In Buddhism and American thinkers leading scholars explore Buddhist influence on the currents of American thought. The essays presented here advance a continuing dialogue between East and West and show how Buddhism has made ever deepening penetrations into the very sub-stratum of American thinking. Contributors to this volume share a concern with ideas that constitute a common core of Buddhist and American philosophy. Each relates Buddhism to a factor in American thinking exploring the numerous ways in which Buddhist perspectives on personal identity human suffering and alienation the nature of compassionate love and the social nature of ultimate reality amplify and clarify perspectives found in the golden age of American philosophy particularly in the thought of William James, Josiah Royce, Alfred North, Whitehead, John Dewey, Charles Sanders Peirce and charles Hastshorne the great living American philosopher. Buddhism and American thinkers brings new light to the inter-relationship between an ancient orientation to life and the very deepest ideas in the history of American thought. The contributors to the volume are Charles Hartshome, David L. Hall, Nolan P. Jacobson, Jay McDaniel, Kenneth K. Inada, David Lee Miller, Richard S.Y. Chi, Robert C. Neville, Hajime Nakamura.
Kenneth K. Inada is professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo Nolan P. Jacobson is Professor Emeritus Winthrop college.
The essays presented here constitute one kind of answer to the question as to why Buddhism the last of the great Asiatic Schools of thought to reach American shotes has been moving ever deeper into the very substratum of American philosophy with the result that we find concepts of the self in William James which could have been written by a Buddhist a concept of peace in whitehead which has been called an American formulation of Nirvana the ideas of personal identity which were first formulated in the Buddhist no soul, no substance perspective more than two thousand years ago and the remark of Charles Hartshome in this volume that he was already almost a Buddhist without knowing it long before I had read much about Buddhism or had any habit of relating my thinking to that tradition. Harshome acknowledges that for many years he has been trying to make Buddhism a factor in American thinking. Charles pierce had preceded him in this a fact that Harshome wishes to emphasize in the title of his essay the term Buddhist Christian Religion coming straight from pierce.
Without knowing it at the time Hartshome was already working in ideas that constitute a common core of Buddhist and American Philosophy before he took up his work as graduate assistant to whitehead in the mid twenties ideas out of the broad Buddhist background had actually been a part of the Western tradition for so long that no one would normally have been conscious of his Buddhist origin and as Donal Lach says no Systematic analysis of these materials has so far been undertaken. Examples abound Point instants or fleeting moments travel sub rose the Eurasian continent from Buddhist beginnings become a part of the Neo Confucion Synthesis of Chu His (A.D. 1130-1200) and enter the Leibnizian Monadology which conceives the world as a vast organism of unextended atomic point instants each enjoying its own distinctive "windowless" existence. While this is no longer Buddhism, neither is it the distinctive European tradition.
Whatever the specific influences, the Buddhist-American encounter is a matter of record. The essays presented here are an attempt to advance the dialogue which may be said to have commenced in earnest during the last decade of the preceding century in the writing of Charles Sanders ‘Peirce, certain essays of Josiah Royce, the publication in 1896 of Henry Clarke Warren’s Buddhism in Translations (still available in paperback), .the World Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893 with the appearance ,of Dharmapala, Shaku Soyen and Daisetz T. Suzuki, and the decisive, influence of Asia upon numerous people of prominence, such as, James Whistler in art, Frank Lloyd Wright in architecture, Paul Carus in philosophy, and many others like Henry Adams, grandson of the sixth American president, who for a time was a member of a Buddhist group 1in Boston.
Thousands of books, journal articles, and doctoral dissertations are appearing from year to year, written out of many different philosophical persuasions—-Existentialism, Idealism, Linguistic Analysis, Marxism, Phenomenology and by people with expertise in all the major areas of philosophy--aesthetics, comparative philosophy, epistemology, ethics, logic, philosophy of science, social philosophy, metaphysics and religion. For the most part, however, the essays in the present anthology are, in McDaniel’s words, "an effort to use Whitehead an categories of thought as aids in ’interpreting the Buddhist orientation to life."
All of this discussion is American philosophy’s endeavor to take the non-Western world into account, and it is but a natural part of the move toward Asia among an intellectual elite; during the last twenty-five years membership has increased from a mere five hundred to more than ten thousand members in professional societies which include the Association for Asian Studies, American Oriental Society, International Association of Buddhist Studies, Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, Inter-national Society for Chinese Philosophy, and many others. Midway in the •present century, as Inada reminds us, investigations of Buddhism became more serious, lost the atmosphere of faddishness, freed themselves from damaging misconceptions stemming from Schopenhauer, emerged from European tendencies to see Buddhism as a mere extension of Hinduism, and with academic interchange accelerating between Asia and the West, reached a position where they are now capable of asking the truly generic Buddhist questions, The present collection of essays is devoted to these questions, as, human suffering (dukkha), its nature, sources and cure; Light social nature of reality and its creative freedom from any deterministic law; how reality is experienced and known; the nature of compassionate love; the problem of personal identity; and what one Japanese philosopher recently called `“the aesthetic nature of man’s ultimate concern," a concern which for Buddhism in all its forms is best left unconceptualized since the point is not to catch it in a linguistic and conceptual net but to awaken, to become more fully alive, compassionate and whole.
Whitehead was vaguely aware that his "philosophy of organism" bor certain similarities to Indian and Chinese thought, but the most striking example of the penetration of Buddhist philosophy into the American tradition is found in the nonverbal, tacit level of Whitehead's Buddhist affinities, all the more remarkable because of its testimony to the subtle nature of Buddhism’s encounter with the West. Certain explicit similarities with Buddhist perspectives, on which a considerable literature is now available, appear in the work of Whitehead who not only knew very little about Buddhism, but was largely mistaken in the little that he knew. Inada has elsewhere explored these errors at length.
As compared to Whitehead, for example, Buddhism tries harder to cure man’s unconscious tendency to mistake intellectual structure for clarity of thought and to manifest a surprising degree of emotional clinging to conceptual structures and certain persisting conclusions regarding our experience in the world. Buddhism in this respect is one of the world’s great efforts toward a truly self-corrective community. The present dialogue, therefore, has some potential for generating among Americans the possibility for cultural renewal. The essay by Jacobson, indeed, suggests that the polarized conflicts of races, ethnic groups and social classes can be assigned to the back burner only as individuals become more capable of celebrating the creative fullness of their experience in and for itself. Nakamura makes this clearer in his discussion of a Buddhist concept of equality, based in the fact that persons, regardless of racial, ethnic and other groupings,. Individually reflect the entire universe of existence," the poor no less than the rich, the politically powerful no more `than the weak.
Of all the great philosophical orientations to life, none has been more critical and analytical, none more militantly concerned than Buddhism to probe the strange world of deep rooted presuppositions and assumptive forms. Buddhism is the tradition most single mindedly committed to penetrating the menagerie of cultural form down to the movement of reality itself as it is self evidently given in everyday experience. Buddhism is first in its systematic attempt to be free from what Wittgensein called the tyranny of language and to be free for what Einstein called new creations of the mind.
Writing out of a critical but nonetheless Whiteheadian orientation David Hall argues that it is the primary responsibility of philosophy to free contemporary men and women from their cultural fragmentation as victims of the constrictive and censorious ways n which existing forms of art, morality science and religion destroy the unbroken wholeness of our cultural experience when it is examined in depth. This is why hall has given his essay the title. The width of civilized experience Hall discusses three philosophers of science Needham, Northrop, and Whitehead and concludes that of the three. Whitehead offers the most suitable bridge to Oriental thought and provides the needed basis for comparative understandings because of his emphasis upon the process character of reality. The major contrast, Hall argues is not between substance and process centered philosophies. Substances philosophers remains enthralled with the form enduring character of ideas while the real world as we experience it is form transcending. At this point hall Faults Whitehead for not widening our civilized experience of religion accusing him of being half hearted and somewhat apologetic in his obvious intention of freeing his readers from the western tendency to mistake an intellectually clear concept of God for the object of religious experience. In religion as elsewhere process philosophy sees the real world as form transcending.
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