The remoteness of Buddhism need not make us forget that we are all men, all facing the same questions of human existence. Buddhism addresses questions about the meaning and purpose of life, our ultimate origins and destiny, and our experiences of inner life.
In Buddha and Buddhism, a great solution was found and put into practice. Our task is to acquaint ourselves with it and as far as possible to understand it. The question is: To what extent can we understand what we ourselves are not and what we ourselves do not practice? I believe that such an understanding is possible if we avoid excessive haste and supposedly definitive interpretations. In understanding, we keep alive potentialities that are locked deep within ourselves, and by understanding we learn not to take our own objective historicity for the absolute, exclusive truth. To my mind, everything that is said in the Buddhist texts is addressed to a normal waking consciousness and must therefore be largely accessible to rational thought.
Buddhism, like science, presents itself as a body of systematic knowledge about the natural world. It posits a wide array of testable hypotheses and theories concerning the nature of the mind and its relation to the physical environment. In the earliest teachings of the Buddhist tradition, all that is granted is that consciousness defines an object. To be aware is to be aware of something.
The fact that Buddha’s life was possible and that Buddhist life has been a reality in various parts of Asia down to our own day—this is a great and important fact. It points to the questionable essence of man. A man is not what he just happens to be; he is open. For him there is no one correct solution.
Buddha is the embodiment of a humanity which recognizes no obligations toward the world, but which in the world departs from the world. It does not struggle or resist. Looking upon itself as an existence that has come into being through ignorance, it desires only extinction, but this so radically that it does not even yearn for death, because it has found an abode of eternity beyond life and death.
The serenity of Jesus, with his mystical freedom from the world and nonresistance to evil, seems to present a parallel. But in the West all this remained a beginning, a contributory factor; in Asia it became a whole and hence wholly different.