Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Thu Jul 23, 2020 7:46 am

Part 1 of 2

Local Agency in Global Movements: Negotiating Forms of Buddhist Cosmopolitanism in the Young Men’s Buddhist Associations of Darjeeling and Kalimpong [YMBA]
by Kalzang Dorjee Bhutia
Grinnell College




Darjeeling and Kalimpong have long played important roles in the development of global knowledge about Tibetan and Himalayan religions.[1] While both trade centres became known throughout the British empire for their recreational opportunities, favourable climate, and their famous respective exports of Darjeeling tea and Kalimpong wool, they were both the centres of a rich, dynamic, and as time went on, increasingly hybrid cultural life. Positioned as they were on the frontier between the multiple states of India, Bhutan, Sikkim, Tibet, and Nepal, as well as the British and Chinese empires, Darjeeling and Kalimpong were also both home to multiple religious traditions. From the mid-nineteenth century onwards, Christian missionaries from Britain developed churches and educational institutions there in an attempt to gain a foothold in the hills. Their task was not an easy one, due to the strength of local traditions and the political and economic dominance of local Tibetan-derived Buddhist monastic institutions, which functioned as satellite institutions and commodity brokers for the nearby Buddhist states of Tibet, Sikkim, and Bhutan. British colonial administrators and scholars from around the world took advantage of the easy proximity of these urban centres for their explorations, and considered them as museums of living Buddhism. While Tibet remained closed for all but a lucky few, other explorers, Orientalist scholars, and administrators considered Darjeeling and Kalimpong as micro-versions of Tibet. As a consequence, their religious institutions, and more notably, the individuals linked to them, became convenient centres for the study of Buddhism as it was constructed by global intellectual networks.[2]

However, the representation of the Buddhism in this area as a form of diluted Tibetan Buddhism by Orientalist scholars and colonial administrators is problematic, and obscures the far more complex cosmopolitan interactions that were taking place under the surface between different traditions. Not only did a number of the Sikkimese and Bhutanese residents of these towns practice their own unique forms of Buddhism, but other ethno-cultural groups, including the Newars from Nepal, were part of broader global Buddhist movements of reform and revival. This paper seeks to validate the important place that both Darjeeling and Kalimpong played in the cosmopolitan networks of the modern Buddhist revival taking place in the twentieth century throughout Asia and further afield in Europe, America, and burgeoning communities in colonial states in the Pacific. It will do so by focusing on the activities of two branches of the Young Men’s Buddhist Association, based in Darjeeling and Kalimpong, respectively, between the 1930s and 1960s. While the name of these organisations suggests that they were both affiliated to an association founded in Colombo, Ceylon[3] in 1898, their local histories were far more complex and show the importance of local agency in global movements. The identities of the respective founders of these associations represent the abundance of global interactions and the diversity of forms of Buddhist cosmopolitanism characteristic of this period.

The Darjeeling branch was established by a Sikkimese aristocrat turned Ceylon-educated Theravadin monk and educational reformer named Kazi Pak Tséring (‘Phags tshe ring,[4] also known as S. K. Jinorasa, 1895/6?–1943). The founder of the Kalimpong branch was Dennis Lingwood (born 1925), an ambitious British army deserter and poet, who converted to Buddhism in his late teens and, after ordination in Asia, took the name Sangharakshita. Both of these figures also had distinctive visions for their organisations, and both have left different legacies that reflect the fate of civil societies, social clubs, and other global networks in the era of post-world war nationalism. One thing they did have in common, though, was the use of forms of colonial social organisation in order to reimagine Buddhism as the source of an alternative modernity beyond the state in the modern world.

The local histories of these very different characters place Darjeeling and Kalimpong into broader trends of organisations, associations, and societies that asserted the potential of religion to function as a source of translocal political affiliation that could counter colonial critiques of indigenous traditions and identity. However, with the events of the mid-twentieth century, including decolonisation in South Asia, the rise of Communism in China, and the triumph of nationalism, these religious networks and forms of Buddhist cosmopolitanism were considerably changed. While different Buddhist traditions and their respective cultures became further globalised, this took place in a new marketplace of spiritual consumption, where religious traditions were also commodified and, in some ways, homogenised to facilitate their expansion. The kind of hybridity that characterised the inter-cultural and inter-traditional exchange facilitated by global cultural and social associations during the early twentieth century disappeared. The result was that the local histories of movements such as the Young Men’s Buddhist Association, which historically played an important role in these global movements, have often become obscured.

Buddhist modernity as an alternative modernity: The Young Men’s Buddhist Association as a global movement

The Young Men’s Buddhist Association was by no means a unique organisation for its time. A common form of social organisation in colonial societies was the establishment of new associations in colonial centers from where they radiated outwards, bringing together otherwise disparate racial and caste communities in groups with shared social goals. These associations were significant due to their similar outward form as they spread across different communities, and to their role in encouraging the adoption of ideal colonial behaviours among local elites and Anglophiles. The Rotary Association is a pertinent example of a socially-minded organisation that required its local members to adopt a British upper-class sense of propriety which bound together colonial and local elites in different environments.[5]

Religious associations were another form of these groups, with the added motivation of evangelisation and conversion. These associations were distinct from missionary organisations that were often limited in their goals. The foundation of the Young Men’s Christian Association (known more popularly as the YMCA) in 1844 challenged the usual focus on conversion and responded to the needs of industrialising societies by providing recreational as well as religious activities for young people moving into urban centres. These activities included the founding of educational and athletic institutions which would encourage the development of a healthy “mind, body, and spirit.”[6] As the YMCA opened in the cities of colonial Latin America, Asia, and Africa, these institutions became part of an informal colonial structure, whereby local members of the community were inculcated with colonial attitudes and ideas regarding religion, the mind, and the body through informal interaction and activity.[7]

However, these were not merely unidirectional movements established by colonial elites. Local agents and groups interacted with the ideas propagated by these groups and utilised these forms of social organisation in different ways for anti-colonial purposes as well. Importantly, associations connected with Asian religions also began to appear alongside religious revival movements. Mark Frost has outlined how, in Indian Ocean port cities, movements and associations developed through the use of new technologies, such as newspapers, periodicals, and the telegram, and educational facilities including schools and universities were established as part of the consolidation of the colonial state. These associations were founded by members of “a non-European, western-educated professional class that serviced the requirements of expanding international commercial interests and the simultaneous growth of the imperial state.” Their establishment was motivated partly in response to pressures that colonialism exerted on traditional social practices, as well as in response to the development of Orientalist depictions that dismissed their cultural heritage. These networks saw local intellectuals draw on modernized forms of their own traditions for social, political, and educational change in response to these critiques. These activities often fed into the rise of nationalist movements, as among Hindu groups in India and the South Asian diaspora, who used religion and culture as central elements in the creation of discrete identities that could act as social binders.[8]

The YMCA in India represented one such association.[9] While it took several attempts for it to be firmly established, the current association, organised in 1875, began as a missionary forum for inculcating Christian values through Bible study and prayer meetings. However, it was not synonymous with the colonial state, as many of the early foreign participants and founders were Americans, who had travelled to India as part of the set of broader American Christian activities that Ian Tyrell has named “America’s moral empire” that aimed to spread American ideals of democracy and freedom (including support of Indian independence), but without state interests.[10] [dubious -- discuss] The YMCA India quickly developed from a foreign-dominated group into a more complex organisation where Indian leaders worked to respond to local social issues, especially related to education and politics, and took part in global Christian networks.[11] Other religious communities then replicated elements of the YMCA’s organisational success, with Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh communities establishing similar associations in the late nineteenth century around their own concerns.

Buddhism was noteworthy in this context because, like Islam, its historical presence in a number of Asian countries could be used as a platform for both cosmopolitanism and nationalism. It was also interesting due to its popularity and sympathetic representation in European and American intellectual cultures, where it was presented as an Asian tradition whose rationalism, empiricism, democratic tendencies, and philosophical tradition made it compatible with modernity.[12] Conveniently, it had largely died out in India, which left its contemporary status there open for interpretation by colonial scholars and administrators as well as local intellectuals, while Ceylon and Burma, two of the places where it was still active, were both British colonies, allowing easy access for Western scholars and spiritual seekers.

Ceylon was the locus of several important Buddhist revival movements and was cited in anti-colonial discourse as a prominent site of local identity. This prominence had developed out of the famous Buddhist-Christian debates of the late nineteenth century, particularly the 1873 debates at Panadura, in which Buddhist intellectuals took on Christian missionaries, using their same rhetoric and technologies to triumph in public reassertions of Buddhist superiority. These successes were widely celebrated in both English and Sinhala newspapers at home and abroad. They were key moments in overcoming missionary hegemony, long connected with the control exercised by foreign political and economic establishments. The Theosophists, another influential global movement, took an interest in Ceylonese Buddhism and played a key role in the dissemination of news regarding the triumph of Buddhism over Christian missionaries. The leaders of the movement, Madame Helena Blavatsky (1831–1891) and Colonel Henry Olcott (1832–1907), travelled to Ceylon in 1880 after reading about the Panadura debates, and promoted their own understanding of Buddhism through public rituals and the creation of the Buddhist Theosophical Society in Colombo.[13] Olcott’s experiences in Ceylon led him to write the influential explanatory text The Buddhist Catechism, in which he promoted his own American and Protestant version of Buddhism with its emphasis on textualisation, rationalism, and demystification.[14] The Buddhist Catechism was widely circulated in Ceylon and further afield, consolidating Buddhist movements both locally and globally with its clear, accessible, and modernist interpretations of Buddhist lore and philosophy.

Q. Was the Buddha God?

A. No. Buddha Dharma teaches no "divine" incarnation.

Q. Was he a man?

A. Yes; but the wisest, noblest and most holy being, who had developed himself in the course of countless births far beyond all other beings, the previous BUDDHAS alone excepted.

Q. Are these wonder-working powers miraculous?

A. No, but natural to all men and capable of being developed by a certain course of training.

Q. And what is that which is most valuable?

A. To know the whole secret of man's existence and destiny, so that we may estimate at no more than their actual value this life and its relations; and so that we may live in a way to ensure the greatest happiness and the least suffering for our fellow-men and ourselves.

Q. What is Nirvāna?

A. A condition of total cessation of changes, of perfect rest, of the absence of desire and illusion and sorrow, of the total obliteration of everything that goes to make up the physical man. Before reaching Nirvāna man is constantly being reborn; when he reaches Nirvāna he is born no more.

Q. What causes us to be reborn?

A. The unsatisfied selfish desire (Skt., trshnā; Pālī, tanhā) for things that belong to the state of personal existence in the material world. This unquenched thirst for physical existence (bhāva) is a force, and has a creative power in itself so strong that it draws the being back into mundane life.

Q. Does Buddhism teach that man is reborn only upon our earth?

A. As a general rule that would be the case, until he had evolved beyond its level; but the inhabited worlds are numberless. The world upon which a person is to have his next birth, as well as the nature of the rebirth itself, is decided by the preponderance of the individual's merit or demerit. In other words, it will be controlled by his attractions, as science would describe it; or by his Karma, as we, Buddhists, would say.

-- The Buddhist Catechism, by Henry S. Olcott

The interest in Ceylon as a site for Buddhist revival was not limited to Westerners. One of modern Buddhism’s most famous transnational activists, Anagarika Dharmapala (1864–1933), was originally from Colombo. While he is remembered for promoting meditation, Sunday schools, and other elements of Buddhist modernism among the bilingual elites of Ceylon and further afield,[15] his motivations and viewpoints were complex; he was also known for articulating communalist ideas, and is remembered as an early nationalist. Outside of Ceylon he was a widely known lecturer and participant in high-profile meetings, including the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1892, and was also the leader of the Maha Bodhi Society, which aimed to rejuvenate Bodh Gaya as a transnational centre for Buddhist communities.[16]

While the Maha Bodhi Society had perhaps the greatest visibility among these global Buddhist associations, other organisations had their own agendas. The Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA) was originally founded in Colombo, Ceylon, in 1898 by a group of English-language educated elites. While materials related to its founding do not cite the YMCA as an influence,[17] the name of the organisation and its goals can be seen as mirroring the YMCA. According to the founders of the movement, the purpose of the YMBA was to promote the study and encourage the practice of Buddhism, and to provide a forum for the discussion of related subjects.[18] In its actual activities, the YMBA very consciously mirrored Christian missionary organisations. It held Sunday schools, where Buddhist children dressed in white sang hymns to the Buddha. It helped to disseminate Olcott’s Buddhist Catechism. Its additional activities included the foundation of educational institutions, including groups providing free coaching and tuition in academic topics, and recreational facilities for young men. It published The Buddhist, which functioned as a site for the dissemination of modern Buddhist ideology as well as news and opinions that would help to build a community.[19] Like the YMCA, it spread to other Southeast Asian colonial cities such as Rangoon and Singaporein the early twentieth century, and eventually as far afield as Japan and England. The Buddhist was also widely disseminated within the broader networks of Buddhist sympathisers of the day.

As with many Christian missionary organisations, the YMBA did not have a consistent ideology as it travelled. While many Buddhist leaders at the time, such as Olcott and Charles Pfoundes (1840–1907), attempted to found global Buddhist movements with strong central ideologies and activities,[20] the YMBAs that appeared around the world were often quite separate from the Ceylon YMBA, with activities that were guided by local interests and agency. An example of this is the YMBA established in Burma in the first decade of the twentieth century. Alicia Turner argues that this YMBA was representative of other social organisations in colonial Burma that functioned to bring Burmese people into a “moral community” dedicated to promoting and “saving” Buddhism in a time of rapid change.[21] It came to be regarded as an important early nationalist organisation, as its founders had promoted the phrase “To be Burmese is to be Buddhist” in order to define a religious and national identity for themselves and others in their local western-educated, cosmopolitan circles.[22]


The Young Men's Buddhist Association (YMBA) (Burmese: ဗုဒ္ဓဘာသာ ကလျာဏယုဝအသင်း) was a Buddhist cultural organisation in Burma.

The YMBA was founded in Rangoon in 1906 as a federation of lay Buddhist groups dating back to 1898, with prominent founders including Ba Pe, U Kin, May Oung and Joseph Maung Gyi. It was modelled on the Young Men's Buddhist Association founded in Ceylon in 1898, and was created to preserve the Buddhist-based culture in Burma against the backdrop of British colonialism including the incorporation of Burma into India.

The YMBA started its first open campaign against British rule in 1916, and after many protests obtained a ruling that abbots could impose dress codes on all visitors to Buddhists monasteries.

The organisation split in 1918 when older members insisted that it should remain apolitical, whilst younger members sought to enter the political sphere, sending a delegation to India to meet the Viceroy and Secretary of State to request the separation of Burma from India. Further lobbying delegations were sent to London in 1919 and 1920. Following its key involvement in the 1920 student strike, the most nationalist elements of the YMBA broke off and formed a political party known as the General Council of Burmese Associations, whilst a senior faction later formed the Independent Party.

The organisation founded multiple schools. It was one of the key organisations in the start of nationalist sentiment in Burma.

-- Young Men's Buddhist Association (Burma), by Wikipedia

The YMBA as a movement was thus far from centralised, but the continued invocation of the YMBA “brand” was important for the legitimacy of the organization, and for reinforcing the idea of a global community of Buddhists. This local autonomy was particularly important in the case of the YMBA, for it allowed for the assertion of local agency in reaction to different political situations.

The lack of a centralised administration means that tracing the genealogy and interconnected history of these local organisations can be difficult. However, the fact that the same “brand” was adopted locally remains significant for understanding the development of international and inter-traditional Buddhist links during this period, leading to the creation of an imagined, if not actual, Buddhist cosmopolitanism. This cosmopolitanism provided its members with a sense of shared identity, and a platform for the assertion of Buddhism as a modern ideology in the face of missionary and colonial critiques of local traditions. Studying the local adaptations of the YMBA brand also allows for an understanding of just how widely the idea of Buddhist modernism was accepted in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a crucial moment for global networking and anti-colonial organising.

Reassessing Buddhist modernism in the Himalayas: Buddhist institutions and colonialism in Darjeeling and Kalimpong

The establishment of YMBAs in Darjeeling and Kalimpong marked salient moments in the local adaptation of these global movements. These branches were among the most remote of the organisation, but were to have significant influence on their local environments and later, particularly in the case of Kalimpong, on a global level. Historically, Darjeeling and Kalimpong had been part of the Buddhist kingdoms of Sikkim and Bhutan. British trade interests had led to the annexation of Darjeeling by the East India Company in 1835. Originally it had been a small village, centred around a monastery founded in the 1740s as a summer residence by the eighteenth century Sikkimese Buddhist savant Dzokchen Khenchen Rölpé Dorjé (Rdzogs chen mkhan chen Rol pa’i rdo rje).[23] Other monasteries in the area had different institutional affiliations. Ging Monastery, the most venerable one, was part of the Sikkimese royal monastery Pemayangtsé’s estate, and as a consequence Darjeeling was under the nominal political control of the royal lamas. The annexation of Darjeeling by the British therefore had significant religious as well as political consequences. While monasteries and temples continued to operate, those that had been satellite institutions of Sikkimese monasteries saw a decline in patronage. This decline was exacerbated by the arrival of new forms of religiosity. The process of conflict and accommodation between Buddhism and Christianity is powerfully represented in the story of Observatory Hill. Observatory Hill had originally been the site of a Mahakala Shrine patronised by diverse Buddhist and Hindu cultural groups. The original Pemayangtse satellite monastery was situated here as well. When in the 1850s the British built a church here, the local congregants complained to the authorities that the rituals in the monastery were too loud and disruptive. To accommodate British requests, the monastery was thus forced to move, losing its cosmologically significant position at the centre of Darjeeling.[24] This loss of position symbolised the loss of local agency more generally in Darjeeling. The arrival of more Christian congregations and missionaries further marginalised local religions and cultural communities.

In contrast to Darjeeling’s religious foundations, before the arrival of the British, Kalimpong was already an important trade centre for the exchange of yak wool and musk in Himalayan trade networks, particularly between Tibet, Bhutan, and Sikkim. Originally a part of Sikkim, it was absorbed into Bhutan in 1700 during Bhutan’s occupation of Sikkim (1700 and 1708). It became part of Bengal when the British invaded Bhutan in 1864 and captured the Dooars in early 1865. Later in the year, a formal treaty fixed the new border, and most of the Bhutanese territory in the plains was ceded to the British, along with the sliver of hill tract that included Kalimpong.[25] In 1866 the tract was added to the administrative District of Darjeeling. It was home to a number of different trans-Himalayan cultural groups, who established their own places of worship around the central bazaar. As with Darjeeling, the arrival of Christian missionaries led to the development of a shared religious and cultural space in Kalimpong, though due to its position as an important trade and economic centre between empires, Buddhism was not as marginalised. The appearance and gradual dominance of Christian missionary schools did, however, produce a new form of local identity. The local elites who sent their children there, including the royal families of Sikkim and Bhutan, did so in order to provide their children with what was considered a “modern” education, which would presumably provide them with more awareness of colonial society, thereby creating a more even standing with the British. The missionaries, for their part, believed they were leading a civilising mission in the hills. The power dynamics produced by these missionary institutions in Kalimpong were complex, and rather than creating a ground for asserting colonial authority and mind-set, local agents used this mind-set to their own economic and political advantage. Educational experiments with local students in Darjeeling were similarly ambiguous in their outcome. While the Darjeeling Government High School was created in 1891 by the British authorities to train indigenous collaborators, particularly for surveillance work in Tibet, only some of the pandits that were trained ended up collecting materials in Tibet, while others took part in local modernisation and anti-colonial movements. As a consequence, the school’s program was discontinued.[26]

The appearance of the YMBA and Buddhist organisations is another example of how a global movement, with its beginnings as a mirror organization of a colonial association, was modified to fit local needs. The appearance of the YMBA in the eastern Himalayas contradicts widely held assumptions regarding the absence of modern forms of Buddhism in Tibetan communities throughout the Himalayas, articulated among others by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. when he wrote,

Modern Buddhism did not come to Tibet. There were no movements to ordain women, no publication of Buddhist magazines, no formation of lay Buddhist societies, no establishment of orphanages, no liberal critique of Buddhism as contrary to scientific progress, no Tibetan delegates to the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago, no efforts by Tibetans to found world Buddhist organizations.[27]

In light of more recent research, the “modern Buddhism” characterized in this list might be too narrowly defined. The Tibetan State and other practitioners of Tibetan-derived Buddhism elsewhere in the Himalayas were not as isolated as this quote might suggest. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama, for example, was very interested in reform, and was a member of the international Maha Bodhi Society. The Oxford-educated Sikkimese prince (and later king) Sidkeong Tulku was also deeply interested in modern Buddhist organisations and in Buddhist reform in Sikkim.[28] The eastern Himalayas were also a crucial link in broader scholarly debate about Buddhism, as much of the scholarly and popular information regarding Tibetan Buddhism was transferred through the same trade networks that linked Darjeeling and Kalimpong with the rest of the British empire via the European and American scholars visiting the area. These included the British civil servant/scholar L. A. Waddell (1854–1938), the Belgian-French author-explorer Alexandra David-Neel (1868–1969), the Italian author Marco Pallis (1895–1989), and American self-styled mystical seeker Theos Bernard (1908–1947).[29]

The appearance of the YMBA in these areas, linked as they were by the circulation of people, commodities, and ideas facilitated by empire, is not surprising. However, the personalities that founded these associations, and their relationships with colonial authorities and broader global networks, reveal the very different ways Buddhism could be used for social organization. The founder of the Darjeeling YMBA, Kazi Pak Tséring, and the Kalimpong branch, Sangharakshita, both had complex and differing attitudes towards Buddhism as a cultural artefact and device for social and political change.

The Darjeeling YMBA (founded c. 1930): Education and Theravada anti-colonialism in the activities of Kazi Pak Tséring

In 1938 a new school was constructed on the road leading to lower Bhutia Basti, down the path from Chowrastra, the bustling centre of Darjeeling. It was prominent due to its distinctive gate, next to a large stupa that enclosed a white Burmese Buddha statue. Beneath the shrine large letters read: “YOUNG MEN’S BUDDHIST ASSOCIATION HEAD-OFFICE.SCHOOL.&c” [sic]. At 9am every morning, children in smart pressed school uniforms streamed through the gate into the simple white-washed two-floored school to begin the day in a unique way. Rather than reciting a Christian or even Tibetan prayer, the sound of Pali would instead echo from the school room, as the children “took refuge” in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. How did such an institution come to appear in the environment of Darjeeling? And who was the yellow-robed figure bustling about the premises who lived in one of the rooms downstairs?

This figure was no other than Kazi Pak Tséring, a Lepcha from Sikkim and a Theravada monk who went by the Pali name S. K. Jinorasa. The story of Kazi Pak Tséring and how he came to establish the YMBA Darjeeling is a complex one, which speaks to the complexities of adapting colonial rule to local culture in the eastern Himalayas, as well as forms of local response. More generally, this figure represents how traditions such as Buddhism could be modified and renegotiated to represent an alternative form of modernity and social change for individual agents and intellectuals, who cannot be categorised simply as either pro-British Anglophiles or rebellious nationalists.[30] The parts of his life story that can be documented suggest a different approach for understanding such figures, and the attempt to string them together here takes as its model Alicia Turner, Laurence Cox, and Brian Bocking’s work on the mysterious monk Dhammaloka, who was also a key figure in a number of transnational Buddhist networks.[31] Pak Tséring’s life also highlights the ways in which colonial authorities were beginning to interfere with everyday life in Sikkim.

Kazi Pak Tséring was born in Pakyong in 1895 or 1896, into the family of the famous Sikkimese Phodrang Lama Karma Tenkyong (Pho drang bla ma Kar ma bstan skyong) of the aristocratic Khangsarpa clan. The Phodrang Lamas had risen to power during the reign of the sixth Sikkimese king, Tendzin Namgyel (Bstan ’dzin rnam rgyal, c. nineteenth century).[32] By the late nineteenth century, Phodrang Lama was one of the most powerful men in Sikkim, particularly due to his close relationship with the British authorities. He died around the turn of the century, leaving two young sons, one of whom was Pak Tséring. Pak Tséring received an education under the patronage of Sidkeong Tulku, the crown prince of Sikkim, who had become interested in modernizing Sikkim. Sidkeong was interested in educating the children of Sikkimese elites, especially Kazis, or landlords, so that they could take part in the colonial state, with a view to eventually gaining more authority. In order to do this, in 1905 he proposed the founding of a school, which came to be known as Bhutia Boarding School. Pak Tséring was part of the original Bhutia Boarding School class of 1906.

In 1912, the powerful land holder Jeerung Dewan Karma Drugyü (Kar ma grub rgyud, ?–1912) passed away at his estate at Chakung in western Sikkim. He left behind two wives and vast estates in Darjeeling and Chakung. He also left behind a complex legal situation, as he had no heir and therefore, according to Sikkimese law, his estates were to revert to State management. In order to counter the State’s claims to the land, his family claimed to have adopted the seventeen-year-old Kazi Pak Tséring.[33] Charles Bell, the British Political Officer in charge of the Sikkimese state, was skeptical of these claims, and so began a drawn-out series of court cases. Though Pak Tséring was involved in these cases for several years, it appears that by 1919 he wanted to escape from the bureaucratic entanglements, and signed over his legal rights and representation to his cousin Yishay Wangchuk.[34]

His next destination was far from conventional. At around this time (no exact dates are available), Pak Tséring travelled to Ceylon. As no official records of his travels remain in Sikkimese or in Sri Lankan archives, he must have done so independently, without State sanction. It remains unclear why he decided to travel to Ceylon and what he did there, but when he returned to Sikkim in the 1920s, he had taken ordination in the Theravada tradition and was now calling himself D. S. (later S. K.) Jinorasa.[35] He was not the only Sikkimese Vajrayana Buddhist to convert to Theravada at this time. Pemba Tendup (Pad ma bstan sgrub), or as he became known, S. Mahinda Thero, was another student who had received educational patronage from Sidkeong. He lived in Ceylon for more than three decades, and became a famous poet and supporter of Sri Lankan independence.[36] Had Pak Tséring been influenced by Mahinda’s story? Perhaps. It is also rumoured that he spent time studying in Burma; in Sikkim in the 1930s he was nicknamed “Burma gélong” (Burma bhikkhu) in recognition of his time abroad and his unique form of Buddhism.[37]

After Pak Tséring returned to Darjeeling and Chakung he quickly emerged as an important Buddhist figure through his establishment of a Darjeeling branch of the Young Men’s Buddhist Association. While the exact date of establishment is not clear, it was certainly already active before the founding of a similar initiative in Gangtok, which Pak Tséring may have been involved with as well. In July 1928, Sonam Tséring (Bsod nams tshe ring) submitted an application to the eleventh king of Sikkim, Tashi Namgyal (Bkra shis rnam rgyal), to be allowed to establish a YMBA in Gangtok, claiming that such an organization would “improve the welfare and social interest” of the Sikkimese.[38] The purposes of the group were very general, and “[a]ny Buddhist having sympathy for the movement” was eligible to join. Despite the English language rules set out in the document and its formal tone, to the YMBA enthusiasts in Gangtok, the organisation appeared to be an excuse to continue with other pre-established forms of local practice. For example, on the submitted list of compulsory group activities, a number of Sikkimese practices were included, such as donations for ill members, “Khimsar Trashi” (Khim gsar bkra shis) for new house consecrations in the group, and “Thoongton” for new births in their families. More noteworthy was the provision that “No members shall be allowed to bring any kind of intoxicating drink wherever the meeting takes place.”[39] The king approved the application, noting that the organization had been successful elsewhere, including in Darjeeling.[40] The Political Officer asked for more information related to the size and purpose of the organization, but the ultimate fate of the proposal is not available in the Sikkim State Archives. The YMBA in Sikkim never held any prominent public office or organised events, and it thus appears to have been founded for the purposes of admiration and imitation of the Darjeeling branch, rather than to contribute to the broader local social life or the transnational movement.

In contrast, Pak Tséring’s namesake organization in Darjeeling was to become very active and influential. One of the earliest mentions we find of the YMBA in any official record is in a letter that he wrote to the YMBA in Ceylon, which was published in The Buddhist in 1931:

Our friend Mr. Phagtsring [i.e. Pak Tséring] of Darjeeling writes, “I am building a small family boarding at Bhutia Basty to give native education to boys and girls. I have now nearly completed the building, and I hope I can open the School in July. I am also having a small Vihara and rooms for Bhikkhus on the top floor so I can give accommodation to the Bhikkhus.”[41]

This small note remains as the only official correspondence related to the YMBA in Darjeeling. However, the YMBA Darjeeling became locally well known, particularly as an educational institution, but also for its connection with other religious and educational groups. It was based in Bhutia Busti, an area to which Pak Tséring had links through his Phodong Lama ancestry. Originally housed in a simple shed, a large two-storied school building was eventually constructed. It received sponsorship from the sons of Raja Seth Baldeo Das Birla “for the followers of Arya Dharma (Buddhists and Hindus),” and was consolidated in 1938 under a group of trustees, made up of elite members from the local community.[42]

Although Pak Tséring had planned to open the YMBA in 1931, the first official class was only enrolled on April 24th, 1935. From the beginning, the students at the school were a mixed bunch from different classes, castes, and ethnicities. While many of the Bhutia children were the offspring of the local lamas, the Lepchas and “Kami” caste members from different Nepali-speaking communities were from families connected with a variety of vocations, including, according to the log book, meat sellers, rickshaw-sardars, clerks, tailors, gold-smiths, and electricians.[43] While most schools in the area had many different ethnic communities in attendance, the YMBA school was unique due to its representation of diverse economic groups and vocations. With its robust curriculum, it soon made a name for itself, as its junior students gained admission to some of the most prestigious higher educational institutions in the Darjeeling and Kalimpong area, and also due to its excellent English language tuition. Many students from the school went on to have distinguished civil service careers.[44]

Another point in which the YMBA school differed from other local schools was its distinctly Buddhist character. Unlike the prestigious local missionary schools, religious proselytisation was not a major goal for the school, although Buddhist festivals were observed and there were daily prayers. As has been said, these were in Pali, reflecting Pak Tséring’s dedication to his status as a Theravada monk. The Buddhist element of the school was emphasised more in its secondary purpose, as a research institute. While records of activities related to this element of the YMBA are sparse, there are letters between Pak Tséring (alias Jinorasa) and well-known scholars and explorers who passed through Darjeeling in the 1930s and early 1940s. The famous modern Tibetan scholar Gendün Chöpel (Dge ’dun chos ’phel, 1903–1951?) lived at the school for eighteen months from 1935, and taught Tibetan there in exchange for food, lodging, and English tutorials.[45] He also gave much assistance to Theos Bernard, the American explorer and yoga enthusiast who later visited Tibet and had planned to start a Tibetan studies institution in the United States with Gendün Chöpel acting as the main translator. Bernard met Pak Tséring (whom he knew as Jinorasa) around 1936, and found him to be enormously well-connected and knowledgeable.[46] Letters exchanged between them show shared interests in Buddhist studies. Pak Tséring informed Bernard of his plans to translate major Tibetan texts,[47] which was noteworthy given Pak Tséring’s status as a Theravada monk.

Pak Tséring did not render this assistance without expectation of return. In 1940 and 1941, Pak Tséring wrote to Bernard three times, each time requesting donations for the school and the association. He justified his requests, saying that,

America is a very rich country so please try to give me some financial help and induce your friends to help the Association by sending some substantial contributions. The money spent on this Association will not go in vain and it will help the Association in doing more useful works for the humanity. Today the world is being ruined by wars. This is nothing but [the] outcome of hatred, ignorance, and greed among the people and nations. We must therefore, try to contribute some very useful thing to the world so that the world will be free from the useless bloodshed and will enjoy peace and Universal brotherhood.[48]

In other letters, he appealed to Bernard and promised research assistance in return. Not at all a passive local informant, Pak Tséring was aware that without local guidance and assistance, scholars such as Bernard would not be able to realize their ambitions, and he used this reasoning with potential donors for well-argued pleas for assistance. It appears, however, that Bernard’s assistance to the YMBA was never substantial.

The main reason why Pak Tséring was in need of financial assistance was due to the YMBA’s activities beyond Darjeeling in west Sikkim, particularly around Chakung. Today, his major legacy is his founding of several secular schools for children of all backgrounds in west Sikkim. The first of these schools was established in 1934 in Chakung, even before the Darjeeling school was completed. This suggests that the court cases had eventually been resolved and provided him with at least a small home. While local oral tradition states that as early as 1915 Pak Tséring was providing education for children of the Chakung estate in his own house, a formal school was established in 1934 with around thirty local village children attending.[49] This was the first school of its kind in Sikkim. Previously, secular schools had been established only for sons of the landholding elite and civil servants, while all other schools were run by missionaries. Therefore, establishing schools for all children was considered very new and quite radical. This demonstrated Pak Tséring’s continued ties with the area and commitment to the school, and his name continued to appear in meeting minutes until 1939. The school at Chakung quickly established a reputation for its unique mission and excellence, despite its fiscal problems, and even the king of Sikkim praised its work on tours in the 1930s.[50] Pak Tséring also presided over the establishment of schools at Kaluk, Hee-gaon, Mangalbarey, Soring, Namchi, Gezing, and Timboorbong.[51] Graduates were often sent to be teachers elsewhere, and despite the enormous challenges faced in raising money for the schools and their infrastructure, they had a huge impact on Sikkimese society, and many have become government schools today.

How did Pak Tséring go from being a disenfranchised young Kazi railing against the Political Officer to a Theravadin bhikkhu establishing schools throughout the state? The connection between these different periods of his life remains unclear. One possible explanation is that he was inspired by the YMBA, since the Association was active elsewhere in Asia in promoting non-missionary education. His personal background might provide another explanation. As a child of privilege, Pak Tséring had gained the favour of Sidkeong Tulku and had received a modern education. However, unlike his peers, he lost some of his privilege when the State complicated the recognition of his adoption and he lost his family lands. A number of students who benefited from his educational ventures posit that his difficult circumstances made him sympathetic to the suffering of commoners, and that he felt education could provide them with alternatives to both British colonialism and the Sikkimese monarchy, which had been significantly weakened by British governance.[52] Unlike his father and uncle, Pak Tséring did not benefit from his association with the British administration, which might explain why he was critical of both the colonial administration and the monarchy. His vision for the future, which included free education for all, suggested a third, alternate trajectory beyond either colonialism or a return to the monarchy.

This vision was never realised. On the 24th of February, 1943, Pak Tséring jumped from a bridge on the road between Darjeeling and Chakung, his body carried away by the rapid currents of a river near Nayabazaar. As with many suicides, the reasons remain unclear. The news shocked his colleagues. He had appeared happy and successful, at peace with his situation in life. Oral narratives suggest that his decision may have been linked to a family feud, or to deeper anguish regarding the lack of support for his initiatives from the state and from society in general.[53] This latter narrative seems to fit with the continued financial problems faced by the YMBA. In his last correspondence with Theos Bernard in December 1941, he again requested funds, suggesting that keeping his dreams intact was an ongoing challenge.

While it is impossible to know what really happened to Pak Tséring that day on the bridge, we can get a glimpse of the impact of his experiences on his motivations in this same letter to Bernard, where he describes himself as a kindred spirit with Gendün Chöpel.

Both of us [i.e., Pak Tséring and Gendün Chöpel] have no desire for worldly fame and wealth. We have seen and enjoyed them and we find it utterly useless thing [sic] to run after such mirage. Today you see quite clearly what worldly fame and wealth mean. But if we can do some useful works for the human beings we are ever ready to do it. Ignorance is bad and today the world suffers from ignorance. Wisdom is strength but the strength should be supported by selfless motives and then only the Wisdom can be used for happiness of the human beings.[54]

This letter is rendered all the more tragic by an awareness of the fates of both of these individuals, as Chöpel died an alcoholic after a long imprisonment in Lhasa around 1951. As Carole McGranahan has stated, unfulfilled endings were all too common among Himalayan intellectuals of the period, who sought alternate modernities for their people and whose lives reveal the limits of cosmopolitan affiliation as a practicality in local settings.[55] Pak Tséring did leave a lasting legacy, despite this ending. His cousin (who is often referred to as his brother), Lhendrup Dorje, known more widely as L. D. Kazi, later assumed responsibility for the schools. He was to have a long lasting impact on Sikkimese society; after years as an advocate for equal access to education, he was a key figure in the revolution that led to the beginnings of political democracy for Sikkim in 1975, and became Sikkim’s first Chief Minister in the Indian Union.[56]
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Part 2 of 2

The Kalimpong YMBA (1950–c. 1957): Print, education, popular worship, and global Buddhist modernism in the activities of Sangharakshita

The YMBA in Kalimpong started, under quite different auspices from that in Darjeeling, when a young British bhikkhu arrived with his Bengali Buddhist teacher in 1950. Originally invited by Gyan Jyoti, a scion of an influential local Newar trading family, to help revive Theravada Buddhism among the Newars of the area,[57] Sangharakshita remained in Kalimpong for another fourteen years, and developed a formidable set of very different global networks around his base. Unlike Pak Tséring’s association, the Kalimpong YMBA has a very rich, albeit one-sided, set of archival materials in the form of Sangharakshita’s published memoirs.[58]

Born Dennis Lingwood in South London in 1925, Sangharakshita’s story was in many ways representative of the growing Western fascination with Buddhism in the twentieth century. Sangharakshita was a bookish child with an Orientalist fascination with the East. He was sent to India for military service during the Second World War, and used his time in Ceylon and Singapore to participate in local religious networks and associations, including branches of the Theosophical Society. After the war he decided to remain in India, and spent time in Hindu ashrams and as an ascetic before deciding to become ordained in the Theravada tradition in 1949. Following his ordination, he travelled to Nepal, where Buddhism was still heavily restricted, but was undergoing a revival led by Theravada monks from Burma.[59] After spending time there and studying at Benares Hindu University with the influential Pali scholar Bhikkhu Jagdish Kashyap, who was a key figure in Buddhist revival movements in India, he ended up in Kalimpong.

While Kashyap and Sangharakshita had originally been invited to Kalimpong as guests of Gyan Jyoti and family, according to Sangharakshita’s memoirs they found the local situation complex. The Theravada revival group Dharmodaya was active among the local Newars, but finding sustained patronage was a challenge, and the initial invitation they had received did not guarantee support. Kashyap decided to move on, but instructed his student to remain, to “serve Buddhism.” He did so, making connections in the local community and eventually developing an “informal network of English-knowing people who, for one reason or another, had some kind of interest in, or sympathy for, Buddhism”[60] and, with some friends from this network, decided to establish a formal group for organizing activities. This group was to be a Kalimpong branch of the Young Men’s Buddhist Association. Sangharakshita was aware of the original Ceylon Association, and particularly its print organ, The Buddhist, where he had published articles.[61] It appears that branding was primary in this decision, as it helped lend formality to the establishment of the group. He describes the founding by quoting from an article written at the time:

On Sunday 6th May, 1950, the young men of Kalimpong assembled in the Dharmodaya Vihara under the chairmanship of Rev. Sangharakshita with the object of establishing a Young Men’s Buddhist Association. After preliminary discussion resolutions concerning the objects and activities of the Association were unanimously passed, and office-bearers elected. It was decided to open a recreation room for the use of members as soon as possible and to inaugurate a series of weekly public lectures and debates. At the end of the meeting about thirty young men enrolled themselves as members of the Association.

He goes on to explain that “The ‘objects’ adopted at the meeting were (1) To unite the young men of Kalimpong and (2) to propagate the teachings of Buddhism by means of social, educational, and religious activities.”[62] The office bearers represented a number of different communities, including Newars and Darjeeling-born Tibetans.

The group was quick to begin organizing activities. Weekly lectures began on Sundays, and speakers included both residents and visitors to Kalimpong who had interests in Buddhism. The line-up appeared random, and depended on who was passing through at the time, irrespective of their qualifications and affiliation with Buddhism, though some of the more high-profile speakers included the Russian scholar Dr. George Roerich, who became an advisor to the organization during his residence in Kalimpong, as well as Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark, a European aristocrat and anthropologist of Tibetan societies.[63] Lectures were an important part of intellectual life in the town during the mid-twentieth century, and Sangharakshita’s own activities included giving lectures for various associations and at local institutions such as the Hill View Hotel.[64]

Many of these lectures provided the material for Stepping-Stones, a small magazine edited by Sangharakshita over twenty months between 1950 and 1951. The magazine included articles on Buddhism, poetry, short stories, and local news, as well as advertising by sponsors, such as the Jyoti family, the Himalayan Times newspaper, various trading houses and other affiliate Buddhist groups and publications. While the selection of articles appears somewhat random, and many seem to have been included because their authors were in Kalimpong, Stepping-Stones occupies a unique moment in print history. Parasmani Pradhan was a colleague and friend of Sangharakshita, and while he was responsible for printing the early editions of this journal at his Mani Printing Press in Darjeeling, he also sponsored the inclusion of a Nepali language section, edited by local literary luminary Bhaichand Pradhan. Sangharakshita’s excitement regarding this venture was largely due to its ability to contribute to the dissemination of knowledge about Buddhism among Nepali language communities, as he commented that nothing else was available in Nepali at the time. Due to its inclusion of modern literary forms and new genres, this section had significance for Nepali language communities well beyond Buddhism-focused topics.[65] The magazine began modestly, but as circulation took off, the YMBA Kalimpong became increasingly well known, and Sangharakshita was invited to start YMBA branches at Gangtok, Darjeeling, and Ajmer.[66]

The Association did more than host intellectual activities. It organised full moon rituals and pujas in commemoration of Buddhist holy days, as well as other public events. In March 1951, Sangharakshita and the YMBA also did much to insert Kalimpong into the pan-Asian tour of the sacred relics of two of the Buddha’s students, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana. The visit was an inter-traditional affair, involving the Newar Dharmodaya Vihara and local Tibetan monasteries, most notably the large monastery Tharpa Choling Gompa that was under the supervision of the popular local lama Tomo Geshe Rinpoche. Together with more serious religious activities, the Association also had an active recreation room, which was managed by an Activities Committee. It was centred around a ping-pong table and carrom-board, and patronised by young local men who paid fees every month. Sangharakshita and several of his expat colleagues also started a free tutoring class for high school students in order to help them prepare for exams.[67] Aside from these daily sessions, Sangharakshita also offered private English language tuition to support himself.

The free tutoring seems to have raised public awareness of the YMBA in Kalimpong more than any of its other activities. However, along with the recreation centre, it also caused the most problems in finding a permanent home for the Association. After several months, Sangharakshita was asked to move out of the Dharmodaya Vihara due to concerns among the more orthodox Newars that YMBA activities were leading to caste intermingling.[68] The democratic nature of the gatherings, in which members of all communities were welcome, was a hallmark of Buddhist modernist discourses of democracy and social justice. However, securing patronage for such ventures was more complicated, and like the Darjeeling YMBA, the Kalimpong Association struggled to find forms of income. By 1951, not even two years after its start, Stepping-Stones ceased publication. The Association changed premises a number of times, from a warehouse in the bazaar to a cottage, and then to another residence, before eventually gaining a permanent setting in 1957 after Sangharakshita had received donations from visiting scholars and others to purchase a headquarters, named the Triyana Vardhana Vihara, on the town's outskirts.[69]

By this point, however, the YMBA was defunct. Due to continued funding problems, in the late 1950s the YMBA Kalimpong became the Kalimpong branch of the Maha Bodhi Society. Sangharakshita had been associated with the Society in Calcutta for a number of years, and had eventually become a member of the editorial board and the main editor for the Maha Bodhi Journal, which he edited from the Calcutta office. The promise of a monthly donation of fifty rupees meant financial stability for Sangharakshita’s efforts, and despite his initial reluctance to be affiliated with the Maha Bodhi Society, which often had Hindu Brahmin presidents, he ultimately decided the affiliation would further the goals he shared with its founder, Dharmapala.[70]

Was Sangharakshita aware of the YMBA’s namesake in Darjeeling, where not even two decades before, another Theravada monk had struggled with similar challenges in securing patronage? On one occasion in the late 1950s, he acknowledges Pak Tséring:

The Bhutia Busti YMBA, as it was known, had no connection with its now defunct Kalimpong counterpart. It had been founded about twenty-five years earlier by Bhikkhu Jinorasa, a Sikkimese monk of noble family who had received ordination in Ceylon. After his death in 1931 the association’s religious activities had come to an end, except for the celebration of Vaishakha Purnima, and it was in the hope of my being able to revive these that I had agreed to stay in Bhutia Busti that autumn, at the YMBA’s spacious but run-down premises. Besides giving a public lecture on the Three Refuges and Five Precepts, and presiding at the Mahatma Gandhi birth anniversary celebrations, during my stay there I took every opportunity of pointing out to the people of the locality, many of whom were Buddhists, the need for taking a more active interest in the Dharma.[71]

It seems curious that Sangharakshita knew so little about the specifics of Pak Tséring’s activities, and even mistook the date of establishment, considering his claim to have been a close friend of Pak Tséring’s cousin, L. D. Kazi, and his wife, the mysterious Kazini Elisa Maria Dorji Khangsarpa.[72] However, it also appears to be representative of Sangharakshita’s character to overlook Pak Tséring’s efforts, as he was often critical of local traditions. With the exception of the remarkable Nepali column, described above, Stepping-Stones included few local authors, and his own negative characterization of local forms of Buddhism are found throughout his memoirs. For example, he described the Tamang community as “divorced from understanding [their religion] to an alarming degree. English-educated Tamangs were, in fact, alienated from the ethnic cult into which it had degenerated, and spoke disparagingly of ‘Lamaism’ as a corruption of Buddhism.”[73] While visiting Sikkim, he referred to the “disastrous decline in respect of doctrinal knowledge that had overtaken Sikkimese Buddhism in recent years,” and called for an “urgent” revival of Buddhism, in which perhaps the YMBA could assist.[74] Sangharakshita’s depiction of Himalayan Buddhism is indeed characteristic of the discourse of a Buddhist modernist, emphasizing textual knowledge and rationalism, and critiquing the “superstition” of local tradition. This may be why he struggled to find patronage, dismissive as he was of participating in “domestic rites.”[75]

As time passed in Kalimpong, Sangharakshita’s activities changed in accordance with local events. The lack of patronage opportunities by the late 1950s reflected the general pressure that many of the town’s local elite were under, due to changes in the trade route following the Chinese occupation of Tibet. This led monks and religious specialists to pursue alternative forms of income, including bartending and working in local cinemas as well as providing language and other forms of academic tuition, just as Sangharakshita had done.[76] Similarly, the headquarters of the YMBA shifted a number of times, as wealthy Tibetan refugees were buying up property as quickly as possible in preparation for moving to India permanently. His position as a foreigner in post-Independence India also led to complications, and over the years he was accused of being a spy and a Communist, and many of his foreign friends also left. He describes the situation at the beginning of the 1960s thus:

Kalimpong had indeed changed in the course of the last few years. The fresh influx of Tibetan refugees, the rumours of impending invasion by the Chinese, and the presence of troops and tanks on the streets, had all affected the atmosphere of the town. What was more, the authorities had become more suspicious of foreign visitors, especially Europeans and Americans, seemingly finding it difficult to believe that anybody could come to Kalimpong simply for the sake of the view. This meant that one’s movements were watched, one’s letters were intercepted, and though personally I had nothing to fear I was glad that I now had a British passport.[77]

This situation, along with an invitation to teach in England and ambitions to start a new Buddhist movement in the West, were behind his decision to return to England in 1964, where he founded the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (now the Triratna Buddhist Community), a new Buddhist tradition that now has centres in over sixty countries.[78] While his local activities are now largely forgotten, his time in Kalimpong set the stage for his further activities and contributed to the intellectual, social, and even economic networks that facilitated the development of his reputation as a teacher on a global scale.


The YMBAs of Darjeeling and Kalimpong represent an important link in the global history of modern Buddhism, where attempts to create translocal, inter-traditional identities and forms of Buddhist cosmopolitanism were part of multiple intellectual networks and projects. These networks and projects were inspired by the cracks that had appeared in colonial hegemonies with the assertion of local agency and by intellectuals and local elites who longed for agency in their societies. These local branches were therefore often tied to anti-colonial activity while they reasserted reformed local identities and practices.

While figures such as Pak Tséring and Sangharakshita were determined to create new global forms of affiliation by invoking connections between Buddhist practitioners, newly forming national “imagined communities” loomed large over their efforts.[79] Just as many Asian countries gained their independence, new forms of control and empire appeared. Communist China had little space for Buddhism as an ideology compatible with Marxist modernity, and a nervous India sought to consolidate its boundaries, while Buddhism was co-opted by new political movements that sought to actualise citizenship rights for all members of the new nation, most notably the Dalits. Despite two world wars, new boundaries were drawn up during the Cold War, and Darjeeling and Kalimpong, which had flourished on the boundaries between empires, saw a sharp decline due to the loss of trade and the closing of the border with China.[80] This also affected the transnational communities found in these cities. Many new Tibetan monasteries in exile were set up in the late 1950s, but these institutions did not have the same cosmopolitan aims as earlier Buddhist institutions in the area, which had emphasized social and economic connections across borders even from an early period. Instead, these new monasteries concentrated on survival and the preservation of cultural heritage, and were often used to reassert group identity rather than destabilise it. Buddhism became a powerful component of different forms of nationalism that developed throughout Asia at this time, and the opportunities presented by earlier associations with global goals, such as the YMBAs in the eastern Himalayas, no longer seemed as relevant or desirable. These forms of Buddhist cosmopolitanism, predicated on networks facilitated by movement and exchange, were limited by the drawing of boundaries, and ironically, by political independence in India and the new People’s Republic of China.

This does not mean that the legacies of Kazi Pak Tséring and Sangharakshita have been altogether forgotten. Their inter-traditional and global connections continue to be present in some limited ways. Sangharakshita has become an internationally known teacher. On a smaller scale, the Darjeeling YMBA School continues to provide education to junior students from some of the most economically marginalised sections of society at the site of its original home in Bhutia Busti. Its influence is felt beyond North Bengal as well. A few hours up the road and over the border in western Sikkim, the historical home of Pak Tséring, Chakung remains a booming small town, responsible for much of the ginger production in the state. Beyond the bazaar, up on a hill, there is a large Government Senior Secondary School. Behind this school, up a narrow lane, are two buildings that were once home to the YMBA and now form the Rev. Jinarasa Memorial Atis Dipankar Destitute Home. The Home is now managed by the Kripasaran Buddhist Mission, based in Bangladesh, which grew out of the Bengal Buddhist Association founded in 1892. Today it is affiliated with the branch of the mission in Darjeeling that was established in 1919 and is managed by a Himalayan Theravada monk named Pema Wangdi Sherpa.[81] In the mornings and afternoons, children swarm into the buildings for breakfast and dinner, and play football on the high school grounds next door. Distinct among these children are several who wear the bright orange robes of Theravada monks. These monks are from Bangladesh, and their presence at the humble orphanage remains as a vivid reminder of its unique transnational heritage, and the potentialities provided by a distinct moment in global Buddhist history.



[1] I would like to thank the many people who contributed to this article, especially Pak Tséring’s family and members of past and present YMBA communities and their families in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Sikkim; L. N. Sharma at the Sikkim State Archives and T. T. Gyatso, the Joint Director of the Cultural Affairs and Heritage Department of the Government of Sikkim, for their assistance in the archives; Ramani Herriarachchi, Lucky, and the librarians at the YMBA in Sri Lanka for their support locating Jinorasa in Colombo; Paul G. Hackett for generously sharing his findings on Jinorasa with me; the editors and reviewers who provided invaluable recommendations and suggestions; and my family for their assistance and advice.

[2] Clare Harris has discussed how the eastern Himalayas functioned as a museum for the study of the material culture of Tibet in The Museum on the Roof of the World: Art, Politics and the Representation of Tibet (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012).

[3] “Ceylon” was the name used for Sri Lanka up until the 1940s; in this paper I will use Ceylon for consistency, as it is the name used by the individuals discussed in the paper.

[4] In this paper, all Tibetan words are rendered in a phonetic transcription (using the THL Simplified Phonetic Transcription System, see ... phonetics/ [Accessed on 21. July 2016]), except when referring to individuals who preferred a different spelling. This standardisation is necessary since there is still no universally accepted system for spelling Tibetan and Sikkimese Bhutia terms. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, after Europeans made contact, this was all the more problematic as many different transliterations were used for one person. For example, in archival materials, Pak Tséring is also referred to Fak Tsering, Phags Tshering, and sometimes only as Jinorasa, though local people did not use that name for him.

[5] For an overview of the international reach of the Rotary Club, see Brendan M. Goff, “The Heartland abroad: The Rotary Club’s Mission of Civic Internationalism,” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2008), [Accessed on 27. June 2016]. For a discussion of Rotary and its adaptation to and influence in Southeast Asia, see Su Lin Lewis, “Rotary International’s ‘Acid Test:’ Multi-ethnic Associational Life in 1930s Southeast Asia,” Journal of Global History 7, no. 2 (2012): 302–324.

[6] For more on foundations and functions of the YMCA, see Nina Mjagkji and Margaret Spratt, eds., Men and Women adrift: The YMCA and the YWCA in the City (New York: New York University Press, 1997).

[7] On the YMCA in Africa, see David Anthony, “Unwritten History: African Work in the YMCA of South Africa,” History in Africa 32, no. 1 (2005): 435–444. The YMCA also played an important role in parts of Asia that were not colonies, where local branches were set up by students returning from study in the US. On the YMCA in Republican China, see Charles A. Keller, “The Christian Student Movement, YMCAs, and Transnationalism in Republican China,” The Journal of American-East Asian Relations 13, no. 1 (2004): 55–80. Regarding the YMCA and its links with local forms of imperialism, see Jon Davidann, “Japanese YMCA Cultural Imperialism in Korea and Manchuria after the Russo-Japanese War,” The Journal of American-East Asian Relations 5, nos. 3–4 (1996): 255–276.

[8] Mark Frost, “‘Wider Opportunities:’ Religious Revival, Nationalist Awakening, and the Global Dimension in Colombo,” Modern Asian Studies 36, no. 4 (2002): 937–938.

[9] For a general history, see M. D. David, The YMCA and the Making of Modern India: A Centenary History (New Delhi: National Council of YMCAs of India, 1992).

[10] The YMCA serves as an important case study of American evangelical activity in Ian Tyrell, Reforming the World: The Creation of America’s Moral Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).

[11] Chandra Mallampalli explores these local motives in Christians and Public Life in Colonial South Asia, 1863–1937 (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004). For a biography of a prominent Indian YMCA leader, see Susan Billington Harper, In the Shadow of the Mahatma: Bishop V. S. Azariah and the Travails of Christianity in British India (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).

[12] A number of important studies outline the construction of modern Buddhism. These include, more generally, David McMahan, The Making of Buddhist Modernism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); and, more specifically related to colonial constructions of Buddhism, Philip C. Almond, The British Discovery of Buddhism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Jeffrey Franklin, The Lotus and the Lion: Buddhism and the British Empire (Cornell: Cornell University Press, 2008). On Asian responses to these constructions, see Anne Blackburn, Locations of Buddhism: Colonialism and Modernity in Sri Lanka (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) and Richard Jaffe, “Seeking Shakyamuni: Travel and the Reconstruction of Japanese Buddhism,” Journal of Japanese Studies 30, no. 1 (2004) 65–96.

[13] Frost, “‘Wider Opportunities,’” 944.

[14] Stephen Prothero focuses on the life of Olcott in The White Buddhist: The Asian Odyssey of Henry Steel Olcott (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996).

[15] Frost, “‘Wider Opportunities,’” 956.

[16] For more on the life of Dharmapala and his complex position, see Steven Kemper, Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015).

[17] See, for example, Mallika Wanigasundera, “A Story of Struggle and Achievement,” The Buddhist 68, nos. 3–4, (1997): 35–37.

[18] Wanigasundera, “A Story of Struggle and Achievement,” 35.

[19] Sumana Saparamadu provides a history of the publication in “The Buddhist,” in The Buddhist 68, nos. 3–4 (1997): 70–79.

[20] For a discussion of such an attempt, see Brian Bocking, “Flagging up Buddhism: Charles Pfoundes (Omoie Tetzunostzuke) among the International Congresses and Expositions, 1893–1905,” Contemporary Buddhism [14, no. 1 (2013): 17–37.

[21] Alicia Turner, Saving Buddhism (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2015).

[22] Juliane Schober, Modern Buddhist Conjunctures in Myanmar (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2011), 66–67, 73–75. For more on the political elements of the Burma YMBA, see Myo Oo, “The Covert Objective of YMBA (1906–1920) and Its Activities,” The Boundaries of History [Korea] 81 (2011): 107–128.

[23] Maharaja Thuthop Namgyel and Maharani Yeshe Dolma, “The History of Sikkim,” trans. Kazi Dawa Samdrup, 1908, MSS Eur E78, India Office Records and Private Papers, British Library, London. For more information on Sikkimese Buddhism and history, see Saul Mullard, Opening the Hidden Land: State Formation and the Construction of Sikkimese History (Leiden: Brill, 2011); Pranab Kumar Jha, History of Sikkim, 1817–1904: Analysis of British Policy and Activities (Calcutta: OPS Publishers, 1985); Sonam B. Wangyal, Sikkim and Darjeeling: Division and Deception (Jaigon: Sonam Wangyal, 2002); and Anna Balikci, Lamas, Shamans, and Ancestors: Village Religion in Sikkim (Leiden: Brill, 2008).

[24] Thierry Dodin, “The Observatory Hill in Darjeeling: Some Remarks on Space, Time, Power, and Religions,” in Tibetan Studies: Conference Proceedings from the 7th International Association of Tibetan Studies Conference, ed. Helmut Krasser et al. (Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1997), 213–235.

[25] V. H. Coelho, Sikkim and Bhutan (Delhi: Indian Council for Cultural Relations, 1970), 67.

[26] Derek Waller, The Pundits: British Exploration of Tibet and Central Asia, 2nd ed. (Louisville: University of Kentucky) 193–194.

[27] Donald S. Lopez Jr., The Madman’s Middle Way: Reflections on Reality of the Tibetan Monk Gendun Chopel (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 250.

[28] For more on Sidkeong Tulku and his Buddhist reforms see Toni Huber, The Holy Land Reborn: Pilgrimage and the Tibetan Reinvention of India (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 281–282; and Berthe Jansen, “Monastic Guidelines (bCa’ yig) by Sidkeong Tulku: Monasteries, Sex, and Reform in Sikkim,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society [24, no. 4 (2014): 597–622.

[29] See other articles in this volume for more on these networks, as well as Clare Harris, Museum on the Roof of the World.

[30] For a broader discussion of such intellectuals, see Carole McGranahan, “In Rapga’s Library: The Texts and Times of a Rebel Tibetan Intellectual,” Cahiers d’Extreme-Asie 15 (2005): 253–274.

[31] On Dhammaloka, see Alicia Turner, Laurence Cox, and Brian Bocking, “Beachcombing, Going Native, and Freethinking: Rewriting the History of Early Western Buddhist Monastics,” Contemporary Buddhism 11, no. 2 (2010): 125–147.

[32] For more on this period, see Mthu stobs rnam rgyal and Ye shes sgrol ma, ’Bras ljongs rgyal rabs (Gangtok: Tsuklhakhang Trust, 2003), 117–118.

[33] Petition for adoption from Pemba Dichen to Political officer, “Adoption of Kazi Phag Tsering by Jeerung Dewan of Chakung Estate/ subsequent rejection of the adoption deed,” 10 August 1912, file no. 86 of 1912, General Section, Sikkim State Archives, Gangtok.

[34] Affidavit signed by Kazi Pak Tséring on 30 January 1919, private collection.

[35] There are no documents to provide information on what these abbreviations stand for, or where the name came from.

[36] For more on S. Mahinda Thero, see Pema Wangchuck Dorjee, “S. Mahinda Thero: The Sikkimese Who Gave Lankans Their Freedom Song,” Bulletin of Tibetology 44, nos. 1–2 (2008): 139–145.

[37] These recollections were gathered during interviews in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Sikkim in July 2013.

[38] Application submitted to Maharaja by Sonam Tshering, etc. related to Formation of the Young Men’s Buddhist Association, 12 July 1928, file no. 15 of 1924, serial 3, General Section, Government of Sikkim General Department, Sikkim State Archives, Gangtok. Signatories included Sonam Tséring Bhutia, Rinzing Dorjee Bhutia, Yonten Gyatso Kazi, and Passang Namgyal Kazi, among others.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Pak Tséring, “News from India,” The Buddhist (August 1931): 84.

[42] This information appears on plaques in Hindi and English on the front of the building. They are dated 1995 Bikram Samvat, which corresponds to 1938 in several Nepali calendars.

[43] Log Book, Young Men’s Buddhist Association School, Darjeeling, India, 1935, Young Men’s Buddhist Association Darjeeling Archives, Darjeeling, North Bengal.

[44] One example of such a student was B. B. Gurung, now in his eighties, who served the last king of Sikkim as well as two successive democratic Sikkimese governments, and now acts as an advisor to the Chief Minister of Sikkim. B. B. Gurung, interview, July 2013.

[45] Heather Stoddard discusses this period of Chöpel’s life in Le mendiant de l’Amdo (Paris: Société d’ethnographie, 1985). She mentions Pak Tséring on page 173, calling him ‘gelong Pel Ji Norasa’ after Kirti rin po che, Dge ‘dun chos ‘phel gyi rab byed shabs btags ma (Dharamsala, India: Kirti byes pa grwa tshang, 1983), 61.

[46] Paul Hackett discusses Bernard’s mentions of and correspondence with the man he knew as Jinorasa in Theos Bernard, the White Lama: Tibet, Yoga, and American Religions Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).

[47] S. K. Jinorasa to Theos Bernard, 26 January 1940, Theos Bernard Collection, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

[48] Ibid.

[49] This is based on popular knowledge in Chakung, and was repeated to me by numerous members of the public as well as members of staff at the present school.

[50] Chakung School Log Book, Chakung Senior Secondary School Archives, Chakung, West Sikkim.

[51] Dick Dewan, Education in Sikkim: An Historical Retrospect, Pre-merger, and Post-merger Period (Kalimpong: Tender Buds’ Society, 2012), 200. In his final letter to Theos Bernard in December 1941, Pak Tséring writes that at that time the YMBA was managing thirteen schools. The exact locations of these schools is not provided, though the letterhead of the YMBA lists Darjeeling, Kalimpong Town School, Chakung School, Geyzing School, Rinchenpong Kaluk School, the Buddhist Girls’ School, Darjeeling, and the Orphans Home, Darjeeling. S. K. Jinorasa to Theos Bernard, 24 December 1941, Theos Bernard Collection, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

[52] These suggestions were made by various members of the public in Chakung during interviews in July 2013.

[53] These narratives come from interviews carried out in Darjeeling and Sikkim, July 2013. I have kept the interviewees anonymous at their request, due to the sensitive nature of his death and political elements of his reputation.

[54] S. K. Jinorasa to Theos Bernard, 24 December 1941, Theos Bernard Collection, Bancroft Library, the University of California, Berkeley.

[55] McGranahan, “In Rapga’s library,” 274.

[56] The classic study of the events around this period and the beginning of democracy in Sikkim remains Sundanda K. Datta-Ray, Smash and Grab: Annexation of Sikkim (Delhi: Vikas, 1984).

[57] Sangharakshita, Facing Mount Kanchenjunga: An English Buddhist in the Eastern Himalayas (Birmingham: Windhorse Publications, 1991), 8.

[58] Sangharakshita has published multiple memoirs. The one that features his time in Kalimpong most prominently is Facing Mount Kanchenjunga (Glasgow: Windhorse Publications, 1991).

[59] For more on the revival of Buddhism in Nepal, see Sarah LeVine and David N. Gellner, Rebuilding Buddhism: The Theravada Movement in Twentieth-century Nepal (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005).

[60] Sangharakshita, Facing Mount Kanchenjunga, 37.

[61] Sangharakshita, Facing Mount Kanchenjunga, 38.

[62] Sangharakshita, Facing Mount Kanchenjunga, 38–39.

[63] For more on these figures and the Buddhist intellectual scene in Kalimpong, see Hackett, Theos Bernard, White Lama.

[64] A summary of Sangharakshita’s activities during this period can be found in his memoirs, which include five volumes. The volumes most pertinent to his time in Kalimpong are Facing Mount Kanchenjunga, In the Sign of the Golden Wheel: Indian Memoirs of an English Buddhist (Birmingham: Windhorse Publications, 1996), and Precious Teachers: Indian Memoirs of an English Buddhist (Birmingham: Windhorse Publications, 2007). While these volumes provide a fascinating overview of his life and interactions in Kalimpong, the information in them must be treated critically due to their genre, Sangharakshita’s privileged position as a white Buddhist in a newly post-colonial society, and the lack of other sources to confirm or challenge some of his arguments and representations. The information used in the sketch of his life and activities below is therefore information that has been backed up by popular records and local sources, including issues of the magazine Stepping-Stone and the newspapers The Tibet Mirror and The Himalayan Times.

[65] Sangharakshita, Facing Mount Kanchenjunga, 254–257.

[66] Sangharakshita laments that nothing came of these branches. Despite his best efforts to visit and organise lectures, he claims that once he left the area, local collaborators would not continue the work without him. Eventually, the Ajmer branch chose to become affiliated with the local Bengal Buddhist Association.

[67] Sangharakshita, Facing Mount Kanchenjunga, 63

[68] Sangharakshita, Facing Mount Kanchenjunga, 123–124.

[69] These events are outlined in Sangharakshita, Precious Teachers.

[70] Sangharakshita, Facing Mount Kanchenjunga, 463–464.

[71] Sangharakshita, In the Sign of the Golden Wheel, 183–184.

[72] This friendship was detailed in Sangharakshita, Precious Teachers.

[73] Sangharakshita, Facing Mount Kanchenjunga, 32.

[74] Sangharakshita, Facing Mount Kanchenjunga, 213

[75] Sangharakshita, Moving Against the Stream: The Birth of a New Buddhist Movement (Birmingham: Windhorse Publications, 2003), 128.

[76] I thank the anonymous reviewer for providing me with a broader reference of these activities found in Beatrice D. Miller, “Lamas and Laymen: A Historico-functional Study of the Secular Integration of Monastery and Community,” (PhD diss., University of Washington, Seattle, 1958), 224, [Accessed on 27. June 2016].

[77] Sangharakshita, Precious Teachers, 169.

[78] Regarding Sangharakshita’s activities after he left Kalimpong, see Sangharakshita, Moving Against the Stream; Alan Sponberg, “TBMSG: A Dhamma Revolution in Contemporary India,” in Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia, ed. Christopher S. Queen and Sallie B. King (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 73–112; and Martin Baumann, “Work as Dharma Practice: Right Livelihood Cooperatives of the FWBO,” in Engaged Buddhism in the West, ed. Christopher S. Queen (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2000), 372–393.

[79] The nation as an imagined community here is adopted from Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 2006).

[80] The impact of the loss of trade on Kalimpong in particular is discussed in Tina Harris, Geographical Diversions (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013).

[81] More on the Bengal Buddhist Association can be found in Rama Kundu, “‘In Thine Immeasurable Mercy and Goodness:’ Buddha in Tagore’s Imagination,” in Studies on Rabindranath Tagore, vol. 1., ed. Mohit Kumar Ray (New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2004), 215. The current Mission’s website is at [Accessed on 3. July 2015].
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Part 1 of 3

Manifest Destiny: Christianity and American Imperialism [The World's Parliament of Religions 1893]
Excerpt from Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Columbian Exposition
by Judith Snodgrass



From the time of the Crystal Palace Exposition in London in 1851 the great expositions of the nineteenth century were preeminently displays of material and technical progress. The Chicago fair, symbolized as it was by the steel-supported structures of the White City and the engineering genius of the great Ferris wheel, was no exception. What made the Columbian Exposition unique was the inclusion of the "Auxiliary Congresses," an exhibition of the spiritual, intellectual, and social progress of mankind. The largest and most acclaimed of the Auxiliary Congresses was the World's Parliament of Religions, which not only epitomized the antimaterialist theme of the congresses but enshrined the motivating force of them all, American Protestant Christianity.

American rivalry with Europe might have been satisfied by an exhibition of material progress, but this material progress was itself subsidiary to and dependent on America's distinctive society and its resulting institutions. "The freest land must in the end create the most perfect machinery .... The American railroad is a product of the Constitution of the United States,"1 and the Constitution, in turn, derived from the ideals of freedom, equality, and self-determination of Protestant Christianity brought to the New World by the early colonists.

The Columbian Exposition, celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus's voyage, was permeated with a revived sense of America's predestined mission and an awareness of America's special place in the unfolding of Providential history. As Merril Edwardes Gates, delegate to the Auxiliary Congresses, explained in his paper "The Significance to Christianity of the Discovery and the History of America," God had kept the American continent undefiled until "the Reformation had taught the Christian world afresh the value of the individual man, standing erect, the Bible in his hand, fearless before priest and king, reverent before God .... When a new light for the social and political life of mankind began to ray out from the open Bible in the hands of Luther, God opened the way to the new continent."2

God had planted the seed of the new religion in the pristine soil of the new continent, had chosen the people and the government to bring it to fruition,3 and had bestowed upon the people of America the duty to share the light of the Gospel and the benefits of the civilization "springing into life on the continent ... here to grow until it should overshadow the kingdoms of the world."4 Providence had ordained the Americanization of the world. The Auxiliary Congresses within the Chicago exposition demonstrated this interdependence of material progress, American civilization, and religion. The two hundred distinct congresses organized under twenty general departments "considering the greatest themes in which mankind is interested"5 named the intellectual categories through which material progress was manifested.6

The World's Parliament of Religions, in spite of its name and the international recognition it subsequently acquired, was essentially an American event, both in its vision of evangelical mission and in its predominant concern with domestic issues. The Parliament grew out of a liberal Christian vision of U.S. Christian ecumenism (i.e., an ecumenical union of the Judeo-Christian religious communities of the United States), a bid to assimilate the rapidly increasing number of immigrants from diverse religious backgrounds into the Protestant ideal. It was a statement of Christian confidence, a bid for liberal Christian reform within the United States, and an exercise in reinforcing the dominance of Protestant Christianity in response to the rapidly changing social environment of the late nineteenth century.7 The original proposal dealt exclusively with these essentially domestic issues but, once accepted, it was developed as the World's Parliament of Religions, an international event to match the international scope of the exposition of which it was an intrinsic part. The original domestic emphasis remained, but the Parliament also became a platform for the expansionist aspects of the American Protestant ideal, the "messianic heritage." In the early years of the colony, the sense of evangelical purpose justified continental expansion westward. In 1893, with American consciousness of its Pacific future revived by the takeover of Hawaii, the obligation was to share the light of the Gospel and American ideals with "those who are nearest to them but are without God and without hope in the world."8 In the less generous terms of historical reality, the messianic heritage appeared to demand the Christian conquest of Asia.9

Asian delegates to the Parliament had long been familiar with aggressive evangelism. They anticipated its presence at the Parliament and came prepared to deal with it. It nevertheless contributed to the shaping of the representation of Buddhism by demanding reiteration of Buddhist apologetics, forcing the discussion of Buddhism toward topics raised by Christian attack. Far more difficult for the Buddhist delegates to accommodate was the essentially American preoccupation of the Parliament that set the parameters of the discussion. The themes suggested and officially endorsed by the organizing committee were directed toward encouraging Judeo-Christian tolerance in the United States, combating growing interest in materialist philosophy, and uniting the various religious communities to solve the social problems of the United States. The aim of the Parliament was to demonstrate the essential unity of human aspiration. In this project, the various religions were assumed to be related by a shared dependence on a patriarchal God and their hierarchically apportioned share in his revelation. These were Christo-centric assumptions of the essentially theistic nature and function of religion into which Buddhism could not easily be accommodated. The aspects of Buddhism that could be discussed at the Parliament were restricted by this American and Christian agenda of the program.
The representation of Japanese Buddhism was constrained by the role assigned to it in a discourse generated by the religious debates and intellectual assumptions of nineteenth-century America.

The relations of power mapped in the previous chapter -- New World challenge to Europe; the tension between the dominant West and the Orient; dominant white America's attempt to preserve the status quo against the challenge from social changes in the late nineteenth century; Japan's bid to disassociate itself from other Asian nations and establish itself in the international arena -- also traversed the congress on religions. In spite of the organizers' professions of tolerance, of respect for other beliefs, and the stated aim of bringing about international understanding of religious ideas, the World's Parliament of Religions also provided evidence to support the themes of Social Darwinism so evident in the main exhibition. The Parliament, the first great attempt to bring together religious specialists of the world, was also a sideshow, an ethnological display of the various religions of the world. The non-Christian religions played a role parallel to the exotic displays of the Midway Plaisance and were similarly arranged as "object lessons" pointing to Protestant Christianity as the culmination of religious evolution.

The World's Fair Auxiliary Congresses

The Auxiliary Congresses were the inspiration of Chicago lawyer and civic leader Charles C. Bonney. His vision was of a series of conferences on matters of spiritual, intellectual, and social concern of the time, "a series of congresses for the consideration of the greatest themes in which mankind is interested."10 His initial proposal, launched in the Statesman Magazine, September 20, 1889, argued that "the crowning glory of the World's Fair" should not be the material and industrial achievements of man, however magnificent that display may be. "Something still higher and nobler is demanded by the enlightened and progressive spirit of the new age." His proposal was for a series of international conventions in the areas of "government, jurisprudence, finance, science, literature, education and religion," discussed not by academics but by practitioners, "statesmen, jurists, financiers, scientists, literati, teachers, theologians." It was to be more widely representative of "peoples, nations, tongues" than "any assemblage which has ever yet been convened." The benefits as he initially perceived them would be nothing less than to "unite the enlightened people of the earth in a general cooperation for the great ends for which human society is organized." Although in Bonney's opinion "it would not be easy to exaggerate the powerful impetus given by [the material exposition] to commerce and all the arts by which toil is lightened, the fruits of labour increased, and the comforts of life augmented," the benefits of the congresses would be "higher and more conducive to the welfare of mankind."11

Bonney spoke for the United States, but his sentiments also reflected the particular concern of Chicago, the brash new commercial center that had very recently established its first university, to counter its aggressively commercial image. The congress theme, "Not Things but Men; Not Matter but Mind," stressed this reordering of priorities. Barrows, opening the Evangelical Alliance, observed that Chicago, "celebrated for its big warehouses, big railroads, big newspapers, big expectations and big achievements," would henceforth be known for its equally impressive spiritual achievement.12 Addressing the Asian delegates, he said, "I want you to think of Chicago not as the home of the rudest materialism but as a temple where men cherish the loftiest idealism."13 The Congress on Religions was not funded by the churches but by the U.S. government and the commercial community. It was, therefore, a platform for America rather than for Christianity, and the prominence of the World's Parliament of Religions reflected the centrality of religion in the American national vision.

The Chicago organizers planned to display the full progress of man. Here "the most comprehensive and brilliant display of man's material progress," the usual object of an international exhibition, was complemented by an equally extensive display of intellectual, social, and moral progress. There were congresses covering "all areas of intellectual and moral concern," the official history by Rossiter Johnson records, listing in order by way of example, "women, medicine, temperance, commerce, literature, education, religion, art, philosophy and evolution." (Other lists include such diverse subjects as the public press, engineering, government and law reform, religion and Sunday rest, public health, and agriculture.) The message of the Auxiliary Congresses was that America had reached maturity not only in industry and commerce but in social, intellectual, and spiritual development as well and stood poised to lead the world into the twentieth century.

Bonney expressed the millennial splendor of his vision, the United States as the culmination of post-Renaissance progress, at the opening of the first of the congresses on May 15, 1893: "A single week of years stands between us and the twentieth century. If the causes now in operation shall go on unchecked, the world will witness in these seven years the crowning glories of more than seven centuries of human progress."14 He declared the event formally open with the hope: "To make the whole world one in sympathy; to make the whole world one in mental aim; to make the whole world one in moral power; learning and virtue passports to all lands."15

The sincerity of Bonney's desire for universal peace and brotherhood cannot be questioned. He was himself a Swedenborgian and spoke as representative of the goodwill of liberal Christianity. However, as any number of supposedly liberal papers showed, the assumption of a single, uniform human nature upon which this attitude of Eurocentric humanism is based leads too easily to interpreting the undeniable observable differences in the thought and action of other peoples as irrational or false versions of one's own -- at the very least, as imperfect, preliminary attempts at achieving the same ends.16

The World's Parliament of Religions and Messianic Mission

The Parliament, though only one of the many Auxiliary Congresses, was generally perceived to be "the splendid crown," the epitome of the concept. Its prominence depended on more than religion's obvious position as the ultimate expression of "spirit," the natural opposition to mundane "matter" and the material world, the spiritual balance to the gross materiality of the general exposition that was so much commented on. The Parliament was as fundamental to the expression of American aspirations as the White City itself. Domestically, the Columbian Exposition was viewed by Americans as both Rome, the culmination of republican democracy, and the new Jerusalem, the site of religious renewal. Both images were intrinsic to the "enduring Protestant American dream" which was the dominant statement of the quadricentennial celebration.17 America was not simply the site of post-Reformation progress and achievement, but also the divinely appointed agent of its universal dissemination. Bonney, opening the Congress on Women, introduced this recurring theme: "The nineteenth century, richer in manifold wonders than any which has preceded it in the august procession of the ages, crowns its greatest achievements by establishing in the world the sublime idea of a universal fraternity of learning and virtue. This idea, long cherished by the illuminati of every clime, descends at last from the luminous mountains of thought to the fertile fields of action, and enters upon the conquest of the world."18

Bonney here articulated the ideal of American mission and the fundamental problem of American imperialism, the tension between the ideal of converting the world through a self-denying "messianic example," providing a living demonstration of the advantages of its civilization that would inspire emulation and desire for membership in the union, and the more aggressive alternative, "messianic intervention," which was associated with the European model of imperialism that America, as a former colony, rejected. Evangelism -- offering the gift of Light -- provided a justification for territorial expansion and very frequently aided in the process. The quadricentennial celebration of Columbus's voyage revitalized the American Christian sense of predestined mission. America, the theater for achieving millennial perfection, was the model for the rest of the world, the "chief motor" for the conversion of the world to Protestantism.19 Ideally, then, the mission depended on realizing the objective within the United States.

The first problem with this vision was that, as Seager remarks, "the World's Parliament of Religions marked the passing of an era in which the United States could be called, however inaccurately, a Protestant or even a Christian nation."20 The optimism of these ideals was in contrast with the reality of increasing labor opposition to the growing power of industrial capitalists, disruption due to the breakdown of the traditional rural economy, the racial problems of recently emancipated blacks (whose form of worship was not orthodox although they were Christian and even Protestant), and the urban slums teeming with Jewish and Roman Catholic immigrants. While liberal and fundamentalist Christians attempted to consolidate their position, Roman Catholics, Jews, and black Americans were staking a claim as legitimate heirs to the prerogatives of the Republic. 21

The visions that emerged from the rhetoric of the Parliament -- "a blueprint for the kingdom of God on earth," a "latter day Pentecost," the "New Jerusalem," "the Babel tongues of the world ... coming back to speak the one dialect of Heaven"22 -- are those of subsuming and assimilating all religions within the dominant Anglo-Saxon Protestantism. American delegates spoke of "manufacturing a republic -- taking the black material of humanity and building it up into noble men and women; taking the red material, wild with every savage instinct, and making it into respectable men."23 With the increased immigration of the late nineteenth century, American society similarly, at least in theory, transformed immigrants from diverse cultures into a citizenry supporting and enhancing the essentially Protestant ethos of a Christian American republic. The guiding principle of the Parliament, in which the majority of organizers and delegates was of the dominant Protestant groups, was that all the religions of the world would find their completion and fulfillment in the spiritual values of Protestant Christianity.

One of the problems at this time, however, was the failure of the ideal within the United States itself.
The difficulty, from the point of view of at least one Protestant leader, was not just the increase in the volume of immigration but the different type of people involved by this time. In a paper on "The Problems of Our Multifarious Population and Their Probable Solution," the Reverend Wm. C. Roberts, D.D. LL.D., wrote:

If it were made up, as in former years, of people from the British Isles, Holland, Germany, France and Northern Europe, the increase in numbers would probably excite no special alarm, for multitudes of them spoke our language, professed the Christian religion, admired our civil and social institutions, revered our Bible and respected our Sabbath. They came in order to be of us. But those who flock hither in these days are largely different in character and purpose. They are Jews from Russia, Italians from the Siciles, Bohemians, many of whom are of the baser sort, Poles, long taught to dislike every kind of regularly constituted government, Hungarians looked upon as revolutionaries, Armenians, Greeks and Bulgarians who have had the best elements of their nature stamped out by the iron heel of Turkey, British trade-unionists, French socialists, Austrian nihilists, German anarchists, and idol worshippers from China, India and the Islands of the Sea.24

The speaker clearly associated religious diversity with the social problems of the time, and the "material of humanity" he described was less malleable than he desired. The presence of these large numbers of Jews and Roman Catholics in the society, if not the nihilists, socialists, and "idol worshippers," forced debate on the interpretation of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. Did it allow a denial of God? Expressed from a Protestant point of view in the previous century, the controversy had been whether the Constitution guaranteed freedom from all old religions and the establishment of a new universal (Christian) faith, or the freedom to persist in a false or partial religion until the establishment of the universal reign of Christ on earth.25 Both of these interpretations assumed that all religions would be assimilated into Protestantism. This was, after all, part of the perceived reason for the existence of America. It was the site of the growth of the new revelation and the place of refuge for all those who sought its consolations. Under the still dominant Protestant ideal, as the Reverend Roberts put it, they came in order to be of us.

Bonney's Vision: The Origin of the Plan

The Parliament, as it was originally conceived by Bonney, was essentially a Christian conference, a gathering of the various religious communities of the United States, which, as a generous gesture of brotherhood and a recognition of the growing importance of Judaism in America, included believers in Jehovah as "Old Testament Christians."26 The Christian parameters of the discussion are clear from the first four of the twenty-two themes proposed for discussion, which were: "a. The idea of God, its influences and consolations. b. The evidences of the existences of God, especially those which are calculated to meet the agnosticism of the present time. c. That evils of life should be shunned as sins against God. d. That the moral law should be obeyed as necessary to human happiness, and because it is the will of the Creator."

The capital "G" and references to God as "Creator" guaranteed the Christian connotations of the term. Another of the proposed themes demanded acceptance of the Christian revelation, the "influx from God into the mind of every man teaching that there is a God and that he should be worshipped and obeyed."
The final and culminating theme indicated the Judeo-Christian limits of Bonney's liberal vision of the Parliament: "That those who believe in these things may work together for the welfare of mankind, notwithstanding they may differ in the opinions they hold respecting God, His revelation and manifestation; and that such fraternity does not require the surrender of the points of difference. The Christian believing in the supreme divinity of Christ, may so unite with the Jew who devoutly believes in the Jehovah of Israel; the Quaker with the High Church Episcopalian; the Catholic with the Methodist; the Baptist with the Unitarian, etc."27

There can be no question of Buddhists being included among "those who believe" in Bonney's vision. His concern was for the religious tolerance among the major religious groups represented in the United States in the late nineteenth century and for contemporary, local problems, which included, as point b noted, increasing agnosticism. The proposals for topics for discussion were all concerned with the value of religion as a social force in North America. They specifically excluded discussion of doctrine except where "common aims and common grounds for union may be set forth." Among his proposals he stressed the importance of religion for "virtuous and pure" family life and in answering "the alleged prevalence of infidelity." For Bonney, the substantial fruits of sincere religion included "improved personal character, better business methods; nearly all works of charity; improved domestic order; greater public peace" (point j). The "indispensability of the weekly rest day," another of the proposed topics, was a matter of such contention among Americans at the time that the financial viability of the exposition was threatened by protests against opening the exposition on Sundays and an entire congress was eventually given over to the issue. Temperance was also considered of sufficient importance to deserve a separate congress.

Regardless of this domestic focus, several of the proposals were of direct and particular concern to the Buddhists. The first was the basic assumption that religion must necessarily be theistic. Japanese Buddhists targeted this as the point to which they must pay particular attention.28 It was a familiar point of Buddhist vulnerability. Because Buddhism was not based on theistic principles, it risked being excluded from the category of religion altogether and linked instead with Western philosophic atheism, an association they vehemently protested. Because the proposal actually listed this as an important point "calculated to meet the agnosticism of the present time," there was a real risk that Buddhism would be called upon, as it frequently was in missionary literature of the time, to stand as the example of the fundamental error of such a view.29 On the other hand, it was precisely the promotion of Buddhism as an example of the viability of a nontheistic system of ethics that had brought it prestige and respect. Consequently, point p, "the actual harmony of science and religion; and the origin and nature of the conflict between them," was also of particular relevance to the Japanese Buddhist delegates. This was a critical issue in Christian debate during the second half of the nineteenth century. A religion that depends on revelation was incompatible with science's denial of the supernatural. The form of Bonney's proposal here suggests that by the time of the Parliament, liberal Christians at least had resolved the issue. Nevertheless, it was on this point that the Japanese Buddhists perceived Christianity to be most vulnerable. Their confidence was increased by the knowledge that Western scholars had already established the harmony of Buddhism with science and modern philosophy.

North American Ecumenism to Christian Universalism

Once the initial proposal was accepted, the Parliament was organized by a committee of sixteen representatives of the various religious communities of the United States-including one Catholic archbishop and one rabbi -- under the direction of the Reverend John Henry Barrows, D.D., a liberal Christian pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Chicago.30 As chairman, Barrows exerted a strong influence over the organization of the Parliament, particularly in the management of the non-Christian religions. He personally hosted the Asian delegates, edited and in several cases delivered their papers, and after the Parliament compiled and published the official version of its history, an act that has consequences in knowledge of the event to the present time.31 Although Bonney's American and Christian vision of the World's Parliament of Religions still formed the core of the proceedings, under Barrows and his committee the event was expanded, given a universal scope in keeping with the world's exposition context. In this process, the Protestant Christian ideal of Westward progress was extended beyond the bounds of continental America to the vision of universal Christianity.

The Parliament, as described in its published objectives,32 sought answers not simply to domestic issues but to "the great problems of the present age," although even here the centrality of America is apparent in the repetition of Bonney's listing of, as examples, "temperance, labour, education, wealth and poverty." It aimed not just for domestic harmony but for "securing permanent international peace." The World's Parliament of Religions had grown from Bonney's vision of a fellowship of liberal, humanist theists to a great international event bringing "together in conference, for the first time in history, the leading representatives of the great historic religions of the world." He specifically desired representatives not simply of Judaism but of "the Brahman, Buddhist, Confucian, Parsee, Mohammedan" faiths as well. In this expanded vision the heathen were now welcome, but for what purpose? The text adopted for the World's Parliament of Religions had been suggested by the Reverend H. Adler, chief rabbi of the British Empire: "Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?"33 It confirmed Bonney's ecumenical vision for the United States of America but did nothing to accommodate Buddhists.

Although representatives of most religions, Christian and non-Christian, came from all over the world, the Parliament was essentially an American Christian event.
Foreign Christians played their part by contributing to ecumenical discussion, by clarifying points of difference between denominations, and, most important, by simply coming from all corners of the world and thereby giving witness to Christianity's claim for universality.34 Non-Christian delegates were invited for a number of reasons, none of which, in spite of high-minded protests to the contrary, involved a serious desire to learn what they might offer. The stated aim, "To inquire what light each religion has afforded, or may afford to other religions of the world,"35 must be weighed against the chairman's reassurance that "[t]he non-Christian world ... has nothing to add to the Christian creed."36 The aim of the organizers might more accurately have been rendered to the general public as it was to the Christian congregation: "To inquire into what light Christianity has afforded, or may afford, to other religions in the world." After his experience of the Parliament, Barrows, now claiming to know Oriental religions, "both ideal and practical," concluded that "the very best which is in them, the very best which these well meaning men have shown to us, is often a reflection of Christianity, and that which they lack, and the lack is very serious, is what the Christian Gospel alone can impart."37

Quite clearly, when Christianity was used as a measure of worth, not only did other religions necessarily fail to measure up but, to the extent that they did, they were unoriginal and derivative. Anything Barrows admired in Buddhism he assumed to be the result of its contact with Christianity. The idea that a new universal faith, a new religion for the twentieth century, might emerge out of the debate, an idea that Asian delegates spoke of frequently, convinced that they did indeed have "light" that they could contribute, was not envisaged by the chief promoters of the Parliament. They believed that "the elements of such a religion are already contained in the Christian ideal and the Christian scriptures." Their attitude allowed for reinterpretation and reform within Christianity but afforded no opening for intellectual input from Asian religions.

Exhibiting Spiritual Progress

The nineteenth-century study of comparative religion, whatever it may be now, was unashamedly Christo-centric and closely allied with the imperative of Christian missions to know the enemy. The presence of non-Christian religions was, of course, essential to give the event its international status. As Barrows himself recognized, "A World's Parliament of Religions in which only a few were interested would be a misnomer."38 Asian religions were also essential as a contrast: "[S]uperiority cannot be shown without comparison."39 Their presence was deemed necessary to display the relative excellence of Christianity. The difference in the quality of the exhibits would demonstrate the progress of Christianity.

The evolutionary lesson of the fair, the place of each nation in an international hierarchy, was most definitely also to be drawn from the Parliament. Ninety-seven nations participated in the Columbian Exposition, including "aborigines from the arctic circle and the Pacific" and other such materially undeveloped countries as Venezuela and the French Congo. The organizers had decided to arrange the exhibits throughout the fair in categories rather than by nation so that the relative merit of entries from different nations placed side by side would be apparent. It was considered one of the valuable lessons of the fair, Johnson records, that each nation could see its position in the hierarchy thus displayed.40 At the World's Parliament of Religions "each country was, in the same spirit, invited to exhibit their [sic] religions."41 Or as Barrows himself expressed it, employing the frequently used metaphor of reflections of the light of truth, the Parliament aimed "to study all the exhibits in the spectrum."42 The result was that the "products displayed by the United States, Great Britain and Germany were immensely superior."43 Spiritual superiority was established through the dubious authority of democratic competition and scientific comparison. Note that the claim to immense superiority is restricted to the three Protestant nations of the West, explicitly connecting material advancement with the Protestant Christian vision of spiritual progress.
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Part 2 of 3

Exhibiting the Exotic

The Parliament was a microcosm of the fair. Its exotic delegates provided the Midway Plaisance component, the object lesson in evolution, the color, entertainment, light relief, the picturesque, and like the Midway, the Parliament drew large crowds. Attendance apparently exceeded expectations as a second hall had to be opened to accommodate repeat sessions. The Hall of Columbus alone held four thousand people and was regularly packed. Newspapers reported, however, that there was little discrimination in the audience's response to Asian speakers, and much waving of handkerchiefs and throwing hats into the air -- more the behavior of a music hall than of an academic conference. Indian delegate Vivekananda's opening words, "Brothers and sisters of America," brought on four minutes of applause and cheering. Vivekananda and the other photogenic and articulate South Asian delegate, Anagarika Dharmapala, the Buddhist delegate from Ceylon, were lionized in the press, but the coverage gave much more space to their appearance and theatrics than to the content of their papers. The Parliament was part of the fair and the Asian delegates were a spectacular attraction. Neglect of more informative if less outgoing speakers on Hinduism such as Manilal D'Vivedi44 suggests that these expressions of brotherhood were what the audience wanted to hear rather than information on Oriental thought. The other question that arises is just how much of any unamplified speech would be heard in an auditorium of that size. Front-row seats were reserved for registered participants. For many of the general public in attendance the visual spectacle must have been the principal satisfaction, and in spite of actually having been present at the Parliament and witnessing the pageantry and the sincerity of the delivery, their knowledge of the content of the speeches would have depended on the press reports and the published record: the voices of the Asian delegates, edited and interpreted by their Christian hosts.

Just how important was the carnival aspect of the Asian presence and how calculated was it? W. F. [William Fairfield] Warren, president of Boston University, wrote in response to the idea of the Parliament, apparently confirming a suggestion made to him in Barrows's letter, that "even a museum of idols and objects used in ceremonial worship would attract beyond any other museum. Models and illustrations of the great temples of the world and of the world's history would be in a high degree instructive. Add to these things the living word of living teachers, and the whole world may well pause to listen."45

Is it mere coincidence that Barrows subsequently invited these "living teachers" of exotic religions? Or that the official record was profusely illustrated with photographs of ritual objects, great temples, and Oriental practitioners? Of the nonportrait illustrations only twelve are Christian, and these are the great monuments: St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, St. Peter's in Rome, and the cathedrals of St. Petersburg, Worcester, Milan. Non-Christian religions are also represented by major buildings, among which is the Pearl Mosque in Delhi, Mandalay Pagoda, and the Temple of Heaven in Peking. There are rather more photographs of "heathen" curiosities such as those labeled "The Burning Ghat at Calcutta," "A Group of Fakirs," "A Chinese Idol," "Hindus at Devotion," and of assorted poorly dressed Oriental devotees. The abiding impression from thumbing through the volume is one of contrast between the cathedrals soaring toward heaven and the earthbound and materially backward heathen. The illustrated history echoed the message of the Midway, the object lesson in the transition from the primitive to the sublime.

The Congress as Parliament

The imbalance of the relationship between the American Protestant hosts and the non-Christian guests was simultaneously concealed and strengthened by the conception of the event as a "parliament." This is a powerful metaphor, carrying as it does the fundamental political relationships of majority government and the minority right to be represented and heard and to contribute to the legislative process, which is ultimately under the control of the majority. The hierarchical relationship of religions, which was the lesson of the sideshow aspect of the event, was reinforced by the lesson of this reference to democratic structures. Christianity, which had an overwhelming majority of delegates, was clearly cast in the role of universal religion, a message also projected by the presence of Christian delegates from such far-flung outreaches as Africa, Japan, and India. Buddhism, alone or as part of the larger Oriental, non-Christian contingent, and in spite of its actual vast Asian following, was here cast as a minority party. The function of its delegates was principally to be present, validating the democratic principle of representation -- this was the World's Parliament after all -- and to illustrate the democratic respect for the right of minority groups to be heard.46

The equality implied by calling the event a "parliament" upset orthodox sections of the Christian community and forced Barrows to clarify the intentions behind his expansive rhetoric of brotherhood. The Anglican archbishop of Canterbury [Edward White Benson] led the objection. He wrote refusing to participate on the grounds that he did not understand how the Christian religion, "which is the one religion," could be regarded as a member of a parliament of religions "without assuming the equality of the other intended members and the parity of their position and claims."47 In response Barrows explained that the term was certainly not intended to imply that the various religions were equal in doctrine or truth. Calling the event a "parliament" in no way compromised the Christian claim to superiority and unique revelation. It was only intended to guarantee the parliamentary privilege of equal right to speak and to present opinions. "There was no suggestion on the part of the Christian speakers that Christianity was to be thought of on the same level with other religions."48

In the most commonly reproduced photographs of the Parliament the Asian delegates appear as a handful of colorfully attired representatives contrasting with the sober, dark-suited Christians.49 Their prominent position at the center front of the stage makes the most of their presence, bestowing an impression of religious diversity. Barrows describes the "most picturesque and pleasing spectacle" of the gathering on stage and delights in the "colour and movement" of the Oriental delegates with their "many coloured raiment" and especially the "most gorgeous group," the Chinese and Japanese, "arrayed in costly silk vestments of all the colours of the rainbow."50 Consciously or not, the contrast among the Parliamentary delegates paralleled the planned contrast between the serious side of the fair, the White City, and the entertainment and amusement appeal of the Midway Plaisance.

The Invitation and the Limits of Tolerance

The Parliament, in the expansive terms of the call for papers, was to be a gathering of "the leading representatives of the great historic religions of the world, to show to man in the most impressive way, what and how many important truths the various religions hold and teach in common." It aimed to "promote and deepen the spirit of human brotherhood among religious men of diverse faiths, through friendly converse and mutual good understanding, while not seeking to foster the temper of indifferentism, and not striving to achieve any formal and outward unity."51 Letters of response to the idea suggest that this vision was considered disturbingly liberal by considerable segments of the society, those whom even Barrows disparagingly described as "good bigots who imagine that God will not cease working until he has made all men Presbyterians."52 But even the liberal view uncompromisingly placed Christianity at the pinnacle of evolutionary development that all other religions were destined to reach. In Barrows's words, "[I]t is not true that all religions are equally good; but neither is it true that all religions except one are no good at aIL" The invitation, for all its professions of mutual respect, was to come and be measured: "Christianity ... will assign to each its place in that work of evangelical preparation which the elder doctors discern in heathenism itself and which is not yet completed."53

Hierarchies of Race and the Light

Embedded here are the interrelated assumptions that there is but one God whose plan unfolds in the progress of the world, and his revelation is universal, but unequally bequeathed. "God hath not left himself without witness" was a constant refrain, elaborated on by metaphors of Light -- "the white light of Heaven," "the Light of Truth" -- all implying that other religions are but a dim reflection of the Christian Light of the World. Christianity was "the sun among candles." Christians who "have the full light of the Cross should bear brotherly hearts towards all those who grope in a dimmer illumination."54 The "twilight" state of others was variously explained. In Bonney's opening address we find that "God necessarily reveals himself differently to a child than to a man, to a philosopher than to one who cannot read." God gave two revelations, one in nature, which historically has been the preoccupation of the "Oriental" religions, and the higher revelation, the Christian revelation of the word.55 A scientifically expressed variation on the theme was overtly racist: the revelation was given equally to all but was "broken into many coloured fragments by the prisms of men." Non-Christian races were unable to perceive the truth or to hold on to its brilliance. The white light shone upon them was defracted into the many hues of partial truths, "gropings after God."56 One of the most frequently stated objects of the Parliament of Religions was to "change this many-coloured radiance back to the white light of heavenly truth."57

Acts 10:35 -- "God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to Him" -- was also quoted with great enthusiasm as an example of Christian magnanimity and tolerance. It seems to have been forgotten that it was a reply to Peter's question of whether the Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit and offers only that men of all races may be converted. It has nothing to say about Christian tolerance for other religions to exist. The liberal inspiration of the Parliament notwithstanding, it was a Christian event both in the proselytizing aspirations of people such as Barrows and in the unquestioned assumptions upon which it was based.

While Barrows quite understandably presented the Parliament as welcoming and attractive to non-Christian delegates in the official invitation intended for international distribution, in publications intended to circulate among Christians -- and in sermons before his congregation -- he was less guarded and spoke more specifically of the function of the Parliament in converting the world to Christianity. News of one such sermon reached Japan with serious consequences for the Japanese delegation. 58 Conservative Japanese already opposed to the idea of Buddhist participation at the Parliament were confirmed in their suspicions that the event was a Christian trap and that non-Christian religions, far from getting a fair hearing, would be used.59 Supporters of the delegation countered that such suspicions showed lack of confidence in Buddhism. They did concede that the circumstances of the Parliament, a Christian event held in a Christian country and controlled by a Christian chairman, were less than ideal, but that, properly managed, the benefits for Buddhism in Japan could be profound and that the risks were well worth taking.60

Barrows's sermon focused Buddhist rhetoric on the need to combat Christian imperialism. From the Japanese delegates' point of view, because Barrows had declared war, it was now possible to plead for support in terms of attack. The Parliament was an opportunity to "make the truth known and assail the evil teaching." Employing the rhetoric of Social Darwinism, they argued that Japan must send a delegation for the sake of Buddhism and for the sake of Japan. "The survival of the fittest is the general trend of society," they argued, and Japanese Buddhists had an obligation to the civilization of the future. Evolution of religion depended on competition between species, and among the world religions -- which they identified as Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam -- Buddhism alone is a sufficiently different "species," the one world religion "entirely different from Christianity in nature, organization, doctrine and means of propagation." Therefore, they argued, "the racial contest is between yellow and white; the contest of religions is between Buddhism and Christianity,"61 After years of conflict and rivalry with Christians in Japan, Japanese Buddhists were not predisposed to take Barrows's protestations of brotherhood at face value.

Tolerance: Assimilation or Plurality?

The Theravada Buddhist delegate, Dharmapala, also expressed his suspicions of the Christian motive in inviting non-Christian delegates, admitting that he meditated for a year before deciding to attend. His opening address challenged the Parliament to match the tolerance of religious plurality, the tolerance demonstrated by the great Buddhist king Asoka "twenty-four centuries ago," recognizing and supporting the right of different religions to coexist. Experience of missionary attitudes in Asia warned delegates that this ideal of tolerance was unlikely to be what the organizers had in mind. Even liberal missionaries who showed respect for certain non-Christian religions held instead an ideal of assimilation in "fulfilment." Dharmapala offered only conditional approval: "[I]f you are serious, if you are unselfish, if you are altruistic," the Parliament would be a success, and Barrows would shine forth as the American Asoka.62

The problem was a fundamental one: acceptance of the possibility of different religions coexisting in mutual respect, rather than mere rhetorical generosity. The difference in Christian and Asian views, of assimilation versus plurality, became clear at the closing ceremony in the audience reaction to two speakers, both of whom spoke on the theme of tolerance and religious unity. The first was the Reverend George T. Candlin, an English missionary to China, who showed his own admiration and sympathy for China by dressing in Chinese clothes and, according to the Japanese delegate Shaku Soen, "speaking with such enthusiasm that foam flew from the corners of his mouth."63 Candlin was given an enthusiastic ovation. He encapsulated the liberal Christian project of considering non-Christian religions as partial revelations of the Christian truth, their followers children of a lesser light. Chicago's achievement, as he saw it, was that it had opened the way for a new period of missionary enterprise in Asia. Christianity, which was not achieving expected results in Asia, would henceforth succeed more rapidly by adopting a less confrontational approach, by overcoming the "conventional idea" that

Christianity is true and all other religions false; that Christianity is light, and other religions dark; that Christianity is of God, while other religions are of the devil, or else with a little more moderation that Christianity is by revelation from heaven while other religions are manufactures of men. You know better, and with clear light and strong assurance you can testify that there may be friendship instead of antagonism between religion and religion; that so surely as God is our common Father our hearts alike have yearned for him, and our souls in devoutest moods have caught whispers of grace dropped from his throne.64

Candlin was followed by the Indian Hindu speaker, Vivekananda, who also called for tolerance and brotherhood, but in terms of acceptance and coexistence rather than conversion. The lesson of the Parliament was, he claimed, that holiness and purity were not the exclusive possession of anyone faith. "Much has been said of the common ground of religious unity .... But if anyone here hopes that this unity would come by the triumph of anyone of these religions and the destruction of the others, to him I say, 'Brother, yours is an impossible hope: Do I wish that the Christian would become Hindu? God forbid. Do I wish that the Hindu or Buddhist would become Christian? God forbid .... The Christian is not to become a Hindu or Buddhist, nor a Hindu or Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the others yet preserve its individuality."65

As Barrows observed, Vivekananda was one of the most popular speakers at the Parliament, "but very little approval was shown to some of his sentiments expressed in his closing address."66 It was apparently acceptable that we all have one Father, that all religions are reflections of the one light (shining on different surfaces, fractured by the prisms of different minds), provided that the implications of this were not taken so seriously as to appear to validate the differences. All were ultimately to be subsumed in the One, and the Lord was ultimately to be called Jesus. The Christians in the audience showed by their disapproval that they understood only too clearly the implication of Vivekananda's quotation of Visnu's claim that whosoever makes offerings or prayers to any God makes them to him. For Candlin the tolerance of differences was a temporary stage on the road to ultimate conversion to Christianity as the universal religion. For him the Parliament heralded "a new era of missionary enterprise and missionary hope."67 For Vivekananda, plurality was a permanent and desirable condition.


Although the Christian intention of the Parliament is evident enough in the official records, when Barrows wrote about the event in 1897, outside the protocol of the official publication intended for international distribution, he summed up his vision of the Parliament's purpose even more directly: "Christianity should be choked down no man's throat, but ... all men should be invited to receive it for their own good, intelligently invited to an intelligent reception."68

The organizers of the Parliament were motivated by a dream of universal Christian supremacy that was to be achieved by bringing lesser beliefs to their fulfillment. In their view Christianity was already the perfect religion, and the point of the conference was to provide an opportunity for Eastern leaders to realize this. That their Asian colleagues might just as sincerely view the Parliament as an opportunity for the West to recognize the superiority of their religion was not conceivable.

Barrows entertained his Oriental visitors in the week before the Parliament by taking them to one of his Sunday services at the First Presbyterian Church of Chicago. Barrows reported that the Buddhist delegation, after witnessing two ceremonies of entry into Christianity, a baptism and the reception of three Chinese converts, "reverently listened to a sermon on 'Christ the Wonderful.'" "It appeared," to Barrows at least, "as if the Parliament had already opened beneath the splendor of the Cross."69 The opening ceremony of the Parliament began with the singing of Psalm 100, a hymn rejoicing in having dragged the heathen into court.

Before Jehovah's awful throne,
Ye nations bow with sacred joy,
Know that the Lord is God Alone,
He can create, and He destroy.70

Although this scarcely seems an appropriate choice of anthem for an event meant to encourage religious tolerance and reassure non-Christian delegates of open-minded reception, the reception and hospitality the Asian delegates received were more tolerant than they had expected.71 They had considerable experience with Christian attitudes, were forewarned of the possibility of Christian aggression, and came prepared to deal with it. Nevertheless, the attempt to make Japanese Buddhism acceptable and relevant in this North American Protestant Christian arena imposed certain determinants on its representation and consequently on Western knowledge of Japanese Buddhism.


Securing the Truth

The invitation to participate in the World's Parliament of Religions was accompanied by a ten-point list of the objects of the event and a set of "specific rules and regulations ... promulgated for the conduct of the proposed conference."1 The rules specified that delegates would "state their own beliefs and reasons for them with the greatest frankness" and would refrain from criticism of others. The Parliament was to be "a grand international assembly for mutual conference, fellowship, and information, and not for controversy, for worship, for the counting of votes or for the passing of resolutions."2 These specific rules for the conduct of the Congress of Religions were supplemented by the rules governing the Auxiliary Congresses in general, which Charles C. Bonney proudly described as the "the actual working machinery," the controls under which, the author boasted, "even congresses on labour and religion were conducted with such order, decorum, peace, and success, as were never surpassed and probably never equalled."3 Under the general headings of "Themes, Speakers and Limitations" and "Discussion of the Subjects Presented," these rules controlled what might be spoken of, who might speak, the conditions under which speech might be heard. "By far, the most important of all these rules and regulations," Bonney declared, "was that which excluded controversy and prohibited strife."4

The documents exude the rhetoric of tolerance and universal brotherhood and were frequently quoted by contemporary commentators, the Japanese delegates included, to exemplify the spirit of the event.5 The World's Parliament of Religions was "to bring together in frank and friendly conference, the most eminent men of different faiths, strong in their personal convictions, who should strive to see and show what are the supreme truths, and what light religion has to throw upon the important problems of the age -- the labour problem, education, social problems."6 The Parliament was "a royal feast to which the representatives of every faith were asked to bring the richest fruits and the fairest flowers of their religion."7 "Each representative was asked to present the very best things he could offer for those in whose behalf he spoke, and was admonished that nothing was desired of him in the way of attack on any other person, system or creed."8 The integrity of the proceedings as a serious search for the light of the world was further protected by being "rigidly purged of cranks," and there was "neither time nor fitness for minor sects."9

Although they appear to guarantee a generous and all encompassing tolerance, the objects of the Parliament, which emerged from and reinforced American and Christian dominance, and the rules of conduct of the Parliament that safeguarded them, conditioned the way non-Christian religions were represented. They controlled the discourse, effectively reducing all other religions to inadequate attempts to express the Christian revelation. They determined what was said of Buddhism and what authority was accorded the speech of its representatives.

This is, however, but one side of the Parliament's organization. No less important was the function of these rules in validating the knowledge that emerged. If only genuine authorities were allowed to speak, and they were allowed to speak freely, the event would produce the truth of all religions. This was then to be preserved in the official record, a "permanent record to be published to the world, an accurate and authoritative account of the present condition and outlook of religion among the leading nations of the earth."10 Writing after the event, Bonney was explicit in confirming the authority of Barrows's version: "[T]he Parliament must be judged by its official record, edited by its Chairman, the Rev. Dr. John Henry Barrows, and not by any nor all of the very numerous fragmentary and distorted reports of it, which have misled portions of the public at home and abroad."11

The book, extensively edited and embellished with photographs -- not artists' impressions but captured instances of "reality" -- was the true record of the Parliament. In a certain sense, the point of the Parliament was to produce the text:

"[T] he chief object is to procure the maturest thought of the world on all the great questions of the age, in a form best adapted to universal publication."12 It was the organizers' stated plan that it would become a source of reference and debate, a record for the next century to judge -- and, indeed, though other records are available, it remains the authoritative source.13 This chapter first considers the way in which the rules of the Parliament conditioned the presentation of Buddhism and the Japanese delegates' participation. It then looks at the way our memory of the event was further shaped by Barrows's record of it.

Absence of Debate

The rule of conduct most praised by the Parliament's chroniclers was that "no provision was made for any free debating society in the whole range of the Congresses."14 Johnson confidently identified this as the fundamental condition of the success of the event.

Strict regulations were made and enforced for the exclusion of the volunteer address, and of every form of random talk. The entire time at disposal was allotted to those who were supposed to be the most competent to instruct and advise. Controversy was prohibited and the passing of resolutions of approval and censure was forbidden. The writers and speakers were asked not to attack the views of others but to set forth with as much cogency as possible the merits of their own. The theory of the Congresses was that those who spoke in them were addressing the intellectual and moral world through the medium of the Congresses, and that the views expressed would be afterward widely discussed in pulpit, forum, public press, and private conversation ... participating countries were earnestly requested ... to recommend for the Congress speakers and writers of the highest qualifications and abilities.15

The overriding concerns of the organizers in calling the Congress of Religions a parliament appears to have been first, to convey the principle of the equal right to be heard and, second, that each of the speakers was a legitimate representative of his constituency. The event diverged from the parliamentary ideal most significantly on precisely the point regularly identified as its greatest achievement, the absence of debate. It was this, said one critic, that reduced it from a true parliament to a mere "World's Fair of Theological exhibits with a sort of Midway Plaisance attachment for the bric a brac of creeds."16

For most commentators, the lack of controversy at the Parliament was considered one of its greatest achievements. "Random talk" -- unexpected and uncontrolled outbursts and address on unwanted issues -- arose only on one or two occasions, such as when a speaker on Islam inspired "a sudden and unpremeditated outburst of feeling" by "what was taken for an attack on the fundamental principle of social morality."17 Control of what could be spoken of began from the time that Barrows, as chairman and organizer of the program, read and approved papers. He disapproved of Hirai's first paper, but Hirai persisted, demanding the right to speak. Debate was prohibited under the banner of tolerance and fair hearing, allowing no room for the "malignant enemy of human progress ... that vindictive spirit which finds delight in assailing others instead of presenting something meritorious of its own."18 There was, however, another side to the prohibition. In the control of "volunteer address and random talk" the only questions or comments allowed during the sessions were under the control of the presiding officer, who could call upon the "most eminent persons present,"19 invariably leading Christian theologians. The right of rebuttal of parliamentary debate was denied. Votes of approval or censure were also specifically forbidden, but significantly only during the proceedings, and because, as Bonney explained, the subjects treated were too important to be "submitted to the vote of those who happen to be present." This is what made the published record of the proceedings so important. It was to offer the papers "for subsequent deliberate examination by the enlightened minds of all countries; for unrestricted discussion in the forum, the pulpit, and the public press; and finally for that exalted public opinion which expresses the consensus of such minds."20 The organizers intended that the discussion would take place in forums effectively closed to the foreign delegates. The non-Christian delegates would have no right of reply, no possibility of engaging in the discourse, or of intervening in the formation of its objects.21 This may have been less a deliberate ploy to control discourse on non-Christian religions than a consequence of the extrapolation of Bonney's original vision of an essentially North American ecumenical harmony. It was nevertheless effective in excluding Buddhists from the discussion of Buddhism, from the public forum where they might answer criticisms or questions and clarify meanings.

As a consequence, the Parliament provided Christian sermon writers with a whole set of "straw men" authenticated and validated by the status of the delegates as chosen representatives of their faith and the assurance that they presented the "finest fruits" of their belief. Barrows's writings and sermons after the Parliament show that he at least used the Parliament in this way. Having hosted the delegates and attended the Parliament, he prefaced his still uninformed attacks on Buddhism by claiming he knew Oriental religions "both ideal and practical."22 Under the banner of tolerance, free speech, and fair play, discourse was controlled and held tightly within the confines of Christian domination. There were no criticisms or questions in the one public forum where they might have been answered, where meanings might have been clarified. Buddhists had no control at all over how the information created under these restrictive conditions was then diffused.

Authorizing Speech

One of the most consistently repeated of the regulations was the assurance that all representatives were to be "persons of strong and vigorous convictions who would be acknowledged by their organizations as worthy to speak on their behalf."23 The truth was guaranteed by controlling the speaker, and the constant reiteration of this rule and its enforcement were fundamental to the authority of the record. Nevertheless, we find that the Buddhist delegates were not the only "authorities" to speak on Buddhism. The number of Christians speaking on Buddhism at least equaled the number of authorized Buddhists. Apart from the Christian missionaries who directly attacked Buddhism in apparent disregard for the rules of the Parliament, a number of Christian theologians spoke of Buddhism within papers on the main themes. The imbalance is even greater if we consider that Buddhism was implicated in the discussion of nihilism, atheism, and materialist philosophy (see Chapter 4).

If we leave aside for the moment the problem of considering Buddhism as a single entity, Buddhism first entered into the proceedings in a paper by Professor Milton Valentine, D.D., president of a theological college and scholar of comparative religion. Valentine argued the universality of the notion of God, an argument that required he explain the apparent anomaly of Buddhist "atheism." Other non-Buddhists who contributed to the discussion included Professor M. S. Terry. The argument of his paper, "Sacred Books of the World as Literature," was that for those brought up under Christianity, there was little that was attractive in the writings of Buddhism, which, as he described it, was negative, life-denying, and pessimistic.24 Mrs. Eliza Sunderland, Ph.D., speaking on hierology, confirmed for the audience that Buddhism was a "stiflingly ascetic ethical system." Buddhism, she declared, "neglects the divine, preaches the final salvation of man from the miseries of existence through the power of his own self-renunciation, and as it was atheistic in origin, it soon became infected by the fantastic of mythology and the most childish of superstitions."25 Isaac T. Headland presented an illustrated firsthand account of idolatry and superstition in Chinese Buddhism and the degradation of its priesthood under the title "Religion in Peking." Each of these speakers was apparently "qualified" to speak, in spite of their obvious antagonism to Buddhism and lack of endorsement by any Buddhist community, by their training in Christian theology or the Western science of comparative religion.

Among the Christian missionaries speaking on Buddhism was the Reverend Dr. S. G. McFarland, veteran missionary from Bangkok. While not overly critical -- Buddhism's moral code compared favorably with the Christian Decalogue -- he nevertheless confirmed the atheistic, pessimistic, and selfish image of the Theravada.26 The Reverend M. L. Gordon, missionary at Doshisha in Japan, with less sympathy, spoke on "Why Buddhism Is Not a Universal Religion."27 The authority of these missionaries apparently depended on their firsthand contact with Asian religions, but on no account could they be considered accepted representatives of the Asian communities, and surely the condition of strong and vigorous commitment demanded of speakers by the rules of the Parliament implied commitment to the religion they spoke on.
The prevailing attitude of the missionary contingent was indicated by the refusal of pioneer Chinese scholar Dr. Legge, himself a missionary, to attend a mission conference "where he would be compelled to listen to a continual violation of the Ninth Commandment [Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor] against those who would have no opportunity of defending themselves."28 Legge, at least, recognized the importance of the right to rebuttal, denied at the Parliament in service of harmony.

The Parliament papers were given in three main divisions. Apart from the central forum, supposedly devoted to the great questions of religion, there was the parallel Scientific Section, which was given over to papers described as of "a more scientific and less popular character," and the Denominational Congresses, which encompassed such diverse discussions as the Congress on Missions and Sunday rest. In the Scientific Section of the Parliament, in contrast to the control of the main sessions, "papers were often followed by free conversation"29 and the rules of qualification and commitment were so frequently flouted that they may not have applied at all. It was here that Christians spoke on Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, and every other religion controlled only by the "scientific" rules of comparative religion, a field of study itself imbued with Christian preoccupations. Whatever the distinctions made between papers presented in this category in the application of the "rigidly enforced" controls on authority, they were published along with those of the main presentations with nothing more than a subheading to indicate any change of perspective or authority.

The end result of these exceptions to the rigid enforcement of the rule of authority is that Gordon, missionary to Japan, was given equal status with Buddhist abbots. Barrows himself, summing up the Buddhist conception of God, referred with equal deference to the papers of Professor Valentine and of Shaku Soen, the Buddhist "bishop," and of Dharmapala, the Theravada representative. He ignored the contributions of the other qualified Buddhist authorities -- all of whom addressed the issue of theism. Most significant, this essentializing stance overlooked any distinctions Japanese made between the teachings of their religion and the Buddhisms of other parts of Asia they were at pains to distance themselves from.
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Part 3 of 3

Extending Authority: The Solicited Prize Essay

Barrows had solicited papers attacking the religions of East Asia. He wrote to a missionary in Japan requesting a paper on Taoism, the "Demon in the Triad of Chinese Religion: Dragon, Image and Demon" (Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism), offering "an opportunity to present the dark features of a heathen system."30 The paper on Confucianism presented to the Parliament by the eminently qualified Chinese diplomat and Confucian scholar Pung Kwang31 was put against an essay by a Chinese Christian convert solicited in competition for which Barrows offered a prize of "a premium of gold."32

Introducing the paper, Barrows highlighted the fact that it was a "prize essay" -- a paper proved by competition to be the best information on the subject -- and an up-to-date opinion, because it was written especially for the Parliament and had been translated just a few months earlier (May 1893).
As English is presumably the native language of the translator, the Reverend Timothy Richard of the English Baptist Mission, China, one can only assume that the decidedly quaint English in which the essay was written -- "this doctrine is all important, like as the hinge of a door" -- was meant to signal its authentic Chinese origin; that the translator made himself as transparent as possible, taking care not to impose the rules of English grammar on the work. Barrows, as editor, apparently followed his example. The essay did not criticize Confucianism as such, only its contemporary manifestation. It reinforced the message projected by Christians since the time of Matteo Ricci, that Confucianism is a system of civil organization with a monotheistic world view that is not antagonistic to Christianity. It was, however, critical of Taoism and Buddhism, to which were attributed the apparent flaws in observable practice. A third paper on Confucianism by Dr. Ernst Faber, "Genesis and Development of Confucianism,"33 confirmed this general attitude. Faber presented Confucius as a fundamentalist reformer urging modern Chinese to throw out such evil accretions as foot binding, to return to his original teaching, and to learn from the West. Putting aside the sympathy shown here with Barrows's own mission, the point I want to make is not how Confucianism was represented but the discrepancy between the professed rules governing who may speak and the actual freedom of platform and overt encouragement given to critics of non-Christian religions. We should also note how the implication of Japanese Buddhism in essentialized notions of "Asia" and "Asian religions" contributed to what was said of it at the Parliament.

The Rule of Time

The possibility of presenting a coherent account of non-Christian religions was also restricted by the organization of the event. Like all well-run conferences, the World's Parliament of Religions placed firm restrictions on the length of time available to each speaker, assuring equal opportunity and encouraging its speakers to be concise and to the point: "[L]engthy papers are neither necessary or desirable."34 This may indeed be the case for the Parliament as Bonney originally envisaged it, a forum for establishing Judeo-Christian ecumenism in which mainly Christian speakers would argue points of contention within a generally agreed body of doctrine, rehearse familiar controversies, and at most publicize ongoing institutional issues. Twenty minutes, the allocation, is ample time to express platitudes of fraternity and shared visions of the future. It may even be an appropriate period in which to present an explanation of a point of doctrinal difference between denominations within the shared ground of belief in the Holy Trinity. However, it totally removed the possibility of Buddhists establishing the parameters of their discussion.

The Buddhist explanation of their alternate view of the world could not be dealt with in a twenty-minute paper, especially because it was delivered in a foreign language, one that restricted the vocabulary for translation of Buddhist technical terms to either Christian terms or the terms of materialist philosophy, to an unprepared and largely uninterested audience.
Curiosity is not the same as actually wanting to work at understanding what other people believe. A short paper, regardless of its desirability in other circumstances, could not allow the presentation of a total and totally unfamiliar belief system in any meaningful way. Presented under these circumstances, non-Christian religions must necessarily have seemed shallow, incomplete, and no doubt incoherent. The rule of time served to preserve and perpetuate the mystery and apparent irrelevance that surrounded them. Because there was an existing body of Western scholarship on Buddhism, the short papers prevented a real assault on the aspects of Western knowledge the Buddhists delegates perceived as error. Here, again, the organizing rules of the Parliament acted to reinforce the existing construct.

The Finest Fruits

What could be said, and was understood, about non-Christian religions was also conditioned by the apparently benevolent attitude that "the so-called heathen religions must not be judged solely by their idolatries and cruel rites any more than apple trees should be judged by their worst fruits."35 The rule branded non-Christian religions as cruel and idolatrous in its very enunciation, reminding the audience that however reasonable the representation at the Parliament may seem, it is only one side of the picture. The other, darker side remained unspoken but was not to be forgotten.

Preserving the coexistence of good and evil in Buddhism was fundamental to the mission campaign of its eradication. The Reverend Spence Hardy, for example, one of the first missionaries to write on Buddhism, explained that to overcome Buddhism, Christians had to admit that there was undoubtedly much that was good in it. This was because it could not be denied, if the teachings alone were considered, that it had much in common with Christianity. The point of difference to be stressed, he argued, was that Buddhism is atheistic and nihilistic, and these faults outweigh all else.36

Discrepancy between the ideal teachings of a religion and its actual practice was also exploited. This again was a familiar argument against Buddhism. Because Western scholars had created the Buddha Sakyamuni as a historical, humanist philosopher, the lack of fit between the "Pure Buddhism" of their construct and Asian practices was explained by the inadequacy of such an austere philosophy to meet the needs of the people or, alternately, in racist terms, the inadequacy of the people to live up to the precepts.
Barrows, qualifying the representation of Buddhism by the Japanese delegates, concluded that "the oriental speakers were, on the whole, fairly representative of the higher ideas of their own faith, if not of the popular religions."37 His message was a clear reminder to his readers that what they had heard on Japanese Buddhism was partial. While it is certainly true that the Japanese presentation of Buddhism did not deal with popular Japanese practice, the same could certainly be said of the papers on Christianity.

The rule demanding that only the "finest fruits" of each religion be displayed opened the opportunity for the play of comparison between ideal and actuality. This was a familiar missionary practice in which biblical ideals were taken as the measure of existing Asian practice, usually as it could be observed among the poor and socially deprived.38 The paper on Buddhism in Japan by Gordon exemplified the practice.39 His "irrefragable" evidence of the immorality of Japanese priests came from rumors circulating in Christian missionary circles, from statistics of admissions to the mission clinics for treatment of "immoral diseases," and from the rhetoric of Meiji Buddhist reform, which followed the usual practice of enlisting public support for change by emphasizing present decay. One must ask not only why Gordon, as a Christian, was allowed to speak on Buddhism but what place his information had under the rules of the Parliament? Why, also, did it deserve inclusion in the Parliament proper rather than the smaller, less public Scientific Section? And, because Barrows tells us that he found it necessary to be quite severe in his selection and editing of the material to preserve in the two-volume record, why was this paper preserved against all the rules for securing the truth?

Like so many of the rules of the Parliament, this much repeated insistence on presenting only the best of each religion was at best selectively applied. Gordon's paper was devoted to what he believed was wrong with Buddhism, arguing in essence that its principal defect was that it was not Christianity. It has no concept of soul, an inadequate concept of deity, no sense of a personal sin against God, and an unsatisfactory doctrine of salvation. As well as this, he claimed, it is pessimistic, holds women in contempt, lacks homogeneity and unity, and is not exclusive or, as he put it, fails "to command the exclusive reverence of the human heart."40 One would not expect this last observation to be ground for criticism amid the professions of brotherhood of the Parliament. With similar disregard for the much-lauded rules of the Parliament, missionaries discussing Hinduism did not hesitate to refer to sati, infanticide, child marriage, and devadasi.41 These were familiar targets of criticism and, as such, were consequently also discussed by the Indian representatives of the Brahmo Samaj, because reform of these practices was essential to the foundation of their society,42 and Jain delegate Virchand Gandhi, who felt they reflected on Indian society as a whole. The point is that the reiteration of the existence of these practices, even in the statement of their reform, consolidated their association with Hinduism.

We have already discussed the implications of the rule insisting on the presentation of all that was good in each religion. Johnson's record, rephrasing it in the familiar terms of fundamentalist reform, of separating the essence of the religion from "any pernicious practices that had grown up through the centuries and claimed protection under its name,"43 opens the possibility of a further interpretation. Asian religions were to be rationalized in the post-Enlightenment sense of the word by order of the organizing committee. Johnson avoided Barrows's hint of skeletons in the closet but nevertheless inappropriately imposed Christian and post-Enlightenment criteria of acceptability on what may be said about non-Christian religions. He enshrined the constructs of Western Orientalist scholarship, which were formed by this rationalization of severing "pernicious practices," "accretions of time," from Oriental religions to reveal the "true" doctrine. In Buddhist scholarship this meant stripping away all practice, ritual, mythology -- and the whole of the Mahayana -- to reveal the supposed essence of Sakyamuni's teaching, preserved in the oldest texts. Most important for the Japanese delegates, under this rule Japanese Buddhism, which did not exist in any form until more than a thousand years after the birth of the Buddha, could be dismissed as not really being Buddhism at all. This was, however, a familiar challenge to the Japanese delegates, and one that they set out prepared to meet.

Language and Authenticity

The rules of the Parliament specified that the proceedings were to be conducted in the English language. Apart from the difficulty the delegates faced in translating Buddhist concepts into English, there was also the problem of actual spoken delivery, of being audible, intelligible, and convincing while speaking to an audience of several thousand people in an unamplified hall. Dharmapala and Vivekanada, both of whom lived under British domination in South Asia and therefore were familiar with both the English language and Western modes of public address, managed most effectively. This no doubt had a great deal to do with their popularity and their prominence in the press. Malalgoda comments on the importance of effective public speaking in Buddhist revival in Ceylon in the second half of the nineteenth century.44 Buddhists, compelled to engage in debate with Christian missionaries, gave up the time-honored Buddhist mode of quiet, spoken, seated address in favor of the Protestant standing harangue with great success. The Japanese priests had not made this transition. Among the Japanese Buddhists Hirai and Noguchi alone had sufficient command of the language to speak before the audience.45

These problems aside, the more important aspect of the rule was that although the organizers deliberately sought out delegates with a knowledge of English,46 the ability of the delegates to speak English was used to undermine their credibility as authentic representatives of non-Christian religions. The very fact of being learned and understanding English, Barrows argued, proved that they had come into contact with Western philosophy and Christian thought; consequently, whatever appeared to be positive aspects of their religion he dismissed as reflections of the power of these influences. His travels in India, China, and Japan subsequent to the Parliament apparently confirmed him in this belief because in 1899 he again declared that "Christianity has become so pervasive that it is difficult to find scholarly men who have not been touched by its brightness."47

The Published Record

The Parliament generated a profusion of literature,48 but as the quotation from Charles Bonney at the head of this chapter states, only Barrows's edition was to be considered authoritative. It alone preserved the "truth" as generated by the event. Of the other publications available, the nearest challenger was Neely's History of the Parliament of Religions, the only other work that offered a "complete" record of the papers presented. Neely's edition was compiled from original manuscripts supplemented by notes of the proceedings taken by "an expert stenographer who attended every session,"49 whose certification of accuracy, completeness, and authenticity appears immediately behind the title page. Comparison of the two works reveals considerable discrepancies between them.

In general, the papers in Barrows's official edition tend to be shorter and more heavily edited, especially in the second volume where many of the papers on Buddhism appear. Hirai's paper, "Synthetic Religion," for example, is about four hundred words long in Barrows but closer to two thousand in Neely's History. Shaku Soen's controversial "Arbitration Instead of War" in Barrows has been reduced to about half the length of the paper published by Neely. A minor casualty of the desire to preserve the seriousness and harmony of the event was Shaku Soen's opening quip on the sixteenth day, a Congress on Buddhism, expressing the joy in having no one but "we heathen" on the platform.50 Some papers, such as "Man from a Catholic Point of View,"51 were omitted entirely, but then Barrows openly admitted that some interesting papers had to be "retrenched" for lack of space.52 Barrows's editorial policy was not to record the total proceedings as Neely's History claimed to do. He had a higher purpose. He explained in a notice to readers in the front of the first volume that although it is rich with valuable materials, "it would be even more valuable if parts of it had been rigorously condensed."53 The second volume therefore was to be carefully pruned "to furnish a book of 800 pages, in which the gold will be even more abundant than in the first volume." The selection and reduction of papers rested on what Barrows considered to be "gold," and this was clearly his vision of the triumph of future Christian universality to which he devoted his remaining years,54 and he seems to have had few qualms about editing contributions accordingly.

As in the Parliament itself, the truth of the papers rested on the authority of the delegates speaking under Parliamentary protection, but here the image of harmony was even more controlled. Barrows modified the language of the papers, softening views that may have been considered critical. He eliminated contentious language and ideas such as Hirai's provocative call for religious unity: "Stop your debate about the difference of religion. Kill Gautama .... Do not mind Christ. ... Tear up the Bible."55 Although the sentiment may have conformed to the Parliamentary ideal of the nonsectarian pursuit of the truth, Hirai's expression jarred the harmony of the record and, no doubt, would have assailed Christian sensitivities. Violent rhetoric conformed to the image of neither men of religion nor gentlemen of the Orient. The publication of such a statement would also have made it rather difficult for Barrows to present Hirai, as he did, as a candidate for conversion. The purging of discord was again used as a device of control.

Ashitsu Jitsuzen's paper was edited to less than half its length in Barrows's edition.56 The first three pages of the six that appear in Neely's History were heavily condensed. The paper was cut short, avoiding Ashitsu's criticism of Western scholarship and his suggestion that there might be more to Buddhism than the West had yet realized. The paper, as it appeared in Neely's History, continued, observing that although many Europeans and Americans had studied Buddhism, they had never heard of Mahayana and, consequently, "they too hastily concluded that the true doctrine of Buddhism is Hinayana, and that so-called Mahayana is nothing but a portion of Indian pure philosophy. They are wrong. They have entirely misunderstood. They have only poorly gained with their scanty knowledge a smattering of Buddhism. They are entirely ignorant of the boundless sea of Buddha's doctrine rolling just beyond their feet."57

Other cuts in this paper include Buddhist technical terms in Japanese, Sanskrit, and Chinese, and their explanation. These may not have meant much to the general reader Barrows had in mind, but their absence in the record may go some way toward explaining why scholars using this source dismiss the paper as a vague gesture toward the aims expressed in the Japanese.58 With the aid of a dictionary of Buddhist terms to decipher it, the paper appears as a desperate attempt to convey a great deal of doctrine. It was, if nothing more, an indication that there was a great deal of Japanese Mahayana Buddhism that the West knew nothing of -- the "boundless sea" he had referred to -- a verbal gesture equivalent to the gift of the four hundred volumes of sutras in Chinese the delegation placed before the Parliament on the opening day. Compare, for example, the two discussions of the Three Bodies of the Buddha (Japanese: sanshin; Sanskrit: trayah kayah). In Barrows we get merely: "Buddha has three personalities. The first is entirely colorless and formless, but at the same time, it has the nature of eternality, omnipresence, and unchangeableness." In Neely's History the equivalent passage reads: "The Buddha has three personalities, namely Hosshin, Hoshin and Wojin. Now in Hosshin, Ho means law, and Shin means personality, so it is a name given to the personality of the constitution after the Buddha got the highest Buddhahood. This personality is entirely colorless and formless, but at the same time, it has the nature of eternality, omnipresence and unchangeableness. Hosshin is called Birushana in Sanskrit, and Honissai-sho in Chinese, both meaning omnipresence."

Granted the version in Neely's History was probably no more comprehensible to the audience at the Parliament, but by giving the Buddhist terms it indicated that there was indeed a Japanese doctrine dealing with the nature of the Buddha -- that the concept of "Buddha" was far more subtle and complicated than the Western assumption of a human historical figure. Because the target audience for the Japanese delegation was Western scholars, a group that included people with knowledge of these languages, correlating the Japanese with the Sanskrit and Chinese opened the way for comparative study, and perhaps even a share of the admiration granted Sanskrit philosophical works. The effort to communicate is apparent even if the gesture was ineffective.

The significance of radical editing of the papers is also apparent in the debate over Shaku Soen's paper "Arbitration Instead of War."59 It is clear from the introductory passages available in Neely's History that the title is a reference to the opening address and proposes that the various religions of the world follow the example of international law, recognizing existing differences, protecting the weak against aggression. This was a core theme of the Japanese project in support of treaty revision at Chicago. In his closing remarks to the Parliament Hirai returned to the issue, congratulating the hosts as "the pioneers of human history. You have achieved an assembly of the world's religions, and we believe your next step will be toward the ideal goal of this Parliament, the realization of international justice."60 As it appears in Barrows's edition, Shaku Soen's paper is reduced to a rather woolly statement of brotherhood and peace. The longer version proposed that just as nations of the world settle their differences through international law -- a law they all agree to, although it is not the national law of any of them -- there should be an agreed common belief that all could uphold though none need claim as their own. The theme for the day on which he presented the paper, the sixteenth day of the Parliament, was the attitude of Christianity toward other religions. With typical Japanese concern for the appropriateness of the occasion, Shaku Soen put in a gentle plea that the attitude displayed at the World's Parliament of Religions be generally applied; that differences be put aside under the general law of truth.61 It was a call for coexistence in religious plurality rather than conversion.

The Parliament Illustrated

The visual spectacle of the World's Parliament of Religions was reproduced in the official publication. Portraits throughout conveyed the essential message of the global representation of religious opinion, and Protestant Christian universality was asserted by the prominent display of portraits in exotic costume of Christians from all corners of the world,62 including portraits of Christian converts from India and Japan. A distinctively turbaned Honorable Maya Das, who, although not a delegate, was "a leading native Christian," appears on page 30, and on page 37 we find "that earnest Christian, Hon. Harman Singh, uncle of His Royal Highness Jatjat Jit Singh, the Maharajah of Karputhala." The rank of these men countered the accusation that Christianity was only successful among the lower classes of Indian society, a matter discussed at length in the Congress on Missions.

Christian converts were depicted well dressed, clean, alert, straight-backed, in two-thirds profile, as were the Christian delegates. These formal portraits were in distinct contrast to photographs of subjects such as the Brahman Pundits, depicted sitting on the floor in round-shouldered slouch.63 The clearest example of what appears to be a mirror of the lessons in Social Darwinism of the Midway Plaisance was the photograph of "A Mendicant Dervish" (p. 712), slouched, slackjawed, shifty-eyed, and barefoot, a stereotypical "Oriental" in what appears to be a staged studio portrait taken against a painted backdrop and foregrounded with exotic flowering plants. Christianity, the photographs of the converts claimed, was a force for civilization.

Portraits of the Asian delegates in the publication, as in the Parliament itself, provided the exotic, the picturesque, "arrayed in costly silk vestments of all colors of the rainbow."64 The dignity of the delegates reflected on the event itself; of course, these were men who, as Barrows pointed out, had been touched by the civilizing influences of Western education and Christianity. However, the contrast between the portraits of these men and the photographs of native priests, native pilgrims, and scenes of native practice paralleled the contrast already stressed by Barrows and the rules of the Parliament between the "finest fruits" and the reality of Asian practice. The two illustrations accompanying Toki Horyu's article make this point. The first is a portrait of Toki himself, captioned with a quotation "time to remodel Japanese Buddhism" (p. 545); the second is a curious photograph of an itinerant priest accompanied by a young child assistant ("A Buddhist Priest Carrying a Portable Idol Shrine," p. 553). The juxtaposition of the illustrations proclaimed Barrows's caution of the darker side of non-Christian religions, the discrepancy between ideal and reality and, in this case, a reminder of the persistence of idolatry in Japan.

Japan nevertheless fared comparatively well in Barrows's selection of images. Japanese Buddhism was also represented by several ornate buildings and a studio portrait of a "pilgrim" standing before a portrait of Mount Fuji (p. 629). By far the greater number of photographs depicted Shinto subjects, reflecting the assumption that Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan, was more typically representative of Japanese religion than the "foreign" imported Buddhism. The Shinto priest, a venerable bearded figure ornately clothed in voluminous white robes, conveyed the very image of Oriental respectability. This general message of "nonbarbaric heathenism" was expanded by the Shinto couple, the Shinto gateway, and the Shinto shrines, all of them exotic but inoffensive.

The privileging of Shinto evident in the illustrations reflected the marginalization of Japanese Buddhism by Western academics. For Barrows the Buddhism of Japan remained firmly within the general category of later aberrations of the original teachings of the Buddha, even after he had actually visited the country.65 The Buddhism of Japan was but one of the present manifestations in various Asian countries, which were but aberrant forms of "real" Buddhism, lumped together into some sort of monolithic entity as a consequence of this common origin. Whatever was said of Buddhism in whatever form, therefore, contributed to the image of Japanese Buddhism, and illustrations such as those of "idols" in temples in Rangoon and Bangkok reinforced the notion of Buddhist idolatry in which the Buddhism of Japan shared.

Japan's place in the general Western category of "Asian" or "Oriental" also meant that depictions of other Asian religions, especially Hinduism, reflected on Japanese Buddhism. It was, after all, only a few decades before this that Emerson had referred to the Upanishads as Buddhist. The distinction was not widely recognized. Barrows reported that during the Parliament "even the omniscient newspapers were all the while confusing the faiths of the world,"66 Hinduism was represented by its architecture, its icons, and its people. One cannot accuse Barrows of misrepresentation, because all of the photographs are authentic, but the accumulated effect of scenes such as "Hindus at Their Devotions before Partaking of Food," which shows men, typically dressed with bare chest, seated on the ground about to eat (p. 315); of "Burning Ghat at Calcutta," showing a corpse exposed on the ground (p. 173); of sunnyasis with matted hair covered in ashes (p. 329); of "Shiva's Bull Carved out of Solid Stone" (p. 111) -- which incidentally included two men, again "half-naked" in Indian fashion in postures of worship -- was nevertheless to reinforce the "uncivilized," "heathen," and "idolatrous" images of India. Barrows's readers were no doubt as unimpressed by the display of skin in Asian dress as were their contemporary Western visitors to the East. The nineteenth-century West was affronted by uncovered bodies.67 Uncovered bodies were primitive. Other aspects of the scenes -- eating on the ground, public bathing, mass ritual, death unconcealed -- would also fail to conform to audience proprieties. Other illustrations included multilimbed deities such as the sculpture of Siva slaying the Elephant Demon (simply captioned as "Interior of Hindu Temple," p. 321). Such images were still unacceptable to the Western aesthetic well into the twentieth century. Even for V. A. Smith, whose pioneering work Fine Art in India and Ceylon (1911) was the first to grant that India actually produced "Fine Art," they were "grotesque and absurd," "Additional limbs are put on as prescribed, whether or not they destroy the balance of the composition or excite a feeling of disgust at monstrous growths that call out loudly for amputation,"68

The overall effect of the illustrations of India was to reinforce the missionary image of the idolatrous, heathen Oriental, and the contrast between this and the depiction of Japan in this publication accurately reflected Barrows's later statement of his feelings toward the two countries. India was for him "a great banyan tree, spreading out dark, wide, and gloomy, with many of its trunks decayed, a resting place of unclean birds, and sombre with clouds that cover both the zenith and the horizon." Japan, by contrast, was "a wild-cherry blossom, gleaming in the morning light of Western civilization." While his India represented the decaying past, "Japan represents the present and the future, and her brave, intelligent people abound with national hope and self-confidence."69 The problem for the Japanese Buddhist delegation, however, was that for Barrows the Japanese religion that accompanied this positive image was not Buddhism but Confucianism, Shinto, or even Christianity. The relationship of Western attitudes to the two Indian religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, is dealt with in the following chapter, but the attitudes evident in the illustrations to the official record of the Parliament justify the Japanese project of distancing Japanese Buddhism from the Buddhism of the South.

The publication of the official record also gave Barrows the right of commentary. Although the work was ostensibly a record of the proceedings, that is, the papers of the delegates, large sections of both volumes were given over to Barrows's interpretation of the proceedings, his summaries of the most important issues, and comments from a variety of sources selected by him. In these sections he distilled the knowledge produced on such themes as "what the various faiths had to say concerning God" and "what the various religions reported in regard to the nature of man." In his summary of what Buddhism has to say concerning God Barrows referred only to Valentine, Shaku Soen, and Dharmapala, and as mentioned earlier, against all the rules of the Parliament he gave non-Christian authority equal weight with the authority of these selected Buddhists, ignoring other genuine Buddhist authorities such as Toki Horyii, Ashitsu Jitsuzen, and Yatsubuchi Bunryii. In his desire to capture the essence of Buddhism he ignored differences and merged the Theravada and Mahayana. Barrows had the final say in defining what was said of Buddhism at the Parliament.

The Priority of the Text

The Japanese were very aware of the importance of the published record of the conference to Western understanding of their religion. Supporters of the delegation argued the need for the All Sects Buddhist Union to send an official Buddhist delegation to Chicago for this reason. They argued that the official body needed to take control of what was said at the Parliament because this would be recorded and would be regarded as the truth of Japanese Buddhism. Representation should not be left to an independent, because "what he says and what he does will be recorded as the principles of Buddhism, will be published in magazines and spread all over the world."70 It is therefore most important, they argued, that what is said by the delegates agrees with what the union wished published. Once in print it would be impossible to change. The delegates and their supporters not only prepared their papers with this in mind but prepared a number of books on Japanese Buddhism for distribution.71 These were especially written for the occasion and were then circulated among the Buddhist community, published in journals for discussion before being translated and printed for distribution. The decision to publish books was presumably to overcome the limitations of the short papers given on topics directed by the Christian organizers of the Parliament. Delegates also avoided the constraints of the official edition by publishing versions of their papers in Paul Carus's journals.72 Each paper in Barrows carried his 1893 claim to copyright.

Max Muller wrote congratulating the organizers on the success of the World's Parliament of Religions, admitting that it had succeeded beyond his expectations.73 Muller had not attended but had contributed a paper, though not, as one might expect, on Asian religions. Muller was generous in his praise of the American achievement, but in his view the real parliament of religions had occurred some time before with the publication of the "forty silent volumes" of his Sacred Books of the East series. As Muller saw it, the Parliament was a success because the world had been prepared for it through this work.74 These volumes, he declared, were more authoritative than the Chicago Parliament because they contained the truth of the ancient texts rather than the well-intentioned but frequently erroneous accounts of Asian religions in their modern distortions. Muller criticized certain speakers -- singling out Buddhists for his example -- for putting forward statements that could not be substantiated by "chapter and verse from their own canonical books."75 "It was the absence of this authority, the impossibility of checking the enthusiastic descriptions of the supreme excellence of every single religion, that seems to me to have somewhat interfered with the usefulness of that great ecumenical meeting at Chicago."76 The rules of truth of the time gave ultimate authority to the written text. Muller's project -- capturing the real and original essence of Eastern religions -- was not that of the Parliament, which claimed to describe instead their present state, to encapsulate the living truths of the world's religions by having them delivered firsthand by the highest authorities. The authority of the World's Parliament of Religions nevertheless resided in its textual record.


There was a significant discrepancy between the statement of the rules governing the conduct of the World's Parliament of Religions and their implementation. The Parliament was to encapsulate the truth of each religion, truth that was guaranteed by the eminence and strength of conviction of the delegates, their presence and authority, given the fair and equal opportunity to speak, unconstrained by hostility, criticism, or debate. The rules successfully controlled "dangerous" speech, random and voluntary speech. They acted nevertheless to limit what could be said about Buddhism and to undermine the authority of what was said when it contradicted Christian expectations. The rules, however, remained flexible enough to allow the dominant Christian opinion to be expressed throughout. Most important was the effect of their frequent declaration that assured the truth of the proceedings. The publication was presented with the guarantee that it contained the truth of the present state of religion in the world. In particular, it contained the truth of Buddhism as presented by properly qualified "true believers" speaking in an atmosphere of professed tolerance without fear of contradiction, argument, or censure.

ALTERITY: Buddhism as the "Other" of Christianity

Buddhism held a unique place at the World's Parliament of Religions. More than any other non-Christian religion it was the "other" of Christianity. Its function was not xenos, the radically different and totally "not-us" of the "heathen," "idolatrous" Hinduism of missionary rhetoric, or of Islam, which at this event remained beyond the pale,1 but that of alterity. Buddhism was recognizably similar, a religion comparable with Christianity, but differing from it precisely on those points at issue in the debates of the time. The crucial issues were the nature and existence of God, the divinity of Jesus, the immortality of the soul, and the contingent questions of morality and ethics. The centrality of these issues to the World's Parliament of Religions is apparent in Barrows's summary of the proceedings. The first three topics listed for discussion were "What the Various Faiths Had to Say concerning God," "The Nature of Man," and "On the Importance of Religion," a forum that provided an opportunity for most speakers to expound upon the impossibility of morality and ethical society without a Christian sense of Deity and belief in the immortal soul of man.2

This Buddhism was not the religion of any Asian practice but the reified product of Western discourse. The very term "Buddhism" is a Western invention. High Priest Hikkaduve Sumangala drew the Parliament's attention to the fact that the Sinhalese were followers of the arya dharma, "miscalled Buddhism by Western scholars."3 The term itself signals the way that Christian presuppositions informed Buddhist studies, focusing on the life of the Founder and his actual teachings as recorded in the sacred texts. The Buddha was the human counterpart of Jesus.

By the time of the Parliament, the preceding decades of debate and scholarship had established and agreed upon certain facts: Buddhism was founded by a historical man, Sakyamuni, who had taught a system of ethical philosophy that had later (for variously contended reasons) developed features of a religion. This Buddhism was atheistic or at least agnostic, denied the existence of an immortal soul, and taught self-reliance rather than reliance on a savior. Both supporters and detractors also agreed that the teachings of the Buddha had much in common with contemporary Western philosophy. The division of Southern and Northern Buddhism was generally accepted. Southern Buddhism was the Buddhism of the Pali texts, associated with the Buddhist practices of Ceylon, Siam, and Burma. These preserved the "essence" of Buddhism, variously referred to as "Pure Buddhism," "Original Buddhism," or "Real Buddhism." Northern Buddhism was the Buddhism of Sanskrit texts and their derivatives in the languages of northern Asia. This was the Mahayana, considered to be a later corruption of the Founder's teachings. Southern Buddhism was "Protestant"; Northern Buddhism was "Romish."

So well established were these "truths" of Buddhism that Western scholars quite confidently corrected Asian Buddhist authorities who attempted to modify them. The Reverend Dr. F. F. Ellinwood, for example, wrote at length explaining the real meaning of nirvana to Japanese Buddhist abbot Shaku Soen.4 Eminent Pali scholar T. W. Rhys Davids also criticized Japanese delegate Ashitsu Jitsuzen's understanding of this key term. According to Rhys Davids, Ashitsu's paper at the World's Parliament of Religions demonstrated "how astounding is the gulf on all sides between popular beliefs and the conclusions of scholarship."5 Western scholars alone possessed the truth of Buddhism. Asian practitioners became "merely nominal Buddhists who know little if anything about genuine Buddhism as elucidated in the texts."6
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Eliza Sunderland
by Spencer Lavan
Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography
August 11, 2003



One of the most consistently repeated of the regulations was the assurance that all representatives were to be "persons of strong and vigorous convictions who would be acknowledged by their organizations as worthy to speak on their behalf."23 The truth was guaranteed by controlling the speaker, and the constant reiteration of this rule and its enforcement were fundamental to the authority of the record. Nevertheless, we find that the Buddhist delegates were not the only "authorities" to speak on Buddhism. The number of Christians speaking on Buddhism at least equaled the number of authorized Buddhists. Apart from the Christian missionaries who directly attacked Buddhism in apparent disregard for the rules of the Parliament, a number of Christian theologians spoke of Buddhism within papers on the main themes. The imbalance is even greater if we consider that Buddhism was implicated in the discussion of nihilism, atheism, and materialist philosophy (see Chapter 4).

If we leave aside for the moment the problem of considering Buddhism as a single entity, Buddhism first entered into the proceedings in a paper by Professor Milton Valentine, D.D., president of a theological college and scholar of comparative religion. Valentine argued the universality of the notion of God, an argument that required he explain the apparent anomaly of Buddhist "atheism." Other non-Buddhists who contributed to the discussion included Professor M. S. Terry. The argument of his paper, "Sacred Books of the World as Literature," was that for those brought up under Christianity, there was little that was attractive in the writings of Buddhism, which, as he described it, was negative, life-denying, and pessimistic.24
Mrs. Eliza Sunderland, Ph.D., speaking on hierology, confirmed for the audience that Buddhism was a "stiflingly ascetic ethical system." Buddhism, she declared, "neglects the divine, preaches the final salvation of man from the miseries of existence through the power of his own self-renunciation, and as it was atheistic in origin, it soon became infected by the fantastic of mythology and the most childish of superstitions."25 Isaac T. Headland presented an illustrated firsthand account of idolatry and superstition in Chinese Buddhism and the degradation of its priesthood under the title "Religion in Peking." Each of these speakers was apparently "qualified" to speak, in spite of their obvious antagonism to Buddhism and lack of endorsement by any Buddhist community, by their training in Christian theology or the Western science of comparative religion.

-- Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Columbian Exposition, by Judith Snodgrass

Eliza Sunderland

Eliza Jane Read Sunderland (April 19, 1839-March 3, 1910), the wife of a prominent Unitarian minister, was a church leader, innovative religious educator, prominent reformer, and a popular lecturer. She was one of the first women in the United States to head a public secondary school and led the way for women who followed her to become professors at public Universities. A scholar of world religion, she advocated the broadest possible church, one that she hoped would in time encompass all people.

Eliza Read was born on a farm near Huntsville, Illinois in pioneer conditions. Her father, Amasa Read, a Quaker from Uxbridge, Massachusetts, died when she was very young. Her mother, Jane Henderson, who came from Ohio and was of Scottish descent, worked hard to run the farm by herself in order to enroll her daughter and two sons in good schools. Following a brief education at Abingdon Seminary in Abingdon, Illinois, Eliza began her teaching career at a district school at the age of fifteen. Men who had attempted to teach there before her had been driven out. She was nevertheless able to earn the respect of students much older than herself and to maintain order in the classroom.

Eliza attended Mount Holyoke Seminary in South Hadley, Massachusetts, 1863-65. After graduation she taught Latin, English literature, and history at the high school in Aurora, Illinois. In 1867 she became its principal. The state superintendent thought her "one of the very best teachers in the West" and "the Aurora High School under her organization and management . . . the very best school of the kind that I ever saw." Upon her marriage in 1871 to Jabez Thomas Sunderland, a Baptist minister from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, however, she gave up her position as principal.

Originally a Baptist like her husband, Eliza had her own independent thoughts about religion. In 1872 the Sunderlands became Unitarians.
Jabez's first Unitarian settlement was in Northfield, Massachusetts, 1872-76.

Three children—Gertrude, Edson, and Florence—were born during the early years of the Sunderlands' marriage. Edson Read Sunderland later became Professor of Law at the University of Michigan.

While Jabez was settled in Chicago, Illinois, 1876-78, Eliza resumed teaching. She taught high school for five years after the family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1878. She then did five years of graduate study in philosophy and psychology at the University of Michigan, earning a Ph.D. in 1892. Her dissertation was "The Relation of the Philosophy of Kant to that of Hegel." During her student years, as she was able to earn enough money, she traveled extensively through Europe and the Middle East with her husband and children.

In 1894 graduate students at the University of Michigan organized a petition to have women appointed to faculty and, in particular, to have Sunderland made Assistant Professor of Philosophy. Although the petition was not successful, she continued an influential, if informal, role at the university, addressing the community, teaching a Bible class, and counseling students, especially the women.
She acted as a role model and brought spiritual insight to students concerned with religious problems.

Sunderland taught a Bible class at the University of Michigan for 17 years. There was a consistent attendance of well over a hundred at her lectures, which were considered a model of adult religious education. She taught her students not only a critical appreciation of the Bible, but also church history, the history of Unitarianism, modern theology, and non-Christian religion.

During her years at Ann Arbor, 1878-98, Sunderland took a leading role in both the local Unitarian church and in denominational affairs, working effectively in tandem with her husband. She preached often and eloquently both in Jabez's pulpit and at other Unitarian and Universalist churches. Having an especial dislike of the doctrine of eternal punishment, she identified with Universalists and believed that the two faiths ought to be united. She preached a religion based not on creed but on a broad conception of religious faith and ethics, which she detected in the remains of ancient civilization and which she saw as potentially uniting all peoples in a common ideal. "If you direct your appeal to one creed or religion you will have but a limited audience," she preached. "If you direct your appeal to the heart and the conscience, no walls can contain your audience."

Along with her husband Sunderland took part in the Western Unitarian controversy in the 1880s. Although her religious sympathies were broad, she could not abide a local Unitarian minister, Rowland Connor, a member of the Free Religious Association, whom in 1885 she accused of disbelief in God, religion, and immortality. The Sunderlands' call for an explicitly theistic standard in the Western Unitarian Conference ushered in a period of crisis within the conference that lasted until 1892, when a compromise measure proposed by Jabez Sunderland was accepted.

Eliza Sunderland

At the World's Parliament of Religions and Columbian Exposition's Women's Congress, 1893, Sunderland represented Unitarian women of America. In her Parliament speech, "A Serious Study of All Religions," she defined religion as "a feeling out after a bond of union between the human and the divine" and claimed that the study of all religions was "necessary to the intelligent comprehension of any one religion." She expounded an evolutionary view of religions, trusting that Christianity, with its capacity to change and grow, had become "one ideal large enough to include all peoples, tender enough to comfort all, lofty enough to inspire all." According to the Chicago Tribune, "Three thousand people in the Hall of Columbus stood up and cheered and applauded the remarkable address of Mrs. Eliza R. Sunderland. Hers was the clearest and most eloquent voice in all the great parliament of religions yesterday."

Sunderland spoke often outside churches, addressing educational, temperance, and women's organizations. She was one of the most prominent advocates in Michigan of education, employment opportunities, and the vote for women. She was a principal organizer of the Women's Western Unitarian Conference, of which she was President, 1882-87; and she was a director, 1885-95, and vice-president, 1886-91, of the National Society for the Advancement of Women.

Although she published only one book, James Martineau and His Greatest Book, 1905, co-written with her husband, Sunderland wrote many magazine articles and a number of pamphlets and tracts. She wrote often on education and religious education and gave lectures on literary topics, notably on Henrik Ibsen and Robert Browning. She was associate editor of the Illinois Social Science Journal, 1878.

Later in life the Sunderlands lived in Oakland, California, 1898-99; Toronto, Canada, 1900-06; and Hartford, Connecticut, 1906-10. In Hartford, Eliza was a member of the Board of Education, 1907-10, and an advocate for education at meetings of the state legislature. She died in 1910 at Hartford, twenty-four years before the death of her husband. "I should have been glad for a few more years of work," she said on her deathbed. "But I am content: it is all right as it is, exactly right. I have been given a very beautiful life. If this is death, then it is beautiful too."

The Eliza Jane Read Sunderland papers, covering the years 1865-1910 and including articles, lectures, sermons and letters, are at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sunderland's correspondents included Augusta Chapin, Robert Collyer, Caroline Crane, John Dewey, Samuel A. Eliot, William Channing Gannett, Julia Ward Howe, Jenkin Lloyd Jones, and Lucy Stone. Among her short published works are Stories from Genesis (1881), Heroes and Heroism (1882), Religious Study Classes (1885), and The Bible: Passages from Various Authors Selected (n.d.). Among the contents of Jabez T. Sunderland, "A Ministry of Twenty Years in Ann Arbor Michigan; Sermons and Pamphlets," at the University of Michigan library, are several items by Eliza Sunderland: Miracles, God, Thomas Hill Green, and Dr. Martineau's Study of Religion.

Entries on Eliza Sunderland appeared in Who's Who in America (1910-1911) as well as in the 1928 edition of the Dictionary of American Biography. The most substantial account of her life is Jabez T. Sunderland, Eliza Read Sunderland; a Brief Sketch of Her Life: Memorial Addresses (n.d.). There is also a brief entry in F.E. Willard and M.A. Livermore, American Women (1897) and another in Eric J. Ziolkowski, editor, A Museum of Faiths: Histories and Legacies of the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions (1993). The latter includes most of the text of Sunderland's lecture "A Serious Study of All Religions." The full text is in John Henry Barrows, The World's Parliament of Religions, vol. 1 (1893). The newspaper report on Sunderland's lecture is in the Chicago Tribune (September 16, 1893). See also Richard Seager, The World's Parliament of Religions: The East/West Encounter (1995) and M.K. Eagle, The Congress of Women, World's Columbian Exposition (1894), vol. I. Obituaries are in the Christian Register (March 10, 1910) and the Hartford Courant (March 4, 1910).
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Free Religious Association
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 7/23/20



The Free Religious Association (FRA) was formed in 1867 in part by David Atwood Wasson, Lucretia Mott, and Reverend William J. Potter.[1] to be, in Potter's words, a "spiritual anti-slavery society" to "emancipate religion from the dogmatic traditions it had been previously bound to.[2]" It was opposed not only to organized religion, but also to any supernaturalism in an attempt to affirm the supremacy of individual conscience and individual reason. The FRA carried a message of the perfectibility of humanity, democratic faith in the worth of each individual, the importance of natural rights and the affirmation of the efficacy of reason.

The first public assembly was held in 1867 representing something akin to a spiritual town meeting with an audience ranging from Progressive Quakers, liberal Jews, radical Unitarians, Universalists, agnostics, Spiritualists, and scientific theists. The first person to join the association at the original meeting was the famed American individualist Ralph Waldo Emerson.[3]
It caught on and many FRA members helped to lead communes based on their values on equality and self organizing organizations.

What is popularly called Transcendentalism among us, is Idealism; Idealism as it appears in 1842....mankind have ever divided into two sects, Materialists and Idealists; the first class founding on experience, the second on consciousness; the first class beginning to think from the data of the senses, the second class perceive that the senses are not final, and say, the senses give us representations of things, but what are the things themselves, they cannot tell. The materialist insists on facts, on history, on the force of circumstances, and the animal wants of man; the idealist on the power of Thought and of Will, on inspiration, on miracle, on individual culture....Every materialist will be an idealist; but an idealist can never go backward to be a materialist.

The idealist, in speaking of events, sees them as spirits....He does not deny the presence of this table, this chair, and the walls of this room, but he looks at these things as the reverse side of the tapestry, as the other end, each being a sequel or completion of a spiritual fact which nearly concerns him. This manner of looking at things, transfers every object in nature from an independent and anomalous position without there, into the consciousness....

The idealist takes his departure from his consciousness, and reckons the world an appearance...which is metaphysical....Mind is the only reality, of which men and all other natures are better or worse reflectors. Nature, literature, history, are only subjective phenomena.... His experience inclines him to behold the procession of facts you call the world, as flowing perpetually outward from an invisible, unsounded centre in himself, centre alike of him and of them, and necessitating him to regard all things as having a subjective or relative existence, relative to that aforesaid Unknown Centre of him.

From this transfer of the world into the consciousness, this beholding of all things in the mind, follow easily his whole ethics. It is simpler to be self-dependent. The height, the deity of man is, to be self-sustained, to need no gift, no foreign force. Society is good when it does not violate me; but best when it is likest to solitude. Everything real is self-existent. Everything divine shares the self-existence of Deity. All that you call the world is the shadow of that substance which you are, the perpetual creation of the powers of thought, of those that are dependent and of those that are independent of your will. Do not cumber yourself with fruitless pains to mend and remedy remote effects; let the soul be erect, and all things will go well. You think me the child of my circumstances: I make my circumstance. Let any thought or motive of mine be different from that they are, the difference will transform my condition and economy. I — this thought which is called I, — is the mould into which the world is poured like melted wax. The mould is invisible, but the world betrays the shape of the mould. You call it the power of circumstance, but it is the power of me....

The Transcendentalist adopts the whole connection of spiritual doctrine. He believes in miracle, in the perpetual openness of the human mind to new influx of light and power; he believes in inspiration, and in ecstasy. He wishes that the spiritual principle should be suffered to demonstrate itself to the end, in all possible applications to the state of man, without the admission of anything unspiritual... the spiritual measure of inspiration is the depth of the thought, and never, who said it?...

[H]e, who has the Lawgiver, may with safety not only neglect, but even contravene every written commandment....

Jacobi, refusing all measure of right and wrong except the determinations of the private spirit, remarks that there is no crime but has sometimes been a virtue. "I," he says, "am that atheist, that godless person who, in opposition to an imaginary doctrine of calculation, would lie as the dying Desdemona lied; would lie and deceive, as Pylades when he personated Orestes; would assassinate like Timoleon; would perjure myself like Epaminondas, and John de Witt; I would resolve on suicide like Cato; I would commit sacrilege with David; yea, and pluck ears of corn on the Sabbath, for no other reason than that I was fainting for lack of food. For, I have assurance in myself, that, in pardoning these faults according to the letter, man exerts the sovereign right which the majesty of his being confers on him; he sets the seal of his divine nature to the grace he accords."

In like manner, if there is anything grand and daring in human thought or virtue, any reliance on the vast, the unknown; any presentiment; any extravagance of faith, the spiritualist adopts it as most in nature. The oriental mind has always tended to this largeness. Buddhism is an expression of it....

[O]f a purely spiritual life, history has afforded no example. I mean, we have yet no man who has leaned entirely on his character, and eaten angels' food; who, trusting to his sentiments, found life made of miracles; who, working for universal aims, found himself fed, he knew not how; clothed, sheltered, and weaponed, he knew not how, and yet it was done by his own hands. Only in the instinct of the lower animals, we find the suggestion of the methods of it, and something higher than our understanding. The squirrel hoards nuts, and the bee gathers honey, without knowing what they do, and they are thus provided for without selfishness or disgrace....

Nature is transcendental, exists primarily, necessarily, ever works and advances, yet takes no thought for the morrow....

It is well known to most of my audience, that the Idealism of the present day acquired the name of Transcendental, from the use of that term by Immanuel Kant, of Konigsberg, who replied to the skeptical philosophy of Locke, which insisted that there was nothing in the intellect which was not previously in the experience of the senses, by showing that there was a very important class of ideas, or imperative forms, which did not come by experience, but through which experience was acquired; that these were intuitions of the mind itself; and he denominated them Transcendental forms....whatever belongs to the class of intuitive thought, is popularly called at the present day Transcendental....

[T]hese seething brains, these admirable radicals, these unsocial worshippers, these talkers who talk the sun and moon away....

They are lonely; the spirit of their writing and conversation is lonely; they repel influences; they shun general society; they incline to shut themselves in their chamber in the house, to live in the country rather than in the town, and to find their tasks and amusements in solitude....they are not stockish or brute, — but joyous; susceptible, affectionate; they have even more than others a great wish to be loved. Like the young Mozart, they are rather ready to cry ten times a day, "But are you sure you love me?"...

[A]nd what if they eat clouds, and drink wind, they have not been without service to the race of man.

With this passion for what is great and extraordinary, it cannot be wondered at, that they are repelled by vulgarity and frivolity in people. They say to themselves, It is better to be alone than in bad company. And it is really a wish to be met, — the wish to find society for their hope and religion, — which prompts them to shun what is called society. They feel that they are never so fit for friendship, as when they have quitted mankind, and taken themselves to friend. A picture, a book, a favorite spot in the hills or the woods, which they can people with the fair and worthy creation of the fancy, can give them often forms so vivid, that these for the time shall seem real, and society the illusion....

[U]nwillingly they bear their part of the public and private burdens; they do not willingly share in the public charities, in the public religious rites, in the enterprises of education, of missions foreign or domestic, in the abolition of the slave-trade, or in the temperance society. They do not even like to vote....

On the part of these children, it is replied, that life and their faculty seem to them gifts too rich to be squandered on such trifles as you propose to them. What you call your fundamental institutions, your great and holy causes, seem to them great abuses, and, when nearly seen, paltry matters. Each 'Cause,' as it is called, — say Abolition, Temperance, say Calvinism, or Unitarianism, — becomes speedily a little shop, where the article, let it have been at first never so subtle and ethereal, is now made up into portable and convenient cakes, and retailed in small quantities to suit purchasers. You make very free use of these words 'great' and 'holy,' but few things appear to them such. Few persons have any magnificence of nature to inspire enthusiasm, and the philanthropies and charities have a certain air of quackery. As to the general course of living, and the daily employments of men, they cannot see much virtue in these, since they are parts of this vicious circle; and, as no great ends are answered by the men, there is nothing noble in the arts by which they are maintained. Nay, they have made the experiment, and found that, from the liberal professions to the coarsest manual labor, and from the courtesies of the academy and the college to the conventions of the cotillon-room and the morning call, there is a spirit of cowardly compromise and seeming, which intimates a frightful skepticism, a life without love, and an activity without an aim....

It is the quality of the moment, not the number of days, of events, or of actors, that imports....

I can sit in a corner and perish, (as you call it,) but I will not move until I have the highest command....

[M]ine is a certain brief experience, which surprised me in the highway or in the market, in some place, at some time...and made me aware that I had played the fool with fools all this time, but that law existed for me and for all; that to me belonged trust, a child's trust and obedience, and the worship of ideas, and I should never be fool more....My life is superficial, takes no root in the deep world; I ask, When shall I die, and be relieved of the responsibility of seeing an Universe which I do not use? I wish to exchange this flash-of-lightning faith for continuous daylight, this fever-glow for a benign climate....

What am I? What but a thought of serenity and independence, an abode in the deep blue sky?...

But this class are not sufficiently characterized, if we omit to add that they are lovers and worshippers of Beauty. In the eternal trinity of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, each in its perfection including the three, they prefer to make Beauty the sign and head....We call the Beautiful the highest, because it appears to us the golden mean, escaping the dowdiness of the good, and the heartlessness of the true. — They are lovers of nature also, and find an indemnity in the inviolable order of the world for the violated order and grace of man....

Their heart is the ark in which the fire is concealed, which shall burn in a broader and universal flame. Let them obey the Genius then most when his impulse is wildest; then most when he seems to lead to uninhabitable deserts of thought and life; for the path which the hero travels alone is the highway of health and benefit to mankind....

[T]here must be a few persons of purer fire kept specially as gauges and meters of character; persons of a fine, detecting instinct, who betray the smallest accumulations of wit and feeling in the bystander. Perhaps too there might be room for the exciters and monitors; collectors of the heavenly spark with power to convey the electricity to others....

But the thoughts which these few hermits strove to proclaim by silence, as well as by speech, not only by what they did, but by what they forbore to do, shall abide in beauty and strength, to reorganize themselves in nature, to invest themselves anew in other, perhaps higher endowed and happier mixed clay than ours, in fuller union with the surrounding system.

-- A Lecture Read at the Masonic Temple, Boston: The Transcendentalist, from Lectures, published as part of Nature; Addresses and Lectures, by Ralph Waldo Emerson

An organization calling itself Free Association of Religious Teachers was formed in 2010 which claims spiritual descent from the FRA. It is currently active in offering free teaching and certification in various aspects of interspiritual ministry and transodox theology.


1. DeLeon, D: "The American As Anarchist", page 70. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978
2. Potter, W: "The Free Religious Association: Its Twenty-five Years and Their Meaning", pages 8-9. 1892
3. Persons, S: "Free Religion". Yale University, 1947
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Fri Jul 24, 2020 3:13 am

Matteo Ricci
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 7/23/20



Servant of God, Matteo Ricci S.J. 利瑪竇
A 1610 Chinese portrait of Ricci
Title: Superior General of the China mission
Born: 6 October 1552, Macerata, Papal States
Died: 11 May 1610 (aged 57), Beijing, Ming Empire
Resting place: Zhalan cemetery, Beijing
Religion: Catholic
Ethnicity: Italian
Notable work(s): Kunyu Wanguo Quantu
Military service
Rank: Superior General
Order: Society of Jesus
Senior posting
Period in office: 1597–1610
Successor: Nicolò Longobardo
Reason for exit: His death

The statue of Ricci in downtown Macao, unveiled on 7 August 2010, the anniversary of his arrival on the island

Matteo Ricci with Xu Guangqi (right)
Priest, Missionary, Scholar
Born: Macerata, Papal States
Died: Beijing, Ming Empire
Venerated in: Catholic Church
Attributes: Chinese Confucian scholar robes holding a crucifix and book

Matteo Ricci (Italian pronunciation: [matˈtɛːo ˈrittʃi]; Latin: Mattheus Riccius Maceratensis; 6 October 1552 – 11 May 1610), was an Italian Jesuit priest and one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China missions. His 1602 map of the world in Chinese characters introduced the findings of European exploration to East Asia. He is considered a Servant of God by the Catholic Church.

Ricci arrived at the Portuguese settlement of Macau in 1582 where he began his missionary work in China. He became the first European to enter the Forbidden City of Beijing in 1601 when invited by the Wanli Emperor, who sought his services in matters such as court astronomy and calendrical science. He converted several prominent Chinese officials to Catholicism, such as Xu Guangqi, who aided in translating Euclid's Elements into Chinese as well as the Confucian classics into Latin for the first time.

Early life

Ricci was born 6 October 1552 in Macerata, part of the Papal States and today a city in the Italian region of Marche. He made his classical studies in his native town and studied law at Rome for two years. He entered the Society of Jesus in April 1571 at the Roman College. While there, in addition to philosophy and theology, he also studied mathematics, cosmology, and astronomy under the direction of Christopher Clavius. In 1577, he applied for a missionary expedition to the Far East. He sailed from Lisbon, Portugal, in March 1578 and arrived in Goa, a Portuguese colony, the following September. Ricci remained employed in teaching and the ministry there until the end of Lent 1582, when he was summoned to Macau to prepare to enter China. Ricci arrived at Macau in the early part of August.[1]

Ricci in China

Matteo Ricci's way from Macau to Beijing

Further information: Europeans in Medieval China

In August 1582, Ricci arrived at Macau, a Portuguese trading post on the South China Sea. At the time, Christian missionary activity in China was almost completely limited to Macau, where some of the local Chinese people had converted to Christianity and lived in the Portuguese manner. No Christian missionary had attempted seriously to learn the Chinese language until 1579 (three years before Ricci's arrival), when Michele Ruggieri was invited from Portuguese India expressly to study Chinese, by Alessandro Valignano, founder of St. Paul Jesuit College (Macau), and to prepare for the Jesuits' mission from Macau into Mainland China.[2]

Once in Macau, Ricci studied the Chinese language and customs. It was the beginning of a long project that made him one of the first Western scholars to master Chinese script and Classical Chinese.
With Ruggieri, he traveled to Guangdong's major cities, Canton and Zhaoqing (then the residence of the Viceroy of Guangdong and Guangxi), seeking to establish a permanent Jesuit mission outside Macau.[1]

In 1583, Ricci and Ruggieri settled in Zhaoqing, at the invitation of the governor of Zhaoqing, Wang Pan, who had heard of Ricci's skill as a mathematician and cartographer. Ricci stayed in Zhaoqing from 1583 to 1589, when he was expelled by a new viceroy. It was in Zhaoqing, in 1584, that Ricci composed the first European-style world map in Chinese, called "Da Ying Quan Tu" (Chinese: 大瀛全圖; lit.: 'Complete Map of the Great World').[3] No prints of the 1584 map are known to exist, but, of the much improved and expanded Kunyu Wanguo Quantu of 1602,[4] six recopied, rice-paper versions survive.[5]

It is thought that, during their time in Zhaoqing, Ricci and Ruggieri compiled a Portuguese-Chinese dictionary, the first in any European language, for which they developed a system for transcribing Chinese words in the Latin alphabet. The manuscript was misplaced in the Jesuit Archives in Rome, rediscovered only in 1934, and published only in 2001.[6][7]

Matteo Ricci Museum in Zhaoqing (肇庆, 崇禧塔), location of the ancient Catholic Church he helped found called 仙花寺

There is now a memorial plaque in Zhaoqing to commemorate Ricci's six-year stay there, as well as a "Ricci Memorial Centre"[8] in a building dating from the 1860s.

Expelled from Zhaoqing in 1588, Ricci obtained permission to relocate to Shaoguan (Shaozhou, in Ricci's account) in the north of the province, and reestablish his mission there.[9]

Further travels saw Ricci reach Nanjing (Ming's southern capital) and Nanchang in 1595. In August 1597, Alessandro Valignano (1539–1606), his superior, appointed him Major Superior of the mission in China, with the rank and powers of a Provincial, a charge that he fulfilled until his death.[10] He moved to Tongzhou (a port of Beijing) in 1598, and first reached the capital Beijing itself on 7 September 1598. However, because of a Chinese intervention against Japanese invasion of Korea at the time, Ricci could not reach the Imperial Palace. After waiting for two months, he left Beijing; first for Nanjing and then Suzhou in Southern Zhili Province.

During the winter of 1598, Ricci, with the help of his Jesuit colleague Lazzaro Cattaneo, compiled another Chinese-Portuguese dictionary, in which tones in Chinese syllables were indicated in Roman text with diacritical marks. Unlike Ricci's and Ruggieri's earlier Portuguese-Chinese dictionary, this work has not been found.[6]

In 1601, Ricci was invited to become an adviser to the imperial court of the Wanli Emperor, the first Westerner to be invited into the Forbidden City. This honor was in recognition of Ricci's scientific abilities, chiefly his predictions of solar eclipses, which were significant events in the Chinese world.[11] He established the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Beijing, the oldest Catholic church in the city.[12] Ricci was given free access to the Forbidden City but never met the reclusive Wanli Emperor, who, however, granted him patronage, with a generous stipend and supported Ricci's completion of the Zhifang Waiji, China's first global atlas.[13]

Once established in Beijing, Ricci was able to meet important officials and leading members of the Beijing cultural scene and convert a number of them to Christianity.
One conversion, which he called "extraordinary", occurred in 1602, when Li Yingshi, a decorated veteran of the Japanese/Korean War and a well-known astrologer and feng shui expert, became a Christian and provided the Jesuits with a wealth of information.[14][15]

Ricci was also the first European to learn about the Kaifeng Jews,[16] being contacted by a member of that community who was visiting Beijing in 1605. Ricci never visited Kaifeng, Henan Province, but he sent a junior missionary there in 1608, the first of many such missions. In fact, the elderly Chief Rabbi of the Jews was ready to cede his power to Ricci, as long as he gave up eating pork, but Ricci never accepted the position.[16]

Ricci's grave (利玛窦墓) in Beijing's Zhalan Cemetery.

Ricci died on 11 May 1610, in Beijing, aged 57. By the code of the Ming Dynasty, foreigners who died in China had to be buried in Macau. Diego de Pantoja made a special plea to the court, requesting a burial plot in Beijing, in the light of Ricci's contributions to China. The Wanli Emperor granted this request and designated a Buddhist temple for the purpose. In October 1610, Ricci's remains were transferred there.[17] The graves of Ferdinand Verbiest, Johann Adam Schall von Bell, and other missionaries are also there, and it became known as the Zhalan Cemetery, which is today located within the campus of the Beijing Administrative College, in Xicheng District, Beijing.[18]

Ricci was succeeded as Provincial Superior of the China mission by Nicolò Longobardo in 1610. Longobardo entrusted another Jesuit, Nicolas Trigault, with expanding and editing, as well as translating into Latin, those of Ricci's papers that were found in his office after his death. This work was first published in 1615 in Augsburg as De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas and soon was translated into a number of other European languages.[19]

Ricci's approach to Chinese culture

An early 17th-century depiction of Ricci in Chinese robes

Ricci could speak Chinese as well as read and write classical Chinese, the literary language of scholars and officials. He was known for his appreciation of Chinese culture in general but condemned the prostitution which was widespread in Beijing at the time.[20] During his research, he discovered that in contrast to the cultures of South Asia, Chinese culture was strongly intertwined with Confucian values and therefore decided to use existing Chinese concepts to explain Christianity.[21] With his superior Valignano's formal approval, he aligned himself with the Confucian intellectually elite literati,[22] and even adopted their mode of dress. He did not explain the Catholic faith as entirely foreign or new; instead, he said that the Chinese culture and people always believed in God and that Christianity is simply the completion of their faith.[23]:323 He borrowed an unusual Chinese term, Tiānzhǔ (天主, "Lord of Heaven") to describe the God of Abraham, despite the term's origin in traditional Chinese worship of Heaven. (He also cited many synonyms from the Confucian Classics.) He supported Chinese traditions by agreeing with the veneration of family ancestors. Dominican and Franciscan missionaries considered this an unacceptable accommodation, and later appealed to the Vatican on the issue.[23]:324 This Chinese rites controversy continued for centuries, with the most recent Vatican statement as recently as 1939. Some contemporary authors have praised Ricci as an exemplar of beneficial inculturation,[24][25] avoiding at the same time distorting the Gospel message or neglecting the indigenous cultural media.[26]

Like developments in India, the identification of European culture with Christianity led almost to the end of Catholic missions in China, but Christianity continued to grow in Sichuan and some other locations.[23]:324

Xu Guangqi and Ricci become the first two to translate some of the Confucian classics into a western language, Latin.

Ricci also met a Korean emissary to China, Yi Sugwang. He taught Yi the basic tenets of Catholicism and gave him several books concerning the West which were incorporated into his Jibong Yuseol, the first Korean encyclopedia.[27] Along with João Rodrigues's gifts to the ambassador Jeong Duwon in 1631, Ricci's gifts influenced the creation of Korea's Silhak movement.[28]

Silhak was a Korean Confucian social reform movement in late Joseon Dynasty. Sil means "actual" or "practical," and hak means "studies" or "learning." It developed in response to the increasingly metaphysical nature of Neo-Confucianism (성리학) that seemed disconnected from the rapid agricultural, industrial, and political changes occurring in Korea between the late 17th and early 19th centuries.[1] Silhak was designed to counter the "uncritical" following of Confucian teachings and the strict adherence to "formalism" and "ritual" by neo-Confucians.[2] Most of the Silhak scholars were from factions excluded from power and other disaffected scholars calling for reform.[3] They advocated an empirical Confucianism deeply concerned with human society at the practical level.[4]

Its proponents generally argued for reforming the rigid Confucian social structure, land reforms to relieve the plight of peasant farmers, promoting Korea's own national identity and culture, encouraging the study of science, and advocating technology exchange with foreign countries.[5] Silhak scholars wanted to use realistic and experimental approaches to social problems with the consideration of the welfare of the people.[6] Silhak scholars encouraged human equality and moved toward a more Korean-centric view of Korean history.[5] The Silhak school is credited with helping to create a modern Korea.

-- Silhak, by Wikipedia

Cause of canonization

The cause of his beatification, originally begun in 1984, was reopened on 24 January 2010, at the cathedral of the Italian diocese of Macerata-Tolentino-Recanati-Cingoli-Treia.[29][30] Bishop Claudio Giuliodori, the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Macerata, formally closed the diocesan phase of the sainthood process on 10 May 2013. The cause moved to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican in 2014.


The following places and institutions are named after Matteo Ricci:

• Matteo Ricci Pacific Studies Reading Room at The National Central Library of Taiwan
• Ricci Hall,[31] a dormitory at The University of Hong Kong
• Ricci Building, a building at Wah Yan College, Kowloon in Hong Kong
• The Matteo Ricci Study Hall,[32] at the Ateneo de Manila University
• Matteo Ricci College, Kowloon[33] in Hong Kong
• Matteo Ricci College,[34] at Seattle University
• Colégio Mateus Ricci,[35] Macau
• Sekolah Katolik Ricci 1 and 2 in Jakarta, Indonesia
• Taipei Ricci Institute, Taiwan
• Macau Ricci Institute,[36] Macau[37]
• Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History[38] at the University of San Francisco.
• The Matteo Ricci Seminar at Fordham University[39]
• Centro Matteo Ricci, a center for refugees and asylum seekers run by the Italian branch of the Jesuit Refugee Service[40] in Rome, Italy
• Matteo Ricci Hall-"R" Hall,[41] Ricci Hall Annex-"RA" Hall,[41] two buildings at Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea

In the run-up to the 400th anniversary of Ricci's death, the Vatican Museums hosted a major exhibit dedicated to his life. Additionally, Italian film director Gjon Kolndrekaj produced a 60-minute documentary about Ricci, released in 2009, titled Matteo Ricci: A Jesuit in the Dragon's Kingdom, filmed in Italy and China.[42][43]

In Taipei, the Taipei Ricci Institute and the National Central Library of Taiwan opened jointly the Matteo Ricci Pacific Studies Reading Room[44] and the Taipei-based online magazine eRenlai, directed by Jesuit Benoît Vermander, dedicated its June 2010 issue to the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Ricci's death.[45]

Map of East Asia by Matteo Ricci in 1602.


The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven

The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven (天主實義) is a book written by Ricci, which argues that Confucianism and Christianity are not opposed and in fact are remarkably similar in key respects. It was written in the form of a dialogue, originally in Chinese. Ricci used the treatise in his missionary effort to convert Chinese literati, men who were educated in Confucianism and the Chinese classics. In the Chinese Rites controversy, some Roman-Catholic missionaries raised the question whether Ricci and other Jesuits had gone too far and changed Christian beliefs to win converts.

Peter Phan argues that True Meaning was used by a Jesuit missionary to Vietnam, Alexandre de Rhodes, in writing a catechism for Vietnamese Christians.[46] In 1631, Girolamo Maiorica and Bernardino Reggio, both Jesuit missionaries to Vietnam, started a short-lived press in Thăng Long (present-day Hanoi) to print copies of True Meaning and other texts.[47] The book was also influential on later Protestant missionaries to China, James Legge and Timothy Richard, and through them John Nevius, John Ross, and William Edward Soothill, all influential in establishing Protestantism in China and Korea.

Left plates 1-3
Right plates 4-6
Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (坤輿萬國全圖), printed by Matteo Ricci upon request of the Wanli Emperor in Beijing, 1602

Unattributed, very detailed, two-page colored edition (1604?), copy of the 1602 map with Japanese katakana transliterations of the phonetic Chinese characters

Other works

·         De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas: the journals of Ricci that were completed and translated into Latin by another Jesuit, Nicolas Trigault, soon after Ricci's death. Available in various editions:
o    Trigault, Nicolas S. J. "China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journals of Mathew Ricci: 1583-1610". English translation by Louis J. Gallagher, S.J. (New York: Random House, Inc. 1953)
o    On Chinese Government,[48] an excerpt from Chapter One of Gallagher's translation
o    De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas,[49] full Latin text, available on Google Books
o    A discourse of the Kingdome of China, taken out of Ricius and Trigautius, containing the countrey, people, government, religion, rites, sects, characters, studies, arts, acts; and a Map of China added, drawne out of one there made with Annotations for the understanding thereof (an early English translation of excerpts from De Christiana expeditione) in Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625). Can be found in the "Hakluytus posthumus".[50] The book also appears on Google Books, but only in snippet view.[51]
·         An excerpt from The Art of Printing by Matteo Ricci[52]
·         Ricci's World Map of 1602[53]
·         Rare 1602 World Map, the First Map in Chinese to Show the Americas, on Display at Library of Congress, 12 Jan to 10 April 2010[54]
·         The Chinese translation of the ancient Greek mathematical treatise Euclid's Elements (幾何原本), published and printed in 1607 by Matteo Ricci and his Chinese colleague Xu Guangqi

See also

·         19th-century Protestant missions in China
·         Christianity in China
·         Horses in East Asian warfare
·         Jesuit China missions
·         List of Chinese Roman Catholics
·         List of Jesuit scientists
·         List of Protestant missionaries in China
·         List of Roman Catholic missionaries in China
·         List of Roman Catholic scientist-clerics
·         Religion in China
·         Xu Guangqi
·         Diego de Pantoja
·         Kunyu Wanguo Quantu
·         Zhang Dai
·         Far West (Taixi)
·         Three Pillars of Chinese Catholicism



1.       Brucker, Joseph (1912). "Matteo Ricci". The Catholic Encyclopedia. 13: Revelation-Simon Stock. New York: Robert Appleton Company. OCLC 174525342. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
2.       Gallagher (trans) (1953), pp. 131-132, 137
3.       TANG Kaijian and ZHOU Xiaolei, "Four Issues in the Dissemination of Matteo Ricci's World Map during the Ming Dynasty", in STUDIES IN THE HISTORY OF NATURAL SCIENCES, Vol. 34, No. 3 (2015), pp. 294-315. 汤开建 周孝雷 《明代利玛窦世界地图传播史四题》,《自然科学史研究》第34卷,第3期(2015年):294-315
4.       Baran, Madeleine (16 December 2009). "Historic map coming to Minnesota". St. Paul, Minnesota.: Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
5.       "Ancient map with China at centre goes on show in US". BBC News. 12 January 2010.
6.       Yves Camus, "Jesuits' Journeys in Chinese Studies" Archived 24 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine
7.       "Dicionário Português-Chinês : 葡汉辞典 (Pu-Han cidian): Portuguese-Chinese dictionary" by Michele Ruggieri, Matteo Ricci; edited by John W. Witek. Published 2001, Biblioteca Nacional. ISBN 972-565-298-3. Partial preview available on Google Books
8.       "Ricci Memorial Centre". Retrieved 14 May 2014.
9.       Gallagher (253), pp. 205-227.
10.      Dehergne, 219.
11.      Chan Kei thong. Faith of Our Father, Shanghai: China Publishing Group Orient Publishing Centre.
12.      (Chinese) "The Tomb of Matteo Ricci" Beijing A Guide to China's Capital City Accessed 5 October 2010
13.      Li, Zhizao (1623). "職方外紀 六卷卷首一卷" [Chronicle of Foreign Lands]. World Digital Library (in Chinese).
14.      Gallagher (trans) (1953), pp. 433-435
15.      Engelfriet, Peter M. (1998), Euclid in China: the genesis of the first Chinese translation of Euclid's Elements, books I-VI (Jihe yuanben, Beijing, 1607) and its reception up to 1723, BRILL, p. 70, ISBN 90-04-10944-7
16.     White, William Charles. The Chinese Jews. New York: Paragon Book Reprint Corporation, 1966
17.      "The Tomb of Matteo Ricci". Retrieved 14 May 2014.
18.      Qin, Danfeng (29 March 2010). "At last, they rest in peace". Global Times. Retrieved 10 October2010.
19.      Mungello, David E. (1989). Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodation and the Origins of Sinology. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 46–48. ISBN 0-8248-1219-0.
20.      Hinsch, Bret (1990). Passions of the Cut Sleeve : The Male Homosexual Tradition in China. University of California Press. p. 2. ISBN 0-520-06720-7.
21.      Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, "Western Gods Meet in the East": Shapes and Contexts of the Muslim-Jesuit Dialogue in Early Modern China, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 55, No. 2/3, Cultural Dialogue in South Asia and Beyond: Narratives, Images and Community (sixteenth-nineteenth centuries) (2012), pp. 517-546.
22.      Bashir, Hassan Europe and the Eastern Other Lexington Books 2013 p.93 ISBN 9780739138038
23.     Franzen, August (1988). Kleine Kirchengeschichte. Freiburg: Herder. ISBN 3-451-08577-1.
24.      Griffiths, Bede (1965), "The meeting of East and West", in Derrick, Christopher (ed.), Light of Revelation and Non-Christians, New York, NY: Alba House
25.      Dunn, George H. (1965), "The contribution of China's culture towards the future of Christianity", in Derrick, Christopher (ed.), Light of Revelation and Non-Christians, New York, NY: Alba House
26.      Zhiqiu Xu (2016). Natural Theology Reconfigured: Confucian Axiology and American Pragmatism. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9781317089681 – via Google Books.
27.      National Assembly, Republic of Korea: Korea History
28.      Bowman, John S. (2000). Columbia Chronologies of Asian history and Culture. Columbia University Press. p. 212. ISBN 0-231-11004-9.
29.      "Father Matteo Ricci's beatification cause reopened". Retrieved 14 May 2014.
30.      "Diocese to re-launch beatification cause for missionary Fr. Matteo Ricci". 25 January 2010. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
31.      "Ricci Hall - The University of Hong Kong". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
32.[permanent dead link]
33.      "". Archived from the original on 31 May 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
34.      "Matteo Ricci College - Seattle University". Archived from the original on 11 September 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
35.      "首頁 - Colegio Mateus Ricci". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
36.      INSTITUTE, MACAU RICCI. "MACAU RICCI INSTITUTE". Retrieved 17 August2017.
37.      "The Macau Ricci Institute 澳門利氏學社". Retrieved 14 May 2014.
38.      "Home". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
39.      Fordham. "Fordham online information - Academics - Colleges and Schools - Undergraduate Schools - Fordham College at Rose Hill". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
40.      ONLUS, Europe Consulting (4 February 2019). "Inaugurazione del Centro Matteo Ricci con la visita del Presidente della Repubblica".
42.      "A Jesuit in the dragon's kingdom". Retrieved 14 May 2014.
43.      Category: Focus: The Legacy of Matteo Ricci (20 May 2010). "Interview with Gjon Kolndrekaj". Retrieved 14 May 2014.
44.      Category: Focus: The Legacy of Matteo Ricci (20 May 2010). "Remembering Ricci: Opening of the Matteo Ricci - Pacific Studies Reading Room at the National Central Library". Retrieved 14 May 2014.
45.      "June 2010". Retrieved 14 May 2014.
46.      Phan, Peter C. (2015). Mission and Catechesis: Alexandre de Rhodes & Inculturation in Seventeenth-Century Vietnam. Orbis Books. ISBN 978-1-60833-474-2. Retrieved 1 February 2017. Note: Phan offers a concise summary of the contents of True Meaning as well.
47.      Alberts, Tara (2012). "Catholic Written and Oral Cultures in Seventeenth-Century Vietnam". Journal of Early Modern History. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill. 16 (4–5): 390. doi:10.1163/15700658-12342325.
48.      Halsall, Paul. "Chinese Cultural Studies: Matteo Ricci: On Chinese Government, Selection from his Journals (1583-1610 CE)". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
49.      Ricci, Matteo; Trigault, Nicolas (17 August 2017). "De Christiana expeditione apud sinas suscepta ab Societate Jesu. Ex P. Matthaei Riccii eiusdem Societatis commentariis Libri V: Ad S.D.N. Paulum V. In Quibus Sinensis Regni mores, leges, atque instituta, & novae illius Ecclesiae difficillima primordia accurate & summa fide describuntur". Gualterus. Retrieved 17 August 2017 – via Google Books.
50.      "Full text of "Hakluytus posthumus"". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
51.      Purchas, Samuel (1906). Hakluytus Posthumus, Or, Purchas His Pilgrimes: Contayning a History of the World in Sea Voyages and Lande Travells by Englishmen and Others. J. MacLehose and Sons. Retrieved 17 August 2017 – via Internet Archive.
53.      "441 world map, Matteo Ricci, 1602". Retrieved 21 March 2020.
54.      "Rare 1602 World Map, the First Map in Chinese to Show the Americas, on Display at Library of Congress, Jan. 12 to April 10". Retrieved 17 August 2017.


·         Dehergne, Joseph, S.J. (1973). Répertoire des Jésuites de Chine de 1552 à 1800. Rome: Institutum Historicum S.I. OCLC 462805295
·         Hsia, R. Po-chia. (2007). "The Catholic Mission and translations in China, 1583–1700" in Cultural Translation in Early Modern Europe (Peter Burke and R. Po-chia Hsia, eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521862080 ISBN 0521862086; OCLC 76935903
·         Spence, Jonathan D.. (1984). The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. New York: Viking. ISBN 9780670468300; OCLC 230623792
·         Vito Avarello, L'oeuvre italienne de Matteo Ricci : anatomie d'une rencontre chinoise, Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2014, 738 pages. (ISBN 978-2-8124-3107-4)

Further reading

·         Cronin, Vincent. (1955). The Wise Man from the West: Matteo Ricci and his Mission to China. (1955). OCLC 664953 N.B.: A convenient paperback reissue of this study was published in 1984 by Fount Paperbacks, ISBN 0-00-626749-1.
·         Gernet, Jacques. (1981). China and the Christian Impact: a conflict of cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521313198 ISBN 9780521313193; OCLC 21173711
·         George L. Harris, "The Mission of Matteo Ricci, S.J.: A Case Study of an Effort at Guided Culture Change in China in The Sixteenth Century", in Monumenta Serica, Vol. XXV, 1966 (168 pp.).
·         Simon Leys, Madness of the Wise : Ricci in China, an article from his book, The Burning Forest (1983). This is an interesting account, and contains a critical review of The Memory Palace by Jonathan D. Spence.
·         Mao Weizhun, « European influences on Chinese humanitarian practices. A longitudinal study » in : Emulations - Journal of young scholars in Social Sciences, n°7 (June 2010).
·         職方外紀 六卷卷首一卷 [Chronicle of Foreign Lands]. 1623 – via World Digital Library. This book explains Matteo Ricci's world map of 1574.
·         《利瑪竇世界地圖研究》(A Study of Matteo Ricci's World Map), book in Chinese by HUANG Shijian and GONG Yingyan (黃時鑒 龔纓晏), 上海古籍出版社 (Shanghai Ancient Works Publishing House), 2004年, ISBN 9787532536962

External links

·         Inculturation: Matteo Ricci's Legacy in China [Short videos from Georgetown's Ricci Legacy Symposium.]
·         University of Scranton: Matteo Ricci, S.J.
·         The Zhaoqing Ricci Center
·         Article about the tomb of Matteo Ricci in Beijing
·         Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History
·         Rotary Club Macerata Matteo Ricci (in Italian)
·         Matteo Ricci moves closer toward beatification
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Jiddu Krishnamurti
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 8/3/20

Jiddu Krishnamurti
J. Krishnamurti c. 1920s
Born: 11 May 1895, Madanapalle (now Andhra Pradesh State), Madras Presidency, British India
Died: 17 February 1986 (aged 90), Ojai, California, U.S.
Occupation: Philosopher author public speaker
Parent(s): Jiddu Narayaniah and Sanjeevamma. Annie Besant and Charles Webster Leadbeater (adopted).

Jiddu Krishnamurti (/ˈdʒɪduːkrɪʃnəˈmuːrti/; 11 May 1895 – 17 February 1986) was an Indian philosopher, speaker and writer. In his early life he was groomed to be the new World Teacher but later rejected this mantle and withdrew from the Theosophy organization behind it.[1] His interests included psychological revolution, the nature of mind, meditation, inquiry, human relationships, and bringing about radical change in society. He stressed the need for a revolution in the psyche of every human being and emphasised that such revolution cannot be brought about by any external entity, be it religious, political, or social.

Krishnamurti was born in south India in what is now the modern day Madanapalle of Andhra Pradesh. In early adolescence he met occultist and theosophist Charles Webster Leadbeater on the grounds of the Theosophical Society headquarters at Adyar in Madras. He was subsequently raised under the tutelage of Annie Besant and Leadbeater, leaders of the Society at the time, who believed him to be a 'vehicle' for an expected World Teacher. As a young man, he disavowed this idea and dissolved the Order of the Star in the East, an organisation that had been established to support it.

Krishnamurti said he had no allegiance to any nationality, caste, religion, or philosophy, and spent the rest of his life travelling the world, speaking to large and small groups, as well as individuals. He wrote many books, among them The First and Last Freedom, The Only Revolution, and Krishnamurti's Notebook. Many of his talks and discussions have been published. His last public talk was in Madras, India, in January 1986, a month before his death at his home in Ojai, California. His supporters — working through non-profit foundations in India, Great Britain and the United States — oversee several independent schools based on his views on education. They continue to transcribe and distribute his thousands of talks, group and individual discussions, and writings by use of a variety of media formats and languages.

Krishnamurti was unrelated to his contemporary U. G. Krishnamurti (1918–2007), although the two men had a number of meetings.[2]


Family background and childhood

Krishnamurti in 1910

The date of birth of Krishnamurti is a matter of dispute. Mary Lutyens determines it to be 12 May 1895[3] but Christine Williams notes the unreliability of birth registrations in that period and that statements claiming dates ranging from 4 May 1895 to 25 May 1896 exist. He used calculations based on a published horoscope to derive a date of 11 May 1895 but "retains a measure of scepticism" about it.[4] His birthplace was the small town of Madanapalle in Madras Presidency (modern-day Chittoor District in Andhra Pradesh). He was born in a Telugu-speaking Brahmin family.[5] His father, Jiddu Narayaniah, was employed as an official of the British colonial administration. Krishnamurti was fond of his mother Sanjeevamma, who died when he was ten.[6] His parents had a total of eleven children, of whom six survived childhood.[7]

In 1903 the family settled in Cudappah, where Krishnamurti had contracted malaria during a previous stay. He would suffer recurrent bouts of the disease over many years.[8] A sensitive and sickly child, "vague and dreamy", he was often taken to be intellectually disabled, and was beaten regularly at school by his teachers and at home by his father.[9] In memoirs written when he was eighteen years old Krishnamurti described psychic experiences, such as seeing his sister, who had died in 1904, and his late mother.[10] During his childhood he developed a bond with nature that was to stay with him for the rest of his life.[11]

Krishnamurti's father retired at the end of 1907. Being of limited means he sought employment at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society at Adyar. Narayaniah had been a Theosophist since 1882. He was eventually hired by the Society as a clerk, moving there with his family in January 1909.[12] Narayaniah and his sons were at first assigned to live in a small cottage which was located just outside the society's compound.[13]


In April 1909, Krishnamurti first met Charles Webster Leadbeater, who claimed clairvoyance. Leadbeater had noticed Krishnamurti on the Society's beach on the Adyar river, and was amazed by the "most wonderful aura he had ever seen, without a particle of selfishness in it."[a] Ernest Wood, an adjutant of Leadbeater's at the time, who helped Krishnamurti with his homework, considered him to be "particularly dim-witted".[15] Leadbeater was convinced that the boy would become a spiritual teacher and a great orator; the likely "vehicle for the Lord Maitreya" in Theosophical doctrine, an advanced spiritual entity periodically appearing on Earth as a World Teacher to guide the evolution of humankind.[15]

In her biography of Krishnamurti, Pupul Jayakar quotes him speaking of that period in his life some 75 years later: "The boy had always said "I will do whatever you want". There was an element of subservience, obedience. The boy was vague, uncertain, woolly; he didn't seem to care what was happening. He was like a vessel with a large hole in it, whatever was put in, went through, nothing remained."[16]

Krishnamurti by Tomás Povedano

Following his discovery by Leadbeater, Krishnamurti was nurtured by the Theosophical Society in Adyar. Leadbeater and a small number of trusted associates undertook the task of educating, protecting, and generally preparing Krishnamurti as the "vehicle" of the expected World Teacher. Krishnamurti (often later called Krishnaji)[17] and his younger brother Nityananda (Nitya) were privately tutored at the Theosophical compound in Madras, and later exposed to a comparatively opulent life among a segment of European high society as they continued their education abroad. Despite his history of problems with schoolwork and concerns about his capacities and physical condition, the 14-year-old Krishnamurti was able to speak and write competently in English within six months.[18] Lutyens says that later in life Krishnamurti came to view his "discovery" as a life-saving event. When he was asked in later life what he thought would have happened to him if he had not been 'discovered' by Leadbeater he would unhesitatingly reply "I would have died".[19]

During this time Krishnamurti had developed a strong bond with Annie Besant and came to view her as a surrogate mother. His father, who had initially assented to Besant's legal guardianship of Krishnamurti,[20] was pushed into the background by the swirl of attention around his son. In 1912 he sued Besant to annul the guardianship agreement. After a protracted legal battle Besant took custody of Krishnamurti and Nitya.[21] As a result of this separation from family and home Krishnamurti and his brother (whose relationship had always been very close) became more dependent on each other, and in the following years often travelled together.[22]

In 1911 the Theosophical Society established the Order of the Star in the East (OSE) to prepare the world for the expected appearance of the World Teacher. Krishnamurti was named as its head, with senior Theosophists assigned various other positions. Membership was open to anybody who accepted the doctrine of the Coming of the World Teacher. Controversy soon erupted, both within the Theosophical Society and outside it, in Hindu circles and the Indian press.[ b]

Growing up

Mary Lutyens, a biographer and friend of Krishnamurti, says that there was a time when he believed that he was to become the World Teacher after correct spiritual and secular guidance and education.[23] Another biographer describes the daily program imposed on him by Leadbeater and his associates, which included rigorous exercise and sports, tutoring in a variety of school subjects, Theosophical and religious lessons, yoga and meditation, as well as instruction in proper hygiene and in the ways of British society and culture.[24] At the same time Leadbeater assumed the role of guide in a parallel mystical instruction of Krishnamurti; the existence and progress of this instruction was at the time known only to a select few.[25]

While he showed a natural aptitude in sports, Krishnamurti always had problems with formal schooling and was not academically inclined. He eventually gave up university education after several attempts at admission. He did take to foreign languages, in time speaking several with some fluency.[26]

His public image, cultivated by the Theosophists, "was to be characterized by a well-polished exterior, a sobriety of purpose, a cosmopolitan outlook and an otherworldly, almost beatific detachment in his demeanor."[27] Demonstrably, "all of these can be said to have characterized Krishnamurti's public image to the end of his life."[27] It was apparently clear early on that he "possessed an innate personal magnetism, not of a warm physical variety, but nonetheless emotive in its austerity, and inclined to inspire veneration."[28] However, as he was growing up, Krishnamurti showed signs of adolescent rebellion and emotional instability, chafing at the regimen imposed on him, visibly uncomfortable with the publicity surrounding him, and occasionally expressing doubts about the future prescribed for him.[c]

Krishnamurti in England in 1911 with his brother Nitya and the Theosophists Annie Besant and George Arundale

Krishnamurti and Nitya were taken to England in April 1911.[29] During this trip Krishnamurti gave his first public speech to members of the OSE in London.[30] His first writings had also started to appear, published in booklets by the Theosophical Society and in Theosophical and OSE-affiliated magazines.[31] Between 1911 and the start of World War I in 1914, the brothers visited several other European countries, always accompanied by Theosophist chaperones.[32] Meanwhile, Krishnamurti had for the first time acquired a measure of personal financial independence, thanks to a wealthy benefactress, American Mary Melissa Hoadley Dodge, who was domiciled in England.[33]

After the war, Krishnamurti embarked on a series of lectures, meetings and discussions around the world, related to his duties as the Head of the OSE, accompanied by Nitya, by then the Organizing Secretary of the Order.[34] Krishnamurti also continued writing.[35] The content of his talks and writings revolved around the work of the Order and of its members in preparation for the Coming. He was initially described as a halting, hesitant, and repetitive speaker, but his delivery and confidence improved, and he gradually took command of the meetings.[36]

In 1921 Krishnamurti fell in love with Helen Knothe, a 17-year-old American whose family associated with the Theosophists. The experience was tempered by the realisation that his work and expected life-mission precluded what would otherwise be considered normal relationships and by the mid-1920s the two of them had drifted apart.[37]

Life-altering experiences

In 1922 Krishnamurti and Nitya travelled from Sydney to California. In California they stayed at a cottage in the Ojai Valley. It was thought that the area's climate would be beneficial to Nitya, who had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. Nitya's failing health became a concern for Krishnamurti.[38][39] At Ojai they met Rosalind Williams, a young American who became close to them both, and who was later to play a significant role in Krishnamurti's life.[40] For the first time the brothers were without immediate supervision by their Theosophical Society minders.[41] They found the Valley to be very agreeable. Eventually a trust, formed by supporters, bought a cottage and surrounding property there for them. This became Krishnamurti's official residence.[42]

At Ojai in August and September 1922 Krishnamurti went through an intense 'life-changing' experience.[43] This has been variously characterised as a spiritual awakening, a psychological transformation, and a physical reconditioning. The initial events happened in two distinct phases: first a three-day spiritual experience, and two weeks later, a longer-lasting condition that Krishnamurti and those around him referred to as the process. This condition recurred, at frequent intervals and with varying intensity, until his death.[44]

According to witnesses it started on 17 August 1922 when Krishnamurti complained of a sharp pain at the nape of his neck. Over the next two days the symptoms worsened, with increasing pain and sensitivity, loss of appetite, and occasional delirious ramblings. He seemed to lapse into unconsciousness, but later recounted that he was very much aware of his surroundings, and that while in that state he had an experience of "mystical union". The following day the symptoms and the experience intensified, climaxing with a sense of "immense peace".[45] Following — and apparently related to — these events[46] the condition that came to be known as the process started to affect him, in September and October that year, as a regular, almost nightly occurrence. Later the process resumed intermittently, with varying degrees of pain, physical discomfort and sensitivity, occasionally a lapse into a childlike state, and sometimes an apparent fading out of consciousness, explained as either his body giving in to pain or his mind "going off".[d]

These experiences were accompanied or followed by what was interchangeably described as, "the benediction," "the immensity," "the sacredness," "the vastness" and, most often, "the otherness" or "the other."[48] It was a state distinct from the process.[49] According to Lutyens it is evident from his notebook that this experience of otherness was "with him almost continuously" during his life, and gave him "a sense of being protected."[48] Krishnamurti describes it in his notebook as typically following an acute experience of the process, for example, on awakening the next day:

... woke up early with that strong feeling of otherness, of another world that is beyond all thought ... there is a heightening of sensitivity. Sensitivity, not only to beauty but also to all other things. The blade of grass was astonishingly green; that one blade of grass contained the whole spectrum of colour; it was intense, dazzling and such a small thing, so easy to destroy ...[50]

This experience of the otherness would be present with him in daily events:

It is strange how during one or two interviews that strength, that power filled the room. It seemed to be in one's eyes and breath. It comes into being, suddenly and most unexpectedly, with a force and intensity that is quite overpowering and at other times it's there, quietly and serenely. But it's there, whether one wants it or not. There is no possibility of getting used to it for it has never been nor will it ever be ..."[50]

Since the initial occurrences of 1922, several explanations have been proposed for this experience of Krishnamurti's.[e] Leadbeater and other Theosophists expected the "vehicle" to have certain paranormal experiences, but were nevertheless mystified by these developments.[51] During Krishnamurti's later years, the nature and provenance of the continuing process often came up as a subject in private discussions between himself and associates; these discussions shed some light on the subject, but were ultimately inconclusive.[52] Whatever the case, the process, and the inability of Leadbeater to explain it satisfactorily, if at all, had other consequences according to biographer Roland Vernon:

The process at Ojai, whatever its cause or validity, was a cataclysmic milestone for Krishna. Up until this time his spiritual progress, chequered though it might have been, had been planned with solemn deliberation by Theosophy's grandees. ... Something new had now occurred for which Krishna's training had not entirely prepared him. ... A burden was lifted from his conscience and he took his first step towards becoming an individual. ... In terms of his future role as a teacher, the process was his bedrock. ... It had come to him alone and had not been planted in him by his mentors ... it provided Krishna with the soil in which his newfound spirit of confidence and independence could take root.[53]

As news of these mystical experiences spread, rumours concerning the messianic status of Krishnamurti reached fever pitch as the 1925 Theosophical Society Convention was planned, on the 50th anniversary of its founding. There were expectations of significant happenings.[54] Paralleling the increasing adulation was Krishnamurti's growing discomfort with it. In related developments, prominent Theosophists and their factions within the Society were trying to position themselves favourably relative to the Coming, which was widely rumoured to be approaching. He stated that "Too much of everything is bad"."Extraordinary" pronouncements of spiritual advancement were made by various parties, disputed by others, and the internal Theosophical politics further alienated Krishnamurti.[55]

Nitya's persistent health problems had periodically resurfaced throughout this time. On 13 November 1925, at age 27, he died in Ojai from complications of influenza and tuberculosis.[56] Despite Nitya's poor health, his death was unexpected, and it fundamentally shook Krishnamurti's belief in Theosophy and in the leaders of the Theosophical Society. He had received their assurances regarding Nitya's health, and had come to believe that "Nitya was essential for [his] life-mission and therefore he would not be allowed to die," a belief shared by Annie Besant and Krishnamurti's circle.[57] Jayakar wrote that "his belief in the Masters and the hierarchy had undergone a total revolution."[58] Moreover, Nitya had been the "last surviving link to his family and childhood. ... The only person to whom he could talk openly, his best friend and companion."[59] According to eyewitness accounts, the news "broke him completely."[60] but 12 days after Nitya's death he was "immensely quiet, radiant, and free of all sentiment and emotion";[58] "there was not a shadow ... to show what he had been through."[61]

Break with the past

Over the next few years, Krishnamurti's new vision and consciousness continued to develop. New concepts appeared in his talks, discussions, and correspondence, together with an evolving vocabulary that was progressively free of Theosophical terminology.[62] His new direction reached a climax in 1929, when he rebuffed attempts by Leadbeater and Besant to continue with the Order of the Star.

Krishnamurti dissolved the Order during the annual Star Camp at Ommen, the Netherlands, on 3 August 1929.[63] He stated that he had made his decision after "careful consideration" during the previous two years, and that:

I maintain that truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or coerce people along a particular path. ... This is no magnificent deed, because I do not want followers, and I mean this. The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth. I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not. I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free. I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, nor to establish new theories and new philosophies.[64]

Krishnamurti in the early 1920s.

Following the dissolution, prominent Theosophists turned against Krishnamurti, including Leadbeater who is said to have stated, "the Coming had gone wrong."[65] Krishnamurti had denounced all organised belief, the notion of gurus, and the whole teacher-follower relationship, vowing instead to work on setting people "absolutely, unconditionally free."[64] There is no record of his explicitly denying he was the World Teacher;[66] whenever he was asked to clarify his position he either asserted that the matter was irrelevant[67] or gave answers that, as he stated, were "purposely vague."[68]

In hind-sight it can be seen that the ongoing changes in his outlook had begun before the dissolution of the Order of the Star.[69] The subtlety of the new distinctions on the World Teacher issue was lost on many of his admirers, who were already bewildered or distraught because of the changes in Krishnamurti's outlook, vocabulary and pronouncements–among them Besant and Mary Lutyens' mother Emily, who had a very close relationship with him.[70][71] He soon disassociated himself from the Theosophical Society and its teachings and practices,[f] yet he remained on cordial terms with some of its members and ex-members throughout his life.[citation needed]

Krishnamurti would often refer to the totality of his work as the teachings and not as my teachings.[72]

Krishnamurti resigned from the various trusts and other organisations that were affiliated with the defunct Order of the Star, including the Theosophical Society. He returned the money and properties donated to the Order, among them a castle in the Netherlands and 5,000 acres (2,023 ha) of land, to their donors.[73]

Middle years

From 1930 through 1944 Krishnamurti engaged in speaking tours and in the issue of publications under the auspice of the "Star Publishing Trust" (SPT), which he had founded with Desikacharya Rajagopal, a close associate and friend from the Order of the Star.[g] Ojai was the base of operations for the new enterprise, where Krishnamurti, Rajagopal, and Rosalind Williams (who had married Rajagopal in 1927) resided in the house known as Arya Vihara (meaning Realm of the Aryas i.e. those noble by righteousness in Sanskrit). The business and organizational aspects of the SPT were administered chiefly by D. Rajagopal, as Krishnamurti devoted his time to speaking and meditation. The Rajagopals' marriage was not a happy one, and the two became physically estranged after the 1931 birth of their daughter, Radha.[74] In the relative seclusion of Arya Vihara Krishnamurti's close friendship with Rosalind deepened into a love affair which was not made public until 1991. According to Radha Rajagopal Sloss, the long affair between Krishnamurti and Rosalind began in 1932 and it endured for about twenty-five years. [h][ i]

During the 1930s Krishnamurti spoke in Europe, Latin America, India, Australia and the United States. In 1938 he met Aldous Huxley.[75] The two began a close friendship which endured for many years. They held common concerns about the imminent conflict in Europe which they viewed as the outcome of the pernicious influence of nationalism.[76] Krishnamurti's stance on World War II was often construed as pacifism and even subversion during a time of patriotic fervor in the United States and for a time he came under the surveillance of the FBI.[77] He did not speak publicly for a period of about four years (between 1940 and 1944). During this time he lived and worked at Arya Vihara, which during the war operated as a largely self-sustaining farm, with its surplus goods donated for relief efforts in Europe.[78] Of the years spent in Ojai during the war he later said: "I think it was a period of no challenge, no demand, no outgoing. I think it was a kind of everything held in; and when I left Ojai it all burst."[79]

Krishnamurti broke the hiatus from public speaking in May 1944 with a series of talks in Ojai. These talks, and subsequent material, were published by "Krishnamurti Writings Inc" (KWINC), the successor organisation to the "Star Publishing Trust." This was to be the new central Krishnamurti-related entity worldwide, whose sole purpose was the dissemination of the teaching.[80] He had remained in contact with associates from India, and in the autumn of 1947 embarked on a speaking tour there, attracting a new following of young intellectuals.[j] On this trip he encountered the Mehta sisters, Pupul and Nandini, who became lifelong associates and confidants. The sisters also attended to Krishnamurti throughout a 1948 recurrence of the "process" in Ootacamund.[81] In Poona in 1948, Krishnamurti met Iyengar, who taught him Yoga practices every morning for the next three months, then on and off for twenty years.[82]

When Krishnamurti was in India after World War II many prominent personalities came to meet him, including Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In his meetings with Nehru Krishnamurti elaborated at length on the teachings, saying in one instance, "Understanding of the self only arises in relationship, in watching yourself in relationship to people, ideas, and things; to trees, the earth, and the world around you and within you. Relationship is the mirror in which the self is revealed. Without self-knowledge there is no basis for right thought and action." Nehru asked, "How does one start?" to which Krishnamurti replied, "Begin where you are. Read every word, every phrase, every paragraph of the mind, as it operates through thought."[83]

Later years

Krishnamurti continued speaking in public lectures, group discussions and with concerned individuals around the world. In the early 1960s, he made the acquaintance of physicist David Bohm, whose philosophical and scientific concerns regarding the essence of the physical world, and the psychological and sociological state of mankind, found parallels in Krishnamurti's philosophy. The two men soon became close friends and started a common inquiry, in the form of personal dialogues–and occasionally in group discussions with other participants–that continued, periodically, over nearly two decades.[k] Several of these discussions were published in the form of books or as parts of books, and introduced a wider audience (among scientists) to Krishnamurti's ideas.[84] Although Krishnamurti's philosophy delved into fields as diverse as religious studies, education, psychology, physics, and consciousness studies, he was not then, nor since, well known in academic circles. Nevertheless, Krishnamurti met and held discussions with physicists Fritjof Capra and E. C. George Sudarshan, biologist Rupert Sheldrake, psychiatrist David Shainberg, as well as psychotherapists representing various theoretical orientations.[85] The long friendship with Bohm went through a rocky interval in later years, and although they overcame their differences and remained friends until Krishnamurti's death, the relationship did not regain its previous intensity.[citation needed][l][m]

In the 1970s, Krishnamurti met several times with then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, with whom he had far ranging, and in some cases, very serious discussions. Jayakar considers his message in meetings with Indira Gandhi as a possible influence in the lifting of certain emergency measures Gandhi had imposed during periods of political turmoil.[86]

Meanwhile, Krishnamurti's once close relationship with the Rajagopals had deteriorated to the point where he took D. Rajagopal to court to recover donated property and funds as well as publication rights for his works, manuscripts, and personal correspondence, that were in Rajagopal's possession.[n] The litigation and ensuing cross complaints, which formally began in 1971, continued for many years. Much property and materials were returned to Krishnamurti during his lifetime; the parties to this case finally settled all other matters in 1986, shortly after his death.[o]

In 1984 and 1985, Krishnamurti spoke to an invited audience at the United Nations in New York, under the auspices of the Pacem in Terris Society chapter at the United Nations.[87] In October 1985, he visited India for the last time, holding a number of what came to be known as "farewell" talks and discussions between then and January 1986. These last talks included the fundamental questions he had been asking through the years, as well as newer concerns about advances in science and technology, and their effect on humankind. Krishnamurti had commented to friends that he did not wish to invite death, but was not sure how long his body would last (he had already lost considerable weight), and once he could no longer talk, he would have "no further purpose". In his final talk, on 4 January 1986, in Madras, he again invited the audience to examine with him the nature of inquiry, the effect of technology, the nature of life and meditation, and the nature of creation.[citation needed]

Krishnamurti was also concerned about his legacy, about being unwittingly turned into some personage whose teachings had been handed down to special individuals, rather than the world at large. He did not want anybody to pose as an interpreter of the teaching.[88] He warned his associates on several occasions that they were not to present themselves as spokesmen on his behalf, or as his successors after his death.[89]

A few days before his death, in a final statement, he declared that nobody among either his associates or the general public had understood what had happened to him (as the conduit of the teaching). He added that the "supreme intelligence" operating in his body would be gone with his death, again implying the impossibility of successors. However, he stated that people could perhaps get into touch with that somewhat "if they live the teachings".[90] In prior discussions, he had compared himself with Thomas Edison, implying that he did the hard work, and now all that was needed by others was a flick of the switch.[91]


Krishnamurti died of pancreatic cancer on 17 February 1986, at the age of 90. His remains were cremated. The announcement of KFT (Krishnamurti Foundation Trust) refers to the course of his health condition until the moment of death. The first signs came almost nine months before his death, when he felt very tired. In October 1985 he went from England (Brockwood Park School) to India and after that he suffered from exhaustion, fevers, and lost weight. Krishnamurti decided to go back to Ojai (10 January 1986) after his last talks in Madras, which necessitated a 24-hour flight. Once he arrived at Ojai he underwent medical tests that revealed he was suffering from pancreatic cancer. The cancer was untreatable, either surgically or otherwise, so Krishnamurti decided to go back to his home at Ojai, where he spent his last days. Friends and professionals nursed him. His mind was clear until the very last. Krishnamurti died on 17 February 1986, at ten minutes past midnight, California time.


Krishnamurti on a 1987 stamp of India

Krishnamurti founded several schools around the world, including Brockwood Park School, an international educational center. When asked, he enumerated the following as his educational aims:

1. Global outlook: A vision of the whole as distinct from the part; there should never be a sectarian outlook, but always a holistic outlook free from all prejudice.
2. Concern for man and the environment: Humanity is part of nature, and if nature is not cared for, it will boomerang on man. Only the right education, and deep affection between people everywhere, will resolve many problems including the environmental challenges.
3. Religious spirit, which includes the scientific temper: The religious mind is alone, not lonely. It is in communion with people and nature.[92]

The Krishnamurti Foundation, established in 1928 by him and Annie Besant, runs many schools in India and abroad.[93]


Krishnamurti attracted the interest of the mainstream religious establishment in India. He engaged in discussions with several well known Hindu and Buddhist scholars and leaders, including the Dalai Lama.[p] Several of these discussions were later published as chapters in various Krishnamurti books. Those influenced by Krishnamurti include Toni Packer,[citation needed] Achyut Patwardhan,[94] and Dada Dharmadhikari.[95]

Interest in Krishnamurti and his work has persisted in the years since his death. Many books, audio, video, and computer materials, remain in print and are carried by major online and traditional retailers. The four official Foundations continue to maintain archives, disseminate the teachings in an increasing number of languages, convert print to digital and other media, develop websites, sponsor television programs, and organise meetings and dialogues of interested persons around the world.[96]


Main article: Jiddu Krishnamurti bibliography

See also: List of works about Jiddu Krishnamurti

• At the Feet of the Master (1910)
• The First and Last Freedom (1954)
• Commentaries on Living (1956–1960)
• Freedom from the Known (1969)
• Krishnamurti's Notebook (1976)
• Krishnamurti's Journal (1982)
• Krishnamurti to Himself (1987)



1. According to occult and Theosophical lore, auras are invisible emanations related to each individual's so-called subtler planes of existence, as well as her or his normal plane. The ability to discern a person's aura is considered one of the possible effects of clairvoyance. Leadbeater's occult knowledge and abilities were highly respected within the Society.[14]
2. Lutyens (1975), pp. 40–63 [cumulative]. The news regarding Krishnamurti and the World Teacher were not universally welcomed by Theosophists and led to upheavals in the Society; Lutyens (1983a), pp. 15–19, 40, 56. Part of the controversy was Leadbeater's role. He had a history of being in the company of young boys–pupils under his spiritual and Theosophical instruction, and there was gossip about child abuse — although no accusations were ever proven.
3. Lutyens (1975), "Chapter 10: Doubts and Difficulties" through "Chapter 15: In Love" pp. 80–132 [cumulative].
4. Lutyens (1975), "Chapter 18: The Turning Point" through "Chapter 21: Climax of the Process" pp. 152–188 [cumulative]. The use of the term "going off" in the accounts of the early occurrences of the process apparently signified so-called out-of-body experiences.[47] In later usage the meaning of "going off" was more nuanced.
5. Jayakar (1986), p. 46n. and Lutyens (1975), p. 166 provide a frequently given explanation, that it represented the so-called awakening of kundalini, a process that according to Hindu mysticism culminates in transcendent consciousness. Others view it in Freudian terms. Aberbach (1993) contends that the experiences were a projection of Krishnamurti's accumulated grief over the death of his mother. Sloss (1993), p. 61 considers the process to be a purely physical event centred on sickness or trauma, and suggest the possibility of epilepsy, a possibility that Lutyens (1990) rejects. According to Lutyens (1990), pp. 45–46., Krishnamurti believed the process was necessary for his spiritual development and not a medical matter or condition. As far as he was concerned, he had encountered Truth; he thought the process was in some way related to this encounter, and to later experiences.
6. Lutyens considers the last remaining tie with Theosophy to have been severed in 1933, with the death of Besant. He had resigned from the Society in 1930 (Lutyens, 1975; pp. 276, 285).
7. Born in India in 1900 and of Brahmin descent, Rajagopal had moved in Krishnamurti's circle since early youth. Although regarded as an excellent editor and organizer, he was also known for his difficult personality and high-handed manner. Upon Nitya's death, he had promised Besant that he would look after Krishnamurti. See Henri Methorst, Krishnamurti A Spiritual Revolutionary, Edwin Publishing House, 2003, ch 12.
8. The two also shared an interest in education: Krishnamurti helped to raise Radha, and the need to provide her with a suitable educational environment led to the founding of the Happy Valley School in 1946. The school has since re-established itself as an independent institution operating as the Besant Hill School Of Happy Valley. See Sloss, "Lives in the Shadow," ch 19.
9. Radha's account of the relationship, Lives in the Shadow With J. Krishnamurti, was first published in England by Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd. in 1991, and was soon followed by a rebuttal volume written by Mary Lutyens, Krishnamurti and the Rajagopals, Krishnamurti Foundation of America, 1996, in which she acknowledges the relationship.
10. These included former freedom campaigners from the Indian Independence Movement, See Vernon, "Star in the East," p 219.
11. Bohm would eventually serve as a Krishnamurti Foundationtrustee.
12. Their falling out was partly due to questions about Krishnamurti's private behaviour, especially his long and secret love affair with Rosalind Williams-Rajagopal, then unknown to the general public.[citation needed]
13. After their falling out, Bohm criticised certain aspects of the teaching on philosophical, methodological, and psychological grounds. He also criticised what he described as Krishnamurti's occasional "verbal manipulations" when deflecting challenges. Eventually, he questioned some of the reasoning about the nature of thought and self, although he never abandoned his belief that "Krishnamurti was onto something". See Infinite Potential: The Life and times of David Bohm, by F. David Peat, Addison Wesley, 1997.
14. D. Rajagopal was the head or co-head of a number of successive corporations and trusts, set up after the dissolution of the Order of the Star and chartered to publish Krishnamurti's talks, discussions and other writings.
15. Formation of the Krishnamurti Foundation of America and the Lawsuits Which Took Place Between 1968 and 1986 to Recover Assets for Krishnamurti's Work, by Erna Lilliefelt, Krishnamurti Foundation of America, 1995. The complicated settlement dissolved the K & R Foundation (a previous entity), and transferred assets to the Krishnamurti Foundation of America(KFA). However certain disputed documents remained in the possession of Rajagopal, and he received partial repayment for his attorney's fees.
16. The Dalai Lama characterised Krishnamurti as a "great soul"(Jayakar, "Krishnamurti" p 203). Krishnamurti very much enjoyed the Lama's company and by his own admission could not bring up his anti-guru views, mindful of the Lama's feelings.


1. "Jiddu Krishnamurti". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
2. Mind is a Myth
3. Lutyens (1995), footnotes 1, 2.
4. Williams (2004), p. 465.
5. Lutyens (1975). p. 7.
6. Lutyens (1975). p. 5.
7. Williams (2004), pp. 471–472.
8. Lutyens (1975), pp.2–4.
9. Lutyens (1975), pp. 3–4, 22, 25.
10. Lutyens (1983a), pp. 5, 309
11. J. Krishnamurti (2004), p. 16.
12. Lutyens (1983a), pp. 7–8.
13. Star In The East: The Invention of A Messiah, by Roland Vernon, Palgrave 2001, p 41.
14. Lutyens (1975), pp. 15, 20–21
15. Jump up to:a b Lutyens (1975), p. 21.
16. Pupul (1986), p. 28.
17. Jayakar (1986), p. xi. The suffix –ji in Hindu names is a sign of affection or respect.
18. Vernon (2001), pp. 51–72.
19. Lutyens (1995)
20. Lutyens (1975), p. 40.
21. Lutyens (1975), pp. 54–63, 64–71, 82, 84.
22. Lutyens (1975), pp. 3, 32.
23. Lutyens (1975), p. 10-11, 93.
24. Vernon (2001), p. 57.
25. Lutyens (1975), "Chapter 4: First Initiation" and "Chapter 5: First Teaching" pp. 29–46 [cumulative].
26. Lutyens (1997), pp. 83, 120, 149.
27. Jump up to:a b Vernon (2001), p. 53.
28. Vernon (2001), p. 52.
29. Lutyens (1975), pp. 50–51.
30. Lutyens (1975), pp. 51–52.
31. Lutyens (1997), pp. 46, 74–75, 126. Krishnamurti was named Editor of the Herald of the Star, the official bulletin of the OSE. His position was mainly as a figurehead, yet he often wrote editorial notes, which along with his other contributions helped the magazine's circulation.
32. Vernon (2001), p. 65.
33. Lutyens (1975), pp. 4, 75, 77.
34. Lutyens (1975), p. 125.
35. See Jiddu Krishnamurti bibliography.
36. Lutyens (1975), pp. 134–35, 171–17.
37. Lutyens (1975), pp. 114, 118, 131–132, 258.
38. Vernon (2001), p. 97.
39. Lutyens (1975), pp. 149, 199, 209, 216–217.
40. Lutyens (1991), p. 35.
41. Vernon (2001), p. 113.
42. Lutyens (1983b), p. 6.
43. Jayakar (1986), pp. 46–57.
44. Vernon (2001), p. 282.
45. Lutyens (1975), pp. 158–160.
46. Lutyens (1975), p. 165.
47. Lutyens (1990), pp. 134–135.
48. Jump up to:a b Lutyens, M. (1988). J. Krishnamurti: The Open Door.Volume 3 of Biography, p. 12. ISBN 0-900506-21-0. Retrieved on: 19 November 2011.
49. "J. Krishnamurti, Krishnamurti's Notebook, Foreword by Mary Lutyens". Retrieved 28 November 2017.
50. Jump up to:a b Krishnamurti, J. (1976). Krishnamurti's Notebook, Part 3 Gstaad, Switzerland 13th July to 3rd September 1961. J. Krishnamurti online. ISBN 1-888004-63-0, ISBN 978-1-888004-63-2.
51. Lutyens (1975), pp. 163–4, 188–9.
52. Jayakar (1986), p. 133.
53. Vernon (2001), pp. 131–132.
54. Lutyens (1975), p. 223.
55. Lutyens (1990), pp. 57–60.
56. Lutyens (1975), p. 219.
57. Lutyens (1975), pp. 219, 221.
58. Jump up to:a b Jayakar (1986), p. 69.
59. Vernon (2001), p. 152.
60. Lutyens (1975), pp. 220, 313 (note to p. 220).
61. Lutyens (1975), p. 221.
62. Lutyens (1983c), p. 234.
63. Lutyens (1975), p. 272.
64. Jump up to:a b J. Krishnamurti (1929).
65. Lutyens (1997), pp. 277–279.
66. Vernon (2001), pp. 166–167.
67. J. Krishnamurti (1972), p. 9. "I think we shall have incessant wrangles over the corpse of Krishnamurti if we discuss this or that, wondering who is now speaking. Someone asked me: 'Do tell me if it is you speaking or someone else'. I said: 'I really do not know and it does not matter'." From the 1927 "Question and answer session" at Ommen. [Note weblink in reference is not at official Krishnamurti-related or Theosophical Society website].
68. J. Krishnamurti (1928a), p. 43. "I am going to be purposely vague, because although I could quite easily make it definite, it is not my intention to do so. Because once you define a thing it becomes dead." Krishnamurti on the World Teacher, from "Who brings the truth," an address delivered at Ommen 2 August 1927. Note weblink in reference is not at official Krishnamurti-related or Theosophical Society website. Link-specific content verified against original at New York Public Library Main Branch, "YAM p.v. 519" [call no..
69. Lutyens (1975), p. 262.
70. Vernon (2001), p. 189.
71. Lutyens (1975), p. 236.
72. Lutyens (1990), p. 210. Emphasis in source.
73. Lutyens (1975), pp. 276–284.
74. Lives in the Shadow with J. Krishnamurti by Radha Rajagopal Sloss, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1991, ch 12.
75. Vernon, "Star in the East," p 205.
76. "Journal of the Krishnamurti Schools". Retrieved 4 June2018.
77. Vernon, "Star in the East," p 209.
78. Vernon, "Star in the East," p 210.
79. Jayakar, "Krishnamurti" p 98.
80. Lutyens, "Fulfillment," Farrar, Straus hardcover, p 59-60. Initially, Krishnamurti (along with Rajagopal and others) was a trustee of KWINC. Eventually he ceased being a trustee, leaving Rajagopal as President–a turn of events that according to Lutyens, constituted "... a circumstance that was to have most unhappy consequences."
81. See Jayakar, "Krishnamurti," ch 11 for Pupul Mehta's (later Jayakar) eyewitness account.
82. Elliot Goldberg, The Path of Modern Yoga (Rochester VT: Inner Traditions 2016), p. 380.
83. Jayakar, "Krishnamurti," p 142.
84. See Selected Publications/List of Books subsection.
85. See On Krishnamurti, by Raymond Martin, Wadsworth, 2003, for a discussion on Krishnamurti and the academic world.
86. See Jayakar, "Krishnamurti" pages 340–343.
87. Lutyens, "The Open Door," p 84-85. Also Lutyens, "The Life and Death of Krishnamurti," p. 185.
88. Lutyens, "Fulfilment," Farrar, Straus hardcover, p 171, statement of Krishnamurti published in the Foundation Bulletin, 1970.
89. Lutyens, "Fulfilment," Farrar, Straus hardcover, p 233.
90. See Lutyens, "The Life and Death of Krishnamurti," London: John Murray, p 206. Quoting Krishnamurti from tape-recording made on 7 February 1986.
91. Lutyens, "Fulfilment" Farrar, Straus hardcover, p 119.
92. See As The River Joins The Ocean: Reflections about J. Krishnamurti, by Giddu Narayan, Edwin House Publishing 1999, p 64.
93. Evangelos Grammenos. Krishnamurti and the Fourth Way. p. 200. ISBN 9788178990057.
94. "Obituary: Achyut Patwardhan". The Independent. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
95. "Dada Dharmadhikari Biography". Archived from the original on 9 November 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
96. See also The Complete Teachings Project Archived 2 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine, an ambitious effort to collect the entire body of Krishnamurti's work into a coherently edited master reference.


• Aberbach, David (1 July 1993). "Mystical Union and Grief: the Ba'al Shem Tov and Krishnamurti". Harvard Theological Review. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 86 (3): 309–321. doi:10.1017/s0017816000031254. ISSN 0017-8160. JSTOR 1510013.(subscription required)
• Jayakar, Pupul (1986). Krishnamurti: a biography (1st ed.). San Francisco: Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-06-250401-2.
• Jiddu, Krishnamurti (1 January 1926). "Editorial Notes". The Herald of the Star. London: Theosophical Publishing House. XV (1): 3. OCLC 225662044.
• Jiddu, Krishnamurti (1928a). "Who brings the truth?". The pool of wisdom, Who brings the truth, By what authority, and three poems. Eerde, Ommen: Star Publishing Trust. pp. 43–53. OCLC 4894479. Saaremaa, Estonia: [web publisher]. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
• Jiddu, Krishnamurti (September 1929). "The dissolution of the Order of the Star: a statement by J. Krishnamurti". International Star Bulletin. Eerde, Ommen: Star Publishing Trust. 3 (2 [issues renumbered starting August 1929]): 28–34. OCLC 34693176. J.Krishnamurti Online [web publisher]. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
• Jiddu, Krishnamurti (1 August 1965). "Tenth public talk at Saanen". J.Krishnamurti Online. Krishnamurti Foundations. JKO 650801. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
• Jiddu, Krishnamurti (1972). "Eerde Gathering 1927, Questions and Answers". Early Writings of J. Krishnamurti. Early Writings. II [Offprints from Chetana 1970]. Bombay: Chetana. pp. 6–14. OCLC 312923125. Saaremaa, Estonia: [web publisher]. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
• Jiddu, Krishnamurti (1975b) [1969]. Lutyens, Mary (ed.). Freedom from the Known (reprint, 1st Harper paperback ed.). San Francisco: Harper San Francisco. ISBN 978-0-06-064808-4. JKO 237.
• Jiddu, Krishnamurti (2004) [originally published 1982. San Francisco: Harper & Row]. Krishnamurti's Journal. Bramdean: Krishnamurti Foundation Trust. ISBN 978-0-900506-23-9.
• Lutyens, Mary (1975). Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening (1st US ed.). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-18222-9.
• Lutyens, Mary (1983b). Krishnamurti: The Years of Fulfilment (1st US ed.). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-18224-3.
• Lutyens, Mary (1990). The life and death of Krishnamurti (1st UK ed.). London: John Murray. ISBN 978-0-7195-4749-2.
• Lutyens, Mary (1995). The boy Krishna: the first fourteen years in the life of J. Krishnamurti (pamphlet). Bramdean: Krishnamurti Foundation Trust. ISBN 978-0-900506-13-0.
• Sloss, Radha Rajagopal (1991). Lives in the Shadow with J. Krishnamurti (1st ed.). London: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7475-0720-8.
• Vernon, Roland (2001). Star in the east: Krishnamurti: the invention of a messiah. New York: Palgrave. ISBN 978-0-312-23825-4.
• Williams, Christine V. (2004). Jiddu Krishnamurti: world philosopher (1895–1986): his life and thoughts. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-2032-6. Retrieved 3 October 2011.

External links

• Works by Jiddu Krishnamurti at Project Gutenberg
• J. Krishnamurti Online Official website — making available thousands of transcripts as well as many audio and video recordings. An international joint venture of the four Krishnamurti Foundations.
• Krishnamurti Foundation Trust – Established in 1968 as an educational charitable trust, the Foundation exists to preserve and make available the teachings of J. Krishnamurti.
• Krishnamurti and the Ojai Valley
• The Bohm-Krishnamurti Project: Exploring the Legacy of the David Bohm and Jiddu Krishnamurti Relationship
• The Krishnamurti Study Centre A retreat centre in England
• J Krishnamurti Study Centre in Hyderabad, India
• The Levin Interviews - Bernard Levin's interviews with Jiddu Krishnamurti
• Newspaper clippings about Jiddu Krishnamurti in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW
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Dhammakaya Tradition UK [William Purfurst/Richard Randall/Kapilavaddho Bhikkhu]
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 8/3/20

Dhammakaya International Society of the UK
Known locally as "Dhammakaya London"
Religion: Affiliation Theravāda Buddhism, Dhammakaya
Location 2 Brushfield Way, Knaphill, Woking, Surrey, GU21 2TG
Country: United Kingdom
Founder: Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Thailand
Completed: 2005

The Dhammakaya Tradition is one distinctive tradition of Thai Buddhism that has had a pioneering role in establishing Buddhist practice in England since 1954.


Kapilavaḍḍho Bhikkhu visits Christmas Humphreys at the Buddhist Society 30th Anniversary celebration, 1955

The Dhammakaya Tradition has been known as a specific lineage of Thai Buddhism in Britain since Ţhitavedo visited in October 1953.[1] His protégé William Purfurst (a.k.a. Kapilavaḍḍho Bhikkhu, Richard Randall)(1906–71) travelled to Thailand with Ṭhitavedo as a novice in March 1954 and took higher ordination at Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen, the first European to ordain in Thailand. As the result of subsequent training with Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro, he said to have attained the Dhammakaya[2] and returning to England on 12 November 1954, visiting London and Manchester and founding the English Sangha Trust in July 1955.[3][4] Three disciples travelled with Kapilavaḍḍho to Thailand on 30 December 1955 and took higher ordination at Wat Paknam on 27 January 1956. These ordinands were Peter Morgan (a.k.a. Paññavaḍḍho Bhikkhu), Robert Albison (a.k.a. Saddhāvaḍḍho Bhikkhu) and George Blake (a.k.a. Vijjāvaḍḍho Bhikkhu). After some time, all four bhikkhus moved to Wat That Thong, Sukhumvit Road,[5] from which time onwards Kapilavaḍḍho and all his subsequent disciples appear to have practised a more eclectic form of Buddhism.[6] Ananda Bodhi (a.k.a. Leslie Dawson, Namgyal Rinpoche), who may have met Paññavaḍḍho in the period 1956-61, went to Wat Paknam for training in the period 1963-4 and returned to England to teach the Dhammakaya method in April 1964 at Biddulph Old Hall,[7] but by August 1964 had changed to teach Burmese Insight meditation.[8] Remnants of Dhammakaya teaching were perpetuated by Acharn Kaew Potikanok's (1926–86) student Fuengsin (née Sarayutpitak) Trafford (1936–95) who practised Dhammakaya meditation until her death. She claims to have fulfilled a prophecy Kaew Potikanok made 15 years earlier that she would spread Buddhism in England, having taught meditation from c.1975 at Birmingham Buddhist Vihara to children on Sundays and English adults each Monday. She also edited the newsletter Children & Dharma for that temple. She taught Buddhism and meditation in various mainstream schools, colleges, universities and prisons. In 1984, Sister Dr. Mary Hall (1928–2008) invited her to teach Buddhism in the Multi-Faith Centre, Harborne Hall, Birmingham and to graduate groups. She was for a time a Buddhist Prison Chaplain from 1986.[9] She also taught as part of Religious Education in schools such as King Edward VI College, Stourbridge, under the direction of Alan Keightley.[10]

1980s and 1990s

A second phase of the spread of the Dhammakaya tradition in the UK started in the wake of the Thai migration phenomenon – one monk from Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Pathum Thani being sent to study for a bachelor's degree at University of Oxford in 1986 and attracting a succession of English people to visit Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Thailand in the period 1987-1991. Phra Maha Wirat Manikanto completed an MA in Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol in 1997 and during his stay built up a group of Thai supporters mostly from London and Cheltenham who started to organize the first Sunday of the month celebrations from 1998. These were initially at a house in Bristol in 1997. From 21 April 1999 a small house was rented in Wimbledon (within earshot of Wat Buddhapadipa), with Phra Maha Wirat as abbot and Phra Jirasak Caranasampanno, two laymen, Anuchit Treerattanajutawat and Phibul Choompolpaisal supporting the monks while studying for master's degrees in London universities and for a short time a laywoman Sriwan. The tradition registered as a non-profit organization “the Dhammakaya International Society of the United Kingdom” or ‘DISUK’ on 16 April 2002. Later in the same year, in keeping with Dhammakaya Foundation’s policy of rotating personnel, Phra Asadang Siripuñño took over as abbot, moving the temple to a much larger rented premises in Norbury on 7 July 2002. The temple was named Wat Charoenbhavana London. A new abbot, Phrakru Sangharak Wairot Virojano and Phra Thammasarn Cittabhārano took over the running of the temple for the Buddhist lent of 2003. DISUK was granted charitable status on 26 May 2004. At the same time the search continued for a permanent premises for the London temple.

Establishment of the Manchester Branch

In the meanwhile, a second support group in Manchester requested Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Thailand to set up a temple on 18 December 2003. Phra Asadang and Upasaka Anuchit moved north as the pioneering team, with Phra Wut Suvuddhiko succeeding as abbot in 2004. The temple found its first location in rented accommodation at a large former curtain-rail factory at Cheltenham Street, Salford. Phra Praphit Brahmasubho succeeded as abbot in 200?. Various uncanny events surrounded the establishment of Wat Charoenbhavana Manchester including the finding of a 2-metre tall Buddha Image at the side of a road in Wales – which was salvaged as the temples’ first Buddha image. In 2008 the temple moved to a permanent premises in Edgeley and was renamed 'Wat Phra Dhammakaya (Manchester)' or the 'North-West Centre for Buddhist Meditation' - being granted status as a place of worship in 2009. Phra Maha Sairung Thirarojano has been abbot of the new premises from 2009 to present.

Establishment of the London Branch

The London temple negotiated the purchase of the old Brookwood Hospital Chapel at Knaphill in 2004 – a building which had previously been derelict for six years at the time of purchase. The first incumbent was Phra Kru Sangarak Wairot Vairochano who used his considerable construction experience and the architectural designs of Phra Pichit Thitachayo to convert and refurbish the building into a functioning Buddhist centre in 2005. The centre was brought up to UK safety requirements and officially opened by Woking’s Mayor Cllr. Bryan Cross on 28 October 2007. Wat Charoenbhavana London officially changed its name to Wat Phra Dhammakaya London in 200?.

Establishment of other branches

A centre has also been established in Newcastle upon Tyne, in the derelict Saint Andrews Church. The church is a Grade II listed building which was built in 1872 by shipbuilding magnate Andrew Leslie of the Hawthorn Leslie shipyard. Preparing the centre required a huge refurbishment. As of 2015, the refurbishment was in progress, and attempts were made to try and maintain the heritage. The centre has activities for both Thai immigrants and English local inhabitants.[11] The centre also holds traditional ceremonies open to the public, which are sometimes joined by the local mayor and mayoresse.[12] The center also organizes teachings in the local area, such as the Beacon Museum. As of 2015, the center was run by Phra Samuh Phichit Thitachayao.[13]

In 2016, another centre was founded in Helensburgh, Scotland. As of 2016, the centre was run by Phramaha Amaro, and holds meditation classes regularly.

The Present Day

The Dhammakaya temples in the UK are the hubs of a network of Dhammakaya practitioners extending from Scotland to the West country. As with many Asian-rooted Buddhist centres in the west, two distinct interest groups frequent the Dhammakaya temples. The first group is predominantly Thai expatriates with a congregation up to 300 strong in Manchester and 400 strong in London and a mailing list of previous visitors reaching the thousands. The second group is the English speaking (convert) group of practitioners which in London is up to fifty strong with a mailing list of up to 400 previous visitors. Other groups regularly visiting the temple are Buddhist families from the expatriate Singhalese, Bangladeshi and Nepalese communities.

Ten years on, the Dhammakaya practice community of the UK has established a network of local support groups presently in Doncaster, Sheffield, Scotland and Cyprus for the Manchester temple. Brighton, Worthing, Cheltenham, Kent, Swindon and Ireland have monthly groups served by the London temple – and monks are sent regularly to support English language meditation activities in Zurich, Geneva and Ireland. The temples have also been involved with policy-making concerning Buddhism in the UK with participation in TBSUK, NBO, Greenwich Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education, chaplaincy, the SE Buddhist Forum and in 2006 was the first temple to introduce Sanam Luang Dhamma Studies in Europe.


1. Terry Shine (2002) Honour Thy Fathers (Wembley:self-published), p.84
2. Rawlinson, A. (1994) The Transmission of Theravada Buddhism to the West, in: P. Masefield & D. Wiebe (Eds) Aspects of Religion: Essays in Honour of Ninian Smart (New York, Lang), p.360.
3. Oliver, I. (1979) Buddhism in Britain (London, Rider & Company), p.102.
4. Snelling, J. (1987) The Buddhist Handbook: A Complete Guide to Buddhist Teaching, Practice, History, and Schools (London, Rider), p.262.
5. Terry Shine (2002) Honour Thy Fathers (Wembley:self-published), 119pp. available online at
6. Waterhouse, H. (1997) Buddhism in Bath: Adaptation and Authority (Leeds, University of Leeds), p.73
7. Terry Shine (2002) Honour Thy Fathers (Wembley:self-published), p.89
8. Sangharakshita (2003) Moving Against the Stream: The Birth of a New Buddhist Movement (Windhorse, Birmingham), p.60
9. Anusorn dae Acharn Kaew Potikanok [Memorial Volume to Acharn Kaew Potikanok - printed on occasion of his cremation] (1986), pp 15-16 (translated from the Thai)
10. pers. comm. Paul Trafford (2009)
11. Proud, Derek (2015-02-25). "Church turned into Buddhist centre in £500,000 refurbishment". ITV plc. ITV News. Retrieved 2016-08-24.
12. "Mayor joins Buddhist ceremony". The Shields Gazette. Johnston Publishing Ltd. 2015-11-17. Retrieved 2016-08-24.
13. Fallowfield, Carl (2015-06-02). "Mindfulness Buddhist karma descends on The Beacon Museum". Cumbria Crack. Cumbria Crack. Retrieved 2016-08-24.

External links

• Dhammakaya Meditation Centre Newcastle's activities
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