Praised by the Wise

Famous men and women comment on the Buddha and his teachings

Compiled by Venerable S. Dhammika

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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

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. Laing (1927-1989)

British psychoanalyst

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

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 (1862-1931)

British Writer

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 (1920-2020)

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

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 Ackroyd's comments on English poet T. S. Eliot

British Author

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

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