“Buddhist philosophy is based on the experience Buddha had about twenty-five centuries ago. … We generally think that philosophy is a matter of pure intellect, and, therefore, that the best philosophy comes out of a mind most richly endowed with intellectual acumen and dialectical subtleties. But this is not the case. It is true that those who are poorly equipped with intellectual powers cannot be good philosophers. Intellect, however, is not the whole thing. There must be a deep power of imagination, there must be a strong, inflexible will-power, there must be a keen insight into the nature of man, and finally, there must be an actual seeing of the truth as synthesized in the whole being of the man himself.

“I wish to emphasize the idea of ‘seeing.’ It is not enough to ‘know’ as the term is ordinarily understood. Knowledge, unless it is accompanied by a personal experience is superficial and no kind of philosophy can be built upon such a shaky foundation.” ~Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki

Buddhist Philosophy

It is obvious that Buddhist philosophy is based on the experiences and teaching of the Buddha. The rest of the quote goes more into a discussion of what real philosophy is rather than what is in Buddhist philosophy. I think it is the idea of the author to tell us there is legitimate philosophy and superficial philosophy, and what Buddha taught was the real thing. Among other things, Wikipedia says that when it comes to Buddhist philosophy, “Particular points of Buddhist philosophy have often been the subject of disputes between different schools of Buddhism. These elaborations and disputes gave rise to various schools in early Buddhism of Abhidharma, and to the Mahayana traditions such as Prajñāpāramitā, Madhyamaka, Buddha-nature and Yogācāra.” So saying exactly what Buddhist philosophy is can get complicated. The important point is that it didn’t come from the Buddha intellectualizing on matters. Not entirely, anyway.

Real Philosophy

Anyone can call themselves a philosopher and give opinions on any subject they want. That doesn’t make them a true philosopher. Even if they get a degree in philosophy from a reputable university, they are not necessarily a real philosopher.

Philosophers can, for the most part, be divided into two groups. There are the intellectual philosophers who base their philosophies on knowledge of the material world and their intellectual analysis of it. While this can be useful for some things, it is limited. Then there are the spiritual philosophers. They rely upon spiritual wisdom and intuition to develop their philosophy. They are the real philosophers.


The intellectual philosophers may have some good ideas, but they are limited. They may solve an immediate problem, but they don’t have the insights to solve long-term problems or long-ranging issues. They see the tree, but not the forest. These include the futurists of the sort who predicted a few decades ago that we would all be in flying cars by the year 2000, among other things. Their predictions seemed reasonable. They failed, however, because they had no spiritual insights, no intuition to help them understand the subtle things that can affect how time flows.

The spiritual philosophers do better because they are looking at the whole universe and the whole realm of knowledge, not just the small part of it that is the realm of matter. As Mr. Suzuki says, however, this type of philosopher needs his intellect to be well developed as well. While some spiritual people can do quite well with a poorly developed intellect, a real philosopher needs it. You might picture is as intellect being the left leg, and an awakened and developed spirit and soul being the right leg. With two legs equally developed, you can walk straight and quick. If one leg is shorter or weaker, you go in circles and move slowly.

Social Acceptance

While the well-developed spiritual philosopher is superior to the intellectual kind, they will probably be listened to less than the intellectuals. That is because we have a mostly materialistic and intellectual society. The good news is that this is changing. Slowly, but surely, people are awakening once again to the need for spiritual growth and development. As part of that, they are beginning to listen more to those spiritual philosophers instead of the intellects. That is a good thing. Sadly, many are also listening to the phony, self-declared spiritual gurus who promote a limited spiritual philosophy that leaves them floundering like fish in shallow water. Every coin has its heads and tails, its good side and bad side. That too will change as the whole world changes from materialism to spirituality.


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