Tag: <span>Buddhism</span>

Erich Fromm Rapprochement of Cultures.

Erich Fromm: Meeting the Challenges of the Century.

Featured Image: Erich Fromm. By Müller-May / Rainer Funk / CC BY-SA 3.0 (DE)

By Rene Wadlow.

I believe that the One World which is emerging can come into existence only if a New Man comes into being – a man who has emerged from the archaic ties of blood and soil, and who feels himself to be a citizen of the world whose loyalty is to the human race and to life, rather than to any exclusive part of it, a man who loves his country because he loves mankind, and whose views are not warped by tribal loyalties.
Eric Fromm Beyond the Chains of Illusion.

Eric Fromm (1900-1980), the psychoanalyst was concerned with the relation between personality and society. His life was marked by the socio-political events of the century he faced, especially those of Germany, his birthplace.

Erich Fromm was born into an orthodox Jewish family in Frankfurt am Main.  The families of both his mother and father had rabbis and Talmudic scholars, and so he grew up in a household; where the significance of religious texts was an important part of life. While Fromm later took a great distance from Orthodox Jewish thought; he continued a critical appreciation of Judaism.

He was interested in the prophets of the Old Testament, but especially by the hope of the coming of a Messianic Age – a powerful theme in popular Judaism. The coming of the Messiah would establish a better world; in which there would be higher spiritual standards but also a new organization of society.  The Messianic ideal is one in which the spiritual and the political cannot be separated from one another. (1)

Sociology and Psychology.

He was 14 when the First World War started and 18 when the German State disintegrated – too young to fight but old enough to know what was going on and to be impressed by mass behavior.  Thus; he was concerned from the start of his university studies with the link between sociology and psychology as related ways of understanding how people act in a collective way.

As was true for German university students of his day; he was able to spend a year or a bit more indifferent German universities: in Frankfurt where he studied with the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory; whose members he would see again in New York when they were all in exile, at the University of Munich, at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, and at the University of Heidelberg from where he received a doctorate.

Main building of the Ludwig Maximilian University, MunichBavariaGermany. By Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx.

He had two intellectual influences in his studies: Sigmund Freud whose approach was the basis of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute and Karl Marx; a strong influence in the Frankfurt School.  Erich Fromm chose a psychoanalyst path as a profession, learning and, as was required in the Freudian tradition; spending five years in analysis.  Fromm, however; increasingly took his distance from Freudian orthodoxy; believing that society beyond family relations had an impact on the personality.  

However; he also broke one of the fundamental rules of Freudian analysis in not overcoming the transfer of identification with his analyst.  He married the woman who was his analyst.  The marriage broke after four years perhaps proving the validity of Freud’s theories on transfers and counter-transfers.

Colorized painting of Sigmund Freud. By Photocolorization, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Buddha.

Therefore, Erich Fromm’s reputation and his main books rest on his concern with the relation of individual psychology and social forces – the relation between Freud and Marx. However; probably the most fundamental thinker; who structured his approach was the Buddha; whom he discovered around the age of 26. It is not Buddhism as a faith that interested him – Buddhism being the tradition built on some of the insights of the Buddha.  Rather it was the basic quest of the Buddha that interested him: what is suffering?  Can suffering be reduced or overcome?  If so, how?

Erich Fromm saw suffering in the lives of the Germans among whom he worked in the late 1920s; individual suffering as well as socio-economic suffering. For Erich Fromm, there must be a link between the condition of the individual and the social milieu; a link not fully explained by either Freud or Marx.

Multiple rows of golden statues of the Buddha seated, with yellow and red flowers, at Wat Phou Salao (Golden Buddha temple), in PakseLaos. By Basile Morin, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Art of Loving.

Erich Fromm had enough political awareness to leave Germany for the United States just as Hitler was coming to power in 1933. From 1934; he was teaching in leading US universities. In 1949 he took up a post as professor at the National Autonomous University in Mexico but often lectured at US universities as well.

Erich Fromm’s work is largely structured around the theme of suffering and how it can be reduced.  There is individual suffering. It can be reduced by compassion and love. One of his best-known books is The Art of Loving. Love is an art, a “discipline”, and he sets out exercises largely drawn from the Zen tradition to develop compassion toward oneself and all living beings.

Memorial plaque, Erich Fromm, Bayerischer Platz 1, Berlin-SchönebergGermany By OTFW, Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness.

There is also social suffering which can be reduced by placing an emphasis not on greater production and greater consumption but on being more; an idea that he develops in To Have or To Be. Fromm was also aware of social suffering and violence on a large scale and the difficulties of creating a society of compassionate and loving persons.  His late reflections on the difficulties of creating The Sane Society (the title of a mid-1950s book) is The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness.  We still face the same issues of individual and social suffering and the relation between the two.  Erich Fromm’s thinking makes a real contribution as we continue to search.


(1) See his You Shall Be As Gods for a vision of the Jewish scriptures as being a history of liberation.

Rene Wadlow, President,  Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

1 2 21
Harmony Week-Chou Tun-yi Rapprochement of Cultures.

Interfaith Harmony Week: Chou Tun-yi: A Voice for Our…

Featured Image: Chou Tun-yi or Zhou Dunyi. By 清宫殿藏画本. 北京: 故宫博物馆出版社. 1994., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The United Nations General Assembly on 20 October 2010 proclaimed the first week of February of each year as the “World Interfaith Harmony Week” among all religions, faiths and beliefs. The General Assembly resolution recognized :

“The imperative need for dialogue among the different faiths and religions in enhancing mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people.”

The week has a potential to promote the healing of religion-based tensions in the world.

Thus, the Association of World Citizens welcomes this effort to develop respect and mutuality among diverse cultures and religions. Today, there is a broad and deep movement toward openness and goodwill among religious and spiritual communities. New awareness of shared ethical principles opens the way for creative engagement.

There is a need for cooperative action to bring the wisdom of religious traditions to meet the economic, environmental and social challenges that humanity faces. The ecological crisis has a spiritual dimension. We must help humanity to develop a reverence for all life and respect for the sacredness of the Earth, our common home.

United Nations General Asembly

Image by Basil D Soufi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

U.N. General Assembly: Can It Provide the Needed Global Leadership?.

A Voice For Our Time in finding harmony is that of Chou Tun-yi.

(1017-1073) known as the Master of Lien-hsi. During the Song dynasty (960-1279) , after a period of division and confusion, there was a conscious effort to bring together into a harmonious framework currents of thought which existed in China but often as separate and sometimes hostile schools of thought: Confucianism, Buddhism, philosophical Taoism, and religious Taoism. These efforts were called Tao hsuch -the study of Tao.

Chou Tun-yi was a leading figure in this effort. He developed a philosophy based on the harmony of Yin and Yang, a harmony known through intuition as each person has within himself the capacity to know what is right. This capacity of intuition, what Chou Tun-yi called “straightforwardness in movement”, properly developed, will lead to impartiality and universality, the Confucian ideal of Sagehood. (1)

Today, the currents of thought linked to Christianity and Islam needed to be added to the currents of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. However, the need to develop the capacity of properly using intuition remains a vital approach – a goal for Harmony Week.

Yin and Yang

Image: Photo by Jben Beach Art on Pexels. 

A Harmonious Life and the Principle of Yin and Yang.


(1) See Fung Yu Lan. A Short History of Chinese Philosophy (New York: Macmillan Co. 1950).


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

1 2 21

Crackdown on Buddhism in Tibet Appeals

Crackdown on Buddhism in Tibet?.

Sakya Monastery, Tibet. Sakya Monastery was founded in 1073, by Konchok Gyelpo and is situated about 130 km west of Shigatse on the road to Tingri. By I, Luca Galuzzi, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons.

By Rene Wadlow.

There have been periodical periods of repression on religious liberty in Tibet by the Chinese government usually related to broader policies concerning religion on the part of the government.  We may be in such a period now as there is a Muslim element in the repressive policy toward the Uyghurs in Xiaoping and a less obvious Christian element in the repressive policy in Hong Kong;  where Christian churches and Christian-related universities are strong champions of human rights.  It is also possible that recent events in Afghanistan have made some government officials more aware of the religious element in political trends.

The reasons for the crackdown were not articulated by the police authorities who only cited having photos of the Dalai Lama and correspondence with Tibetans living in India and Nepal for the closing of Kharmar Monastery in Gansu Provence in late July and the arrest of over 120 Tibetans including six monks from Dza Wompo Gaden Shedrup Monastery in early September.

The Uyghurs

 Uyghurs praying in East Turkestan. By Preston Rhea, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Crackdown on Buddhism.

Crackdown in religious practice in Tibet has been periodical.  In 1951 Chinese government troops entered Tibet under a “17 Point Agreement” which left Tibet largely autonomous under the Dalai Lama.  However, in March 1959, China imposed the socialist system on Tibet in the name of “democratic reforms”.  The Dalai Lama, fearing that he would be arrested left for India, followed by his entourage of highly trained lamas and later by other Tibetans.  The Tibetans were settled in the Himalaya hill station of Daramsala by the Indian government.

In May 1966, Mao Zedong launched the “Great Cultural Revolution” to “Smash the four olds” (old ideology, old culture, old customs, and old habits).  A large number of monasteries, temples and shrines were destroyed in Tibet.

Again, in March 1989, martial law was declared in Lhasa following three days of riots during which thousands of Tibetans took to the streets to attack Chinese-owned stores and government offices.  There was a crackdown on religious practice as Buddhism and a sense of nationhood remain for most Tibetans common mobilizing symbols despite the decades of Chinese rule.


The Dalai Lama


The Dalai Lama. By kris krüg, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Middle Way Approach.

At other times, there have been meetings between Chinese officials and representatives of the Dalai Lama such as those of 2002 when the Dalai Lama’s representatives set out a “Middle Way Approach” to secure genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the scope of the constitution of the People’s Republic of China.  In a follow up meeting in 2008, a detailed memorandum of “Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People” was presented by the Tibetan representatives. There were meetings in 2010 to clarify concerns and possible misinterpretations of the Memorandum, although there has been no formal follow up since 2010.

Within China itself, there is an increasing interest in Tibetan traditions of Buddhism. There are some 50 institutes specializing in Tibetan studies. The interest is both cultural and spiritual as some Chinese search for a meaning in life.

Thus it is not clear if the recent arrests are the start of a broader crackdown or the actions of local police officials.  From the outside, those of us concerned with safeguarding religious liberty must follow events in China closely.


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot”…

1 2 11