September 11, 2006

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.


- 2 comments by 0 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Peter Wong

    Haha… well let’s see umm…let’s read the mind and dig out those kilesa hahahaha (I ain’t setting a good example that’s for sure!!)

    18 Sep 2006, 23:58

  2. PenguinA

    How you Buddhist get rid of cockroaches? They put some cockroaches dentention houses (like those tiny black thing that once the cockroaches got in, they learnt how to go out of the house and die, amazing isn’t it), and I ain’t against them, cos cockroaches drove me mad! But what if they don’t set up the dentention houses, what can I do???

    Of course, this is nothing to do with Rousseau at all. But it’s no less a philosophical proposition.

    28 Sep 2006, 02:05


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