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30th May 1999

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From clashing sects to universal brotherhood

In a study of the value of the magnificent philosophy of Buddhism to the Western mind, it is necessary to define what is meant by the Western Mind, and also in what sense we intend to use the word Buddhism.

The Western mind we define as the mental attitude towards life, in which external things are the most important. Civilisation, railways, machinery, inventions, capitalism, commercialism, militarism, industrialism of the people, socialism as an economic principle, Conservatism, Liberalism, self-government, democracy, secular education - all those things that are manifestations of the typical Western mind, and many others, including the general idea of progress as meaning increasing trade and the development of the natural resources of the State, country, empire, or the world in general.

These are the things that the Western mind runs riot over. These are the channels along which the Western intellect flows in a ceaseless tide of unrest, always seeking new sources of expression, new revolutionary changes, or else indulging in the backwash of reaction with equal vigour.

The religion of the West also is paradoxical, in that it is a collection of magnificent phrases, ideas and sayings, hung together without being connected in a philosophical system. The simple source, from which all its ramifications come, is missing, not shown, or purposely withheld. Therefore each statement stands by itself, and is not necessarily a spoke in a general wheel, or a brick essential to the upkeep of an edifice. This is typical of the whole Western intellect. It lacks foundation, yet it is more brilliant, more progressive, more powerful than the mind of the races of the East.

This is probably due to the fact that the Western mind is older than the Eastern, though the Western civilisation is younger, with all the defects of youth and irresponsibility, and is destined to reach a philosophical height transcending that of the East in the fullness of time.

Now, by Buddhism we mean that part of Buddhism which is philosophical, and not the system which, adapted to the civilisations of its time and to the East generally, is not adapted to Western civilisation or heredity.

The philosophy of Buddhism, founded on eternal verities, will act as a key to unlock all the doors that have been closed to the Western mind for so many centuries, while the West was developing a strong physical type, conquering the physical world and subduing nature in various forms, inventing machinery, building railways, founding empires. This process, while necessary apparently in the scheme of things, leads away from the philosophy of life and the things that belong to the permanent and the everlasting. Now these things have about reached their climax.

Material progress has almost reached its limit, and the West will have next to turn its attention to the worlds that are within, and build the tracks of thought across the desert of sensation to the station of peace and security. It will have to find a means to found the great Empire of Righteousness, to lay the foundations of a new civilisation based on brotherhood and truth.

And Buddhism, viewed as a philosophy and not as a religion, will appeal to the West as the one and only system that contains all the ideas, all the methods, all the formulas, all the principles, on which the Western mind can ponder in its effort to evolve this great Empire of Righteousness. The philosophy of Buddhism will in the first place explain the religion of the West, it will not supersede it.

The religion of the West will assimilate gradually the philosophy of Buddhism, which will act as an enlightening purifying stream irrigating the fields of Christian and Western thought.

Societies for the study of the philosophy of Buddhism will spring up, because the yearning to know will only be satisfied by the principles taught by the mighty Indian sage.

The teaching of Karma and Dharma will turn Western civilisation from a vast lunatic asylum of clashing sects into a sane, universal brotherhood.

The Four Noble Truths - Sorrow, Sorrow's Cause, Sorrow's Ceasing, and the Way, will bring back such peace to the West as broods over all the countries of the East where the great Lord Buddha is revered.

Victor E. Kroemer

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