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By David R. Loy

A Buddhist interpretation of Western historical past that indicates civilization formed through the self's wish for groundedness.

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Duby, 531–32) In this way the conditions for a transcendental perspective were preserved in medieval Europe and matured at the end of it. As we shall see in later chapters, the clash between sacred and secular authority again created space for the emergence of the individual by opening up the possibility of self-determination—and the valorization of personal freedom. FREEDOM FROM FREEDOM The above conditions encouraged a transcendence very different from that found in India or among the Hebrews, and help us to understand what has happened to transcendence in the development of the West.

The basic weaknesses of democracy are mob rule, demagoguery, and a tendency toward anarchy, since the mass of people grow impudent from “a reckless excess of liberty” (701b). The main concern of The Republic is the problems with city-state democracy; it addresses the root of the problem by analyzing the democratic personality, which lacks a coherent organizing principle and therefore follows the strongest pressures of the moment— a recipe for social as well as psychological strife (561c-d). Further experience only deepened Plato’s distaste for personal freedom, as this extraordinary passage in The Laws (XII 942a-d) reveals: The organization of our forces is a thing calling in its nature for much advice and the framing of many rules, but the principle is this—that no man, and no woman, be ever suffered to live without an officer over them, and no soul of man to learn the trick of doing one single thing of its own sole motion, in play or in earnest, but, in peace as in war, ever to live with the commander in sight, to follow his leading, and take his motions from him to the least detail— to halt or advance, to drill, to bathe, to dine, to keep watch .

Shifting the terrain from the outer to the inner world was the beginning, not the end, of the struggle” (278). A Buddhist could not put it better. By both the philosophical and the social standards of his time, Marcus the Roman emperor should have been one of the freest men who ever lived; what his Meditations unwittingly reveal, then, is how little such freedom meant, both his sovereignal dominion and the reason-able 34 A Buddhist History of the West freedom developed by his self-control. With him the Stoic tradition culminates in the realization that such freedoms do not by themselves bring personal fulfillment or peace of mind.

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