Fundamentals of Buddhism HTML version

We are going to cover what we might call basic
Buddhist teachings over a series of twelve lectures. We
are going to cover the life of the Buddha, the Four
Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, Karma, rebirth,
dependent origination, the three universal characteristics
and the five aggregates. But before I begin the series of
lectures, I would like to deal today with the notion of
Buddhism in perspective. There are many ways in
which different people in different cultures view
Buddhism and particularly, I think we can contrast the
western or modern attitude towards Buddhism with the
traditional attitude. The reason why this kind of per-
spective study is useful is because when we understand
how people of different cultures view a certain thing, we
can then begin to see some of the limitation or one-
sidedness of our own view.
In the west, Buddhism has aroused extensive
interest and sympathy. There are many persons of
considerable standing in western societies who are either
Buddhists or who are sympathetic towards Buddhism.
This is most clearly exemplified by the remark made by
Albert Einstein in his autobiography, the remark that he
was not a religious man, but if he were one, he would be
a Buddhist. This is quite surprising, and off-hand we
would not expect such a remark to be made by the
Father of Modern Science. Yet if we look at contem-
porary western societies, we will find an astrophysicist
who is a Buddhist in France, we will find an outstanding
psychologist who is a Buddhist at the University of
Rome, and until recently a judge from England who is a