Modern Trends in World Religions

By A. Eustace Haydon | Go to book overview

XIV
BUDDHISM AND INTERCULTURAL CONTACTS

By JAMES BISSETT PRATT

THE theme proposed is a large one. As I understand, it is intended to cover the various changes taking place in Buddhism as a result of the narrowing of the world. The missionary religions are exposed, as stay-at-home religions are not, to contact with new and strange ideas and institutions. Compare, for example, the story of the three missionary religions with Hinduism, Confucianism, and Shinto. Against the excessive influence of foreign contacts two of the missionary religions, Christianity and Islam (and I might add Judaism as well) have been to a great extent defended by the armor of authoritative and divinely inspired scripture. Of this armor Buddhism, in a sense, has none. The word of the Buddha, indeed, is authoritative, and faith in it is inculcated; but specifically what is the word of the Buddha? It is something too great and too living to be found in specific statements. None of the Buddhist canon is considered infallible and authoritative in the sense of the Bible or the Koran; you cannot prove things to a Buddhist by quoting chapter and verse. Moreover, the almost exclusively moral interest of Southern Buddhism and the monistic philosophy of Northern Buddhism have produced in their followers an attitude of large tolerance toward all sorts of new ideas which the enthusiastic representatives of Christianity and Islam, intent upon certain particular cosmological or historical doctrines, could not consistently cultivate. It has, therefore, come about that in its invasion of new lands

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