One of the most marked sings of the times is the close attention that is being paid to psychological research, the results of which are being followed with the grates interest by an intelligent public, and the continued advanced of which promises to be one of the most hopeful activites of modern science. The observation, analysis, and classification of mental phenomena are being pursued with untiring energy, and the problem of mind attached on all side with refreshing vigour. In brief, the new science of psychology seems to promise at no distant date to become one of the most fruitful, if not the most fruitful, field of human tillage. But turn where we will to our manuals or special studies, we find no reference to the patient work of many centuries accomplished by the introspective genius of the East. In this field none have laboured with greater industry and acumen than the Buddhist thinkers, whose whole philosophy and therewith also their religion rests on a psychological basis. Not only so, but some of their main contentions are very similar to the later views advanced by the dominant schools of modern research. The work of these profound analysts of the nature of mind should, therefore, by no means be neglected by modern psychologists and those who are interested in their instructive-labours and who that desires to know himself can fail to be so interested? It must, however, be admitted that there is some excuse or previous neglect owing to the lack of books designed to smooth the way for those unacquainted with Oriental studies. It is with the hope of making a start in this direction that the present valuable introduction has been secured form the pen of one who is acknowledged to be the most competent student of the subject in the West.
My book is an attempt to envisage faithfully something true in the history of a very interesting current in human ideas. This ‘something true’ is the analysis and theory of mind in the movement and culture we understand by Early Buddhism, as well as in that of its direct descendant still thriving in Burma, Ceylon and Siam, called Theravada, or the Doctrine of the Elders. This also is called Buddhism—some call it Hina-Yana, some Southern Buddhism.
As to the book’s quests and goals, two of the more proximate may suffice. While scholars are beginning to get at and decipher the long-buried treasure of Buddhist writings brought from Mid-Asia, the general reader is being told that the group of other descendants from Early Buddhism called Maha-Yanism, is not only evolved from the earlier doctrine, but is its completion and apotheosis. The reader cannot judge in this matter, unless he has an all-round knowledge of what the developed system started from. Such a knowledge is not always present in those who are fluent about the complete descendant. Henee he is placed in the position of one who learns of Neo-Platonism and not of Plato, of Aquinas and not of Aristotle. My book’s quest is to present summarily some of the thought contained in the mother-doctrine and her first born child, much of which is still inaccessible to him.
The second object is to bring nearer the day when the historical treatment of psychology will find it impossible to pretend that the observation and analysis of mind began with the Pre-Socratics. Psychologists are, some of them, curiously unhistorical, even with regard to the European field with its high fence of ignorance and prejudice. Theories are sometimes put forward as new that have been anticipated in both Europe and Asia. I say ‘curiously,’ because the history of ideas about the mind is both fascinating and suggestive. Would Professor Bergson say of his brother thinkers, too, especially of the more constructive among them (I dare to include himself), that the past of psychological thought also est là, continuellement, but that so intent is their forward gaze that they ‘cannot and must not look back’? Yet how much more impressive might they not make the present for us if they would, if they felt compelled to look back a little more! Let us hope that monographs in psychological history may eventually succeed in making it unecessary for frowing, or other catastrophes, to bring flooding in upon them the ignored past of ideas in Indian philosophy.
With so large an object in so small a book, it has been impossible to compare the line of descent I have chosen with other lines, even with that of the Madhyamika school, in which Professor de la Vallée Poussin has revealed much interesting psychological matter. I have also to apologize for bringing in seven terms in the original. This was as inevitable, for clearness and unambiguity, as would be the use of corresponding Greek words in writing on Greek psychology. But we are more used to Greek words. Finally, if I have repeated statements made in previous writings, it was to avoid irritating the reader by too many references, as if suggesting that he might as well be reading not one book, but three or four.
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