that the philosophy of Buddha has placed in our hands.

William Mac Quilty
British Award winning film maker,
traveller and Fel/ow of the
Royal Geographical Society

Anyone from a king to a barber who wished to listen to the Buddha’s teachings, or follow him in his missionary wanderings, or join the Sangha, the formal fellowship of Buddhist disciples, was free to do so. Even women - after some hesitation - were admitted to the Sangha, whose establishment is often counted as one of the Buddha’s most practical achievements, in large measure responsible for the eventual spread and continuity of Buddhist doctrine in the Asian world. The founding of an Order appears also to illustrate still further the Buddha’s psychological acumen, for though he taught that each human being must trend the path to “awakening” or “deliverance” alone, he also realized what sustainment there could be in daily association with others working towards a common goal. Of the establishment of the Buddhist Sangha, Arnold Toynbee has said that it was a greater social achievement than the founding of the Platonist academy in Greece.

Nancy Wilson Ross (1901-1986)
American journalist,
war correspondent and author

Of the great religions of history I prefer Buddhism, especially in its earliest forms, because it has had the smallest element of persecution.

Buddhism is a combination of both speculative and scientific philosophy. It advocates the Scientific Method and pursues that to a finality that may be called Rationalistic. In it are to be found answers to such question of interest as “What is mind and matter? Of them which is of great importance? Is the universe moving towards a goal? What is man’s position? Is there living that is noble?” It takes up where science cannot lead because of the limitations of the latter’s instruments. Its conquests are those of the mind.

I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some people known to history. I think I should put Buddha and Socrates above him in those respects.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
British mathematician, philosopher,
author and social critic.
Winner of the Nobel Prize

We find the doctrine of metempsychosis, springing from the earliest and noblest ages of the human race, always spread abroad in the earth as the belief of the great majority of mankind, nay, really as the teachings of all religions with the exception of that of the Jews and the two which have preceded from it: in the most subtle form, however, and coming nearest to the truth, as has already been mentioned, in Buddhism.

It almost seems that, as the oldest languages are the most perfect so also are the oldest religions. If I were to take the results of my philosophy as a yardstick of the truth, I would concede to Buddhism the pre-eminence of all religions of the world.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
German philosopher

While the materialist is mainly interested in goods, the Buddhist is mainly interested in liberation. But Buddhism is ‘The Middle Way’ and therefore in no way antagonistic to physical well-being. It is not wealth that stands in the way of liberation but the attachment to wealth; not the enjoyment of pleasurable things but the craving for them. The keynote of Buddhist economics, therefore, is simplicity and non-violence. From an economist’s point of view, the marvel of the Buddhist way of life is the utter rationality of its pattern - amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfactory results.

It is in the light of both immediate experience and long-term prospects that the study of Buddhist economics could be recommended even to those who believe that economic growth is more important than any spiritual or religious values. For it is not a question of choosing between modern growth’ and ‘traditional stagnation’. It is a question of finding the right path of development, the Middle Way between materialist heedlessness and traditionalist immobility, in short, of finding ‘Right Livelihood’.

Dr E. F. Schumacher
CBE. (1911-1977)
British. Rhodes Scholar, economist, journalist and
economic Adviser to the National Coal Board
from 1950 to 1970

He gave expression to truths of everlasting value and advanced the ethics not of India alone but of humanity. Buddha was one of the greatest ethical men of genius ever bestowed upon the world.

Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
French scholar, theologian and
philosopher, winner of the Nobel Prize

Buddhism, better than most religions, seems to have adapted to modern life. Many considering it to be, among other things, not only a method of self discovery but a source of ideas for social orientation without equal in the West.

Lucien Stryk
American author, poet and
winner of Isaac Rosenbaum Poetry Award

Buddhism was the first spiritual force, known to us in history, which drew close together such a large number of races separated by most difficult barriers of distance, by difference of language and custom, by various degrees and divergent types of civilization. It had its motive power, neither in international commerce, nor in empire building, nor in a scientific curiosity, nor in a migrative impulse to occupy fresh territory. It was a purely disinterested effort to help mankind forward to its final goal.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)
Indian poet and educationalist,
winner of the Nobel Prize

I know that some will have hard thoughts of me, when they hear their Christ named beside my Buddha. Yet I am sure that I am willing they should love their Christ more than my Buddha, for love is the main thing.

David Henry Thoreau (1817-1862)
American essayist, poet and

I believe that Buddhism is very relevant to the thought of the present day. Basically, its thought is familiar to us because it is the same kind of thinking as that employed in science; not perhaps the thinking of Einstein and Heisenburg, but rather that of Tyndall and Thomas Huxley.

Robert H Thousless M.A., PhD, Sc.D.
British. Distinguished Christian scholar, author,
Fellow of the British Psychological Society and Fellow
of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

The period between the seventh and fifth century B.C., was a time of spiritual searching throughout the ancient world. It saw the beginning of Greek philosophy, the rise of the prophets of Israel, Confucius in China and (according to Parsi tradition) the time of Zoroaster in Persia. This period saw the birth of the Jain and Ajivika teachings, with the greatest of all, ‘the Light of Asia’ Gautama the Buddha . . . A doctrine of annihilation* (Annihilation of greed, hatred and delusion) in which an omnipotent God has no place, might seem one of profound pessimism, yet Buddhism was saved from being negative by the emphasis placed on free-will and humility. The importance of compassion, of charity and alms giving, all combined to generate a religion of warmth and love. Together with Jainism, Buddhism helped to create a revolutionary concept, that of ‘ahimsa’ or harmlessness; the idea of respect for others which evolves from a self-respect.

Prof Hugh Tinker
Professor of government and
politics at the School of Oriental
and African Studies, London University

In divining that the experience of pain was an inseparable concomitant of consciousness and will, the Buddha has shown a penetrating psychological insight.

Hinduism regards man’s universe as being an illusion; the Buddha anticipating some of the schools of modern Western psychologists by about twenty-four centuries, held that the soul is an illusion too.

Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975)
British historian

I ever believe that the mark of a truly educated and imaginative person facing the twenty-first century is that he feels himself to be a planetary being. Perhaps my own Buddhist upbringing has helped me more than anything else to realize and to express in my speeches and writings this concept of world citizenship.

As a Buddhist, I was trained to be tolerant of everything except intolerance. I was brought up not only to develop the spirit of tolerance, but also to cherish moral and spiritual qualities, especially modesty, humanity, compassion, and, most important, to attain a certain degree of emotional equilibrium.

U Thant (1910-1974)
Burmese educator, diplomat,
and Secretary General of the United Nations

Rightly or wrongly - and here I am not defining a thesis, I am only describing the state of mind of a Victorian girl in her teens, the Buddha and his philosophy seemed logically and ethically superior to the Christ and the teachings of the New Testament. Further, Buddhist metaphysics had at least a superficial likeness to the philosophy of modern science. The agnosticism of Buddha as to an ultimate cause was even more complete than that of Herbert Spencer. Unlike the crude eternal bliss and eternal damnation of the Christian Church, the doctrine of Karma seemed in harmony with such assumptions of modern science as the universality of causation and the persistence of force.

Beatrice Webb (1881-1943)
British social reformer, economist
and Fabian Socialist

The fundamental teachings of Gautama, as it is now being made plain to us by study of original sources, is clear and simple and in the closest harmony with modern ideas. It is beyond all dispute the achievement of one of the most penetrating intelligences the world has ever known.

Buddhism has done more for the advance of world civilization and true culture than any other influence in the chronicles of mankind.

H. G. Wells (1866-1946)
British historian, socialist and
science fiction writer

Buddhism is the most colossal example in the history of applied metaphysics.

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
British mathematician and philosopher

It was because he showed in his life what he taught was both practical and reasonable that he exerted such a mighty influence upon mankind. He sought to put a new temper into men, to imbue them with a new spirit, give that a new heart. It was more than could be achieved in only 2,500 years. But mankind is still young and impressionable. The impression Buddha made was deep. Reinforced by like impressions made in different ways by other religious leaders it will surely work itself out and its effects be felt in ever, increasing degree. The heart of men will indeed be cleansed. From the joy in that heart will spring a compassion fixed in an instant in the race. All hardness will be melted - conflict turned to composure.

Sir Francis Younghusband (1863-1942)
British explorer geographer and diplomat

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