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Buddhist Famous Characters

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The Western Contribution to

William Peiris
(1973) Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publications.







“It is a religion that Buddhism has come into contact with Western thought, and this has been through the Pali tradition, the Buddhism of Ceylon, Burma, Siam, and Cambodia.”

            -E.J. Thomas


Biographical Sketches

 Of all the countries in the West, Britain has rendered the greatest service to Buddhism.

The name of Rhys Davids heads the list of British scholars who dedicated their lives to Buddhist studies. He came out to Ceylon in 1864 as a civil servant. In that year Robert Childers, who had been in the Ceylon Civil Service for several years, resigned and returned to England. These two events which occurred in the same year were to have a far-reaching and lasting influence on Pali Buddhist studies in the West. Both of them were drawn to the study of Pali in Ceylon although in different circumstances, and both were impressed by the Buddha’s teaching enshrined in the Pali canon.

On his return to England, Childers compiled his famous Pali-English Dictionary (1872-1875) in two volumes which he gave a great impetus to the study of Pali. Besides his own independent studies in Pali Buddhism, he collaborated with Hermann Oldenberg, the German scholar, and Viggo Fausball, the Danish scholar, who were then in England. His death at a comparatively early age was a grievous loss to Pali Buddhism.

 Founding of the Pali Text Society

Rhys Davids himself resigned from the Ceylon Civil Service and returned to England and associated himself with the work of Chielders, Oldenberg, and Fausball, besides engaging in his own Buddhist research. Of the many and varied contributions he made, the greatest was the founding of the Pali Text Society in 1881. The object of the Society, in his own words, was “to render accessible to students the rich stores of the earliest Buddhist literature now lying unedited and practically unused in the various manuscripts scattered throughout the universities and public libraries in Europe.”

He announced the birth of the new Society when he gave his celebrated Hibbert Lectures in 1881. in doing so, he declared: “The Sacred Books of the early Buddhists have preserved to us the sole record of the only religious movement in the world’s history which bears any close resemblance to Christianity; and it is not too much to say that the publication of this unique literature till be no less important for the study of history and especially of religious history that the publication of the Vedas has already been.”

The West and the East welcomed the new Society, and many distinguished scholars came forward to help him in the noble cause. Rhys Davids’ missionary zeal for Buddhist studies made him the staunchest champion in this sphere. He helped the Society to publish almost the whole of the Pali canon and a considerable number of commentaries and English translations, besides himself editing and translating numerous texts. With love and devotion he served the Society for forty one years.

 A Monumental Work at 72

The Pali-English Dictionary brought out by the Society stands as a monument to Rhys Davids. He began to compile it at seventy-two, an age at which most other men spend their time in retirement. He lived to see the publication of the first three parts of this magnificent work. His friend and collaborator William Stede, the philologist, completed it in 1925 – three years after his death.

Rhys Davids’ services to Pali Buddhism were original and singular. In fact, his wife described him as the “Max Muller of Buddhism.”

Mrs. Rhys Davids had not merely been his companion for a quarter century, but was as capable and dedicated a worker in the field of Pali scholarship as he was. A woman of remarkable intellect and tireless energy, she edited and translated some of the most abstruse texts, besides writing several thought-provoking original books.

Miss I.B. Horner, the present President of the Pali Text Society, and fourth in the line, succeded Dr. William Stede. She is an internationally recognized Pali scholar, and is worthily maintaining the Society’s traditions. She has to her credit numerous editions of Pali texts, English translations, and original works.

A German by birth, Max Muller made a great contribution to Buddhism in England, where he spent the greater part of his life. He was Editor-in-Chief of the Sacred Books of the East Series which published a number of translations of Buddhists texts. At the conclusion of the series, he took up the editorship of the Sacred Books of the Buddhist Series under the auspices of the Pali Text Society. He was a colossus in academic circles.

Another German, Hermann Oldenberg edited and translated Pali texts in London, where he resided for many years. Even before the Pali Text Society came into existence he was engaged in Buddhist scholarship in England in collaboration with Childers, Fausball, and Rhys Davids. His contribution to Buddhism was outstanding.

 First full Pali text in the West

Viggo Fausball, the Danish scholar, was the first to publish a full of Pali text in the West. His edition and Latin translation of the Dhammapada was brought out in 1855. His edition of the Jataka is a monumental one.

Of the numerous Buddhist scholars who have interpreted the Buddha’s teachings, Rhys Davids, by common consent, stands pre-eminent. His considered views are to be found in his articles in the “Encyclopaedia Brittanica”, in Hasting’s “Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics”, in his Introduction to Dialogues of the Buddha, and in the chapter on the Early History of the Buddhists, Vol. 1 of the Cambridge History of India (1922). His six lectures under the auspices of the Hibbert Trust, London, 1881, and his American Lectures (printed under the title Buddhism, its History and Literature, New York) contain penetrating interpretations of Buddhism.

Essentially a critic, Caroline Rhys Davids, who was second only to her husband as a Buddhist scholar, wrote with conviction, and every word of her writing bears the stamp of her unique personality. Her most thought-provoking book is Sakya or Buddhist Origins (1931).

Among the other Buddhists scholars whose contribution to Buddhism is great were E.J. Thomas of Cambridge, E.B. Cowell of Cambridge, and Berridale Keith of Oxford. The History of Buddhist Thought by Thomas and Keith’s Buddhist Philsophy in India and Ceylon are works of unquestionable merit. Cowell was editor of the Jataka translations by various scholars.

Miss I.B. Horner and Edward Conze rank very high indeed among modern scholars of Buddhism. Miss Horner, who is President of the Pali Text Society, has to her credit a formidable list of editions, translations, and original works. Edward Conze, who has some thirty years experience as a lecturer in psychology at university level, is a recognized scholar in Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese. He is the author of several original works, besides being the translator of numerous Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese works on Pali and Mahayana Buddhism. One of the most outstanding works is Buddhist Thought in India.

 Discovery of Dhammapada in Chinese

Three British scholars of the past deserve special mention. F.L. Woodward, a brilliant Cambridge classical scholar, not only edited and translated numerous Pali texts but also spent sixteen years as head of a Buddhist school and Ceylon. He never drew the salary attached to the post, and spent his patrimony on erecting buildings for the school. A former pupil of Woodward in England was E.M. Hare, who was engaged in business in Ceylon for many years. In his leisure he edited and translated Pali texts. He was not a university man, but was nevertheless an erudite Pali scholar. Lord Chalmers completes the trio – a brilliant classical scholar of Oxford and a former Colonial Governor of Ceylon. An eminent Pali scholar and a pupil and friend of Rhys Davids, he had to his credit several editions and translations of the Pali canon. All three of them gave handsome donations to the Pali Text Society.

The Pali Text Society has done a vast volume of work since its inception in 1881. The magnitude of the work may be gauged from the list of its publications. (See Appendix)

Although British scholars have evidently concentrated on Pali Buddhism, they have not altogether It was the Briton who discovered a Chinese version of the Dhammapada. He was Samuel Beal, Professor of Chinese at University College, London, in the 1870s. Among a large collection of books on the Chinese Buddhist canon presented to the India Office, London, by the Japanese Government about a hundred years ago, he came across a work entitled Fa-kheu-King (The Sutra of the Law Verses) in which, he discovered several similarities to the Pali version of the Dhammapada. He published an English translation of it in 1878.  his earlier work, The Romantic Legend of Sakya Buddha, based on Chinese works, appeared in 1875.

The Light of Asia spreads far and wide

Buddhism became widely known in the West by the publication of publication in 1879 of Sir Edwin Arnold’s beautiful poem, The Light of Asia. It achieved a phenomenal success. The sale of the book exceeded a million copies in Europe and America, its circulation being wider that that of any other book on Buddhism.

Rhys Davids founded the Pali Text Society in London in 1881. It is the biggest contribution the West has made to Buddhism. He enlisted the support and co-operation of eminent scholars both of the West and the East for the work of the Society, which he served with love and devotion for over forty years. Upon his death in 1922, his wife succeeded him as President of the Society and conducted its affairs as efficiently as her husband. The next President of the Society was William Stede, the philologist, and close collaborator and friend of Rhys Davids. The mantle of Rhys Davids and Caroline Rhys Davids has now fallen on Miss I.B. Horner who had known the Rhys Davids intimately from her girlhood. She continues the great work with the utmost devotion and efficiency.

Of the several places of Buddhist worship in Britain, the most popular is the London Buddhist Vihara located at 5, Heathfield Gardens, London W 4. Here, headed by the Ven. Dr. H. Saddhatissa Maha Thera, the pious and erudite Ceylon monk, Buddhist monks from Ceylon, and occasionally some from Burma, minister to the spiritual needs of Buddhists. The Buddhist Society in London is an active body. Its President, Christmas Humphreys, who describes himself as “a world Buddhist”, is the author of some dozen books on Buddhist themes, including Zen, the Far Eastern interpretation of Buddhism.

 Buddhism studied and practised

In Germany, the study and practice of Buddhism is done with proverbial thoroughness. The name of Hermann Oldenberg stands out prominently as an early worker in the field of Pali Buddhism. Karl Eugene Neumann, who regarded the old commentators of Buddhism as “idiotic nitwits”, translated the bulk of the Pali canon into German. Wilhelm Geiger made a name as the translator of Mahavamsa and Culavamsa, besides his great contributions language and literature. Paul Dahlke, George Grimm, Karl Seidenstucker, and Frederick Zimmermann, were not only authors of Buddhist works but also led the Buddhist way of life, propagating the Buddha’s teachings in their fatherland.

Germany has centres in principal cities and to wns for the study and practice of Buddhism. Meditation is widely practised. The Buddhist temple in Berlin is popular. So is the Altibuddhistische Gemeinde, the Old Buddhist Community, in Utting am Ammersee in Upper Bavaria.

France concentrates on Mahayana. The foremost worker in this field was Sylvain Levi, who discovered and published rare Mahayana texts with their translations. The French tradition is successfully continued today by a clever pupillary succession. The Buddhist Society in Paris, which concentrated on Pali Buddhism, has ceased to exist.

Belgium too concentrates on the Mahayana. The great Belgian professor Louis de la Vallee Poussin belonged to the French school of Sylvain Levi. His pupil Etienne Lamotte is a brilliant translator of the Mahayana Sanskrit texts into French.

 From Denmark – a Critical Pali Dictionary

A great centre of Pali philology all along, Denmark has been engaged in compiling a Critical Pali Dictionary since the end of the last century. The work initiated by V. Trenckner is so colossal that it will take another eighteen years to complete. So far only two volumes consisting of some eighteen fascicules have been published. Danish authors have brought out some fifty books on Buddhism, but the number of practising Buddhists in Denmark is small.

Leyden University in Holland has for long been famous for Mahayana Buddhist studies. Hendrik Kern, the dean of Dutch, orientalists, edited for the Harvard Oriental Series Jatakamala, or the Garland of Birth Stories, a Sanskrit classic in verse. It was rendered into English and published in London in 1895. his most outstanding work was his Manuel of Indian Buddhism which came out in 1896 in the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism. It is still consulted with profit by students of Buddhism. The Dutch tradition initiated by him is continued today by J.W. de Jong and others. There is an active Buddhist organization in Holland, but the number of Buddhists, as in Denmark, is small.

Sweden has a proud record of Buddhist studies. The outstanding worker in this field was Helmer Smith. He worked in Denmark and England as well. He made a distinct contribution to Sinhalese Language and literature too.

Roman Catholic Italy has made its contribution to Buddhist studies. Giuseppe Tucci’s work in this field is truly remarkable. Besides his own researches for several decades, he has published numerous Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhists texts and their translations. He is considered one of the greatest living scholars of Buddhism. The stories of his eight expeditions to unexplored regions of Tibet in search of rare manuscripts make interesting reading.

Russia’s monastery for lamas

A good deal of work has been done in Russia to promote the scientific study of Buddhism by I.P. Minaev. V.P. Vasiliev, E. Obermiller, S. Oldenburg, I.J. Schmidt, and Th. Stcherbatsky. Oldenburg’s Bibliotheca Buddhica series was started in 1897. so far, more then thirty volumes have been published. The same series brought out. Stcherbatsky’s monumental work, Buddhist Logic. A Russian translation of the Dhammpada appeared in 1960.

Tsarist Russia was the first country in the West to open a monastery for Buddhist lamas. It was established in 1913 at Nova Derevaya, a suburb of St. Petersburg. In 1925, the Soviet Union founded the first University for Buddhists in Europe near Moscow. A Buddhist temple existed in Poland during the last years of the Russian Empire, and Buddhist soldiers of the Russian army worshipped at it.

 Popularisation of Buddhism in America

Founded through the generosity of Henry Clarke Warren in 1891, the Harvard Oriental Series has contributed much towards popularizing Buddhism in America. His Buddhism in Translations  (1896) was an outstanding work published by the Series.

Warren worked under a great handicap. As the result of a fall when he was a child, he was badly deformed, but he carried on his university studies and those of Pali Buddhism with dogged determination.

Unlike in most other countries, there are Departments of Religions in many American universities where Buddhism is a subject of study.

Of the places of Buddhist worship in America, the Buddhist temple in Washington is the best known. The Ven. Dickwelle Piyananda Thera, a Ceylon Buddhist monk, is head of the mission there.

Apart from the work done by scholars in the West itself, Western Buddhist monks have been disseminating the Buddha Dhamma in Europe and America from Ceylon through books, booklets and tracts printed in European languages. The foremost of these monks was the Ven. Nyanatiloka Maha Thera. During his 54 year stay in Ceylon, he ordained as many as sixty Westerners as monks. One of the pupils, the Ven. Nyanaponika Maha Thera, himself as German, is head of the Forest Hermitage, Kandy, and looks after the work of the Buddhist Publication Society which he founded. The Society has, during the past decade, distributed a million copies of books and booklets on different aspects of Buddhism in the West.

The impact of these scholars on modern Western thought is evidenced today by the introduction of Buddhism in the curricula of Western universities as well as by the growing numbers seeking refuge in the Buddha Dhamma.







 Buddhism has been merely a field of research for the majority of Western scholars. To Rhys Davids, however, it extended far beyond the academic to a living religion and a meaningful way of life. This is borne out by his declaration: “Buddhist or not Buddhist, I have examined every one of the great religious systems of the world, and in none of them have I found anything to surpass, in beauty and comprehensiveness, the Noble Eight-fold Path of the Buddha. I am content to shape my life according to that Path.”

Further testimony to this fact is provided on a joint tribute paid to his memory by several distinguished Western scholars of Buddhism in the Journal of the Pali Text Society, London, for 1923: “The missionary spirit of early Buddhism was, in fact, active in Rhys Davids,” it states. “He saw in the ancient teachings of the Founder a noble moral force and a discreet intellectual reserve in powerful combination, and he set himself with enthusiasm to inspire respect for its deep sincerity and love of truth. His untiring labour for its appreciation was rooted in the secret reverence of his nature, and he prosecuted the work of the Society which owed its origin to him with a persistence that never failed.”

Born at Colchester on 12 May, 1843, Thomas William Rhys Davids was the son of a well- known Congregational Minister, the Rev. T.W. Davids, who had the “gift both of patient enthusiasm and of illuminating what would be otherwise dry details, both of which were outstanding characteristics of the son.” After school years in Brighton, he refused a good opening to be a solicitor, and entered the University of Breslau in Germany, where he studied Sanskrit under Professor Stenzler and obtained the degree of Ph.D. In 1864 he entered the Ceylon Civil Service. His philological training made it quite easy for him to acquire a good working knowledge of Sinhalese and Tamil.

 The judge and the unknown language

A curious incident drew him to the study of Pali Buddhism. When he was functioning as a judge in Ceylon, a case in connexion with a village Buddhist temple, involving ecclesiastical law, came before him and a document in a language which no one present in court could read was produced in evidence.

 “I was once told, I do not known with how much veracity,” writes Miss I.B. Horner, “ that this document contained a quotation from the Vinaya Pitaka, and it was this that aroused such a keen interest in Rhys Davids as to determine him to master this apparently unknown language,”

The language was Pali, and to assist him in its study he engaged the services of a Buddhist monk named Yatramulle Unnanse, to whom he paid the following tribute in his Hibbert Lectures: “when he fist came to me, the hand of death was already upon him. He was sinking into the grave from the effects of a painful and incurable malady. I had heard of his learning as a Pali scholar, and of his illness, and was grateful to him for leaving his home, under such circumstances, to teach a stranger. There was a strange light in his sunken eyes, and he was constantly turning away from questions of Pali to questions of Buddhism. I found him versed in all the poetry and ethics of the Suttas, and was glad to hear him talk. There was an indescribable attraction, a high-mindedness that filled me with reverence.”

Rhys Davids made rapid progress under his able tutor.

Contributions to R.A.S. Journal.

He resigned from the Ceylon Civil Service in 1872 over a disagreement with a higher officer. The disagreement arose when he suggested that government should provide free pasture land for cattle. The higher officer was against this suggestion, and the government of the day held with him. Returning to England, he studied law and was called to the Bar from middle Tempe in 1877. But his practice was poor. He concentrated on the interpretation of Buddhism, and his contributions to the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society on the “ Inscriptions of Parakrama Bahu,” “Sigiri, the Lion Rock,” and “Two Old Sinhalese of earlier scholars such as George Turnour, Gogerly, Spence Hardy, Childers, Fausball, Oldenberg and others. This was incorporated in the Presidential address to the Philological Society by Dr. Richard Morris in 1875. “It was a fine example of the breath of his outlook and the thoroughness of his work.”

“There was Pali scholars here and there, but it was reserved for Rhys Davids to bring some kind of organization in Pali studies in the West, to pave the way for Buddhism to become a household word, and to show its value as part of special knowledge and its mental or religious significance to mankind as a whole.”

Rhys Davids read widely on the history of Buddhism and gained greater mastery of Pali. This he did despite attacks of malaria which he had contracted in the Jungles of Ceylon. He has collected and brought from Ceylon all the necessary material for an edition of the Dipavansa. But one day Oldenberg,then working in the India Office, London, on his Vinaya Pitaka, called on him to consult him on editing the Dipavansa. To Oldenberg’s amazement and delight, Rhys Davids, with characteristic generosity, gave him all his material. Oldenberg could hardly express his thanks for his emotion.

 Nibbana does not mean annihilation

            The first book was by Rhys Davids was The Ancient Coins and Measures of Ceylon which appeared in 1877. The next year his Manual of Buddhism was published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in its non-Christian Religions Series. The 23rd edition of this work appeared in 1914. Nibbana, he wrote, does not mean annihilation as was so often believed, but signifies a moral and mental condition attainable in one’s present life itself. Two years later this conclusion was justified by Dr. Frankfurter’s publication of the three passages from the Sanyutta Nikaya in which Nibbana was defined as the extinction of the threefold fire of greed, hatred and delusion.

By now Rhys Davids had won a high reputation which brought him into correspondence with an increasing number of scholars. His opportunities for interpreting Buddhism multiplied.

He translated the Jataka Nidanakatha with an important introduction on the history of Birth-story literature and published it in 1880 under the title of Buddhist Birth-stories or Jataka Tales. “It may be regarded as the preamble to the translation of Fausball’s Jataka, issued under the editorship of Professor E.B. Cowell in six volumes (Cambridge University Press, 1895-1907),” states Miss I.B. Horner.

The next year he made his first contribution to the Sacred Books of the Buddhist Series edited by Professor Max Muller, namely Buddhist Suttas, translated from the Pali. In 1881-1885, there were published in the same series three volumes entitled Vinaya Texts which he had translated from the Pali in collaboration with the Hermann Oldenberg. These works were followed in 1890 and 1894, by the Questions of King Milinda (Sacred Books of the East Vols. 35 and 36, reprinted in the U.S.A in 1965). In his estimation, the text of Milindapanho (The Questions of King Milinda) is “the masterpiece of Indian prose.” Miss Horner says that “his two introductions, one to each volume, are immensely valuable and may be read with great profit even today.”

Hibbert lectures : the new outlook

            His famous six lectures under the Hibbert Trust in 1881 enabled him to emphasize some of the results he had gained and written about in his Manual of Buddhism three years before. In a “strain of stately eloquence he described the new outlook to which research and reflection had brought him.”

            “It is not too much to say”, he declared, “that a new world has been once more discovered by the adventurers as persevering as Columbus, and perhaps at present have received as little gratitude as he did from his contemporaries; and that the inhabitants of the Old World cannot, if they would, go back to the quiet times when the New World was not, because it was unknown. Everyone to whom the entrancing story of man’s gradual rise and progress has charms peculiarly its own will welcome the new light; others will have to face the new facts, and find room for them in their conceptions of the world’s history that history which is the epic of humanity. Happy are we if the strains of that epic are ringing in our ears, if the spirit of that epic is ever ruling in our hearts. As abiding sense of the long past, whose beginnings are beyond imagination, and of the long past, whose end we cannot realize, may fill us indeed with a knowledge of our own insignificance—the bubbles on the stream which flash into light for a moment and are seen no more. But it will, perhaps, bring us nearer to a sense of the infinite than man in his clearest moments, in his deepest moods, can ever otherwise hope to reach. It will enable us to appreciate what is meant by the solidarity of man, and will fill us with an overpowering awe and wonder at the immensity of that series of which we are but a few of the tiny links. And the knowledge of what man has been in distant times, in far off lands, under the influence of ideas which at first sight seem to us so strange, will strengthen within us that reverence, sympathy and love which must follow on a realization of the mysterious complexity of being, past, present, and to come, that is wrapt up in every human life.”

 Formation of the Pali Text Society

            In the second of these lectures Rhys Davids announced the formation of the Pali Text Society. Eminent scholars of both the East and the West had welcomed the new Society, and its first committee contained the names of Viggo Fausball, Hermann Oldenberg, Emile Senart, and Richard Morris, with Rhys Davids as chairman. Offers of financial assistance from individuals, leading orientalists, universities and other institutions had been received. Pali scholars of various nationalities had offered their free services to edit and translate the texts. Rhys Davids described the important of these texts as follows:

“The historical importance of these texts can scarcely be exaggerated, either in respect of their value for the history of folk-lore, or of religion, or of language. It is already certain that they were all put into their present form within a very limited period, probably extending to less than a century and a half (about 400-250 B.C). For that period they have preserved for us, quite uncontaminated by an outside influence, or of the everyday beliefs and customs of a people nearly related to ourselves just as they were passing through the first stages of civilization. They are our best authorities for the early history of that interesting system of religion so nearly allied to some of the latest speculations among ourselves, and which has influenced so powerfully and for so long a time so great a portion of the human race—the system of religion which we now call Buddhism. And in a history of speech they contain unimpeachable evidence of a stage in language midway between Vedic Sanskrit and the modern forms of speech in India.”

 Royal patronage for Sacred Books

The conduct of the Pali Text Society devolved almost entirely upon Rhys Davids until his marriage in 1894 to Caroline Augusta Foley which brought him a most accomplished and devoted helper. In the words of Miss I.B. Horner, Mrs Rhys Davids’ “largeness of the heart and brain, disciplined intellect and unbounded energy made her a fit partner in so full a life”. There were three children of the marriage, two daughters and a son. The latter, a brilliant product of Eton, distinguished himself in the armed forces during World War I. Most regrettably he was killed in action in 1917. This was a grievous loss to the parents.

Rhys Davids possessed a good business head and knew the art of influencing people. He was thus able to enlist considerable support for his cause. He collected funds, managed the finances of the Society, made arrangements with printers and supervised publications.

The first two volumes of the Sacred Books of the Buddhists Series were published in 1895 and 1899 under the patronage of King Chulalankara of Siam, and the third and fourth volumes had the royal patronage of his successor.

Rhys Davids’ most cherished ambition was to provide a new Pali-English Dictionary and to the end he obtained promises of support from scholars in other lands. Many of these, however, did not materialise. So he shouldered the great task singlehanded at the age of seventy-two. Fortunately, however, after a few years, he was able to secure assistance in the full-time services of Dr. William Stede, the philogist.

He collected from several sources 2160 pounds, which included a donation of 500 pounds from King Chulalankara of Siam. With this money the Society was able to issue the first volume of the Dictionary in 1921. In his Foreword he wrote: “The work is essentially preliminary…to wait for perfection would postpone the much-needed Dictionary to the Greek Kalends. It has therefore been decided to proceed as rapidly as possible with the completion of this first edition, and to reserve the proceeds of the sale for the eventual issue of a second edition which shall come nearer to our ideals of what a Pali Dictionary should be.” Miss Horner states that “although the eventual second edition is still only a distant vision, the original edition remains an invaluable tool and has been reprinted several times.”

 Lectures at Cornell University

Rhys Davids became Professor of Pali in University College, London, in 1882. He gave new life to the Royal Asiatic Society as its secretary and librarian (1885-1904), and was a founder of both the British Academy and the London School of Oriental and African Studies.

In 1884 he edited Anuruddha Thera’s Abhidhammatthasarogaha which was published in the Pali Text Society Journal, and in 1886 there appeared the first volume of the Sumangala VIlasini which he edited in collaboration with his friend, Professor J.E Carpenter. They also edited in 1890 and in 1911 the Digha Nikaya, Vols I and II.

Professor and Mrs Rhys Davids went to America in 1894 where he gave a series of lectures at Cornell University. There were published in New York in 1896 under the title of Buddhism: Its History and Literature.

Rhys Davids could not visit India on his way back to England from Ceylon, or while he was in Ceylon. His desire to see the sights of the Buddhist story was naturally very strong, and opportunity was at least found. In 1899-1900 he visited Buddha Gaya and other localities connected with the life of the Buddha. One of the results of this journey was a remarkable work entitled Buddhist India (1903). The 8th edition was published in 1959—a pioneer work surveying the social and political conditions in which Buddhism arose. The other outcome of his visit to India was the Indian Text Series, the purpose of which was to furnish full and accurate material for the study of the history of India. This Series came into existence with difficulty despite the approval and active interest of Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India.

Rhys Davids was appointed Professor of Comparative Religion in the Victoria University, Manchester, in 1904, the first University post created in England for that purpose. As a token of their gratitude a presentation was made to him by the Royal Asiatic Society. He inspired his students with his own ardour. He found his reward in a pupil’s response to his teachings; he delighted in their advance, and was never happier than in helping them through their difficulties.

 Dialogues of the Buddha

With the collaboration of his wife he completed in 1910 and 1921 the translation of the Digha Nikaya called Dialogues of the Buddha. This was published in the Sacred Books of the Buddhist Series, of which he had translated the first volume in 1899. “As an Orientalist and as a writer of clear, stately and vigorous English,” states Miss Horner, “he reached a high level in his illumination introductions to the various Dialogues of which the Digha is composed. Some of his ripest scholarship is also to be found scattered in many an article in Rashdall Hasting’s ‘Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethnics’, the majority of them not yet superseded in the breath of their outlook and firm grasp of the subject.”

The newly-formed India Society (now the Royal India, Pakistan and Ceylon Society) made him its President in 1910. He found it tiresome to travel from Manchester to attend meetings of the Society and those of the British Academy. So he left Manchester and settled down in Chipstead, Surrey. “Here he lived a quiet scholar’s life, often suffering much pain, but working through it and not, till near the end, giving up the golf and other games, outdoor and indoor, which had been his refreshment for so long,” says Miss Horner.

Rhys Davids was a Fellow of the Royal Academy, M.A., Ph.D., D.Sc., D. Litt and LL.D, besides being a member of several learned societies.

He died on 27 December, 1922.

In a tribute to his memory, Miss Horner states: “Rhys Davids bore the stamp of complete integrity of thought and character. His very great erudition never sat heavily on him. In conversation he was learned, brilliant, and of entrancing interest; but yet people who knew him remember well how the humour that constantly came babbling out of him, enlivening everything, made his deep wisdom palatable even to the most ordinary or ignorant of persons and led them to feel they were making some contribution that was worth-while.”

 Dr. Stede’s striking tribute

His collaborator for a long period, Dr. William Stede, in a striking tribute to his memory, states: “What Rhys Davids has been to me nobody but he and I knew. What I thought of him he must have felt when I confided my troubles to him sitting by his side. What he was to me I realized each time I looked into his clear eyes and felt the touch of his hand. Kindness, sympathy, gentleness—in one word metta, on which he loved to quote the Iti-vuttaka—was the prominent trait of his character. I have his picture in my mind, and I shall always remember him as my kalyanamitta.”

Among the other tributes paid to Rhys Davids were:

Professor Moritz Winternitz of Prague University: “No man living, and scarcely one single man in the past, has contributed so much to the knowledge of Buddhism and Buddhist literature as he. His name will always be remembered as that of a most enthusiastic and devoted scholar, but those who had the good fortune to know him personally will always cherish in his memory as that of a kind and lovable man, of a Buddhist in the real sense of the word.”

Professor C.R. Lanman of Harvard University: “I must say how much we owe to his courageous persistence, through all these man, many years of sunshine and of storm, in devoting himself to a work the greatness of which is now obvious, and the importance and value of which he had the vision to see long before the other scholars woke to it—or at any rate, before they, awaking, could transmute their vision into action.”

The Anagarika Dharmapala of Ceylon: “When will England give birth to a man like Rhys Davids? He gave life to those indifferent to religion. By publication of Pali texts in Roman characters, he brought the Buddhavacana within the reach of the poor scholar. His name will never be forgotten by the Pali Student.”

 Devotion to Truth and Learning

Professor S. Tachibana of Japan: “He devoted the greater part of his life to promote the knowledge of Buddhism in the West, and all know how much he has done therein. His contribution to it is greater than that of any other scholar.”

Professor P. Maung Tin of Burma: “To me the works of Professor Rhys Davids have been a source of joy and inspiration. His name is held, and will continue to be held, in greater respect and admiration than that of any other scholar.”

Dr. K.N. Sitaram of India: “He has done more than any other scholar to spread the knowledge of the religion and teachings of one of the greatest sons of Mother India.”

Dr. W.A. de Silva of Ceylon: “His was not mere scholarship, eminent as it was; his was the opportunity, and he took it to expound to the world the Dhamma of the Great Master. And we in Ceylon had in him one who not only loved the Island and the Sinhalese, but one who was able to place before the world the best we have acquired in our history.”

Dr. Arnold C. Taylor: “His was the ideal scholar’s life, devoted to truth and learning for their own sake, with an enthusiasm rare in this country. He had left a splendid movement behind in the long row of texts and translations, which would never have come into being but for him, and so many of which are his own work, I never met anyone whose enthusiasm for his work was so inspiring and infectious.”

Sir E. Denison Ross: “More than anyone else he encouraged me in the Path of Orientalism. No other scholar I have known combined the seriousness of study with the human side of everyday life to the same extent. He carried out a great life’s work and leaves an undying name, but what I shall always remember best about him are the warm greeting, the cherry smile, and the constant charm that compelled affection.”

Sir Israel Gollancz: “Undaunted, he pursued the tasks he had set himself, and by those labours and by his personality he will live in the hearts of men. He served learning well.




The governing fact about Mrs. Rhys Davids is that she was a critic. She would not accept as the Buddha-word all that is in the Pali canon. She believed that the monks who inherited the Buddha’s teaching handed in a “defective and mutilated form’.’ She had her own interpretations of the essentially tolerant and progressive spirit of Buddhism, and gave the best of her scholarship to the Buddhist cause.

At the age of 36, Miss Caroline Augusta Foley married the 52-year-old Thomas William Rhys Davids. She was mature and independent with a brilliant academic background. So was Rhys Davids. A common interest in Pali existed between them. A mutual friend, who foresaw the potentialities of a union between two great intellectuals, encouraged them to marry. The marriage proved a perfect one.

Born in 1858, Caroline Augusta Foley had a brilliant career at University College, London, of which she was later elected a Fellow. An M.A., D. Litt, she was for a long period Reader in Pali at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, and was also for a long time Lecturer in Indian Philosophy at Manchester University.

 Versatile, gifted, a scholar in the front rank.

“Dr. Caroline Rhys Davids, who survived her husband, is one of the most versatile and gifted women I have known,” records Sir Denison Ross, the first Director of the London School of Oriental and African Studies, in his autobiography entitled Both Ends of the Candle. “Able, as a young woman, to beat most others at tennis and billiards, she has for years been a Pali scholar in the front rank. As Reader in Pali she was one of the ornaments of the school, attracting students from many countries. She suffered a terrible bereavement in the loss of her brilliant son, one of our flying aces and a V.C.”

Her editions of the Pali texts, their English translations—both in prose and verse—introductions to her own works and those of other scholars, and her original works add up to a formidable number.

Credit for bringing to light the abstruse Abhidharma Pitaka goes to her. She has edited with remarkable skill such difficult texts as the Vibhanga the Patthana. the Yamaka, and the Visuddhimagga. She also rendered into lucid English profound Avhidharma works as the Dhammasangani (Manual of Psychological Ethics), the Abidhammatthasangaha (Compendium of Philosophy), and the Kathavatthu (Points of Controversy), the last two in collaboration with Swee Zan Aung of Burma.

Mrs. Rhys Davids rendered into English verse the Theragatha and Therigatha under the titles of Psalms of the Brethren and Psalms of the Sisters. They are considered masterpieces of lyrical beauty.

Besides these and other editions and translations, she has written original works such as Gotama the Man  and the thought provoking Sakya or Buddhist Origins.  Her articles on various Buddhist themes have published posthumously under the title of Wayfarer’s Words.

 Interpretation of the doctrine

One of her own interpretations of the doctrine runs as follows: “It is recorded in the Pali scriptures at least three times that the chief comrade of Gotama Buddha, Saruputta, used to speak of ‘You and your mind’ in a parable. He would say, it is recorded, you should have your mind, or thoughts (citta) under your control; you should not be under the control of the mind or thoughts. Just as a Raja, with many suits in his wardrobe, would be pick out he wanted for morning wear, another for mid-day wear, another for evening wear, putting on a suitable suit (the pun is mine), the suit having nothing to say in the matter. (You will find these passages in Majjhiman Nikaya, Sutta 32, Sanyutta Nikaya, Mahavagga on Bojjhangas, Patisambhida-magga, Bojjhanga-katha).

“Here is a very clear distinction made between the man and his ‘kit’, his equipment, tools or instruments. The latter are to be kept in their place. You see the distinction made again in another parable, this time told of the Master: Men are in Jeta Wood about the Vihara (where he spent his last years) collecting faggots. And he: ‘You would not call these faggots the Wood? So look on the body and mind as not of you, not the very you’. The faggots are carried away for burning: the Wood stands and blossoms again.

“Once more, in the first two verses of the Twins(Yamaka) chapter of the Dhammapada, you read: ‘If with corrupted mind he speaks or acts, ill follows him as the wheel the foot of drawing beast; if with mind serene he speaks or acts, bliss follows him as shadows goes not from the tree.’ Here again, mind is the instrument ‘with’ which man acts.

“But in time a change came over the teaching. Master and comrade had passed away: other teachers arose who were, as all Indian teaching, greatly influenced by the new mind-study that had been gaining ground, and which came to be known as Sankhya: Pali, sankha, sankhana. Man’s mind was, in it, being analysed, as if it were an unseen body, or group of processes of an orderly kind, like those of the body. It was a beginning of what we in our day have come to do also and to call psychology. And gradually it affected the Buddhist Sasana much as it has affected our own teaching: the ‘man’ came to be resolved into his thoughts or mind. Just as in a modern book I read the words ‘the self or mind’, so did Buddhist teachers come to use the mind or thought for the self or man. Thus we read in a Sutta (M-n. 43): that it is the mind (mano) who enjoys collectively all the sense-impressions, not you, not the man, not the self as the earlier teaching would have said. Only the Commentary retains the older way: ‘as a Raja owning five villages would enjoy the revenue they paid’.

 A way but no Wayfarer

“Turn too to your dhammapada: in those two twin verses, each of a couplet  like rest of the Twins, there has been added, or rather prefaced a line in each, to show the new importance assigned to the mind: ‘ Things are forerun by mind, have mind as best, are compounds of the mind.’ You can see that if you take away this line the meaning of the couplets is just as good, and the symmetry of the twins is better.

      “For in them is clear that it is not mind which is the speaker or doer; in them the clothes are not made the man, nor the faggots the wood. But in the interpolated line it is just this that happened. This seems the long way from the founder’s first advice to laymen: ‘to seek the self’, the man. But we are all of us just now, in East and West, in bondage to this thrusting of man’s ways or minding into place of the man ‘who minds’. I see it constantly in Europeans writing and speaking; I see it in Buddhist writing. So much so, that the master’s central figure of the Way is spoken as if there were no wayfarer, but only ideas about his faring. Truly is the medieval monks’ teaching carried out, that ’a Way is there, but no wayfarer!’ Yet what meaning has a way without the wayfarer? Is he only there for the sake of the Way, or is the way there for the sake? A road made for nobody to travel on his futile. Let us get back to the better teaching of the wardrobe and the wood. Let us be the master of the suits; let us dispose of our faggots. The shall we, as the wood in springtime break out into new  and finer blossom, in that we have not wronged the great New Word taught by Sariputta and his beloved Friend.”

The Buddhist in Thervada countries do not accept this interpretation, but cling on to Buddhaghosa’s view that the Way is there for “mere phenomena” to roll on.

 Progressive Spirit of Buddhism

Mrs. Rhys Davids stresses the essentially tolerant and progressive spirit of Buddhism thus:

“Here is a doctrine that takes us back as far as the days of the very beginnings of Hellenic Science. For this doctrine it is claimed that it might have served not to check or to ignore the discoveries of Copernicus and Bruno, Galileo and Newton, Darwin and Spenser but to stimulate and inspire them. Not a guide that they might have adhered to from convention only, or appealed to now and again to reconcile the lay world with their discoveries and conclusions but an oracle that would have spurred them on in their quest for Truth….

 “Well, it is one thing to talk about achievements of modern science and advance of modern thought, and another thing to claim for this age in general that it is imbued with the scientific spirit , or that the views and conduct of the average man or woman are governed thereby. This state of things is but in its infancy. But it is born, and is growing. Hence any movement of thought will have, more and more, to cope with the scientific spirit, and will stand or fall largely by its sanction. And hence all who call themselves Buddhist doctrine should or, at least, the spirit of that doctrine, should look into this claim that is made for it. Those, again, whose interest lies in tracing the growth of human ideas, can in no wise feel indifferent to the real extent to which the ancient mind of India anticipated a standpoint slowly and painfully won to by the intellect of Europe…

 Suggestion of a psychological crisis

“The fact that early Buddhism and modern Sciene express belief in a universal law of Causation in terms so similar, leads inevitably to the further inquiry, as to how far there is historical evidence that the evolution of this belief among early Buddhists was parallel to the corresponding evolution in Europe. The lack of continuity and of chronological certainty in the literatures of ancient India hinders and complicates such an inquiry. But there does survive a body of Brahmanical literature, an accretion of various dates, known as the Sixty Upanisads of the Veda, in which form of Pantheism called Atmanism or Vedantism is set forth, with mainly archaic views on what we term First, Final and Occasional Cause. And we have the Pali canon of the Buddhists, coinciding, it is thought, in date, with the middle period of these sixty books, and repudiating this Atmanism, whether macrocosmically or microcosmically conceived.

“To what extent Buddhism, as a lay, anti-Brahmanic, anti-sacerdotal movement, originated the rejection of Atmanism, or carried on a wider and older tradtion of rejection, it is not possible to say. But the fact that the founders of Buddhism did, in leaving the world for the religious life, take up this Protestant position on the one hand, and on the other make a law of natural causation their chief doctrine, suggests at all events a profound psychological crisis.”

In these passages we see Mrs. Rhys Davids at the height of her powers, when she was giving the best of her scholarship to the Buddhist cause.




By birth a German, Friedrich Max Muller made a great contribution to Buddhism from England where he spent the greater part of his life. “He might be taken as a typical Englishman, for he has qualities which commend his writings to the educated John Bull.”  He was a British subject.

He edited the Sacred Books of the East Series which consisted of fifty volumes of English translations by twenty outstanding scholars, including a translation of the Dhammapada by himself. Upon the closure of this series, he took up the editorship of the Sacred Books of the Buddhists Series under the auspices of the Pali Text Society. On his death in 1900, Rhys Davids took up the editorship of the series and twenty-five translations of the series were published.

Besides editing these two series, Max Muller has to his credit numerous essays and articles on various Buddhist topics.

 Nihilistic View refuted

He was one of the earliest Western scholars to refute the view that Buddhism is nihilism. Among those who held this view was his own teacher, Eugene Burnouf, the French orientalist. “If we may argue from human nature, such as we find it at all times and in all countries, we confess that we cannot bring ourselves to believe that the reformer of India, the teacher of so perfect a code of morality, the young prince who gave up all he had in order to help those whom he saw afflicted in mind, body, estate, should have cared about speculation which he knew would either be misunderstood, or not understood at all, by those whom he wished to benefit; that he should have thrown away one of the most powerful weapons in the hands of every religious teacher, a belief in a future life, and should not have seen that, this life was sooner or later to end in nothing, it was hardly worth the trouble which he took himself, or the sacrifices which he imposed on his disciples,”  he wrote.

Born on 6 December, 1823, in the Duchy of Anhalt-Dessau, Max Muller was the son of Wilhelm Muller, a famous poet of his day. A classical philologist at the age of 28, Wilhelm functioned as headmaster of a grammar school. Later he became director of the ducal library of his home town.

Poets, artists, literati and musicians sought his company and that of his cultured and talented wife, and often visited his home. He named his son Friederich after Friederich Leopold, Duke of Anhalt-Dessau, a friend of the family.

 Doctorate in Philology at 20

The Muller family was a happy one, but the happiness was shortlived, for in 1827, at the age of 33, Wilhelm died, leaving his young wife, his daughter , aged 8, and Max, aged 4, in strained circumstances. But there were friends to help them. Dr. Carus, a friend of Wilhelm, took Max to his home in Leipzig and sent him to school there.

The home of Dr. Carus, too, was a meeting place of poets, artists, literati and musicians. They found that Max was a boy of many gifts. He had a leaning for music as well, but Felix Mendelssohn advised him not to follow a musical career. He then decided on the study of philology.

Regarded as a prodigy, Max entered the university of Leipzig at the age of 17, and obtained his doctorate in philology at 20, 1843. As a youth came into contact with such intellectual giants as Lotze, Georg Forsters, Herder and Goethe, who praised Indian poetry and antiquity. They impressed him. He discussed deep problems of Indian thought with Schopenhauer. His first literary effort, a translation of the Hitopadesa, the Sanskrit classic, into German, was published in 1844.

He next went to Berlin, where Franz Bopp introduced him to the science of Indogermanistice which he had evolved. Frederich Ruckert allowed Max to take part in his literary activities and taught him the art of translation. He was attracted by the lectures of Schelling, and belonged to the circle of friends of Theodor Fontane who was full of praise for Max. in his steady progress he outclassed some of his teachers.

 New World of the Vedas and Buddhism

In March 1846, he crossed over to Paris, which had a special attraction for Indologists as it was where Antoine Leonard de Chezy, and later Eugene Burnouf, lived. It was through Burnouf that he became acquainted with the Vedas and Buddhism. Burnouf’s lectures on the hymns of the Vedas opened a “new world” for Max, as he writes in his autobiography. Inspired by Burnouf, he decided to edit the Rigveda, for which purpose he left for London, where the manuscripts were available. The undertaking was a huge and costly one. Christian Karl Josias Baron von Bunsen, the Prussian Ambassador to the Court of St. James, and the East India Company gave him financial assistance for the project.

At the Bodleian Library Max Muller made the acquaintance of Professor Wilson of Oxford, the translator of the Ramayana, who persuaded him to take up his residence in England. In 1848 he settled at Oxford, and in 1849, after the publication of the first volume of the Rigveda, he was invited by the University of Oxford to give a series of lectures on comparative philology. From that time onwards Muller’s fame gradually grew. He was made Taylorian Professor of Modern European Languages in 1854, Feollow of All Souls College in 1858, and a Curator of the Bodleian Library in 1856. Earlier, he was made an honorary M.A. and a member of Christ Church.

The Sanskrit Professorship fell vacant in 1860, but theological animosities, which in a University of ecclesiastical tendencies, not unnaturally assailed the man who first introduced the University to Kant, prevented his election to the post. But eight years later a new Professorship of Comparative Philology was founded, and the statute of foundation named Max Muller as the first professor. He continued to hold it until his death. 

The Rigveda in Six Volumes

Muller’s edition of the Rigveda in six big volumes, which took 25 years to complete, is his greatest contribution to Indology. The book remains the definitive edition. To Max Muller it seemed unbelievable that the Rigveda, which is looked upon as a divine revelation representing the highest religious authority, had up to then never been printed and had remained in the hands of the priestly class. Only a few opposed its publication. The vast majority accepted it with thankfulness. Brahman priests even corrected their own manuscripts with its aid.

One of Max Muller’s best publications is India – what can it teach us? It sought to remove the prejudices against India, which he described as a “morass of moral degradation and an ants’ nest of lies”. One who reads it will wonder how without first hand knowledge he could have given such vivid details of India and her peoples. When he was young, he had no money to visit India, and when he had money later, he had no time. “Just as scholars of the ancient classical days longed to see Rome or Athens, so do I long to see Benares and to bathe in the holy waters of the Ganges”, he once wrote. His attitude to Indian problems was that a patriotic Indian. Indians revered him as a great friend of their country. His memory is perpetuated by the Max Muller Bhavan.

“His teaching may be described as a long protest against materialism in all its forms. He brought the message of Aryan antiquity before the modern world”.

Although England accepted him as worthy citizen and treated him well, Max Muller did not feel quite at home until his marriage with Georgina Grenfell of Maidenhead in 1859.

His reputation in England was so high that The Times, London, always opened its columns to his contributions. He was a great advocate of closer co-operation between England and Germany. Queen Victoria helm him in high esteem.

Address on religion in Westminster

In 1873, at the invitation of Dean Stanley, Max Muller gave an address on religion in Westminster Abbey – the first layman to do so. The Times described it as “a singular event.”

“All really great man,” he once stated, “may be said to live three lives – there is one life which is seen and accepted by the world at large, a man’s outward life; there is a second life, which is seen by a man’s intimate friends, his household life; and there is a third life, seen only by man himself and by Him who searches the heart.” From the publications of our author, states The Cabinet Portrait Gallery, 1893, his readers gather with delight, the impression that in all his three lives, he is really a great man.

Happy in his domestic life, his acquaintance with Bunsen developed into a strong friendship, based as it was alike on a common interest in scholarship and on a broad and simple religious belief. Among his closest friends he counted also Charles Kingsley and Dean Stanley.




Buddhism became widely known in the West by the publication in 1879 of Sir Edwin Arnold’s beautiful poem The Light of Asia. The book achieved a phenomenal success. A second edition appeared within the year of its first publication. It has had a wider circulation than any other work on Buddhism.

Five years after the appearance of the original edition, Arnold revised the text, and the revisions appear in the authorized editions from 1885 onwards. By that year Trubner, the publisher had issued over 30 editions. American pirated editions, however, continued to use the old text for many years. The book was more widely read in America than even in England. New editions continued to appear in the 20th Century and the book is still listed by publishers.

Born on 10 July, 1832, at Gravesend, Kent, Edwin Arnold was the second son of Robert Coles Arnold and Sarah Pizzey Arnold of Framfield, Sussex. After his primary education at King’s School, Rochester, Arnold went to King’s College, London, where he won a scholarship to University College, Oxford. There he had the rooms occupied by the poet Shelley. His first poem, The Feast of the Belshazzar won the Newdigate Prize in 1852. he read it publicly at the University, in accordance with custom, at the installation of Lord Derby as Chancellor. Benjamin Disraeli, who listened to it, shook Arnold warmly by the hand and prophesied a brilliant future for him.

  Books – from Greece to Japan

Arnold’s first complete book of verse, Poems Narrative and Lyrical appeared in 1853. Keats influenced him. He was the second layman to give an address in Westminster Abbey, the first being Max Muller. At the age of 22 he married Katherine Elizabeth Biddulph, the sister of an undergraduate friend.

After taking his degree, he secured a post as a master in King Edward VI School, Birmingham, which he resigned at the age of 25 to take up the appointment of Principal of Deccan College in Poona, India. “This appointment of counted for much in his intellectual and literary development, for it enabled him to foster that mingled reverence for the religions of the East and interest in the science of the West which is the mark of his later writings.”

Meanwhile Arnold had begun to write on a variety of subjects with the result that he had published quite a profusion of books – translations from Sanskrit, an essay on the Greek poets, a treatise on education in India, a history in two volumes of the administration of Lord Dalhousie, a Turkish grammar complied in 1877, when the Eastern Question was the great interest in English politics, an excursion into Mohammedanism in Pearls from Islam’s Rosary, an elaborate poem founded on an episode in the Boston of the Persian Sa’aid, and Japonica, sketches from Japan.

In response to a newspaper advertisement, Arnold applied for and obtained an appointed on The Daily Telegraph in 1861 as a feature writer. Later he became its editor and served the paper in all for forty years.

 The Teaching in a Form of Considerable Beauty

“Arnold set about writing The Light of Asia deliberately as a witness for religious liberalism. It was composed during busy months when England was in an uproar over the Eastern Question and when The Daily Telegraph was fulminating against the Russians abroad and Gladstone at home. He did not have much spare time and turned to poetry for relaxation in the few moments which he could snatch from his work. Much of it was written at Hamlet House, Southend, overlooking the mouth of the Thames. Other pages were composed at odd moments, while travelling to work by train, or jotted down on envelopes, margins of newspapers, the back of menus, and even upon his shirt-cuffs.

Fortunately, he had a mind impervious to most distractions. If no pen were handy, a pencil would do, and if that were not to be had, a piece of firewood could be whittled into shape.”

“The editorial chair of The Daily Telegraph might seem at first sight, for one with the Eastern Leanings of Sir Edwin Arnold, more suited to the cultivation of Persian flowers of style in English prose than to the production of true poetry. Yet during his editorship his poetic power developed. The Light of Asia appeared in 1879 and at once, and deservedly, attained popularity. In it the profound spiritual teaching of the Buddha, interpreted according to the light of the author’s scholarship, was offered, in a form of considerable beauty, to the average reader, and thus satisfied the need for the popular account of the origin of a religion which has such a significant place in history. His attempt 12 years later to versify parts of the Christian story in The Light of the World can hardly be regarded as a comparable work.”

 Arguments for survival

“The Light of Asia is not the only evidence of Arnold’s interest in the problems which fascinated the fine minds of the day. In a striking volume, Death and Afterwards he argues that “it is reasonable to expect a future existence, for in the presence of the mysteries of life and death, we may be as near a glad surprise as was Don Quixote, who, after hanging, as he fancied, found that he dropped just four inches.” This bright expectation is only a mark of the hopefulness which is characteristic of his most serious thoughts.”

“His views are summed up in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, republished in his Seas and Lands, in which he recounts how when travelling in Japan he was called upon to address the assembled University of Tokyo. The contrast between the East and the West led him to turn his discourse upon the range of modern knowledge and probably never before had poet or journalist so picturesque an opportunity for a confession of faith. As he spoke he looked not upon “the immense city, covering with its small black houses as large an area as London.” Before him “sat or knelt the flower of Japanese youth, eager to hear, and among them, with shaven heads and lappets of gold embroidery, the calm brethren of the yellow robe—the Buddhist monks.” First he directed the attention of this unique audience to astronomy and pointed out that the great religions of the world were promulgated under the idea that the earth was the centre of things and that “the stars were hardly more than pretty mysterious lanterns lighted to spangle out night time.” But, he continued, in reality the greatness of our destiny consists, not in our being the centre of creation, but “in belonging at all to so glorious and visible a galaxy of life, with the invisible effulgence and infinite possibilities beyond.”

 Forty Years of Literacy Activity

“Arnold had been everywhere, learned all languages, read everything and written about everything, sometimes as mere journalist, sometimes as a critical thinker, sometimes as poet. In the forty years of his literary activity he had put a girdle around the world of language, of science and of religious thought. We look to him less for depth than for breadth, less for original research than for brilliance of exposition, and no one coming to him with this expectation will be greatly disappointed.”

Eugene Burnouf, Barthelmey Saint-Hillaire, Spence Hardy and other scholars of the early and middle 19th century had described Buddhism as “a gospel of negatation.” But as the century wore on, opinion began to shift. In 1872, Max Muller thought that the negative language of Buddhism was a later accretion from monkish orthodoxy and that when Nibbana was explained in positive terms there emerged the authentic tradition of the Buddha. Rhys Davids agreed with this view. So did J.P Clarke, the American pioneer of comparative religion. In his preface to The Light of Asia, Arnold argues that “a third of mankind would never have been brought to believe in blank abstractions, or in nothingness as the issue and crown of being.”

The King of Siam, now Thailand, conferred on Arnold the Order of the White Elephant in recognition of his services to Buddhism. The Royal letter which accompanied the award while stating that Arnold’s interpretation of Buddhism was not strictly orthodox, expressed His Majesty’s gratitude for writing The Light of Asia “in the most widespread language in the world.”

 Restoration of Sacred Places

Directly inspired by reading The Light of Asia, the Anagarika Dharmapala of Ceylon started his great missionary organization in India to revive Buddhism in the land of its birth, and to restore Buddhist sacred places such as the Buddhagaya to their rightful owners. Arnold was a member of the committee appointed for the purpose. He wrote a powerful article in The Daily Telegraph, the paper he edited, giving the story of the Buddhagaya and stressing the justice of the Buddhist claim. In 1889 he went to Japan and roused the Japanese Buddhist, who formed a society to promote interest in the Buddhagaya. On his second visit to Japan in 1892, he declared, in the course of an address, that he would gladly sacrifice his life if need be in so great a cause as the restoration of the Buddhagaya. So successful was his pleading that the society set about making plans to buy land near the sacred site and to send a party of Japanese Buddhist monks to the Buddhagaya. He wrote a friendly letter to Hindi to the Mahant, the owner of the sacred site, and sent it together with a copy of his translation of the Gita as proof of his goodwill to Hinduism. But nothing came of the negotiations. The final settlement of the Buddhagaya question, however, was in no small measure due to his efforts. It was a great achievement to create sympathy in the West for Buddhism. But an even more remarkable feat was the arousing of the Buddhist world itself to a realization of its own inheritance.

Arnold never regarded his admiration of Buddhism as involving any disloyalty to Christianity; truth could not be diminished by being shared.

 Buddhist or Christian?

But was Arnold a Buddhist? Answering this question in a letter to the author, the late Mr. Francis Story states: “whatever may have been of Arnold’s personal convictions, he was careful to avoid making a public avowal of them, and even seemed to fear giving suspicion of them. He could not have hoped for the poet laureateship otherwise. And while non-Christian by birth have received knighthoods, the Establishments would have looked with acute disfavour upon a Christian-born English knight who changed his religion.

“Personally, I have no doubt Arnold was a Buddhist at heart. But many people in the West still feel that being a Buddhist does not exact any public avowal. It is not like Christianity, in which failure to declare one’s faith openly is reckoned an offence, meriting punishment hereafter. And in Arnold’s time, more than now, an open declaration of Buddhism by a prominent and titled man would have caused something of a scandal.”

In his biography of Arnold, Dr Brooke Wright states that in The Light of the World Arnold gives “the completest exposition of his religious views.”

As against this, however, we have recorded in Henry Stanley’s diary that Arnold’s “soul was not in his song, thought there are beautiful passages in it, but it is the tone of an unbeliever.” Stanley, it must be remembered, was a man who persuaded Arnold to write The Light of the World.

It is on record that after his Buddhist studies, Arnold abandoned the shooting of animals and birds, a pastime in which he revelled earlier in life. Isn’t that an index to his observance of the first of the First Buddhist Precepts?

 Counted as a co-religionist by many

Queen Victoria and Disraeli held Arnold in high esteem. He was knighted for his services to India and England. He visited Ceylon once, when the residents of Panadura, Columbo, and Kandy accorded him rousing receptions. It was at a large gathering of Buddhist monks at Panadura, then, as now, a Buddhist stronghold, that he mooted the idea of restoring Buddhist sacred sites in India to Buddhist. He expressed his admiration of the skill of Sinhalese women in making delicious sweetmeats. Many Buddhist in Ceylon count him as a co-religionist.

He died on 14 March, 1904.




Of the non-Buddhists who served Buddhism as Pali scholars, Lord Chalmers is one of the best known. He described himself as a pupil and friend of Rhys Davids.

A High Churchman of England, he not only edited and translated Buddhist texts for the Pali Text Society, but also contributed liberally to its funds.

Chalmers (then Sir Robert) arrived in Ceylon as its Governor in 1913. His fame as a Pali scholar had preceded his arrival in the Island, and the local Pali scholars, particularly the Buddhist monks, were jubilant. One of his first public engagements was to preside over the prize-giving at Vidyodaya Pirivena (Oriental College), Colombo. As he had studied Pali in Roman script, the monks thought he could not correctly enunciate Pali words, and they arranged an interpreter to render his English speech in Sinhalese; but to their utter amazement he replied to their elaborate Pali address of welcome in an extempore speech in choice Pali, flawlessly enunciating every word. He concluded his half-hour address with the equivalent of the following: “May this noble Pali language ever flourish in Lanka!”

“His study of Pali gave him a special interest in Buddhists of Ceylon, but the work there did not call out his special qualities, though it gave him the opportunity of seeing Buddhist institutions and of making personal acquaintances with native Pali scholars.”

 Abandoned Classics for Science

Born on 18 August, 1858, Robert Chalmers was the only son of John and Juliet Chalmers. He went early to the City of London School, and as a John Carpenter scholar, “he was lucky to be in the Edwin Abbot’s Sixth Form during the most vigorous years of that great headmaster, when his pupils were very much alive to the fact they were sharing the studies of an exact and fine scholar, an unflagging writer, an active controversialist. He was thus one who carried on Abbot’s influence in church, state, and letters to the credit of the School land the City.”

In 1877, Chalmers entered Oriel College, Oxford, as a classical scholar. He took a “First” in classical Moderations, but abandoned classics and read science, obtaining a “Second” in the biology group. At one time he had the intention of taking to medicine as a career. In 1882 he topped the list of successful candidates in the open competitive examination for admission to the Higher Administrative Division of the Civil Service, and entered the Treasury.

“His progress at the Treasury was rapid; he excelled in accountancy, statistics and finance. In 1903 he was an assistant secretary, but he was not quite happy there, and would have been glad to go as an Accountant-General in the Admirality: better things were, however, reserved for him. He went to the Board of Inland Revenue as Chariman in 1907, and during four years built up a reputation for ability and astuteness.

 Short Temure as Governor of Ceylon

“In 1911 he became Permanent Secretary of the Treasury and Auditor of the Civil List. Two years later he moved to a more picturesque and more valuable post as Governor of Ceylon. To other attractions which Ceylon had for him was added his interest in Pali, of which, on its literary side, he was an acknowledged master. But the serious riots that occurred during his term of office presented problems which were not to his liking, nor, indeed, such as he could treat successfully. Severe things were said and published on the measures which he had taken, and his successor frankly condemned some of these.

“In any case, he had neither pleased the natives nor Europeans and was glad to return in 1916 as Joint Permanent Secretary to the Treasury. That office he filled for a period of three years, including an unrestful interlude during which he was induced Mr. Asquith to try his hand at an uncongenial task as Under-Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He abandoned this with undisguised satisfaction after less than three months’ trial.”

On his retirement from the Civil Service, Chalmers accepted the post of Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge, in 1924 and remained there until 1931. his son had been a student at Peterhouse, and he had himself spent a vacation there, and knew the Fellows of the College. Although he had had no experience of academic work, he proved himself to be a great success.

In a letter to the author, Mr. H. Butterfield, Registrat of Peterhouse, Cambridge, states: “I seem to remember him (Chalmers) telling me that when he was a member of the Civil Service he felt that he had energies left over for a more academic kind of work and that he chose Pali as a well defined area which he felt that he could cover. When he was here I heard him once or twice recommend a similar policy to students who were entering the Civil Service.”

“It was a saying a Chalmers that every man ought to drive two horses, abreast, one for his business or profession and the other for some scholarly hobby which would give him relief from his work and occupation in his later days.”

 Best Evidence of his Scholarship

Prompted partly by his study of Sanskrit at the University. He took up the study of Pali. Another attraction of Pali was his enthusiasm for the work of the great scholar, Professor Rhys Davids. He became a pupil of Rhys Davids, and a member of the Pali Text Society. He joined the company of scholars formed by Professor E.B. Cowell of Cambridge with the object of translating the Jataka book, the first volume of which, published in 1895, and dedicated to Rhys Davids, was Chalmers’ work, and was much appreciated by Cowell for its spirited vigour. “The best evidence of his (Chalmers’) Pali scholarship is in this translation.”

At the Paris Congress in 1897, Chalmers gave a learned address on the Pali term Tathagata which evoked much interest. From 1895 to 1902, under the guidance of Rhys Davids, he completed the first edition of the Pali text of the Second Collection (Nikaya) in the first division (Sutta Pitaka): Discourses of the Buddha in the Majjima Nikaya under the guidance of Rhys Davids (2 VOls. 1896-1902): Translation, 1926-1927, as Further Dialogues of the Buddha. Work on the first edition had been commenced by V. Treckner, the distinguished Danish philologist.

In his Cambridge period, Lord Chalmers produced his last work of scholarship – a metrical translation of the Sutta Nipata, the earliest teachings of the Buddha in Pali verse. This translation “is more remarkable for its style than its precise literary accuracy. He showed literary skill in his translations, sought out good English equivalents for technical terms of Buddhism, cut short the remorseless repetitions.”

 Disinterested and Friendly Spirit

Chalmers presented his fine Pali library to Miss I.B. Horner, the then Librarian of Newnham College, Cambridge, and now President of the Pali Text Society.

“He was extremely hospitable and brought the College into touch with outside interests and distinguished persons. He was recognized at once as a disinterested and friendly spirit and his overflowing kindness, often secretly exercised, such an entertaining during the vacation at his own expense and in his own house, poorer scholars who could not afford to continue in residence, earned him much goodwill. He kept himself aloof from academic intrigues and never pursued power or influence.”

He was an LL.D. of Oxford, Cambridge and St. Andrew’s; D. Litt. Oxford, Fellow of Oriel College, a Trustee of the British Museum; Fellow of the British Academy, and President of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Lord Chalmers first married Maud Mary, daughter of J.G. Forde Piggott, in 1888. She died in 1923. There were two sons, one a professional soldier and the other a barrister. Both of them fell in World War I in 1915. His daughter married Sir Malcolm Stevenson. In 1935 Lord Chalmers married Iris Florence, widow of Professor R. Latta, and a daughter of Sir John Biles. There were no children by the second marriage, and as he died (at 80) without a surviving male child the peerage became extinct.




The name of F.L. Woodward scintillates among Pali scholars who edited and translated sacred texts of the Buddhists for the Pali Text Society. But Woodward is remembered in Ceylon more for his great service to the education of Buddhist boys than for his profound Pali scholarship.

It is not generally known that he spent f 2,000 of his patrimony at the beginning of the present century to erect buildings for a Buddhist school in the south of Ceylon-Mahinda College, Galle- in which he served for sixteen years as Principal without drawing the salary attached to the post. The school funds met his bare expenses. A confirmed bachelor, he lived on a purely vegetable diet. He invariably wore a white suit while in Ceylon. He never went home on a holiday. Simplicity was the keynote of his life, which moved Mrs. Rhys Davids once to describe him as a “recluse.”

The third son of the Rev. W. Woodward of Saham, Norfolk, England, Frank Lee Woodward was born on 13 April, 1871. As a boy of eight he mastered the Elementary Latin Course, and began the study of Greek, French and German. In 1879, he joined Christ Hospital, where he won the Latin and French prizes on three occasions. Besides his academic brilliance, he possessed remarkable athletic prowess. At the age of 14 he was a member of the House Fifteen, and two years later was a perfect and one of the First Fifteen. For several years he held the record for Putting the Weight and annexed prizes in most athletic events.



Pupil and teacher became close friends

At eighteen he entered Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge winning the first classical scholarship, and at nineteen was awarded the Gold Medal for Latin verse and an exhibition. He became College organist, won the prize for Latin essay and passed the Classical Tripos examination with honours in the third year of his admission to the University. He also held office as Rugby football Captain, Vice-captain of Boats, Athletic Secretary and full-back in the Association Football Team.

He served the Rugby Preparatory School for a short period as an assistant master. Later, he became classics master at the Royal Grammar School, Worcester, where he taught for three years until 1897. While there he rowed the Worcester City Boat to victory at many a regatta, and won honour for Worcester and the Midland Counties on the football field.

Stamford School, an ancient foundation in Lincolnshire, was where he next served. He taught there for five years from 1895 as second master. E.M. Hare became close friends. During his five-year period at Stamford he devoted a good deal of his time to the study of both Western and Eastern philosophy, Pali and Sanskrit, English literature, and religion. It was he who persuaded Hare to study Pali.

Woodward joined the Theosophical Society in 1902. He described his becoming a member of it as “the most important event” in his life, for it led to his acceptance of the Buddha’s teachings.

In a letter to Col. H.S. Olcott, the then President of the Theosophical Society, Woodward offered his service to the East, and Olcott gladly accepted the offer, for at that time the latter had been requested, by Buddhists to find a head for Mahinda College, in Ceylon. On 1 August, 1903, Woodward landed in the town of Galle.



More than the architect of Mahinda

He found Mahinda College housed in an old Dutch building in the busy part of the Fort of Galle. The attendance was only 60. His high academic attainments and long experience as a teacher in public schools in England soon became known all over the country and parents began to remove their sons from other schools and send them to Mahinda College. One of them, now a nonagenarian, Mr. Vincent de Silva, says that he still remembers the Latin that Woodward taught him. He often speaks of his old teacher with affection and gratitude. The numbers on the roll rapidly rose to 300-the maximum that could be accommodated in the building.

Woodward himself selected the present site of Mahinda, some public-spirited residents of the area donating the lands. He was not merely the architect of the school, but its foreman of works as well. He was often seen with a trowel in hand among masons. Sometimes he would be on the scaffoldings taking measurements. His identity is concealed in the name of “Vanapala” (Sinhalese for Woodward) among the names on a brass plate in a set of classrooms.

Woodward was a strict disciplinarian. He set a very high tone in the college and it made rapid progress under his able direction. He, however, sought no publicity. He was revered for his self-sacrifice, his generosity and his erudition. One of his many efforts was directed at establishing Sinhalese as a subject for the Cambridge Local examinations which were then held in Ceylon. He was a pioneer of the Ceylon University movement.

He used to wear the simple garb of a white shirt and white cloth and to observe the Eight Precepts of Buddhism on full moon days, setting a noble example to his pupils and neighbours. Occasionally he would offer alms to Buddhist monks in the school hall, himself serving the meals with great humility, and would himself wash and wipe the feet of the monks as they came in single file for the alms-giving.

He taught various classes for several hours a day, besides attending to administrative matters. He knew every pupil of the school both by name, and by nickname-all given by him and drawn from Shakespearian characters. One of them was Caliban.

 Regular donations to Society

Woodward left Galle on 7 October, 1919, for Tasmania, where he grew apples for his livelihood, and edited and translated Pali texts. He made regular donations to the Pali Text Society.

In 1936, upon the publication of 15 volumes of a complete translation of the Digha, Majjhima, Samyutta and Anguttara Nikayas, Mrs. Rhys Davids declared: “More specially our tribute is due to him ( Woodward ) who has borne the major burden, translating alone six of the fifteen volumes, giving aid in a seventh and now crowning our labours with this last volume. To all this must be added his recently issued translations of two Minor Anthologies in the Sacred Books of the Buddhist series Udana and Iti-vuttaka, and his first edition of the Samyutta Commentary. Very worthily has he stood in the breach left by the untimely death of Richard Morris and Edmund Hardy. That we can look forward in a few years to completing our scheduled

programme is largely due to him.”

Mrs. Rhys Davids added that Woodward had undertaken all those labours while resting from “ agricultural toil”, and not looking for any reward save that which good work done brings.




An Englishman, who was in the tea business in Ceylon from 1918 to 1950, earned a high reputation as a Pali scholar and competent editor and translator of Buddhist texts. He was Edward Miles Hare.

Born on 4 March, 1893, Hare hailed from a Norfolk family on the east side of England. He was educated at Stamford Grammar School, Lincolnshire, where F.L. Woodward, before he came out to Ceylon in 1903, had been an assistant master. Hare came to know Woodward as his teacher, and in later life the two became very close friends. Inspired by Woodward, he began the study of Pali, and by the time he came out to Ceylon as a businessman he had mastered the language.

While engaged in business in Ceylon, he spent his leisure hours in editing and translating Buddhists texts for the Pali Text Society, London. His rendering into English of the Anguttara Nikaya (Gradual Sayings), volumes 2 and 3 (1934-1935), and Sutta Nipata (Woven Cadences), 1945, is considered outstanding.

On his return to England after retirement in 1950, he undertook the enormous task of editing the Pali Tipitakam Concordance from material collected to some extent by himself and a few scholars, but principally by his friend F.L. Woodward. Working at great speed, he produced in all 10 parts of the Concordance, i.e. volume 1 in seven parts and volume 2 in three parts, the value of which has been acclaimed by Pali scholars in all parts of the world.

Always a generous donor to the Pali Text Society, Hare had bequeathed it a sum of f 1,000 with the wish that the money be applied, if possible, towards the cost of publishing the Concordance.

He died on 26 October, 1955.




George Turnour’s translation into English of the Mahavamsa, the great chronicle of Ceylon, in the 19th century, was called by Rhys Davids “the foundation of all Pali scholarship.”

A member of the Ceylon Civil Service, George Turnour, while serving in Ranapura (City of Gems), came in contact with a learned Buddhist monk from whom he learnt Pali and Sinhalese. He read the Mahavamsa, and it did not take him long to realize its importance not only to Ceylon but also to the West. So he decided to translate it into English.

He obtained a copy of the Mahavamsa Tika, a prose commentary on the chronicle, which is in Pali verse, and which Sinhalese scholars had preserved side by side with the original Mahavamsa. Had it not been for the commentary, Turnour would have found it very difficult to give an exact rendering of the Mahavamsa in English.

For ten long years Turnour persevered with the great task, guided by his friend, the scholar-monk. And in 1837 he published his combined edition and translation of thirty-eight chapters of the one-hundred chapters of the Mahavamsa. The publication created no little interest in the West.

Turnour’s translation spurred the Colonial office in Westminster to evince interest in the ruined cities of Ceylon, and in 1868 the Governor of Ceylon, Sir Hercules Robinson, appointed a commission to make a record of all rock inscriptions in the country. This was the beginning of Ceylon’s archaeological department, and through its efforts it was possible to identify the stupendous dagobas or stupas, the palatial mansions that housed the monks in the days of Sinhalese kings, and the vast irrigation works that helped food production. The authorities had the jungle that overran the ruined cities cleared: they also restored irrigation works.

Elated by the success of his publication, Turnour took upon himself the translation of the second half of the Mahavamsa, but ill-health prevented him from doing so. He died in Naples in 1843, the year in which Rhys Davids was born.




Osbert Moore, an Englishman, who graduated from Oxford, and served as an officer in the British army during World War II, spent eleven years in Ceylon as a Buddhist monk, and died there in 1960.

An erudite Pali scholar, he translated into English the abstruse Visuddhimagga, the post-canonical commentary on Buddhism by the illustrious Indian Buddhist monk Buddhaghosa, besides a number of canonical works for the Pali Text Society.

 Meetings with Ceylonese Monks

Born in England on 25 June, 1905, Osbert Moore was educated at Exeter College, Oxford. He served in the British army in Italy where he had a friend, Harold Musson, also an army officer. Both of them became interested in Buddhism after reading an Italian work on Buddhism entitled Dottrina del Risveglio by J. Evola.

Back in England after the war, Moore joined the B.B.C. and lived in the same flat with his war-time friend Musson. During this time he and Musson translated Evola’s book into English and published it under the title of The Doctrine of Awakening.  To further their knowledge of Buddhism, the two of them visited Ceylon in 1949, and met with the German monk Nyanatiloka Maha Thera at the Island Hermitarge, Dodanduwa, Ceylon, and Pelane Vajiranana Maha Nayaka Thera at Vajiramaya, Colombo. Nyanatiloka ordained them in 1949 as novices. The next year they received the Upasampada or Higher Ordination with Vajiranana as their preceptor.

At the age of 49, Nanamoli applied himself assiduously to the study of Pali, Sinhalese, and Burmese, and quickly mastered the languages. Equipped thus, he began a brilliant study of the Dhamma. Soon he became an erudite scholar.

Besides the Visuddhimagga, he translated for the Pali Text Society, London, the Patisambhida Magga, Nettipakarama, and Petakopadesa. These translations provide ample evidence of his sound grasp of the Dhamma. He also wrote a biography of the Buddha and translated the Majjhima Nikaya.

His wants were few and he scrupulously observed over 200 rules of the Code of Discipline a monk is expected to observe. Up to the time of his death – a period of eleven years – he wore the yellow robe presented to him at his ordination. He rarely wore sandals.

 Life – a joke in rather bad taste

“He was a calm and understanding nature”, writes Mr. Ananda Pereira, Deputy Solicitor-General, Ceylon, in a tribute to his memory. “He spoke quietly, in gentle, cultured tones. His words were pearls of wisdom, and through them ran a silver thread of humour. Speaking of life, he once said that at times it reminded him of a joke in rather bad taste. One feels that he met death too in the same spirit. He had faced it often enough, in its most violent form during the war, and it held no terrors for him. And surely, death has seldom come to a man more unexpectedly or inappropriately. Nananoti endeared himself to all those with whom he came into contact. Pleasantness was personified in him. It was a delight to listen to him.

His untimely death was a great loss to Buddhism.




“The real greatness of Buddhist morality is in the truly ethical character of its teaching,”  declared Dr. E.J. Thomas, one of England’s most brilliant Buddhist scholars.

His The History of Buddhist Thought, which he wrote in 1935, has been acclaimed as a penetrating analysis of Buddhism, particularly Theravada. Equally brilliant are his The Life of Buddha as Legend and History, and Early Buddhist Scriptures (translation from Pali), The Road to Nirvana (translation from Pali), The Quest of Enlightenment (translation from the scriptures of the Indiand Sanskrit Schools), and Ratana Sutta (translation from Pali) - a wordrune ascribed to the Buddha.

He is remembered with affection and gratitude by innumerable Pali scholars both in the East and the West for the great encouragement he gave them in their studies. 

Bequeathed Library to University

Thomas loved Ceylon as a recognized home of Pali, and he bequeathed his entire library to the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya.

Born on 30 July, 1869, Edward Joseph Thomas was the son of a gardener at Thornhill Rectory in Yorkshire during the incumbency of the Rev. J.I. Brookes, “a man of some wealth, part of which it was his pleasure to spend in assisting promising, local boys to a grammar school education. But E.J. Thomas was not one of them, though he was of a studious turn, and almost as early as he could remember used to save his pennies till they would buy something at the second hand bookshops in the adjacent towns.”

At the age of 14 he left school and went to work as a gardener for the next 12 years; “but we should be wrong in interpreting this as a reluctant apprenticeship to his father’s trade; despite an unlucky handicap of colour-blindness, he retained all his life a profound love of flowers and gardening; and he did well at it. But he busied himself in other ways too; for when in 1894 he went to spend a year as a student gardener at Kew he already had the London Matriculation Certificate (1st Division) in Botany, Mechanics, Latin, Greek, English, and Mathematics. While there he obtained certificates in Elementary Physics and Chemistry and in various branches of Botany. It was presumably during this period that he decided to devote himself to linguistic studies.

 Most eminent English-speaking authority

“In 1896 he entered the University of St. Andrew’s, where under John Burnet, Professor of Greek, he eventually graduated M.A (1990-1901) with First Class Honours in Classics. His other subjects of examination were Mathematics, Moral Philosophy, and Greek. In this last, which foreshadowed his subsequent philological learning, he was a pupil of A. N. Jannaris, author of what is still perhaps the only scholarly dictionary of English and Modern Greek. In 1903, at the age of 34, … Thomas came to Emmanuel College as an Advance Student, drawn probably by the already wide repute of Peter Giles; at all events, philology was his special subject in the Classical Tripos Part II which in 1905 gave him his Cambridge B. A. It was by this course that he came to the study of Sanskrit and Pali, and so of the Buddhist scriptures and religion, on which he became, in time, the most eminent English-speaking authority. His appointment in 1909 as an Under-Librarian saw him make Cambridge his home for the remainder of his long life. For many years he was in charge there of all foreign books, and his knowledge of languages continued to grown phenomenally in all directions; any book on any unrecognized tongue would be referred to him, and he could usually identify it; but for the latter part of his life at the University Library he was head of the Oriental Languages Department, and when he “retired” in 1940, he was almost at once asked to take charge of the Library of the Oriental Faculty, where he worked until about 1950. Though his publications include an edition of Plautus’s Anlularia (1913) and a Danish conversation grammar (1926); his really important works were all concerned with Buddhism: The Life of Buddha as Legend and History (1927), The History of Buddhist Thought (1933), and a number of volumes of translations of Buddhist scriptures, the latest of which were published as recently as 1952. In this field Thomas was the master scholar, not only in Cambridge but throughout Europe and beyond; even in his eighty-sixth year and later he was in demand, examining research these, reviewing books, and corresponding with scholars from Holland to India who sought his advice or his contribution to learned publications.

 Teaching—Modestly and Effectively

“He was a D. Litt of his old University of St. Andrew’s; the London School of Oriental and African Studies made him an Honorary Fellow; as erudite a man as Professor Hector Chadwick could declare that Thomas was the most learned man in Cambridge; but there were very few who were even capable of knowing how much knew, and he would have been the last man in the world even to dream of telling them. He was, indeed, a most modest, shy and retiring man; knowing so many foreign tongues yet he was yet never heard to utter a sentence in any of them; even in his own he asked to be excused when invited to speak at a Library Staff Annual Dinner. But when asked for information or advice, whether in the library or everywhere (and if he had his bowler on he was not officially there), he was unfailingly kind and helpful; he still knew the British flora by note; but in far more unexpected subjects he could give an answer; on almost all he could set the enquirer in the way of finding it.”

“He examined for authorities as far apart as Dublin and Ceylon; perhaps he really did more teaching than if he had been formally a lecturer or professor, and it was done effectively because so modestly. Professor Das Gupta’s preface to his History of Indian Philosophy reveals one who was indebted to his help; and there must have been hundreds more. Those who as undergraduates have had him among the audience for their papers at the Emmanuel Classical Society would have been appalled to know before what massive learning they delivered themselves; but he never let on. He was signally silent in company, but could take a quiet pleasure in such occasions as the “E” Book Club auction, or a river outing of the library staff, when his favourite shag (carried generally in a paper bag) took the place of small-talk. He had married, but his German wife died in the 1920s. So for many years he lived quietly in lodgings, and later with a house-keeper, childless, but very fond of children, whose society he cultivated, life flowers, with a happy devotion.”




A collaborator and close friend of Rhys Davids, Dr. William Friderich Stede was a German by birth, but was regarded as an Englishman, and spent the greater part of his life in England. He was held in such high esteem by Western Pali scholars that he was elected to succeed Mrs. Rhys Davids as President of the Pali Text Society upon her death.

During World War I Stede was interned in England, but in 1915 Rhys Davids obtained for him sufficient freedom to be engaged by the Pali Text Society for compiling and editing the Pali English Dictionary which Rhys Davids had already begun.

He went to live near Rhys Davids’ home in Chipstead and walked every Tuesday afternoon for discussions with the latter. Despite the fact that Rhys Davids was older then him by 39 years, there developed between them a friendship based not only on a common interest in Pali scholarship but also on metta or loving-kindness. “What Rhys Davids has been to me nobody but he and I knew,” said Stede in the tribute to the memory of Rhys Davids. “What I thought of him he must have felt when I confided my troubles to him sitting by his side. What he was to me I realized each time I looked into his clear eyes and felt the touch to his hand. Kindness, sympathy, gentleness – in one word metta, on which he loved to quote the Iti-vuttaka – was the prominent trait of his character. I have his picture in my mind, and I shall always remember him as my kalyanamitta.”

 Pali-English Dictionary Completed

Born in Germany on 9 June, 1882, William Friderich Stede studied in the Universities of Gottinggen, Leipzig, and Jena. He graduated from Leipzig in Sanskrit, Pali, and Comparative Philology. From 1908 to 1911 he was an assistant lecturer in Teutonic Philology, Sanskrit, and Gothic in Liverpool University. The thesis for which he received his doctorate in 1913 was published in Leipzig in 1914 under the title of Die Gespensterge chichton des Peta Vatthu.

On the completion of his stupendous work of the Pali-English Dictionary ten years later, Stede began his long connexion with the London School of Oriental and African Studies, becoming additional lecturer in Pali in 192, lecturer in Pali and Sanskrit in 1928, senior lecturer in 1933 and Read in 1945, a post which he held in spite of chronic ill-health, never missing a day’s teaching until his retirement in 1949. He was succeeded by his daughter and only child, Mrs. D.A>L. Maskell, who edited the Pali text Kankhavitarani. Her early death in 1956 was naturally a source of deep grief to him.

He was examiner in Pali for London University degrees between 1925 and 1958, in Pali and Buddhist civilization for the Burmese and Ceylon Civil Service from 1930 to 1939, and in Pali for the University of Ceylon from 1944 to 1958.

Besides his teaching and examining, his many articles and reviews, and work on the Pali-English Dictionary, Stede found time to edit the Cullaniddesa for the Pali Text Society in 1918, the Sumangalavilasini, volumes II and III, in 1931 and 1932,; he compiled a list of Padas of the Thera-therigathas for the society’s journal in 1927, and helped his daughter with her edition of the Kankhavitarani, published a few months after her death in 1956. He married in 1912 and his wife survived him. He died on 5 July, 1958.

“Dr. Stede was a colleague and teach who was loved and respected by all with whom he came in contact”, states the journal of the Pali Text Society in a tribute to his memory, for with his kind heart and upright character he combined wide and accurate linguistic scholarship and informed and balanced views on questions of Buddhist philosophy.”




Robert Caesar Childers became famous among Western Pali scholars by the two-volume publication in 1872 and 1875 of his Dictionary of the Pali language. Rhys Davids appraised it as a “great and important work not only the most valuable contribution yet made to the study of Pali, but the indispensable means by which further progress could be made.” This appraisal was made in 1875, and the dictionary served its purpose for the next forty years. Later, Rhys Davids himself found it inadequate to meet the demands of the Pali Text Society.

Childers entered the Ceylon Civil Service in 1856. In his spare time he studied Pali and was impressed by the beauty and sublimity of the Buddha’s teachings enshrined in the Pali canon. He resigned in 1864—the very year in which Rhys Davids entered the Ceylon Civil Service. Returning to England, he engaged himself in a Pali scholarship, collaborating with Fausball, Oldenberg and a few other scholars.

One of his earliest works was a translation of the Khuddaka Patha which was published in the journal of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1870. His articles on Nivvana aroused much controversy and his friend Rhys Davids came to his assistance in 1878, when he gave his mature judgement on the subject in his book Buddhism.

Unfortunately, the available details about Dr. Childers are meagre. The author’s effort to secure fuller information about him proved unsuccessful.

The death of Dr. Childers at a comparatively early age was a great loss to Buddhism in the West.




The only surviving link with the glorious past is Miss I. B. Horner the present President of the Pali Text Society, the fourth in line since the inception of the Society in 1881.

A Pali scholar of the front rank, reticence about her own achievements is a prominent trait in her character. She would gladly give one all details she knows about other Pali scholars; if she does not know the full facts on a particular subject,she will always set the inquirer in the way of finding them. But where she herself is concerned she remains uncommunicative. Pressed for an answer to a question about herself, she would give only the bare facts in a few words. The author therefore congratulates himself on the fact that he has succeeded in eliciting answers to a few questions about herself.

“How did you become interested in Buddhism?” was one of the questions.

She answered: “I became interested in Pali Buddhism because I had a highly intelligent grandmother who had an equally intelligent cousin who was a friend of Professor Rhys Davids and of the Miss Foley who became his wife: they were engaged to be married in that cousin’s garden. I probably heard my grandmother and her cousin discuss Buddhism, and at the age of 12 I asked both Professor Rhys Davids and Mrs. Rhys Davids some questions about it. Alternatively, you might like to think that I was once born in a Buddhist country.”

Asked whether she was a Buddhist or not, Miss Horner replied: “I accept most of the Buddha’s teachings, but some that is even prior to Buddhism is hard to accept – others are easier but are not accepted by Ven. Buddhaghosa, the great commentator.”

 Prodigious work over four decades

A woman of remarkable intellect and astonishing energy, Miss Horner has been a prodigious worker in the field of Pali Buddhism for over four decades. Age has not impaired her efficiency. An uncanny mental alertness still enables her to detect the minutest flaw in a script submitted to her for scrutiny. She would not overlook even the omission of a comma. Years ago she read the authors’ manuscripts for a well-known London publisher.

Miss Horner is a member of the Supervisory Committee of the massive Critical Pali Dictionary which is being compiled in Denmark, the home of world-famous Pali philogists such as Trenckner and Dines Andersen, with international support and collaboration. She is often consulted by Pali scholars on knotty points. Lord Chalmers, himself an eminent Pali scholar on knotty points. Lord Chalmers, himself an eminent Pali scholar, was so impressed by her erudition that he gifted her his entire Pali library before his death. She is in possession of Rhys Ravids’ interleaved copy of Dr. Childers’ Pali-English Dictionary in which “he noted every new word, illustrative passage and unusual grammatical construction that came to light as more and more Pali texts were edited in Roman characters.”

Isaline Blew Horner entered Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1914, and passed the Moral Science Tripos, Part 1, in 1917. From 1918 she was in turn assistant to the Librarian and Librarian and Fellow, Newnham College, Sarah Smithson Research Fellow, Associate and Associate Fellow from 1939 to 1949. She was Student of Pali Buddhism in 1936.

Miss Horner first visited Ceylon in 1923. Since then she has been to Ceylon several times, and addressed local audiences on Buddhist themes. She gave a brilliant exposition entitled The Basic Position of Sila in Colombo in 1950 (the 9th Dona Alpina Ratnayake Trust Lecture) which has been printed and widely circulated. She also gave an illuminating lecture on Some Aspects of Buddhism at Vidyodaya University of Ceylon in 1962. This too has been published. In recognition of her services to Pali Buddhism, the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, awarded her the honorary degree of D. Litt. She has visited India and Burma as well, and is a contributor to Buddhist Journals in India, Burma, Ceylon, England and elsewhere.

 Historical Study of Arahant Ideal

Women Under Primitive Buddhism  (1930) was her first book. It gives a comprehensive and lively account of the part played by Indian women in the 6th century B. C. It was the first work of its kind to be published in the West.

Her next work, The Early Buddhist Theory of Man Perfected,  which appeared in 1934, deals with the Arahant ideal. In a review of it in Buddhism in England, Mrs. Rhys Davids describes the book as “a careful historical study,” and states: “The author, who is also engaged in efficient research as editor and translator of Pali texts, has with this volume placed us greatly in her debt.”

Miss Horner is regarded as one of the ablest editors and translators of Pali texts. She edited in 1933, 1937 and 1938 volumes III, IV and V of Papancasudani and in 1946 Madhuratthavilasini. Her translations of Pali texts are couched in the pellucid prose. Between 1954 and 1959 she translated volumes I, II, and III of the Majjhima Nikaya; two volumes of Milindaphnho, Anthology of Early Buddhist Poetry (Ceylon 1963); The Living Thoughts of Gotama the Buddha (in collaboration with Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy, 1948); the section on Elders in Buddhist Texts Through the Ages by Dr. Edward Conze (1964); and Ten Jataka Stories (Pali and English facing, 1954).

To this formindable list must be added her magnum opus, the translation in six big volumes of the Vinaya Pitaka or the Book of the Discipline, which she began in 1938 and completed in 1966. This work is considered the definitive translation of the Vinaya. It will remain a monument to her great scholarship and industry. In her masterly introduction to it she states:

“Practically every conceivable thing affecting monastic life for monks and nuns, practically every conceivable relation with other human beings, whetherfellow-monks or nuns or the laity, are brought under review and legislated for in minutest detail through the seven classes of offences, through the allowances, and through the most important and regularly recurring events in a monk’s life; Ordination, Observance, Invitation, the rains – residence, the making up of new robe-material, through the seven formal acts of the Order, beginning with that of censure, and through suspension of the Patimoksha. It is a complete system, a very precise organization, marked throughout by the humaneness and reasonableness of Gotama, the codifier to whom with but few exceptions every ruling is ascribed.”

 Beautiful stories for the young reader

Miss Horner’s translation of the Vinaya Pitaka is quite unlike translations of other Buddhist texts. Many of its pages are filled with beautiful renderings of stories that will thrill the young reader and horrify the puritan.

Professor and Mrs. Rhys Davids and Dr. Stede were Miss Horner’s predecessors in the office of President of the Pali Text Society. She succeeded the last named in 1959, and has since then born the brunt of the work. She is assisted by the Vice president, Professor Sir Harold Bailey, and the Honorary Secretary, Mr. R.E. Iggleden. The experience she gained by her close association with Professor and Mrs. Rhys Davids, coupled with her undoubted ability and efficiency, has made her a worthy successor to them.

It must be stated here that Miss Horner gave a donation of f500 sterling to purchase the site of the London Buddhist Vihara.

Among the present benefactors of Buddhism in the West, the name of Miss Horner stands out prominently. She deserves our homage.




The second Englishman to be ordained a Buddhist monk was Charles Henry Allan Bennett, the first being Gordon Douglas, who was ordained in Colombo in 1899. He died in Burma in 1905 as Bhikkhu Asoka. Bennett was ordained in Colombo in 1901 under the name of Ananda Metteyya, and went to Burma the next year.  He was the first to lead a Buddhist Mission to the West from Burma.

Born in London on 8 December, in 1872, Bennet was the son of an engineer. He was himself a student of science. In 1890 he read Sir Edwin Arnold’s The Light of Asia and was so inspired by it that he visited Ceylon in 1898 to become a Buddhist monk. He applied himself assiduously to the study of the Buddha’s teachings enshrined in the Pali canon, and entered the Order three years later. He gave his first sermon in Colombo in 1901 on the Four Noble Truths.

Ananda Metteya founded in Burma in 1903, with the co-operation of Dr. E. Rost, an English illustrated review called The Buddhist, as well as a Buddhist society for the propagation of Buddhism in Britain. This review had a good circulation in the British Isles. One of its regular contributors was Bhikkhu Silacara, the third Briton to become a Buddhist monk.

The Buddhist carried advance information about a projected mission to Endland from Burma, and in preparation for it the Buddhist Society of Great Britain and Ireland was formed in London with Professor T. W. Rhys Davids as President and a distinguished Council. In April 1908, Ananda Metteyya arrived in England at the head of the first Buddhist Mission to the West, and became the heart of the new organization. The work of this society, and its organ, The Buddhist Review, considerably widened the dissemination of the Dhamma in the West.

For sixteen years the Society proclaimed the Dhamma was in Britain, and when, in 1923, Ananda Metteyya died, his place was filled by another British Buddhist in the person of Francis J. Payne, a British Civil Servant.

Ananda Metteyya was a profound scholar but not a popular preacher. He wrote The Wisdom of the Aryas  and numerous booklets and articles on various aspects of the Dhamma.




Bhikkhu Silacara, whose lay name was J. P. M’Kechnie was an exemplary Buddhist monk who served Buddhism well both in the East and the West for more than a quarter of a century.

He became well known in the English-speaking Buddhist world as the author of a number of readable works on Buddhism and as a translator of popular German works of Paul Dahlke and George Grimm. He was an effective preacher too.

Born of Scottish-English parents in 1872, he lost his father when still a child and was brought up by an uncle and aunt together with their own children. He attended a night school, and as a younger earned his own livelihood. He was fond of reading, his favourite authors being Huxley, Tyndall, and Schopenhauer. Dissatisfied with life, he even contemplated suicide. Luckily at this time he came upon a Buddhist periodical. What he read with particular interest was an article on the Nibbana.

This set him thinking. “Here is a religion, I said to myself, an actual living religion, not a theory in a book but a way of life lived by a large number of my fellowmen, which knows nothing of a miraculous, of the incredible, but instead knows only of the unusual, the extraordinary which due examination becomes quite simply the explicable and the natural,” says Silacara. “Thus did I commune with myself after reading the articles in the Buddhist magazine.

“In the meantime, a grand-uncle whose existence I was ignorant of had died and I was discovered to be the only heir to his property. I was thus in easy circumstances, no longer under the necessity to employ myself. So I wrote at once to the editor of The Buddhist in Burma, offering my free services. My offer was accepted, and I went to Burma. There I studied Pali, and entered the Order of Monks.”

Among his numerous works are: First Fifty Discourses of the Buddha; The Noble Eightfold Path; The Dhammpada or Way of Truth; Young People’s Life of the Buddha.  He has also translated the Majjhima Nikaya and the German works of Paul Dahlke and George Grimm.

Ill-health militated against his continuing the life of a Buddhist monk and he became a layman towards the end of his life. He died in England in 1951.




A brilliant interpreter of the Buddha Dharma, Sangharakshita Sthavira is the only British Buddhist monk of over 20 years standing.

After an absence of 20 years he has returned from India and the East and now resides at the Hampstead Vihara. Currently he leads a group in London called The Friends of the Western Buddhist Orde.

For two years he roamed India as a wandering mendicant and was ordaineda samanera (novice) in North India in 1949, receiving the upasampada (Higher Ordination) the next year. He founded the Vihara of the Three Ways in Kalimpong, where he assisted the movement of mass conversion of the Untouchables to Buddhism.

Well versed in Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese, Sangharakshita has taken the Mahayana Bodhisattva vow, and has received Vajrayana initiation from his Tibetan teachers.

He was born in London in 1925. Buddhism attracted him at the age of 14 when he read Madam H.P. Blasvastsky’s Isis Unveiled. He has visited all parts of the East.

The contents of his book, The Three Jewels,   reveal his masterly grasp of Buddhism. He wholeheartedly agrees with Dr. Edward Conze’s conclusion that “the doctrines of the Buddha conceived in its full breadth, width, majesty and grandeur, comprise all those teachings which are linked to the original teaching by historical continuity, and which work out methods leading to the extinction of individuality by eliminating the belief in it.”

  Criticism of sectarian approach to Buddhism

“Unfortunately,” comments Sangharakshita, “some corners of the Buddhist world have not yet awoken to the truth of these worlds. Books, pamphlets and articles continiue to be protected which naively present a single branch as the whole tree. This is not to say that the branch is not a noble branch, nor that individual accounts of the different Buddhist schools are not needed. We refer to something quite different; the practice of presenting as complete accounts of Buddhism what are in fact expositions of the tenets of one school based on a highly selective reading of a single branch of canonical literature, usually the Pali Tipitaka. Some writers go to the extent of explicitly repudiating as ‘not the pure Dhamma’ all Buddhist traditions but their own. Despite occasional absurdities of this kind, however, the sectarian type of approach to Buddhism is fortunately now on the wane. Throughout the Buddhist world the conviction is steadily gaining ground that so far as the Dharma is concerned the truth, to apply the Hegelian dictum, is the whole.”

Of the Buddhist doctrine of karma, Sangharakshita states that “the word Karma is often employed in a gravely erroneous manner. Some writers make it mean not only action, its literal meaning, but the result of action, for which Buddhist literature reserves separate terms such as karmavipaka and karmaphala. Others use it in the sense of fate or destiny, sometimes even going so far as to maintain that, according to Buddhism, whatever happens to us, whether pleasant or painful, comes about as the result of previous karma… Buddhism maintains that involuntary actions, whether those of body, speech or mind, do not constitute karma and cannot therefore bring about the results accruing to karma. This does not mean that such actions produce no results at all: the unintentional dropping of a brick on our own toes hurts no less then if we had done it deliberately, perhaps, more so. It only means that unwilled actions do not modify character. The confusion arises because the fact that according to Buddhism there is a relation of cause and effect between karma, or act of will, and karmavipaka, the fruit of that act in the form of pleasant and painful experience, has led some unwary students to jump to the conclusion that the law of karma and the law of karma and the law of cause and effect are synonymous. Karma (or more correctly karma and karmavipaka) is only one particular type of cause-effect relation. The Nikaya/Agama discourses represent the Buddha as repeatedly condemning the doctrine of fatalism and as declaring that though he teaches that every willed action produces an experienced effect he does not teach that all experienced effects are products of willed action or karma.

 Danger of Perverting the Teaching

“This important distinction is elaborated in the formula of the five niyamas, or different orders of cause-effect or conditionality obtaining in the universe. They are utu-niyama, the physical inorganic order; bija-niyama, the physical organic or biological order; mano-niyama, (non-violational) mental order; karma-niyama, volitional order; and dharma-niyama, transendental order. To distinguish effects produced by one niyama from those producted by another is not always easy. Some effects, in fact, can be brought about by any niyama. Suppose there is a man suffering from fever. The complaint may be due to a sudden change of temperature (utu-niyama), or to the presence of a germ (bija-niyama) or to mental strain or worry, or to tension due to experiences taking place in the dhyanas (mano-niyama), or to the fact that in a pervious life he had harmed someone (karma-niyama), or to chemical and cellular changes occurring in the body consequent upon transcendental realization (dharma-niyama).”

“Buddhists are urged to make every effort to remove disease, privation, and want in all their ignoble, soul-crippling, self-destroying forms because not being enlightened they cannot know by which niyama they have been brought about.”

“One should be careful be careful not to pervert the Buddha’s Teaching by arguing that, for example, poverty is invariably the punishment for ‘bad’ and riches the reward of ‘good’ karma performed in past lives.”

The Three Jewels are “of pivotal importance in Buddhism. Indeed, The Three Jewels are Buddhism,” asserts Sangharakshita.

 Ideal method of studying Buddhism

Sangharakshita is the author of another book, A Survey of Buddhism published in 1957 by Indian Institute of Culture in which he deals with Pali Buddhism and Mahayana. There he advises the student on the method of approach to Buddhism. “The ideal method of studying Buddhism would be to read in the original language a number of carefully selected texts belonging to the Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, or Japanese canonical literature, he advises.

He has also contributed an interesting chapter to 2500 Years of Buddhism, published by the Government of India in 1956, which he concludes thus: “The message of Buddhism and the principle on which it rests have assumed new significance in the world of today, and the peace of which the U. N. O. speaks is but an indication that the whole world is gradually veering round to the beliefs embodied in the religion of the Buddha.




An Englishman, Ernest Hunt, who was ordained a monk of the Zen Order in Japan in 1924, attained the “first rank” and died in Hawaii In 1967 after a very successful career.

Hunt was born in 16 August, 1878, in Hertfordshire. He went to school at Kensington and Eastbourne before going to sea. In the course of his voyages he went to India, where he learnt something of Buddhism. This was to influence the rest of his life. In 1915 he went to Hawaii and worked in the plantations.

In 1924 he was ordained a monk by Bishop Imamura who remained a life-long friend of his. He was given the Japanese Buddhist name of Shinkaru.

Since all the Buddhist service books have been in Japanese while many of the younger generations spoke English, Shinkaru composed services in English, Shinkaru composed services in English and had them printed in book-form which he called Vade Mecum. All sects still use this book.

Besides conducting services, ceremonies and festivals, he addressed innumerable gatherings, visited hospitals, and jails, and befriended the blind and the incurables.

He founded the Island Paradise Schools of which he was first headmaster, and then director. He took a personal interest in the pupils and saw to it they were taught the Dhamma. He wrote for them to sing at the assembly a song entitled “I am a Link in Lord Buddha’s Golden Chain.” He also wrote Buddhist Stories for Children and a Buddhist catechism to make sure that children grew up with a knowledge and love of their religion.

 Founder of the Institute and Western Order

Shinkaru was also the author of The Buddha and His Teaching, An Outline of Buddhism, How to meditate, Essentials and Symbols of the Buddhist Faith. He edited the Hawaiian Buddhist Annual which carried articles from such scholars as Mrs Rhys Davids, Sir Hari Singh Gour, Bishop Komagata, and others.

In 1952, after the death of his friend, Bishop Imamura, he left Hongwanji temple and joined the Soto Zen temple of Honolulo; there he served under Bishop Komagata, whose disciple and successor he became. In the temple he took over the work of the English-speaking section and discussed Buddhism with tourists who flocked there from England and America.

He founded the International Buddhist Institute of Hawaii in 1932, as well as the Western Buddhist Order. As a Soto Zen monk he published the Gleanings from Soto Zen and as President of the Western Buddhist Order he brought out Buddhist Sermons in two volumes.

In 1962, at the age of 84, Vice-Abbot Iwamoto of Sojiji conferred the “choro” ordination on him. The next year, by permission of the Primate of Soto Zen, the Ven. Rosen Takushina, he was awarded the Dharma Succession and the Buddhist name of Diako. The year 1965 saw his elevation to the first rank. Shinkaru was the first Western monk in Zen to receive the title of Dai-osho, and was unique in being accorded these distinctions in his old age.

His fame spread far beyond the local Buddhist organizations. Very few men have been widely respected by all Buddhist sects.




Dr. Edward Conze is one of the greatest living Buddhist scholars in the West. Peerless analyst of all sects of Buddhism, he is well-versed in Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Japanese. For over thirty years he has been a lecturer in psychology at university level.

“The historian who wants to determine what the Buddha’s actual doctrine was, finds himself confronted with literally thousands of works, which all claim the authority of the Buddha, and yet contain the most diverse and conflicting teachings”, states Conze. “Some influential writers, bred in a Nonconformist tradition, have recently conteded that one must seek for the true Buddhist doctrine only in what Gautama Buddha actually said about 500 B.C. this thesis has led to some acrimoniousness. The truth is that the oldest stratum of the existing scriptures can only be reached by uncertain inference and conjecture. One thing alone do all these attempts to reconstruct an original Buddhism have in common. They all agree that the Buddha’s doctrine was certainly not what the Buddhists understood it to be. Mrs. Rhys Davids, for example, purges Buddhism of the doctrine of ‘not-self’, and of monasticism. To her, some worship of ‘The Man’ is the original gospel of Buddhism. H.J. Jennings, in cold blood, removes all references to reincarnation from the scriptures, and claims thereby to have restored their original meaning. Dr. P. Dahlke, again, ignores all the magic and mythology with which traditional Buddhism is replete, and reduces the doctrine of the Buddha to a quite reasonable, agnostic theory. In this book I set out to describe the living tradition of Buddhism throughout the centuries, and I confess that I do not know what the ‘original gospel of Buddhism was. To regard all later Buddhist history as a record of degeneration of an original gospel is like regarding an oak tree as a degeneration of an acorn. In this book I assume that the doctrine of the Buddha, conceived in its full breadth, width, majesty and grandeur, comprises all these teachings which are linked to the original teaching by historical continuity, and which work out methods leading to the extinction of individuality by eliminating the belief in it.”

  Buddhism judged by its results

A collaborator of his, Dr. Arthus Waley, makes a terse estimate of his deep grasp of the Buddha’s teaching when he states that “to Dr. Conze, the questions that Buddhism asks and answers are actual, living questions, and he constantly brings them into relation both with history and with current actuality.”

His own verdict on Buddhism Conze sums up succinctly thus: “Although one may originally be attracted by its remoteness, one can appreciate the real value of Buddhism only when one judges it by the results it produces in one’s own life from day to day.

Under the sub-head “European Buddhism,” Conze states: “The Jesuit missionaries had, in the 17th and 18th centuries, acquired a fairly accurate knowledge of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, but it was a German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, who first made Europe acquainted with Buddhism as a living faith. Without any knowledge of the Buddhist Scriptures, guided only by the philosophy of Kant, a Latin translation of a Persian translation of the Upanishads and his own disillusionment with life, Schopenhauer had, by 1819, evolved a philosophical system which in its insistence on the “Negation of the Will to live”, and on compassion as the one redeeming virtue, breathed a spirit very akin to that of Buddhism. The ideas of Schopenhauer, expressed in a lively and readable style, have had a great influence on the Continent. Richard Wagner was deeply impressed by the teachings of the Buddha, and in recent years Albery Schweitzer lived the life which Schopenhauer only recommended.

 The labours of four generations

“In the course of the 19th century, the invasion of Asia by European merchants, soldiers and missionaries was accompanied by the slow infiltration of Asiatic ideas into Europe. The infiltration took the two forms of scientific research and popular propaganda. The scholarly investigation of Buddhist writings and art has continued now for 120 years without interruption. The history of Buddhism has, in each generation, attracted a considerable number of scholars of great ability. Many of them, especially at first, studied Buddhism as one watches an enemy, intent on proving the superiority of Christianity. A few were convinced that they had to deal with a faith of supreme purity from which Europe could learn a great deal. The majority investigated the documents with the detactment with which one solves crossword puzzles. As the result of the labours of four generations, the exploration of Buddhism has made great progress, though much remains to be done. Sociologically, ‘Orientalism’ in Europe was bound up with imperialism, Orientalism is at present in the throes of a deep crisis, and one wonders how it will fare in the future. In the U.S.S.R. Buddhist studies seem to have petered out, although Russians had contributed much to Buddhist scholarship in the past. It may be that the mysticism of the Buddhists is not to the taste of the dialectical materialists.

“The year 1875 made an event of great importance. Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott founded the ‘Theosophical Society’. Its activities accelerated the influx of knowledge about Asiatic religions, and restored self-confidence in the wavering minds of the Asiatics themselves. At that period, European civilization, a blend of science and commerce, of Chrisianity and militarism, seemed immensely strong. The latent dynamite of national war and class war was perceived by only a few. A growing number of educated men in India and Ceylon felt, as the Japanese did about the same time, that they had no alternative to adopt the Western system with all that it entails. The Christian missionaries looked forward to speedy mass conversions. But then the tide turned, rather suddenly and unexpectedly. A few members of the dominant race, white men and women from Russia, America, and England, Theosophists, appeared among the Hindus and Ceylonese to proclaim their admiration for the ancient wisdom of the East. Mme. Blavatsky spoke about Buddhism in terms of the highest praise, Colonel Olcott wrote a Buddhist Catechism, and A.O. Sinnett published a very successful book in which all kinds of mysterious but fascinating ideas were presented as “Esoteric Buddhism’. The myth of the Mahatmas located those invisible, wise and semi-divine leaders of mankind in the Himalayas, in Tibet, a Buddhist country, which became surrounded by an aura of superhuman wisdom. By its timely intervention, the Theosophical Society has done a great service to the Buddhist cause. Although later on it became, as an organization, corrupted by wealth and charlatanism, it has continued to be an impetus to Buddhist studies and his inspired many to seek further. To the ranks of the Theosophists belonged also Sir Edwin Arnold, whose poem, The Light of Asia, has led many hearts to love and admire the Buddha for the purity of his life, and his devotion to the welfare of mankind.”

  Beating the drum of the Dharma

Conze continues: “After 1900, a few missionaries were sent from Asia, who laboured in London and elsewhere, without much success. In the European capitals, in Paris, London, and Berlin, small propaganda organizations were established. In England ‘The Buddhist Society’ has, under the leadership of Christmas Humphreys, shown a great deal of initiative in ‘beating the drum of the Dharma.’ So far, however, European Buddhism has been unable to find its feet. The organization of the Samgha has been the one permanent and stable element in Buddhist history. Monks and monasteries are the indispensable foundation of a Buddhist movement, which aims at being a concrete, living social reality. A number of European Buddhists who felt drawn to the monastic life have gone to Ceylon, China and Japan. The obstacles to the establishment of Buddhist monasteries in Europe are great, but probably not greater than they were originally in China. As the bankruptcy of our civilization becomes even more patent, many more people will be drawn to the wisdom of the past, and some of them to its Buddhist form. It remains to be seen when and where Europeans garbed in the saffron robe will make their first appearance.”

Conze has been overall editor of a comprehensive anthology of Buddhist texts which is the only one of its kind.  It is a sequalto his Buddhism: Its Essenceand Development, and is divided into four parts. Miss I.B. Horner edits the first part, which deals with Pali Buddhism, while the second, on Mahayana, is edited by Conze; Dr. David Snellgrove edits the third part which deals with Tantras; and Dr. Arthur Waley edits the fourth consisting of texts from China and japan. All the texts have been newly translated from the original Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese.

 Three phases of Buddhist philosophy

His book on Buddhist meditation  gives both the Theravada and Mahayana methods. The bulk of his selections are, however, from the Visuddhimagga, the post-canonical Pali commentary by Buddhaghosa, which he describes as a “superb work of 616 pages written in the fifth century.” He states that “like all human authors, Buddhaghosa has his faults. But these are minor irritants, and he has composed one of the greatest spiritual classics of mankind. If I had to choose just one book to take with me on a desert island, this would be my choice.”

Buddhist Thought in India  is another outstanding work of his, which deals with three phases of Buddhist philosophy as it developed over 1,100 years, between 500 B.C. and 600 A.D. The first part describes “Archaic Buddhism,” i.e. doctrines common to all thinking Buddhist monks about Asoka’s time. The second and the third deal with the two trends into which Buddhist teaching split at the beginning of the Christian era, i.e. the sectarian Hinayana or Theravada with its Abhidharma, and the sectarian Mahayana with its transcendental metaphysics.

Conze is the leading authority in the West on the Prajnaparamita or the Perfection of Wisdom. In his Wisdom Books , he deals with texts which contain all the essential teachings of Mahayana which for centuries enjoyed an immense popularity in China, Japan, Mongolia and Tibet. He has made them intelligible by explaining all the terms and most of the arguments in the Diamond Sutra and Heart Sutra. Scholars have expressed the view that “this is an invaluable key to that perfection of wisdom which was once the concern of every creative thinker.”

A practising Buddhist for the past thirty years, Dr. Conze is one of the world’s greatest Buddhist scholars. He is Professor of Indic Studies in Washington University. Currently he is charged with building up a Ph.D. program in Buddhis,

Among his other works are: Abhisamayalankara, translation, Serie Orientale Roma VI, 1954; Selected Sayings from the Perfection of Wisdom, London, 1955; The Buddha’s Law among the Birds, translation and commentary, Cassirer, Oxford, 1956; Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita, Edition and translation, Serie Orientale, Roma XIII, 1957; Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita, translation, The Asiatic Society, Calcutta, 1958; Buddhist Scriptures, Penguin Classics, 1959; The Prajnaparamita Literature, Indo-Iranian Monographs VI, Mouton, The Hague, 1960; A Short of History of Buddhism, Chetana Ltd., Bombay, 1961; The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, Luzac & Co., London and Madison 1961-4; The Gilgit Manuscript of the Astadasasahasrika Prajnaparamita, Edition and translation, Serie Orientale, Roma XXVI, 1962.




An avowed Buddhist from his seventeenth year, Christmas Humphreys does not belong to any particular school of Buddhism. He believes in world Buddhism, and is convinced that “only in a combination of all schools can the full grandeur of Buddhist thought be found.”  To make his view acceptable to world Buddhism, he presented his well-known Twelve Principles in 1945. Translated into fourteen languages, these Twelve Principles have been approved by many sects of Buddhist throughout the world. These Twelve are somewhat similar to the Fourteen Principles presented by Colonel H.S. Olcott in his Buddhist Catechism, which he brought out at the end of the last century.

Humphreys’ wide knowledge of Buddhism, judging from his numerous writings, is based on translations of Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, and Japanese texts. “Of Buddhism in the world today I know more than most, and of Buddhism in the West as much as any man,” he claims.

He is the author of some thirteen books on Buddhism written in popular style. In his latest work, The Buddhist Way of Life, which came out in 1969, he envisages the emergence in the not distant future of a new Buddhism in the West.

At the age of 23, he founded the Buddhist Society in London, which is today one of the biggest Buddhist organizations in Europe. He has travelled widely in all Buddhist lands. For over thirty years he has been a keen student of Zen, the Far Eastern interpretation of Buddhism, and is the British agent for the works of Dr. D.T. Suzuki of Japan, whose works have created the present interest in Zen.

 Nothing to fear from Western science

Bron in London in 1901, Christmas Humphryes is the son of Sir Trevor Humphreys, who was, incidentally, a junior counsel for the prosecution in the Oscar Wilde case. On leaving Cambridge, of which University he is an LL.D>, he was called to the Bar and in due course became Serior Prosecution Counsel at the Old Bailey like his father before him. Today he is a judge of the Old Bailey, and a Q.C. Mrs. Humphreys herself is a keen Buddhist and gives her wholehearted support to her husband’s Buddhist activities.

Humphreys has formed the firm view that “saves in China, the power of Buddhist principles has nowhere declined, and that in several countries it is steadily increasing… Alone of the world’s religions Buddhism has nothing to fear from the activities of the modern Western mind, namely, the higher criticism of previous ideas and alleged authorities, and science, using the term in its largest scope. As to the first, the Buddhist attitude to all phenomena and to all teaching about it has ever been that of the Western scientist. Let all things be examined dispassionately, objectively, assuming nothing, testing all, for such was the Buddha’s own injunction to his followers. Western science today is rapidly approaching the conception of Mind-only, and is remarkable feature of the recent change in the basis physics is that the very terminology of its new discoveries might be paralleled in scriptures compiled some 2,000 years ago. Truly, Buddhism has nothing to fear from Western science, and in the world of mind, including that Cinderella of mental science, psychology, the West has more to learn from Buddhism than as yet it knows.”




Francis J. Payne was a devoted Buddhist worker of England in the early part of the present century. Christmas Humpreys describes him as “a true evangelist who loved the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Shangha as with a living flame.”

Born on 22 July, 1869, in London, Payne was a civil servant with wide cultural interests. As a young man he became interested in Buddhism. He was particularly struck by its broad tolerance and rational approach to life’s baffling problems, and he devoted all his leisure time to making Buddhism better known in Britain.

He was original member of the first Buddhist Society of England, which was founded in 1906 by R.J. Jackson, and was also a member of the Buddhist Society of Great Britain and Ireland, founded two years later. He contributed regularly to the Buddhist Review, the organ of the Society.

On the death of Ananda Metteyya Thera, the English monk who led the Buddhist Mission to England from Burma, Payne took upon himself the mission’s work and carried it on for many years quite successfully.

In his booklet, Early Western Buddhists, 1962, Francis Story, an Englishman, who was devoted Buddhist worker in Ceylon, pays high tribute to Payne’s memory: “He was among the most dedicated and active workers in the field of Buddhism in England,” says Story. “He opened the eyes of his generation to an ancient wisdom long lost to the Western world. His work remains, and will remain long after the law of impermanence has claimed his memory.”

Payne’s son, a 76-year old retired army officer, Lt. Col. E.F.J. Payne, translator of Schopenhauer’s main works into English, says that his father “introduced” him to Buddhism quite early in life and that the “owed an immeasurable debt of gratitude to him.”




One of the best popular writers on Buddhism is John Walters, a British journalist, who retired active journalism a few years ago. He has, in his own words, “studied religious beliefs and their effects from longhouses of the Borneo jungles to revivalist missions in Los Angeles”, and his quest for the most perfect and practical religion has ended in his discovery and acceptance of the Buddhist Way of Life.

His first work, Mind Unshaken: A Modern Approach to Buddhism , which was published while he was yet a working journalist in 1962, is intended for “ordinary practical people.” It offers Buddhism in the clearest possible form, and shows how its principles may solve the problems of the Western people and enlighten their lives. The title of the book is quite appropriate, for to have ‘a mind unshaken’ is one of the thirty-eight blessings the Buddha has enunciated in the Mangala Sutta.

Born in London in 1906, John Walters is the son of a prominent Anglican clergyman. He was educated at Redland Hill House, a theological college, and London University. For two years in his youth he went to sea in the merchant navy, resuming his education on his return. He began studying for the Church, but abandoned this course and entered journalism. He was for sixteen years chief correspondent of the Daily Mirror group of newspapers in the United States and later its chief roving correspondent, during which time he became converted to Buddhism in Thailand. Later, he became a director and general manager of the Longacre Press.

His next work, The Essence of Buddhism,  was published in New York.




Francis Story will be remembered long in the English-speaking Buddhist world as an outstanding exponent of the Teachings of the Buddha enshrined in the Pali canon.

He arrived in Ceylon sixteen years before his death in London on 26 April, 1971, at the age of 60. Earlier, he was in Burma for seven years studying Pali Buddhism. Still earlier he spent two years in India.

He was interested in Buddhism in his fourteenth year, and by sixteen was an avowed Buddhist. He became an Anagarika or a homeless one in the Buddhist dispensation and was well known as Anagarika Sugathananda.

In a tribute to his memory, the Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, states: “In him the B.P.S. has just devoted friend and an irreplaceable helper; the Buddhist world an outstanding exponent of the Teachings. Imbued with deep Daddha, he occupied himself always in using his deep and clear Dhamma understanding and his remarkable literary gifts in writing on the Dhamma, to see that Buddhism be better understood and wider known in the world.”

During the greater part of his sixteen years’ stay in Ceylon he was connected with the Kandy Buddhist Publication Society which circulates books and booklets regularly throughout the world. He was a tower of strength to the editor of the Society’s publications, the Ven. Nyanaponika Maha Thera, the German prelate.

Mr. Story’s books and booklets issued by this Society will stand as a monument to his memory.


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