Today Buddhism remains as a great civilizing force in the modern world. As a civilizing force, Buddhism awakens the self-respect and feeling of self-responsibility of countless people and stirs up the energy of many a nation. It fosters spiritual progress by appealing to the thinking powers of human beings. It promotes in people the sense of tolerance by remaining free from religious and national narrowness and fanaticism. It tames the wild and refines the citizens to be clear and sober in mind. In short, Buddhism produces the feeling of self-reliance by teaching that the whole destiny of humanity lies in their own hands, and that they themselves possess the faculty of developing their own energy and insight in order to reach the highest goal.
For over two thousand years, Buddhism has satisfied the spiritual needs of nearly one-fifth of mankind. Today the appeal of Buddhism is as strong as ever. The Teachings of the Buddha remain among the richest spiritual resources of mankind because they lift the horizon of human effort to a higher level beyond a mere dedication to man’s insatiable needs and appetites. Owing to its breadth of perspective, the Buddha’s vision of life has a tendency to attract intellectuals who have exhausted their individual quest for meaning. However, the fruit of the Buddha’s vision is something more than intellectual gymnastics or solace for the intellectually effete. Buddhism does not encourage verbal speculation and argument for its own sake.
Buddhism is practical, rational and offers a realistic view of life and of the world. It does not entice people into living in a fool’s paradise, nor does it frighten and agonize people with all kinds of imaginary fears and guilt-feelings. It does not create religious fanatics to disturb the followers of other religions. The Buddhist attitude to other religions is remarkable. Instead of converting the followers of other religions into Buddhism, Buddhists can encourage them to practise their own religions because Buddhists never think the followers of other religions are bad people. Buddhism tells us exactly and objectively what we are and what the world around us is, and shows us the way to perfect freedom, peace, tranquility and happiness.
If humanity today is to be saved from reacting against the moral standards taught by religions, Buddhism is a most effective vehicle. Buddhism is the religion of humanity, whose founder was a human being who sought no divine revelation or intervention in the formulation of His Teachings. In an age when human beings are overwhelmed by their success in the control of the material universe, they might like to look back and take stock of the achievements they have made in controlling the most difficult of all phenomena: their own selves. It is in this quest that the modern human beings will find in Buddhism an answer to their numerous problems and doubts.
Today, Buddhism appeals to the West because it has no dogmas, and it satisfies both the reason and the heart alike. It insists on self-reliance coupled with tolerance for others. It embraces modern scientific discoveries if they are for constructive purposes. Buddhism points to man alone as the creator of his present life and as the sole designer of his own destiny. Such is the nature of Buddhism. This is why many modern thinkers who are not themselves Buddhist have described Buddhism as a religion of freedom and reason.
The Buddha’s message of peace and compassion radiated in all directions and the millions who came under its influence adopted it very readily as a new way of religious life.
- Buddhist Contribution to Humanity (bodhikaram.wordpress.com)
- History of Western Buddhism (mindbodyspiritacademy.org)