retrofuturist wrote:If he really was as pro-Buddhist as is being made out, I'm sure that after reading his entire corpus of science fiction (which I virtually have), I would have been prompted to check it out at the time. Alas, no...
The passage the op alludes to is from The Deep Range
(1957), alhough it's an archaeologist's hammer, not a scientist's. A prominent figure in the story is a Scottish bhikkhu, who seems to be a composite of the Englishman Ñāṇamoli (or perhaps Ñāṇavīra) and the Scotsman Sīlacāra (Jack F. McKechnie).
“Well, this is something that has been building up for several years. We’ve warned Headquarters, but they’ve never taken us seriously. Now your interview in Earth has brought matters to a head; the Mahanayake Thero of Anuradhapura— he’s the most influential man in the East, and you’re going to hear a lot more about him—read it and promptly asked us to grant him facilities for a tour of the bureau. We can’t refuse, of course, but we know perfectly well what he intends to do. He’ll take a team of cameramen with him and will collect enough material to launch an all-out propaganda campaign against the bureau. Then, when it’s had time to sink in, he’ll demand a referendum. And if that goes against us, we will be in trouble.”
The pieces of the jigsaw fell into place; the pattern was at last clear. For a moment Franklin felt annoyed that he had been diverted across the world to deal with so absurd a challenge. Then he realized that the men who had sent him here did not consider it absurd; they must know, better than he did, the strength of the forces that were being marshaled. It was never wise to underestimate the power of religion, even a religion as pacific and tolerant as Buddhism.
The position was one which, even a hundred years ago, would have seemed unthinkable, but the catastrophic political and social changes of the last century had all combined to give it a certain inevitability. With the failure or weakening of its three great rivals, Buddhism was now the only religion that still possessed any real power over the minds of men.
Christianity, which had never fully recovered from the shattering blow given it by Darwin and Freud, had finally had unexpectedly succumbed before the archaeological discoveries of the late twentieth century. The Hindu religion, with its fantastic pantheon of gods and goddesses, had failed to survive in an age of scientific rationalism. And the Mohammedan faith, weakened by the same forces, had suffered additional loss of prestige when the rising Star of David had outshone the pale crescent of the Prophet.
These beliefs still survived, and would linger on for generations yet, but all their power was gone. Only the teachings of the Buddha had maintained and even increased their influence, as they filled the vacuum left by the other faiths. Being a philosophy and not a religion, and relying on no revelations vulnerable to the archaeologist’s hammer, Buddhism had been largely unaffected by the shocks that had destroyed the other giants. It had been purged and purified by internal reformations, but its basic structure was unchanged.
One of the fundamentals of Buddhism, as Franklin knew well enough, was respect for all other living creatures. It was a law that few Buddhists had ever obeyed to the letter, excusing themselves with the sophistry that it was quite in order to eat the flesh of an animal that someone else had killed. In recent years, however, attempts had been made to enforce this rule more rigorously, and there had been endless debates between vegetarians and meat eaters covering the whole spectrum of crankiness. That these arguments could have any practical effect on the work of the World Food Organization was something that Franklin had never seriously considered.
“Tell me,” he asked, as the fertile hills rolled swiftly past beneath him, “what sort of man is this Thero you’re taking me to see?”
“Thero is his title; you can translate it by archbishop if you like. His real name is Alexander Boyce, and he was born in Scotland sixty years ago.”
“Yes—he was the first westerner ever to reach the top of the Buddhist hierarchy, and he had to overcome a lot of opposition to do it. A bhikku—er, monk—friend of mine once complained that the Maha Thero was a typical elder of the kirk, born a few hundred years too late—so he’d reformed Buddhism instead of the church of Scotland.”
“How did he get to Ceylon in the first place?”
“Believe it or not, he came out as a junior technician in a film company. He was about twenty then. The story is that he went to film the statue of the Dying Buddha at the cave temple of Dambulla, and became converted. After that it took him twenty years to rise to the top, and he’s been responsible for most of the reforms that have taken place since then. Religions get corrupt after a couple of thousand years and need a spring-cleaning. The Maha Thero did that job for Buddhism in Ceylon by getting rid of the Hindu gods that had crept into the temples.”
“And now he’s looking around for fresh worlds to conquer?”
“It rather seems like it. He pretends to have nothing to do with politics, but he’s thrown out a couple of governments just by raising his finger, and he’s got a huge following in the East. His ‘Voice of Buddha’ programs are listened to by several hundred million people, and it’s estimated that at least a billion are sympathetic toward him even if they won’t go all the way with his views. So you’ll understand why we are taking this seriously.”
Khandhānaṃ rāsaṭṭhaṃ, āyatanānaṃ āyatanaṭṭhaṃ,
Dhātūnaṃ suññaṭṭhaṃ, indriyānaṃ adhipatiyaṭṭhaṃ,
Saccānaṃ tathaṭṭhaṃ aviditaṃ karotītipi ‘avijjā’.
It prevents knowing the meaning of heap in the aggregates, the meaning of actuating in the sense-bases, the meaning of voidness in the elements, the meaning of predominance in the faculties, and the meaning of suchness in the truths, thus it is called ‘ignorance’.
(Visuddhimagga XVII. 43)