Monday, May 11, 2015

Dr. Martin Luther King And Buddhism


 http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/kingpapers/article/volume_i_28_april_1950/

7 comments:

Unknown said...

That is surprisingly inflammatory, given that it was written by Dr. King...

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Unknown, I reread King’s article four times trying to find something ‘inflammatory’ but couldn’t. Please explain.

Unknown said...

[Hinayana] could give neither a warm faith for which to live, nor a real ideal for which to work. It set forth a sort of world hatred as its inspiring motive.

He also clearly equates Hinayana with Theravada buddhism, by saying: Hinayana Buddhism was called Southern Buddhism, since it prevailed in southern countries like Burma and Ceylon. "

"the Hinayana only seeks those few strong souls who require no external aid nor the consolation of worship."

If someone wrote something like that today, we'd say he was certainly "trolling". But since this was written in 1950, it is likelier that Dr. King hadn't met many Theravada buddhists, or he'd know that they are not as cold and un-loving as he considered them.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Unknown, I think it would be more accurate to describe King’s statements as uninformed or debatable, hardly surprising given the time he wrote them and the very limited sources he drew on. The OED defines inflammatory as “speech or writing arousing or intended to arouse angry or violent feelings.” Let’s not become like those who fly into an uncontrollable rage every time they hear something they disagree with.

Brian R. said...

Dear Shravasti Dhammika,
I think you are correct. I had that reaction based on thinking what would be the motivations of someone writing that today, on the internet. However, he wrote that 65 years ago, and for a college paper, so it is very different motivations. Thank you for your responses.

Walter said...

I think I can understand how Dr King had come to those conclusions. Perhaps allow me to share my thoughts briefly on "[Hinayana] could give neither a warm faith for which to live, nor a real ideal for which to work. It set forth a sort of world hatred as its inspiring motive."

"neither a warm faith for which to live" - The practice of Buddhism leads one to mental calmness. Many have mistaken the calm and peace as coldness. And, forgive me for saying, some Buddhists having had their heads filled chockful with the "Dhamma" certainly can be quite cold. Dr King with his mindset of those days would expect something more emotional to be inspiring.

"nor a real ideal for which to work" - We only have "right (or perfect) livelihood" in Buddhism, with the ethical and moral considerations to determine the "rightness" (I am referring to lay Buddhists). The Buddhist has to find his work within those guidelines. There is no big ideal to pursue commanded of the Buddhist (perhaps with the exception of "world hatred" haha).

"It set forth a sort of world hatred as its inspiring motive" - I think Dr King is looking at Buddhism from the glasses of Christianity. The practice of freeing oneself from "grasping the world" is viewed as "world hatred." I think the misunderstand probably came from Christian teachings such as Luke 14:26 (King James Version), "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."

Alessandro S. said...

The resource location has changed. It now lies at:
https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/chief-characteristics-and-doctrines-mahayana-buddhism
Thank you for letting us with of this project, Bhante.