Buddhism and Humanism
Dr. Siddhi Butr-Indr
Human personality, according to the Buddhist standpoint,
is a composite of psychical and physical components (nama-rupa) and its very nature
is changing and impermanent. In relation to it the presupposition of I and 'mine'
arises.  Yet it is neither, some by-product of merely material elements' nor
'the divine creation of God.' Its value does not depend upon the two principles,
namely, the materialistic and the theistic, but is conditioned by the practice,
through human effort, of the three cultural principles as previously discussed.
 Man possesses a free will and effort in the field of threefold action: in
thought, in speech and in deed. The glory of human life, individual as well as
social, lies in this element, but it is also the source of difficulties and sometimes
of degradation of mankind.  Man has human value in the individual who acts
in a worthy way for his own welfare and for that of others. Everyone, expressing
himself through body-with-mind, is a chooser; he has the choice between free play
of will and restraint of will by regulation. He wants what he believes to be better
and it is of his nature to seek freely, through many "betters', a 'best'.
 He is aware of an inner motivation to act or not to act, he lives with others;
each is a willer, each is a chooser, existing according to his own choice-a choice
for the improvement of humanity.
The Buddha was a human being alive to this
world as one of the religious and philosophical leaders of mankind. He looked
upon man's wayfaring in the world as a very true thing; he did not claim to be
other than a human being  and attributed all his realization, success and achievement
to his human endeavor and intelligence.  By his example he urged man to put
forth his own energy to attain the unattained, to master the un-mastered and to
realize the unrealized; he was convinced that in possession of that state man
will live happily. In this respect, man's position is supreme; he is his own
master and there is no other being or power higher than himself judging over his
destiny; his success or failure lies in his own will, choice and strength. 'To
become a friend, an intimate of that which is good and righteous...you yourself
must take into your life diligence in good things.' If a man values his life,
it is suggested, he should ever guard it well  and live it in the right way,
since a wise man lives earnestly. Since nothing is dearer to man than his own
life, man should regard and respect the lives of others as he does his own. 
Human life, or more properly human conditions, are of supreme value, not only
because of life itself but also because of the fact that human welfare, material,
moral and spiritual, and even final emancipation are gained from it and in it.
The whole body of the Buddha's teachings can be transferred into ethical
terminology as follows: 'not to do any evil, to devote oneself to doing good,
and to purify the mind, this is the teaching of the Buddha(s).  This teaching
offers any individual or society a voluntary way of thought and practice based
upon an analysis of human morality which promotes human welfare and well-being,
and aims at the realization of the truth of human life and finally at freedom
from suffering. Rejecting all claims to heavenly revelation and all appeal s to
theological authority, the Buddha discovered and founded his standard of truth
and his method of acquiring it through his own experimental effort on practical
principles, and this method can be applied to the universal problems of human
life.  King Bhumibol expresses this idea in his statement that "Buddhism
deals with the truth of human life... I am of the opinion, therefore, that the
proper way to preach Buddhism is to teach man how to discover and realize the
right principles of life and to act according to those principles for his own
benefit, welfare and well-being." This concern with human existence and
immediate human experience in dealing with the problems relative to human life,
this tolerance of right-minded inquiry and stress on human action guided by right
understanding, this religious and philosophical way of life, this reliance upon
supreme human will and capacity and emphasis on human value as the highest and
best, the possibility of experiencing freedom in perfect existence - all these
principles, perhaps, characterize Buddhism and express its view of life. "Buddhism
is a system of thought, a religion, a spiritual science and a way of life, which
is reasonable and practical," Humphreys Writes, "...It points to man
and man alone as the creator of his own life and sole designer of his destiny."
Buddha's Attitude towards Human Interest and Welfare
The Buddha addressed sometimes
himself to people who were in trouble. The Pali texts depict him discussing with
his hearers what he judged to be immediately relevant to and profitable for their
respective present conditions. Everything he taught had a beneficial bearing upon
someone's concrete quest and search. The immediate need, according to the Buddha,
is to realize the nature of the difficulties and problems of human life and to
adopt the right ways of removing them so that humanity may reach its supreme bliss.
Thus the Buddha's main concern is to remedy and remove the suffering of mankind.
His gospel is the gospel of love advocating generosity, justice, gentleness, loyalty,
serenity and compassion among human beings.  His heart was full of love for
mankind and for all living beings and his sole purpose was to dedicate his life
to the propagation of his religion for the sake of mankind.  He taught his
religion to people for the purification of their minds, words and deeds, for the
overcoming of sorrow and despair, the disappearance of grief and dejection, the
reaching of the Way, and the realization of security and salvation. 
and concern for the welfare of mankind and of all living beings is frequently
spoken of and recommended by the Buddha  and his compassionate nature has
been famous down the centuries. It seems inconceivable that this should have been
without a very real foundation in history.  In his declaration, "then
in speaking rightly of me one should say: 'A being (the Buddha) not liable to
bewilderment has arisen in the world for the welfare, the profit and the happiness
of many folk, out of compassion for the world, for the good, the interest, the
well-being both of divine and human beings." Elsewhere, we learn that
the Buddha does not assert a statement (a) which he knows to be untrue (abhuuta.m),
lacking in fact (ataccha.m), unprofitable (anatthasa~nhita.m), unpleasant (appiya.m)
and disagreeable (amanaapa.m) to others, (b) which he knows to be true, factual,
but unprofitable, unpleasant and disagreeable to others, (c) which he knows to
be untrue, lacking in fact, unprofitable, though pleasant and agreeable to others,
and (d) which he knows to be unprofitable, though true, factual, pleasant and
agreeable to others, and that he would assert at a proper time a statement (a)
which he knows to be true, factual and profitable, though unpleasant and disagreeable
to others and (b) which he knows to be true, factual, profitable, pleasant and
agreeable to others. And the Buddha's sound reason and purpose in justifying
this attitude culminates in the statement . It is that the Tathágata has
infinite compassion for the sake of all living beings." From the above
passages it appears that special emphasis is laid on a high estimation of the
relationship of truth to its utility, which further shows the coherence and consistency
between the doctrines themselves and their practical utilization on the part of
the believers 'Now, Brahmin, I declare: one should not speak of such things seen,
heard, thought and known-, by saying which, unprofitable things increase and profitable
things decrease. Contrarily, one should speak of such things-seen, heard, thought
and known-, by saying which, unprofitable things decrease and profitable things
Thus, not everything was revealed and taught by the Buddha to
his disciples, but only those things that he considered profitable, benevolent,
useful and good for them. 'Monks much more in number are those things which I
have realized and have not revealed to you. Only few are the things I have revealed.
And why, monks, have I not revealed them? Because they are not profitable and
do not conduce to the principles of holy life, aversion detachment elimination
(of desire), tranquility, higher knowledge, enlightenment and salvation.'
With his compassionate purpose of promoting human interest and welfare-material,
moral and spiritual-, the Buddha, too, recognized human dignity and free choice
and never wanted blind followers of his authority, who would accept and carry
out his instruction without examining, testing and trying its value, necessity
and reason. He encouraged people to follow him, not for the sake of himself
and not merely because of their faith in a claim of his 'Omniscience' but
of their own free will, experimentation and insight into the truth of his teaching
and, above all, because of their individual interest and welfare. 'Now, look you,
Kalama's, be ye not misled by report or tradition or hearsay, nor by the authority
of the Collection, nor by mere reasoning, nor by logic, nor by examination of
reasons, nor after reflection on and approval of some theories, nor because it
has a fitting (bhavya) form, nor out of consideration; "The recluse is our
teacher' ...But, Kalama's, whenever you know for yourselves: 'These things (Dhamma)
are ... blameworthy ... to the wise, these things, when performed and undertaken,
conduce to loss and suffering,'-then, indeed, do you reject them...But if at any
time you know of yourselves: 'These things are salutary, blameless and praiseworthy
to the wise, these things, when performed and undertaken, conduce to well-being
and happiness,'-then, Kalama's, do ye undertake them and abide therein...'
When asked by King Pasenadi as to whether there is any quality (Dhamma) by which
man is able to acquire and maintain both kinds of welfare in this life and in
the life to come, the Buddha replies, "Surely, Mahaaraaja, diligence (appamaada)
is the one quality by which man can acquire and maintain welfare in tins very
life and m the fife to come..." and in addition he utters the following
Whoso to length of days aspires, to health,
To beauty, or to heaven,
or to the joys
Of the highborn, if he in virtuous deeds
he wins the wise man's praise.
He that is wise and diligent doth win
advantage: wins that which is good
In this life and wins good in life to come.
strong in mind doth win the name of Wise,
Because he grasps wherein his vantage
The Buddha's Attitude towards Human Value: the Exaltation of Human
Will, Effort and Dignity
As observed above, from Buddhist ethics certain concepts
can be derived: that there is a continuity of human personality the value of which
should be accepted primarily in the existence itself; that the process of ethical
concern with human personality is such that the avoidance of evil and cultivation
of good along with the purification of the mind tends to make man and his life
better and happier; that there is an assertion of a state or the final goal with
the means of attaining it-the state of perfection, ultimate freedom and bliss
to be obtained only when man's mind is absolutely pure and cleansed of all defilements;
and that there is a possibility of a human freewill, effort and potentiality to
deal with the concepts, mentioned above.
Concerning the above principles, we
find in the original texts the Buddha facing on the one hand the theistic doctrine
and on the other the materialistic doctrines including fatalism. The former may
imply that the world including human beings and their duties is designed, created
and determined by the Supreme Deity, that all events are predetermined and controlled
by Him, and that, therefore, in such a situation He is absolute and ultimately
responsible for all human deeds-good and evil-, and experiences-happiness and
suffering-; that in his present and future condition man is incapable of helping
and saving himself without the Divine Grace since human beings become corrupted
or doomed or emancipated only by the Divine Will and Grace and, moreover, that
man's initiative, potentiality, will and effort as well as his fate and destiny
entirely depend upon the Creator. The theistic standpoint (Issaranimimaanavaada)
may be illustrated by a statement such as 'He is the Great Brahma, the Supreme,
the Omnipotent (abhibhuu anabhibhuuto), the Omniscient (a~n~nadatthudaso), the
Ruler (vasavatti), the Lord (issaro), the Maker (katttaa), the Creator (nimmata)
The Father (pittaa) of all that are and are to be. All beings are His creation...
and at His Will all beings come into existence,' and such as 'Whatsoever happiness
or suffering (sukham vaa dukkha.m vaa) or the state of neither suffering nor happiness
mankind (purisa.puggalo) experiences, all that is due to the creation of the Lord.'
According to the materialistic doctrines, a human being is simply built up of
the four elements of earth, fire, water and air and of nothing else: at the time
of dissolution, whatever is composite, including human personality, is reduced
to the primary elements: there are no moral values, good and evil deeds, nor their
results: all events are strictly determined by physical constitution and natural
forces. For Fatalism (sa.msaara-suddhivaada: lit. the theory of Purification,
through transmigration), Non-causationalism (ahetukavaada),,and Non-actionalism
(akiriyavaada), human beings will after an allotted period of transmigration automatically
come to the end of this suffering; there is neither cause 'nor condition for the
depravity or the rectitude of human beings; the attainment of any given condition,
of any character, does not depend on human act, will to act and effort; man is
devoid of individual action, of human potentiality, of human power, endeavor,
strength and effort (natthi attakaaro natthi purisakaaro, natthi bala.m, viriya.m,
purisaparakkamo), there is neither human action nor will to act nor effect of
action nor efficacy of action, and thus man cannot help himself.
expounder of the law of action, the Buddha criticizes the doctrines outlined above.
His criticism of the theistic doctrine mainly focuses on the following grounds:
If it is so (i.e. according to the theistic standpoint quoted above), then it
is due to God's creation (Issaranimmaanahetu) that people commit murder, theft,
and unchaste deeds; it is due to God's creation that they are covetous, malevolent
and hold false views. Moreover, for those who uphold the belief in God's creation,
there is neither human will nor effort nor necessity to do this nor necessity
to refrain from doing this (by themselves). 
b) If the creatures experience
happiness and suffering due to God's creation, then surely they are created by
an evil God in that even now they continually experience such painful, severe
and sharp sensuality.
c) If the Lord designs the life of the entire world,
the glory and the misery, the good and the evil deeds being prevalent in this
world, then God alone is responsible, and man is but an instrument of His Providence.
And therefore, if Brahma were the Lord of the whole world and the Absolute Creator
of all beings, then why has He ordained misfortune in the world? Why did He not
make this whole world happy... For what purpose and reason has He unjustly created
the world with deceit, falsehood, oppression, transgression and conceit? Or the
Lord Himself is of evil nature in that He has ordained injustice and the like,
where there should have been justice and the like. 
Since Buddhism is atheistic,
there is no room for the belief in the creation of God or in the Divine Grace,
both from the ontological and the ethical points of view. "It is a system
that knows no God or God's Grace and refuses any efficacy to prayer and sacrifices,"
Huxley says, "but it bids men look to nothing but their own efforts for reaching
the goal." In this connection, we may observe that the Buddha is a realist
and rationalist  who claimed to see 'things as they are (yathaaibhuta.m) and
to look at things through the eyes of a realist: 'I would treat night as night
and day as day.' He frankly accepted 'man as man' in the world of conditional
existence, not determined by something beyond man, but by himself alone, whose
present and future lies in his own hands, who has absolute responsibility for
his own destiny and who is capable of improving his life and attaining the emancipation.
In this aspect, the Buddha recognized 'human value' in all respects. Conspicuous
in this connection is his exaltation of 'human will, effort and potentiality latent
in man.' He asserted that man possesses an element of initial effort (aarabbhadhaatu),
personal action (purisakaaro) and own actions (attakaaro), and that there are
in man the elements of exertion (nikkamadhaatu), of endeavour (parakkamadhaatu),
of strength (thaamadhaatu) of preseverance (.thitidhaatu), and of enterprise (upakkamadhaatu)
which make him act of his own accord in various ways. 
As far as one's
personality and human value are concerned, one is advised to develop them, without
referring to the so-called supernatural grace, on the one hand, and without asserting
on the other hand the materialistic ideology which absolutely denies human survival,
recompense and responsibility as well as moral and spiritual values and obligations.
Instead, through the above elements, one should prevent the arising of evil things
that have not arisen, eliminate those which have already arisen, make arise good
things, which have not arisen, and preserve, increase, fully develop, cultivate
and perfect those which have arisen.  The mental, verbal and bodily acts of
man make moral responsibility a reality and self-development a practical possibility,
ennobling his nature and regulating his future betterment. Man is what he is and
acts because of what he can make of himself by the exercise of his own dignity,
will, effort and potentiality. This is what is often emphasized in the statements:
One is one's own refuge ... by his own well-tamed self, a man gains a refuge which
is hard to gain,' 'evil is done by oneself alone: one is defiled by oneself:
by oneself alone is evil left undone: by oneself` alone one is purified: purity
and impurity depend on oneself: none can purify another,  you yourselves must
put forth exertion; the Tathágatas are only the guides,' 'live ye as
islands unto yourselves, as refuges unto yourselves; live with the Norm as your
island and as your refuge, taking no other as your refuge.'
By mere wish,
hope or even idle prayer, one can in no way attain what one wishes and hopes for;
but only by exercising one's own energy, actualizing one's own potentiality and
applying oneself to what is desired one can attain what one wants. "If,
Vaase.t.tha, this River Aciravati were full of water even to the brim and overflowing,
and a man with business on the other side ... should come up and want to cross
over, and he, standing on this bank, should invoke the other bank, and say, 'Come
hither, oh further bank! Come over to this side!, would the further bank ... by
reason of that man's invoking and praying and hoping and praising come over to
this side?" "Certainly not." "In just the same way, Vaase.t.tha
do the Brahmins... omitting the practice of those qualities which really make
a man a Brahmin and adopting the practice of those qualities which make a man
non-Brahmin, say thus, 'Inda we call upon Soma ... Varu.na ... Isaana ... Pajaapati...
Brahma...we call upon', verily, that those Brahmins ... by reason of their invoking,
praying and hoping and praising .... should become united with the Brahma - verily,
such a condition of things can in no wise be." We read elsewhere that
there are five things in the world of householders, which are welcome, sought
after, desirable and lovely but hard to get, namely, human and heavenly long life,
beauty, happiness, fame and the heavenly worlds. These things are not to be achieved
either by vows or prayers, declared the Buddha; for, if they were, then why would
any one languish here? Thus, to achieve long life and so on, there is no use for
a noble disciple in yearning for them through prayer or invocation. But the way
and means that lead to these things must be way-fared and by doing so he will
be a winner of these things. How highly the Buddha evaluated human potentiality
and effort may be deduced from the following statement: 'Gladly would I be reduced
to skin and sinews and bones and let my body's flesh and blood dry up; as long
as that which can be reached by human strength, by human energy and by human striving
has not been reached, so long there will be no resting place for my (human) energy.'
this aspect, man is the creator of his own world, the master of his own life,
the controller of his own fate and de tiny under the causal law of action (kamma);
man's condition his station in life, his sorrow and happiness and so on-depending
upon his own deeds under his own responsibility. The merit or demerits of actions
performed by man accumulate, and, in the course of time, acquire a vital potency.
In this connection Buddhism encourages the earnest pursuit of a course of go action
for the betterment of moral existence of mankind and strengthens human potentiality
to succeed in striving after human welfare and well-being. The Buddha claimed
to be on of the teachers of action, of the efficacy of action, of energy an energetic
will to do so. He severely criticized the philosophic theories of materialism,
fatalism as well as non-actionism pointing out that they give a false sense of
security to man corrupt them and encourage complacency, denying the human value
of potentiality, will and effort as well as human morality. He especially rebuked
an expounder of non-actionism as born for the detriment and loss of very many
people and compared him to a fisherman casting his net at the mouth of a river
for the destruction of many fish. 'I do not declare, monks, that o intentional
actions done and accumulated there can be a wiping out without experiencing, more
or less in one way or another (the result thereof), whether it would arise in
this visible state or in some other state hereafter.' Therefore, according
to the Buddha, a doer of good experiences good, while a doer of evil experiences
evil, just as one who sows the seed reaps the fruit thereof. 
Brahmin youth, asked the Buddha, "What the cause, the reason, that lowness
and excellence are to be found among human beings while they are in this world?
Why do we see some people with a short lifetime, others with a long one; some
people with many, others with few afflictions; some ugly, others beautiful; some
of little account, others of great account; some who are poor, others who are
wealthy; some who are of low families, others who are of high families; some who
are weak in wisdom, others who are full of wisdom?" The Buddha declared:
'Actions are one's own, living beings are heirs to their actions, they have actions
as their womb, their kin, their controllers; action divides living beings..."
Thus, whatever actions men do, either good or bad, they are bound to them 
and responsible for them. This idea is illustrated in another place, for instance,'...Whatever
man is a taker of life, a taker of what is not given, a wrong-doer in respect
of sensual conduct, a liar ... of perverted view,-however much a great multitude
of people, gathering and thronging together, might pray and praise and escort
him with uplifted palms, saying: 'This man, when his body breaks up after his
death, will be born into the happy lot, into the heavenly world...', yet would
that man be born into the woeful lot, into the downfall, into hell.' In its
rational, realistic aspect, the law of action says: 'None is by birth a Brahmin,
by birth a non-Brahmin: by deed is one a Brahmin, by deed a non-Brahmin; by deed
is one a farmer, or an artisan, or a trader, by deed is one a servant, or a thief,
or a warrior, or a celebrant, and even so a king is one by deed: the wise perceive
the 'law of action' as it is as well as the ripening of actions, because they
understand the i principle of Co-origination (or, Origination in dependence):
(thus) by action the world moves and by action mankind moves, too; just as the
axle of (the wheel of) a rolling chariot (is bound to move), so living beings
existing in bondage are held by their actions.
Notes and References
Cf. D. I. 76; S. IV. 83; D. III. 212; S.Radhakrishnan and P.T. Raju, The Concept
of Man, p. 262ff.
 D. I. 18; M. I. 327; J. VI. 208.
and P.T. Raju, The Concept of Man, p. 256ff.
 D. III. 68ff.
Rhys Davids, A Manual of Buddhism, p. 192.
 C.A.F. Rhys Davids, Gotama the
Man, p. 7.
 M. I. 481f; II. 211.
 A. III. 103ff.
 S. I. 75.
The Commentary on the Dhammapada, III. 137.
 S. I. 75.
 The Commentary
on the Dhammapada, III. 235f.
 The Commentary on the Dhammapada, III. 237;
D. II. 49.
 Vin. I. 8; M. I. 171.
 World Fellowships of the Buddhists,
 Cp. R.A. Gard, Buddhism, p. 16f.
 C. Humphers, Buddhism,
 S. I. 89ff; A. III. 39f.
 S. I. 105; Vin. I. 21.
A. V. 194.
 Cp. A.K. Warder, Indian Buddhism, p. 64.
 Cp. G.C. Pande,
Studies in Origins of Buddhism, p. 329.
 M. I. 21, 83. cp. MLS. I. 27,
1000. See also A. II, 147; It. p. 78.
 M. I. 395.
A. II. 173f.
 S. V. 438.
 Govinda, Psychological Attitude of Early
Buddhist Philosophy, p. 67.
 M. I. 465, 468.
 M. I. 483.
A. I. 190ff.
 S. I. 86.
 D. I. 18.
 A. I. 173f.
D. I. 55; M. I. 515; J. VI. 225f.
 D. I. 53; A. I. 33f; M. I. 516.
A. I. 174.
 M. II. 222.
 J. V. 328.
 J. VI. 208.
A. Huxley, Romances Lecture, p.21.
 D. III. 81; M. II. 86ff.
 A. III. 337f. Cf. A. I. 173ff.
 S. V. 268.
on the Dhammapada, III. 148.
 ibid, p. 157.
 ibid, p. 148.
D. II. 100; III. 58; S. III. 42; V. 163.
 A. IV. 125f.
 D. I. 244ff.
A. III. 47f.
 M. I. 481; A. I. 50; S. II. 28.
 A. I. 287.
A. I. 33f.
 A. V. 292.
 S. I. 227.
 M. III. 202f.
A. II. 74, 186.
 A. V. 288ff.
 S. IV. 312f.
 M. II. 196.
See also M. I. 285ff; A. II, 230ff; S. I. 72ff.