Buddhism & the Contemporary World: Change and Self-Correction

Buddhism & the Contemporary World: Change and Self-Correction

Buddhism & the Contemporary World: Change and Self-Correction

Buddhism & the Contemporary World: Change and Self-Correction


Charles Hartshorne characterizes this book as "an eloquent and insightful presentation of the claims of Buddhism to the attention of thoughtful people in this country, especially those aware of the widely influential process philosophy and process theology of Whitehead."

Stressing Buddhism as opposed to Western philosophy, Jacobson concentrates on the theme of the self-corrective nature of Buddhism, ending with a strong emphasis on "self-surpassing Oneness." Introducing the reader to the major perspectives of Buddhist philosophy, he notes that "the more fully awakened we become to the moments that are the real event, the more we will recognize how much we need each other to enrich these nows, and the less tempted we will be to serve that abstract and false self."

Because everything on earth is a part of everything else, an organic whole, even the most enlightened self-interest is irrational and destructive. The rational person seeks to "infuse the life we live with the novel qualities of each now." The rational person further struggles to "free himself from the one-sided, self-justifying cultural cocoons that have dwarfed and warped his awareness and crippled cross-cultural communications," according to Jacobson. Buddhism offers the only alternative to the enervated economic, political, diplomatic, and military measures presently used to "cope with underlying disaster."


The present danger to all advanced civilization is on the minds of thoughtful men and women in every nation of the contemporary world. The longer humankind spins its tender thread of life through historical time, the more imperative it becomes that we drive our roots into the process of which we and all the arts of civilization are an organic part, learning to find our identity in its self-corrective qualitative flow. The greater our power, the more it becomes of paramount importance that we embody the creativity and flexibility now required if we are to free ourselves from the one-sided self- justifying cultural cocoons which have dwarfed and warped awareness and crippled cross-cultural communication. It is doubtful if there has ever been a period as unable to free itself from the natural inertia of thought, from the compulsive drives and hungers men and women appear unable to abandon, even when transparently clear to everyone else that their life-style may wreck an entire civilization. W. H. Auden, in his New Year Letter of 1940, did not overstate the case:

Ubiquitous within the bond of one impoverishing sky, Vast spiritual disorders lie.

The most turbulent times in history have been bringing to the forefront the unacknowledged perception that volatile change has become the major adversary of desperate nations and social classes, whose powerful ruling groups must live with the possibility that even the most advanced computerized culture with its video technology can neither control nor arrest the social fragmentation and dissent. We are swept along, Gunnar Myrdal complains, "by an almost automatic process driving development forward; the effects on our so-

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