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The Christian-Buddhist Life and Works of Dwight Goddard Author(s): Robert Aitken Source: Buddhist-Christian Studies, Vol. 16 (1996), pp. 3-10 Published by: University of Hawai'i Press Stable URL: Accessed: 18/04/2010 08:49 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

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The Christian-BuddhistLife and Works of Dwight Goddard Robert Aitken Diamond Sangba ABSTRACT In 1932,




a collection


Mahayana Buddhist texts translated from the Chinese. This collection, entitled A Buddhist Bible, has helped introduce many Americans to Mahayana. The publication of the texts marked the end of a fascinating journey on the part of Goddard from engineer, to Christian missionary and minister, to student, to practitioner of Zen Buddhism. The best record of this journey is Goddard's own writings. A serious obstacle to gaining familiarity with Mahayana Buddhism in the West has been the complexity and quantity of Buddhist Scriptures. As a consequence, Westerners are much more familiar with the Pali texts of the Theravada tradition since they are fewer, are better ordered, and have been systematically translated by the Pali Text Society in London. Nevertheless, in 1932, Dwight Goddard introduced a seminal collection of Mahayana texts translated from the Chinese entitled A Buddhist Bible that has helped introduce many Americans-including the Beat Generation through writer Jack Kerouac-to Mahayana. Now, sixty-three years later, Beacon Press has reissued the book with a foreword and a bibliography, both of which I put together after researching Dwight Goddard's life. Goddard was an engineer but, after the death of his wife, entered Hartford Theological Seminary in 1891 at the age of twenty-nine. He was ordained in 1894 and was sent to China as a Congregational missionary. There he married Dr. Frances Nieberg, a fellow missionary, and their first son was born in Foochow. Quoting now from my foreword: On the basis of interviews conducted late in Goddard's life, David Starrywrote of Goddard's dissatisfaction during those early years in China. "During his initial years as a... missionary in southern China, he became increasingly frustrated at the failure of the Christian missions to accomplish their spiritual goals. He was convinced that although the Christian propaganda had been successful in influencing Buddhist-Christian Studies 16 (1996). ? by University of Hawai'i Press. All rights reserved. Quoted portions and bibliography reprinted with permission of Beacon Press.

ROBERTAITKEN educational and social conditions it had failed in its purely religious aspects." He prowled around with an open mind, visiting Buddhist temples-alert for spiritual nourishment. Returning with his wife and child to the United States about 1899, Goddard accepted pastoral positions in Lancaster,Massachusetts, and in Chicago. A second son was born. Then abruptly he changed course again, returning to industry as a mechanical engineer.1 While working as an engineer, Goddard sold an invention to the government that brought him a fortune, allowing him to retire, but this led to isolation and a nervous breakdown. This was followed by an itinerant life for several years that took him from Vermont to Los Gatos, California, and included several trips to China. During his wanderings, he explored Taoism and Christian mysticism. From the foreword again: "In 1921 he learned about Karl Ludwig Reichelt, a Lutheranpastor who had established a monastery in Nanking that was devoted to Christian-Buddhistunderstanding. He spent some time in Reichelt's monastery in 1923, and again in 1925. One is not surprised to learn that, with all this wandering, he and his second wife were divorced in 1926. He married for a third time a year later, at age sixtysix, and this marriage ended fairly soon afterward in a separation. "In 1928, at the age of sixty-seven, Goddard encountered Japanese Zen Buddhism for the first time through Junsaburo Iwami of New York City. At the time Iwami was attending lectures by Shigetsu Sasaki (later Sokei-an Osho) at the Orientalia Bookshop. Sasaki recalled that Iwami 'got one of Goddard's circulars he was always sending around and wrote to him about Zen Buddhism. Goddard was terribly moved that he never knew Zen Buddhism.'2 After he and Iwami met, Goddard went forthwith to Japan, where he consulted with D. T. Suzuki and studied for eight months with Yamazaki Taiko Roshi of Shokoku Monastery in Kyoto, living apart from the monastery but visiting for zazen (meditation) and personal interviews. He dedicated the first edition of A Buddhist Bible to Suzuki and Yamazaki as his teachers. "In letters to Ruth Everett, Goddard reported on his difficulties with Zen practice. His mind wandered uncontrollably. His legs gave him trouble, as one can imagine they would for a sedentary man his age. He also had a hard time understanding the Roshi's broken English. His perseverance shows poignantly in a photograph in Rick Fields' How the Swans Came to the Lake -an elderly figure in a Japanese robe over a white shirt with bow tie, sitting rather awkwardly in zazen.3 "In earlier letters to Mrs. Everett, Goddard urged her to meet Shigetsu Sasaki. This began a train of karma that has not slowed a bit, for she became a key figure in the First Zen Institute, a center that developed around Sasaki and continues to be important in Western Zen Buddhism. Ultimate-


Dwight Goddard

ly, Everett married Sasaki Osho shortly before he died. Her books, particularly The Recorded Sayings of Linchi Hui-Chao of Chen Prefecture, edited from Sasaki's notes, and Zen Dust: The History of the Koan and Koan Study in Linchi (Rinzai) Zen, which she compiled with Miura Isshu, are essential references for serious Zen students.4 "Although Goddard was one of five people to sign the original letter that requested that Shigetsu Sasaki be sent to the United States as a teacher, he was not convinced that Sasaki Osho's method of teaching was correct. With his experience in Chinese and Japanese monasteries, he felt that lay religious practice was vulnerable to worldly distraction and could not survive. He therefore endeavored to establish a monastic movement, the Followers of Buddha. It was an ambitious project on forty acres in southern California adjacent to the Santa BarbaraNational Forest and also on a large parcel of rural land in Thetford, Vermont. The religious brothers (no sisters) participating in the fellowship were to commute back and forth between the centers in a van, spending winters in California, summers in Vermont. The enterprise folded for lack of members. Rick Fields surmises, correctly I think, that Goddard's strict monastic style went against the American grain and that his inability to persuade Wong Mou-lam or Wai-tao to head the movement left it without enlightened leadership.5 It is ironic that, despite his conviction that monasticism was the only possible path, his writings inspired Kerouac at the other end of the spectrum of lay and clerical prac-

ROBERTAITKEN tice and that his work fertilized the lay Zen Buddhist movement that flourishes today. "Afterimmersing myself for several weeks in the project of piecing Goddard's life together, I found myself in the presence of a talented Yankee gentleman fired with Bodhicitta-the aspiration for Buddhahood-who bewildered his conventional family and friends and worked a very lonely row quite single-mindedly. He knew that "Buddhahood"is not a sectarian matter, and one finds throughout his writings an aspiration to find the ultimate ground of religion-of whatever name." In my foreword, I observe that "Goddardwas a man of his time, the century which produced prophets of the perennial: Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, Mary Baker Eddy, H. B. Blavatsky." But I suggest that "Goddard sought the light in his own unique way": Writing was his Tao, his way of thinking through his changes, for himself and for others. His long task of compiling the biographies of Eminent Engineers surely gave him a sense of completion once his career of engineering was over. He continued to write after he retired and during the years of working through the dark night of his earnest religious quest. In 1917, at the age of fifty-six, he published lectures he had given to students of the Chicago Theological Seminary under the title The Divine Urgefor Missionary Service. Other works during this period include: The Good News of a Spiritual Realm (a paraphrase of the Gospels), Jesus and the Problem of Human Life, and Love in Creation and Redemption: A Study in the Teachings of Jesus Compared with Modern Thought. He edited and published a journal, The Good News of a Spiritual Life, from 1918 to 1922. After his exposure to Dr. Reichelt's views, Goddard explored the possibility that Buddhism might serve to inform Christianity. In 1924, he published the booklet A Vision of Christian and Buddhist Fellowship in the Search for Light and Reality and, in 1925, the eclectic, metaphysical novel A Nature Mystic's Clue. These publications marked a development that his former colleagues could not tolerate. Alice Brannon noted in her chronology for 1924 that "RufusM. Jones forsakes him" and that "Dr. Cadman of American Board disagrees."6He was not swayed. He returned to Nanking for a second stay at Dr. Reichelt's monastery. In 1927, he published his inquiry WasJesus Influenced by Buddhism? A Comparative Study of the Lives and Thoughts of Gautama and Jesus. Then, in 1928, Goddard made his pivotal trip to Japan, where he studied with Suzuki and Yamazaki Roshi. In 1930, Luzac of London published the book that emerged from these encounters, the first of his exclusively Buddhist works, The Buddha's Golden Path: A Manual of Practical Buddhism Based on the Teachings and Practices of the Zen Sect, but Interpreted

DWIGHTGODDARD and Adapted to Meet Modern Conditions. His journal, Zen: A Magazine of Self-Realization, later subtitled A Buddhist Magazine, appeared in a few issues, and the first edition of A Buddhist Bible was published in 1932. Then Buddha, Truth and Brotherhood: An Epitome of Many Buddhist Scriptures, Translatedfrom the Japanese was published in 1934. During these years Goddard was also bringing out translations from Buddhist texts that were later incorporated in the second, enlarged edition of A Buddhist Bible.7 The journal of Goddard's monastic movement, Fellowship Following Buddha, was published for a while. A total of twelve books and booklets appeared in the last fifteen years of his life. A few were brought out by commercial publishers; the rest were published at Goddard's expense, bearing prices of fifty cents or a dollar. In hindsight, one can trace the way his writing projects bore Goddard inexorably from applied science, to Christianity, to Buddhism, and ultimately to Zen Buddhism. Although he settled on Zen as the window that seemed least opaque, he remained true to his past. Kerouac heard that Goddard actually returned to Christianityin his final days.8 In any case, as his outlook evolved, he became more inclusive. He did not fall into the error of isolating Zen from Buddhism or Buddhism from ethics and principles of kinship, and these principles were surely colored by his early Christianconvictions. While A Buddhist Bible is true to the theme of the Diamond Sutra-the Buddha cannot be known by any particular feature-at the same time the various teachings of this collection clearly show that such a pure, profound understanding can be attained by the practice of Buddhism-the way of wisdom and compassion that Goddard sought to make his own. In a letter to Mrs. Everett, he proclaimed: "[Zen Buddhism] is first, last and always the practice of the Noble Path,"9 that is, the Buddha's classic Eightfold Path of right views, right thoughts, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort or lifestyle, right recollection, and right absorption or concentration. In 1937 and 1938, Goddard was deeply involved in matters relating to the publication of the second edition of A Buddhist Bible, which Alice Brannon noted was "his great contribution to the world's learning."10He died on his seventy-eighth birthday in 1939. In a memoir published in the June 1940 issue of the Vermonter,Charles R. Cummings wrote of Goddard's dislike of the telephone, his preference for plain food and secondhand clothing, his choice of a bus rather than a train for cross-country travel, and his opposition to hunting and fishing. He had a shrine room in his home, where he practiced zazen daily. "He developed a reputation as an eccentric, to say the least," one of my correspondents in Thetford wrote me recently. As a fellow eccentric and fellow late bloomer, I bow in veneration to the Sage of Vermont and to the life he devoted to religious understanding.



Prepared by Robert Aitken *Copy in Aitken library **Xeroxcopy in Aitken library ***Xeroxcopy of selected pages in Aitken library 1. Buddha, Truthand Brotherhood: An Epitome of Many Buddhist Scriptures Translatedfrom theJapanese. Santa Barbara,California, 1934.** 2. TheBuddha's Golden Path: A Manual of Practical Dhyana Buddhism. Santa Barbara, California, 1931. 3. TheBuddha's Golden Path: A Manual of Practical Buddhism Based on the Teachings and Practices of the Zen Sect, but Interpreted and Adapted to Meet Modern Conditions. London: Luzac & Co., 1930. xii, 210 pp.** 4. A Buddhist Bible, Edited, Interpreted, and Published by Dwight Goddard. Thetford, Vermont, 1932. "Dedicated to My Honored Teachers, Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, Professor, Otani University [and] Taiko Yamazaki Roshi, So-Ko-ku Monastery." 5. A Buddhist Bible, Edited by Dwight Goddard, Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged. Thetford, Vermont: 1938. 6. A Buddhist Bible, Edited by Dwight Goddard. New York: Dutton, 1960. 7. A Buddhist Bible, Edited by Dwight Goddard. Introduction by Huston Smith. Boston: Beacon Press, 1970.* A Xerox copy of D.G.'s Introduction to The Diamond Sutra, Santa Barbara, 1935, tipped in. 8. Buddhist Practice of Concentration: Dhyana for Beginners, Translationfrom the Chinese by Bhikshu Wai-Dau and Dwight Goddard. Santa Barbara, California, 1934. "Lectures delivered by Grand Master Chih-chi of Tien-tai mountains, at the Shiu-ch'uan Temple. Sui dynasty, 581-613." viii, 59 pp. Vermont Historical Society has a copy. 9. A Chapter of Chinese History and a Plea. Cleveland: Winn & Judson, 1906. 10. The Diamond Sutra: A New Translation from the Chinese Text of Kumarajiva, with Bhikshu Wai-tao. Santa Barbara, California, 1935. Xerox copy of D.G.'s Introduction tipped into Aitken's copy of A Buddhist Bible. 11. The Divine Urge to Missionary Service: A Lecture Delivered before Students... of the Universityof Chicago. Ann Arbor, 1917. 12. Eminent Engineers, New York: Deary-Collard,c. 1905. Short biographies.* 13. Fellowship Following Buddha, Quarterly, c. 1939, Thetford, Vermont. Vermont Historical Society Libraryhas Nos. 1, 2, 3. 14. Followers of Buddha: An American Buddhist Brotherhood. Santa Barbara: J. F. Rowny Press, 1934. 35 pp.** Includes D.G.'s notes for a revised edition. 15. Followers of Buddha: The Ideal and Rules of an American Buddhist Brotherhood. Santa Barbara,California, 1934. 16. The Good News of a Spiritual Life, Dwight Goddard, Editor. New York. Thetford Historical Society has bound volumes: Dec. 1918-June, 1920; Jan. 1921-Dec. 1922-all that were published.*** 17. The Good News of a Spiritual Realm, Ann Arbor, 1915. (A paraphrase of the New Testament.)* 18. Laotzu's Tao and Wu Wei, New York: Brentano's, 1919. Thetford Historical Society has a copy. 19. Laotsu's Tao and Wu-wei:A New Translationfrom the Chinese by Wai-tao and Dwight Goddard. Essays Interpreting Taoism, by Henri Borel, translated by


M. E. Reynolds. Historical Essays, by Kiang Kang-hu. Second Edition, Thetford, Vermont, 1939. 139 pp. 20. Love in Creation and Redemption: A Study in the Teachings ofJesus Compared with Modern Thought. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1918. 21. A Nature Mystic's Clue. Thetford, Vermont, 1925. 282 pp. (A metaphysical nove.)* 22. The Principle and Practice of Mahayana Buddhism: An Interpretation of Professor Suzuki's Translation of Ashvagosa's Awakening of Faith. Thetford, Vermont, 1933.* 23. Reportof theJubilee Yearof the Foochow Mission ofA.B.C.FM. Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press, 1897. 118 pp. The Vermont Historical Society Libraryhas a copy. 24. Self-Realization of Noble Wisdom: A Buddhist Scripture Based on Professor Suzuki's Translation of the Lankavatara Sutra, Edited, Interpreted, and Published by Dwight Goddard. Thetford, Vermont, 1932. 152 pp.* 25. The Seventh and Eighth Stages of Buddha's Noble Path, with the First Annual Report of the Followers of Buddha, An American Brotherhood. Santa Barbara, California, 1935. 16 pp.* 26. A Simple Method for Practicing the Seventh Stage of the Noble Path. Thetford, Vermont, 1937. 27. A Vision of Christian and Buddhist Fellowship in the Searchfor Light and Truth. Los Gatos, California, 1924.** 28. Was Jesus Influenced by Buddhism? A Comparative Study of the Lives and Thoughtsof Gautama andJesus. Thetford, Vermont, 1927. 249 pp.* Includes D.G.'s holograph and typed notes for a new edition to have been titledJesus Buddha. 29. Zen, Varied subtitles and places, 1930-1931. Vol. 5, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6.** The Vermont Historical Society Libraryhas Vol. 5, Nos. 1-3, 5-6; Vol. 6, Nos. 1-7. This journal began with Volume 5, succeeding Volume 4 of The Good News of a Spiritual Life. NOTES

I am grateful to Beacon Press for allowing us to reprint and for launching yet another publication of A Buddhist Bible. Copyright 1938, 1966 by E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. 1. Robert Aitken, foreword to A Buddhist Bible, ed. Dwight Goddard (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), pp. xiii-xiv. The quotation from David Starryis taken from his "Dwight Goddard-the Yankee Buddhist,"Zen Notes (First Zen Institute of America) 27, no. 7 (July 1980): ix, 4. 2. "Inside the FZI [FirstZen Institute], 5," Zen Notes 28, no. 7 (July 1981): xiii, 2. 3. Rick Fields, How the Swans Came to the Lake (Boston: Shambhala, 1986), following p. 194. 4. Ruth Everett, ed., The Recorded Sayings of Linchi Hui-Chao of Chen Prefecture (Kyoto: The Institute for Zen Studies, 1975); Ruth Everett and Miura Isshu, comps., Zen Dust: The History of the Koan and Koan Study in Linchi (Rinzai) Zen (New York: Harcourt Brace and World, 1966). 5. Fields, How the Swans Came to the Lake, p. 185. 6. Family records, Russell A. Lovell, Sandwich, Mass. 7. Goddard did not speak Japanese and was not knowledgeable enough in Chinese to be able to translate Buddhist texts. Thus, he was dependent on native scholars for the primary translation work, notably the monk Wai-tao, whom he sup-


ported financially for many years, and Dr. Suzuki. Much of the time that he spent in Asia during his later years was devoted to consulting with his resource people about their translations. 8. Jack Kerouac, The Dbarma Bums (New York: Viking, 1958), p. 202. 9. "Inside the FZI, 3," Zen Notes 28, no. 4 (April 1981): xviii, 2. 10. Russell family records.

Dwight Goddard  

Life of Dwight Goddard

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