Praised by the Wise

Famous men and women comment on the Buddha and his teachings

Compiled by Venerable S. Dhammika

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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’ (1921-)

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 (1934-2022)

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

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 (1909-1974)

Burmese educator, diplomat, and Secretary General of the United Nations

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

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

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 (1924-2013)

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 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 Thouless (1894-1984)

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

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.

Robert J. Hawke

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

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

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

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 Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society

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