Buddhist Philosophy and Its European Parallels
Edward Conze
Philosophy East and West 13, no.1, January 1963.
© by The University press of Hawaii.

The search for philosophical parallels is fraught with pit-falls. Some parallels are fruitful and significant, others incidental and fortuitous. I now propose to discuss the European parallels to Buddhist thought in two articles, of which the first is devoted to the true, and the second to the spurious, parallels.
As for my interpretation of the basic principles of Buddhism, I have recently given it in some detail in Buddhist Thought in India.(1) Since my views differ to some extent from those of my predecessors, I will briefly sum them up so that the reader can see what kind of "Buddhism" I compare with European philosophy.
The basic teaching of the Buddha can be expressed in one sentence: The conditioned world as it appears to us is fundamentally and irreparably undesirable, and salvation can be found only through escape to the Unconditioned, also called "Nirvaa.na." Everything else is elaboration.
All conditioned things are marred by having three "marks, " i.e., by being impermanent, "ill," and "alien to our true self."(2) Much thought has gone into determining the full meaning of those marks. "Ill," for instance, comprises not only pain and suffering, but also the unease which is nowadays known as "existential anxiety,"(3) and the mark of "not-self" has given rise to interminable discussions.(4) Human beings fret against a world which is impermanent, ill, and not-self and are not content to live in it, because they believe that in the core of their own being they are eternal, at ease, and in full control of everything.(5) This alienation of our empirical personality from our true being (i.e., from the "Tathaagata" within us(6) )is brought about by "craving."(7)
If we want to return to our original state of purity, we must first regenerate ourselves by developing five cardinal virtues,(8) of which wisdom is the last and most important. After these virtues have sufficiently matured, we can slowly attempt a break-through to the Unconditioned,(9) which, through the three doors of deliverance, i.e., Emptiness, the Signless, and the Wishless,(10) leads to Nirvaa.na,(11) which is a state in which the self has become extinct, in which none of this world is any longer extant, and which therefore transcends all words and concepts.(12) This is all quite simple to understand, though at times hard to believe. It is very much complicated, however, by being combined with an ontological theory of "Dharma" which requires a tremendous intellectual effort.(13) This theory distinguishes three levels of reality: [1] the one and single Dharma, which is the ultimate and unconditioned reality of Nirvaa.na;[2] a multiplicity of dharmas, or momentary and impersonal events, which, though illusory compared with the one single Dharma,(14) are more real than the things around us; and [3] the things of the common-sense world, which are mere verbal constructions, in that they are combinations of dharmas held together by words.(15) The Buddhist "dharma-theory is unique, and has no exact equivalent anywhere else.(16)
So much for the tenets of what I call "archaic" Buddhism. They were probably formulated by the time of A'soka.(16a) Two centuries later the further elaboration of these ideas led to two distinct schools, i.e., the "scholastic Hiinayaana" and the "Mahaayaana," which, contrary to what is often said, did not significantly conflict in their doctrines but merely diverged in their range of interest. The "scholastic Hiinayaana" concentrated on the conditioned dharmas, systematized their classification, defined more precisely their particular attributes and general marks, and worked out the relations pertaining among them.(18) The creative contributions of the Mahaayaana, on the other hand, almost exclusively concern the Unconditioned. In particular, the notion of "Emptiness," which in "archaic" Buddhism had been one of the avenues to Nirvaa.na, was now immensely enriched.(19) It was also buttressed by a searching analysis of the traditional concept of the "own-being" of dharmas(20) and by a type of logic which in Europe we would call "dialectical."(21) Equally applied to conditioned and unconditioned dharmas, "emptiness" led to their identification. The result is a "monistic" ontology which shows many analogies to European metaphysical systems of the same type,(22) while the descriptions of the bafflement experienced by the intellect when confronted with this one and unique Absolute resemble the position of the Greek skeptics in many ways.(23)
Of special interest for the theme of these articles is the chapter on "Tacit Assumptions,"(24) in which I compare Buddhist with contemporary mentality, and try to establish that Buddhist thinkers made a number of tacit assumptions which are explicitly rejected by modern European philosophers. The first, common to nearly all Indian, as distinct from European, "scientific," thought treats the experiences of Yoga as the chief raw material for philosophical reflection. Secondly, all "perennial"(25) (as against "modern") philosophers, agree on the hierarchical structure of the universe, as shown in (a) the distinction of a "triple world" and (b) of degrees of "reality," and (c) in the establishment of a hierarchy of insights dependent on spiritual maturity. Thirdly, all religious (as against a-religious) philosophies (a) use "numinous" as distinct from "profane" terms, and (b) treat revelation as the ultimate source of all valid knowledge.(26)
This is not how everyone sees it, and the doubting reader must be referred to the arguments of my book.
The cornerstone of my interpretation of Buddhism is the conviction shared by nearly everyone, that it is essentially a doctrine of salvation, and that all its philosophical statements are subordinate to its soteriological purpose. This implies, not only that many philosophical problems are dismissed as idle speculations,(27) but that each and every proposition must be considered in reference to its spiritual(28) intention and as a formulation of meditational experiences acquired in the course of the process of winning salvation. While I cannot imagine any scholar wishing to challenge this methodological postulate, I am aware that, next to D. T. Suzuki, I am almost alone in having applied it consistently.
Finally, any interpretation of Buddhism which goes beyond the indiscriminate accumulation of quotations and attempts actual1y to understand Buddhist thought involves an element of choice, in that one has to decide which one among the numerous presentations of the Buddha's doctrine should be regarded as the most authentic. Buston favors the Buddhisn of the Paala period, Frauwallner the Yogaacaarins, Oldenberg the Palii Canon (minus the Abhidhamma), Stcherbatsky the scholastic Hiinayaana and the later logicians, D. T. Suzuki the early Mahaayaana and Zen, some Chinese schools the Saddharmapu.n.dariika, and so on. With Professor Murti, I regard the Maadhyamikas as representing the central tradition of Buddhism, and believe that with them Buddhist theorizing reached its full maturity. This preference colors much of what I have to say.
What, then, is the relation of these Buddhist teachings to European philosophy? From the outset, I must admit that I do not believe in a clear-cut distinction between "Eastern" and "Western" mentality. Until about 1450, as branches of the same "perennial philosophy, "(29) Indian and European philosophers disagreed less among themselves than with many of the later developments of European philosophy. The "perennial philosophy" is in this context defined as a doctrine which holds [1] that as far as worth-while knowledge is concerned not all men are equal, but that there is a hierarchy of persons, some of whom, through what they are, can know much more than others; [2] that there is a hierarchy also of the levels of reality, some of which are more "real," because more exalted than others; and [3] that the wise men of old have found a "wisdom" which is true, although it has no "empirical" basis in observations which can be made by everyone and everybody; and that in fact there is a rare and unordinary faculty in some of us by which we can attain direct contact with actual reality--through the praj~naa (paaramitaa) of the Buddhists, the logos of Parmenides,(30) the sophia of Aristotle(31) and others, Spinoza's amor dei intellectualis, Hegel's Vernunft, and so on; and [4] that true teaching is based on an authority which legitimizes itself by the exemplary life and charismatic quality of its exponents.
Within the perennial philosophy Indian thought is marked off by two special features: [1] the reliance on yoga as providing the basic raw material of worth-while experience,(32) and [2] the implicit belief in karma and rebirth. Yoga, of course, has its counterpart in the West in the spiritual and ecstatic practices of contemplatives, and belief in reincarnation is nearly world-wide,(33) though rare among philosophers accorded academic recognition.
Then, after 1450, the East fell asleep and lived on its inherited capital, until in the end innate lethargy and aggression from the outside brought it to its present impasse. In the West, a large number of philosophers discarded the basic presuppositions of the "perennial philosophy," and developed by contrast what for want of a better term we may call a "sciential"(34) philosophy. That has the following features: [1] Natural science, particularly that dealing with inorganic matter, has a cognitive value, tells us about the actual structure of the universe, and provides the other branches of knowledge with an ideal standard in that they are the more "scientific" the more they are capable of mathematical formulation and the more they rely on repeatable and publicly verified observations. [2] Man is the highest of beings known to science, and his power and convenience should be promoted at all costs. [3] Spiritual and magical forces cannot influence events, and life after death may be disregarded, because it is unproven by scientific methods. [4] In consequence, "life" means "man's" life in this world, and the task is to ameliorate this life by a social "technique" in harmony with the "welfare" or "will" of "the people." Buddhists must view all these tenets with the utmost distaste.
"Sciential" philosophy is an ideology which corresponds to a technological civilization. It arises in its purity only to the extent that its social substratum has freed itself from all pre-industrial influences, and in the end it must lead to the elimination of even the last traces of what could properly be called "philosophy" in the original sense of "love of wisdom." For centuries it existed only blended with elements from the traditional "perennial" philosophy. As philosophies, both the "perennial" and the "sciential" systems possess some degree of intellectuality, and up to a point they both use reasoning. But considered in their purity, as ideal types, they differ in that the first is motivated by man's spiritual(35) needs, and aims at his salvation from the world and its ways, whereas the second is motivated by his utilitarian needs, aims at his conquest of the world, and is therefore greatly concerned with the natural and social sciences. Between the two extremes there are, of course, numerous intermediary stages. They depend to some extent on the quality of the spirituality behind them, which is very high, say, in Buddhism, slightly lower in Plato and Aristotle, and still quite marked in such men as Spinoza, Leibniz, Berkeley, Kant, Goethe, Hegel, and Bergson. The general trend, however, has been a continuous loss of spiritual substance between 1450 and 1960, based on an increasing forgetfulness of age-old traditions, an increasing unawareness of spiritual practices, and an increasing indifference to the spiritual life by the classes which dominate society.
Leaving aside the relative merits of the "perennial" and the "sciential" approaches to philosophy, all I want to establish at present is their mutual incompatibility, which is borne out by their mutual hostility. Our "sciential" philosophers are well aware of this. We need only peruse the writings of empiricists, logical positivists, and linguistic analysts, and it will become obvious that the animosity displayed toward a philosopher is almost a measure of his spirituality.(36) And, in a way, the moderns are quite right. For "perennial" and "sciential" philosophies represent two qualitatively different kinds of thinking which have almost nothing in common, except perhaps for a certain degree of respect for rationality. Our contemporaries continually assure us that the spiritual philosophers of the past are not "philosophers" at all, but dreamers, mystics, poets, and so on. All we can conclude from this is that the word "philosophy" is being used in two quite disparate senses: [1] as the pursuit of "wisdom," and [2] as a "rigorous" academic exercise without much ostensible purpose. The "wisdom" meant here is compounded of knowledge and a "good life," and to it apply the words of Proverbs: "Blessed is the man who has found wisdom. Her ways are good ways, and all her paths are peaceful. She is a tree of life to all that lay hold upon her."(37) It is not easy to how such words could be used of "philosophy" in the second sense.
Having stated the general principles on which the comparison of Buddhist and European thought must be based, I now speak of the only three currents of European philosophy which can significantly be compared with Buddhism, i.e., [1] the Greek Skeptics, [2] the wisdom-seeking mystics, and [3] the monists and dialecticians.
[1] The European system nearest to the Maadhyamikas is that of the Greek Skeptics. In my Buddhism,(37a) I have shown their close similarity, both in intention and structure. They also agree in that the history of skepticism exhibits the same tendency to deviate into a purely theoretical intellectualism which has continually threatened the integrity of Buddhist thought. Greek Skepticism went through four stages, which R. G. Bury(38) has called the practical, the critical, the dialectical, and the empirical. The parallel with Buddhism is closest in the first stage, i.e., with Pyrrho (360-275 B.C.).In the last, with Sextus Empiricus (A.D. 160-210), it is barely perceptible. Indeed, taking the later developments as his norm, Bury can affirm that Pyrrho "was probably not at all a full-blown Sceptic, but rather a moralist of an austere and ascetic type who cultivated insensibility to externals and superiority to environment."(39) It was only in the New Academy, with Arcesilas (315-241 B.C.), that Skepticism "ceased to be purely practical and became mainly theoretical."(40) "Thus, while Pyrrho had renounced and Timon flouted the Dogmatists, Arcesilas started the practice of refuting them scientifically and systematically, and earned thereby the abuse of Timon for his lapse from pure Pyrrhonism."(41) In fact, when we read Sextus Empiricus, we find that, although some of the original message has remained intact,(42) it has been overlaid by a vast technical apparatus accumulated over five centuries and by numerous concessions to common sense. The bulk of Sextus' work is parasitical on the dogmatic philosophers, and seems to be motivated more by disputatiousness and the desire to score debating points than by a positive interest in mental repose. In many ways his attitude resembles that of the later Buddhist logicians.
At the time of Cicero, halfway between Pyrrho and Sextus Empiricus, this loss of spiritual earnestness had not gone quite so far. Some of the statements which Cicero makes in his Academica,(43) on behalf of or in response to the Skeptics, are indeed strikingly similar to the teachings of the Maadhyamikas and other later Buddhists.
The Skeptics were people who "sanctioned nothing as proved" (qui nibil probarent(44)). "All those things you talk about are hidden, closely concealed (occultata) and enfolded in thick clouds of darkness, so that no human intellect has sufficiently powerful sight to be able to penetrate to heaven and get inside the earth."(45) Though "it is possibly the case that when exposed and uncovered they change their character" (quia possit fieri ut patefacta et detecta mutentur).(46) The Skeptics "have a habit of concealing (occultandi) their opinion, and do not usually disclose it to any one except those that had lived with them right up to old age."(47) And the opponent says, "What pray are those holy secrets (mysteria) of yours, or why should your school conceal (celatis) its doctrine as something disgraceful?"(48)
"It is the wise man (sapiens) that we are investigating,"(49) and it is on him that "all this enquiry turns."(50) He "avoids being taken in and sees to it that he is nor deceived."(51) They hold that "nothing can be perceived,"(52) or grasped (comprehendi, anupalabdhi),(53) and the "wise man will restrain all acts of assent" (adsensus, abhinive'sa).(54) There is also a reference to the "perversity" (pravitas) of seeing the non-real as real,(55) and to arguments against the senses, which are said to be "full of darkness,"(56) and against "everything that is approved in common experience" (consuetudo = sa^mv.rti).(57) And, as though he had read the Praj~naapaaramitaa, an opponent points out that "as for wisdom herself, if she does not know whether she is wisdom or not, how in the first place will she make good her claim to the name of wisdom? Next, how will she venture with confidence to plan or execute any undertaking when there will be nothing certain for her to act upon?"(58)
[2] Secondly, there is a close similarity with those ascetic, other-worldly, and "mystical" thinkers who assigned a decisive importance to "spiritual experience." They are represented by four main trends:
(a) First, there are the Wisdom speculations of the Near East between 200 B.C. and A.D. 300. Their conception of chochma and sophia is closely analogous to that of praj~naapaaramitaa, and some of the similarities are really quite startling.(59)
(b) Next, the kindred Gnostic and Neo-Platonic modes of thought, especially the later Neo-Platonists, like Proclus and Damascius,(60) and also their Christian form in Origenes and in Dionysius Areopagita, who in some passages of his Mystical Theology(61) gives what may well be called a Christian version of the Heart Suutra.
(c) Thirdly, there are the great mystics of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, such as Meister Eckhart,(62) Ruysbroeck, and Suso. Their kinship with Buddhism has been noted so often that I can be quite brief. Ruysbroeck says of the "God-seeing man" that "his spirit is undifferentiated and without distinction, and therefore feels nothing without the unity." Among Western contemplatives, suunyataa corresponds to the "desert of the Godhead," to Ruysbroeck's "idle emptiness," to Eckhart's still wilderness where no one is at home, to the "naked orison," the "naked intent stretching unto God," which becomes possible with entire self-surrender, and also to the fathomless abyss of Ruysbroeck and Tauler.(63) This "abyss" is wholeheartedly welcomed by those steeped in self-negation and self-naughting, but, later on, less selfless people like B. Pascal(64) and Ch. Baudelaire(65) felt rather ambivalent when confronted with it, since they were clearly none too enchanted with the implication of being "separated from all created things." The Theologia Germanica(66) (ca, 1425), as is well known, contains many formulations with a distinctly Buddhist flavor. The most striking similarity lies, of course, in the constant emphasis on "I-hood and selfhood," on "I, me, and mine" as the source of all alienation from true reality, and on the need to undo that "blindness and folly."(67) But this is not all. On re-reading the book I have been astounded to find how close it is in so many ways to Buddhist mentality, in spite of its author's "cautious limitation of his speculations to what is compatible with the Church,"(68) and some minor concessions to theism, especially in the later parts. Apart from the subject of satkaayad.r.s.ti this is true of what is said about the Godhead (= Nirvaa.na), the "deified man" (= the bodhisattva), activated by both "cognition" and a "love" wherein "there neither is nor can remain any I, Me, Mine, Thou, Thine, and the like, "(69) non-attainment, (70) the perverted views, (71) self-deception (= avidyaa),(72) Suchness, (73) faith, (74) the One, (75) emptiness, (76) desire, (77) and so on--in fact, quite an impressive list.
(d) Toward the end of the seventeenth century, shortly after Galileo, European mysticism of this type lost its intellectual distinction, and faded away into the "Quietism" of Molinos and Mme Guyon. In the aftermath of the French revolution, many of the basic laws of the spiritual life were rediscovered by great poets who were also fine thinkers, such as Blake, Shelley, Wordsworth, and Coleridge in England. Though often vitiated by a fatal rift between theory and practice, their thought offers many parallels to Buddhist thinking. To this generation of rebels against the Goddess of Reason belonged Arthur Schopenhauer, whose thought, partly under Indian influence, exhibits numerous, and almost miraculous, coincidences with the basic tenets of Buddhist philosophy.(78) The term "parallel" implies that two lines run parallel at more than one point, and the degree of affinity existing between Schopenhauer and Buddhism will give us a standard by which to judge other alleged "parallels."
As he himself said, Schopenhauer continued the triple tradition of "quietism, i.e. the giving up of all willing, asceticism, i.e. intentional mortification of one's own will, and mysticism, i.e. consciousness of the identity of one's own inner being with that of all beings, or with the kernel of the world."(79) He shows that life in the world is meaningless, essentially suffering, and bound to disappoint the hope that our desires might be fulfilled. He attributes this suffering to "the will to live," which is the equivalent of t.r.s.naa, and which "involves us in a delusion." He looks for salvation from this world by way of a "denial of the will to live," which is a "consequence of the dawning of better knowledge,"(80) and by an asceticism and self-renunciation exemplified in "the lives of saints, penitents, sama.nas, sannyaasins, and so on."(81) We may add his atheism, his denial of an immaterial, substantially unchanging, soul, his belief in reincarnation, his stress on compassion as the basis of morality, his indifference to the "achievements" or "rhythm" of human history,(82) as well as his insight into impermanence(83) and into the reasons why Nirvaa.na can be described only negatively, and yet it is not nothing.(84)
It is only on two points that he differs from Buddhism.
(A) He fails to appreciate the importance of disciplined meditation. Educated non-Catholic Germans of the nineteenth century were quite unfamiliar with the tradition of spiritual contemplation. On the other hand, for relaxation they habitually visited art galleries and went for walks in the countryside. It is no wonder, therefore, that Schopenhauer sees the foretaste of "the exalted peace" of Nirvaa.na, not in trances (dhyaana), but in "pure esthetic contemplation." Although the contemplation of beauty has some analogy to the conditions prevailing in trance, it is on the whole an undisciplined faculty, and its results are rather fleeting and have little power to transmute the personality. In this respect, the German bourgeois town-dweller was a lesser man than the Indian man in the forest.
(B) Secondly, Schopenhauer teaches that the Will is the Thing-in-itself, whereas in Buddhism "craving" operates within the conditioned and phenomenal world, and the unconditioned noumenon lies in Nirvaa.na, which is quite calm as the result of the abolition of craving. Unacquainted with the practice of yoga, Schopenhauer did not know that at the bottom of every mind there is a calm quietude which is the prototype of Nirvaa.na. His central metaphysical thesis is, however, incompatible, not only with Buddhism, but also with his own soteriological aspirations. It is, indeed, not only hard to see how any cognitive act can ever reach the Thing-in-itself, but it also remains incomprehensible how thought can ever have the strength to stand up against the Will, and, what is more, how as a part of the purely illusory phenomenal world it can possibly overcome and effectively "deny" it.(85) This was early recognized by Nietzsche(86) and J. Bahnsen(87) (1881), Schopenhauer's immediate successors, and led them, respectively, into nihilism and a pessimism unrelieved by the hope of escape.
(C) Furthermore, Buddhism has a distinct affinity with the "monistic" traditions of European thought. The Eleatic emphasis on the One(88) implied devaluation, depreciation, and at times even rejection of the plural and multiple world. However they may phrase it, all monistic systems are in tune with the feeling which Shelley formulated in the famous verse:
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass
Stains the white radiance of eternity
Until death tramples it to fragments.(89)
Parmenides (ca. 480 B.C., nearly the Buddha's contemporary) and his successors assume a radical difference between appearance and reality, between surface and depth, between what we see (phainomena) and what we can only think (noumena), between opinion and truth. For Parmenides, opinion (d.r.s.ti) is derived from the senses, which are deceptive and the basis of false information. Truth is derived from the logos, which has for its object Being (that which is and has no other attributes but to be). Being is, non-being is not; and that which Is can never not be, either now or later (as in change). Nothing that Is can either arise or perish.(90)
All monistic systems are remarkably uniform, and they are all equally beset by at least four unavoidable difficulties. They must, first of all, try to guard against the misunderstanding that the One might be a datum within the world, or a part of the conglomeration. Both East and West acutely felt the difficulties of finding an adequate verbal expression for the essentially transcendent and elusive reality of the One, and both made many attempts to circumvent them by the use of paradoxes, absurdities, contradictions, tautologies, riddles, negations, and other devices. Secondly, the monists must attempt to maintain the simplicity of the One by redefining the meaning of predication in regard to it. In this context, scholastic philosophers explained that God is each of his predicates, whereas creatures have them, and that the predicates of God are not different from one another, since otherwise he would not be simple. "The absolute essence is not in one respect different from what it is in another; what it is, it is in the totality of its being."(91) Everything plural is itself and in addition something else, and only the completely free can be itself pure and simple.
A third problem concerns the relation between the One and Being. The old Eleatic school, which flourished between 540 and 300 B.C.,(92) identifies the two. One must bear in mind, however, that in doing so it uses a special archaic, pre-Atistotelian type of logic(93) which, among other things, employs "the principle of unlimited predication." This means that a predicate is either predicated without limitation of the subject or it is not valid at all. This logic only knows statements of the type "All A are all B," which predicate the entire P of the entire S, without any qualification as to time, part, or respect, without any distinction being made between total and partial identity of S and P, or between their partial and total difference. The Eleatics also "assumed that one speaks only in one sense (monachos) of 'one' and 'being.'"(94) The victory of Aristotelian logic changed all that. Plotinus describes the One expressly as "beyond being"; for Meister Eckhart, who said that "in the Kingdom of Heaven all is in all, all is one, and all is ours," Pure Being, as the most general, becomes the richest of all terms;(95) and Hegel, again, treats "being" as the initial and minimal definition of the Absolute, which is later enriched by many further "attributes." The Theologia Germanica(96) says that "he who finds satisfaction in God, his satisfaction is the One, and is all in the One. And he to whom the One is not all and all not the One, and to Whom something and nothing are not one and the same, cannot find satisfaction in God." The Buddhist non-dual One was in the same way by many devices transferred beyond all logical categories.
And, fourthly, monists must come to some decision on the status of appearance. It may well be that not all of them have, like most Buddhists, regarded appearance as a mere illusion, and it is probably true that' "there is never any suggestion in Plotinus that all things except the One are illusions or fleeting appearances."(97) But this is a distinction without much of a difference, because also in the Plotinian system the sensory and material world has an extremely low degree of reality, and is afflicted by a great loss of the original reality, near its point of extinction. In the same way, in the Hegelian system the natural world is a state of estrangement from the Absolute Spirit. In Eckhart, "all creatures, insofar as they are creatures, as they are in themselves (quod sunt in et per se), are not even an illusion, but they are a pure nothing."(98) And, for Spinoza, "a temporal existence insofar as it is purely temporal is the same as non-existence, and is perishing in proportion to its fragmentariness and exclusiveness; existence in every range insofar as it gains content move already towards an ideal of perfection which is one with eternity itself."(99)
The background of all "monistic" views(100) is a religious contempt for the world of ordinary experience, for that which is not One or not He who Is. That world is held to be unsatisfactory---partly emotionally as a source of suffering, and partly logically as self-contradictory, and as therefore either non-existing(101) or unable to abide in the state in which it is. In this way monism is apt to beget the dialectics out of itself, as in Zeno, Hegel, and Bradley, to name only a few. In the case of Zeno of Elea (ca. 460 B.C.), whom Aristotle called the founder of the dialectics, the "paradoxes" (aporiai) he devised aimed at defending by indirect proofs the view of Parmenides, which held local movement to be impossible in the ultimate reality of the true world of being. All Zeno did was to show that, on assuming movement, the consequences which follow are contradictory and untenable,(102) and that, therefore, the information derived from sense-data is patently false, since selfcontradictions are the marks of false appearance.
Zeno's dialectics has had many successors. Among them, Bradley seems nearer to the Maadhyamikas than either Hegel or Marx. Both Hegel and Marx make two assumptions which must irritate Buddhists. The first is the insistence on human history, (103) which Buddhists hold to be utterly pointless. The second is the constant introduction of the tripartite scheme of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, which postulates a relentless "progress" from one state to the other, culminating in the tyranny of the Prussian state or of the U.S.S.R. On the other hand, Bradley is, next to Schopenhauer, the nearest representative in modern Europe of at least one side of Buddhist thought. Even the procedure of Appearance and Reality is the same as that of the Maadhyamikakaarikaa, in that one currently accepted category after the other is taken up and shown to be self-contradictory and untenable. Nor can I agree with Professor Murti's(l04) claim that they differ greatly "in their notion of the Real and its relation to appearance." In fact, they both treat the Real as ineffable, and "at once transcendent and immanent."(105) If Bradley takes care not to exclude entirely the appearance from the Real, and seeks somehow to identify the two,(106) then this is not a "rather inconsistent contention,"(107) but the exact equivalent of the Maadhyamika position ("Form is emptiness, " etc.). Both these books are essentially polemical treatises and their message seems to be identical.
part two of this essay: Spurious Parallels to Buddhist Philosophy
(1) Buddhist Thought in India (London: George Alien & Unwin Ltd., 1962). Hereafter BThl.
(2) BThl, pp. 34-43.
(3) To be discussed in Section 2b of the second article, "Spurious Parallels to Buddhist Philosophy," to be published in the next issue of this Journal.
(4) About its relation to Hume's denial of a "self," see Section 3 of the second article.
(5) BThl, pp. 43-46.
(6) It is "A central peace, subsisting at the heart/Of endless agitation" (W. Wordsworth). See below, p. 18.
(7) See below, p.19.
(8) BThIl, pp. 47-55.
(9) Ibid., pp. 56-58.
(10) Ibid., pp. 59-69.
(11) Ibid., pp. 69-79.
(12) "The teachings of European mystics correspond to this doctrine in its general tone (see below, pp. 17-18), but only Schopenhauer matches it in many particulars (see below, pp. 18-20).
(13) BThI, pp. 92-106.
(14) Ibid., pp. 223-225 (see below, p. 22).
(15) Ibid., p. 97n.
(16) See Section 2a of the second article. (16a)274-236 B.C.
(17) BThI, pp. 119-191.
(18) Ibid., pp. 148-158.
(19) Ibid., pp. 242-249.
(20) Ibid., pp. 239-241 (see Section 1 of the second article).
(21) BThI, pp. 261--264; also below, pp. 22-23.
(22) See below, pp. 20-22.
(23) See below, pp. 15-17.
(24) BThI, pp. 17-30.
(25) For a definition, see below, pp. 12-13.
(26) BThI, p. 17.
(27) Sections 1 and 3 of the second article.
(28) For a definition, see below, p. 14, note 35.
(29) This term. was originally invented by Catholics to describe the philosophy of St. Thomas and Aristotle. It was then taken over by Aldous Huxley and others, and my definition is akin to that of Ananda Coomaraswamy. A. Huxley in his famous book of 1946 'envisaged only the mystical school, whereas here i include the intellectual and speculative trends, i.e., Plato and Aristotle as well as the German idealists. The only people before 1450 who are excluded are those who, like the Lokaayatikas in India, were deliberately antispiritual, but not necessarily the Epicureans who were anticlerical but no foes of a tranquil and serene life.
(30) Being for him is "one" kata ton logon (when seen by reason) , "many" kata t(-+e) aisth(-+e)in (when seen by perception) . Aristotle, Metaphysics, I.986(b)33-34.
(31) "In his Metaphysics, Aristotle has taken great pains to describe the subjective counterpart of "being as being," e.g., in Book I.981(b)-983(a).
(32) "Notre philosophie est n‚e de la curiosit? et du besoin de savoir, d'expliquer le monde d'une fa‡on coh‚rente. En Inde la philosophie est l'interpretation rationelle de l'exp‚rience mystique." So Constantin Regamey, on page 251 of what is one of the most notable contributions so far made to comparative philosophy, i.e., "Tendences et m‚thodes de la philosophie indienne compar‚es celles de la philosophie occidentale, " Revue de Th‚ologie et de Philosophie, IV (1951), 245-262. Regamey also shows how this difference in the point de d‚part leads to a radical divergence in the criteria of absolute truth. (33) Joseph Head and S. L. Cranson, eds., Reincarnation: An East-West Anthology (New York: The Julian Press, Inc., 1961).
(34) The opponents of the perennial philosophy prefer to describe themselves as "scientific." There can be nothing more unscientific, however, than the drawing of extravagant and presumptuous conclusions about the mind, soul, and spirit of man, and about his destiny and the purpose of his life, from a few observations about the expansion of gases, the distribution of moths, and the reflections of the celestial bodies in little pieces of glass. If I were reduced to that part of myself which can be seen in bits of glass, I would certainly feel that most of my being was omitted. Why should this not be true also of other things apart from my own dear self?
(35) I have defined the word "spiritual" in my Buddhism (3rd ed., Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1957) on page 11. The quintessence of the spiritual life, shorn of its usual accretions, was admirably formulated by Petrus Damiani in the eleventh century in two exceedingly fine poems which have recently been reprinted in F. J. E. Raby, ed., The Oxford Book of Medieval Latin Verse (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), pp. 185-189. The second has also been translated into English in Frederick Brittain, ed., The Penguin Book of Latin Verse (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1962), pp. 176-180.
(36) To mention just two easily accessible sources: In Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philorophy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945) this attitude is expressed with some urbanity, and in J. O. Urmson, ed., The Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy (London: Hutchinson, 1960) with blunt rudeness (e.g., the article on Schopenhauer is sheer personal abuse).
(37) Cf. III:13-18.
(37a) Op. cit., pp. 140-142.
(38) R. G. Bury, trans., Sextus Empiricus, 4 vols. Vol. I, Outlines of Pyrrhonism (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1333),p. xxx.
(39) Ibid., p. xxx; Cf. also p. xxxi.
(40) Ibid., p. xxxii.
(41) Ibid., p. xxxiii.
(42) E.g., in what the skeptik(-+e) ag(-+o)g(-+e) ("sceptical procedure") (Book I. Chap. 4) has to say about ataraxia (='samatha) as the end of life (I. 25-30), or about the svabhaava (physis or peri t(-+o)n ex(-+o)then hypokeimen(-+o)n) (I. 15, 22, 93, 163) , the relativity of everything (I. 135), or on non-assertion (I. 192-193) , non-determination (I. 197) , and non-apprehension (I. 200).
(43) Cicero, De Natura Deorum; Academica, H. Rackham, ed. and trans. (Cambridge: Harvad University Press, 1961). (44) Ibid., pp. 488-489; Academica, II (Lucullus). vi.17.
(45) Ibid., pp. 624-625; Academica, II (Lucullus). xxxix.122.
(46) Ibid.
(47) Ibid., pp, 462-463; Academica, fragment No. 21.
(48) Ibid., pp, 542-543; Academica, II (Lucullus). xviii.60.
(49) Ibid., pp. 550-551; Academica, II (Lucullus). xx.66.
(50) Ibid., pp. 614-615; Academica, II (Lucullus). xxxvi.115.
(51) Ibid., pp. 550-551; Academica, II (Lucullus). xx.66.
(52) Ibid., pp. 550-551, 554-555, 608-609, 489-490, 542-543. They "do not deny that some truth exists, but deny that it can be perceived" (qui veri esse aliquid non negamus, percipi posse negamus). II. xxiii.73.
(53) Ibid., pp. 620-621; Academica, II (Lucullus). xxxviii.119.
(54) Ibid., pp. 554-555; Academica, II (Lucullus). xxi.68.
(55) Ibid., pp. 566-567; Academica, II (Lucullus). xxv.80.
(56) Ibid., p. 559; Academica, II (Lucullus). xxiii.73.
(57) Ibid., pp. 562-563; Academica, II (Lucullus). xxiv.75.
(58) Ibid., p. 499; Academica, II (Lucullus). viii.24.
(59) For some details, see my review of H. Ringgren, Word and Wisdom, in Oriental Art, I, No. 4 (Spring, 1949), 196-197.
(60) Some useful material has been collected by R. Gnoli in La Parola del passato, I (1961), fasc. LXXVII, 153-159. See also J. Rahder's suggestions on 'suunyataa in Indogaku Bukky(-+o)gaku Kenkyuu (Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies). IX, No. 2 (1961), 754. On the other hand, I can see no merit in E. Benz's attempt to establish a direct link by claiming that Plotinus' teacher, Ammonios "Sakkas," was either a member of the Indian dynasty of the "Saki," or a "Sakya" (Sakiya, Sakka), i.e., a Buddhist monk. Orientalia Romana, I (1958), 18-20 (Instituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. Serie Orientale Roma, XVII).
(61) I.e., 1.2, II.1, III.1, chaps. 4 and 5. The translations are apt to obscure the parallel, which becomes strikingly obvious as soon as the Greek text is consulted.
(62) Cf. Daisetz T. Suzuki, "Meister Eckhart and Buddhism," in Mysticism, Christian and Buddhist (London: George Alien & Unwin Ltd., 1957), pp. 7-35.
(63) For a good description, see Tauler, "Sermon on St. John the Baptist," in The Inner Wary: 36 Sermons for Festivals. New translation, edited with Introduction by Arthur Wollaston Hutton (London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1901), pp. 97-99. Cf. St. John of the Cross, Noche Oscura, Vol. I, Book 2, chap. 17.
(64) E.g., L. Brunschvicg, ed., Pens‚es (14th ed., Paris: Hachette, 1927), p. 350.
(65) It is quite interesting to note, when reading Les Fleurs du Mal, the varying and conflicting connotations of such key terms as gouffre, abime, and vide.
(66) New York: Pantheon Books, Inc., 1949. London: Gollancz, 1950. This is the translation of S. Winkworth, revised by W. Trask, on the basis of J. Bernhart's translation into modern German: Theologia Germanica (New York: Pantheon Books, 1949).
(67) Chaps. 1-5, 20, 22, 24, 32, 34, 40, 44, 49, 51.
(68) Bernhart, op. cit., p. 101.
(69) Ibid., pp. 191-192, 197.
(70) Ibid., pp. 167, 180, 183.
(71) Ibid., pp. 119, 186.
(72) Ibid., p. 200.
(73) Ibid., pp. 206, 240.
(74) Ibid., p. 207.
(75) Ibid., pp. 197, 204-206, 218-219.
(76) Ibid., pp. 144, 219-220.
(77) Ibid., p. 115, liebheyt.
(78) Cf. R. Fussell, The Nature and Purpose of the Ascetic Ideal (Kandy, Ceylon: Buddhist Publication Society, 1960). H. v. Glasenapp, Die Philosophie der Inder (Stuttgart: Alfre Kroener Verlag, 1958), pp. 428-429.
(79) E. F. J. Payne, trans., The World as Will and Representation (WWR), 2 vols. (Indian Hills, Colorado: The Falcon's Wing Press, 1958), p. 613. Vol. II.
(80) WWR, Vol. II, p. 608.
(81) Quoted in Fussell, op. cit., p. 1. Sama.nas = recluses; sannyaasins = ascetics.
(82) WWR. Vol. II chap. 38.
(83) WWR, Bk. I, par. 3; Bk. III, par. 33.
(84) WWR, Vol. II, pp. 608, 612.
(85) For an exceedingly clear and lucid survey of the many inconsistencies in Schopenhauer': philosophy, I must refer to H. M. Wolf, Arthur Schopenhauer. Hundert Jahre Sp"ter (Bern and Muenchen: Francke Verlag, 1960).
(86) H. M. Wolf, op. tit., pp. 36, 70, 106-107.
(87) About his "miserabilism," see E. Conze, "The Objective Validity of the Principle o: Contradiction," Philozophy, X (1935), 216.
(88) But the panta ch(-+o)rei of Herakleitos fits none too well, because not everything flows Nirvaa.na, the most important thing of all, being excepted.
(89) Good parallels can be found in P. Damiani, "The Glories of Paradise," referred to above note 35.
(90) "It never was, and it never will be, since it Is, all of it together, only present in the Now, one and indivisible." (Diels-Kranz. Fr. 8 [Simpl. Phys. 145.I.3-6].)
(91) Plotinus, Enneads, VI.viii.10.
(92) Also the Megarics and Antisthenes belonged to it. Pyrrho appears to have started with the Megaric position.
(93) S. Ranulf, Der eleatische Satz vom Widerpruch (Kopenhagen: Gyldendal, 1924). The archaic character of Parmenides' thinking is also shown in his belief that Being is a mass which,.as a well-rounded sphere, fills space. Also the well-known works of Prant1, Apelt, Maier, E. Hoffmann (Die Sprache und die archaisthe Logik [Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1925]), and Cornford are helpful in this connection.
(94) Aristotle, Physics, 185(b)33. In many passages (Metaphysics, Gamma 2, 4, E 1, Z 1, K 3), Aristotle points out that Being is said pollach(-+o)s (in many senses).
(95) See R. Otto, Mysticism East and West (London: Marmillan and Company, 1932), pp. 21-26.
(96) Pp. 204-205. Italics mine.
(97) A. H. Armstrong, Plotinus (London: G. Alien & Unwin Ltd., 1953), p. 41. For the ambiguities in Plotinus' own thought, compare Armstrong p. 21 with p. 29.
(98) For useful quotations see 11. Otto, op. cit., pp. 91-96.
(99) According to Harold F. Hallett, Aeternitas (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930), p. 45.
(100) It may be objected that the comparison of all this with Buddhism applies more to the "monistic" Mahaayaana than to the "pluralistic" Hiinayaana theories. But the difference should not be overstressed. As the Theravaada had a latent idealism and an implicit bias toward a mentalistic interpretation of physical reality (%tienne Lamotte, L'enseignement de Vimalakiirti. BibliothŠque du Mus‚on, Vol. 51 [Louvain: Institut Orientaliste, Universite Catholique de Louvain, 1962], pp. 52-60), so it teaches also the one Dhamma side by side with the multiple dhammas (see Buddhaghosa on ekam hi saccam, na dutiiyam atthi, in Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosaacariya, H. C. Warren, ed; rev. by Dh. Kosambi, Harvard Oriental Series, Vol. 41 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950), pp. 422, 421.
(101) A purely intellectual contradiction reduces thought to nothing. It results in nonsense. He who thinks a contradiction thinks nothing at all.
(102) Or, in other words, that his Pythagorean opponents cannot assert the reality of movement without coming into conflict with their own premises. These opponents assumed that a line consists of indivisible points in juxtaposition, and the counter-arguments of Hobbes ( Works, I. 110), Bergson, and Aristotle take no notice of the historical situation. The contradictions involved can be seen succinctly in Hegel, History of Philosophy, Haldane, trans., 1892, I. 273-274; cf. Logic, I. 191-193, II. 143 sq.; F. Engels, Herrn Eugen D?hrings Umw"lzung der Wissenschaft, 3rd ed. (Stuttgart: J. H. W. Dietz, 1894), 120; E. Conze, Philosophy (see note 87), p. 21).
(103) Hegel said that "comprehended history forms both the memorial and the calvary of the absolute Spirit--that without which it would be Lifeless (!) Solitude." He seems to have a strange view of "life," as composed of a long series of senseless oppressions and massacres perpetrated in the name of some fatuous "ideal" or other.
(104) The Central Philosophy of Buddhism (London: George Alien & Unwin Ltd., 1955), p. 308.
(105) Murti, ibid,, p. 310.
(106) Appearance and Reality: A Metaphysical Study (9th impression, corrected, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1930),p. 404.
(107) Murti, op. cit., p. 309.

Spurious Parallels to Buddhist Philosophy

Edward Conze
Philosophy East and West 13, no.2, January 1963.
© by The University press of Hawaii.

After an examination of the genuine parallels between European and Buddhist philosophy, we shall now consider a few of the more widely advocated spurious parallels. They often originate from a wish to find affinities with philosophers recognized and admired by the exponents of current academic philosophy, and intend to make Buddhist thinkers interesting and respectable by current Western standards. Since this approach is not only objectively unsound,(1) but has also failed in its purpose to interest Western philosophers in the philosophies of the East, the time has now come to abandon it. Modern academic philosophers normally have no interest in what Buddhists care for, and vice versa.
A philosophical doctrine can be viewed from at least four points of view: [1] as the formulation of certain propositions, [2] in terms of the motiva- tion which induced their author to believe them to be true, his motives connected with the purpose he had in mind, [3] in terms of the argumentation through which he tries to establish their truth--the reasons which he adduces being rarely those which actually impelled him, and [4] in terms of the context in which the statements are made, a context which is determined by the philosopher's predecessors and contemporaries, and by his social, cultural, and religious background. When we compare Buddhist and European thought, it happens quite often that the formulations agree, whereas considerations of their context, of the motives behind them, and of the conclusions drawn from them suggest wide discrepancies. Verbal coincidences frequently mask fundamental divergences in the concepts underlying them. For pages upon pages Shintan Shonin and Martin Luther in almost the same words expound the primacy of "faith," and yet in fact their two systems disagree in almost every other respect.(2) Berkeley' denial of matter seems to re-state literally the absolute idealism of the Yogaacaarins, (3) but, nevertheless, (a) his immaterialism sets out to deny a conception of matter derived from Locke, etc., and unknown in India; (b) his idea of Mind agrees none too well with that of the Vij~naanavaadins; (C) his uncritical acceptance of sense-data conflicts with the dharma theory; and (d) his idea of "God" would not commend itself to Buddhists.
Far too often "soteriological" are confused with "philosophical" concepts, and the Buddhist "Void"(4) is thus regarded as being on the same level with the Aristotelian or Plotinian idea of "matter," or with the "pure potentiality", of the Timaeus, which is empty of all distinctions and full of infinite possi bilities. Not must it be forgotten that spiritual sickness is apt to ape or counterfeit (prativar.nika, pratiruupaka) the language of spiritual health. If the words alone are considered, the emptiness doctrine may be mistaken for one of the forms of European post-Nietzschean nihilism,(5) and the self- naughting of saints is to some extent mimicked by the self-destructive tendencies of German Romantics, like Schlegel, Tieck, Novalis, and so on.(6) Likewise, we could in recent years observe in the Anglo-Saxon countries' certain of D. T. Suzuki's followers using the Master's sayings to justify a way of life diametrically opposed to the one envisaged by him.(7) These examples might be multiplied almost indefinitely. In this article I will confine myself to three kinds of false parallels. [1] Some, like Kant, are not "parallel" at all, but tangential. [2] Others, such as Bergson and the existentialists, are preliminary. [3] Others, again, like Hume, are merely; deceptive.
(1) Professor T. R. V. Murti(8) has found between Kant and the Maadhyamikas close similarities, which Jacques May(9) has rejected as "perfide, " or treacherous." In judging this issue, we must first of all bear in mind that it is the whole purpose of Kant's philosophy to show that morality and religion, as understood by the German Protestantism of East Prussia, can survive, even though Newtonian physics be true and Hume's skepticism significant. So great had the pressure of natural science become by his time that he is a man divided against himself. On the one hand, he longs to preserve the decencies of the perennial philosophy. It seemed vital to him to confine the intellect, conceived as the progenitor of natural science and therefore the foe of all human values, to the phenomenal world. In consequence, he resembles the perennial philosophers insofar as he maintains that true reality cannot be known though sense-data or concepts, but must be contacted by a pure spiritual intent--in his case, a completely disinterested act of the will. On the other hand, he takes the assertions of natural science very seriously, and is concerned as much to find reasons for their universal validity as to define their limits.(10)
Kant's great specific contribution to philosophy stems from his insight into the problems posed by the tension between traditional values and the implications natural science, and in his having found a solution acceptable to many for a long time. This tension was quite unknown in India. Since he answers a question no pre-Macaulayan Indian could ever ask, his answer can have no real correspondences in Indian thought, which never underwent the onslaught of the "mechanical" method. Therefore, all those modern thinkers who either accept the ideal of "mechanical" knowledge or give it great weight cannot have much affinity with Buddhist thought. Kant's position in regard to Buddhist philosophy is the exact reverse of Schopenhauer's. There the analogies were essential, and the discrepancies fortuitous, whereas here the similarities are incidental and the differences vital.
To begin with, it is wrong to describe Naagaarjuna's position as epistemological, since it is clearly ontological.(11) For perennial philosophers everywhere, philosophy is a way of life based on an understanding of reality as reality, of being as being. They all agree with Aristotle's famous remark according to which "The question which was raised long ago, is still and always will be, and which always baffles us--'What is Being?'--is in other words 'What is substance?'"(12) The whole theme of Naagaarjuna's work is the search for the own-being (svabhaava) of dharmas.(13) Epistemology, by contrast, is a branch of "sciential" philosophy, and became an object of inquiry only in modern times. Following the hints of the nominalists, Descartes tore apart thought and being, and then decided that we are more immediately aware of our thoughts about things than of the things themselves, that the data of inner experience are more immediate and clear to us than the experience of outward things.(14) Kant succinctly expressed the shift from the ontological to the epistemological approach in his famous remark about the "Copernican Revolution," which Murti has surely misunderstood.(15) Kant says(16) that "hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects," whereas he himself prefers "to suppose that objects must conform to our knowledge." This assertion of the primacy of the subjective over the objective assumes a separation between subject and object which is alien to Indian thinking. In the Maadhyamika system, on the highest level, i.e., on that of the fully realized perfect wisdom, they are one and identical. On the lower levels, they are occasionally distinguished, but never with the rigidity of post-Cartesian philosophy. The division between subjective and objective facts is always incidental and never fundamental. Their basic unity lies in their all being dharmic facts. Just as truth (sat-ya) does not describe a particular kind of knowledge, but a state of being, so all cognitive acts are viewed as factors in the interplay of objective facts (dharma) which bring about, not just a false view of the world, but the origination (samudaya) of a false world alienated from true reality. There is no room here to show the existential character of avidyaa (ignorance), d.r.s.ti (false views), prapa~nca (idle speculations), etc., but the reader should always bear in mind that false views are not merely wrong knowledge, but wrong. knowledge on the part of a viewer who is in a false position and surrounded by distorted objects.
All Maadhyamika reasoning has the one single purpose of enabling transcendental wisdom to function freely. In his remarks about "intellectual intuition," Kant questions the possibility of such a faculty, and, in addition, he could not possibly formulate a spiritual discipline which could lead to it,(17) because no man can be much wiser than his age. The essence of Buddhism concerns the one true reality (Dharma), which can be realized only in the discipline of a traditional system of meditation, of which the Christian counterparts vanished from sight in Northern Europe soon after the Reformation.
There remains the apparent analogy between Kant's antinomies and the Buddhist treatment of speculative questions (avyaak.rtavastuuni). They agree in a few details, i.e., in that they are both concerned with whether the world is finite or infinite, etc., and in that they are both left undecided. The difference, however, is the following: The antinomies are insoluble because one can argue convincingly on both sides, and so no decision is possible. The deadlock of reason indicates that it has overstepped its boundaries. The argument concerning the "indeterminate topics" is totally different. They are not explained, set aside and ignored," because they are not conducive to salvation. There are answers to them, and the Tathaagata knows them, but he does not reveal them because they are of no use to us.(18) In the one case, these questions fall outside the scope of scientific, in the other of salutary, experience. The similarity is purely formal, and quite trivial when the formulations are viewed in their respective contexts.
(2) We now come to those who go but part of the way. Bergson and the existentialists, among others, agree with the Buddhists in their revulsion from the nightmare of a sinister and useless world, but cannot follow them into the transcendental world, just for lack of expertise and because of their unfamiliarity with any definite spiritual tradition--whereas Kant had still stood squarely in the Protestant tradition, however impoverished that may have been by his time.
(2a) Bergson, like Kant, strives hard to show that spiritual values can co-exist with the findings of science. He does this by contrasting the largely false world of common sense and science (in which he, nevertheless, takes a keen interest) with the true world of intuition. He is perfectly lucid and even superb so long as he demonstrates that both the intellect and our practical preoccupations manifestly distort the world view both of everyday experience and of mechanical science. But, when he comes to the way out, to his dur‚e r‚elle and his "intuition," vagueness envelops all and everything. His positive views have therefore been rightly described as "tantalising," for "as soon as one reaches out to grasp his body of thought it seems to disappear within a teasing ambiguity."(19) Mature and accomplished spiritual knowledge can be had only within a living tradition. But how could a Polish Jew, transplanted to Paris, find such a tradition in the corridors of the CollŠge de France or in the salons of the 16th arrondissement? It is the tragedy of our time that so many of those who thirst for spiritual wisdom are forced to think it out for themselves--always in vain. There is no such thing as a pure spirituality in the abstract. There are only separate lineages handed down traditionally from the past. If any proof were needed, Bergson, a first-class intellect, would provide it. His views on religion are a mixture of vague adumbrations and jumbled reminiscences which catch some of the general principles of spirituality but miss its concrete manifestations. Tradition furnished at least two worlds composed of objects of pure disinterested contemplation--the Buddhist world of dharmas and the Platonic ideas in their pagan, Christian, or Jewish form. Here Bergson would have had an opportunity to "go beyond intellectual analysis and to recapture by an act of intuitive sympathy the being and the existence in their original quality."(20) But for various reasons he could not accept either of these traditions. Like Schopenhauer, he regarded art as one of the avenues to the truth,(21) but, otherwise, his "intuition," this "ecstatic identification with the object,"(22) this "spiritual sympathy by which one places oneself within an object in order to coincide with what is unique in it, and consequently inexpressible, "(23) is never explained as a disciplined faculty.
Because of this disseverance from a concrete spiritual practice, Bergson has now no disciples, and his work belongs to the past. As Rai'ssa Maritain put it so well, "Bergson travelled uncertainly towards God, still far off, but the light of whom had already reached him."(24) Unable, like Moses, to reach the promised land, he, nevertheless, cleared the way for the Catholic revival of the twentieth century, which enabled many French intellectuals to regain contact with at least one living spiritual tradition. At the same time, he realized that the inanition of the spiritual impulse slowly deprives life of its savor among the more finely organized minds of Europe, and he wrote in 1932, "Mankind lies groaning, half-crushed beneath the weight of its own progress. Men do not sufficiently realize that their future is in their own hands. Theirs is the task of determining first whether they want to go on living or not(!)...."(25)
(2b) It is at this point of despondency that the existentialists had, after World War I, arrived on the scene. By that time the speculative vigor of European philosophers had declined so much that they got the worst of both worlds. As for the world of science, they rejected its pretensions with a lordly disdain. As for the world of the spirit, they did not know where to find it.(26) Their beliefs reflect to perfection the social position of the post-1918 intelligentsia on the European Continent. In the provincial perspective of England both logical positivism and existentialism are often explained as reactions against German idealism. This is not the case. Logical positivism is descended from the philistinism of the English commercial middle classes, (27) and, long before the days of Ayer, Wittgenstein, and Wollheim, the "British school of philosophy" had found its classical and superbly brilliant expression in Macaulay's essay on Lord Bacon.(28) As for existentialism, it is derived from the hopeless anxieties of the more intelligent European intellectuals. Their Sorge and existentielle Angst spring, not from their reading of Pascal and Kierkegaard, but from their own objective social situation. Russell was certainly not under the influence of either Pascal or Kierkegaard when he wrote in 1903 that "only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth[!] be safely built."(29) We naturally ask ourselves what might have happened to "henceforth" necessitate so much despair. By way of reply we are told that "the world which Science presents for our belief" is "purposeless" and "void of meaning."(30) If Russell had realized that the methods of Science, with a capital S, preclude it from ever recognizing any objective purpose or meaning even if there is one,. he might have saved himself much unnecessary worry. Millions of people like him take the conventions and hypotheses of mechanical "Science" for "truths,"(31)and are plunged into deep gloom forever after. Existentialism, like logical positivism, arose primarily from social conditions. Secondarily, of course, when these two movements reached the universities, their followers naturally rubbed themselves against the professors who were entrenched there and who were then in the habit of expounding the tenets of German idealism, and they also added a few frills of their own, such as Moore's characteristically Cambridge "preciousness," etc.
The existentialist diagnosis of the plight of human existence agrees with that of the Buddhists. "So human life is nothing but a perpetual illusion. Man is nothing but disguise, lie and hypocrisy, with respect to himself and with respect to others,"(32) and so on and so on. In terms of the Four Truths, the existentialists have only the first, which teaches that everything is ill. Of the second, which assigns the origin of ill to craving, they have only a very imperfect grasp. As for the third and fourth, they are quite unheard of. They just do not believe that "there is, O monks, an Unborn, an Unbecome, an Unmade, an Unconditioned; for if there were not this Unborn, Unbecome, Unmade, Unconditioned, no escape from this born, become, made and conditioned would be apparent."(33) Knowing no way out, they are manufacturers of their own woes. As distinct from their world weariness, that of the Buddhists is cheered by the hope of ultimate release and lightened by multifarious meditational experiences which ease the burden of life. Denied inspiration from the spiritual world, existentialists are apt to seek it from authoritarian social groups (Nazis, Communists, the Roman Catholic hierarchy). They are prone to ascribe their disbelief in a spiritual world to their own "unblinking love of truth." I myself was brought up among them, and they were clearly the bedraggled victims of a society which had become oppressive to them through the triple effect of Science, technology, and social decomposition, and in which no authoritative spiritual teaching could any longer be encountered, except in some obscure nooks and corners inaccessible to the metropolitan intelligentsia.
(3) By "deceptive" comparisons I mean those which concern statements that are negative in either form or content. A negative proposition derives its true meaning from what it is directed against, and its message entirely depends, therefore, on its context. In different contexts two identical negative statements may, therefore, have nothing in common. One single example must suffice.
Hume's denial of a "self" seems literally to agree with the anattaa doctrine. Buddhists are certainly at one with him when he rejects the notion of a permament self-identical substance in favor of a succession of impermanent states and events.(34) Furthermore, his assertion that out mind is "nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, (35) united together by certain relations" would win at least their qualified approval. The unity of the personality is a fairly loose one for Hume, just as for Democritus and the Epicureans it was a mere assemblage (concilium) of subtle moving atoms, and all that Hume did was to substitute "perceptions" for the "atoms" of the ancient materialists. He understood our personality after the image of inanimate objects,(36) which also have no "self," or true inwardness, of any kind. In addition, those inanimate objects, as well as the human personality, were subjected to the mechanical method, which discarded Aristotle's "substantial forms" and "intelligible substances," and which, in accordance with the "law of inertia," allows for no center of inward initiative. For Hume, only a stream of successive ideas exists, and there is no permanent self within, nor is any subject of experience needed to hold the ideas together, or to guide them. The mind, a mere stage for its contents and for their relations and interactions, is reduced to the drifting passage of an aimless temporality.
All this corresponds well to the picture of Paali Buddhism which British civil servants gave about eighty years ago. It takes no account, however, of the context of Hume's statements. When applied to the human personality, the Aristotelian synthesis used the term "substance" to indicate that some features of man are more essential to him than others, closer to his true being.(37) For Hume, on the other hand, all mental contents are of equal value, and for him it makes no sense to speak of "surface" or "depth," of inwardness" or "alienation." In consequence, from his point of view, there can be no sense in the spiritual approach of which Augustine has so well said, "In te ipszlm redi, in interiore homine habitat veritas.(38) Although Aristotle's theory of substance may have been a rather clumsy way of providing an ontological basis for the spiritual life, its rejection by Hume meant that he dropped all quest for the transcendental, and, appalled by his own nihilism, turned away from philosophy and occupied himself with re-writing the history of England in the interest of the Tory Party.
Whereas Hume reduced selfhood to the level of the sub-personal, the Buddhist doctrine of anattaa invites us to search for the super-personal. Its whole point lies in that, since everything in this empirical self is impermanent, unsatisfactory, etc., therefore it constitutes a false self, and none of it can be mine, me, or myself. In consequence, I must look beyond the skandhas (heaps) to find my true and abiding transcendental self (which is the Tathaagata).(39) The Dhammapada says that, if the egolessness of all dharmns is seen with the eye of wisdom, it will then lead to a turning away from all ill.(40) Suzuki, commenting on this verse, defines the praj~naa-eye as "a special kind of intuition enabling us to penetrate right into the bedrock of Reality itself."(41) To Hume, such a penetration would not have been a particularly meaningful undertaking, and he would have been still more displeased by Suzuki's sequel, when he says: "The problem of' the ego must be carried on to the field of metaphysics, To really understand what Buddha meant by saying that there is no aatman, we must leave psychology behind." Those who equate Hume and Buddhism on the subject of the "self" overlook the fact that no passage in the Buddhist scriptures teaches that there is no self, although the self is often called inconceivable" and inaccessible to verbalized knowledge, that the whole subject of the existence and nonexistence of a Self is relegated to the class of the fruitless "indeterminate topics, "(42) and that the fixed conviction that "there is not for me a self" is expressly condemned as a false view.(43)
These comparisons with European philosophers could be continued for many more pages, but enough has been said to clarify the general principles which in my view a comparative study of Buddhist and European philosophy must observe.
(1) As explained in the first article of this two-article series, ibid., pp. 14-15.
(2) See H. Butschkus, Luthers Religion and ibre Entsprechung in japanischen AmidaBuddhismus (Elmsdetten: Verlags-Anstalt Heinr. & L. Lechte, n.d., probably 1950).
(3) See the quotation in my Buddhism (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), p. 168.
(4) E. Conze, Buddhist Thought in India (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1962), pp. 242ff.
(5) In my Der Satz vom Widerspruch (Hamburg: Selbstverlag, 1932) , I have, at no. 300, collected a few characteristic statements of Nieztsche, for example, "The only reason why we imagine a world other than this one is that we are motivated by an instinct which makes us calumniate life, belittle and suspect it." "It is not life which has created the other world, but the having become weary of life." "It is of the utmost importance that one should abolish the true world. It is that which has made us doubt the world in which we are, and has made us diminish its value; it has so far been the most dangerous assault on life." Whatever this "life" may be, it is surely not the spiritual life.
(6) See Fritz Br?ggemann, Die Ironie als entwicklungsgeschichtliches Moment (Jena: E. Diederichs, 1909). Eckart von Sydow, Die Kultur der Derkadenz (Dresden: Sibyllen Verlag, 1921).
(7) N. M. Jacobs, in The Times Literary Supplement, May 3, 1963, p. 325, speaks appositely of "Miller and those Beat writers who abandon practical affairs for the inner life and selfrealization-or destruction--by means of Zen, Sex or Drugs."
(8) The Central Philosophy of Buddhism (Hereafter, CPB) (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1955), pp. 294-301, though with serious reservations. Stcherbatsky, on the other hand, had seen Kant as closely similar to the later Buddhist logicians, and had likened the Maadhyamikas to Hegel and Bradley. See Conze, Buddhist Thought in India, pp. 264-269. (9) (1) "Kant et les Maadhyamika, " Indo-lranian Journal, III (1959), 102-111. (2) "La philosophie bouddhique de la vacuit‚," Studia Philosophica, XVIII (1958), 131-134. Some valuable comments by J. W. de Jong are in Indo-lranian Journal, V (1961), 161-163.
(10) This is one reason why the Kantian "phenomena" cannot be simply equated with the Buddhist "sa^msaara." From the point of view of the Absolute, both Kantian empirical and Buddhist conventional knowledge are non-valid. But Kant never questioned the value of empirical knowledge. In Buddhism, however, the sa^mv.rtisatya (conventional truth) is a mere error due to nescience (a-vidyaa, a-j~aana), and conventional knowledge represents no more than a deplorable estrangement from our true destiny. In its uncompromising monastic form, Buddhism maintains that the empirical world is not worth exploring, that all one has to know about it is its worthlessness and inanity; its scientific exploration, as irrelevant to the escape from the terrors of sa^msaara, is deemed unworthy attention. A second reason why the Kantian phenomena/noumena cannot be equated with the Maadhyamika sa^msaara/Nirvaa.na that the latter are identical, whereas the first clearly are not. The one dichotomy, in any case, is defined by its relation to science, the other by its relation to salvation
(11) On this subject, see also the excellent remarks of Jacques May (1) 104-108,(2) 135-138 (see note 9).
(12) Metaphysics, Z 1, 1028b. H. Tredennick, trans. (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1933), p.313.
(13) Conze, Buddhist Thought in India, pp. 239-241.
(14) This is not a Psychological but a philosophical statement, because psychologically it is manifestly untrue. The normal and untutored mind is usually quite at ease among external objects, and, unable to even understand this doctrine of the "primacy of internal experience," is much more immediately aware of a chair than of its awareness of a chair.
(15) CPB, pp. 123-124, 274.
(16) Critique of Pure Reason, N. K. Smith, trans. (London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1961), p. 22. .
(17) Ibid., pp. 268, 270-271. Murti, CPB, p. 300. May (1) 108: "La dialectique kantienne est le jeu de l'impuissance de la raison.... Au contraire, la dialectiqlle maadhyamika est v‚ritablement constitutive de la r‚alit‚, elle accomplit en abolisrant." See note 9.
(18) This is perfectly clear from Majjhima Nikaaya, No. 63, and the fuller account of Naagaarjuna, ?tienne Lamotte, trans., Le trait‚ de la grands vertu de sagesse (Louvain: Bureau du Mus‚on, 1944), Vol. I, pp. 154-158.
(19) Th. Hanna, ed., The Bergsonian Heritage (Hereafter, BH) (New York and London: Columbia University Press, 1962),p. 1; also pp. 27, 53.
(20) BH, p. 40.
(21) "So art... has no other object than to brush aside the utilitarian symbols, the conventional and socially accepted generalities, in short, everything that veils reality from us, in order to bring us face to face with reality itself." Le Rire, quoted in BH, p. 88.
(22) Ibid., p. 158.
(23) Ibid., p. 87.
(24) Ibid., p. 92 (my italics, but not my translation from the French).
(25) Ibid., p. 99. If this statement, which goes on to speak of the "universe" as "a machine for the making of gods," is collated with that which Italo Svevo (Ettore Schmitz) made in 1924 in his Confessions of Zeno (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons), pp. 411-412, it must become clear that we do not owe our present plight merely to the brilliant achievements of our able technicians. The progressive decline of spiritual wisdom may well have weakened the will to live and correspondingly strengthened the death wish. On this subject, refer to Erich Heller, The Disinherited Mind (London: Penguin Books, 1961), whose conclusions I take for granted throughout.
(26) I speak here only of the "secular" existentialists. The "religious" existentialists would require separate treatment.
(27) Matthew Arnold, after dividing the English population of his time into "barbarians, philistines, and populace," well defined the philistine as "a strong, dogged unenlightened opponent of the chosen people, of the children of light," in A. C. Ward, Illustrated History of English Literature (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1955), Vol. III, p. 227.
(28) July, 1837. Th. B. Macaulay, Literary Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 364-410.
(29) Mysticism and Logic (London: Penguin Books, 1951),p. 51. The whole essay (pp. 50-59) is worth re-reading because now, sixty years later, it shows clearly the grotesque irrationalities of a "sciential" philosophy, which in nearly every sentence blandly went beyond all scientific observations made even up to the present day. May I explain that my attitude cannot be called "antiscientific, " because nowhere have I said anything about "science" as such, either for or against. My strictures concern only extravagant philosophical conclusions drawn from a few inconclusive scientific data. Sir Isaac Newton, as is well known, said at the close of his life, when all his work was done, that he had only played with pebbles on the sea shore, and that "the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." This is all I try to say, neither less nor more.
(30) Ibid., p. 51.
(31) Ibid., p. 51.
(32) Blaise Pascal, Pens‚es, no. 100. For a good comparison in some detail see Constantin Regamey, "Tendances et methodes de la philosophie indienne compar‚es … celles de la philolsophie occidentale," Revue de th‚ologie et de philorophie, IV (1910), 258-259.
(33) Udaana, viii, 3: no...nissara.na.m pa~n~naayetha.
(34) So, Murti, CPB, p. 130.
(35) For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perceptions." David Hume, A Treatise on Human Nature, T.H. Green, ed. (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1874), Vol. I, p. 534. When I first saw this sentence forty years ago, I thought it unanswerable. What now strikes me is the immense vagueness of the word "perception."
(36) Ibid., pp. 537-540.
(37) For Aristotle, intelligence (dianoŠtikon) was a man's true self (E.N., 1116a8) , and, for Porphyry (de abst., I. 29), the Nous is his ontos auton. The Nous is man's sovereign (kyriotaton) and his better part (ameinon) (E.N., 1178a2). The connection between man's ousia (essence) and his proper objective purpose is made particularly clear in Aristotle's Protreptikos. For the quotations, see E. Conze, Der Satz vom Widerspruch (Hamburg: Selbstverlag, 1932), no. 141.
(38) Approximately: "Enter into yourself, for the truth dwells in the inmost heart of man." Likewise, in the Far East, Ch'an taught that "a man could be a Buddha by immediately taking hold of his inmost nature." D. T. Sutuki, The Essentials of Zen Buddhism, Bernard Phillips, ed., (London: Rider & Co., 1963), p. 175. Also George Grimm, The Doctrirte of the Buddha (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1958),p. 175: "We must retire from the world back into ourselves, to the 'centre of our vital birth, ' and by persistent introspection seek to find out how we have come into all this Becoming in which we find ourselves enmeshed."
(39) This side of the anattaa doctrine has been explained with great subtlety and acumen by Grimm, op. cit., pp. 115-116, 140, 147, 149, 175, 369-372. For my own views, see Buddhist Thought in india, pp. 36-39, 42, 122-134, 208-209.
(40) Dhammapada, V. 279: yadaa pa~n~naaya passati, atha nibbindatii dukkhe.
(41) Mysticism, Christian and Buddhist (London: George Alien & Unwin Ltd., 1957),p. 39.
(42) Grimm, op. cit., p.140n. (43) The Majjhima Nikaaya, I, p. 8. Edited by V. Trenckner. (London: Pali Text Society, 1888).