author expresses his gratitude to the following for granting him
permission to use their copyright material: The American Council of
Learned Societies, New York; The American Oriental Society, New York;
The British Academy, London; Bruno Cassirer (Publishers) Ltd., Oxford;
Charles Scribner’s Sons, (Publishers of the Dictionary of American
Biography), New York; Critical Pali Dictionary, Copenhagen, Denmark;
Harvard University Press; Harvard Oriental Series; Harvard University
Archives; Indisch-Ostansiastiche Seminar der Philipps-Universitat,
Marburg, Germany; Indologisches Seminar der Universitat, Gottingham,
Germany; Pali Text Society, London; Sudasian-Institut der Universitat
Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany; The Open Court Publishing Company,
Chicago, U.S.A.; University of Chicago Press; Westminster Press,
Philadelphia; The Times, London; and Akademie-Verlag, Berlin,
The author is also grateful to various authors whose
names and titles of their works appear in the text and footnotes of this
book in connection with quotations and paraphrases from their books.
William Peiris has devoted his life to literary
pursuits in Ceylon, fulfilling the positions of journalist, editor,
writer, and radio broadcaster. More than this, he has done much to
awaken an interest in Buddhism from the angle of Western contributors in
this vast field.
Last year his paperback on Sir Edwin Arnold –
torchbearer of Buddhism to the West by means of his epic poem, The
Light of Asia – was published by the world-famous Buddhist
Publication Society, Kandy, Ceylon.
Due, no doubt, to the formidable nature of the research
that would be entailed, no one has yet compiled as comprehensive a work
as the present one. It is true that some biographical sketches appeared
at the end of 2500 Years of Buddhism, published by the Government
of India to commemorate the Buddha Jayanti Year, 1956, but those were
largely confined to Pali and Sanskrit scholars, including analyses of
texts and edited or translated by them. The multitude of names normally
associated with the growth, spread and knowledge of Buddhism in the
Occident was thus omitted.
The present work, therefore remedies a serious
deficiency in our knowledge of Buddhist endeavours in Europe and North
America. The author clearly deserves our admiration and respect for the
great efforts that have been undertaken to complete this thesis. No
doubt, individual biographies were to be had for the mere asking, but,
nevertheless, most writers would have found the task of compilation from
numberless sources that daunting even to consider. There is no doubt in
my mind that the author’s dedication to the Buddhadamma induced
him to persevere to the end.
Virtually all the Western European countries, together
with the U.S.A., have made a distinct contribution towards a furtherance
of Buddhist studies, and Mr. Peiris has endeavoured to include in this
work almost all those concerned over a period of one and a half
A fascinating chronicle, this work should become a
text-book for all wishing to pursue a study of Buddhist History.
The London Buddhist Vihara, London.
The idea of this book originated with a friend and
colleague of mine, the late M.T. Jaimon, a former editor of The Times
of Ceylon. A Muslim by religion, he was a serious student of
Buddhism and admired Western scholars of Buddhism. At his invitation I
wrote an article on the Western contribution to Buddhism for his
newspaper. He then suggested that I write a book on the same theme. I
placed his suggestion before Miss I.B. Horner, President, Pali Text
Society, London, who readily commended it. Another distinguished
orientalist, Professor G. Tucci of Rome, has also commended it.
The work involved me in considerable research. In the
collection of material from Britain, the continent, and America, I have
had the generous assistance of a number of distinguished scholars,
active Buddhist workers, learned societies, and other institutions. Miss
Horner herself supplied me with details about some of the British
scholars, obtained for me the help of a few German scholars, and made
valuable suggestions, for which I offer her my most grateful thanks.
I am indebted to Mrs. Maya Keller-Grimm, daughter of
George Grimm, the celebrated interpreter of Buddhism; Max Hoppe, his
devoted disciple; and Mrs. Emily Knothe, all of the Altbuddhistische
Geinde, Utting am Ammersee, Germany, for obtaining for me material about
German scholars. I am specially thankful to Mrs. Knothe for her
translations from the German into English.
The invaluable services rendered to me by Prof. Winston
L. King of Vanderbilt University, United States, and Lt.-Col. E.F.J.
Payne of Sussex, U.K., have placed me very much in their debt.
Prof. Hans Hendriksen, the then Editor of Critical Pali
Dictionary, Denmark, detailed Mrs. Else Pauly, a distinguished member of
his editorial staff, to assist me. She went out of her way to dig into
past records in the big libraries of Denmark to be of assistance to me.
To them I am deeply grateful.
Likewise, Prof. Wilfrid C. Smith, Head of the
Department of Religion, Harvard University, detailed a don of his
department, Prof. Masatoshi Nagatomi, to assist me. I am thankful to
I am particularly thankful to my friend, Ashley Perera
of Nugegoda, Ceylon, and Dr. Brooks Wright of New York – the former for
placing his magnificent library at my disposal and the latter for
readily giving me permission to use his copyright material.
The others whom I desire to thank for services rendered
to me are: Prof. Daniel H.H. Ingalls, Editor of the Harvard Oriental
Series; Mr. H. Butterfield, Registrar, Peterhouse, Cambridge; Dr. F.H.
Stubbings of Emmanuel College, Cambridge; the Ven. Nyanaponika Maha
Thera, Head of the Forest Hermitage, Kandy, Ceylon; the Ven Dr. H.
Saddhatissa Maha Thera, Head of the London Buddhist Vihara; Mr.Russell
Webb of the London Maha Bodhi Society; Fraulein Ilse Seidenstucker,
daughter of the famous Dr. Karl Seidenstucker of Leipzig, Germany; Mrs.
Moodah, widow of M.T. Jaimon, of Nugegoda, Ceylon; Mr. J. Ginige of
Ambalangoda, Ceylon; Mr. D.G.S. Wanigaratne of Mt. Lavinia, Ceylon; Mr.
Tikiri Dissanayake of Colombo, Ceylon; my wife, and my daughters, Mrs.
I. Dharmasena, Mrs. Rohini Gunatunga, Miss Savitri Peiris, Miss
Surangani Peiris, B.A. (Ceylon), and Miss Manjari Peiris, and Mr. W.B.
My task was made easy by my friend, Winston I. Rodrigo,
who edited my script with his characteristic thoroughness. He bears no
responsibility for any defects that remain.
To the publishers I owe a special debt of gratitude for
Finally, it must be stated that this is by no means a
scholarly work. As a journalist I have written this book to place on
record in an integrated form, and to communicate to as many as possible,
the facts of the massive contribution of the West to the understanding
Republic of Sri Lanka