...in the 1730s not one but two Europeans had experienced Buddhism firsthand, and both of them had been at the (Jesuit) Royal College... in a small French town, La Flèche. Hume (in the 1730s lived) in La Flèche, and one of his letters (has) revealed that he had spent time at the Royal College and had talked with...Jesuits at some length.
Alison Gopnik (2015)
David Hume fails to find a definable
‘self’ when he seeks it.
Hume's thoughts on the self have sparked considerable discussion linking with current neuropsychological research which locates the part of the brain responsible for composing the 'self'.
This lack is strikingly similar to that espoused by Buddhists who also describe the insubstantiality of the supposed ‘self’. It is an elusiveness echoed by the way some Far Eastern languages do not revolve around individuals like ‘you’ and ‘I’, but rather centre on relationships. Roger Bacon had acknowledged Buddhism as a major world religion in the thirteenth century, but it is a delight to find that Hume may be one of the first western philosophers to have given thought to its doctrines. At Hume’s time such knowledge as existed was being suppressed by the Vatican. The fertile eighteenth century link between the Enlightenment in Scotland and Buddhism was reflected 230 years later in 1967 with the founding of the Samye Ling Centre in south of the country. This was the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre to be established in the West.
The quote is pieced together from a long article in The Atlantic, 10, by the psychologist Professor Gopnik about her mid-life crisis in which she describes how this detective story, bringing together Hume and Europe’s first contact with Buddhism, helped her through her bad time. The article was summarised by Willie Grieve in the Portobello Buddhist Priory Newsletter for January 2021. Roger Bacon mentions Buddhism as one of the world's great religions in part seven of his main work - Opus Majus (1267) - this had followed from accounts (1254) brought back by from Central Asia by the Dutchman William of Rubruck.
The photograph is of the Samye Ling Buddhist centre in Eskdalemuir, Scotland. The golden roof of the temple is towards the right of the picture. The hill on the horizon is Ettrick Pen.
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