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Buddhism and the Western Heritage
A Meeting of Ways

by P. D. Ryan

This book sets out to bring the Dharma into the mainstream of western culture, while claiming that it is not an exotic import but has affinities with the West going back to the Greco-Indian successors of Alexander the Great. It seeks to discover what, apart from monasticism and meditation, Buddhism has to offer the West and what, if anything, it has to learn from it. The approach is largely through personalities, the western tradition being represented by Jesus and Socrates, the eastern by the Buddha and his closest disciple Ananda, who is proposed as the model for a western Buddhism based on selflessness and service.

A key text from each tradition is examined: the creation story in Genesis and the Kalama Sutta from the Pali Canon. The first, considered from a Buddhist viewpoint, yields some insights at variance with traditional approaches. The second supports the writer's belief that freedom is the highest Buddhist value, and one which is more important today than ever before in view of the age of control which would seem to lie ahead of us.

The book is, then, an affirmation in Buddhist terms of the primacy of the individual, the man or woman of integrity, above all groups and systems, domestic or public, political or religious. It is also an appreciation, both loving and critical, of western culture in the widest sense, and its Judaeo-Christian and Greek elements, including the great secularist tradition to which we all owe so much.


The following is for free distribution only. You may print copies of this work for your personal use, provided you charge no fees for its distribution or use. Otherwise, all rights reserved. A copy of the free Adobe Reader may be required to read the pdf files available below.

Note: Most of the Buddhist terms used in this book are in their Pali form, e.g. metta, except where other forms are better known, e.g. nirvana, not nibbana, Dharma, not Dhamma.

Table of Contents

Title Page
(download as pdf file 80KB)

Title Page

1. Introduction
(download as pdf file 224KB)

Solitary Seekers
A New Turn of the Wheel
Dogma and Values

2. Finding a Way
(download as pdf file 108KB)

Buddhism in a Word
Freedom and Control
Selecting from the Buddhist Scriptures

3. The Buddha and his Message
(download as pdf file 164KB)

The Road to Enlightenment
The Message
The Dharma Spreads
The Happiness of the Buddha
Personality and Paradox
Devadatta's Conspiracy
The Parinirvana

4. Figures in the Garden: A New Reading of Genesis
(download as pdf file 120KB)

The Seminal Myth
The Two Creation Stories
Enter the Serpent

5. Paradise Reinterpreted
(download as pdf file 136KB)

The Second Adam
Semitic and Indian Theologies
Naming and Claiming
The First Adult
First Steps to Freedom
A Buddhist Creation Story

6. From the River to the Hill: The Life and Death of Jesus
(download as pdf file 540KB)

Messenger and Messiah
Family and Followers
The Public Career of Jesus
The Last Week
Death and Thereafter

7. The Heart of the Heritage
(download as pdf file 116KB)

Christianity and Western Culture
The Cult of Suffering
The Ideal of Service
Enemies and Neighbours: A Buddhist Approach

8. The Man in the Agora: The Life and Death of Socrates
(download as pdf file 140KB)

St Paul in Athens
Pre-Socratic Thinkers
Socrates and his City
The Trial of Socrates
A Patriot for the Truth

9. 'What Do You Think, Kalamas?' — A Visit from the Buddha
(download as pdf file 136KB)

India, a Troubled Society
The Dialogue with the Kalamas
A Critique of Fundamentalism
Generosity and Freedom
Some Unusual Features of the Dialogue

10. Questions Arising from the Kalama Sutta
(download as pdf file 388KB)

We are all Kalamas now
The Question of Love
The Bodhisattva Ideal

11. An Arahant on Trial: The First Council
(download as pdf file 148KB)

After the Buddha's Death
The Charges against Ananda
Ananda and the Bhikkhuni Sangha
After the Council
Ananda and the Ideal of Service
Reflections on the Trial
Women in Buddhism

12. Future Heritage
(download as pdf file 140KB)

The Secular Tradition
Future Positive
The Individual Citizen
An Idea of Buddhist Education
Freedom, Rights and Duties
Future Challenges

13. Conclusion
(download as pdf file 104KB)

Doubt as Empowerment
Buddhism, a Doctrine and a Discipline


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