Opium Eaters: Buddhism as Revolutionary Politics



Since Asian Buddhism first appeared on the horizon of Western intellectual culture during the European Enlightenment, it has frequently faced the charge of promoting passivity, if not outright nihilism. Nineteenth-century German thinker Arthur Schopenhauer’s attempt to employ Buddhistic concepts, while sympathetic, only exacerbated this common charge, since Schopenhauer’s own ideas of the extinction of the will faced similar criticism. And while Friedrich Nietzsche also had a soft spot for the teachings of the Buddha among the world’s religions, he too concluded that the Dharma was ultimately an enervating doctrine ill-suited to ‘overcoming’ men of the future. Even while accepting the beauty of Buddhism’s ethical ideal, prominent Scottish theologian A. B. Bruce, Nietzsche’s exact contemporary but ideological opposite, picks up on the same quasi-Marxist charge against the Dharma as an anodyne, one that has ‘produced the effect of a mild dose of opium’ on the people of ‘weary-hearted Asia.’1


Buddhist Doctrine Opium Eater Japanese History Youth League Human Liberation 
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© James Mark Shields 2016

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