Jean–Jacques Rousseau the closet Buddhist
Lacking everything, he is never less miserable; for misery consists, not in the lack of things, but in the needs which they inspire.
Reading Rousseau’s famous book on education entitled Emile, I cannot help but think that this man was secretly a Buddhist. Some of the passages in this book look like they are taken from straight from the scriptures.
Absolute good and evil are unknown to us. In this life they are blended together; we never enjoy any perfectly pure feeling, nor do we remain for more than a moment in the same state. The feelings of our minds, like the changes in our bodies, are in a continual flux. Good and ill are common to all, but in varying proportions. The happiest is he who suffers least; the most miserable is he who enjoys least.
Every feeling of hardship is inseparable from the desire to escape from it; every idea of pleasure from the desire to enjoy it.
An insect or a worm whose strength exceeds its needs is strong; an
elephant, a lion, a conqueror, a hero, a god himself, whose needs exceed his strength is weak. The rebellious angel who fought against his own nature was weaker than the happy mortal who is living at peace according to nature. When man is content to be himself he is strong indeed; when he strives to be more than man he is weak indeed.
I am disappointed that googleing “Rousseau” and “Buddhism” returns nothing specifically related to both subjects— there must be some scholarly types who have noticed this before.