Buddhism and Western philosophy

Buddhist thought and Western philosophy include several parallels. Before the 20th century, a few European thinkers such as Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche had engaged with Buddhist thought. Likewise, in Asian nations with Buddhist populations, there were also attempts to bring the insights of Western thought to Buddhist philosophy, as can be seen in the rise of Buddhist modernism.

After the post-war spread of Buddhism to the West there has been considerable interest by some scholars in a comparative, cross-cultural approach between Eastern and Western philosophy. Much of this work is now published in academic journals such as Philosophy East and West.

Hellenistic philosophy

According to Edward Conze, Greek Skepticism (particularly that of Pyrrho) can be compared to Buddhist philosophy, especially the Indian Madhyamika school.[1] The Pyrrhonian Skeptics' goal of ataraxia (the state of being untroubled) is a soteriological goal similar to nirvana. Pyrrho taught that things are adiaphora (undifferentiated by logical differentia), astathmēta (unstable, unbalanced, not measurable), and anepikrita (unjudged, unfixed, undecidable). This is strikingly similar to the Buddhist Three marks of existence.[2] The Pyrrhonists promoted suspending judgment (epoché) about dogma (beliefs about non-evident matters) as the way to reach ataraxia. This is similar to the Buddha's refusal to answer certain metaphysical questions which he saw as non-conductive to the path of Buddhist practice and Nagarjuna's "relinquishing of all views (drsti)". Adrian Kuzminski argues for direct influence between these two systems of thought. In Pyrrhonism: How the Ancient Greeks Reinvented Buddhism, Kuzminski writes: "its origin can plausibly be traced to the contacts between Pyrrho and the sages he encountered in India, where he traveled with Alexander the Great."[3] According to Kuzminski, both philosophies argue against assenting to any dogmatic assertions about an ultimate metaphysical reality behind our sense impressions as a tactic to reach tranquility and both also make use of logical arguments against other philosophies in order to expose their contradictions.[3]

Hume and Not-Self

The Scottish philosopher David Hume wrote:

"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 catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception"[4]

According to Hume then there is nothing that is constantly stable which we could identify as the self, only a flow of differing experiences. Our view that there is something substantive which binds all of these experiences together is for Hume merely imaginary. The self is a fiction that is attributed to the entire flow of experiences.[5]

Pain and pleasure, grief and joy, passions and sensations succeed each other, and never all exist at the same time. It cannot, therefore, be from any of these impressions, or from any other, that the idea of self is deriv'd; and consequently there is no such idea...I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.[4]

This 'Bundle theory' of personal identity is very similar to the Buddhist notion of not-self, which holds that the unitary self is a fiction and that nothing exists but a collection of five aggregates.[5][6] Similarly, both Hume and Buddhist philosophy hold that it is perfectly acceptable to speak of personal identity in a mundane and conventional way, while believing that there are ultimately no such things.[5] Hume scholar Alison Gopnik has even argued that Hume could have had contact with Buddhist philosophy during his stay in France (which coincided with his writing of the Treatise of Human Nature) through the well traveled Jesuit missionaries of the Royal College of La Flèche.[6]

British philosopher Derek Parfit has argued for a reductionist and deflationary theory of personal identity in his book Reasons and Persons. According to Parfit, apart from a causally connected stream of mental and physical events, there are no “separately existing entities, distinct from our brains and bodies”. Parfit concludes that "Buddha would have agreed."[7] Parfit also argues that this view is liberating and leads to increased empathy.

Is the truth depressing? Some may find it so. But I find it liberating, and consoling. When I believed that my existence was such a further fact, I seemed imprisoned in myself. My life seemed like a glass tunnel, through which I was moving faster every year, and at the end of which there was darkness. When I changed my view, the walls of my glass tunnel disappeared. I now live in the open air. There is still a difference between my lives and the lives of other people. But the difference is less. Other people are closer. I am less concerned about the rest of my own life, and more concerned about the lives of others.[8]

According to The New Yorker's Larissa MacFarquhar, passages of Reasons and Persons have been studied and chanted at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery.[9]

Other Western philosophers that have attacked the view of a fixed self include Daniel Dennett (in his paper 'The Self as a Center of Narrative Gravity') and Thomas Metzinger ('The Ego Tunnel').


Idealism is the group of philosophies which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Some Buddhist philosophical views have been interpreted as having Idealistic tendencies, mainly the cittamatra (mind-only) philosophy of Yogacara Buddhism[10] as outlined in the works of Vasubandhu and Xuanzang.[11] Metaphysical Idealism has been the orthodox position of the Chinese Yogacara school or Fǎxiàng-zōng.[12] According to Buddhist philosopher Vasubhandu "The transformation of consciousness is imagination. What is imagined by it does not exist. Therefore everything is representation-only." This has been compared to the Idealist philosophies of Bishop Berkeley and Immanuel Kant. Kant's categories have also been compared to the Yogacara concept of karmic vasanas (perfumings) which condition our mental reality.[11]

Buddhism and German Idealism

Arthur Schopenhauer Portrait by Ludwig Sigismund Ruhl 1815.jpeg
Schopenhauer in 1815.

Immanuel Kant's Transcendental Idealism has also been compared with the Indian philosophical approach of the Madhyamaka school by scholars such as T. R. V. Murti.[13] Both posit that the world of experience is in one sense a mere fabrication of our senses and mental faculties. For Kant and the Madhyamikas, we do not have access to 'things in themselves' because they are always filtered by our mind's 'interpretative framework'.[14] Thus both worldviews posit that there is an ultimate reality and that Reason is unable to reach it. Buddhologists like Edward Conze have also seen similarities between Kant's antinomies and the unanswerable questions of the Buddha in that "they are both concerned with whether the world is finite or infinite, etc., and in that they are both left undecided."[15]

Arthur Schopenhauer was influenced by Indian religious texts and later claimed that Buddhism was the "best of all possible religions."[16] Schopenhauer's view that "suffering is the direct and immediate object of life"[17] and that this is driven by a "restless willing and striving" are similar to the four noble truths of the Buddha.[18] Schopenhauer promoted the saintly ascetic life of the Indian sramanas as a way to renounce the Will.[19] His view that a single world-essence (The Will) comes to manifest itself as a multiplicity of individual things (principium individuationis) has been compared to the Buddhist trikaya doctrine as developed in Yogacara Buddhism.[19] Finally, Schopenhauer's ethics which are based on universal compassion for the suffering of others can be compared to the Buddhist ethics of Karuṇā.[20]


Friedrich Nietzsche admired Buddhism, writing that: "Buddhism already has - and this distinguishes it profoundly from Christianity - the self-deception of moral concepts behind it - it stands, in my language, Beyond Good and Evil."[21] Nietzsche saw himself as undertaking a similar project to the Buddha. “I could become the Buddha of Europe,” he wrote in 1883, “though frankly I would be the antipode of the Indian Buddha.”[22] Nietzsche (as well as Buddha) accepted that all is change and becoming, and both sought to create an ethics which was not based on a God or an Absolutist Being.[23] Nietzsche believed that Buddhism's goal of Nirvana was a form of life denying nihilism and promoted what he saw as its inversion, life affirmation and amor fati. According to Benjamin A. Elman, Nietzsche's interpretation of Buddhism as pessimistic and life-denying was probably influenced by his understanding of Schopenhauer's views of eastern philosophy and therefore "he was predisposed to react to Buddhism in terms of his close reading of Schopenhauer."[24] Because of this writes Elman, Nietzsche misinterprets Buddhism as promoting "nothingness" and nihilism, all of which the Buddha and other Buddhist philosophers such as Nagarjuna repudiated, in favor of a subtler understanding of Shunyata.[24]

Antoine Panaïoti argues in Nietzsche and Buddhist philosophy that both of these systems of thought begin by wrestling with the problem of nihilism and that they both develop a therapeutic outlook for dealing with the suffering and anxiety brought about by the crisis of nihilism. While Nietzsche and Buddhism do diverge in some ways, which is why Nietzsche saw himself as an 'Anti-Buddha", Panaïoti stresses the similarity of both systems as paths towards a “vision of great health” that allows one to deal with the impermanent world of becoming by accepting it as it truly is.[25] Ultimately both world views have as their ideal what Panaïoti calls "great health perfectionism" which seeks to remove unhealthy tendencies from human beings and reach an exceptional state of self-development.

Robert G. Morrison has also written on the "ironic affinities" between Nietzsche and Pali Buddhism through close textual comparison, such as that between Nietzsche's 'self-overcoming' (Selbstüberwindung) and the Buddhist concept of mental development (citta-bhavana).[26] Morrison also sees an affinity between the Buddhist concept of tanha, or craving and Nietzsche's view of the Will to Power as well as in their understandings of personality as a flux of different psycho-physical forces.[27] The similarity between Nietzsche's view of the Ego as flux and the Buddhist concept of anatta is also noted by Benjamin Elman.[24]

David Loy also quotes Nietzsche's views on the subject as "something added and invented and projected behind what there is" (Will to Power 481) and on substance ("The properties of a thing are effects on other 'things' ... there is no 'thing-in-itself.'" WP 557), which are similar to Buddhist nominalist views. Loy however sees Nietzsche as failing to understand that his promotion of heroic aristocratic values and affirmation of will to power is just as much of a reaction to the 'sense of lack' which arises from the impermanence of the subject as what he calls slave morality.[28]

Comparative work has also been done by Japanese interpreters of Nietzsche and Buddhism, such as Nishitani Keiji, in his The Self Overcoming Nihilism (Albany, N.Y., 1990), and Abe Masao in his essays on Nietzsche. In his "A History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell pitted Nietzsche against the Buddha, ultimately criticizing Nietzsche for his promotion of violence, elitism and hatred of compassionate love.

Phenomenology and Existentialism

Nanavira Thera
Ñāṇavīra Thera developed an interpretation of the Pali Canon influenced by Phenomenology and Existentialism.

The German Buddhist monk Nyanaponika Thera wrote that the Buddhist Abhidhamma philosophy "doubtlessly belongs" to Phenomenology and that the Buddhist term dhamma could be rendered as "phenomenon".[29] Likewise, Alexander Piatigorsky sees early Buddhist Abhidhamma philosophy as being a "phenomenological approach".[30]

According to Dan Lusthaus, Buddhism "is a type of phenomenology; Yogacara even moreso."[31] Some scholars reject the idealist interpretation of Yogacara Buddhist philosophy and instead interpret it through the lens of Western Phenomenology which is the study of conscious processes from the subjective point of view.[32]

Christian Coseru argues in his monograph "Perceiving reality" that Buddhist philosophers such as Dharmakirti, Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla "share a common ground with phenomenologists in the tradition of Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty." That common ground is the notion of the intentionality of consciousness.[33] Coseru compares the concepts of the object aspect (grāhyākāra) and the subject aspect (grāhakākāra) of consciousness to the Husserlian concepts of Noesis and Noema.

Modern Buddhist thinkers who have been influenced by Western Phenomenology and Existentialism include Ñāṇavīra Thera, Nanamoli Bhikkhu, R. G. de S. Wettimuny, Samanera Bodhesako and Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli.


Edmund Husserl 1910s
Husserl c. 1910s

Edmund Husserl, the founder of Phenomenology, wrote that "I could not tear myself away" while reading the Buddhist Sutta Pitaka in the German translation of Karl Eugen Neumann.[34][35] Husserl held that the Buddha's method as he understood it was very similar to his own. Eugen Fink, who was Husserl's chief assistant and whom Husserl considered to be his most trusted interpreter said that: "the various phases of Buddhistic self-discipline were essentially phases of phenomenological reduction."[36] After reading the Buddhist texts, Husserl wrote a short essay entitled 'On the discourses of Gautama Buddha' (Über die Reden Gotomo Buddhos) which states:

Complete linguistic analysis of the Buddhist canonical writings provides us with a perfect opportunity of becoming acquainted with this means of seeing the world which is completely opposite of our European manner of observation, of setting ourselves in its perspective, and of making its dynamic results truly comprehensive through experience and understanding. For us, for anyone, who lives in this time of the collapse of our own exploited, decadent culture and has had a look around to see where spiritual purity and truth, where joyous mastery of the world manifests itself, this manner of seeing means a great adventure. That Buddhism - insofar as it speaks to us from pure original sources - is a religio-ethical discipline for spiritual purification and fulfillment of the highest stature - conceived of and dedicated to an inner result of a vigorous and unparalleled, elevated frame of mind, will soon become clear to every reader who devotes themselves to the work. Buddhism is comparable only with the highest form of the philosophy and religious spirit of our European culture. It is now our task to utilize this (to us) completely new Indian spiritual discipline which has been revitalized and strengthened by the contrast.[34]

Fred J Hanna and Lau Kwok Ying both note that when Husserl calls Buddhism "transcendental" he is placing it on the same level as his own transcendental phenomenology.[35] Also, that Husserl called Buddhism a "great adventure" is significant, since he referred to his own philosophy in that way as well - as a methodology which changes the way one views reality which also brings about personal transformation.[34] Husserl also wrote about Buddhist philosophy in an unpublished manuscript "Sokrates - Buddha" in which he compared the Buddhist philosophical attitude with the Western tradition. Husserl saw a similarity between the Socratic good life lived under the maxim "Know yourself" and the Buddhist philosophy, he argues that they both have the same attitude, which is a combination of the pure theoretical attitude of the sciences and the pragmatic attitudes of everyday life. This third attitude is based on "a praxis whose aim is to elevate humankind through universal scientific reason."[35]

Husserl also saw a similarity between Buddhist analysis of experience and his own method of epoche which is a suspension of judgment about metaphysical assumptions and presuppositions about the 'external' world (assumptions he termed 'the naturalistic attitude). However Husserl also thought that Buddhism has not developed into a unifying science which can unite all knowledge since it remains a religious-ethical system and hence it is not able to qualify as a full transcendental phenomenology.[35]

According to Aaron Prosser, "The phenomenological investigations of Siddhartha Gautama and Edmund Husserl arrive at the exact same conclusion concerning a fundamental and invariant structure of consciousness. Namely, that object-directed consciousness has a transcendental correlational intentional structure, and that this is fundamental -- in the sense of basic and necessary--to all object-directed experiences."[37]


According to Reinhard May and Graham Parkes, Heidegger may have been influenced by Zen and Daoist texts.[38][39] Some of Martin Heidegger's philosophical terms, such as Ab-grund (void), Das Nichts (the Nothing) and Dasein have been considered in light of Buddhist terms which express similar ideas such as Emptiness.[40][41] Heidegger wrote that: “As void [Ab-grund], Being ‘is’ at once the nothing [das Nichts] as well as the ground.”[42] Heidegger's "Dialogue on Language", has a Japanese friend (Tezuka Tomio) state that "to us [Japanese] emptiness is the loftiest name for what you mean to say with the word ‘Being’”[43] Heidegger's critique of metaphysics has also been compared to Zen's radical anti-metaphysical attitude.[43] William Barrett held that Heidegger's philosophy was similar to Zen Buddhism and that Heidegger himself had confirmed this after reading the works of DT Suzuki.[43]


Jean-Paul Sartre believed that consciousness lacks an essence or any fixed characteristics and that insight into this caused a strong sense of Existential angst or Nausea. Sartre saw consciousness as defined by its ability of negation, this happens because whenever consciousness becomes conscious of something it is aware of itself not being that intentional object. Consciousness is nothingness because all being-in-itself - the entire world of objects - is outside of it.[44] Furthermore, for Sartre, being-in-itself is also nothing more than appearance, it has no essence.[45] This conception of the self as nothingness and of reality as lacking any inherent essence has been compared to the Buddhist concept of Emptiness and Not-self.[46][47] Just like the Buddhists rejected the Hindu concept of Atman, Sartre rejected Husserl's concept of the transcendental ego.

Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology has been said to be similar to Zen Buddhism and Madhyamaka in that they all hold to the interconnection of the self, body and the world (the "lifeworld"). The unity of body and mind (shēnxīn, 身心) expressed by the Buddhism of Dogen and Zhanran and Merleau-Ponty's view of the corporeity of consciousness seem to be in agreement. They both hold that the conscious mind is inherently connected to the body and the external world and that the lifeworld is experienced dynamically through the body, denying any independent Cartesian Cogito.[48]

The German existentialist Karl Jaspers also wrote on the philosophy of the Buddha in his "The Great Philosophers" (1975). He recommended that Western Christians could learn from the Buddha, praised his cosmopolitanism and the flexibility and relatively non-dogmatic worldview of Buddhism.[49]

Kyoto School

Kitaro Nishidain in Feb. 1943
Kitaro Nishida, Feb. 1943

The Kyoto School was a Japanese philosophical movement centered around Kyoto University that assimilated western philosophical influences (such as Kant and Heidegger) and Mahayana Buddhist ideas to create a new original philosophical synthesis.[50] Its founder, Nishida Kitaro (1870–1945) developed the central concept associated with the Kyoto school, that is the concept of “Absolute Nothingness” (zettai-mu) which is related to the Zen Buddhist term Mu (無) as well as Shunyata.[50] Nishida saw the Absolute nature of reality as Nothingness, a "formless", "groundless ground" which envelops all beings and allows them to undergo change and pass away.[50]

Buddhism and Process philosophy

The process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead has several convergent points with Buddhist philosophy.[51] Whitehead saw reality as an impermanent constant process of flux and denied that objects had any real substance within them, but rather were ever changing occasions. This is similar to the Buddhist concepts of the impermanence and emptiness.[52] Whitehead also held that each one of these processes was never independent, but was interrelated and dependent all prior occasions, and this feature of reality which he called 'creativity' has been compared to dependent origination which holds that all events are conditioned by multiple past causes.[51][52] Like Buddhism, Whitehead also held that our understanding of the world is usually mistaken because we hold to the ‘fallacy of misplaced concreteness’ in seeing constantly changing processes as having fixed substances.[52] Buddhism teaches that suffering and stress arises from our ignorance to the true nature of the world. Likewise, Whitehead held that the world is "haunted by terror" at this process of change. "The ultimate evil in the temporal world...lies in the fact that the past fades, that time is a ‘perpetual perishing’" (PR, p. 340). In this sense, Whitehead's concept of "evil" is similar to the Buddhist viparinama-dukkha, suffering caused by change.[51] Whitehead also had a view of God which has been likened to the Mahayana theory of the Trikaya as well as the Bodhisattva ideal.[51]

Panpsychism and Buddha-nature

Panpsychism is the view that mind or soul is a universal feature of all things; this has been a common view in western philosophy going back to the Presocratics and Plato. According to D. S. Clarke, panpsychist and panexperientialist aspects can be found in the Huayan and Tiantai (Jpn. Tendai) Buddhist doctrines of Buddha nature, which was often attributed to inanimate objects such as lotus flowers and mountains.[53]


Ludwig Wittgenstein held a therapeutic view of philosophy which according to K.T. Fann has "striking resemblances" to the Zen Buddhist conception of the dharma as a medicine for abstract linguistic and philosophical confusion.[54] C. Gudmunsen in his Wittgenstein and Buddhism argues that "much of what the later Wittgenstein had to say was anticipated about 1,800 years ago in India." In his book, Gudmunsen mainly compares Wittgenstein's later philosophy with Madhyamaka views on the emptiness of thought and words.[55] One of Wittgenstein's students, the Sri Lankan philosopher KN Jayatilleke, wrote Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge which interpreted the epistemology of the early Buddhist texts analytically.

Many modern interpreters of Nagarjuna (Jay Garfield, CW Huntington) take a Wittgensteinian or Post-Wittgensteinian critical model in their work on Madhyamaka Buddhist philosophy.[56] Ives Waldo writes that Nagarjuna's criticism of the idea of svabhava (own-being) "directly parallels Wittgenstein's argument that a private language (an empiricist language) is impossible. Having no logical links (criteria) to anything outside their defining situation, its words must be empty of significance or use."[57]

See also

- [1] Buddhism and Whitehed


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Ajahn Sumedho

Luang Por Sumedho or Ajahn Sumedho (Thai: อาจารย์สุเมโธ) (born Robert Kan Jackman, July 27, 1934, Seattle) is one of the senior Western representatives of the Thai forest tradition of Theravada Buddhism. He was abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, UK, from its consecration in 1984 until his retirement in 2010. Luang Por means Venerable Father (หลวงพ่อ), an honorific and term of affection in keeping with Thai custom; ajahn means teacher. A bhikkhu since 1967, Sumedho is considered a seminal figure in the transmission of the Buddha's teachings to the West.

Ajahn Viradhammo

Ajahn Viradhammo or Luang Por Viradhammo (born Vitauts Akers, April 27, 1947 Esslingen, Germany) is a Canadian monk in the Thai forest tradition of Theravada Buddhism. He was ordained as a monk in 1974 by Ajahn Chah at Wat Nong Pah Pong monastery and became one of the first residents at Wat Pah Nanachat, the international monastery in north-east Thailand. Luang Por Viradhammo is the most senior Thai Forest monk in Canada and currently the Abbot of Tisarana Buddhist Monastery in Perth, Ontario. Luang Por means Venerable Father (หลวงพ่อ), an honorific and term of affection in keeping with Thai custom; ajahn means teacher.

Anagarika Munindra

Anagarika Shri Munindra (1915 – October 14, 2003), also called Munindraji by his disciples, was a Bengali vipassana meditation teacher, who taught many notable meditation teachers including Dipa Ma, Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, and Surya Das. Anagarika simply means a practicing Buddhist who leads a nomadic life without attachment in order to focus on the dharma.

Buddhism and science

Buddhism and science have increasingly been discussed as compatible, and Buddhism has entered into the science and religion dialogue. The case is made that the philosophic and psychological teachings within Buddhism share commonalities with modern scientific and philosophic thought. For example, Buddhism encourages the impartial investigation of Nature (an activity referred to as Dhamma-Vicaya in the Pali Canon) — the principal object of study being oneself. Some popular conceptions of Buddhism connect it to discourse regarding evolution, quantum theory, and cosmology, though most scientists see a separation between the religious and metaphysical statements of Buddhism and the methodology of science. In 1993 a model deduced from Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development was published arguing that Buddhism is a fourth mode of thought beyond magic, science and religion.Buddhism has been described by some as rational and non-dogmatic, and there is evidence that this has been the case from the earliest period of its history, though some have suggested this aspect is given greater emphasis in modern times and is in part a reinterpretation. Not all forms of Buddhism eschew dogmatism, remain neutral on the subject of the supernatural, or are open to scientific discoveries. Buddhism is a varied tradition and aspects include fundamentalism, devotional traditions, and supplication to local spirits. Nevertheless, certain commonalities have been cited between scientific investigation and Buddhist thought. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in a speech at the meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, listed a "suspicion of absolutes" and a reliance on causality and empiricism as common philosophical principles shared between Buddhism and science.

Buddhism in Australia

In Australia, Buddhism is a minority religion. According to the 2016 census, 2.4 percent of the total population of Australia identified as Buddhist. It was also the fastest-growing religion by percentage, having increased its number of adherents by 79 percent between the 1996 and 2001 censuses. The highest percentage of Buddhists in Australia is present in Christmas Island,where Buddhism constitute 18.1% of the total population according to the 2016 Census.Buddhism is the third largest religion in the country after Christianity and Islam.

Buddhism in France

Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in France, after Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

France has over two hundred Buddhist meditation centers, including about twenty sizable retreat centers in rural areas. The Buddhist population mainly consists of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean immigrants, with a substantial minority of native French converts and "sympathizers." The rising popularity of Buddhism in France has been the subject of considerable discussion in the French media and academy in recent years.

Gyokuko Carlson

Gyokuko Carlson (born Andrea Gass) is a Soto Zen roshi and abbess of Dharma Rain Zen Center in Portland, Oregon, United States. She was formerly the co-abbot along with her husband, the late Kyogen Carlson. Carlson and her husband practiced at Shasta Abbey when Jiyu Kennett was the abbess (and from whom she received Dharma transmission), leaving to found their own center in 1986 when celibacy became a requirement at Shasta Abbey. She has been a practitioner of Zen Buddhism for more than thirty years, and is a member of the American Zen Teachers Association.Gyokuko and Kyogen Carlson have come to be known as the major non-Shasta Abbey line in succession to Jiyu Kennett; their Zen center has become the largest Zen congregation in Oregon. Carlson's main teaching emphasis is the implementation of spiritual practice into daily life. Her family religious education program was developed from Unitarian Universalist practices, transformed by Buddhist principles. It is the largest Buddhist child education program in Oregon, and one of the largest and oldest in the United States.

Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle

Hugo Makibi Enomiya-Lassalle (11 November 1898 in Gut Externbrock near Nieheim, Westphalia – 7 July 1990 in Münster, Westphalia) was a German Jesuit priest and one of the foremost teachers to embrace both Roman Catholic Christianity and Zen Buddhism.

James Ishmael Ford

James Ishmael Ford (Zeno Myoun, Roshi) is an American Zen Buddhist priest and a retired Unitarian Universalist minister. He was born in Oakland, California on July 17, 1948. He earned a BA in psychology from Sonoma State University, as well as an MDiv and an MA in the Philosophy of Religion, both from the Pacific School of Religion.

Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada

The Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada are a group of temples and fellowships that are affiliated with the Nishi Hongan-ji of Kyoto, Japan, the mother temple of the Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land) sect of Buddhism.

Groups follow the interpretation of the Buddha-Dharma according to Shinran Shonin (1173–1262), the founder of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. Shinran promoted the principle of "dependent co-arising" as the basis for individual liberation. He attempted to understand the dharma in view of his own existence and thus derived the Nembutsu (recitation of "Namu Amida Butsu": Amitabha Buddha's name) teaching, which he emphasized as an expression of thanks and joy in realizing the interrelated nature of human existence.

Established in 1933, it is the oldest Buddhist organization in Canada.The national office for the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada (formerly Buddhist Churches of Canada) is located in Richmond, British Columbia.

Joko Beck

Charlotte Joko Beck (March 27, 1917 – June 15, 2011) was an American Zen teacher and the author of the books Everyday Zen: Love and Work and Nothing Special: Living Zen.

Masaharu Anesaki

Masaharu Anesaki (姉崎 正治, Anesaki Masaharu, born July 25, 1873 – July 23, 1949), also known under his pen name "Chōfū Anesaki" (姉崎 嘲風, Anesaki Chōfū), was a leading Japanese intellectual and scholar of the Meiji period. Anesaki is credited as being the father of religious studies in Japan, but also wrote on a variety of subjects including culture, literature, and politics. He was also a member of the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations.

After studies in Philosophy at the Tokyo Imperial University, he spent three years in Europe (1900–1903). During this time he studied under Deussen, Hermann Oldenberg, Gerbe, and Albrecht Weber in Germany, as well as Thomas William Rhys Davids in England.He spent more than another year abroad in 1908–09 with partial support from Albert Kahn, the French Philanthropist. During that time he traveled extensively through Italy, tracing the steps of Saint Francis of Assisi. His travelogue Hanatsumi Nikki (Flowers of Italy) recounts that journey.

He spent 1913 to 1915 as a visiting scholar at Harvard University lecturing on Japanese literature and life. The lecture notes from this period were revised and were later the base for the book History of Japanese Religion. He was also instrumental in founding the scholarly collection that became the library of the University of Tokyo.

A devout Nichiren Buddhist, he also published such titles as "How Christianity appeals to a Japanese Buddhist" (Hibbert Journal, 1905). He translated Schopenhauer's Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung into Japanese and explored terms of understanding between Buddhism and Western Philosophy.

Rochester Zen Center

The Rochester Zen Center (RZC) is a Sōtō and Rinzai Zen Buddhist sangha in the Kapleau lineage, located in Rochester, New York and established in 1966 by Philip Kapleau. It is one of the oldest Zen centers in the United States.

Secular Buddhism

Secular Buddhism—sometimes also referred to as agnostic Buddhism, Buddhist agnosticism, ignostic Buddhism, atheistic Buddhism, pragmatic Buddhism, Buddhist atheism, or Buddhist secularism—is a broad term for an emerging form of Buddhism and secular spirituality that is based on humanist, skeptical, and/or agnostic values, as well as pragmatism and (often) naturalism, rather than religious (or more specifically supernatural or paranormal) beliefs.

Secular Buddhists interpret the teachings of the Buddha and the Buddhist texts in a rationalist and often evidentialist manner, considering the historical and cultural contexts of the times in which the Buddha lived and the various suttas, sutras and tantras were written.

Within the framework of secular Buddhism, Buddhist doctrine may be stripped of any unspecified combination of various traditional beliefs that could be considered superstitious, or that cannot be tested through empirical research, namely: supernatural beings (such as devas, bodhisattvas, nāgas, pretas, Buddhas, etc.), merit and its transference, rebirth, Buddhist cosmology (including the existence of pure lands and hells), etc.

Traditional Buddhist ethics, such as conservative views regarding abortion, and human sexuality, may or may not be called into question as well. Some schools, especially Western Buddhist ones, take more progressive stances regarding social issues.

Soto Zen Buddhist Association

The Soto Zen Buddhist Association was formed in 1996 by American and Japanese Zen teachers in response to a perceived need to draw the various autonomous lineages of the North American Sōtō stream of Zen together for mutual support as well as the development of common training and ethical standards. With about one hundred fully transmitted priests, the SZBA now includes members from most of the Japanese-derived Sōtō Zen lineages in North America. The founding president was Tetsugen Bernard Glassman, followed by Sojun Mel Weitsman, Myogen Steve Stucky, Jishō Warner (the first female president), and Eido Frances Carney.

The Soto Zen Buddhist Association approved a document honoring the women ancestors in the Zen tradition at its biannual meeting on October 8th, 2010. Female ancestors, dating back 2,500 years from India, China, and Japan, are now being more regularly included in the curriculum, ritual, and training offered to Western Zen students.

Sōyū Matsuoka

Dr. Soyu Matsuoka (松岡 操雄, 1912–1997), along with Sokei-an and Nyogen Senzaki, was one of the early Zen teachers to make the United States his home.

Tetsuo Sōkatsu

Tetsuo Sōkatsu (1870–1954) was a Japanese Rinzai-master. He was a dharma heir of Soyen Shaku.

White Plum Asanga

White Plum Asanga, sometimes termed White Plum Sangha, is a Zen school in the Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi lineage, created by Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi. It consists of Maezumi's Dharma heirs and subsequent successors and students. A diverse organization spread across the United States and with a small presence in Europe, the White Plum Asanga

[I]ncludes teachers who represent the spectrum of styles to be found to American Zen—socially engaged Buddhism, family practice, Zen and the arts, secularized Zen, and progressive traditionalism."

Conceived of informally in 1979 by Maezumi and Tetsugen Bernard Glassman, the White Plum Asanga was named after Maezumi's father Baian Hakujun Dai-osho and then later incorporated in 1995 following Maezumi's death. Tetsugen Bernard Glassman was the White Plum Asanga's first President and his successor was Dennis Genpo Merzel. Following Merzel's term, in May 2007, Gerry Shishin Wick served as elected President of White Plum, until 2013 when Anne Seisen Saunders became the current president.

Zen master

Zen master is a somewhat vague English term that arose in the first half of the 20th century, sometimes used to refer to an individual who teaches Zen Buddhist meditation and practices, usually implying longtime study and subsequent authorization to teach and transmit the tradition themselves.

Topics in Buddhism
The Buddha
Key concepts
Major figures


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