Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Wed May 06, 2020 11:07 am

Earth Charter Initiative
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 5/6/20



The Earth Charter Initiative
Type: Non-governmental organization
Founded: 2000 [1]
Headquarters: San José, Costa Rica
Area served: Environmentalism

The Earth Charter Initiative is the collective name for the global network of people, organizations, and institutions who participate in promoting the Earth Charter, and in implementing its principles in practice. The Initiative is a broad-based, voluntary, civil society effort, but participants include leading international institutions, national government agencies, university associations, NGOs, cities, faith groups, and many well-known leaders in sustainable development.

Mission and goals

The stated mission of the Earth Charter Initiative is to promote the transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework that includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace.


1. To raise awareness worldwide of the Earth Charter and to promote understanding of its inclusive ethical vision.
2. To seek recognition and endorsement of the Earth Charter by individuals, organizations, and the United Nations.
3. To promote the use of the Earth Charter as an ethical guide and the implementation of its principles by civil society, business, and government.
4. To encourage and support the educational use of the Earth Charter in schools, universities, religious communities, local communities, and many other settings.
5. To promote recognition and use of the Earth Charter as a soft law document.

Strategic objectives

• To promote development of a global network of Earth Charter supporters and activists with the collaboration of advisors, affiliates, partner organizations, and task forces.
• To create and disseminate high quality communications and educational materials to different target groups that will reach millions of people.
• To translate key Earth Charter materials in all major languages of the world.
• To set up Earth Charter websites in all countries in partnership with key individuals and organizations.
• To promote the Earth Charter vision in key local, national and international events and engage individuals and organizations in applying it in their areas of activity.
• To position the Earth Charter in relation to important international initiatives and processes so that its ethical framework can be used as a guide in efforts to address urgent challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, the Millennium Development Goals, food security, and conflict resolution.
• To undertake training programmes to facilitate the uptake and application of the Earth Charter in different sectors.
• To develop the guidance and instruments to help organizations, businesses, and local communities use the Earth Charter to assess progress toward sustainable development.


A formal network of affiliates, partners, and youth groups helps to promote the Earth Charter around the world. Many of these representatives are based in prominent national-level organizations and institutions.

The Initiative is served and coordinated by Earth Charter International, which is composed by an Executive Office called the ECI Secretariat, and by the ECI Council. The Secretariat is composed by a very small staff, and it is based at the University for Peace campus in San José, Costa Rica.
The Council is equivalent to a Board, they meet once a year and provide strategic guidance to the Secretariat and the EC Initiative.

Earth Charter Youth Program

The Earth Charter Youth program is a network of youth NGOs and young activists who share a common interest in sustainable development and the Earth Charter. Severn Cullis-Suzuki from Vancouver, Canada was nominated as youth representative in the Earth Charter Commission, which oversaw the drafting process. At the age of 17, Severn participated in the Earth Summit of 1997 and made sure that concerns of young people were taken seriously in the process of drafting the Earth Charter. She contributed to the inclusion of principle 12c in the final version of the Earth Charter which stresses the need to: “Honor and support the young people of our communities, enabling them to fulfill their essential role in creating sustainable societies.” The launch of the Earth Charter Youth program was inspired by this ethical principle. Today there are two youth representatives on the Earth Charter International Council.

See also

• Universal Declaration of Human Rights
• Earth Day


1. FAQs - Earth Charter. (2016). Earth Charter. Retrieved 29 December 2016, from

External links

• Official website
• The Earth Charter in Action blog
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Wed May 06, 2020 11:36 am

Brundtland Commission [World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED)] [Center For Our Common Future]
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 5/6/20



Formerly known as the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), the mission of the Brundtland Commission is to unite countries to pursue sustainable development together. The Chairperson of the Commission, Gro Harlem Brundtland, was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar in December 1983. At the time, the UN General Assembly realized that there was a heavy deterioration of the human environment and natural resources. To rally countries to work and pursue sustainable development together, the UN decided to establish the Brundtland Commission. Gro Harlem Brundtland was the former Prime Minister of Norway and was chosen due to her strong background in the sciences and public health. The Brundtland Commission officially dissolved in December 1987 after releasing Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report, in October 1987. The document popularized (and defined) the term "Sustainable Development". Our Common Future won the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in 1991.[1] The organization Center for Our Common Future was started in April 1988 to take the place of the Commission.


Ten years after the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, a number of global environmental challenges had clearly not been adequately addressed. In several ways, these challenges had grown. Particularly, the underlying problem of how to reduce poverty in low-income countries through more productive and industrialized economy without, in the process, exacerbating the global and local environmental burdens, remained unresolved. Neither high-income countries in the North nor low-income countries in the South were willing to give up an economic development based on growth, but environmental threats, ranging from pollution, acid rain, deforestation and desertification, the destruction of the ozone layer, to early signs of climate change, were impossible to overlook and increasingly unacceptable. There was a tangible need for a developmental concept that would allow reconciling economic development with environmental protection. Views differed on several questions: were local environmental problems the result of local developments or of a global economic system that forced particularly low-income countries to destroy their environmental basis? Did environmental burdens result mainly from destructive economic growth-based development or from a lack of economic development and modernization? Would reconciling the economy and the environment require mainly technical means by using more resource-efficient technologies or mainly social and structural changes that would include political decision-making as well as changes in private consumption patterns? The 1980 World Conservation Strategy of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, was the first report that included a very brief chapter on a concept called "sustainable development". It focused on global structural changes and was not widely read. The UN initiated an independent commission, which was asked to provide an analysis of existing problems and ideas for their solution, similar to earlier commissions such as the Independent Commission on International Development Issues (Brandt Commission) and the Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues (Palme Commission).[2]

In December 1983, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, asked the former Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, to create an organization independent of the UN to focus on environmental and developmental problems and solutions after an affirmation by the General Assembly resolution in the fall of 1983.[3] This new organization was the Brundtland Commission, or more formally, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). The Brundtland Commission was first headed by Gro Harlem Brundtland as Chairman and Mansour Khalid as Vice-Chairman.

The organization aimed to create a united international community with shared sustainability goals by identifying sustainability problems worldwide, raising awareness about them, and suggesting the implementation of solutions. In 1987, the Brundtland Commission published the first volume of “Our Common Future,” the organization's main report. “Our Common Future” strongly influenced the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 and the third UN Conference on Environment and Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002. Also, it is credited with crafting the most prevalent definition of sustainability, as seen below.[4]

Events before Brundtland

During the 1980s it had been revealed that the World Bank had started to experience an expanded role in intervening with the economic and social policies of the Third World. This was most notable through the events at Bretton Woods in 1945. The ideas of neoliberalism and the institutions promoting economic globalization dominated the political agenda of the world's then leading trading nations: the United States under President Ronald Reagan and the United Kingdom under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, both classical liberals.

The Brundtland Report was intended as a response to the conflict between the nascent order promoting globalized economic growth and the accelerating ecological degradation occurring on a global scale. The challenge posed in the 1980s was to harmonize prosperity with ecology. This postulated finding the means to continue economic growth without undue harm to the environment. To address the urgent needs of developing countries (Third World), the United Nations saw a need to strike a better balance of human and environmental well-being. This was to be achieved by redefining the concepts of "economic development" as the new idea of "sustainable development" - as it was called in the Brundtland Report.[5]

To understand this paradigm shift, we start with the meaning of the key term: development

Resolution establishing the Commission

The 1983 General Assembly passed Resolution 38/161 "Process of preparation of the Environmental Perspective to the Year 2000 and Beyond", establishing the Commission.[6] In A/RES/38/161, the General Assembly:

"8. Suggests that the Special Commission, when established, should focus mainly on the following terms of reference for its work:

(a) To propose long-term environmental strategies for achieving sustainable development to the year 2000 and beyond;

(b) To recommend ways in which concern for the environment may be translated into greater co-operation among developing countries and between countries at different stages of economic and social development and lead to the achievement of common and mutually supportive objectives which take account of the interrelationships between people, resources, environment and development;

(c) To consider ways and means by which the international community can deal more effectively with environmental concerns, in the light of the other recommendations in its report;

(d) To help to define shared perceptions of long-term environmental issues and of the appropriate efforts needed to deal successfully with the problems of protecting and enhancing the environment, a long-term agenda for action during the coming decades, and aspirational goals for the world community, taking into account the relevant resolutions of the session of a special character of the Governing Council in 1982;"[6]

Modern definition of sustainable development

Main article: Sustainable development

The Brundtland Commission draws upon several notions in its definition of sustainable development, which is the most frequently cited definition of the concept to date.

A key element in the definition is the unity of environment and development. The Brundtland Commission argues against the assertions of the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment and provides an alternative perspective on sustainable development, unique from that of the 1980 World Conservation Strategy of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The Brundtland Commission pushed for the idea that while the "environment" was previously perceived as a sphere separate from human emotion or action, and while "development" was a term habitually used to describe political goals or economic progress, it is more comprehensive to understand the two terms in relation to each other (We can better understand the environment in relation to development and we can better understand development in relation to the environment, because they cannot and should not be distinguished as separate entities). Brundtland argues:

"...the "environment" is where we live; and "development" is what we all do in attempting to improve our lot within that abode. The two are inseparable."

The Brundtland Commission insists upon the environment being something beyond physicality, going beyond that traditional school of thought to include social and political atmospheres and circumstances. It also insists that development is not just about how poor countries can ameliorate their situation, but what the entire world, including developed countries, can do to ameliorate our common situation.

The term sustainable development was coined in the paper Our Common Future, released by the Brundtland Commission. Sustainable development is the kind of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The two key concepts of sustainable development are: • the concept of "needs" in particular the essential needs of the world's poorest people, to which they should be given overriding priority; and • the idea of limitations which is imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet both present and future needs.[7]

Most agree that the central idea of the Brundtland Commission's definition of "sustainable development" is that of intergenerational equity. In sum, the "needs" are basic and essential, economic growth will facilitate their fulfillment, and equity is encouraged by citizen participation. Therefore, another characteristic that really sets this definition apart from others is the element of humanity that the Brundtland Commission integrates.

The particular ambiguity and openness-to-interpretation of this definition has allowed for widespread support from diverse efforts, groups and organizations. However, this has also been a criticism; perceived by some notable commentators as "self-defeating and compromised rhetoric".[8] It nonetheless lays out a core set of guiding principles that can be enriched by an evolving global discourse. As a result of the work of the Brundtland Commission, the issue of sustainable development is on the agenda of numerous international and national institutions, as well as corporations and city efforts. The definition gave light to new perspectives on the sustainability of an ever-changing planet with an ever-changing population.

-Brundtland commission (Our Common Future) The Report of the Brundtland Commission, Our Common Future, was published by Oxford University Press in 1987, and was welcomed by the General Assembly Resolution 42/187. Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, General Assembly Resolution 42/187, 11 December 1987. One version with links to cited documents Our Common Future, Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987. Published as Annex to General Assembly document A/42/427, Development and International Co-operation is available.

The document was the culmination of a “900-day” international-exercise which catalogued, analysed, and synthesised written submissions and expert testimony from “senior government representatives, scientists and experts, research institutes, industrialists, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and the general public” held at public hearings throughout the world.

The Brundtland Commission's mandate was to: “[1] re-examine the critical issues of environment and development and to formulate innovative, concrete, and realistic action proposals to deal with them; [2] strengthen international cooperation on environment and development and assess and propose new forms of cooperation that can break out of existing patterns and influence policies and events in the direction of needed change; and [3] raise the level of understanding and commitment to action on the part of individuals, voluntary organizations, businesses, institutes, and governments” (1987: 347). “The Commission focused its attention on the areas of population, food security, the loss of species and genetic resources, energy, industry, and human settlements - realizing that all of these are connected and cannot be treated in isolation one from another” (1987: 27).

The Brundtland Commission Report recognised that human resource development in the form of poverty reduction, gender equity, and wealth redistribution was crucial to formulating strategies for environmental conservation, and it also recognised that environmental-limits to economic growth in industrialised and industrialising societies existed. As such, the Report offered “the analysis, the broad remedies, and the recommendations for a sustainable course of development” within such societies (1987:16). The report deals with sustainable development and the change of politics needed for achieving it. The definition of this term in the report is quite well known and often cited:

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". It contains two key concepts:

• the concept of "needs", in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
• the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs."


The Brundtland Commission was chaired by former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. Politicians, civil servants, and environmental experts make up the majority of the members. Members of the commission represent 21 different nations (both developed and developing countries are included). Many of the members are important political figures in their home country. One example is William Ruckelshaus, former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. All members of the commission were appointed by both Gro Harlem Brundtland and Mansour Khalid, the Chairman and Vice Chairman.

The commission focuses on setting up networks to promote environmental stewardship. Most of these networks make connections between governments and non-government entities. One such network is Bill Clinton's Council on Sustainable Development. In this council government and business leaders come together to share ideas on how to encourage sustainable development. The Brundtland Commission has been the most successful in forming international ties between governments and multinational corporations. The 1992 and 2002 Earth Summits were the direct result of the Brundtland Commission. The international structure and scope of the Brundtland Commission allow multiple problems (such as deforestation and ozone depletion) to be looked at from a holistic approach.[9]

Sustainability efforts

The three main pillars of sustainable development include economic growth, environmental protection, and social equality. While many people agree that each of these three ideas contribute to the overall idea of sustainability, it is difficult to find evidence of equal levels of initiatives for the three pillars in countries' policies worldwide. With the overwhelming number of countries that put economic growth on the forefront of sustainable development, it is evident that the other two pillars have been suffering, especially with the overall well being of the environment in a dangerously unhealthy state. The Brundtland Commission has put forth a conceptual framework that many nations agree with and want to try to make a difference with in their countries, but it has been difficult to change these concepts about sustainability into concrete actions and programs. Implementing sustainable development globally is still a challenge, but because of the Brundtland Commission's efforts, progress has been made. After releasing their report, Our Common Future, the Brundtland Commission called for an international meeting to take place where more concrete initiatives and goals could be mapped out. This meeting was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A comprehensive plan of action, known as Agenda 21, came out of the meeting. Agenda 21 entailed actions to be taken globally, nationally, and locally in order to make life on Earth more sustainable going into the future.[10]

Economic Growth

Economic Growth is the pillar that most groups focus on when attempting to attain more sustainable efforts and development. In trying to build their economies, many countries focus their efforts on resource extraction, which leads to unsustainable efforts for environmental protection as well as economic growth sustainability. While the Commission was able to help to change the association between economic growth and resource extraction, the total worldwide consumption of resources is projected to increase in the future. So much of the natural world has already been converted into human use that the focus cannot simply remain on economic growth and omit the ever-growing problem of environmental sustainability. Agenda 21 reinforces the importance of finding ways to generate economic growth without hurting the environment. Through various trade negotiations such as improving access to markets for exports of developing countries, Agenda 21 looks to increase economic growth sustainability in countries that need it most.[11]

Environmental Protection

Environmental Protection has become more important to government and businesses over the last 20 years, leading to great improvements in the number of people willing to invest in green technologies. For the second year in a row in 2010, the United States and Europe added more power capacity from renewable sources such as wind and solar. In 2011 the efforts continue with 45 new wind energy projects beginning in 25 different states.[12] The focus on environmental protection has transpired globally as well, including a great deal of investment in renewable energy power capacity. Eco-city development occurring around the world helps to develop and implement water conservation, smart grids with renewable energy sources, LED street lights and energy efficient building. The consumption gap remains, consisting of the fact that "roughly 80 percent of the natural resources used each year are consumed by about 20 percent of the world's population". This level is striking and still needs to be addressed now and throughout the future.[13]

Social Equality

The Social Equality and Equity as pillars of sustainable development focus on the social well-being of people. The growing gap between incomes of rich and poor is evident throughout the world with the incomes of the richer households increasing relative to the incomes of middle - or lower-class households. This is attributed partly to the land distribution patterns in rural areas where majority live from land. Global inequality has been declining, but the world is still extremely unequal, with the richest 1% of the world's population owning 40% of the world's wealth and the poorest 50% owning around 1%. The Brundtland Commission made a significant impact trying to link environment and development and thus, go away from the idea of environmental protection whereby some scholars saw environment as something of its sake. The Commission has thus reduced the number of people living on less than a dollar a day to just half of what it used to be, as many can approach the environment and use it. These achievements can also be attributed to economic growth in China and India.[13]

Members of the Commission

• Chairman: Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway)
• Vice Chairman: Mansour Khalid (Sudan)
• Susanna Agnelli (Italy)
• Saleh A. Al-Athel (Saudi Arabia)
• Pablo Gonzalez Casanova (Mexico) (ceased to participate in August 1986 for personal reasons)
• Bernard Chidzero (Zimbabwe)
• Lamine Mohammed Fadika (Côte d'Ivoire)
• Volker Hauff (Federal Republic of Germany)
• István Láng (Hungary)
• Ma Shijun (People's Republic of China)[14]
• Margarita Marino de Botero (Colombia)
• Nagendra Singh (India)
• Paulo Nogueira Neto (Brazil)
• Saburo Okita (Japan)
• Shridath S. Ramphal (Guyana)
• William D. Ruckelshaus (USA)
• Mohamed Sahnoun (Algeria)
• Emil Salim (Indonesia)
• Bukar Shaib (Nigeria)
• Vladimir Sokolov (USSR)
• Janez Stanovnik (Yugoslavia)
• Maurice Strong (Canada)

Ex Officio

• Jim MacNeill (Canada)[15]

Staff of the Commission

In May 1984. an Organizational Meeting of the Commission was held in Geneva to adopt its rules of procedure and operation and to appoint a Secretary General to guide its work. In July 1984, a Secretariat was established in Geneva, temporarily at the Centre de Morillon and later at the Palais Wilson. Members of the Secretariat have included:[16]
Secretary General: Jim MacNeill

See also

Agenda 21
• Our Common Future
• Sustainability
• Sustainable Development
• Nuclear power proposed as renewable energy


1. "1991- The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development". Archived from the original on 2013-11-03.
2. Iris Borowy, Defining Sustainable Development: the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission), Milton Park: earthscan/Routledge, 2014.
3. "History of Sustainability". Archived from the original on 2 May 2013. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
4. "This Norwegian's past may connect with your future". 23 June 2010. Archived from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
5. "ProfWork / PreludeToBrundtland". Archived from the original on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 18 January2017.
6. Jump up to:a b United Nations. 1983. "Process of preparation of the Environmental Perspective to the Year 2000 and Beyond."Archived 2017-07-12 at the Wayback Machine General Assembly Resolution 38/161, 19 December 1983. Retrieved: 2007-04-11.
7. Francis, Environment Magazine - Taylor and. "Environment Magazine - What Is Sustainable Development? Goals, Indicators, Values, and Practice". Archived from the original on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 18 January2017.
8. Manns, .J., "Beyond Brudtland's Compromise", Town & Country Planning, August 2010, pp.337-340 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-16. Retrieved 2015-04-16.
9. "Wayback Machine" (PDF). 17 April 2012. Archived from the original on 17 April 2012. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
10. "DSD :: Resources - Publications - Core Publications". 5 April 2012. Archived from the original on 5 April 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
11. "DSD :: Resources - Publications - Core Publications". 8 April 2012. Archived from the original on 8 April 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
12. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-01-18. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
13. Jump up to:a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-03-21. Retrieved 2017-06-28.
14. "Ma Shijun | University of Minnesota China Office".
15. Wikisource:Brundtland Report
16. Development, World Commission on Environment and. "Our Common Future, Annexe 2: The Commission and its Work - A/42/427 Annex, Annexe 2 - UN Documents: Gathering a body of global agreements". Archived from the original on 14 April 2017. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Thu May 07, 2020 5:32 am

Part 1 of 2

Is There a Buddhist Philosophy of Nature?
in Mary Evelyn Tucker and Duncan Ryúken Williams, eds. Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions, 1997.
by Malcolm David Eckel



Damage Control: any efforts, as by a Company, to curtail losses, counteract unfavorable publicity, etc.


"When there is no ego or selfishness, there is nothing that will destroy nature, nothing that will exploit and abuse nature." This is about as practical as visualizing whirled peas. Of course a planet full of egoless beings wouldn't damage anything. They would probably all just sit around and turn into a bowl of jelly. Nobody even knows what it means to be without an ego except this man. How can this be a prescription for saving the ecology of the world? Ah, he explains it here. Once we have no egos then "the external, physical aspect of nature will be able to conserve itself automatically." Right, even with 5 Billion egoless beings eating, driving cars, burning fossil fuels, and polluting the seas.

Now, for the happy close-out. "When Buddhists remember that the Buddha was born under and among trees, awaking while sitting under a tree, taught in the outdoors sitting among trees and, in the end, passed away into parinirvana beneath some trees, it is impossible not to love trees and not to want to conserve them." Very comforting, except that Nepal is a very Buddhist country, and despite all the tree lovers there, there is nary a tree to be found. The Thais started out with more trees, but will end up with just about as many as the Nepalese if they keep it up, notwithstanding their being Buddhist.

All of these problems, of course, are the outward projection of inner "defilements" that disturb the "mind's natural evil spirits or demons that destroy the mind's natural state." Yes, but that doesn't mean that corporate executives with planet raping on their mind, and military leaders who bomb first and ask questions later are just figments of our neurotic imagination. They are real people who will not go away simply because we meditate effectively.

The speaker is comforted because he looks out and sees that "the entire cosmos is a cooperative system." He needs a bigger telescope. Looking through the Hubble, scientists have discovered the universe is a demolition derby among celestial bodies of vastly different size and speed. Tiny black holes can rape a red giant down to nothing. Every 10,000 years or so our solar system dips through part of the spiral arm of the milky way galaxy where lots of big, fast-moving stars and space junk proliferate, and we're lucky we don't have an interstellar collision every damn time it does that. The speaker suggests we "bring back the cooperative in the form of comrades sharing birth, aging, illness, and death." That's hard to argue with, but then he concludes by saying "then we will have plenty of time to create the best ecology." This seems to suggest that we can complacently wait until we get our mind and society sorted out before we tackle the problem of the world's degrading physical condition.

I would say quite the contrary. Whenever you get around to realizing the nature of the universe in your own mind, it will still be there. If we wait too many more years before addressing the ecological problems afflicting the earth, it will be too late. So what would you do first?

-- The Misuse of Western Terms by Eastern Mystics, by Charles Carreon

One of the most common and enduring stereotypes in environmental literature is the idea that Eastern religions promote a sense of harmony between human beings and nature. On the other side of the stereotype stand the religions of the West, promoting the separation of human beings and nature and encouraging acts of domination, exploitation, and control. Roderick Nash gave classic expression to this contrast when he said: "Ancient Eastern cultures are the source of respect for and religious veneration of the natural world" and "In the Far East the man-nature relationship was marked by respect, bordering on love, absent in the West."1 Y. Murota drew a similar contrast between Japanese attitudes toward nature and the attitudes he felt are operative in the West: "the Japanese view of nature is quite different from that of Westerners ... For the Japanese nature is an all-pervasive force ... Nature is at once a blessing and a friend to the Japanese people ... People in Western cultures, on the other hand, view nature as an object and, often, as an entity set in opposition to mankind."2

This contrast between the East and the West owes much of its influence in recent environmental literature to the seminal article by Lynn White, Jr., "The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis."3 White depicted the Judeo-Christian tradition as anthropocentric and argued that Judeo-Christian anthropocentrism stripped nature of its sacred status and exposed it to human exploitation and control. While he did not comment at great length about the Eastern traditions, he clearly understood them as the opposite of the traditions of the West.

The beatniks and hippies, who are the basic revolutionaries of our time, show a sound instinct in their affinity for Zen Buddhism and Hinduism, which conceive of the man-nature relationship as very nearly the mirror image of the Christian view.

White's image of the contrast between East and West was taken up in the same journal seven years later, by the Japanese historian Masao Watanabe.4 Watanabe associated the Japanese people with "a refined appreciation of the beauty of nature" and said that "the art of living in harmony with nature was considered their wisdom of life." White's image continues to be reflected by some of the best known contemporary writers in the environmental movement. In a recent collection of essays, Gary Snyder, the venerable and respected survivor of Lynn White's "beatniks and hippies," drew a series of graceful connections between Henry David Thoreau's concept of the "wild," the Taoist concept of the Tao, and the Buddhist concept of Dharma:

Most of the senses of this second set of definitions [of the wild] come very close to being how the Chinese define the term Dao, the way of Great Nature: eluding analysis, beyond categories, self-organizing, self-informing, playful, surprising, impermanent, insubstantial, independent, complete, orderly, unmediated, freely manifesting, self-authenticating, self-willed, complex, quite simple. Both empty and real at the same time. In some cases we might call it sacred. It is not far from the Buddhist term Dharma with its original sense of forming and firming.5

This image of an affirmative Eastern attitude toward nature must have lurked in the minds of the environmental activists and friends of the environment who gathered at Middlebury College in the fall of 1990 to hear the 14th Dalai Lama speak on the topic of "Spirit and Nature." Tibet, like traditional Japan, has been the focus of a certain Western yearning for the East as a place to discover not only a unique sense of wisdom (what one observer called "an intimate and creative relationship with the vast and profound secrets of the human soul") but a wisdom that can insure "the future survival of Earth itself."6 There was a hush in the Middlebury field house as the Dalai Lama seated himself on the stage and began to speak.7 It must have been a surprise when he began by saying that he had nothing to offer to those who came expecting to hear about ecology or the environment, and even more surprising when he interpreted the word "nature" as a reference to "the fundamental nature of all reality" and entered into a discourse on the Buddhist concept of Emptiness. To explain the connection between nature and Emptiness, he said: "When talking about the fundamental nature of reality, one could sum up the entire understanding of that nature in a simple verse: 'Form is emptiness and emptiness is form' (The Heart Sutra). This simple line sums up the Buddhist understanding of the fundamental nature of reality."8 And he went on to explain how Tibetan philosophers use logical analysis to develop their view of Emptiness and to pursue what he said was the "expressed aim of Buddhism," namely, the purification and development of the mind.

The Dalai Lama's words were surprising not because he seemed unfriendly toward the "natural" world in the prevailing sense of the word (that is, toward ecosystems of plants, animals, the atmosphere, the ocean, rivers, mountains and so on), but because he so gently and easily shifted attention away from the natural world toward the development of human nature and the purification of the mind. The sense of surprise only became more acute when he began to develop the concept of Emptiness and indicated that it involved a denial of the reality of what he took to be "nature" itself. To say that "Form is Emptiness and Emptiness is Form," in the language of Mahayana philosophy, is to say that all things are "empty" of any inherent "nature" or identity.9 The purification of the mind, which the Dalai Lama called the "expressed aim of Buddhism," comes from stripping away false concepts of the "nature" of things and resting content with their Emptiness. In other words, "nature" (in one possible meaning of the word) may very well be a barrier to overcome in a quest for human development.

What should we make of the gap between the Dalai Lama's words and the conventional image of the Buddhist attitude toward nature? Does the Dali Lama see something in the Buddhist tradition that others do not?
Is the image of Buddhism as an ecologically friendly tradition simply an artifact of the Western imagination?

Buddhist Theory of the Universe.

In sketching the Buddhist world-system, with its "antres vast and deserts idle," existing mostly on the map of the imagination, it is deemed advisable, in order to avoid needless repetition, to give at once the Lamaist version, even though this is slightly more "developed" than the cosmogony of Buddha's day; although it cannot be very different after all, for the Lamaist accounts of it are in close keeping with the Barhut lithic remains, and almost identical with the versions found among the Ceylonese and other Buddhists of the south, and the Chinese and Japanese Buddhists.

This, our human, world is only one of a series (the others being fabulous) which together form a universe or chiliocosm, of which there are many.

Each universe, set in unfathomable space, rests upon a warp and woof of "blue air"or wind, liked crossed thunderbolts (vajra), hard and imperishable as diamonds (vajra?), upon which is set "the body of the waters," upon which is a foundation of gold, on which is set the earth, from the axis of which towers up the great Olympus— Mt. Meru (Su-meru, Tib., Ri-rab) 84,000 miles high, surmounted by the heavens, and overlying the hills.

In the ocean around this central mountain, the axis of the universe, are set (see figures) the four great continental worlds with their satellites, all with bases of solid gold in the form of a tortoise — as this is a familiar instance to the Hindu mind of a solid floating on the waters. And the continents are separated from Mt. Meru by seven concentric rings of golden mountains, the inmost being 40,000 miles high, and named "The Yoke" (Yugandara), alternating with seven oceans, of fragrant milk, curds, butter, blood or sugar-cane juice, poison or wine, fresh water and salt water. These oceans diminish in width and depth from within outwards from 20,000 to 625 miles, and in the outer ocean lie the so-called continental worlds. And the whole system is girdled externally by a double iron-wall (Cakravata) 312-1/2 miles high and 3,602,625 miles in circumference, — for the oriental mythologist is nothing if not precise. This wall shuts out the light of the sun and moon, whose orbit is the summit of the inmost ring of mountains, along which the sun, composed of "glazed fire" enshrined in a crystal palace, is driven in a chariot with ten (seven) horses; and the moon, of "glazed water," in a silver shrine drawn by seven horses, and between these two hang the jewelled umbrella of royalty and the banner of victory, as shown in the figure. And inhabiting the air, on a level with these, are the eight angelic or fairy mothers. Outside the investing wall of the universe all is void and in perpetual darkness until another universe is reached.

Of the four "continents" all except "Jambudvipa" are fabulous. They are placed exactly one in each of the four directions, and each has a smaller satellite on either side, thus bringing the total up to twelve. And the shapes given to these continents, namely, crescentic, triangular, round, and square, are evidently symbolic of the four elements.

These continents, shown in the annexed figure, are thus described: —

On the East is Videha, or "vast body" (P). This is shaped like the crescent moon, and is white in colour. It is 9,000 miles in diameter, and the inhabitants are described as tranquil and mild, and of excellent conduct, and with faces of same shape as this continent, i.e., crescentic like the moon.

On the South is Jamudvipa (F), or our own world, and its centre is the Bodhi-tree at Budh Gaya. It is shaped like the shoulder-blade of a sheep, this idea being evidently suggested by the shape of the Indian peninsula which was the prototype of Jambudvipa, as Mt. Kailas in the Himalayas and N.E. of India was that of Mt. Meru. It is blue in colour; and it is the smallest of all, being only 7,000 miles in diameter. Here abound riches and sin as well as virtue. The inhabitants have faces of similar shape to that of their continent, i.e., somewhat triangular.

On the West is Godhanya, or "wealth of oxen" (I), which in shape is like the sun and red in colour. It is 8,000 miles in diameter. Its inhabitants are extremely powerful, and (as the name literally means, cow + ox + action) they are believed to be specially addicted to eating cattle, and their faces are round like the sun.

On the North is Uttara-Kuru, or "northern Kuru" -tribe (M), of square shape and green in colour, and the largest of all the continents, being 10,000 miles in diameter. Its inhabitants are extremely fierce and noisy. They have square faces like horses; and live on trees, which supply all their wants. They become tree-spirits on their death; and these trees afterwards emit "bad sounds " (this is evidently, like many of the other legends, due to a puerile and false interpretation of the etymology of the word).

The satellite continents resemble their parent one in shape, and each is half its size. The left satellite of Jambudvip, namely, "The ox-tail-whisk continent," is the fabulous country of the Rakshas, to which Padma-Sambhava is believed to have gone and to be still reigning there. And each of the latter presents towards Mount Meru one of the following divine objects respectively, viz., on the east (? south) the mountain of jewels, named Amo-likha, shaped like an elephant's head, and on the south, the wish-granting tree, on the west the wish-granting cow, and on the north the self-sprung crops.

In the very centre of this cosmic system stands ''The king of mountains," Mount Meru, towering erect "like the handle of a mill-stone," while half-way up its side is the great wishing tree, the prototype of our "Christmas tree," and the object of contention between the gods and the Titans. Meru has square sides of gold and jewels. Its eastern face is crystal (or silver), the south is sapphire or lapis lazuli (vaidurya) stone, the west is ruby (padmaraga), and the north is gold, and it is clothed with fragrant flowers and shrubs. It has four lower compartments before the heavens are reached. The lowest of these is inhabited by the Yaksha genii — holding wooden plates. Above this is "the region of the wreath-holders" (Skt., Srag-dhara), which seems to be a title of the bird-like, or angelic winged Garudas. Above this dwell the "eternally exalted ones," above whom are the Titans.

The Titans.

The Titans (Asura) or "ungodly spirits."

These are pictured in the "Wheel of Life" (at page 108), in the upper right section. Their leading trait is pride, and this is the world of rebirth for those who, during their human career, have boasted of being more pious than their neighbours. The Titans were originally gods; but, through their pride, they were, like Satan, expelled from heaven; hence their name, which means "not a god." And their position at the base of the Mount Meru is intermediate between heaven and earth.

The duration of their life is infinitely greater than the human, and they have great luxury and enjoyment; but in pride they envy the greater bliss of the gods, and die prematurely, fighting vainly against the gods for the fruits of the heavenly tree and the divine nectar.

Their region is represented in the picture, of an almost colourless atmosphere. They live in fortified houses. The ground, both inside and outside the fort, is carpeted with flowers of which the inhabitants, male and female, make the wreaths and garlands which they wear. They are dressed in silk; and when the heroes are not engaged in fighting they spend their time in all sorts of gaiety with their wives. In the right-hand corner is shown their birth from a lotus-flower and their obtaining a wish-granting tree and cow. The rest of the picture is devoted to their misery, which consists in their hopeless struggle and fatal conflict with the gods. The commander of the forces is seen in conclave with his leaders, horses are being saddled and the "heroes" are arming themselves with coats of mail and weapons. Another scene shows the battle raging along the border separating their county from heaven, and the general mounted with his staff as spectators in the background. The warriors of the first line are all killed or horribly mangled by the thunderbolts and adamantine weapons hurled at them by the gods. One of the weapons possessed alike by gods and Titans is a spiked disc.

The ultimate fate of every Titan is to die painfully warring against the gods with whom they are in constant conflict, and they have no access to the ambrosia with which a wounded god obtains instant recovery. Another scene (see picture on page 102) depicts the womenfolk gathered round "The Reflecting Lake of Perfect Clearness" after the departure of their lords to the battle. In this lake are mirrored forth all the doings and ultimate fate of their absent spouses, and there is also shown the region of re-birth of themselves, which is nearly always hell, owing to the passionate life which they lead in the Asura world. And while their lovers die painful and passionate deaths, the misery of the womanfolk of this world is to look into this fascinating lake and experience the horror of such hideous spectacles. In the picture some women are shown peering into the lake, and others on the banks are giving vent to their grief.  

The Heavens and the Gods.

Above the region of the Titans, at a distance of 168,000 miles, are the bright realms of the gods. In the lowest compartment of the heavens are the four "great guardian kings of the quarters" (Tib.,rgyal-c'en de-z'i; Skt., Catur-Maharaja)...

These great celestial kings guard the heavens from the attacks of the outer demons; and have to be distinguished from a more extended category of guardian gods, the ten Lokpals who guard the world from its ten directions; namely, Indra on the east, Agni (the fire-god) on the south-east, Yama (the death-god) on the south, Rakshas (? Sura) on the south-west, Varuna (the water-god) on the west, Vayu (the wind-god) on the north-west, Yakshas on the north, Soma (the moon) on the north-east, Brahma, above; Bhupati, below....

In the centre of this paradise is the great city of Belle-vue (Sudarsana), within which is the celestial palace of Vaijayanta (Amaravati) the residence of Indra (Jupiter), the king of the gods. It is invested by a wall and pierced by four gates, which are guarded by the four divine kings of the quarters. It is a three-storied building; Indra occupying the basement, Brahma the middle, and the indigenous Tibetan war-god — the dGra-lha — as a gross form of Mara, the god of Desire, the uppermost story. This curious perversion of the old Buddhist order of the heavens is typical of the more sordid devil-worship of the Lamas who, as victory was the chief object of the Tibetans, elevated the war-god to the highest rank in their pantheon, as did the Vikings with Odin where Thor, the thunder-god, had reigned supreme. The passionate war-god of the Tibetans is held to be superior even to the divinely meditative state of the Brahma.

War with the Titans.  

The gods wage war with the Titans, who, as we have seen, are constantly trying to seize some of the precious fruit of the great Yon-du sa-tol (Skt., Parijata) tree, or "tree of the concentrated essence of earth's products," whose branches are in heaven, but whose roots are in their country. The climber which encircles this tree is called the Jambuti tree, and is the medium by which the quintessence of the most rare delicacies of Jambudvip are instilled into the larger tree And the war-god directs the divine army.

To account for the high position thus given to the war-god, it is related that he owes it to the signal assistance rendered by him to the gods in opposing the Asuras.

The misery of the gods.

The god enjoys bliss for almost incalculable time; but when his merit is exhausted then his lake of nectar dries up; his wish-granting tree, cow and horse die; his splendid dress and ornaments grow dim and disappear; his palace gets dilapidated; his flowers and garden fade; his body, no longer bathed by nectar, loses its lustre and sweats like mortals, so that his person becomes loathsome to his goddess-companions and the other gods, who shun him, and so the poor god dies miserably. If he has led a virtuous life during his existence as a god then he may be re-born in heaven, otherwise he goes to a lower region and may even be sent to hell. Buddha was born twenty times as the god Sakra or Indra (Jupiter) and four times as Brahma.

The Buddhist Hell.

The antithesis to heaven is hell, which with its awful lessons looms large on the horizon of the Buddhists. For according to their ethical doctrine of retribution, and in the case of the more theistic developments, their conception of God as the supreme type of right-doing, they picture him like a human judge trying and punishing the evil-doers; although, with truly Buddhist idealism, these tortures are believed by the more philosophical Lamas to be morbid creations of the individual's own ideas, a sort of hellish nightmare. The majority of the Lamas, however, and the laity, believe in the real material character of these hells and their torture.

The Buddhist hell (Naraka) is a true inferno situated in the bowels of the human earth like Hades, and presided over by the Indian Pluto, Yama, the king and judge of the dead, who however is himself finite and periodically tortured. Every day he is forced to swallow molten metal. So, as the shade of Achilles says, "it is better to live on earth as the poorest peasant than to rule as a prince of the dead."...

Hell is divided into numerous compartments, each with a special sort of torture devised to suit the sins to be expiated. Only eight hells are mentioned in the older Buddhist books, but the Lamas and other "northern" Buddhists describe and figure eight hot and eight cold hells and also an outer hell (Pratyeka naraka), through which all those escaping from hell must pass without a guide. The Brahmanical hells are multiples of seven instead of eight; some of them bear the same names as the Buddhists, but they are not systematically arranged, and as the extant lists date no earlier than Manu, about 400 A.D., they are probably in great part borrowed from the Buddhists...

In addition to the hot and cold hells are eighty-four thousand external hells (Ne-ts'e-wa, Skt. ? Lokantarika) situated mostly on the earth, in mountains, deserts, hot springs, and lakes.

Another state of existence, little better than that of hell, is the Preta (Tib., Yi-dag) or Manes, a sort of tantalized ghoul or ghost. This world is placed above hell and below the Sitavan forest, near Rajgriha, in the modern district of Patna in Bengal.

These wretched starvelings are in constant distress through the pangs of hunger and thirst. This is pictured in the Wheel of Life, also in the annexed figure. This is the special torment for those who, in their earthly career, were miserly, covetous, uncharitable, or gluttonous. Jewels, food, and drink are found in plenty, but the Pretas have mouths no bigger than the eye of a needle, and gullets no thicker in diameter than a hair, through which they can never ingest a satisfying amount of food for their huge bodies. And when any food is taken it becomes burning hot, and changes in the stomach into sharp knives, saws, and other weapons, which lacerate their way out from the bowels to the surface, making large painful wounds. They are constantly crying "water, water, give water!" And the thirst is expressed in the picture by a name which is seen to issue from their parched mouths, and whenever they attempt to touch water it changes to liquid fire. Avalokita is frequently figured in the act of giving water to these Pretas to relieve their misery. And a famous story of Buddha credits the great Maudgalyayana, the right-hand disciple of "the Blessed One," with having descended into the Preta-world to relieve his mother. As this story, the Avalambana Sutra, dating to before the third century A.D., gives a very vivid picture of this tantalizing purgatory, and also illustrates the rites for extricating the starveling ghosts,76 it is here appended.


The Yoga doctrine of ecstatic union of the individual with the Universal Spirit had been introduced into Hinduism about 150 B.C. by Patanjali... It taught spiritual advancement by means of a self-hypnotizing to be learned by rules. By moral consecration of the individual to Isvara or the Supreme Soul, and mental concentration upon one point with a view to annihilate thought, there resulted the eight great Siddhi or magical powers, namely (1) "the ability to make one's body lighter, or (2) heavier, or (3) smaller, (4) or larger than anything in the world, and (5) to reach any place, or (6) to assume any shape, and (7) control all natural laws, and (8) to make everything depend upon oneself, all at pleasure of will — Iddhi or Riddi." On this basis Asanga, importing Patanjali's doctrine into Buddhism and abusing it, taught that by means of mystic formulas — dharanis (extracts from Mahayana sutras and other scriptures) and mantra (short prayers to deities) — as spells, "the reciting of which should be accompanied by music and certain distortion of the fingers (mudra), a state of mental fixity (samadhi) might be reached characterized by neither thought nor annihilation of thoughts, and consisting of six-fold bodily and mental happiness (Yogi), whence would result endowment with supernatural miracle-working power." These miraculous powers were alleged to be far more efficacious than mere moral virtue, and may be used for exorcism and sorcery, and for purely secular and selfish objects. Those who mastered these practices were called Yogacarya.


Even the purest of all the Lamaist sects — the Ge-lug-pa — are thorough-paced devil-worshippers, and value Buddhism chiefly because it gives them the whip-hand over the devils which everywhere vex humanity with disease and disaster, and whose ferocity weighs heavily upon all. The purest Ge-lug-pa Lama on awaking every morning, and before venturing outside his room, fortifies himself against assault by the demons by first of all assuming the spiritual guise of his fearful tutelary, the king of the demons, named Vajrabhairava or Samvara, as figured in the chapter on the pantheon. The Lama, by uttering certain mantras culled from the legendary sayings of Buddha in the Mahayana Tantras, coerces this demon-king into investing the Lama's person with his own awful aspect. Thus when the Lama emerges from his room in the morning, and wherever he travels during the day, he presents spiritually the appearance of the demon-king, and the smaller malignant demons, his would-be assailants, ever on the outlook to harm humanity, being deluded into the belief that the Lama is indeed their own vindictive king, they flee from his presence, leaving the Lama unharmed....


LAMAIST mythology is a fascinating field for exploring the primitive conceptions of life, and the way in which the great forces of nature become deified. It also shows the gradual growth of legend and idolatry, with its diagrams of the unknown and fetishes; and how Buddhism with its creative touch bodied forth in concrete shape the abstract conceptions of the learned, and, while incorporating into its pantheon the local gods of the country, it gave milder meanings to the popular myths and legends.

The pantheon is perhaps the largest in the world. It is peopled by a bizarre crowd of aboriginal gods and hydra-headed demons, who are almost jostled off the stage by their still more numerous Buddhist rivals and counterfeits. The mythology, being largely of Buddhist authorship, is full of the awkward forms of Hindu fancy and lacks much of the point, force, and picturesqueness of the myths of Europe. Yet it still contains cruder forms of many of these western myths, and a wealth of imagery...

[T]he earliest Buddhist mythology known to us gives the gods of the Hindus a very prominent place in the system. And while rendering them finite and subject to the general law of metempsychosis, yet so far accepts or tolerates the current beliefs in regard to their influence over human affairs as to render these gods objects of fear and respect, if not of actual adoration by the primitive Buddhists....

In addition to the worship of Buddha, in a variety of forms, the Mahayana school created innumerable metaphysical Buddhas and Bodhisats whom it soon reduced from ideal abstractness to idolatrous form. And it promoted to immortal rank many of the demons of the Sivaist pantheon; and others specially invented by itself as defensores fidei; and to all of these it gave characteristic forms. It also incorporated most of the local deities and demons of those new nations it sought to convert. There is, however, as already noted, reason for believing that many of the current forms of Brahmanical gods were suggested to the Brahmans by antecedent Buddhist forms. And the images have come to be of the most idolatrous kind, for the majority of the Lamas and almost all the laity worship the image as a sort of fetish, holy in itself and not merely as a diagram or symbol of the infinite or unknown.

The Lamaist pantheon, thus derived from so many different sources, is, as may be expected, extremely large and complex. Indeed, so chaotic is its crowd that even the Lamas themselves do not appear to have reduced its members to any generally recognized order, nor even to have attempted complete lists of their motley deities. Though this is probably in part owing to many gods being tacitly tolerated without being specially recognized by the more orthodox Lamas...

Many of the more celebrated idols are believed by the people and the more credulous Lamas to be altogether miraculous in origin— "self-formed," or fallen from heaven ready fashioned...


The truly "local gods" or Genii loci, the "foundation owners" of the Tibetans, are located to a particular fixed place, and seldom conceived of as separate from their places. In appearance they are mostly Caliban-like sprites, ill-tempered and spiteful, or demoniacal...


[T]he commonest use of sacred symbols is as talismans to ward off the evils of those malignant planets and demons who cause disease and disaster, as well as for inflicting harm on one's enemy. The symbols here are used in a mystical and magic sense as spells and as fetishes, and usually consist of formulas in corrupt and often unintelligible Sanskrit, extracted from the Mahayana and Tantrik scriptures, and called dharani, as they are believed to "hold" divine powers, and are also used as incantations...

The eating of the paper on which a charm has been written is an ordinary way of curing disease, as indeed it had been in Europe till not so many centuries ago, for the mystic Rx heading our prescriptions is generally admitted to have had its origin in the symbol of Saturn, whom it invoked, and the paper on which the symbol and several other mystic signs were inscribed constituted the medicine, and was itself actually eaten by the patient. The spells which the Lamas use in this way as medicine are shown in the annexed print, and are called "the edible letters" (za-yig).

A still more mystical way of applying these remedies is by the washings of the reflection of the writing in a mirror, a practice not without its parallels in other quarters of the globe. Thus to cure the evil eye as shown by symptoms of mind-wandering and dementia condition — called "byad-'grol" — it is ordered as follows: Write with Chinese ink on a piece of wood the particular letters and smear the writing over with myrobalams and saffron as varnish, and every twenty-nine days reflect this inscribed wood in a mirror, and during reflection wash the face of the mirror with beer, and collect a cupful of such beer and drink it in nine sips.

But most of the charms are worn on the person as amulets. Every individual always wears around the neck one or more of these amulets, which are folded up into little cloth-covered packets, bound with coloured threads in a geometrical pattern. Others are kept in small metallic cases of brass, silver, or gold, set with turquoise stones as amulets, and called "Ga-u." These amulets are fastened to the girdle or sash, and the smaller ones are worn as lockets, and with each are put relics of holy men — a few threads or fragments of cast-off robes of saints or idols, peacock feathers, sacred Kusa grass, and occasionally images and holy pills. Other large charms are affixed overhead in the house or tent to ward off lightning, hail, etc., and for cattle special charms are chanted, or sometimes pasted on the walls of the stalls, etc...


Kon-ch'og-chi-du, or "sacrifice to the whole assembly of Rare Ones" ... This feast is observed by Lamas of all sects, and is an interesting sample of devil-worship. The old fashion is here detailed, but it differs from that of the reformed or high church only in providing for a slightly larger party of demoniacal guests; the Ge-lug-pa inviting only the following, to wit, their chief Lama, St. Tson-K'a-pa, their tutelary deity Vajra-bhairava, Vajrasattva Buddha, the deified heroes, the fairies, the guardian demons of the Ge-lug-pa creed, the god of wealth, the guardian demons of the caves where the undiscovered revelations are deposited, the five sister sprites of mount Everest, the twelve aerial fiendesses (Tan-ma), who sow disease, and the more important local gods.


LIKE most primitive people, the Tibetans believe that the planets and spiritual powers, good and bad, directly exercise a potent influence upon man's welfare and destiny, and that the portending machinations of these powers are only to be foreseen, discerned, and counteracted by the priests.

Such beliefs have been zealously fostered by the Lamas, who have led the laity to understand that it is necessary for each individual to have recourse to the astrologer-Lama or Tsi-pa on each of the three great epochs of life, to wit, birth, marriage, and death: and also at the beginning of each year to have a forecast of the year's ill-fortune and its remedies drawn out for them.

These remedies are all of the nature of rampant demonolatry for the appeasing or coercion of the demons of the air, the earth, the locality, house, the death-demon, etc.

Indeed, the Lamas are themselves the real supporters of the demonolatry. They prescribe it wholesale, and derive from it their chief means of livelihood at the expense of the laity...

The astrologer-Lamas have always a constant stream of persons coming to them for prescriptions as to what deities and demons require appeasing and the remedies necessary to neutralize these portending evils....

The days of the month in their numerical order are unlucky per se in this order. The first is unlucky for starting any undertaking, journey, etc. The second is very bad to travel. Third is good provided no bad combination otherwise. Fourth is bad for sickness and accident (Ch'u-'jag). Eighth bad. The dates counted on fingers, beginning from thumb and counting second in the hollow between thumb and index finger, the hollow always comes out bad, thus second, eighth, fourteenth, etc. Ninth is good for long journeys but not for short (Kut-da). Fourteenth and twenty-fourth are like fourth. The others are fairly good coeteris paribus. In accounts, etc., unlucky days are often omitted altogether and the dates counted by duplicating the preceding day...

The spirits of the seasons also powerfully influence the luckiness or unluckiness of the days. It is necessary to know which spirit has arrived at the particular place and time when an event has happened or an undertaking is entertained. And the very frequent and complicated migrations of these aerial spirits, good and bad, can only be ascertained by the Lamas...


Dwelling in an atmosphere of superstition, the Lamas, like the alchemists of old, do not recognize the limitation to their powers over Nature. They believe that the hermits in the mountains, and the monks in their cloisters, can readily become adepts in the black art, and can banish drought, and control the sun, and stay the storm; and many of their necromantic performances recall the scene of the "witches' cauldron" in Macbeth.


Barring the Door against the Earth-Demons.

The local earth-spirits are named "Master Earth'' or "Earth-Masters,"' and are comparable to the terrestrial Nagas of the Hindus. The most malignant are the "gnan" who infest certain trees and rocks, which are always studiously shunned and respected, and usually daubed with paint in adoration...

The ceremony of "closing the door of the earth," so frequently referred to in the Lamaist prescriptions, is addressed to her.

In this rite is prepared an elaborate arrangement of masts, and amongst the mystic objects of the emblem the strings, etc.; most prominent is a ram's skull with its attached horns, and it is directed downwards to the earth...

The whole erection is now fixed to the outside of the house above the door; the object of these figures of a man, wife and house is to deceive the demons should they still come in spite of this offering, and to mislead them into the belief that the foregoing pictures are the inmates of the house, so that they may wreak their wrath on these bits of wood and so save the real human occupants....

Demons of the Sky.

The demons who produce disease, short of actual death, are called She, and are exorcised by an elaborate ceremony in which a variety of images and offerings are made. The officiating Lama invokes his tutelary fiend, and thereby assuming spiritually the dread guise of this king evil, he orders out the disease-demon under threat of getting himself eaten up by the awful tutelary who now possesses the Lama. The demons are stabbed by the mystic dagger purba...


Their inveterate craving for material protection against those malignant gods and demons has caused them to pin their faith on charms and amulets, which are to be seen everywhere dangling from the dress of every man, woman, and child.


The people live in an atmosphere of the marvellous. No story is too absurd for them to credit, if only it be told by Lamas. They are ever on the outlook for omens, and the every-day affairs of life are governed, as we have seen, by a superstitious regard for lucky and unlucky days...


Prayers ever hang upon the people's lips. The prayers are chiefly directed to the devils, imploring them for freedom or release from their cruel inflictions, or they are plain naive requests for aid towards obtaining the good things of this life, the loaves and the fishes. At all spare times, day and night, the people ply their prayer-wheels, and tell their beads, and mutter the mystic six syllables — Om ma-ni pad-me Hum! "Om! the Jewel in the Lotus, Hum!" — the sentence which gains them their great goal, the glorious heaven of eternal bliss, the paradise of the fabulous Buddha of boundless Light — Amitabha.

Still, with all their strivings and the costly services of their priests, the Tibetans never attain peace of mind. They have fallen under the double ban of menacing demons and despotic priests. So it will be a happy day, indeed, for Tibet when its sturdy over-credulous people are freed from the intolerable tyranny of the Lamas, and delivered from the devils whose ferocity and exacting worship weigh like a nightmare upon all.

-- The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism With Its Mystic Cults, Symbolism and Mythology, and in its Relation to Indian Buddhism, by Laurence Austine Waddell, M.B., F.L.S., F.R.G.S.

Or is it possible that the Buddhist tradition is a complex combination of ideas and aspirations, some of which are positively disposed toward the environment and some of which are not? If so, is it possible to reconcile the Dalai Lama's approach to the concept of nature with the image of a tradition that seeks to establish harmony between human beings and the natural world? The purpose of this essay is to explore the incongruity in the Dalai Lama's words, to ask where the incongruity comes from, and to ask whether it is possible to identify a "Buddhist philosophy of nature," a philosophy that is genuinely affirmative of what we have come to think of as the "natural" world and, at the same time, true to the complex impulses that shape the Buddhist quest for the purification and development of the mind.

To start with, where do we get the stereotype of Buddhist reverence for the natural world? Masao Watanabe began his account of the Japanese attitude toward nature by telling a story about the nineteenth-century art historian Lafcadio Hearn and the genesis of Western perceptions of Japan. Watanabe said that he read Lafcadio Hearn's account of his first visit to Japan to a group of American students. (It was the trip that led to Hearn's fascination with Japan and to his decision to make Japan his permanent residence.) Watanabe asked his students what they first noticed about Hearn's account of his visit. The answer was Hearn's image of the Japanese love of nature, symbolized in Hearn's story of a Japanese warrior who arranged vases of chrysanthemums to welcome his brother home from a journey. The students' answer then elicited Watanabe's own comments about the sense of natural beauty in Japanese landscape design, flower arrangement, the tea ceremony, poetry, and cuisine.

Watanabe is right to suggest that Western people first approach Japanese views of nature through an aesthetic medium. When Japan opened to the West in the early 1850's, Japanese art flooded into Western markets and had significant effect on the stylistic vision of Western artists as different as James McNeill Whistler and Vincent Van Gogh.10 There are few more powerful and suggestive icons of the Japanese vision of nature than the gnarled rocks and empty spaces of a Zen garden like the one at Ryoan-ji in Kyoto, and few poets of the natural world can match the grace and intensity that is so evident in the wroks of the Japanese poet Basho. It is sometimes said that to grasp the significance of Basho's poem,

Old pond--
Frog jumps in --
Sound of water!

is to grasp the whole meaning of Buddhism.11 Certainly, the "meaning" of this poem must have something to do with the condensed appreciation of a single moment in the flow of the natural world, a moment in which the minds of the poet and the reader become absorbed in the natural event itself.

Basho's poetic appreciation of nature has strong antecedents in Chinese literature, as in the work of the shadowy T'ang Dynasty poet whose identity is known simply by the name Cold Mountain. In the lines of the Cold Mountain poet, the Buddhist "way" takes on a distinctly naturalistic flavor.

As for me, I delight in the everyday Way,
Among mist-wrapped vines and rocky caves.
Here in the wilderness I am completely free,
With my friends, the white clouds, idling forever.
There are roads, but they do not reach the world;
Since I am mindless, who can rouse my thoughts?
On a bed of stone I sit, alone in the night,
While the round moon climbs up Cold Mountain.12

This verse displays a distinctive sensitivity to the rough, unhewn aspects of nature, to mists, rocks and trees -- all the aspects of nature that Gary Snyder associated with Henry David Thoreau's concept of the "wild."13 But it also expresses important Buddhist values. The lines reflect the traditional theme of the Middle Way, leading from the experience of suffering and ignorance in the world of ordinary people to the wisdom of a solitary and enlightened sage, and they map the contrast between these two realms of experience in a series of standard images. The ordinary world is one of entanglement, obscurity, and darkness, with "mist-wrapped vines," and "idling clouds." The world of enlightenment is one of detachment, coolness, and clarity, where the round moon that symbolizes the Buddha's awareness climbs up Cold Mountain.

I delight in the everyday Way
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Part 2 of 2

"Cold Mountain" is not merely the setting for the poems and a reference to the poet's own identity; it also expresses the path a sage has to tread to reach enlightenment and symbolizes enlightenment itself. To combine all of these meanings in a single, concrete image is to suggest that enlightenment involves a sense of fusion between the self and the natural world.

Overinterpret: to read too much into (something): to attribute to (something) a meaning or importance that does not seem likely or reasonable.

-- Merriam Webster

William R. LaFleur has shown that Basho's poetry is the result of a long process of doctrinal reflection in East Asia about the religious significance of nature.14 When one of Basho's predecessors, the poet Saigyo (twelfth century), for example, depicts movement along the road to enlightenment as involving "just a brief stop" to linger in the shade of a willow, he raises a question about the nature of the way itself. Is it better to walk the road like a diligent pilgrim with your eyes fixed firmly on a distant goal or to step off the road and allow your consciousness to merge with some part of the natural world?

"Just a brief stop"
I said when stepping off the road
into a willow's shade
Where a bubbling stream flows by
As has time since my "brief stop" began.

Here it is the shade of the willow rather than the pilgrim's road that stops consciousness of the passage of time, and this "stopping" reflects the "cessation" of the Buddha's nirvana. But why associate nirvana with a willow rather than some other element of the natural world? LaFleur has shown that these lines reflect a complex doctrinal discussion about whether plants in particular can have "Buddha-nature," in other words, whether they can embody the stage of enlightenment that the pilgrim is seeking. In China this question was first raised as part of the general discussion of the relationship between Emptiness and ordinary reality. The question then became focused as a specific question about vegetation. Did plants have Buddha-nature? Some Buddhist thinkers found an affirmative answer to this question in the chapter on "Plants" in The Lotus Sutra, where it is said that the rain of the Buddha's teaching falls equally on all forms of vegetation, and each plant grows up and is nourished according to its own capacity.15 In Japan this view evolved into the position represented by Saigyo's "brief stop." The natural world was treated as having special significance as a setting for the experience of enlightenment -- enough significance to invite the poet to turn off the path and disappear in the shade of the willow.

Saigyo was not the only one, and his was not the only way, to explore the relationship between the natural world and the experience of enlightenment. Allan G. Grapard has shown that the concept of enlightenment can be mapped onto the physical landscape in even more complex ways.16 The volcano Futagoyama on the Kunisaki peninsula, for example, was treated as a physical manifestation of the text of The Lotus Sutra; its twenty-eight valleys were treated as equivalent to the twenty-eight chapters of The Lotus Sutra; and its paths were lined with more than sixty thousand statues representing the total number of ideograms in the text. Here the landscape itself is the text, and the text is the Dharma. To walk the paths on the mountain and read its valleys as visual representations of the Dharma is to experience the relationship between nature and text, path and goal, and cessation and movement in a way that goes far beyond the simplicity of Saigyo's lines.

When the Guru, after passing through Nepal, reached Man-yul, the enemy-god (dgra-lha) of Z'an-z'un, named Dsa-mun, tried to destroy him by squeezing him between two mountains, but he overcame her by his irdhi-power of soaring in the sky. He then received her submission and her promise to become a guardian of Lamaism under the religious name of rDo-rje Gyu-bun-ma.

E-ka-dsa-ti.— When the Guru reached gNam-t'an-mk'ar-nag, the white fiendess of that place showered thunderbolts upon him, without, however, harming him. The Guru retaliated by melting her snow-dwelling into a lake; and the discomfited fury fled into the lake T'an-dpal-mo-dpal, which the Guru then caused to boil. But though her flesh boiled off her bones, still she did not emerge; so the Guru threw in his thunderbolt, piercing her right eye. Then came she forth and offered up to him her life-essence, and was thereon named Gans-dkar-sha-med-rDo-rje-sPyan-gcig-ma, or "The Snow-white, Fleshless, One-eyed Ogress of the Vajra."

The twelve Tan-ma Furies.— Then the Guru marched onward, and readied U-yug-bre- mo-snar, where the twelve bstan-ma (see figure, page 27) furies hurled thunderbolts at him, and tried to crush him between mountains; but the Guru evaded them by flying into the sky, and with his "pointing-finger" charmed their thunderbolts into cinders. And by his pointing-finger he cast the hills and mountains upon their snowy dwellings. Thereupon the twelve bstan-ma, with all their retinue thwarted and subdued, offered him their life-essence, and so were brought under his control.

Dam-c'an-r Dor-legs.— Then the Guru, pushing onward, reached the fort of U-yug-bye- tshan'-rdson, where he was opposed by dGe-bsnen rDo-rje-legs-pa (see figure, p. 26) with his three hundred and sixty followers, who all were subjected and the leader appointed a guardian (bsrung-ma) of the Lamaist doctrine.

Yar-lha-sham-po. — Then the Guru, going forward, reached Sham-po-lun, where the demon Yar-lha-sham-po transformed himself into a huge mountain-like white yak, whose breath belched forth like great clouds, and whose grunting sounded like thunder. Bu-yug gathered at his nose, and he rained thunderbolts and hail. Then the Guru caught the demon's nose by "the iron-hook gesture," bound his neck by "the rope gesture,'' bound his feet by "the fetter-gesture"; and the yak, maddened by the super-added "bell-gesture," transformed himself into a young boy dressed in white silk, who offered up to the Guru his life-essence; and so this adversary was subjected.

Tan'-lha the great gNan. — Then the Guru proceeded to Phya-than-la pass, where the demon gNan-ch'en-t'an-lha, transformed himself into a great white snake, with his head in the country of Gru-gu, and his tail in gYer-mo-than country, drained by the Mongolian river Sok-Ch'u, and thus seeming like a chain of mountains he tried to bar the Guru's progress. But the Guru threw the lin-gyi over the snake. Then the T'an'-lha, in fury, rained thunderbolts, which the Guru turned to fishes, frogs, and snakes, which fled to a neighbouring lake. Then the Guru melted his snowy dwelling, and the god, transforming himself into a young boy dressed in white silk, with a turquoise diadem, offered up his life-essence, together with that of all his retinue, and so he was subjected.

The Injurers. — Then the Guru, proceeding onwards, arrived at the northern Phan- yul-thang, where the three Injurers — sTing-lo-sman of the north, sTing-sman-zor gdon-ma, and sTing-sman-ston— sent hurricanes to bar the Guru's progress. On which the Guru circled "the wheel of fire" with his pointing-finger, and thus arrested the wind, and melted the snowy mountains like butter before a red hot iron. Then the three gNod-sbyin, being discomfited, offered up their life-essence and so were subjected.

The Black Devils.— Then the Guru, going onward, reached gNam-gyi-shug-mthon- glang-sgrom, where he opened the magic circle or Mandate of the Five Families (of the Buddhas) for seven days, after which all the commanders of the host of bDud-Devil offered their life-essence and so were subjected.

The-u-ran. — Then the Guru went to the country of gLar-wa-rkan-c'ig-ma, where he brought all the The-u-ran demons under subjection.

The Mi-ma-yin Devils. — When the Guru was sitting in the cave of Senge-brag-phug, the demon Ma-sans-gyah-spang-skyes-shig, desiring to destroy him, came into his presence in the form of an old woman with a turquoise cap, and rested her head on the Guru's lap and extended her feet towards Gye-wo-than and her hands towards the white snowy mountain Ti-si. Then many thousands of Mi-ma-yin surrounded the Guru menacingly; but he caused the Five Fierce Demons to appear, and so he subjected the Mi-ma-yin.

Ma-mo, etc.— Then he subjected all the Ma-mo and bSemo of Ch'u-bo-ri and Kha-rak, and going to Sil-ma, in the province of Tsang, he subjected all the sMan-mo. And going to the country of Hori he subjected all the Dam-sri, And going to Rong-lung-nag-po he subjected all the Srin-po. And going to central Tibet (dbUs) towards the country of the lake Manasarova (mal-dro), he subjected all the Nagas of the mal-dro lake, who offered him seven thousand golden coins. And going to Gyu-'dsin-phug-mo, he subjected all the Pho-rgyud. And going to Dung-mdog-brag-dmar, he subjected all the smell eating Driza (? Gandharva). And going to Gan-pa-ch'u-mig, he subjected all the dGe-snen. And going to Bye-ma-rab-khar, he subjected all the eight classes of Lha-srin. And going to the snowy mountain Ti-si, he subjected all the twenty- eight Nakshetras. And going to Lha-rgod-gans, he subjected the eight planets. And going to Bu-le-gans, he subjected all the 'dre of the peaks, the country, and the dwelling-sites, all of whom offered him every sort of worldly wealth.

-- The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism With Its Mystic Cults, Symbolism and Mythology, and in its Relation to Indian Buddhism, by Laurence Austine Waddell, M.B., F.L.S., F.R.G.S.

More examples could be cited as the relationship between Buddhist values and Japanese appreciation of the natural world, but these should be sufficient to show that Watanabe certainly had reason to say that reverence for nature plays a special part in Japanese culture, including its Buddhist dimension. There also are good reasons to think, however, that this is not the whole picture. In a remarkable article entitled "Concepts of Nature East and West," Stephen R. Kellert has given clear statistical shape to the suspicion that Eastern cultures are just as capable of showing disrespect for nature as their Western counterparts.17 "In contrast," Kellert says, "to the foregoing descriptions of highly positive Eastern attitudes toward nature, modern Japan and China have been cited for their poor conservation record -- including widespread temperate and tropical deforestation, excessive exploitation of wildlife products, indiscriminate and damaging fishing practices, and widespread pollution."18 Kellert prepared a questionnaire to investigate and compare Japanese and American attitudes toward the natural world. He found that the most common approach to wildlife in both cultures, Japanese and American, was the one that Kellert called "humanistic": both cultures showed "primary interest and strong affection for individual animals such as pets or large wild animals with strong anthropomorphic associations." The percentage of people who held this opinion was 37% for Japan and 38% for the United States. The second most common attitude in the United States was the "moralistic": 27.5% of the American respondents showed what Kellert called a "primary concern for right and wrong treatment of animals and strong opposition to overexploitation and cruelty toward animals." The second most common attitude in Japan, with 31%, was the attitude that Kellert called "negativistic": a "primary orientation [toward] an active avoidance of animals due to dislike or fear." The third most common Japanese attitude was one that he called "dominionistic" (28%): involving "primary interest in the mastery and control of animals." In other words, more than 50% of Kellert's Japanese respondents feared or disliked animals or were primarily concerned with their mastery or control. Kellert's findings received statistical confirmation from a 1989 survey by the United Nations Environmental Program: the survey found that Japan rated "lowest in environmental concern and awareness" of the 14 countries surveyed.

Kellert pursued his investigations with a series of detailed interviews to elicit explanations of the Japanese attitudes. Many of the people interviewed "indicated that the Japanese tend to place greatest emphasis on the experience and enjoyment of nature in highly structured circumstances." The reasons for this emphasis were diverse but quite revealing. One person referred to "a Japanese love of 'seminature,' somewhat domesticated and tame." Another said that the Japanese "isolate favored environmental features and 'freeze or put walls around them.'" For all of Kellert's informants, the stress fell on the cultural transformation of nature, in which natural elements were refined and abstracted in such a way that they could serve as symbols of harmony, order, and balance. The stress on the cultural transformation of nature rather than nature in its pure, unrefined state has also been noted by Donald Ritchie who has said that "the Japanese attitude to nature is essentially possessive ... Nature is not natural ... until the hand of man ... has properly shaped it."19

How can we explain the contradiction between Kellert's findings and the stereotype of the nature-loving Buddhist? How can the Japanese tradition appear to show such deep reverence for nature and yet tolerate or even encourage such pervasive attitudes of cultural domination? One possible explanation is that the Japanese have so thoroughly absorbed a Western preference for the domination and exploitation of nature that the indigenous tradition has simply been overwhelmed in a rush for Western-style economic development. Kellert points out, however, that it is too simplistic to attribute this contradiction merely to the influence of the West. As W. Montgomery Watt noted in his account of alleged external influences on the formation of early Islam, it is difficult for one culture to "influence" another in a deep or significant way unless there are already tendencies or predispositions in the receiving culture that make such influence possible.20 Could there be predispositions within the Buddhist traditions of Japan that tend to favor this "cultural transformation" of nature? Could Buddhism itself have contributed to such an attitude? The way to explore these questions at the most basic level is to move back to India, the homeland of the Buddhist tradition, and interrogate the tradition in its original setting.

How does the religious literature of India picture the natural world? India is a complex civilization, of course, and it is as complex in its approach to nature as any of the traditions of East Asia or the West, but it does not seem an oversimplification to say that there is a deep and abiding preoccupation in Indian civilization with the distinction between the "human" and the "natural." One of the best sources to use in reflecting on this distinction is the text of the Bhagavad Gita, one of the best known and most beloved of Hindu scriptural texts. The text consists of a dialogue between two figures, the warrior Arjuna who is on the verge of a climactic battle, and his charioteer Krsna who reveals himself to be a manifestation of God. At the beginning of the story, Arjuna shrinks in grief as he contemplates the destruction to be wrought by the battle. Krsna counsels him to pick himself up and do his duty as a warrior without feeling fear or grief about the consequences of his actions. The reasoning behind Krsna's counsel reflects a fundamental feature of Hindu attitudes toward nature. Krsna counsels Arjuna to distinguish between his "soul" (purusa), which is eternal and cannot die, and his "body," which is mortal, changeable, and destined eventually to be discarded as the soul makes its passage into another life.

These bodies are said to end, but the embodied self is eternal,
indestructable, and immeasurable,
therefore, you should fight, O Bharata.

If Arjuna knows that his true identity is equated with the "soul" and not the "body," he does not need to be affected by grief or fear.

As the text develops the distinction between "soul" and "body," we find that the "body" is spoken of as prakrti, a concept that is commonly translated as "nature." The distinction between soul and body is a reflection, in the microcosm of the personality, of the distinction in the cosmos at large between the principle of "spirit" and the principle of "nature." What does it mean to say that prakriti is "nature"? The semantic range of the word prakrti might seem at first to be considerably wider than the one that normally is mapped by the English word "nature." Prakrti includes not only the material aspects of the cosmos but also the aspects of the personality called "mind" (manas) and "intellect" (buddhi). The basic distinction is not between body on one side and mind or spirit on the other, but between the complex of changeable elements in the personality (including body, mind, and intellect) and the eternal, unchangeable soul. The distinction between purusa and prakrti comes close, however, to the distinction marked by the title of the symposium in which the Dalai Lama gave his Middlebury address: purusa is "spirit" and prakrti "nature," in the sense that purusa is conscious, transcendent, and attainable through discipline (yoga) or reason while prakrti merely reflects or obscures the consciousness of purusa and is subject to change and decay. The challenge for human beings in Arjuna's position, caught in the web of confusion spun by the strands of prakrti, is to recognize their true identities as immortal souls and escape the bonds of nature.

In a technical sense, the distinction between purusa and prakrti belongs to only two of the classic Hindu philosophical traditions, the Samkhya and the Yoga, and these two traditions do not by any means serve as the dominant framework for the interpretation of reality in the Indian tradition. But the distinction has wide influence in Indian culture. When visitors make a journey, for example, to the great ruined temple of Elephanta in Bombay harbor, they travel across the waters of the harbor to a small island, climb a long line of stairs up to the rocky outcropping in the center of the island, then enter a cave where the central shrine has been cut out of the living rock. The journey across the water is a symbolic expression of a journey through the changeable, distracting world of "nature," and entry into the darkness and quiet of the temple represent an approach to the immovable center of "the soul." The religious drama of the journey depends on a basic cultural image of contrast between the world of prakrti and the world of soul. Even in nondualistic traditions, such as Advaita Vedanta, where the goal is to dissolve the distinction between self and world, the journey of enlightenment is still based on an initial insistence on the "distinction" (viveka) between the eternal self and all that is not-self.21 One can argue with considerable force that the Hindu tradition is driven, even in its nondualistic dimension, by a conviction that eternal things have ultimate value and changeable things do not. "Nature" encompasses the things that change and pass away.

Buddhists do not share the Hindu conviction about the permanence of the individual soul, but they also are suspicious of the difficulties and dangers of the "natural" world. Lambert Schmithausen has noted that, in classical Buddhist sources, Buddhist peasants, townspeople, and even monks preferred the tamed and civilized world of the village and city to the virgin forest or the jungle.22 The jungle and forest were symbols of death and rebirth (as was the ocean that the worshipper had to cross to reach the temple at Elephanta), and nirvana, the cessation of death and rebirth, was represented as a city.23 Images of Buddhist paradises, when they appear in Indian sources, are generally landscapes in which the "wild" aspects of nature have been thoroughly tamed. With trees laid out in symmetrical grids, rectangular ponds, golden lines, and shiny blue-black surface, the paradise of Sukhavati in the Indian Sukhavativyuha is more reminiscent of a parking lot than it is of an untamed wilderness.24 Schmithausen notes quite correctly that a significant number of Buddhist monks chose not to live in cities or towns. In the "hermit strand" of monastic life, one visualized the forest as useful for the practice of meditation. In the forest a monk can avoid the distractions of society and contemplate the impermanence of reality by observing the passage of the seasons. But even here the focus is on the natural world as a locus and a guide for the spiritual transformation of the monk himself, as it was in Grapard's account of the mapping of The Lotus Sutra onto the ridges and valleys of Futagoyama.

Buddhism in common with most religions had its hermits who retired like John the Baptist into the wilderness. And such periodical retirement for a time, corresponding to the Buddhist Lent (the rainy season of India, or Varsha, colloq. "barsat"), when travelling was difficult and unhealthy, was an essential part of the routine of the Indian Buddhist. Tson K'apa enforced the observance of this practice, but it has now fallen much into abeyance...

Theoretically it is part of the training of every young Lama to spend in hermitage a period of three years, three months, and three days, in order to accustom himself to ascetic rites. But this practice is very rarely observed for any period, and when it is observed, a period of three months and three days is considered sufficient.

-- The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism With Its Mystic Cults, Symbolism and Mythology, and in its Relation to Indian Buddhism, by Laurence Austine Waddell, M.B., F.L.S., F.R.G.S.

It is important to be clear that this early strand in the Buddhist tradition is not hostile to nature as such: one does not attempt to dominate or destroy nature (in the form of either animals or plants) in order to seek a human good. But neither is the wild and untamed aspect of nature to be encouraged or cultivated. The natural world functions as a locus and an example of the impermanence and unsatisfactoriness of death and rebirth. The goal to be cultivated is not wilderness in its own right, but a state of awareness in which a practitioner can let go of the "natural" -- of all that is impermanent and unsatisfactory -- and achieve the sense of peace and freedom that is represented by the state of nirvana. One might say that nature is not to be dominated but to be relinquished in order to become free.

In this context the significance of the Dalai Lama's approach to the topic of "spirit and nature" becomes clearer. He was not hostile to nature, but he had other important topics in mind, not the least of which was the purification of the mind itself.
When he took up the question of nature in the philosophical style that was appropriate to his tradition (linking it to the concept of Emptiness), his first step was not unlike Krsna's first step in the Bhagavad Gita: he distinguished between the realm of appearance or "nature" and the realm of ultimate reality or Emptiness. He said: "When talking about the fundamental nature of reality, one could sum up the entire understanding of that nature in a simple verse: 'Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form' (The Heart Sutra.)25 The concept of "fundamental nature" might seem to function differently than the concept of prakrti in the Bhagavad Gita, and in a sense it does. It refers to the imagined "essence" or "identity" that a person imposes on reality (the reality of Emptiness) rather than to the distracting and alluring play of "material nature," but it performs the same discriminative function when it comes to the purification of the mind. In the Madhyamaka tradition, out of which the Dalai Lama speaks, the idea of "fundamental nature" (whether it is understood as the Tibetan ngo bo nyid, and Sanskrit svabhava or as the Tibetan rang bzhin and Sanskrit prakrti) has to be stripped away in order to develop a purified awareness of Emptiness. The term "Emptiness" itself can refer either to the absence of such a "fundamental nature" in all things or to the purified awareness that perceives all things as empty in this way. For the Dalai Lama, the concept of "nature" elicits an image of Emptiness and suggests a practice of purification in which the illusions of "nature" are left behind.

Against this intellectual background, it is not surprising to find that Indian Buddhist literature contains very little of the reverence for the wild and "natural" world that one associates with the tradition of East Asia. Indian poetic accounts of insight or enlightenment often reflect a rhetorical distinction in which the teaching of the Buddha is "greater than" or "in contrast to" the possibilities of the natural world, as in the philosopher Dharmakirti's exploration of the poetic relationship between the Buddha's teaching and the cooling rays of the moon.

Were not a drop from the Moon of Sages,
better than a flood of cooling moonlight,
mixed within the vessel of its thought,
how would this heart find happiness
and, though it stood within a cold Himalayan cave,
how would it endure the unendurable
fire of separation from its love?26

When one puts Dharmakirti's image of the superiority of the "Moon of Sages" (the Buddha) next to a comparable passage by the Chinese poet Li Po (701-762),

Moonlight in front of my bed
I took it for frost on the ground!
I lift my eyes to watch the mountain moon,
lower them and dream of home.

one clearly sees the aesthetic and ideological transformation that took place when the wine of the Indian Buddhist tradition was poured into its Chinese bottles. "Nature" in the Indian tradition was a world to be transcended, while in East Asia it took on the capacity to symbolize transcendence itself.

How then should we read the affirmative images of the natural world in the poetry of Saigyo and Basho? Has the Japanese tradition been so thoroughly infused by Chinese attitudes toward the natural world that it has taken leave entirely from the Indian tradition? Certainly there is a striking contrast between the two traditions, but it is possible to see Indian Buddhism (including the Tibetan tradition of the Dalai Lama) in a way that gives us new eyes for the Buddhist dimension of the Japanese poetic tradition. Basho's "Old pond/frog jumps in/sound of water" can be read as an expression of immersion in the flow of natural processes: a frog jumps into a pond and the mind fuses with the event in a moment of intense perception. But the poem is not, strictly speaking, an expression of the frog or the water in themselves; it is an expression of a moment of perception. The force of the poem lies in the mind of the observer, not to the exclusion of nature, but in the mind's awareness of nature.

When Stephen R. Kellert probed the stereotype of Japanese attitudes toward nature, he found what one of his informants called an "emphasis on the experience and enjoyment of nature in highly structured circumstances." The stress fell less on nature in its raw form than on the cultural transformation of nature: natural elements were refined and abstracted so that they could serve as symbols of harmony, order, or balance. Allan G. Grapard captured the ambiguity and complexity of the same point when he suggested that

what has been termed "the Japanese love of nature" is actually the "Japanese love of cultural transformation and purification of a world which, if left alone, simply decays." So that the love of culture takes in Japan the form of a love of nature.27

Nature may not need to be transformed in an overt, physical fashion to be significant, although the design of a "natural" garden is certainly a refined cultural act, but the significance of the natural setting for the human observer lies principally in the act of perception, and it may be appropriate or even necessary for nature to be fashioned and controlled to make this "natural" mode of perception become clear.

Then is there a "Buddhist" philosophy of nature? If the intention of the question is to identify a simple, unified vision of the sanctity of the natural world, the answer must be no. If anything, there is the opposite. Beneath the evident differences between the Indian and East Asian tradition lies a commitment to the view that human beings work out their fates through the development and purification of their own minds. Riccardo Venturini had something like this in mind, no doubt, when he said that the Buddhist tradition develops its attitude toward nature in the context of an "ecology of the mind" and aims at a "purified" world with man as its steward.28 Could it be that the Buddhist tradition, which has seemed so promising as a model to escape the destructive consequences of the Western anthropocentric vision of nature, is as much compromised by the flaws of anthropocentrism as its Western counterpart? The question is crucial for understanding the possibility of a Buddhist response to the ecological crisis, and much depends on the meaning of the word "anthropocentrism."

In the summer of 1981, the Dalai Lama gave a series of lectures on Buddhist philosophy in Emerson Hall at Harvard University.29 At the beginning of the lectures a member of the Harvard community welcomed the Dalai Lama to Emerson Hall by referring to an inscription over the portal of the building. "What is man that thou art mindful of him?" He gave a Tibetan translation of the inscription that related it to one of the key issues of Buddhist philosophy ("What are you referring to when you use the word 'man'?") and said that it seemed particularly appropriate to hear the Dalai Lama's words in a setting where the very issue of human identity had such a rich and controversial history. "What is man that thou art mindful of him?" In the Tibetan and Sanskrit traditions, the word "man" recalls a long controversy about the status of the pudgala (commonly translated as "person," but literally "man"). An ancient Indian Buddhist school known as the Personalists (pudgalavadin) took the position that a person's identity consisted in a pudgala that continued from one moment to the next.30 This pudgala was related ambiguously to the momentary psycho-physical constituents (skandha) of the mind and body. The constituents changed at every moment while the pudgala continued, and the pudgala was neither identical to nor different from the constituents. It seems that the pudgala was considered to be something like the "shape" or "configuration" of the personality, so that one could say that a person retained the same "shape" even when all the individual constituents of the personality had changed, perhaps like a car in which all the individual parts have been replaced but which still retains the "shape" of the original car.

The Personalists have long since gone out of existence as an identifiable school, and the controversy about the pudgala could be relegated to the status of an obscure historical curiosity if it had not become a symbol for Buddhists of the classic mistake to be avoided when thinking about the nature of the self. One of the most basic themes in Buddhist philosophy is the claim that there is no "self," and by "no-self" is meant at least that there is no continuous pudgala that ties together the stream of the personality from one moment to the next. The pudgalavada, the doctrine of the "man" or "person" is, as it were, the fundamental Buddhist heresy from which the tradition now chooses to distinguish itself. To ask, "What is man that thou art mindful of him?" or "What are you referring to when you use the word 'man'"? is to probe the foundations of the Buddhist view of the self as its most sensitive point. What is the most basic error that has to be avoided if one is to make progress toward the goal of enlightenment?

Herein lies the paradox of Buddhist "anthropocentrism." The tradition is genuinely concerned with the human achievement of human goals. At a deep historical and conceptual level, the tradition defends an ideal of self-reliance, as in the oft-quoted verse from the Dhammapada: "One is one's own Lord (or God or Protector). What other Lord can there be"? But the achievement of self-interest is tied in an equally fundamental way to the decentering of the self. On the intellectual level, the quest for nirvana is tied up with a quest for an understanding of "no-self" as both a doctrine and a mode of awareness. On a more practical level, Buddhist discipline is built up of choices, both large and small, that challenge the naive patterns of self-centeredness from which the fabric of ordinary life is woven. In traditional Buddhist societies in Southeast Asia, Buddhist monks go out each morning to beg their food from lay people, meditating as they go on their "friendliness" or concern for all beings. Lay people prepare the food and enact a model in which their own spiritual benefit is tied to a gesture of renunciation, of giving away the food that sustains the life of a monk. Moral precepts, particularly the prohibition against killing (which is extended not just to human beings but in theory to all sentient beings), cultivate a fundamental respect for life in all its forms.

I observed during my subsequent residence at Lhasa that more than fifty thousand sheep, goats and yaks were slaughtered there during the three months ending in December every year.....

At the side of the road below this monastery is a place where yaks, sheep, and goats are killed for the table of the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetans have so superstitious a regard for the sheep (seven in number) the meat of which is offered to the Dalai Lama daily, that they ask for such things as the wool and other parts of the animal as keepsakes. Besides sheep, the Dalai Lama eats other kinds of meat, which is also sent from the same place.

-- Three Years in Tibet, by Shramana Ekai Kawaguchi

These ideals are realized with greater and lesser degrees of consistency in the Buddhist communities of Southeast Asia, but the theoretical connection between the self-interested decentering of the self and respect for life lies deep in the culture. One could paraphrase Grapard's claim that in Japan the love of culture takes the form of a love of nature by saying that in Buddhist culture at large the cultivation of the self takes the form of decentering of the self and a concern for a wider network of life.

Steven C. Rockefeller has remarked about the way anthropocentric and utilitarian approaches to environmental ethics take on a more biocentric character when they are combined with a scientific appreciation of ecological interdependence.31 This conceptual development has its counterpart in the Buddhist tradition as well. To say that one's self-interest is served by realizing and enacting an ideal of no-self is to say that one's own self-interest is best understood by realizing one's location in a network of interdependence or "interdependent co-origination" (pratitya-samutpada). The formulas that express the understanding of no-self in different versions of the Buddhist tradition often equate no-self (or its Mahayana counterpart, the doctrine of Emptiness) with interdependent co-origination. A famous verse in Nagarjuna's root verses of the Madhyamaka school says: "We call interdependent co-origination Emptiness; this is a metaphorical designation, and it is the Middle Path." Other textual sources simply equate interdependent co-origination with the Dharma or with the Buddha himself, as in the common scriptural phrase, "He who sees interdependent co-origination sees the Buddha."

Primitive Lamaism may therefore be defined as a priestly mixture of Sivaite mysticism, magic, and Indo-Tibetan demonolatry, overlaid by a thin varnish of Mahayana Buddhism. And to the present day Lamaism still retains this character.

-- The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism With Its Mystic Cults, Symbolism and Mythology, and in its Relation to Indian Buddhism, by Laurence Austine Waddell, M.B., F.L.S., F.R.G.S.

Whether one can interpret the concept of interdependent co-origination as genuinely "biocentric," however, is open to question. If a biocentric approach means recognizing "the intrinsic value of animals, plants, rivers, mountains and ecosystems rather than simply ... their utilitarian value of benefit to humans,"32 then the word "intrinsic" presents a barrier. It seems to suggest precisely the substantial, permanent identity that the ideas of no-self and interdependent co-origination are meant to undermine. But the practical force of an "other-centered" position emerges quite clearly in different kinds of Buddhist meditative traditions. When the Dalai Lama teaches about Buddhist practice he emphasizes the importance of compassion, as is customary in the tradition of the Mahayana, and one of his favorite sources for a meditation on compassion is the teaching about the "exchange of self and other" in the 8th chapter of Santideva's "Introduction to the Practice of Enlightenment.33 Imagine, Santideva says, that on one side of a divide stands your own needy self and on the other side stand fifty or a hundred needy beings. Whose advantage is best to seek? Should you care just for yourself and cater just to your own limitations and fears? Or should you seek the benefit of the larger group? And what if the larger group is not just fifty or a hundred living beings but all the living beings in the cosmos? Santideva says that the answer should be clear. The self's greatest benefit comes from seeking the widest possible benefit for the network of all living beings. Santideva's point can be construed as a practical centering of one's concern on others (on the network of bios or "life") in order to decenter the self (in the self's own interest).

Anyone who has practiced Tibetan Buddhism intensively is familiar with the offerings of barley-butter cakes (tormas) simulating heaps of blood and fat that are given to the oath-bound protectors and wrathful deities to satisfy their bloodlust and incite them to protect the lineage from the damage that comes from samaya breakage. These rituals, that originated in the practice of propitiating local deities believed to inhabit mountains and other natural features of the land in Tibet, are practiced by credulous Americans in temples all over the United States, while chanting maledictions like "Kill those who break samaya! Burst their hearts! Spill their blood! Crush their heads!"

-- -- Against Hell: A Refutation of the Buddhist Hell Realms, Based on Their Historic Origins, Political Purpose, Psychological Destructiveness, Irrationality, and Demonstrable Inconsistency With the Original Buddhist Teachings, Framed as A Searching Review of Sam Bercholz’s After-Death Memoir, "A Guided Tour of Hell", by Charles Carreon

Here lies another reason why the Dalai Lama was hesitant to address directly the themes and expectations of the Middlebury conference on "Spirit and Nature" and why he shifted attention so gracefully away from the natural world toward the purification of the mind. He was not insensitive to the claims of the natural world, but he felt that there was more important conceptual work to be done before its claims could be made clear. He had to begin with his own understanding of no-self (as expressed in the doctrine of Emptiness) before he could sketch the outline of an ethical response to the natural world, and the response continued to move in the orbit of "interdependence" and "compassion." One moves naturally, as it were, in a series of ever-widening, concentric circles, beginning with the impulse to purify the mind and cultivate one's own sense of self, through the sense of the self's interdependence with a network of all other beings, to a sense of affection and love for all existence. As the circles widen, the center comes under pressure, and the network of existence takes on the appearance of a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.

Some of the most forceful and perspicacious Buddhist writing about the environment explores the implication of this basic Buddhist conceptual movement from no-self, to interdependence, to compassion. In his reconstruction of E.F. Schumacher's famous concept of "Buddhist Economics," Stephen Batchelor points out that Buddhist economics has to start from a standpoint of nonduality and Emptiness, and from this point of view the concept of an ethical "center" comes increasingly into question. "In the West we are still caught in a struggle between theocentric and anthropocentric visions, which some Greens now seek to resolve through a notion of biocentrism. Such thoughts are alien to the Buddhist experience of reality which, if anything, has tended to be 'acentric.'"34 Joanna Macy has charted the same movement from the point of view of the Theravada tradition, beginning with a sense of "the pathogenic character of the reification of the self," moving on to the concept of interdependence (paticca samuppada), and then developing a sense of what might best be called universal "self-interest," in which the world is visualized as one's own body.35 With the words of Arne Naess and the concept of "deep ecology" in mind, she turns the ethical argument about altruistic motives from one of "duties" rendered by the self to another into an argument about one's own "being." One protects nature in order to protect one's self, and the circle of self encompasses the totality of the natural order.

The service, which is done by the priest who represents the saint Padma-sambhava, is here summarized. It is called "The Expelling Oblation of the hidden Fierce Ones"...

Hum! Through the blessing of the blood-drinking Fierce One, let the injuring demons and evil spirits be kept at bay. I pierce their hearts with this hook; I bind their hands with this snare of rope; I bind their body with this powerful chain; I keep them down with this tinkling bell. Now, O! blood-drinking Angry One, take your sublime seat upon them. Vajor-Agu-cha-dsa! vajora-pasha-hum! vajora-spo-da- va! vajora-ghan-dhi-ho!"

Then chant the following for destroying the evil spirits: —

"Salutation to Heruka, the owner of the noble Fierce Ones! The evil spirits have tricked you and have tried to injure Buddha's doctrine, so extinguish them .... Tear out the hearts of the injuring evil spirits and utterly exterminate them."

Then the supposed corpse of the linka should be dipped in Rakta (blood), and the following should be chanted:

"Hum! O! ye hosts of gods of the magic-circle! Open your mouths as wide as the earth and sky, clench your fangs like rocky mountains, and prepare to eat up the entire bones, blood, and the entrails of all the injuring evil spirits. Ma-ha mam-sa-la kha hi! Ma-ha tsitta-kha hi! maha-rakta kha-hi! maha-go ro-tsa-na-kha-hi! Maha-bah su-ta kha hi! Maha-keng-ni ri ti kha hi!"

Then chant the following for upsetting the evil spirits...

"Bhyo! Bhyo! On the angry enemies! On the injuring demon spirits! On the voracious demons! turn them all to ashes!

"Mah-ra-ya-rbad bhyo! Upset them all! Upset! Upset!...

-- The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism With Its Mystic Cults, Symbolism and Mythology, and in its Relation to Indian Buddhism, by Laurence Austine Waddell, M.B., F.L.S., F.R.G.S.

Certainly the sense of interdependence that is such a crucial part of Buddhist ethical theory gives good reason to be skeptical of any form of "centrism" whether it begins in the theos, the anthropos, or even more benignly in the bios. But do images of the "center" need to be entirely abandoned? Buddhist environmental literature abounds with metaphors of interconnection, from the jeweled "Net of Indra," in which every individual jewel is pictured as reflecting every other, to images of the "web" of existence.

But there is another, relatively unexplored body of metaphor that has to do with a sense of "place" or "home." Buddhist sources speak from a very early period about a tradition of pilgrimage in which people visited sites that had been important in the life of the Buddha, "saw" them, and were moved by them. The sites of the Buddha's birth, his enlightenment, his first sermon, and his death were held in special reverence, and traditional sources speak of the throne of the Buddha's enlightenment, under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, as the center of the cosmos. Some Mahayana texts pass on a tradition that every Buddha, of every era, is enlightened at exactly the same site, and beneath the spot where the Buddhas are enlightened sits a throne that is anchored at the center of the cosmos.36 If there were a "center" in Buddhist ethical thinking about the environment, perhaps this is where it should be located, at the site where Buddhas attain their enlightenment.

But where is this site? Northern India is one possibility. But the tradition has a distinct aversion to literal conceptions of the Buddha. Embedded in Buddhist tradition is the idea that one finds the Buddha not in his physical form but by understanding the Dharma ("What is there, O Vakkali, in seeing this vile body? He who sees the Dharma sees the Buddha. He who sees the Buddha sees the Dharma.") Then where is the "throne of enlightenment" where one understands the Dharma? One possible answer would be the mind itself. It is in the mind that one understands the nature of Emptiness. But the mind is located in a particular body, and the body is located in a particular place. While Emptiness, in a sense, is everywhere, it is realized only in this moment, this place, and this body. In a fine meditation on "Zen Practice and a Sense of Place," Doug Cochida quotes a reference by the Zen Master Dogen to the Earth as the "true human body."

The meaning of "true" in "the entire Earth is the true human body" is the actual body. You should know that the entire Earth is not our temporary appearances, but our genuine human body.37

The earth is not, as it were, a mere illusion. It is the body of an enlightened sage, and it is as much worthy of reverence as throne of the Buddha.

In his essays on "The Practice of the Wild," Gary Snyder said: "In some cases we might call [nature] sacred."38 To say only "in some cases" shows an appropriate Buddhist reticence toward attributing sacrality to nature in and of itself. But it is not completely implausible to use the language of "holiness" in speaking of the natural order. The natural world can function as a teacher when one meditates about impermanence. In some strands of the Buddhist tradition it can be thought of as possessing Buddha-nature. But most importantly of all, it is the place that is made holy by the quest for enlightenment. Enlightenment is made present in this body and this earth.
To speak of the earth as the throne of enlightenment is a metaphor, of course, and it is not by any means a common metaphor in Buddhist writings. But it is one that resonates deeply with the theistic language of Erazim Kohak, the man to whom this essay is dedicated. Kohak's great meditation on the moral sense of nature, The Embers and the Stars, is alive with a sense of the holy or, as Kohak himself says, "the presence of God in the very fact of the world."19 The Buddhist tradition has problems with the language of classic theism, but a sense of the presence of the holy is hardly unknown in Buddhist experience or imagination. It does not come, however, from the outside, not is it ready-made. It has to be fashioned and developed by the application of human discipline, imagination, compassion, and awareness. This I take to be the force of the Dalai Lama's Middlebury address, as it is of the tradition more generally. Human beings have to take responsibility themselves for the harmony, the health, and the well being of the setting in which the quest for enlightenment takes place.

In keeping, however, with the legendary accounts of his visit, it is alleged by Sikhimite Lamas that their Lord St. Padma entered the country by the "Lordly pass" Jo-la (Ang., Cho-la) and on the east side of the pass is pointed out a rock on which he sat down, called Z'u-ti, or throne,95 and near the pass a spot named Sinmoi gyip-tsu,96 where he surprised a party of female devils preparing to cook their food: here are pointed out two masses of columnar rock alleged to be two of the stones of the tripod used to support the cooking-pot of these demons. And he is said to have returned to Tibet by way of the Je-lep pass, resting en route on the Ku-phu and creating the Tuko La by "tearing" up the rock to crush an obnoxious demon.

-- The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism With Its Mystic Cults, Symbolism and Mythology, and in its Relation to Indian Buddhism, by Laurence Austine Waddell, M.B., F.L.S., F.R.G.S.

Division of Religious Studies, Boston University



1. Roderick Frazier Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967): 20–21, 192–193.

2. Y. Murota, `Culture and Environment in Japan,’ Environmental Management, 9 (1986): 105112.

3. Lynn White, Jr., `The Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis,’ Science 155 (1967): 1203–7. Reprinted in Machina Ex Deo: Essays on the Dynamism of Western Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1968): 75–94.

4. Masao Watanabe, `The Conception of Nature in Japanese Culture,’ Science 183 (1974): 279–82.

5. Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1990): 10.

6. The words belong to Richard Gere, the Founding Chairman of Tibet House in New York, and appear in Marylin M. Rhie and Robert A.F. Thurman, eds., Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet (New York: Harry N Abrams, 1991): 8. The image of Tibet as the “lifeboat of civilization” has been widely remarked upon in Asian studies, notably by Peter Bishop in The Myth of Shangri-La: Tibet, Travel Writing, and the Western Creation of the Sacred Landscape (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989).

7. The Dalai Lama’s speech appears in Steven C. Rockefeller and John C. Elder, eds., Spirit and Nature: Why the Environment Is a Religious Issue (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992).

8. Rockefeller and Elder, Spirit and Nature: 114.

9. This formula for the expression of Emptiness comes from the Madhyamaka school of Mahayana philosophy, the school within which the Dalai Lama himself speaks. For a more extensive account of this concept and for references to further literature, see Malcolm David Eckel, To See the Buddha: A Philosopher’s Quest for the Meaning of Emptiness (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1992; reprint ed., Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).

10. See, for example, Gabriel P. Weisberg et al., eds. Japonisme: Japanese Influence on French Art 1854–1910 ( London: Robert G. Sawyers, 1975 ).

11. Robert S. Ellwood and Richard Pilgrim, Japanese Religion: A Cultural Perspective (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1985): 55.

12. Burton Watson, trans., Cold Mountain: 100 Poems by the Tang Poet Han-shan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970): 67.

13. Gary Snyder has produced some of the most powerful translations of the Cold Mountain poems. See his Rip Rap and Other Poems (San Francisco: Grey Fox Press, 1982).

14. William R. LaFleur, `Saigy6 and the Buddhist Value of Nature,’ in Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought,ed. J. Baird Callicott and Roger T. Ames (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1989): 183–209.

15. The Lotus Sutra,trans. Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), chapter 5.

16. Allan G. Grapard, `Nature and Culture in Japan,’ in Deep Ecology,ed. Michael Tobias (San Diego: Avant Books, 1985): 240–55.

17. Stephen R. Kellert, `Japanese Perceptions of Wildlife,’ Conservation Biology 5 (1991): 297–308; `Concepts of Nature East and West,’ in Reinventing Nature? Responses to Postmodern Deconstruction,ed. Michael E. Soulé and Gary Lease (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1995): 103–121. See also Yi-Fu Tuan, `Discrepancies Between Environmental Attitude and Behaviour: Examples from Europe and China,’ Canadian Geographer 12 (1968): 175–91.

18. Kellert, `Concepts of Nature East and West’: 107.

19. D. Ritchie, The Inland Sea (Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1971): 13, quoted in Kellert, `Concepts of Nature East and West’: 115.

20. W. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961).

21. “Distinction” (viveka) is one of the four “qualifications” for the knowledge of Brahman See Eliot Deutsch, Advaita Vedanta: A Philosophical Reconstruction (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1969), 105.

22. Lambert Schmithausen, `Buddhism and Nature,’ Studia Philologica Buddhica: Occasional Paper Series 7 (Tokyo: The International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 1991).

23. For sources see Schmithausen: 15. The references to the “city of nirvana” come from texts that are somewhat late. An interesting echo of the metaphor in an early source is a reference to Suttanipata 3.109 to nirvana as a level piece of land (samo bhúmibhago).

24. Buddhist Mahayana Texts,trans. Max Müller, Sacred Books of the East, 49 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1894; reprint ed., New York: Dover Publications, 1969).

25. Rockefeller and Elder, Spirit and Nature: 114.

26. Daniel H.H. Ingalls, An Anthology of Sanskrit Court Poetry (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965): 438.

27. Grapard, `Nature and Culture in Japan’: 243.

28. Riccardo Venturini, `A Buddhist View on Ecological Balance,’ Dharma World 17 (March—April, 1990): 19–23; quoted in Schmithausen, `Buddhism and Nature’: 17.

29. The lectures have been published in His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso, The Dalai Lama at Harvard,trans. and ed. Jeffrey Hopkins (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1988).

30. The classic account of the theory of pudgalavada is found in the Abhidharmakosa,trans. L. de La Vallée Poussin, Mélanges chinois et bouddhiques 16 (1971). A useful English translation of the section from the Abhidharmakoia that deals with this theory can be found in Edward Conze, Buddhist Scriptures (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1959): 192–197.

31. Steven C. Rockefeller, `Faith and Community in an Ecological Age,’ in Rockefeller and Elder, Spirit and Nature: 139–171. For further commentary on the issues of “anthropocentrism,” see J. Baird Callicott, Non-Anthropocentric Value Theory and Environmental Ethics,’ American Philosophical Quarterly 21 (1984).

32. Rockefeller: 143.

33. See chapters 8 and 9 of The Dalai Lama at Harvard. Sântideva’s own text is available in a number of translations, notably Stephen Batchelor, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1979).

34. Stephen Batchelor, `Buddhist Economics Reconsidered,’ in Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism and Ecology, ed. Allan Hunter Badiner (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1990 ): 178–182.

35. Joanna Macy, `The Greening of the Self,’ in Badiner, ed., Dharma Gaia: 53–63.

36. Etienne Lamotte summarizes Mahâyâna traditions about the throne of enlightenment (bodhimanda) in The Teaching of Vimalakirti (Virmalakirtinirdesa), trans. Sara Boin (London: Pali Text Society, 1976), 94–99.

37. Doug Cochida, `Zen Practice and a Sense of Place,’ in Badiner, ed., Dharma Gaia: 106–111.

38. Erazim Kohâk, The Embers and the Stars: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Moral Sense of Nature ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984 ): 188.
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Lafcadio Hearn
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Lafcadio Hearn
Koizumi Yakumo (小泉八雲)
Lafcadio Hearn in 1889 by Frederick Gutekunst
Born Patrick Lafcadio Hearn; Πατρίκιος Λευκάδιος Χερν, 27 June 1850, Lefkada, United States of the Ionian Islands (present-day Greece)
Died: 26 September 1904 (aged 54), Tokyo, Empire of Japan
Resting place: Zōshigaya Cemetery
Pen name: Koizumi Yakumo
Language: English, Greek, Japanese, French
Spouse: Alethea ("Mattie") Foley; Koizumi Setsu
Japanese name: Kanji 小泉 八雲; Hiragana こいずみ やくも

Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (/hɜːrn/; Greek: Πατρίκιος Λευκάδιος Χερν; 27 June 1850 – 26 September 1904), known also by the Japanese name Koizumi Yakumo (小泉 八雲), was a writer, known best for his books about Japan, especially his collections of Japanese legends and ghost stories, such as Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. In the United States, Hearn is also known for his writings about the city of New Orleans based on his ten-year stay in that city.

Born in Greece to a Greek mother and an Anglo-Irish father, a complex series of conflicts and events led to young Lafcadio Hearn being moved to Ireland, where he was abandoned first by his mother (leaving him in the care of her husband's aunt), then his father and finally by his father's aunt, who had been appointed his official guardian. At the age of nineteen he was put on a boat to the United States, where he found work as a newspaper reporter, first in Cincinnati, Ohio, and later in New Orleans. From there he was sent as a correspondent, first to the French West Indies, where he stayed for two years, and then to Japan, where he would remain for the rest of his life.

In Japan he married a Japanese woman with whom he had four children, and became a naturalized Japanese citizen. His writings about Japan offered the Western world a glimpse into a largely unknown but fascinating culture.


Early life

Hearn was born in and named after the island of Lefkada, one of the Greek Ionian Islands, on 27 June 1850.[1]:p. 3 He was the son of British Army surgeon Charles Bush Hearn (of County Offaly, Ireland) and Rosa Antoniou Kassimatis, a Greek woman of noble Kytheran lineage through her father, Anthony Kassimatis.[citation needed] His father was stationed in Lefkada during the British proctectorate of the United States of the Ionian Islands. Lafcadio was baptized Patrikios Lefcadios Hearn (Πατρίκιος Λευκάδιος Χερν) in the Greek Orthodox Church, but he seems to have been called "Patrick Lefcadio Kassimati Charles Hearn" in English.[2] Hearn's parents were married in a Greek Orthodox ceremony on 25 November 1849, several months after his mother had given birth to the couple's first child, Hearn's older brother, George Robert Hearn, on 24 July 1849. George Hearn died on 17 August 1850, two months after Lafcadio's birth.[3]: p. 11

Emigration to Ireland, abandonment

Plaque on Hearn's home on Gardiner Street, Dublin

Hearn's father was promoted to Staff Surgeon Second Class and in 1850 was reassigned from Lefkada to the British West Indies. Since his family did not approve of the marriage, and worried that his relationship might harm his career prospects, Charles Hearn did not inform his superiors of his son or pregnant wife and left his family behind. In 1852, he arranged to send his son and wife to live with his family in Dublin, Ireland, where they received a cool reception. Charles Hearn's Protestant mother, Elizabeth Holmes Hearn, had difficulty accepting Rosa Hearn's Orthodoxy and lack of education (she was illiterate and spoke no English). Rosa found it difficult to adapt to a foreign culture and the Protestantism of her husband's family, and was eventually taken under the wing of Elizabeth's sister, Sarah Holmes Brenane, a widow who had converted to Catholicism.

Despite Sarah Brenane's efforts, Rosa suffered from homesickness. When her husband returned to Ireland on medical leave in 1853, it became clear that the couple had become estranged. Charles Hearn was assigned to the Crimean Peninsula, again leaving his pregnant wife and child in Ireland. When he came back in 1856, severely wounded and traumatized, Rosa had returned to her home island of Cerigo in Greece, where she gave birth to their third son, Daniel James Hearn. Lafcadio had been left in the care of Sarah Brenane.

Charles Hearn petitioned to have the marriage with Rosa annulled, on the basis of her lack of signature on the marriage contract, which made it invalid under English law. After being informed of the annulment, Rosa almost immediately married Giovanni Cavallini, a Greek citizen of Italian ancestry who was later appointed by the British as governor of Cerigotto. Cavallini required as a condition of the marriage that Rosa give up custody of both Lafcadio and James. As a result, James was sent to his father in Dublin and Lafcadio remained in the care of Sarah Brenane (Brenane had disinherited Charles Hearn because of the annulment). Neither Lafcadio nor James saw their mother again, who had four children with her second husband. Rosa was eventually committed to the National Mental Asylum on Corfu, where she died in 1882.[3]:pp. 14–15

Charles Hearn, who had left Lafcadio in the care of Sarah Brenane for the past four years, now appointed her as Lafcadio's permanent guardian. He married his childhood sweetheart, Alicia Goslin, in July 1857, and left with his new wife for a posting in Secunderabad, where they had three daughters prior to Alicia's death in 1861.[citation needed] Lafcadio never saw his father again: Charles Hearn died of malaria in the Gulf of Suez in 1866.[3]:pp. 17–18

In 1857, at age seven and despite the fact that both his parents were still alive, Hearn became the permanent ward of his great aunt, Sarah Brenane. She divided her residency between Dublin in the winter months, her husband's estate at Tramore, County Waterford on the southern Irish coast, and a house at Bangor, North Wales. Brenane also engaged a tutor during the school year to provide basic instruction and the rudiments of Catholic dogma. Hearn began exploring Brenane's library and read extensively in Greek literature, especially myths.[3]:pp. 20–22

Catholic education, abandonment

In 1861, Hearn's aunt, aware that Hearn was turning away from Catholicism, and at the urging of Henry Hearn Molyneux, a relative of her late husband and a distant cousin of Hearn, enrolled him at the Institution Ecclésiastique, a Catholic church school in Yvetot, France. Hearn's experiences at the school confirmed his lifelong conviction that Catholic education consisted of "conventional dreariness and ugliness and dirty austerities and long faces and Jesuitry and infamous distortion of children's brains."[3]:p. 25 Hearn became fluent in French and would later translate into English the works of Guy de Maupassant.

In 1863, again at the suggestion of Molyneux, Hearn was enrolled at St. Cuthbert's College, Ushaw, a Catholic seminary at what is now the University of Durham. In this environment, Hearn adopted the nickname "Paddy" to try to fit in better, and was the top student in English composition for three years.[3]:p. 26 At age 16, while at Ushaw, Hearn injured his left eye in a schoolyard mishap. The eye became infected and, despite consultations with specialists in Dublin and London, and a year spent out of school convalescing, went blind. Hearn also suffered from severe myopia, so his injury left him permanently with poor vision, requiring him to carry a magnifying glass for close work and a pocket telescope to see anything beyond a short distance (Hearn avoided eyeglasses, believing they would gradually weaken his vision further). The iris was permanently discolored, and left Hearn self-conscious about his appearance for the rest of his life, causing him to cover his left eye while conversing and always posing for the camera in profile so that the left eye was not visible.[1]:p. 35

In 1867, Henry Molyneux, who had become Sarah Brenane's financial manager, went bankrupt, along with Brenane. There was no money for tuition, and Hearn was sent to London's East End to live with Brenane's former maid. She and her husband had little time or money for Hearn, who wandered the streets, spent time in workhouses, and generally lived an aimless, rootless existence. His main intellectual activities consisted of visits to libraries and the British Museum.[3]:pp. 29–30

Emigration to Cincinnati

By 1869, Henry Molyneux had recovered some financial stability and Brenane, now 75, was infirm. Resolving to end his expenditures on the 19-year-old Hearn, he purchased a one-way ticket to New York and instructed Hearn to find his way to Cincinnati, to locate Molyneux's sister and her husband, Thomas Cullinan, and to obtain their assistance in making a living. Upon meeting Hearn in Cincinnati, the family had little assistance to offer: Cullinan gave him $5 and wished him luck in seeking his fortune. As Hearn would later write, "I was dropped moneyless on the pavement of an American city to begin life."[4]:p. 818

For a time, he was impoverished, living in stables or store rooms in exchange for menial labor.[5] He eventually befriended the English printer and communalist Henry Watkin, who employed him in his printing business, helped find him various odd jobs, lent him books from his library, including utopianists Fourier, Dixon and Noyes, and gave Hearn a nickname which stuck with him for the rest of his life, The Raven, from the Poe poem. Hearn also frequented the Cincinnati Public Library, which at that time had an estimated 50,000 volumes. In the spring of 1871 a letter from Henry Molyneux informed him of Sarah Brenane's death and Molyneux's appointment as sole executor. Despite Brenane having named him as the beneficiary of an annuity when she became his guardian, Hearn received nothing from the estate and never heard from Molyneux again.[3]:pp. 36–37

Newspaper and literary work

By the strength of his talent as a writer, Hearn obtained a job as a reporter for the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, working for the newspaper from 1872 to 1875. Writing with creative freedom in one of Cincinnati's largest circulating newspapers, he became known for his lurid accounts of local murders, developing a reputation as the paper's premier sensational journalist, as well as the author of sensitive accounts of some of the disadvantaged people of Cincinnati. The Library of America selected one of these murder accounts, Gibbeted, for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime, published in 2008.[6] After one of his murder stories, the Tanyard Murder, had run for several months in 1874, Hearn established his reputation as Cincinnati's most audacious journalist, and the Enquirer raised his salary from $10 to $25 per week.[3]:p. 54

Cover page of first issue of Ye Giglampz, a satirical weekly published in 1874 by Lafcadio Hearn and Henry Farny

In 1874, Hearn and the young Henry Farny, later a renowned painter of the American West, wrote, illustrated, and published an 8-page weekly journal of art, literature and satire entitled Ye Giglampz. The Cincinnati Public Library reprinted a facsimile of all nine issues in 1983. The work was considered by a twentieth century critic to be "Perhaps the most fascinating sustained project he undertook as an editor."[7]

Marriage, firing by the Enquirer

On 14 June 1874, Hearn, aged 23, married Alethea ("Mattie") Foley, a 20-year-old African American woman, an action in violation of Ohio's anti-miscegenation law at that time. In August 1875, in response to complaints from local clergyman about his anti-religious views and pressure from local politicians embarrassed by some of his satirical writing in Ye Giglampz, the Enquirer fired him, citing as its reason his illegal marriage. He went to work for the rival newspaper The Cincinnati Commercial. The Enquirer offered to re-hire him after his stories began appearing in the Commercial and its circulation began increasing, but Hearn, incensed at the paper's behavior, refused. Hearn and Foley separated, but attempted reconciliation several times before divorcing in 1877. Foley remarried in 1880.[3]:pp. 82, 89

While working for the Commercial Hearn agreed to be carried to the top of Cincinnati's tallest building on the back of a famous steeplejack, Joseph Roderiguez Weston, and wrote a half-terrified, half-comic account of the experience. It was also during this time that Hearn wrote a series of accounts of the Bucktown and Levee neighborhoods of Cincinnati, " of the few depictions we have of black life in a border city during the post-Civil War period."[3]:p. 98 He also wrote about local black song lyrics from the era, including a song titled "Shiloh" that was dedicated to a Bucktown resident named "Limber Jim."[8] In addition, Hearn had printed in the Commercial a stanza he had overheard when listening to the songs of the roustabouts, working on the city's levee waterfront. Similar stanzas were recorded in song by Julius Daniels in 1926 and Tommy McClennan in his version of "Bottle Up and Go" (1939).[9]

New Orleans

Char-Coal: Cartoon published in New Orleans Daily Item on 25 August 1880

During the autumn of 1877, recently divorced from Mattie Foley and restless, Hearn had begun neglecting his newspaper work in favor of translating into English works of the French author Gautier. He had also grown increasingly disenchanted with Cincinnati, writing to Henry Watkin, "It is time for a fellow to get out of Cincinnati when they begin to call it the Paris of America." With the support of Watkin and Cincinnati Commercial publisher Murat Halstead, Hearn left Cincinnati for New Orleans, where he initially wrote dispatches on the "Gateway to the Tropics" for the Commercial.

Hearn lived in New Orleans for nearly a decade, writing first for the newspaper Daily City Item beginning in June 1878, and later for the Times Democrat. Since the Item was a 4-page publication, Hearn's editorial work changed the character of the newspaper dramatically. He began at the Item as a news editor, expanding to include book reviews of Bret Harte and Émile Zola, summaries of pieces in national magazines such as Harper's, and editorial pieces introducing Buddhism and Sanskrit writings. As editor, Hearn created and published nearly two hundred woodcuts of daily life and people in New Orleans, making the Item the first Southern newspaper to introduce cartoons and giving the paper an immediate boost in circulation. Hearn gave up carving the woodcuts after six months when he found the strain was too great for his eye.[3]:p. 134

Alligators: Cartoon published in New Orleans Daily Item on 13 September 1880

At the end of 1881, Hearn took an editorial position with the New Orleans Times Democrat and was employed translating items from French and Spanish newspapers as well as writing editorials and cultural reviews on topics of his choice. He also continued his work translating French authors into English: Gérard de Nerval, Anatole France, and most notably Pierre Loti, an author who influenced Hearn's own writing style.[3]: pp. 130–131 Milton Bronner, who edited Hearn's letters to Henry Watkin, wrote: "[T]he Hearn of New Orleans was the father of the Hearn of the West Indies and of Japan," and this view was endorsed by Norman Foerster.[10] During his tenure at the Times Democrat, Hearn also developed a friendship with editor Page Baker, who went on to champion Hearn's literary career; their correspondence is archived at the Loyola University New Orleans Special Collections & Archives.[11]

The vast number of his writings about New Orleans and its environs, many of which have not been collected, include the city's Creole population and distinctive cuisine, the French Opera, and Louisiana Voodoo. Hearn wrote enthusiastically of New Orleans, but also wrote of the city's decay, "a dead bride crowned with orange flowers".[3]:p. 118

Hearn's writings for national publications, such as Harper's Weekly and Scribner's Magazine, helped create the popular reputation of New Orleans as a place with a distinct culture more akin to that of Europe and the Caribbean than to the rest of North America. Hearn's best-known Louisiana works include:

• Gombo zhèbes: Little dictionary of Creole proverbs (1885)
• La Cuisine Créole (1885), a collection of culinary recipes from leading chefs and noted Creole housewives who helped make New Orleans famous for its cuisine
• Chita: A Memory of Last Island (1889), a novella based on the hurricane of 1856 first published in Harper's Monthly in 1888

Hearn also published in Harper's Weekly the first known written article (1883) about Filipinos in the United States, the Manilamen or Tagalogs, one of whose villages he had visited at Saint Malo, southeast of Lake Borgne in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.

Hearn's former home on Cleveland Avenue in New Orleans is preserved as a registered historic place.

At the time he lived there, Hearn was little known, and even now he is little known for his writing about New Orleans, except by local cultural devotees. However, more books have been written about him than any former resident of New Orleans except Louis Armstrong.[12]

Hearn's writings for the New Orleans newspapers included impressionistic descriptions of places and characters and many editorials denouncing political corruption, street crime, violence, intolerance, and the failures of public health and hygiene officials. Despite the fact that he is credited with "inventing" New Orleans as an exotic and mysterious place, his obituaries of the vodou leaders Marie Laveau and Doctor John Montenet are matter-of-fact and debunking. Selections of Hearn's New Orleans writings have been collected and published in several works, starting with Creole Sketches[13] in 1924, and more recently in Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lafcadio Hearn.[14]

Two Years in the French West Indies

Harper's sent Hearn to the West Indies as a correspondent in 1887. He spent two years in Martinique and in addition to his writings for the magazine, produced two books: Two Years in the French West Indies and Youma, The Story of a West-Indian Slave, both published in 1890.[15][16]

Later life in Japan

Lafcadio Hearn, shown with Koizumi Setsu; note the way he is facing—he always preferred to be photographed so that his left eye could not be seen

In 1890, Hearn went to Japan with a commission as a newspaper correspondent, which was quickly terminated. It was in Japan, however, that he found a home and his greatest inspiration. Through the goodwill of Basil Hall Chamberlain, Hearn gained a teaching position during the summer of 1890 at the Shimane Prefectural Common Middle School and Normal School in Matsue, a town in western Japan on the coast of the Sea of Japan. The Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum and his old residence are still two of Matsue's most popular tourist attractions. During his fifteen-month stay in Matsue, Hearn married Koizumi Setsu, the daughter of a local samurai family, with whom he had four children.[17] He became a naturalized Japanese, assuming the name Koizumi Yakumo, in 1896 after accepting a teaching position in Tokyo. After having been Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and, later on, Spencerian, he became Buddhist.[18]

Kazuo, Hearn's son, aged about seventeen

During late 1891, Hearn obtained another teaching position in Kumamoto, Kyūshū, at the Fifth Higher Middle School, where he spent the next three years and completed his book Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894). In October 1894, he secured a journalism job with the English-language newspaper Kobe Chronicle, and in 1896, with some assistance from Chamberlain, he began teaching English literature at Tokyo Imperial University, a job he had until 1903. In 1904, he was a professor at Waseda University.

While in Japan he encountered the art of ju-jutsu which made a deep impression upon him:[19]

Hearn, who encountered judo in Japan at the end of the nineteenth century, contemplated its concepts with the awed tones of an explorer staring about him in an extraordinary and undiscovered land. "What Western brain could have elaborated this strange teaching, never to oppose force by force, but only direct and utilize the power of attack; to overthrow the enemy solely through his own strength, to vanquish him solely by his own efforts? Surely none! The Western mind appears to work in straight lines; the Oriental, in wonderful curves and circles.

On 26 September 1904, he died of heart failure at the age of 54 years. His grave is at the Zōshigaya Cemetery in Toshima, Tokyo.[20]

In the late 19th century, Japan was still largely unknown and exotic to Westerners. However, with the introduction of Japanese aesthetics, particularly at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900, Japanese styles became fashionable in Western countries. Consequently, Hearn became known to the world by his writings concerning Japan. In later years, some critics would accuse Hearn of exoticizing Japan, but because he offered the West some of its first descriptions of pre-industrial and Meiji Era Japan, his work is generally regarded as having historical value.[21][22][23]


Hearn's grave, in Zōshigaya Cemetery

Admirers of Hearn's work have included Ben Hecht,[24] John Erskine, and Malcolm Cowley.[25]

The Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi adapted four Hearn tales into his 1964 film, Kwaidan. Some of his stories have been adapted by Ping Chong into his puppet theatre, including the 1999 Kwaidan and the 2002 OBON: Tales of Moonlight and Rain.

Yone Noguchi is quoted as saying about Hearn, "His Greek temperament and French culture became frost-bitten as a flower in the North."[26]

There is also a cultural center named after Hearn at the University of Durham.

Hearn was a major translator of the short stories of Guy de Maupassant.[27]

The first museum in Europe for Lafcadio Hearn was inaugurated in Lefkada, Greece, his birthplace, on 4 July 2014, as Lefcadio Hearn Historical Center. It contains early editions, rare books and Japanese collectibles. The visitors, through photos, texts and exhibits, can wander in the significant events of Lafcadio Hearn's life, but also in the civilizations of Europe, America and Japan of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries through his lectures, writings and tales. The municipalities of Kumamoto, Matsue, Shinjuku, Yaizu, Toyama University, the Koizumi family and other people from Japan and Greece contributed to the establishment of Lefcadio Hearn Historical Center.[28]

He is also depicted as the main inspiration for Yukari Yakumo and Maribel Hearn in Touhou Project games and audio CDs[29]


Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, 1895

Books written by Hearn on Japanese subjects


• Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894)
• Out of the East: Reveries and Studies in New Japan (1895)
• Kokoro: Hints and Echoes of Japanese Inner Life (1896)
• Gleanings in Buddha-Fields: Studies of Hand and Soul in the Far East (1897)
• The Boy who Drew Cats, (1897)
• Exotics and Retrospectives (1898)
• Japanese Fairy Tales (1898, and sequels)
• In Ghostly Japan (1899)
• Shadowings (1900)
• Japanese Lyrics (1900)
• A Japanese Miscellany (1901)
• Kottō: Being Japanese Curios, with Sundry Cobwebs (1902)
• Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1904, later made into the movie Kwaidan by Masaki Kobayashi)
• Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation (1904)
• The Romance of the Milky Way and other studies and stories (1905)

Books written by Hearn on Louisiana subjects

• La Cuisine Creole: A Collection of Culinary Recipes (1885)
• Gombo Zhèbes": A Little Dictionary of Creole Proverbs, Selected from Six Creole Dialects. (1885)
• Chita: A Memory of Last Island (1889)
• Creole Sketches (1924, Houghton Mifflin)

Posthumous anthologies

• Letters from the Raven; being the correspondence of Lafcadio Hearn with Henry Watkin (1907)
• Includes Letters from the Raven, Letters to a Lady, Letters of Ozias Midwinter
• Leaves from the Diary of an Impressionist (1911, Houghton Mifflin Company)
• Interpretations of Literature (1915, Dodd, Mead and Company)
• Karma (1918)
• On Reading in Relation to Literature (1921, The Atlantic Monthly Press, Inc.)
• Lectures on Shakespeare (1928, Hokuseido Press)
• Insect-musicians and other stories and sketches (1929)
• Japan's Religions: Shinto and Buddhism (1966)
• Books and Habits; from the Lectures of Lafcadio Hearn (1968, Books for Libraries Press)
• Writings from Japan: An Anthology (1984, Penguin Books)
• Lafcadio Hearn's America: Ethnographic Sketches and Editorials (2002, University Press of Kentucky)
• Lafcadio Hearn's Japan: An Anthology of His Writings on the Country and Its People (2007, Tuttle)
• American Writings (2009, Library of America)
• Insect Literature (2015, Swan River Press; for details, see Insects in literature)
• Japanese Ghost Stories. Murray, Paul, ed. 2019 London: Penguin. ISBN 9780241381274
• Japanese Tales of Lafcadio Hearn. Andrei Codrescu, ed. 2019. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
• Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. 2019. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9781911604983


• One of Cleopatra's Nights and Other Fantastic Romances by Théophile Gautier (1882)
• Tales from Theophile Gautier (1888)
• The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard by Anatole France (1890)
• The Temptation of Saint Anthony by Gustave Flaubert (1910)
• Stories from Emile Zola (1935)
• The tales of Guy de Maupassant(1964)


• Stray Leaves From Strange Literature; Stories Reconstructed from the Anvari-Soheili, Baital Pachisi, Mahabharata, Pantchantra, Gulistan, Talmud, Kalewala, etc. (1884, James R. Osgood and Company)
• Some Chinese Ghosts (1887)
• Youma, the Story of a West-Indian Slave (1889)
• Two Years in the French West Indies (1890)

See also

• Ireland portal
• Japan portal
• Biography portal
• Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum
• Goryo Hamaguchi


• This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hearn, Lafcadio". Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 128.
1. Bisland, Elizabeth (1906). The life and letters of Lafcadio Hearn. 1. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin.
2. According to one of his biographers, a family Bible records 'Patricio Lafcadio Tessima Carlos Hearn, August 1850.' Kennard, Nina H. (1912). Lafcadio Hearn. New York: D. Appleton and Co.
3. Cott, Jonathan (1990). Wandering Ghost: The Odyssey of Lafcadio Hearn. New York: Knopf.
4. Christopher Benfey, ed. (2008). Lafcadio Hearn: American Writings. New York: Library of America. ISBN 978-1-59853-039-1.
5. Grace, Kevin (4 January 2012). Legendary Locals of Cincinnati. Arcadia Publishing. p. 25. ISBN 9781467100021. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
6. Harold Schechter, ed. (2008). True Crime: An American Anthology. Library of America. pp. 117–130. ISBN 978-1-59853-031-5.
7. Jon Christopher Hughes (Autumn 1982). ""Ye Giglampz" and the Apprenticeship of Lafcadio Hearn". American Literary Realism, 1870–1910. University of Illinois Press. 15 (2): 182–194. JSTOR 27746052.
8. Gale, Robert (2002). A Lafcadio Hearn Companion. Greenwood Press. pp. 179–180. ISBN 0-313-31737-2.
9. Giles Oakley (1997). The Devil's Music. Da Capo Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-306-80743-5.
10. Norman Foerster (1934), American Poetry and Prose, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, p. 1149; Hearn, Lafcadio (1907), Letters from the Raven: Being the Correspondence of Lafcadio Hearn with Henry Watkin, ed., Milton Bronner, New York: Brentano's.
11. "Lafcadio Hearn Correspondence Finding Aid" (PDF). J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
12. Peggy Grodinsky (14 February 2007). "A chronicle of Creole cuisine". Chronicle. Houston..
13. Lafcadio Hearn (1924). Charles Woodward Hutson (ed.). Creole Sketches. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. OCLC 2403347.
14. Starr, S. Frederick (2001). Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lafcadio Hearn. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1-57806-353-1.
15. "Two Years in the French West Indies". World Digital Library. 1890. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
16. Hearn, Lafcadio (1890). Youma: Story of a Western Indian Slave. New York: Harper & Brothers.
17. Kazuo, Iwao, Kiyoshi, and Suzuko: Katharine Chubbuck, 'Hearn, (Patricio) Lafcadio Carlos (1850–1904)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
18. Norman Foerster (1934), American Poetry and Prose, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, p. 1149.
19. Law, Mark (2007). The Pyjama Game: A Journey Into Judo(2008 ed.). London: Aurum Press Ltd. p. 41.
20. Japan Times
21. Komakichi, Nohara, The True Face of Japan, (1936, 1st ed.)
22. Guo, Nanyang (2000), Interpreting Japan's interpreters: the problem of Lafcadio Hearn, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 3 (1), 106–118
23. Askew, Rie (2009), The Critical Reception of Lafcadio Hearn outside Japan, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 11 (2), 44–71
24. MacAdams, William (1995), Ben Hecht, Barricade, p. 34, ISBN 1-56980-028-6.
25. Cowley, Malcolm (1949), "Introduction", in Goodman, Henry (ed.), The Selected Writings of Lafcadio Hearn, Citadel.
26. Noguchi, Yone (1910), Lafcadio Hearn in Japan, New York: Mitchell Kennerley.
27. "Bibliography", Lafcadio Hearn, Trussel.
28. "Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens". Retrieved 27 July 2019.
29. "Doujin Barrier: The Work Called Touhou and the Fantasy of Game Creation". Retrieved 25 July 2019.
30. "Lafcadio Hearn Bibliography".

Further reading

• Amenomori, Nobushige (1905). "Lafcadio Hearn, the Man," The Atlantic Monthly, October 1905.
• Bisland, Elizabeth (1906). The Life and Letters of Lafcadio Hearn, Vol. II, New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Company.
• Bronner, Simon J. 2002. Lafcadio Hearn's America: Ethnographic Sketches and Editorials. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.
• Cott, Jonathan (1992), Wandering Ghost: The Odyssey of Lafcadio Hearn, Kodansha International.
• Dawson, Carl (1992). Lafcadio Hearn and the Vision of Japan, Johns Hopkins University Press.
• Hearn, Lafcadio (2001), Starr, S Frederick (ed.), Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lafcadio Hearn, University Press of Mississippi.
• Hirakawa, Sukehiro and Yoko Makino (2018), What is Shintō? Japan, a Country of Gods, as Seen by Lafcadio Hearn, Tokyo: Kinseisha.
• Kennard, Nina H (1912), Lafcadio Hearn, New York: D. Appleton & Co.
• Kunst, Arthur E. (1969). Lafcadio Hearn, Twayne Publishers.
• Langton, D. H. (1912). "Lafcadio Hearn: Journalist and Writer on Japan," The Manchester Quarterly, Vol. XXXI.
• Lurie, David (2005), "Orientomology: The Insect Literature of Lafcadio Hearn (1850–1904)", in Pflugfelder, Gregory M; Walker, Brett L (eds.), JAPANimals: History and Culture in Japan's Animal Life, University of Michigan Press.
• Mais, S. P. B. (1920). "Lafcadio Hearn." In Books and their Writers, Grant Richards, Ltd.
• McWilliams, Vera (1946). Lafcadio Hearn, Houghton Mifflin Company.
• Miner, Earl Roy (1958). The Japanese Tradition in British and American Literature, Princeton University Press.
• Monaham, Michael (1922). "Lafcadio Hearn," An Attic Dreamer, Mitchell Kennerley.
• More, Paul Elmer (1905). "Lafcadio Hearn." In Shelburne Essays, Second Series, G. P. Putnam's Sons.
• Noguchi, Yone (1905). "Lafcadio Hearn, A Dreamer," National Magazine, Vol. XXII, No. 1.
• Noguchi, Yone (1910), Lafcadio Hearn in Japan, New York: Mitchell Kennerley.
• Pulvers, Roger (19 January 2000), "Lafcadio Hearn: Interpreter of Two Disparate Worlds", Japan Times, Trussel.
• Rexroth, Kenneth (1977), The Buddhist Writings of Lafcadio Hearn.
• Rothman, Adam (2008), "Lafcadio Hearn in New Orleans and the Caribbean", Atlantic Studies, 5 (2): 265–283, doi:10.1080/14788810802149766; republished in New Orleans in the Atlantic World: Between Land and Sea, Routledge, 2013.
• Setsu, Koizumi (1918). Reminiscences of Lafcadio Hearn, Houghton Mifflin Company.
• Starrs, Roy (2006), "Lafcadio Hearn as Japanese Nationalist" (PDF), Nichibunken Japan Review: Journal of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (essay), JP: Nichibun (18): 181–213.
• Thomas, Edward (1912). Lafcadio Hearn, Houghton Mifflin Company.
• Murray, Paul, ed. 2019. Japanese Ghost Stories. Lafcadio Hearn. London: Penguin. ISBN 9780241381274
• Hearn, Lafcadio. 2019. Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. By.
2019. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9781911604983 (soft cover).
• Bronner, Simon J. 2002. Lafcadio Hearn's America: Ethnographic Sketches and Editorials. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

External links

• Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum Matsue city in Japan
• Lafcadio Hearn Gardens Tramore in Ireland
• Hearn's Works, by T Russel
• Works by Lafcadio Hearn at Project Gutenberg
• Works by or about Lafcadio Hearn at Internet Archive
• Works by or about Koizumi Yakumo at Internet Archive
• Works by Lafcadio Hearn at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
• Works by Lafcadio Hearn, at
• Works by Lafcadio Hearn, at Hathi Trust
• "Lafcadio Hearn and Haiku", Modern haiku (essay).
• Hearn's influence in literature
• Dirda, Michael, "The Ghost Stories of Lafcadio Hearn", Library without walls (review), Barnes & Noble.
• Lafcadio Hearn's papers at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia
• Japan and the Japanese as Seen by Foreigners
• Lafcadio Hearn
• Two Years in the French West Indies From the Collections at the Library of Congress
• Lafcadio Hearn Correspondence digitized by Loyola University New Orleans
• Lafcadio Hearn at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
• Lafcadio Hearn at Library of Congress Authorities, with 281 catalogue records
• Newspaper clippings about Lafcadio Hearn in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Tue May 12, 2020 11:49 pm

Mirabehn [Madeleine Slade] [Meera Behn]
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 5/12/20

Freda was clear long before she settled in India that she would be active in pursuing India's cause and so became part of a significant but slender tradition of white women who gained prominence within South Asian nationalist movements.

Of that tradition, Annie Besant was pre-eminent. She was the wife of an English vicar who walked out on her marriage, became a noted radical and freethinker, and eventually settled in Madras (now Chennai). She was a pioneering Theosophist and a powerful advocate of Indian nationalism and served as president of the Indian National Congress. There are striking parallels in the lives of Freda Bedi and Annie Besant, who both in turn showed commitment to radical politics, Indian nationalism and Eastern spirituality. Besant died a few months before Freda reached India, but Bedi had made a point of meeting her before he came to Oxford, and Norah Richards knew her and was influenced by Theosophism. A closer contemporary of Freda was Madeleine Slade, the daughter of a British rear admiral. She spent many years supporting and working with Mahatma Gandhi and took the name Mirabehn. Freda met Slade several times and regarded her as a friend. 'Her name was high in Indian nationalist circles. She was a woman of great dedication and lived a life of some self-sacrifice.' Freda's life also bears an echo of that of Nellie Sengupta, a Cambridge woman who in the years before the First World War married a Bengali student who lodged with the family, Jatindra Mohan Sengupta. He was a prominent member of the Indian National Congress and mayor of Calcutta and died in 1933 while in jail on political charges. Nellie subsequently served as Congress president and was active in politics in Calcutta and, after Partition, in East Pakistan (later Bangladesh). She died in 1973.

In time, Freda became a role model for English women who followed in her footsteps. Nancie Jones met and eventually married a Punjabi socialist studying in England. Immediately after the Second World War, she came out to India to be with him and took not just his surname but changed her first name, becoming known as Rajni Kumar. By the time she reached Lahore, Freda was well established in the city and held up 'as a model of how to adopt myself to Indian life and culture, and how to involve myself in the struggle':

I visited Freda in her delightfully simple and ethnic home along with some of the women activists of the Communist Party .... I have vivid recollections of the simplicity of their life, the rural touch of the place, the string hammock where the baby was sleeping ... and the jute beds and the books stacked everywhere. I remember too, the deep involvement and concern that all of us shared regarding the course of the freedom struggle which was fast nearing its end. Freda made a deep impact upon me, and I resolved that like her, I would try to adapt myself fully to Indian ways and culture, and become a real Indian woman. I was already wearing thick khadi Punjabi clothes as she was.15

Seventy years later, Rajni Kumar still recalls Freda Bedi's advice. 'She told me that the best way to become a part of the Indian struggle is to be a part of it yourself. If you Indianise yourself enough -- and people think you are with them, you are part of them -- you've overcome all the prejudices.'16

-- The Lives of Freda: The Political, Spiritual and Personal Journeys of Freda Bedi, by Andrew Whitehead

Indian nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose in Dalhousie, India, where he was convalescing, receiving Mirabehn, a disciple and emissary of Mahatma Gandhi, who had been sent by Gandhi to enquire about his health. From left to right are shown: Bose, Dr. N. R. Dharamvir (Bose's friend), Mirabehn, and Mrs. Dharamvir. Date: 1937

Mirabehn with Gandhi at Darwen, Sharko, 1931
Born: Madeleine Slade, 22 November 1892
Died: 20 July 1982 (aged 89), Vienna, Austria

Madeleine Slade (22 November 1892 – 20 July 1982), also known as Mirabehn or Meera Behn, was a British citizen who left her home in Britain to live and work with Mohandas Gandhi, the leader of the Indian Independence Movement. She devoted her life to human development and the advancement of Gandhi's principles. She was the daughter of the British Rear-Admiral Sir Edmond Slade.

Admiral Sir Edmond John Warre Slade KCIE KCVO (20 March 1859 – 20 January 1928) was a Royal Navy officer who served as Director of Naval Intelligence. His daughter Madeleine Slade was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi.

-- Edmond Slade, by Wikipedia

Early life

Mirabehn was born into a well connected British family in 1892. Her father, Sir Edmond Slade was an officer in the Royal Navy who was posted in Mirabehn's early years as the Commander-in-Chief of the East Indies Squadron, later becoming director of the Naval Intelligence Division.[1] She spent much of her childhood with her maternal grandfather who owned a large country estate and was from an early age a nature and animal lover.[2]

The other great passion of the young Mirabehn was the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. She took to the piano and concerts and even went on to become a concert manager. In 1921 she even arranged for a German conductor to lead the London Orchestra in concerts featuring Beethoven and helped bring about an end to the British boycott of German musicians that followed the First World War.[1]

She also visited Vienna and Germany to see the places where Beethoven had lived and composed his music and she read extensively on him. She read Romain Rolland's books on Beethoven and later sought and met with him at Villeneuve, where he was then living. During this meeting, Rolland mentioned about a new book of his called Mahatma Gandhi which she had not read then. Rolland described Gandhi as another Christ and as the greatest figure of the 20th century.[1][2] On her return to England she read Rolland's biography of Gandhi and the book convinced her to become a disciple of the Mahatma. She wrote to Gandhi asking him if she could become his disciple and live with him in Sabarmati Ashram. Gandhi replied, inviting her over but also warning her of the discipline of the Ashram's inmates.[3] Having made her decision, she went about training herself for all the demands of an ascetic's life in India including vegetarianism, spinning and teetotalism. That year in England, she subscribed to Young India and spent a part of her time in Paris reading the Bhagvad Gita and some of the Rigveda in French.[4]

Young India was a weekly paper or journal in English published by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi from 1919 to 1931.[1] Gandhi wrote various quotations in this journal that inspired many. He used Young India to spread his unique ideology and thoughts regarding the use of nonviolence in organising movements and to urge readers to consider, organise, and plan for India's eventual independence from Britain.

-- Young India, by Wikipedia

Life in India and role in the freedom struggle

She arrived in Ahmedabad on 7 November 1925 where she was received by Mahadev Desai, Vallabhbhai Patel and Swami Anand.

Mahadev Desai (1 January 1892 – 15 August 1942) was an Indian independence activist and writer best remembered as Mahatma Gandhi's personal secretary. He has variously been described as "Gandhi's Boswell, a Plato to Gandhi's Socrates, as well as an Ananda to Gandhi's Buddha".[1][2]

-- Mahadev Desai, by Wikipedia

Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel[1][2] (31 October 1875 – 15 December 1950), popularly known as Sardar Patel, was an Indian politician. He served as the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. He was an Indian barrister, a senior leader of the Indian National Congress and a founding father of the Republic of India who played a leading role in the country's struggle for independence and guided its integration into a united, independent nation.[3] In India and elsewhere, he was often called Sardar, meaning "chief" in Hindi, Urdu, and Persian. He acted as Home Minister during the political integration of India and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947.[4]

-- Vallabhbhai Patel, by Wikipedia

Swami Anand (1887 – 25 January 1976) was a monk, a Gandhian activist and a Gujarati writer from India. He is remembered as the manager of Gandhi's publications such as Navajivan and Young India and for having inspired Gandhi to pen his autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth.[1] He wrote sketches, memoir, biographies, philosophy, travelogues and translated some works.

-- Swami Anand, by Wikipedia

This was the beginning of her stay in India that lasted almost thirty-four years.[4] Mirabehn during her stay in India went to the Gurukul Kahhngri to learn Hindi.

Gurukula Kangri University or Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya ('गुरुकुल कांगड़ी विश्वविद्यालय') is a university in the city of Haridwar in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is on the bank of the Ganges about 6 km from Hardwar and about 200 km from Delhi.

Gurukula Kangri Vishwavidyalaya was founded on 4 March 1902 by the Arya Samaj missionary Swami Shraddhanand, who was a follower of Dayananda Saraswati, with the sole aim to revive the ancient Indian gurukula system of education. This institution was established with the objective of providing an indigenous alternative to Lord Macaulay's education policy by imparting education in the areas of Vedic literature, Indian philosophy, Indian culture, modern sciences, and research.

-- Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya, by Wikipedia

Thereafter she went to Bhagwat Bhakti Ashram of Rewari established by Swami Parmanand Maharaj to be blessed by him. She also wrote to Mahatma Gandhi about her experiences there in Bhagwat Bhakti Ashram.

Mira Behn (far right) with Mahatama Gandhi at the Greenfield Mill, at Darwen, Lancashire

Mirabehn's stay in India coincided with the zenith Gandhian phase of the freedom struggle. She accompanied Gandhi and others to the Round Table Conference in London in 1931. While on their way back from London, Mirabehn and Gandhi visited Rolland for a week and as they took his leave, Rolland gave her a book on Beethoven which he had written while she was in India. In 1960 as she began to read it, it convinced her to move to Austria and spend her remaining days in the land of Beethoven's music.[1] The resumption of the Non Cooperation Movement in 1931 saw her being imprisoned during 1932–33.[5]

To plead India's case she also went abroad meeting, among others, David Lloyd George, General [Jan] Smuts and Winston Churchill, and visited the United States, where she met Mrs. Roosevelt at the White House. Mirabehn also took an active interest in the establishment of the Sevagram Ashram and worked among the people of Orissa to resist any potential Japanese invasion non-violently in the beginning of 1942. She was arrested and detained with Gandhi in the Aga Khan Palace, Pune, from August 1942 to May 1944 where she saw Mahadev Desai and Kasturba Gandhi pass away. She was also a witness to the Simla Conference ...

The Simla Conference 1945 was a meeting between the Viceroy of India Lord Wavell and the major political leaders of British India at Simla. Convened to agree on and approve the Wavell Plan for Indian self-government, and there it reached a potential agreement for the self-rule of India that provided separate representation for Muslims and reduced majority powers for both communities in their majority regions.

-- Simla Conference, by Wikipedia

and the Cabinet Mission...

The Cabinet Mission came to India aimed to discuss the transfer of power from the British government to the Indian leadership, with the aim of preserving India's unity and granting it independence. Formulated at the initiative of Clement Attlee, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the mission had Lord Pethick-Lawrence, the Secretary of State for India, Sir Stafford Cripps, President of the Board of Trade, and A. V. Alexander, the First Lord of the Admiralty. Lord Wavell, the Viceroy of India, did not participate in every step but was present and it was divided into three groups A,B,C clusters.

-- 1946 Cabinet Mission to India, by Wikipedia

the Interim Government and the Constituent Assembly...

The Constituent Assembly of India was elected to write the Constitution of India, and served as its first Parliament as an independent nation. It was set up as a result of negotiations between the leaders of the Indian independence movement and members of the British Cabinet Mission. The constituent assembly was elected indirectly by the members of the Provincial legislative assembly, which existed under the British Raj. It first met on December 9, 1946, in Delhi. On August 15, 1947, India became an independent nation, and the Constituent Assembly started functioning as India's Parliament. Dr. Ambedkar drafted the Constitution of India in conjunction with the requisite deliberations and debates in the Constituent Assembly. The Assembly approved the Constitution on November 26, 1949 (celebrated as Constitution Day), and it took effect on January 26, 1950 — a day now commemorated as Republic Day in India. Once the Constitution took effect, the Constituent Assembly became the Provisional Parliament of India.

-- Constituent assembly, by Wikipedia

the Partition of India ...

The Partition of India of 1947 was the division of British India[ b] into two independent dominion states, India and Pakistan by an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.[3] India is today the Republic of India; Pakistan is today the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People's Republic of Bangladesh. The partition involved the division of two provinces, Bengal and Punjab, based on district-wise non-Muslim or Muslim majorities. The partition also saw the division of the British Indian Army, the Royal Indian Navy, the Indian Civil Service, the railways, and the central treasury. The partition was outlined in the Indian Independence Act 1947 and resulted in the dissolution of the British Raj, or Crown rule in India. The two self-governing countries of India and Pakistan legally came into existence at midnight on 15 August 1947.

-- Partition of India, by Wikipedia

and the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948 in the compound of Birla House (now Gandhi Smriti), a large mansion in New Delhi. His assassin was Nathuram Godse, an advocate of Hindu nationalism, a member of the political party the Hindu Mahasabha,[1] and a past member of the Hindu nationalist paramilitary volunteer organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).[2] Godse considered Gandhi to have been too accommodating to Muslims during the Partition of India of the previous year.[3][4][5]

Sometime after 5 PM, according to witnesses, Gandhi had reached the top of the steps leading to the raised lawn behind Birla House where he had been conducting multi-faith prayer meetings every evening. As Gandhi began to walk toward the dais, Godse stepped out from the crowd flanking Gandhi's path, and fired three bullets into Gandhi's chest and abdomen at point-blank range.[6][7] Gandhi fell to the ground. He was carried back to his room in Birla House from which a representative emerged sometime later to announce his death.[7][A]

Godse was captured by members of the crowd and handed over to the police. The Gandhi murder trial opened in May 1948 in Delhi's historic Red Fort, with Godse the main defendant, and his collaborator Narayan Apte and six others as the co-defendants. The trial was rushed through, the haste sometimes attributed to the home minister Vallabhbhai Patel's desire "to avoid scrutiny for the failure to prevent the assassination."[8] Godse and Apte were sentenced to death on 8 November 1949. They were hanged in the Ambala jail on 15 November 1949.[9]

-- Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, by Wikipedia

Post-independence life in India

After her release from the Aga Khan Palace, with Gandhiji's permission, she established the Kisan Ashram at a Village named Mooldaspur majra a site near Roorkee. The land was donated to her by the local villagers. After Independence, she established the Pashulok Ashram near Rishikesh and a settlement named Bapu Gram and the Gopal Ashram in Bhilangana in 1952.[4] She took to dairying and farming experiments in these ashrams and also spent a while in Kashmir. During the time she spent in Kumaon and Garhwal she observed the destruction of the forests there and the impact it was having on floods in the plains. She wrote about it in an essay titled Something Wrong in the Himalaya but her advice was ignored by the Forest Department. In the 1980s, these areas witnessed a large Gandhian environmental campaign to save the forests called the Chipko Movement.[6]

The Chipko movement or Chipko Andolan, was a forest conservation movement in India. It began in 1970s in Uttarakhand, then a part of Uttar Pradesh (at the foothills of Himalayas) and went on to become a rallying point for many future environmental movements all over the world. It created a precedent for starting nonviolent protest in India,[1] and its success meant that the world immediately took notice of this non-violent movement, which was to inspire in time many similar eco-groups by helping to slow down the rapid deforestation, expose vested interests, increase social awareness and the need to save trees, increase ecological awareness, and demonstrate the viability of people power. Above all, it stirred up the existing civil society in India, which began to address the issues of tribal and marginalized people. The Chipko Andolan or the Chipko movement is a movement that practiced methods of Satyagraha where both male and female activists from Uttarakhand played vital roles, including Gaura Devi, Suraksha Devi, Sudesha Devi, Bachni Devi and Chandi Prasad Bhatt, Virushka Devi and others. Today, beyond the eco-socialism hue, it is being seen increasingly as an ecofeminism movement. Although many of its leaders were men, women were not only its backbone, but also its mainstay, because they were the ones most affected by the rampant deforestation,[2] which led to a lack of firewood and fodder as well as water for drinking and irrigation. Over the years they also became primary stakeholders in a majority of the afforestation work that happened under the Chipko movement.[3][4][5] In 1987, the Chipko movement was awarded the Right Livelihood Award "for its dedication to the conservation, restoration and ecologically-sound use of India's natural resources."[6]

Chipko-type movements date back to 1730 AD when in village Prasanna Khamkar of Rajasthan, 363 Bishnois sacrificed their lives to save Khejri trees.

-- Chipko movement, by Wikipedia

One of her associates was the Hindu philosopher Ram Swarup.[7][8]

She returned to England in 1959. In 1960, she relocated to Austria and spent twenty-two years in small villages in the Vienna Woods (Baden, Hinterbrühl, Kracking), where she died in 1982. [9]

She was awarded India's second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan in 1981. [10]

Books by Mirabehn

Mirabehn on a 1983 stamp of India

Mirabehn's autobiography is titled The Spiritual Pilgrimage. She also published Bapu's Letters to Mira'and 'New and Old Gleanings.[11][12] At the time of her death she had also left behind an unpublished biography of Beethoven, the Spirit of Beethoven.[13]

In popular culture

• Actress Geraldine James portrayed her in Richard Attenborough's film, Gandhi, which premiered several months after Madeleine Slade's death in 1982.
• Sudhir Kakar's Mira and the Mahatma is a fictional account on the relationship between Gandhi and Madeleine as his disciple Mirabehn.[3]


• Spirits Pilgrimage, by Mirabehn. Great River Books. 1984. ISBN 0-915556-13-8.
• New and old gleanings, by Mirabehn. Navajivan Pub. House. 1964.

See also

• Gandhism
• Sarla Behn


1. Lindley, Mark. "Mirabehn, Gandhi and Beethoven".
2. Gupta, Krishna Murti (14 August 1993). "Mira Behn: A friend of nature". India Environment Portal.
3. Singh, Khushwant (1 October 2005). "IN LOVE WITH THE MAHATMA". The Telegraph.
4. "Associates of Mahatma Gandhi, Mirabehn".
6. Langston, Nancy (22 April 2007). "Significant Women in Forestry". Society of American Foresters.
7. Schouten, Jan Peter (2008). Jesus as Guru: The Image of Christ Among Hindus and Christians in India. Rodopi. p. 261. ISBN 90-420-2443-7.
8. Elst, Koenraad. Ram Swarup (1920–1998) – Outline of a Biography Archived 23 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine.
9. Ghosh, Ruchira (1 May 2018). "Mirabehn: A Key Player In The Indian Freedom Struggle". Feminism In India. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
10. "Associates of Mahatma Gandhi : Mirabehn". Retrieved 15 October 2019.
11. "Mira Behn, disciple of Mahatma Gandhi".
12. "Books by Mirabehn".
13. "The making of Mirabehn". The Hindu. 24 September 2000.

Further reading

• Letters to Mirabehn, by Mahatma Gandhi. # Greenleaf Books. 1983. ISBN 0-934676-53-4.

External links

• Biography from
• In the company of Bapu: In the just-released Mira & the Mahatma, psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar delves into the complex relationship between a remarkable Englishwoman and the man she worshiped – The Telegraph
• Video interview with Mirabehn. A description of the video is here.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Wed May 13, 2020 12:46 am

Annie Besant
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 5/12/20

Freda was clear long before she settled in India that she would be active in pursuing India's cause and so became part of a significant but slender tradition of white women who gained prominence within South Asian nationalist movements.

Of that tradition, Annie Besant was pre-eminent. She was the wife of an English vicar who walked out on her marriage, became a noted radical and freethinker, and eventually settled in Madras (now Chennai). She was a pioneering Theosophist and a powerful advocate of Indian nationalism and served as president of the Indian National Congress. There are striking parallels in the lives of Freda Bedi and Annie Besant, who both in turn showed commitment to radical politics, Indian nationalism and Eastern spirituality. Besant died a few months before Freda reached India, but Bedi had made a point of meeting her before he came to Oxford,...
Her life was very much in two acts (three if you include her rather sheltered upbringing and unhappy marriage). In 1889, she reviewed two volumes by one of the founders of Theosophy, H.P. Blavatsky, met her and became her disciple. Annie's freethinking, radical colleagues - Charles Bradlaugh among them - were horrified.

Four years later, Annie Besant made the journey to India - which was to become her principal home for the last forty years of her life. For much of that time she lived in Adyar on the outskirts of Madras/Chennai, in what is now the sprawling, enticing, global headquarters of the Theosophy movement. She was cremated here too.

The bust stands in the main hall of the Theosophy Society HQ. Nice to see you, Annie!​...

The society's grounds - only open for a few hours a day - are magical, with banyan trees, palm groves and gentle jungle, sprinkled with places of worship and busts of founding fathers. There's an excellent bookshop, and no-one tries to proselytise.

For me, part of the magic was following in the footsteps of some whose lives I have researched: the socialist novelist Margaret Harkness came here about 110 years ago to meet up with Annie Besant; 25 years later, Freda Bedi's husband-to-be, B.P.L. Bedi, came to Adyar to seek, and receive, Besant's benediction before setting sail for Europe.

-- A term in Chennai: homage to Annie Besant, by Andrew Whitehead

and Norah Richards knew her and was influenced by Theosophism. A closer contemporary of Freda was Madeleine Slade, the daughter of a British rear admiral. She spent many years supporting and working with Mahatma Gandhi and took the name Mirabehn. Freda met Slade several times and regarded her as a friend. 'Her name was high in Indian nationalist circles. She was a woman of great dedication and lived a life of some self-sacrifice.' Freda's life also bears an echo of that of Nellie Sengupta, a Cambridge woman who in the years before the First World War married a Bengali student who lodged with the family, Jatindra Mohan Sengupta. He was a prominent member of the Indian National Congress and mayor of Calcutta and died in 1933 while in jail on political charges. Nellie subsequently served as Congress president and was active in politics in Calcutta and, after Partition, in East Pakistan (later Bangladesh). She died in 1973.

In time, Freda became a role model for English women who followed in her footsteps. Nancie Jones met and eventually married a Punjabi socialist studying in England. Immediately after the Second World War, she came out to India to be with him and took not just his surname but changed her first name, becoming known as Rajni Kumar. By the time she reached Lahore, Freda was well established in the city and held up 'as a model of how to adopt myself to Indian life and culture, and how to involve myself in the struggle':

I visited Freda in her delightfully simple and ethnic home along with some of the women activists of the Communist Party .... I have vivid recollections of the simplicity of their life, the rural touch of the place, the string hammock where the baby was sleeping ... and the jute beds and the books stacked everywhere. I remember too, the deep involvement and concern that all of us shared regarding the course of the freedom struggle which was fast nearing its end. Freda made a deep impact upon me, and I resolved that like her, I would try to adapt myself fully to Indian ways and culture, and become a real Indian woman. I was already wearing thick khadi Punjabi clothes as she was.15

Seventy years later, Rajni Kumar still recalls Freda Bedi's advice. 'She told me that the best way to become a part of the Indian struggle is to be a part of it yourself. If you Indianise yourself enough -- and people think you are with them, you are part of them -- you've overcome all the prejudices.'16

-- The Lives of Freda: The Political, Spiritual and Personal Journeys of Freda Bedi, by Andrew Whitehead

Her lectures in the Lancashire campaign and the formation of the branches were Mrs. [Annie] Besant's last contributions to the Socialist movement. Early in November she suddenly and completely severed her connection with the Society. She had become a convert to Theosophy, which at that time accepted the Buddhist doctrine that spiritual conditions alone mattered, and that spiritual life would flourish as well in the slum amidst dirt and starvation as in the comfortable cottage, and much better than in the luxurious mansion. Twentieth-century theosophy has receded from that position, and now advocates social amelioration, but Mrs. Besant thought otherwise in 1890. Some twenty years later she lectured on several occasions to the Society, and she joined her old friends at the dinner which celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of its foundation, but in the interval her connection with it completely ceased.

The Fabian Society and British Socialism owe much to Mrs. Besant for the assistance she gave it during five important years. Her splendid eloquence, always at our service, has seldom been matched, and has never been surpassed by any of the innumerable speakers of the movement. She had, when she joined us, an assured position amongst the working-class Radicals in London and throughout the country; and through her Socialism obtained a sympathetic hearing in places where less trusted speakers would have been neglected. She was not then either a political thinker or an effective worker on committees, but she possessed the power of expressing the ideas of other people far better than their originators, and she had at her command a certain amount of political machinery—such as an office at 63 Fleet Street, and a monthly magazine, "Our Corner"—which was very useful. Her departure was a serious loss, but it came at a moment of rapid expansion, so rapid that her absence was scarcely felt.

-- The History of the Fabian Society, by Edward R. Pease

Annie Besant
Born: 1 October 1847, Clapham, London, UK
Died: 20 September 1933 (aged 85), Adyar, Chennai, India
Nationality: British
Known for: Theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and orator
Political party: Indian National Congress
Movement: Indian independence movement
Spouse(s): Frank Besant (m. 1867; div. 1873)
Children: Arthur, Mabel

Part of a series on Theosophy

Annie Besant (née Wood; 1 October 1847 – 20 September 1933) was a British socialist, theosophist, women's rights activist, writer, orator, educationist, and philanthropist. Regarded as a champion of human freedom, she was an ardent supporter of both Irish and Indian self-rule. She was a prolific author with over three hundred books and pamphlets to her credit.[1] As an educationist, her contributions included the founding of the Banaras Hindu University.

In 1867, Annie, at age 20, married Frank Besant, a clergyman, and they had two children. However, Annie's increasingly unconventional religious views led to their legal separation in 1873.[2] She then became a prominent speaker for the National Secular Society (NSS), as well as a writer, and a close friend of Charles Bradlaugh. In 1877 they were prosecuted for publishing a book by birth control campaigner Charles Knowlton. The scandal made them famous, and Bradlaugh was subsequently elected M.P. for Northampton in 1880.

Thereafter, she became involved with union actions, including the Bloody Sunday demonstration and the London matchgirls strike of 1888. She was a leading speaker for both the Fabian Society and the Marxist Social Democratic Federation (SDF). She was also elected to the London School Board for Tower Hamlets, topping the poll, even though few women were qualified to vote at that time.

In 1890 Besant met Helena Blavatsky, and over the next few years her interest in theosophy grew, whilst her interest in secular matters waned. She became a member of the Theosophical Society and a prominent lecturer on the subject. As part of her theosophy-related work, she travelled to India. In 1898 she helped establish the Central Hindu School,[3] and in 1922 she helped establish the Hyderabad (Sind) National Collegiate Board in Mumbai, India.[4] In 1902, she established the first overseas Lodge of the International Order of Co-Freemasonry, Le Droit Humain. Over the next few years she established lodges in many parts of the British Empire. In 1907 she became president of the Theosophical Society, whose international headquarters were, by then, located in Adyar, Madras, (Chennai).

She also became involved in politics in India, joining the Indian National Congress. When World War I broke out in 1914, she helped launch the Home Rule League to campaign for democracy in India, and dominion status within the British Empire. This led to her election as president of the Indian National Congress, in late 1917. In the late 1920s, Besant travelled to the United States with her protégé and adopted son Jiddu Krishnamurti, who she claimed was the new Messiah and incarnation of Buddha. Krishnamurti rejected these claims in 1929.[5] After the war, she continued to campaign for Indian independence and for the causes of theosophy, until her death in 1933.

Early life

St. Margaret's church, Sibsey, where Frank Besant was vicar, 1871–1917

Annie Wood was born in 1847 in London into an upper middle-class family. She was the daughter of William Burton Persse Wood (1816-1852) and Emily Roche Morris (died 1874). The Woods originated from Devon and her great-uncle was the Whig politician Sir Matthew Wood, 1st Baronet from whom derives the Page Wood baronets. Her father was an Englishman who lived in Dublin and attained a medical degree, having attended Trinity College Dublin. Her mother was an Irish Catholic, from a family of more modest means. Besant would go on to make much of her Irish ancestry and supported the cause of Irish self-rule throughout her adult life. Her cousin Kitty O'Shea (born Katharine Wood) was noted for having an affair with Charles Stewart Parnell, leading to his downfall. Her father died when she was five years old, leaving the family almost penniless. Her mother supported the family by running a boarding house for boys at Harrow School. However, she was unable to support Annie and persuaded her friend Ellen Marryat to care for her. Marryat made sure that she had a good education. Annie was given a strong sense of duty to society and an equally strong sense of what independent women could achieve.[6] As a young woman, she was also able to travel widely in Europe. There she acquired a taste for Roman Catholic colour and ceremony that never left her.

In 1867, at age twenty, she married 26-year-old clergyman Frank Besant (1840–1917), younger brother of Walter Besant. He was an evangelical Anglican who seemed to share many of her concerns.[6] On the eve of her marriage, she had become more politicised through a visit to friends in Manchester, who brought her into contact with both English radicals and the Manchester Martyrs of the Irish Republican Fenian Brotherhood,[7] as well as with the conditions of the urban poor.

Annie Besant

Grave of Frank Besant at Sibsey, where he remained vicar until his death

Soon Frank became vicar of Sibsey in Lincolnshire. Annie moved to Sibsey with her husband, and within a few years they had two children, Arthur and Mabel; however, the marriage was a disaster. As Annie wrote in her Autobiography, "we were an ill-matched pair".[8] The first conflict came over money and Annie's independence. Annie wrote short stories, books for children, and articles. As married women did not have the legal right to own property, Frank was able to collect all the money she earned. Politics further divided the couple. Annie began to support farm workers who were fighting to unionise and to win better conditions. Frank was a Tory and sided with the landlords and farmers. The tension came to a head when Annie refused to attend Communion. In 1873 she left him and returned to London. They were legally separated and Annie took her daughter with her.

Besant began to question her own faith. She turned to leading churchmen for advice, going to see Edward Bouverie Pusey, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement within the Church of England. When she asked him to recommend books that would answer her questions, he told her she had read too many already.[9] Besant returned to Frank to make a last unsuccessful effort to repair the marriage. She finally left for London.


In the late 1880s she studied at the Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution,[10] where her religious and political activities caused alarm. At one point the Institution's governors sought to withhold the publication of her exam results.[11]

Reformer and secularist

Annie Besant – 1850s

She fought for the causes she thought were right, starting with freedom of thought, women's rights, secularism, birth control, Fabian socialism and workers' rights. She was a leading member of the National Secular Society alongside Charles Bradlaugh and the South Place Ethical Society.[12]

Divorce was unthinkable for Frank, and was not really within the reach of even middle-class people. Annie was to remain Mrs Besant for the rest of her life. At first, she was able to keep contact with both children and to have Mabel live with her; she also got a small allowance from her husband.

Once free of Frank Besant and exposed to new currents of thought, she began to question not only her long-held religious beliefs but also the whole of conventional thinking. She began to write attacks on the churches and the way they controlled people's lives. In particular she attacked the status of the Church of England as a state-sponsored faith.

Soon she was earning a small weekly wage by writing a column for the National Reformer, the newspaper of the NSS. The NSS argued for a secular state and an end to the special status of Christianity, and allowed her to act as one of its public speakers. Public lectures were very popular entertainment in Victorian times. Besant was a brilliant speaker, and was soon in great demand. Using the railway, she criss-crossed the country, speaking on all of the most important issues of the day, always demanding improvement, reform and freedom.

For many years Besant was a friend of the National Secular Society's leader, Charles Bradlaugh. Bradlaugh, a former soldier, had long been separated from his wife; Besant lived with him and his daughters, and they worked together on many projects. He was an atheist and a republican; he was also trying to get elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Northampton.

Besant and Bradlaugh became household names in 1877 when they published Fruits of Philosophy, a book by the American birth-control campaigner Charles Knowlton. It claimed that working-class families could never be happy until they were able to decide how many children they wanted. It also suggested ways to limit the size of their families.[13] The Knowlton book was highly controversial, and was vigorously opposed by the Church. Besant and Bradlaugh proclaimed in the National Reformer:

We intend to publish nothing we do not think we can morally defend. All that we publish we shall defend.[14]

The pair were arrested and put on trial for publishing the Knowlton book. They were found guilty, but released pending appeal. As well as great opposition, Besant and Bradlaugh also received a great deal of support in the Liberal press. Arguments raged back and forth in the letters and comment columns as well as in the courtroom. Besant was instrumental in founding the Malthusian League during the trial, which would go on to advocate for the abolition of penalties for the promotion of contraception.[15] For a time, it looked as though they would be sent to prison. The case was thrown out finally only on a technical point, the charges not having been properly drawn up.

The scandal cost Besant custody of her children. Her husband was able to persuade the court that she was unfit to look after them, and they were handed over to him permanently.

On 6 March 1881 she spoke at the opening of Leicester Secular Society's new Secular Hall in Humberstone Gate, Leicester. The other speakers were George Jacob Holyoake, Harriet Law and Charles Bradlaugh.[16]

Bradlaugh's political prospects were not damaged by the Knowlton scandal and he was elected to Parliament in 1881. Because of his atheism, he asked to be allowed to affirm rather than swear the oath of loyalty. When the possibility of affirmation was refused, Bradlaugh stated his willingness to take the oath. But this option was also challenged. Although many Christians were shocked by Bradlaugh, others (like the Liberal leader Gladstone) spoke up for freedom of belief. It took more than six years before the matter was completely resolved (in Bradlaugh's favour) after a series of by-elections and court appearances.

Meanwhile, Besant built close contacts with the Irish Home Rulers and supported them in her newspaper columns during what are considered crucial years, when the Irish nationalists were forming an alliance with Liberals and Radicals. Besant met the leaders of the Irish home rule movement. In particular, she got to know Michael Davitt, who wanted to mobilise the Irish peasantry through a Land War, a direct struggle against the landowners. She spoke and wrote in favour of Davitt and his Land League many times over the coming decades.

However, Bradlaugh's parliamentary work gradually alienated Besant. Women had no part in parliamentary politics. Besant was searching for a real political outlet, where her skills as a speaker, writer and organiser could do some real good.

In 1893, she was the representative of The Theosophical Society at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. The World Parliament is famous in India because of Indian monk Swami Vivekanand addressed in the same event and which has received global recognition.

In 1895, together with the founder-president of the Theosophical Society, Henry Steel Olcott, as well as Marie Musaeus Higgins and Peter De Abrew, she was instrumental in developing the Buddhist school, Musaeus College, in Colombo in the island Sri Lanka.

Political activism

For Besant, politics, friendship and love were always closely intertwined. Her decision in favour of Socialism came about through a close relationship with George Bernard Shaw, a struggling young Irish author living in London, and a leading light of the Fabian Society who considered Besant to be "The greatest orator in England". Annie was impressed by his work and grew very close to him too in the early 1880s. It was Besant who made the first move, by inviting Shaw to live with her. This he refused, but it was Shaw who sponsored Besant to join the Fabian Society. In its early days, the society was a gathering of people exploring spiritual, rather than political, alternatives to the capitalist system.[17] Besant began to write for the Fabians. This new commitment – and her relationship with Shaw – deepened the split between Besant and Bradlaugh, who was an individualist and opposed to Socialism of any sort. While he defended free speech at any cost, he was very cautious about encouraging working-class militancy.[18][19]

Unemployment was a central issue of the time, and in 1887 some of the London unemployed started to hold protests in Trafalgar Square. Besant agreed to appear as a speaker at a meeting on 13 November. The police tried to stop the assembly, fighting broke out, and troops were called. Many were hurt, one man died, and hundreds were arrested; Besant offered herself for arrest, an offer disregarded by the police.[20]

The events created a great sensation, and became known as Bloody Sunday. Besant was widely blamed – or credited – for it. She threw herself into organising legal aid for the jailed workers and support for their families.[21] Bradlaugh finally broke with her because he felt she should have asked his advice before going ahead with the meeting.

Another activity in this period was her involvement in the London matchgirls strike of 1888. She was drawn into this battle of the "New Unionism" by a young socialist, Herbert Burrows. He had made contact with workers at Bryant and May's match factory in Bow, London, who were mainly young women and were very poorly paid. They were also prey to industrial illnesses, like the bone-rotting Phossy jaw, which was caused by the chemicals used in match manufacture.[22] Some of the match workers asked for help from Burrows and Besant in setting up a union.

Besant met the women and set up a committee, which led the women into a strike for better pay and conditions, an action that won public support. Besant led demonstrations by "match-girls", who were cheered in the streets, and prominent churchmen wrote in their support. In just over a week they forced the firm to improve pay and conditions. Besant then helped them to set up a proper union and a social centre.

At the time, the matchstick industry was a very powerful lobby, since electric light was not yet widely available, and matches were an essential commodity; in 1872, lobbyists from the match industry had persuaded the British government to change its planned tax policy. Besant's campaign was the first time anyone had successfully challenged the match manufacturers on a major issue, and was seen as a landmark victory of the early years of British Socialism.

During 1884, Besant had developed a very close friendship with Edward Aveling, a young socialist teacher who lived in her house for a time. Aveling was a scholarly figure and it was he who first translated the important works of Marx into English. He eventually went to live with Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl Marx. Aveling was a great influence on Besant's thinking and she supported his work, yet she moved towards the rival Fabians at that time. Aveling and Eleanor Marx had joined the Marxist Social Democratic Federation and then the Socialist League, a small Marxist splinter group which formed around the artist William Morris.

It seems that Morris played a large part in converting Besant to Marxism, but it was to the SDF, not his Socialist League, that she turned in 1888. She remained a member for a number of years and became one of its best speakers. She was still a member of the Fabian Society; neither she nor anyone else seemed to think the two movements incompatible at the time.

Soon after joining the Marxists, Besant was elected to the London School Board in 1888.[23] Women at that time were not able to take part in parliamentary politics, but had been brought into the local electorate in 1881.

Besant drove about with a red ribbon in her hair, speaking at meetings. "No more hungry children", her manifesto proclaimed. She combined her socialist principles with feminism: "I ask the electors to vote for me, and the non-electors to work for me because women are wanted on the Board and there are too few women candidates." Besant came out on top of the poll in Tower Hamlets, with over 15,000 votes. She wrote in the National Reformer: "Ten years ago, under a cruel law, Christian bigotry robbed me of my little child. Now the care of the 763,680 children of London is placed partly in my hands."[24]

Besant was also involved in the London dock strike of 1889, in which the dockers, who were employed by the day, were led by Ben Tillett in a struggle for the "Dockers' Tanner". Besant helped Tillett draw up the union's rules and played an important part in the meetings and agitation which built up the organisation. She spoke for the dockers at public meetings and on street corners. Like the match-girls, the dockers won public support for their struggle, and the strike was won.[25]


Besant was a prolific writer and a powerful orator.[26] In 1889, she was asked to write a review for the Pall Mall Gazette[27] on The Secret Doctrine, a book by H. P. Blavatsky. After reading it, she sought an interview with its author, meeting Blavatsky in Paris. In this way she was converted to Theosophy. Besant's intellectual journey had always involved a spiritual dimension, a quest for transformation of the whole person. As her interest in theosophy deepened, she allowed her membership of the Fabian Society to lapse (1890) and broke her links with the Marxists. In her Autobiography, Besant follows her chapter on "Socialism" with "Through Storm to Peace", the peace of Theosophy. In 1888, she described herself as "marching toward the Theosophy" that would be the "glory" of her life. Besant had found the economic side of life lacking a spiritual dimension, so she searched for a belief based on "Love". She found this in Theosophy, so she joined the Theosophical Society, a move that distanced her from Bradlaugh and other former activist co-workers.[28] When Blavatsky died in 1891, Besant was left as one of the leading figures in theosophy and in 1893 she represented it at the Chicago World Fair.[29]

In 1893, soon after becoming a member of the Theosophical Society she went to India for the first time.[30] After a dispute the American section split away into an independent organisation. The original society, then led by Henry Steel Olcott and Besant, is today based in Chennai, India, and is known as the Theosophical Society Adyar. Following the split Besant devoted much of her energy not only to the society, but also to India's freedom and progress. Besant Nagar, a neighbourhood near the Theosophical Society in Chennai, is named in her honour.


Besant saw freemasonry, in particular Co-Freemasonry, as an extension of her interest in the rights of women and the greater brotherhood of man and saw co-freemasonry as a "movement which practised true brotherhood, in which women and men worked side by side for the perfecting of humanity. She immediately wanted to be admitted to this organisation", known now as the International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women, "Le Droit Humain".

The link was made in 1902 by the theosophist Francesca Arundale, who accompanied Besant to Paris, along with six friends. "They were all initiated, passed and raised into the first three degrees and Annie returned to England, bearing a Charter and founded there the first Lodge of International Mixed Masonry, Le Droit Humain." Besant eventually became the Order's Most Puissant Grand Commander, and was a major influence in the international growth of the Order.[31]

President of Theosophical Society

Annie Besant with Henry Olcott (left) and Charles Leadbeater (right) in Adyar, Madras in December 1905

Besant met fellow theosophist Charles Webster Leadbeater in London in April 1894. They became close co-workers in the theosophical movement and would remain so for the rest of their lives. Leadbeater claimed clairvoyance and reputedly helped Besant become clairvoyant herself in the following year. In a letter dated 25 August 1895 to Francisca Arundale, Leadbeater narrates how Besant became clairvoyant. Together they clairvoyantly investigated the universe, matter, thought-forms, and the history of mankind, and co-authored a book called Occult Chemistry.

In 1906 Leadbeater became the centre of controversy when it emerged that he had advised the practice of masturbation to some boys under his care and spiritual instruction. Leadbeater stated he had encouraged the practice to keep the boys celibate, which was considered a prerequisite for advancement on the spiritual path.[32] Because of the controversy, he offered to resign from the Theosophical Society in 1906, which was accepted. The next year Besant became president of the society and in 1908, with her express support, Leadbeater was readmitted to the society. Leadbeater went on to face accusations of improper relations with boys, but none of the accusations were ever proven and Besant never deserted him.[33]

Until Besant's presidency, the society had as one of its foci Theravada Buddhism and the island of Sri Lanka, where Henry Olcott did the majority of his useful work.[34] Under Besant's leadership there was more stress on the teachings of "The Aryavarta", as she called central India, as well as on esoteric Christianity.[35]

Besant set up a new school for boys, the Central Hindu College (CHC) at Banaras which was formed on underlying theosophical principles, and which counted many prominent theosophists in its staff and faculty. Its aim was to build a new leadership for India. The students spent 90 minutes a day in prayer and studied religious texts, but they also studied modern science. It took 3 years to raise the money for the CHC, most of which came from Indian princes.[36] In April 1911, Besant met Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and they decided to unite their forces and work for a common Hindu University at Banaras. Besant and fellow trustees of the Central Hindu College also agreed to Government of India's precondition that the college should become a part of the new University. The Banaras Hindu University started functioning from 1 October 1917 with the Central Hindu College as its first constituent college.

Blavatsky had stated in 1889 that the main purpose of establishing the society was to prepare humanity for the future reception of a "torch-bearer of Truth", an emissary of a hidden Spiritual Hierarchy that, according to theosophists, guides the evolution of mankind.[37] This was repeated by Besant as early as 1896; Besant came to believe in the imminent appearance of the "emissary", who was identified by theosophists as the so-called World Teacher.[38][39]

Thought-form of the music of Charles Gounod, according to Besant and C. W. Leadbeater in Thought-Forms (1901)

"World Teacher" project

In 1909, soon after Besant's assumption of the presidency, Leadbeater "discovered" fourteen-year-old Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986), a South Indian boy who had been living, with his father and brother, on the grounds of the headquarters of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, and declared him the probable "vehicle" for the expected "World Teacher".[40] The "discovery" and its objective received widespread publicity and attracted worldwide following, mainly among theosophists. It also started years of upheaval, and contributed to splits in the Theosophical Society and doctrinal schisms in theosophy. Following the discovery, Jiddu Krishnamurti and his younger brother Nityananda ("Nitya") were placed under the care of theosophists and Krishnamurti was extensively groomed for his future mission as the new vehicle for the "World Teacher". Besant soon became the boys' legal guardian with the consent of their father, who was very poor and could not take care of them. However, his father later changed his mind and began a legal battle to regain the guardianship, against the will of the boys.[41] Early in their relationship, Krishnamurti and Besant had developed a very close bond and he considered her a surrogate mother – a role she happily accepted. (His biological mother had died when he was ten years old).[42]

In 1929, twenty years after his "discovery", Krishnamurti, who had grown disenchanted with the World Teacher Project, repudiated the role that many theosophists expected him to fulfil. He dissolved the Order of the Star in the East, an organisation founded to assist the World Teacher in his mission, and eventually left the Theosophical Society and theosophy at large.[43] He spent the rest of his life travelling the world as an unaffiliated speaker, becoming in the process widely known as an original, independent thinker on philosophical, psychological, and spiritual subjects. His love for Besant never waned, as also was the case with Besant's feelings towards him;[44] concerned for his wellbeing after he declared his independence, she had purchased 6 acres (2.4 ha) of land near the Theosophical Society estate which later became the headquarters of the Krishnamurti Foundation India .

Home Rule movement

As early as 1902 Besant had written that "India is not ruled for the prospering of the people, but rather for the profit of her conquerors, and her sons are being treated as a conquered race.". She encouraged Indian national consciousness, attacked caste and child marriage, and worked effectively for Indian education.[45] Along with her theosophical activities, Besant continued to actively participate in political matters. She had joined the Indian National Congress. As the name suggested, this was originally a debating body, which met each year to consider resolutions on political issues. Mostly it demanded more of a say for middle-class Indians in British Indian government. It had not yet developed into a permanent mass movement with local organisation. About this time her co-worker Leadbeater moved to Sydney.

In 1914 World War I broke out, and Britain asked for the support of its Empire in the fight against Germany. Echoing an Irish nationalist slogan, Besant declared, "England's need is India's opportunity". As editor of the New India newspaper, she attacked the colonial government of India and called for clear and decisive moves towards self-rule. As with Ireland, the government refused to discuss any changes while the war lasted.

Annie Besant in Sydney, 1922

In 1916 Besant launched the All India Home Rule League along with Lokmanya Tilak, once again modelling demands for India on Irish nationalist practices. This was the first political party in India to have regime change as its main goal. Unlike the Congress itself, the League worked all year round. It built a structure of local branches, enabling it to mobilise demonstrations, public meetings and agitations. In June 1917 Besant was arrested and interned at a hill station, where she defiantly flew a red and green flag.[46] The Congress and the Muslim League together threatened to launch protests if she were not set free; Besant's arrest had created a focus for protest.[47]

The government was forced to give way and to make vague but significant concessions. It was announced that the ultimate aim of British rule was Indian self-government, and moves in that direction were promised. Besant was freed in September 1917, welcomed by crowds all over India,[48][49] and in December she took over as president of the Indian National Congress for a year. Both Nehru and Gandhi spoke of Besant's influence with admiration.[45]

After the war, a new leadership of the Indian National Congress emerged around Mohandas K. Gandhi – one of those who had written to demand Besant's release. He was a lawyer who had returned from leading Asians in a peaceful struggle against racism in South Africa. Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi's closest collaborator, had been educated by a theosophist tutor.

The new leadership was committed to action that was both militant and non-violent, but there were differences between them and Besant. Despite her past, she was not happy with their socialist leanings. Until the end of her life, however, she continued to campaign for India's independence, not only in India but also on speaking tours of Britain.[50] In her own version of Indian dress, she remained a striking presence on speakers' platforms. She produced a torrent of letters and articles demanding independence.

Later years and death

Besant tried as a person, theosophist, and president of the Theosophical Society, to accommodate Krishnamurti's views into her life, without success; she vowed to personally follow him in his new direction although she apparently had trouble understanding both his motives and his new message.[51] The two remained friends until the end of her life.

In 1931 she became ill in India.[52]

Besant died on 20 September 1933, at age 85, in Adyar, Madras Presidency, British India. Her body was cremated.[53][54]

She was survived by her daughter, Mabel. After her death, colleagues Jiddu Krishnamurti, Aldous Huxley, Guido Ferrando, and Rosalind Rajagopal, built the Happy Valley School in California, now renamed the Besant Hill School of Happy Valley in her honour.


The subsequent family history became fragmented. A number of Besant's descendants have been traced in detail from her son Arthur Digby's side. Arthur Digby Besant (1869–1960) was President of the Institute of Actuaries, 1924–26. He wrote The Besant Pedigree (1930) and was director of the Theosophical bookstore in London. One of Arthur Digby's daughters was Sylvia Besant, who married Commander Clem Lewis in the 1920s. They had a daughter, Kathleen Mary, born in 1934, who was given away for adoption within three weeks of the birth and had the new name of Lavinia Pollock. Lavinia married Frank Castle in 1953 and raised a family of five of Besant's great-great-grandchildren – James, Richard, David, Fiona and Andrew Castle – the last and youngest sibling being a former British professional tennis player and now television presenter and personality.

Criticism of Christianity

Christianity: Its Evidences, Its Origin, Its Morality, Its History
Author: Annie Besant
Series: The freethinker's text-book
Publication date: 1876
Preceded by: Part I. by Charles Bradlaugh[55]
Original text: Christianity: Its Evidences, Its Origin, Its Morality, Its History at Project Gutenberg

Besant opined that for centuries the leaders of Christian thought spoke of women as a necessary evil, and that the greatest saints of the Church were those who despised women the most, "Against the teachings of eternal torture, of the vicarious atonement, of the infallibility of the Bible, I leveled all the strength of my brain and tongue, and I exposed the history of the Christian Church with unsparing hand, its persecutions, its religious wars, its cruelties, its oppressions. (Annie Besant, An Autobiography Chapter VII)." In the section named "Its Evidences Unreliable" of her work "Christianity", Besant presents the case of why the Gospels are not authentic.

1876: "Christianity", The freethinker's text-book, Part II. (Issued by authority of the National Secular Society);

(D.) That before about A.D. 180 there is no trace of FOUR gospels among the Christians. ...As it is not pretended by any that there is any mention of four Gospels before the time of Irenaeus, excepting this "harmony". pleaded by some as dated about A.D. 170 and by others as between 170 and 180, it would be sheer waste of time and space to prove further a point admitted on all hands. This step of our argument is, then on solid and unassailable ground —That before about A.D. 180 there is no trace of FOUR gospels among the Christians. (E.) That, before that date, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are not selected as the four evangelists. This position necessarily follows from the preceding one [D.], since four evangelists could not be selected until four Gospels were recognised. Here, again, Dr. Giles supports the argument we are building up. He says : "Justin Martyr never once mentions by name the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This circumstance is of great importance ; for those who assert that our four canonical Gospels are contemporary records of our Saviour's ministry, ascribe them to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and to no other writers."[56][57]


Besides being a prolific writer, Besant was a "practised stump orator" who gave sixty-six public lectures in one year. She also engaged in public debates.[26]
List of Works on Online Books [1]
List of Work on Open Library [2]

• The Political Status of Women (1874)[58]
• Christianity: Its Evidences, Its Origin, Its Morality, Its History (1876)
• The Law of Population (1877)
• My Path to Atheism (1878, 3rd ed 1885)
• Marriage, As It Was, As It Is, And As It Should Be: A Plea for Reform (1878)
• The Atheistic Platform: 12 Lectures One by Besant (1884)
• Autobiographical Sketches (1885)
• Why I Am a Socialist (1886)
• Why I Became a Theosophist (1889)
• The Seven Principles of Man (1892)
• Bhagavad Gita (translated as The Lord's Song) (1895)
• Karma (1895)
• In the Outer Court(1895)
• The Ancient Wisdom (1897)
• Dharma (1898)
• Thought Forms with C. W. Leadbeater (1901)
• The Religious Problem in India (1901)
• Thought Power: Its Control and Culture (1901)
• Esoteric Christianity (1905 2nd ed)
• A Study in Consciousness: A contribution to the science of psychology. (ca 1907, rpt 1918) [3]
• Occult Chemistry with C. W. Leadbeater (1908) [4]
• An Introduction to Yoga (1908) [5]
• Australian Lectures (1908)
• Annie Besant: An Autobiography (1908 2nd ed)
• The Religious Problem in India Lectures on Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, Theosophy (1909) [6]
• Man and His Bodies (1896, rpt 1911) [7]
• Elementary Lessons on Karma (1912)
• A Study in Karma (1912)
• Initiation: The Perfecting of Man (1912) [8]
• Man's Life in This and Other Worlds (1913) [9]
• Man: Whence, How and Whither with C. W. Leadbeater (1913) [10]
• The Doctrine of the Heart (1920) [11]
• The Future of Indian Politics 1922
• The Life and Teaching of Muhammad (1932) [12]
• Memory and Its Nature (1935) [13]
• Various writings regarding Helena Blavatsky (1889–1910) [14]

Selection of Pamphlets as follows: [15]

• "Sin and Crime" (1885)
• "God's Views on Marriage" (1890)
• "A World Without God" (1885)
• "Life, Death, and Immortality" (1886)
• "Theosophy" (1925?)
• "The World and Its God" (1886)
• "Atheism and Its Bearing on Morals" (1887)
• "On Eternal Torture" (n.d.)
• "The Fruits of Christianity" (n.d.)
• "The Jesus of the Gospels and the Influence of Christianity" (n.d.)
• "The Gospel of Christianity and the Gospel of Freethought" (1883)
• "Sins of the Church: Threatenings and Slaughters" (n.d.)
• "For the Crown and Against the Nation" (1886)
• "Christian Progress" (1890)
• "Why I Do Not Believe in God" (1887)
• "The Myth of the Resurrection" (1886)
• "The Teachings of Christianity" (1887)

Indian National Movement

• The Commonweal (a weekly dealing on Indian national issues)[59]
• New India (a daily newspaper which was a powerful mouthpiece for 15 years advocating Home Rule and revolutionizing Indian journalism)[59]


On 1 October 2015, search engine Google commemorated Annie Besant with a Doodle on her 168th birth anniversary. Google commented: "A fierce advocate of Indian self-rule, Annie Besant loved the language, and over a lifetime of vigorous study cultivated tremendous abilities as a writer and orator. She published mountains of essays, wrote a textbook, curated anthologies of classic literature for young adults and eventually became editor of the New India newspaper, a periodical dedicated to the cause of Indian Autonomy".[60]

See also

• Annie Besant School Allahabad
• History of feminism
• Order of the Star in the East
• Theosophy and Christianity
• Theosophy and visual arts
• Agni Yoga
• Alice Bailey
• Benjamin Creme
• Helena Roerich


1. "ANNIE BESANT (1847–1933)". The Theosophical Society – Adyar. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
2. Orosz, Kenneth J. (2002). "Besant, Annie (1847–1933)". Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Gale Research Inc. Retrieved 20 January 2019.
3. Ncert.
4. "History and Development of the Board". Hyderabad (Sind) National Collegiate Board. Archived from the original on 24 September 2013.
5. "Annie Besant (1847–1933)" BBC UK Archive
6. Anne Taylor, 'Besant, Annie (1847–1933)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 30 March 2015.
7. Annie Besant: An Autobiography, London, 1885, chapter 4.
8. Annie Besant: an Autobiography (Unwin, 1908), 81.
9. Annie Besant: An Autobiography, London, 1885, chapter 5.
10. "Notable Birkbeckians". Birkbeck, University of London. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
11. "The History of Birkbeck". Birkbeck, University of London. Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 26 November 2006.
12. MacKillop, I. D. (1986) The British Ethical Societies, Cambridge University Press (Accessed 13 May 2014).
13. Knowlton, Charles (October 1891) [1840]. Besant, Annie; Bradlaugh, Charles (eds.). Fruits of philosophy: a treatise on the population question. San Francisco: Reader's Library. OCLC 626706770. A publication about birth control. View original copy.
14. Annie Besant (1885). Autobiographical sketches. Freethought Publishing. p. 116. OL 26315876M.
15. F. D'arcy (November 1977). "The Malthusian League and resistance to birth control propaganda in late Victorian Britain". Population Studies. 31 (3): 429–448. doi:10.1080/00324728.1977.10412759. JSTOR 2173367.
16. Gimson 1932
17. Edward R. Pease, The History of the Fabian Society (E. P. Dutton, 1916, rpt Aware Journalism, 2014), 62.
18. Theresa Notare, A Revolution in Christian Morals: Lambeth 1930-Resolution #15. History and Reception (ProQuest, 2008), 188.
19. "The Socialist Roots of Birth Control".
20. Sally Peters, Bernard Shaw: The Ascent of the Superman (Yale University, 1996), 94.
21. Kumar, Raj, Annie Besant's Rise to Power in Indian Politics, 1914–1917 (Concept Publishing, 1981), 36.
22. "White slavery in London" The Link, Issue no. 21 (via Tower Hamlets' Local History Library and Archives)
23. Edward R. Pease, The History of the Fabian Society (E. P. Dutton, 1916, rpt Aware Journalism, 2014), 179.
24. Jyoti Chandra, Annie Besant: from theosophy to nationalism (K.K. Publications, 2001), 17.
25. Margaret Cole, The Story of Fabian Socialism (Stanford University, 1961), 34.
26. Mark Bevir, The Making of British Socialism (Princeton University, 2011 ), 202.
27. Lutyens, Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening, Avon/Discus. 1983. p 13
28. Annie Besant, Annie Besant: an Autobiography (Unwin 1908), 330, 338, 340, 344, 357.
29. Emmett A. Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community in California, 1897–1942: A Theosophical Experiment (University of California, 1955), 10.
30. Kumari Jayawardena, The White Woman's Other Burden (Routledge, 1995, 62.
31. The International Bulletin, 20 September 1933, The International Order of Co-Freemasonry, Le Droit Humain. "In a very short time, Sister Besant founded new lodges: three in London, three in the south of England, three in the North and North-West; she even organised one in Scotland. Travelling in 1904 with her sisters and brothers she met in the Netherlands, other brethren of a male obedience, who, being interested, collaborated in the further expansion of Le Droit Humain. Annie continued to work with such ardour that soon new lodges were formed Great Britain, South America, Canada, India, Ceylon, Australia and New Zealand. The lodges in all these countries were united under the name of the British Federation."
32. Charles Webster Leadbeater 1854–1934: A Biographical Study, by Gregory John Tillett, 2008 Archived 3 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine.
33. Besant, Annie (2 June 1913). "Naranian v. Besant". [Letters to the Editor]. The Times (London). p. 7. ISSN 0140-0460.
34. Blavatsky and Olcott had become Buddhists in Sri Lanka, and promoted Buddhist revival on the subcontinent. See also: Maha Bodhi Society.
35. M. K. Singh, Encyclopaedia Of Indian War Of Independence (1857–1947) (Anmol Publications, 2009) 118.
36. Kumari Jayawardena, The White Woman's Other Burden (Routledge, 1995), 128.
37. Blavatsky, H. P. (1889). The Key to Theosophy. London: The Theosophical Publishing Company. pp. 306–307.
38. Lutyens, p. 12.
39. Wessinger, Catherine Lowman (1988). Annie Besant and Progressive Messianism, 1847–1933. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN 978-0-88946-523-7.
40. Lutyens, Mary (1975). Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening. NewYork: Farrar Straus and Giroux. Hardcover. pp. 20–21. ISBN 0-374-18222-1.
41. Lutyens ch. 7.
42. Lutyens p. 5. Also in p. 31, Krishnamurti's letter to Besant dated 24 December 1909, and in p. 62, letter dated 5 January 1913.
43. Lutyens pp. 276–278, 285.
44. Lutyens, Mary (2003). The Life and Death of Krishnamurti. Bramdean: Krishnamurti Foundation Trust. p. 81. ISBN 0-900506-22-9.
45. Rosemary., Dinnage (2004). Alone! alone! : lives of some outsider women. New York: New York Review Books. ISBN 1590170695. OCLC 54047029.
46. "House arrest of Annie Besant remembered". The Hindu. 3 July 2017. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
47. Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 192.
48. "Mrs. Besant in Madras. Magnificent ovation. Unprecedented demonstration". The Hindu. 21 September 2017. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
49. "Reception to President-elect of the Congress". The Hindu. 25 December 2017. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 10 July2019.
50. Jennifer S. Uglow, Maggy Hendry, The Northeastern Dictionary of Women's Biography (Northeastern University, 1999).
51. Lutyens pp. 236, 278–280.
52. "Mrs. Annie Besant, 84, Is Gravely Ill in India. Leader of Theosophists Says Work in This Life Is Done, but Promises to Return". The New York Times. Associated Press. 6 November 1931. Retrieved 14 February 2014. Mrs. Annie Besant, 84-year-old Theosophist, is so ill, it was learned today, that she is unable to take nourishment.
53. "Annie Besant Cremated. Theosophist Leader's Body Put on Pyre on River Bank in India". The New York Times. 22 September 1933. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
54. "Dr. Annie Besant". Sydney Morning Herald. 22 September 1933. p. 12 – via Google News Archive.
55. Bradlaugh, Charles; Besant, Annie; Watts, Charles; National Secular Society (1876). The freethinker's text-book. Part I. C. Watts. Part I., section I. & II. by Charles Bradlaugh (Image of Book cover at Google Books)
56. Besant, Annie Wood (1893). Christianity: Its Evidences, Its Origin, Its Morality, Its History. R. Forder. p. 261. (D.) That before about A.D. 180 there is no trace of FOUR gospels among the Christians. ...As it is not pretended by any that there is any mention of four Gospels before the time of Irenaeus, excepting this "harmony", pleaded by some as dated about A.D. 170 and by others as between 170 and 180, it would be sheer waste of time and space to prove further a point admitted on all hands. This step of our argument is, then on solid and unassailable ground —That before about A.D. 180 there is no trace of FOUR gospels among the Christians. (E.) That, before that date, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are not selected as the four evangelists. This position necessarily follows from the preceding one [D.], since four evangelists could not be selected until four Gospels were recognised. Here, again, Dr. Giles supports the argument we are building up. He says : "Justin Martyr never once mentions by name the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This circumstance is of great importance ; for those who assert that our four canonical Gospels are contemporary records of our Saviour's ministry, ascribe them to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and to no other writers." (Image of p. 261 at Google Books)
57. Giles, John Allen (1854). "VIII. Justin Martyr". Christian Records: an historical enquiry concerning the age, authorship, and authenticity of the New Testament. p. 73. 1. Justin Martyr never once mentions by name the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This circumstance is of great importance ; for those who assert that our four canonical Gospels are contemporary records of our Saviour's ministry, ascribe them to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and to no other writers. ...Justin Martyr, it must be remembered, wrote in 150, and neither he nor any writer before him has alluded, in the most remote degree, to four specific Gospels bearing the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. (Image of p. 73 at google Books)
58. The Political Status of Women (1874) was Besant's first public lecture. Carol Hanbery MacKay, Creative Negativity: Four Victorian Exemplars of the Female Quest (Stanford University, 2001), 116–117.
59. "ANNIE BESANT (1847–1933) | TS Adyar". Retrieved 10 July 2019.
60. "Annie Besant's 168th Birthday". Google. 1 October 2015. Retrieved 9 April 2019.

Further reading

• Briggs, Julia. A Woman of Passion: The Life of E. Nesbit. New Amsterdam Books, 2000, 68, 81–82, 92–96, 135–139
• Chandrasekhar, S. A Dirty, Filthy Book: The Writing of Charles Knowlton and Annie Besant on Reproductive Physiology and Birth Control and an Account of the Bradlaugh-Besant Trial. University of California Berkeley 1981
• Grover, Verinder and Ranjana Arora (eds.) Annie Besant: Great Women of Modern India – 1 : Published by Deep of Deep Publications, New Delhi, India, 1993
• Kumar, Raj, Annie Besant's Rise to Power in Indian Politics, 1914–1917. Concept Publishing, 1981
• Kumar, Raj Rameshwari Devi and Romila Pruthi. Annie Besant: Founder of Home Rule Movement, Pointer Publishers, 2003 ISBN 81-7132-321-9
• Manvell, Roger. The trial of Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh. Elek, London 1976
• Nethercot, Arthur H. The first five lives of Annie Besant Hart-Davis: London, 1961
• Nethercot, Arthur H. The last four lives of Annie Besant Hart-Davis: London (also University of Chicago Press 1963) ISBN 0-226-57317-6
• Taylor, Anne. Annie Besant: A Biography, Oxford University Press, 1991 (also US edition 1992) ISBN 0-19-211796-3
• Uglow, Jennifer S., Maggy Hendry, The Northeastern Dictionary of Women's Biography. Northeastern University, 1999

External links

• Works by Annie Besant at Project Gutenberg
• Works by or about Annie Besant at Internet Archive
• Works by Annie Besant at Open Library
• Works by Annie Besant at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
• Annie Wood Besant: Orator, Activist, Mystic, Rhetorician By Susan Dobra
• Framke, Maria: Besant, Annie, in: 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War.
• Annie Besant's Quest for Truth: Christianity, Secularism, and New Age Thought
• Annie Besant's Multifaceted Personality. A Biographical Sketch
• Thought power, its control and culture Cornell University Library Historical Monographs Collection.
• The British Federation of the International Order of Co-Freemasonry, Le Droit Humain, founded by Annie Besant in 1902
• Annie Besant Biography at
• William Thomas Stead, “Character Sketch: October of Mrs. Annie Besant” 349–367 in Review of Reviews IV:22, October 1891.
• Newspaper clippings about Annie Besant in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Wed May 13, 2020 1:24 am

Norah Richards
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 5/12/20

Lahore sweltered in the summer, and the huts offered little respite from the blistering heat. The Bedis took refuge in the hills of the Kangra Valley, 130 miles east of Lahore. At Andretta, an Irish woman, Norah Richards -- an actress and theatre enthusiast, and thirty-five years older than Freda -- had established a modest homestead which became the hub of a cultural and artistic community. Norah's own home was as simple, perhaps more so, as the Bedis' in Model Town, with mud walls and a thatched roof. In the mid-1930s, she was given a small estate, and here poets, potters, artists and writers set up home. Freda remembered Norah as 'a great old lady and a great friend' -- a friendship which persisted until Norah's death in 1971. 'Norah had wanted to prove, Tolstoyan fashion, that one could live in the countryside wearing country homespuns and one needn't go to the town for intellectual life.... She gave us a piece of land there on the hillside, and we built our first mud cottage there ... and though she had some misgivings about our political ways, we assured her we didn't bring them to Andretta and that we came there to rest .... She was interested, as I was, in the simplicities and beauties of rural living, in cooking and in not using anything except local products, earthenware plates and homespun cloth.'10

In the summer of 1939, Freda and Ranga were in the Kangra Valley, with Bedi joining them at weekends when his political work allowed. 'I hate being away from him for the hot months, and we both feel lonely at times,' she confided to Olive Chandler, 'but there is really no alternative, as I find the hot weather quite takes the life out of me.' And the Kangra Valley had charms that Freda was keen to share with her correspondent:

This year we have built our own mountain cottage on a bit of land given us by a friend ... We are on a minor hill-slope overlooking the valley, our house site being partly hollowed out of the soil, and the snow range of the Himalayas stretches like a great wall on the other side of the fields. I am writing this letter in my favourite position -- sitting on a cushion before a low table in the doorway -- facing the mountains.

The cottage is a great triumph, built of local stone + sand + mud bricks + bamboos, cement-washed + roofed to keep out the rains. . .. There is a big spacious living room ... with a dining niche, a kitchen + a bathroom + with two verandas for outside sleeping. Later we shall add two sleeping cabins -- possibly after the rains when our finances have had time to recover.11

When Freda published a selection of her writings as Behind the Mud Walls, several of the articles were about the Kangra Valley: the gentle rhythms of village life; the dignity of the hill women; celebrating Christmas in the valley (Freda's insistence on marking Christmas as traditionally as possible was a legacy of her English upbringing which persisted in Punjab, as was her baking of cakes and making of fruit trifles); and the adventures on third-class rail journeys on her way to and from the hills. Freda was much more captivated by the Kangra Valley than by the bustle of Lahore. She saw in the village the essence of India -- its spirituality, its creativity, its social values -- and it must have carried an echo too of her own childhood on the rural fringes of Derby.

Freda was not unusual in being an outsider who was trying to come to terms with a new culture, cuisine and rhythm of life -- not to mention the heat and dust which came as such a shock to newcomers. She was surprised how many mixed marriages there were in Lahore. Privileged young Indian men had often returned home with a European wife as well as a European degree. 'I remember once counting the foreign wives in Punjab at the time when I was there and there must have been about 300, and that's not a small number,' Freda recalled -- and not all made the transition easily or comfortably. They came from all over Europe, from Sweden to France to Germany to England and from the States. The English wives seemed to settle more readily and the Germans and the Scandinavians a close second, but the French wives tended to get tired and to long for their own cultural setting within a few years.'12

Within the progressive artistic and political circles in Lahore in which Freda and Bedi moved, there were a handful of foreign wives. The renowned poet Hafeez Jullundhri was a close friend. He had two households; his concurrent wives lived, none too comfortably, in houses almost opposite each other in Model Town. His younger second wife Anela, an English woman of Lithuanian descent, found an ally and confidante in Freda, and her daughter Zia has affectionate memories of Freda. 'She used to come, this beautiful lady in a sari and I used to see her -- usually it was a white sari, and cotton, and she always looked very fresh, and even in the heat looked cool ... I was very fond of her. Auntie Ooggee, Auntie Ooggee, I used to go rushing to her and hugging her on her legs.'13 Another close friend, the artist Roop Krishna, married a British artist, Mary Oldfield. The Bedis would also have known the sisters AIys and Christabel George from near London, who married two of the most influential leftist writers and intellectuals in Lahore, the poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz and the writer and educationist M.D. Taseer.

Inter-racial marriages were not common, but nor were they so unusual as to attract particular comment. It was much more exceptional for foreign spouses to embrace nationalist and leftist politics, and to take to the platform, join processions and write articles in support of India's independence. The foreign wives and companions of South Asian revolutionaries who embraced their partners' politics have been described as 'a group almost lost to history' because so little is known, and written, about them.14 Freda was clear long before she settled in India that she would be active in pursuing India's cause and so became part of a significant but slender tradition of white women who gained prominence within South Asian nationalist movements.

Of that tradition, Annie Besant was pre-eminent. She was the wife of an English vicar who walked out on her marriage, became a noted radical and freethinker, and eventually settled in Madras (now Chennai). She was a pioneering Theosophist and a powerful advocate of Indian nationalism and served as president of the Indian National Congress. There are striking parallels in the lives of Freda Bedi and Annie Besant, who both in turn showed commitment to radical politics, Indian nationalism and Eastern spirituality. Besant died a few months before Freda reached India, but Bedi had made a point of meeting her before he came to Oxford, and Norah Richards knew her and was influenced by Theosophism. A closer contemporary of Freda was Madeleine Slade, the daughter of a British rear admiral. She spent many years supporting and working with Mahatma Gandhi and took the name Mirabehn. Freda met Slade several times and regarded her as a friend. 'Her name was high in Indian nationalist circles. She was a woman of great dedication and lived a life of some self-sacrifice.' Freda's life also bears an echo of that of Nellie Sengupta, a Cambridge woman who in the years before the First World War married a Bengali student who lodged with the family, Jatindra Mohan Sengupta. He was a prominent member of the Indian National Congress and mayor of Calcutta and died in 1933 while in jail on political charges. Nellie subsequently served as Congress president and was active in politics in Calcutta and, after Partition, in East Pakistan (later Bangladesh). She died in 1973.

In time, Freda became a role model for English women who followed in her footsteps. Nancie Jones met and eventually married a Punjabi socialist studying in England. Immediately after the Second World War, she came out to India to be with him and took not just his surname but changed her first name, becoming known as Rajni Kumar. By the time she reached Lahore, Freda was well established in the city and held up 'as a model of how to adopt myself to Indian life and culture, and how to involve myself in the struggle':

I visited Freda in her delightfully simple and ethnic home along with some of the women activists of the Communist Party .... I have vivid recollections of the simplicity of their life, the rural touch of the place, the string hammock where the baby was sleeping ... and the jute beds and the books stacked everywhere. I remember too, the deep involvement and concern that all of us shared regarding the course of the freedom struggle which was fast nearing its end. Freda made a deep impact upon me, and I resolved that like her, I would try to adapt myself fully to Indian ways and culture, and become a real Indian woman. I was already wearing thick khadi Punjabi clothes as she was.15

Seventy years later, Rajni Kumar still recalls Freda Bedi's advice. 'She told me that the best way to become a part of the Indian struggle is to be a part of it yourself. If you Indianise yourself enough -- and people think you are with them, you are part of them -- you've overcome all the prejudices.'16

-- The Lives of Freda: The Political, Spiritual and Personal Journeys of Freda Bedi, by Andrew Whitehead

Norah Richards (1876 – 3 March 1971) was an Irish-born actress and theatre practitioner, who was later called the Lady Gregory of the Punjab. She devoted 60 years (1911–1971) of her life towards enriching the culture of the area.[1] She came to the Punjab in 1911 and produced the first Punjabi play, Dulhan ("The Bride"), written by her pupil I.C. Nanda in 1914.[2]

In 1970, Punjabi University, Patiala, conferred an honorary DLitt degree on her, for her contribution to Punjabi culture, especially Punjabi drama.[1]

Early life and education

Norah Mary Hutman was born on 29 October 1876, in Ireland. She received her formal education in institutions in around the world, mainly Belgium, Oxford University and Sydney.


At a young age she took to the stage and became a successful actress.

She married Philip Ernest Richards, an English teacher and a Unitarian Christian. She came to India in 1908 as her husband accepted a job to teach English literature at Dyal Singh College in Lahore. (Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia, founder of the college, was an ardent follower of Brahmo Samaj, which had a synergic relationship with the Unitarian Christian movement.)

Norah Richards got involved in cultural activities in the college and her enthusiasm helped stimulate much serious theatrical activity. Lahore was the home of Punjabi culture in those days. She brought many Punjabi themes under her English pen and directed a few plays. More importantly, she encouraged students to write their own one act plays and perform them. She had an interest in theosophy and was actively involved in the theosophical movement and home-rule agitation by Dr Annie Besant.

On her husband's death in 1920, Norah returned to England. She came back to India in 1924. Events worked out well for her to settle in the beautiful Kangra Valley, and she made her home in Andretta, Himachal Pradesh. In those days of British Raj, many Britons had acquired lands in the hill states of British India. One such settler who left for England gave away his property to Norah, which came to be known as the Woodlands Estate.

Living amidst villagers, she chose the same lifestyle and made a mud house with a thatched roof for herself. She named it Chameli Niwas. Her 15 acres (6.1 ha) of estate covered by tall trees and wild flowers professed her love for nature. Norah opened a school of drama from which have emerged many famous names of Punjabi drama like Ishwar Chand Nanda, Dr. Harcharan Singh, Balwant Gargi and Gurcharan Singh.

Every year, in the month of March, Norah organised a week-long festival in which students and villagers enacted her plays in an open-air theatre constructed on her estate. Among the guests, Prithvi Raj Kapoor and Balraj Sahni were the most regular. Amongst her other friends who later settled near Woodland Estate were Prof Jai Dayal, painter Sobha Singh and Farida [Freda] Bedi.

The Bedis took refuge in the hills of the Kangra Valley, 130 miles east of Lahore. At Andretta, an Irish woman, Norah Richards -- an actress and theatre enthusiast, and thirty-five years older than Freda -- had established a modest homestead which became the hub of a cultural and artistic community. Norah's own home was as simple, perhaps more so, as the Bedis' in Model Town, with mud walls and a thatched roof. In the mid-1930s, she was given a small estate, and here poets, potters, artists and writers set up home. Freda remembered Norah as 'a great old lady and a great friend' -- a friendship which persisted until Norah's death in 1971. 'Norah had wanted to prove, Tolstoyan fashion, that one could live in the countryside wearing country homespuns and one needn't go to the town for intellectual life.... She gave us a piece of land there on the hillside, and we built our first mud cottage there ... and though she had some misgivings about our political ways, we assured her we didn't bring them to Andretta and that we came there to rest .... She was interested, as I was, in the simplicities and beauties of rural living, in cooking and in not using anything except local products, earthenware plates and homespun cloth.'10

-- The Lives of Freda: The Political, Spiritual and Personal Journeys of Freda Bedi, by Andrew Whitehead

Norah's plays were on social reform, displaying wide sympathy with the people's ways and traditions. She wrote scripts while many people came and helped with the production. She wrote newspaper articles and painted watercolours. Andretta thus became the hub of cultural and theatrical activities for a whole generation of artists. One among them was young Bhabesh Chandra Sanyal, who had already won recognition as a sculptor and painter and later on became the doyen of Indian art. He discusses Norah Richards at some length in his autobiography.

"Usually, she would greet me with a khurpa in her hand in home-spun khadi kurta and churidar, her white curls covered with a veil on top of which she donned a straw hat. This was the pattern of her work-a-day dress, grey, or ochre brown in colour. A cotton string around her waist carried a whistle and a suspended pouch carried her spectacles, bunches of keys, pen and pencil and a writing pad and a watch. She would dig the soil of her vegetable garden, tend and water the plants herself.

"I used to feel amused at her idea of discipline and the method of its application to her servants. The work-time was divided between hukka-break, tea-break, rest-break and meals break. With the aid of an alarm clock in her pouch, she would blow her whistle and command: “Hukka pio, hukka pio", and then whistle again at the determined interval for their coming back to work. At the end of the day all her servants would retire to their homes leaving her completely alone to pursue her literary work, letter writing and reading. The little kerosene lamp would burn till after midnight and the tick-tack of her typewriter would begin before dawn." Sanyal continues, “‘Mem’ she was at the core of her heart and remained critical of the villagers fouling the fields and not following her example of digging pits for leafclosets and do her own scavenging and sanitation work. "Sooner than immediate" was the mould of her temperament and she could not tolerate untidiness.

Norah's contribution to Punjabi drama was duly recognised by Punjabi University, Patiala which awarded her an honorary doctorate. The museum of the university houses some of her rare belongings. During the later years of her life, Richards was deeply worried about the future of Woodlands and her large collection of literature and manuscripts. "She toyed with the idea of making a will. Confused in her mind, she made and unmade several."

Though sceptic about governmental control and administration, she offered the estate to the government of Himachal Pradesh, but received no response. Eventually, she left most of her estate and valuable collections to the care of Punjabi University, Patiala.

In the waning days of her life, she was dependent on her attendants for a meagre meal and glass of water. She was placed to rest on 3 March 1971. Her gravestone in Woodlands Retreat has these last words inscribed: “Rest Weary Heart – Thy work is Done."


1. A TRIBUTE: Lady Gregory of Punjab by Harcharan Singh, The Tribune, 1 March 2003.
2. Norah Richards
• Excerpts from B. C. Sanyal's, The Vertical Woman, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, 1998 and other internet sources. (Compiled by Vipan Kumar courtesy: My Himachal.)

External links

• Andretta-A sanctuary of potters The Hindu
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Tue May 19, 2020 3:20 am

London Indian Society
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 5/18/20

1865 saw the formation of the first Indian society of any significant influence, the London Indian Society. The impetus for the society's establishment came from the future British MP Dadabhai Naoroji, W.C. Bannerjee, G.M. Tagore, B. Tyabji and a number of Indian students and businessmen in London.26 The inaugural meeting was held in March at University Hall in Gordon Square. The purpose of the society was to discuss 'political, social and literary subjects relating to India with a view to promot[ing] the interests of the people of that country'.27 In December 1866, the society was superseded by the East India Association, formed by a group of Indians including Naoroji, along with a number of sympathetic retired British officials. The London branch attracted a number of prominent Liberal and Radical MPs, many of whom were persuaded to raise issues concerning India in the House of Commons.28 The association gained considerable influence through publications, meetings and deputations to Westminster. Its membership had grown to over 1,000 by 1871.29 However, by the 1880s, the organisation had become dominated by Anglo-Indians and had lost its political edge.

Of the other London-based societies, the most influential was the London India Society (as distinct from the London Indian Society). Cambridge student Ananda Mohan Bose, who had been converted to Brahmoism by Keshab in 1869 and would later play a leading role in the Indian National Congress, founded it in 1872. Naoroji also played a leading role in this organisation and became its president. The purpose of hte society was to 'foster the spirit of nationalism among the Indian residents in Britain.'30. Bose was a formidable speaker, and regularly delivered impassioned speeches concerning the wrongs of British rule in India.31 The society continued to produce nationalist propaganda for over fifty years. Its activities drew the attention of the India Office, which sent spies to its meetings. A spy at a meeting of 28 December 1898 estimated that there were 150 Indians present.21

-- Keshab: Bengal's Forgotten Prophet, by John A. Stevens

The London India Society was an Indian organisation founded in London in March 1865 under the leadership of Dadabhai Naoroji and W.C. Bonnerjee.[1] The purpose of the organisation was to promote awareness of the rising Indian social and political aspirations in England, and to raise the profile of India related matters amongst the British public.[2] The London Indian Society was superseded by the East India Association, which was founded by Dadabhai Naoroji in 1866.


1. Tarique 2003, p. 97
2. Rawal 1989, p. 12


• Rawal, Munna (1989), Dadabhai Naoroji, a prophet of Indian nationalism, 1855-1900, Delhi: Anmol publications, ISBN 81-7041-131-9.
• Tarique, Mohammad (2003), Modern Indian History, Delhi: Tata-McGraw Hill, ISBN 978-0-07-066030-4.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Tue May 19, 2020 3:25 am

Dadabhai Naoroji
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 5/18/20

Sir Dadabhai Naoroji
Dadabhai Naoroji c. 1889
Member of Parliament: for Finsbury Central
In office: 1892–1895
Preceded by: Frederick Thomas Penton
Succeeded by: William Frederick Barton Massey-Mainwaring
Majority: 5
Personal details
Born: 4 September 1825, Navsari, Bombay Presidency, British India
Died: 30 June 1917 (aged 91), Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India
Nationality: Indian
Political party: Liberal
Other political
affiliations: Co-founder of Indian National Congress
Spouse(s): Gulbaai
Residence: London, United Kingdom
Alma mater: University of Mumbai
Occupation: Academician, politician, trader

Sir Dadabhai Naoroji Dordi (4 September 1825 – 30 June 1917) also known as the "Grand Old Man of India" and "Unofficial Ambassador of India" was an Indian Parsi scholar, trader and politician who was a Liberal Party member of Parliament (MP) in the United Kingdom House of Commons between 1892 and 1895, and the first Asian to be a British MP,[1][2] notwithstanding the Anglo-Indian MP David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre, who was disenfranchised for corruption. Naoroji was one of the founding members of the Indian National Congress.[3] His book Poverty and Un-British Rule in India[2] brought attention to the draining of India's wealth into Britain. In it he explained his wealth drain theory. He was also a member of the Second International along with Kautsky and Plekhanov. Dadabhai Naroji's works in the congress are praiseworthy. In 1886,1893 and 1906, i.e., thrice was he elected as the president of INC.

In 2014, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg inaugurated the Dadabhai Naoroji Awards for services to UK-India relations.[4] India Post dedicated stamps to Naoroji in 1963, 1997 and 2017.[5][6]

Life and career

Naoroji was born in Navsari into a Gujarati-speaking Parsi family, and educated at the Elphinstone Institute School.[7] He was patronised by the Maharaja of Baroda, Sayajirao Gaekwad III, and started his public life as the Dewan (Minister) to the Maharaja in 1874. Being an Athornan (ordained priest), Naoroji founded the Rahnumae Mazdayasne Sabha (Guides on the Mazdayasne Path) on 1 August 1851 to restore the Zoroastrian religion to its original purity and simplicity. In 1854, he also founded a Gujarati fortnightly publication, the Rast Goftar (or The Truth Teller), to clarify Zoroastrian concepts and promote Parsi social reforms.[8] In this time he also published another newspaper called "The Voice of India." In December 1855, he was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at the Elphinstone College in Bombay,[9] becoming the first Indian to hold such an academic position. He travelled to London in 1855 to become a partner in Cama & Co, opening a Liverpool location for the first Indian company to be established in Britain. Within three years, he had resigned on ethical grounds. In 1859, he established his own cotton trading company, Dadabhai Naoroji & Co. Later, he became professor of Gujarati at University College London.

Dadabhai Naoroji statue, near Flora Fountain, Mumbai

In 1865, Naoroji directed and launch the London Indian Society, the purpose of which was to discuss Indian political, social and literary subjects.[10] In 1861 Naoroji founded The Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe alongside Muncherjee Hormusji Cama.[11] In 1867 he also helped to establish the East India Association, one of the predecessor organisations of the Indian National Congress with the aim of putting across the Indian point of view before the British public. The Association was instrumental in counter-acting the propaganda by the Ethnological Society of London which, in its session in 1866, had tried to prove the inferiority of the Asians to the Europeans. This Association soon won the support of eminent Englishmen and was able to exercise considerable influence in the British Parliament.[citation needed] In 1874, he became Prime Minister of Baroda and was a member of the Legislative Council of Bombay (1885–88). He was also a member of the Indian National Association founded by Sir Surendranath Banerjee from Calcutta a few years before the founding of the Indian National Congress in Bombay, with the same objectives and practices.[3] The two groups later merged into the INC, and Naoroji was elected President of the Congress in 1886. Naoroji published Poverty and un-British Rule in India in 1901.[3]

Naoroji in 1892.

Naoroji moved to Britain once again and continued his political involvement. Elected for the Liberal Party in Finsbury Central at the 1892 general election, he was the first British Indian MP.[12][13] He refused to take the oath on the Bible as he was not a Christian, but was allowed to take the oath of office in the name of God on his copy of Khordeh Avesta. During his time he put his efforts towards improving the situation in India. He had a very clear vision and was an effective communicator. He set forth his views about the situation in India over the course of history of the governance of the country and the way in which the colonial rulers rules. In Parliament, he spoke on Irish Home Rule and the condition of the Indian people. He was also a notable Freemason. In his political campaign and duties as an MP, he was assisted by Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the future Muslim nationalist and founder of Pakistan. In 1906, Naoroji was again elected president of the Indian National Congress. Naoroji was a staunch moderate within the Congress, during the phase when opinion in the party was split between the moderates and extremists. Naoroji was a mentor to Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He was married to Gulbai at the age of eleven. He died in Bombay on 30 June 1917, at the age of 91. Today the Dadabhai Naoroji Road, a heritage road of Mumbai, is named after him. Also, the Dadabhai Naoroji Road in Karachi, Pakistan is also named after him as well, as Naoroji Street in the Finsbury area of London. A prominent residential colony for central government servants in the south of Delhi is also named Naoroji Nagar. His granddaughters Perin and Khrushedben were also involved in the freedom struggle. In 1930, Khurshedben was arrested along with other revolutionaries for attempting to hoist the Indian flag in a Government College in Ahmedabad.[14]

Naoroji's drain theory and poverty

Dadabhai Naoroji's work focused on the drain of wealth from India to England during colonial rule of British in India.[15] One of the reasons that the Drain theory is attributed to Naoroji is his decision to estimate the net national profit of India, and by extension, the effect that colonisation has on the country. Through his work with economics, Naoroji sought to prove that Britain was draining money out of India.[16] Naoroji described 6 factors which resulted in the external drain. Firstly, India is governed by a foreign government. Secondly, India does not attract immigrants which bring labour and capital for economic growth. Thirdly, India pays for Britain's civil administrations and occupational army. Fourthly, India bears the burden of empire building in and out of its borders. Fifthly, opening the country to free trade was actually a way to exploit India by offering highly paid jobs to foreign personnel. Lastly, the principal income-earners would buy outside of India or leave with the money as they were mostly foreign personnel.[17] In Naoroji's book 'Poverty' he estimated a 200–300 million pounds loss of India's revenue to Britain that is not returned. Naoroji described this as vampirism, with money being a metaphor for blood, which humanised India and attempted to show Britain's actions as monstrous in an attempt to garner sympathy for the nationalist movement.[18]

When referring to the Drain, Naoroji stated that he believed some tribute was necessary as payment for the services that England brought to India such as the railways. However the money from these services were being drained out of India; for instance the money being earned by the railways did not belong to India, which supported his assessment that India was giving too much to Britain. India was paying tribute for something that was not bringing profit to the country directly. Instead of paying off foreign investment which other countries did, India was paying for services rendered despite the operation of the railway being already profitable for Britain. This type of drain was experienced in different ways as well, for instance, British workers earning wages that were not equal with the work that they have done in India, or trade that undervalued India's goods and overvalued outside goods.[15][17] Englishmen were encouraged to take on high paying jobs in India, and the British government allowed them to take a portion of their income back to Britain. Furthermore, the East India Company was purchasing Indian goods with money drained from India to export to Britain, which was a way that the opening up of free trade allowed India to be exploited.[19]

When elected to Parliament by a narrow margin of 5 votes his first speech was about questioning Britain's role in India. Naoroji explained that Indians were either British subjects or British slaves, depending on how willing Britain was to give India the institutions that Britain already operated. By giving these institutions to India it would allow India to govern itself and as a result the revenue would stay in India.[20] It is because Naoroji identified himself as an Imperial citizen that he was able to address the economic hardships facing India to an English audience. By presenting himself as an Imperial citizen he was able to use rhetoric to show the benefit to Britain that an ease of financial burden on India would have. He argued that by allowing the money earned in India to stay in India, tributes would be willingly and easily paid without fear of poverty; he argued that this could be done by giving equal employment opportunities to Indian professionals who consistently took jobs they were over-qualified for. Indian labour would be more likely to spend their income within India preventing one aspect of the drain.[18] Naoroji believed that to solve the problem of the drain it was important to allow India to develop industries; this would not be possible without the revenue draining from India into England.

It was also important to examine British and Indian trade to prevent the end of budding industries due to unfair valuing of goods and services.[19] By allowing industry to grow in India, tribute could be paid to Britain in the form of taxation and the increase in interest for British goods in India. Over time, Naoroji became more extreme in his comments as he began to lose patience with Britain. This was shown in his comments which became increasingly aggressive. Naoroji showed how the ideologies of Britain conflicted when asking them if they would allow French youth to occupy all the lucrative posts in England. He also brought up the way that Britain objected to the drain of wealth to the papacy during the 16th century.[21] Naoroji's work on the drain theory was the main reason behind the creation of the Royal Commission on Indian Expenditure in 1896 in which he was also a member. This commission reviewed financial burdens on India and in some cases came to the conclusion that those burdens were misplaced.[22]

Views and legacy

Naoroji on a 1963 stamp of India

Naoroji on a 2017 stamp of India

Dadabhai Naoroji is regarded as one of the most important Indians during the independence movement. In his writings, he considered that the foreign intervention into India was clearly not favourable for the country.

Further development was checked by the frequent invasions of India by, and the subsequent continuous rule of, foreigners of entirely different character and genius, who, not having any sympathy with the indigenous literature – on the contrary, having much fanatical antipathy to the religion of the Hindus – prevented its further growth. Priest-hood, first for power and afterwards from ignorance, completed the mischief, as has happened in all other countries.[23]

Naoroji is remembered as the "Grand Old Man of Indian Nationalism"

Mahatma Gandhi wrote to Naoroji in a letter of 1894 that "The Indians look up to you as children to the father. Such is really the feeling here."[24]

Bal Gangadhar Tilak admired him; he said:

If we twenty eight crore of Indians were entitled to send only one member to the British parliament, there is no doubt that we would have elected Dadabhai Naoroji unanimously to grace that post.[25]

Here are the significant extracts taken from his speech delivered before the East India Association on 2 May 1867 regarding what educated Indians expect from their British rulers.

The difficulties thrown in the way of according to the natives such reasonable share and voice in the administration of the country ad they are able to take, are creating some uneasiness and distrust. The universities are sending out hundreds and will soon begin to send out thousands of educated natives. This body naturally increases in influence...

"In this Memorandum I desire to submit for the kind and generous consideration of His Lordship the Secretary of State for India, that from the same cause of the deplorable drain [of economic wealth from India to England], besides the material exhaustion of India, the moral loss to her is no less sad and lamentable . . . All [the Europeans] effectually do is to eat the substance of India, material and moral, while living there, and when they go, they carry away all they have acquired . . . The thousands [of Indians] that are being sent out by the universities every year find themselves in a most anomalous position. There is no place for them in their motherland . . . What must be the inevitable consequence? . . . despotism and destruction . . . or destroying hand and power. "

In this above quotation he explains his theory in which the British used India as a drain of wealth.

A plaque referring to Dadabhai Naoroji is located outside the Finsbury Town Hall on Rosebery Avenue, London.


• Started the Rast Goftar Anglo-Gujarati Newspaper in 1854.
• The manners and customs of the Parsees (Bombay, 1864)
• The European and Asiatic races (London, 1866)
• Admission of educated natives into the Indian Civil Service (London, 1868)
• The wants and means of India (London, 1876)
• Condition of India (Madras, 1882)
• Poverty of India
A Paper Read Before the Bombay Branch of the East India Association, Bombay, Ranima Union Press, (1876)
• C. L. Parekh, ed., Essays, Speeches, Addresses and Writings of the Honourable Dadabhai Naoroji, Bombay, Caxton Printing Works (1887). An excerpt, "The Benefits of British Rule", in a modernised text by J. S. Arkenberg, ed., on line at Paul Halsall, ed., Internet Modern History Sourcebook.
• Lord Salisbury's Blackman (Lucknow, 1889)
• Naoroji, Dadabhai (1861). The Parsee Religion. University of London.
• Dadabhai Naoroji (1902). Poverty and Un-British Rule in India. Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. poverty and un british rule in india.; Commonwealth Publishers, 1988. ISBN 81-900066-2-2

He made the first attempt to estimate the national income of India in 1867.

See also

• Electoral firsts in the United Kingdom.


1. Mukherjee, Sumita. "'Narrow-majority' and 'Bow-and-agree': Public Attitudes Towards the Elections of the First Asian MPs in Britain, Dadabhai Naoroji and Mancherjee Merwanjee Bhownaggree, 1885–1906" (PDF). Journal of the Oxford University History Society (2 (Michaelmas 2004)).
2. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Naoroji, Dadabhai" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 167.
3. Nanda, B. R. (2015) [1977], Gokhale: The Indian Moderates and the British Raj, Legacy Series, Princeton University Press, p. 58, ISBN 978-1-4008-7049-3
4. "Dadabhai Naoroji Awards presented for the first time – GOV.UK". Retrieved 1 June 2017.
5. "India Post Honors Dadabhai Naoroji With Stamp – Parsi Times". Parsi Times. 6 January 2018. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
6. "India Post Issued Stamp on Dadabhai Naoroji". Phila-Mirror. 29 December 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
7. Dilip Hiro (2015). The Longest August: The Unflinching Rivalry Between India and Pakistan. Nation Books. p. 9. ISBN 9781568585031. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
8. Mohanram, edited by Ralph J. Crane & Radhika (2000). Shifting continents/colliding cultures : diaspora writing of the Indian subcontinent. Amsterdam: Rodopi. p. 62. ISBN 978-9042012615. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
9. Mistry, Sanjay (2007) "Naorojiin, Dadabhai" in Dabydeen, David et al. eds. The Oxford Companion of Black British History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 336–7. ISBN 9780199238941
10. Fourteenth Annual General Meeting of the British Indian Association, 14 February 1866, p.22 British Indian Association
11. John R. Hinnells (28 April 2005). The Zoroastrian Diaspora: Religion and Migration. OUP Oxford. p. 388. ISBN 978-0-19-826759-1. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
12. Peters, K. J. (29 May 1946). "Indian Patchwork Is Made of Many Colours". Aberdeen Journal. Retrieved 2 December 2014 – via British Newspaper Archive.(subscription required)
13. "From the archive, 26 July 1892: Britain's first Asian MP elected", The Guardian, 26 July 2013, retrieved 2 May 2018
14. "Millionaire's daughter arrested". Portsmouth Evening News. 21 August 1930. Retrieved 2 December 2014 – via British Newspaper Archive.(subscription required)
15. Kozicki, Richard P.; Ganguli, B. N. (1967). "Reviewed work: Dadabhai Naoroji and the Drain Theory., B. N. Ganguli". The Journal of Asian Studies. 26 (4): 728–729. doi:10.2307/2051282. JSTOR 2051282.
16. Raychaudhuri G.S. (1966). "On Some Estimates of National Income Indian Economy 1858–1947". Economic and Political Weekly. 1 (16): 673–679. JSTOR 4357298.
17. Ganguli B.N. (1965). "Dadabhai Naoroji and the Mechanism of 'External Drain'". The Indian Economic & Social History Review. 2 (2): 85–102. doi:10.1177/001946466400200201.
18. Banerjee, Sukanya (2010) Becoming Imperial Citizens : Indians in the Late Victorian Empire Durham. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-4608-1
19. Doctor, Adi H. (1997) Political Thinkers of Modern India. New Delhi Mittal Publications. ISBN 978-8170996613
20. Chatterjee, Partha (1999). "Modernity, Democracy and a Political Negotiation of Death". South Asia Research. 19 (2): 103–119. doi:10.1177/026272809901900201.
21. Chandra, Bipan (1965). "Indian Nationalists and the Drain, 1880—1905". The Indian Economic & Social History Review. 2 (2): 103–144. doi:10.1177/001946466400200202.
22. Chishti, M. Anees ed. (2001) Committees And Commissions in Pre-Independence India 1836–1947 Volume 2: 1882–1895. New Delhi Mittal Publications. ISBN 9788170998020
23. "Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London", p. 9
24. Bakshi, Shiri Ram (1988) Gandhi and Indians in South Africa. p. 37.
25. Pasricha, Ashu (1998) Encyclopedia Eminent Thinkers. Vol. 11: The Political Thought of Dadabhai Naoroji. Concept Publishing Company. p. 30. ISBN 9788180694912

Further reading

• Rustom P. Masani, Dadabhai Naoroji (1939).
• Munni Rawal, Dadabhai Naoroji, Prophet of Indian Nationalism, 1855–1900, New Delhi, Anmol Publications (1989).
• S. R. Bakshi, Dadabhai Naoroji: The Grand Old Man, Anmol Publications (1991). ISBN 81-7041-426-1
• Verinder Grover, ‘'Dadabhai Naoroji: A Biography of His Vision and Ideas’’ New Delhi, Deep & Deep Publishers (1998) ISBN 81-7629-011-4
• Debendra Kumar Das, ed., ‘'Great Indian Economists : Their Creative Vision for Socio-Economic Development.’’ Vol. I: ‘Dadabhai Naoroji (1825–1917) : Life Sketch and Contribution to Indian Economy.’’ New Delhi, Deep and Deep (2004).ISBN 81-7629-315-6
• P. D. Hajela, ‘'Economic Thoughts of Dadabhai Naoroji,’’ New Delhi, Deep & Deep (2001). ISBN 81-7629-337-7
• Pash Nandhra, entry Dadabhai Naoroji in Brack et al. (eds).Dictionary of Liberal History; Politico's, 1998
• Zerbanoo Gifford, Dadabhai Naoroji: Britain's First Asian MP; Mantra Books, 1992
• Codell, J. "Decentering & Doubling Imperial Discourse in the British Press: D. Naoroji & M. M. Bhownaggree," Media History 15 (Fall 2009), 371–84.
• Metcalf and Metcalf, Concise History of India

External links

• Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
• "Dr Dadabhai Naoroji, 'The Grand Old Man of India'", – Presents a complete chronology of Naoroji's life.
• Portraits of Dadabhai Naoroji at the National Portrait Gallery, London
• Works by or about Dadabhai Naoroji at Internet Archive
• Works by Dadabhai Naoroji at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
• B. Shantanu, "Drain of Wealth during British Raj",, 6 February 2006
• Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Dadabhai Naoroji
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