By David R. Loy

A Buddhist interpretation of Western historical past that exhibits civilization formed by way of the self's hope for groundedness.

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Extra info for A Buddhist History of the West: Studies in Lack

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Unlike Moses, Solon did not get his tables from them when he gave Athens new laws. In his funeral oration, a profoundly religious occasion, Pericles did not even mention the gods but celebrated the virtues of Athenian democracy. Greek drama reduced the gods’ role by emphasizing human motivation and responsibility. Socrates used the gods to rationalize his mode of inquiry, yet his quest for wisdom did not otherwise depend upon them. One does not escape the gods so easily, however. Psychologically they serve a crucial function.

Shifting the terrain from the outer to the inner world was the beginning, not the end, of the struggle” (278). A Buddhist could not put it better. By both the philosophical and the social standards of his time, Marcus the Roman emperor should have been one of the freest men who ever lived; what his Meditations unwittingly reveal, then, is how little such freedom meant, both his sovereignal dominion and the reason-able 34 A Buddhist History of the West freedom developed by his self-control. With him the Stoic tradition culminates in the realization that such freedoms do not by themselves bring personal fulfillment or peace of mind.

Dodds 76) How did the more thoughtful members of Athenian society react to these developments? Aeschylus was proud of having fought in the Persian War that saved Athens from foreign domination; a generation later, Euripides wrote his last unfinished play in exile bemoaning that “we are slaves to the masses” and affirming popular kingship as an alternative. Many other examples could be cited, but the most important for us, of course, were the responses of Plato and Aristotle. We do not know how much the former’s political views were colored by his personal experience of Socrates’ trial and execution, yet there is no doubt about his dislike of democracy, which he dismissed as “an agreeable, anarchic form of society, with plenty of variety, which treats all men as equal 30 A Buddhist History of the West whether they are equal or not” (Republic 565d).

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