Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala, by Steven Kem

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala, by Steven Kem

Postby admin » Fri Jul 24, 2020 5:35 am

Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World
by Steven Kemper
© 2015 by The University of Chicago

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For Anne, Jordan and Baylor, Miles and Max, Shannon and Scott, and Jessica and Inacio

Contents:

Preface
Introduction: World Renunciation in a Nineteenth-Century World
1. Dharmapala as Theosophist
2. Buddhists in Japan
3. Universalists Abroad
4. Dharmapala, the British, and the Bengalis
5. Dharmapala and the British Empire
6. World Wanderer Returns Home
Afterword
Appendix 1. The Diaries and Notebooks Explained
Appendix 2. A Chronology of the Life of Anagarika Dharmapala
Bibliography
Index
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Re: Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala, by Steven

Postby admin » Fri Jul 24, 2020 5:39 am

PREFACE

l am indebted to many people, but I want to acknowledge an institution straightaway. I can say it simply. Bates College has made my scholarly life possible. I am appreciative of the endless forms that support has taken. I also owe thanks for the support of the Dana Foundation and the Freeman Foundation, which made several of my research trips to South Asia, Japan, and London possible.

Several decades ago I played a small part in hiring John Strong at Bates. My support was not meant to be self-serving, but there is a lot to be said for having a Buddhologist among Buddhologists at arm's reach, willing to hear my questions and investigate. His responses did a lot more than provide answers. They educated me.

I have also been the beneficiary of the kindness of Dennis McGilvray, John Rogers, Frank Reynolds, Richard Jaffe, Danny Danforth, Michael Aung-Thwin, Val Daniel, and Ian Copeland, who read the manuscript and tried to steer me right. Anne Blackburn, Sarah Strong, Gananath Obeyesekere, H. L. Seneviratne, Prasenajit Duara, and Alan Trevithick gave me invaluable advice along the way. Alan made me aware of notebooks residing at the Dharmapala library in Sarnath, and that was no small gift. In Tokyo Yuko Eguchi guided me through the Diet Library and Gakushuin University. Her translations of Japanese texts give the impression that I know more of Japan than I do, and I appreciate both the illusion making and the great kindness she and her family showed me in both Japan and this country. Soon after I arrived, Ishii Kosei took me out to dinner, shared his knowledge of Dharmapala, and then out of the blue gave me photocopies of Japanese sources on Dharmapala. Another gift I did not deserve.

After I finished the manuscript, I came across two articles on Dharmapala and found the authors, Michael Roberts and Stephen Prothero, saying things that I had concluded myself. My first reaction to both discoveries was to cite the author and leave it at that. My second thought was to leave the order of discovery as it had happened as evidence that there might be something to the assertions I make in this book. In any case, I want to recognize my two colleagues for what I take to be insights and acknowledge them both.

Sylvia Hawks has provided a lifetime of secretarial skill essential to the making of books, and I am deeply appreciative. At Sarnath Noel Salmond produced an annotated bibliography to Dharmapala's notebooks, which has helped everyone who has used it. It made my life easier. So did the resident bhikkhu Kahawatte Siri Sumedha, who. made the Dharmapala library available to me. George Tanabe and Michael Aung-Thwin gave me wise counsel in Hawaii, as did Kikyu Tanaka, Yuichiro Tanaka, and Kosaku Yoshino in Tokyo. I have presented parts of the argument at seminars at Boston University, the University of Hawaii, the University of Pennsylvania, the National. University of Singapore, Columbia University, and the Second China-India International Cultural Forum in New Delhi, and I have learned from each of those occasions. Finally, I thank Banagalla Upatissa, who hosted me in Japan and Sri Lanka, fed me, swept me along with him into the presidential compound in Colombo, made it possible for me to make images of Dharmapala's diaries, and introduced me to Ven. Siri Sumedha, who graciously allowed me to make images of the notebooks.

I did not intend for this book to be an intervention, and I do not know whether anyone will read it as such. I undertook the project because of my sense that Dharmapala had to be more than a reformer and ethnic chauvinist. Portraying the man in full will antagonize people who want to hold on to the bowdlerized Dharmapala. It would be gratifying if the Dharmapala who emerges in these pages had some effect on the degraded relationships of Sri Lanka's peoples. Whether that happens or not, I am encouraged by the Sinhalas, Tamils, and Muslims who helped me. Their kindness makes it possible to contemplate a future where academic work has some influence on prejudice and misunderstanding.

In rereading these pages, I am struck by how often the pronoun "I" appears, when my intention has been to make others more visible, not my relationship to them. Blame the logic of exposition. William Carlos Williams's aphorism -- "No ideas but in things" -- speaks as much to anthropologists as poets, but access to things depends on people. My thanks to everyone who cleared the way.
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Re: Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala, by Steven

Postby admin » Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:32 am

Part 1 of 5

Introduction: World Renunciation in a Nineteenth-Century World

At the center of this book lies a historical moment –- the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries –- marked by the efflorescence of new forms of universalism,….

In chemistry, efflorescence (which means "to flower out" in French) is the migration of a salt to the surface of a porous material, where it forms a coating.

-- Efflorescence, by Wikipedia


the upswing of European and New World nationalisms,….

Upswing: 1: an upward swing; 2: a marked increase or improvement, “a dramatic upswing in profits,” often used in the phrase on the upswing, “her career is on the upswing.”

-- Upswing, by Merriam-Webster


and early signs of nationalist movements in colonies held by European powers. In this context, human beings were pulled in opposite directions –- away from local sources of identity ….

It is in the nascent bonds of intimate relations (primarily with one's parents) that identity assumes its earliest expression. Intimate relationships, particularly the maternal bond with children, supply the mutual trust and recognition necessary for security and trust. Over time, and with consistent care and attention, it is within these trusting bonds that one comes to identify in a particular way with a set of attachments, habits, and thought patterns. This also describes the manner in which persons are enculturated, which is to say that most persons gradually come to identify with a way-of-being as natural, self-evident, and correct. The foundations of trust give rise to greater possibilities for personal well-being; well-being in this sense describes the experience of being accepted by others as well as a sense of security, satisfaction, and confidence about one's being-in-the-world. A healthy self-concept describes those who are comfortable with their self-image, with how others see them, with the roles they have chosen for themselves, or even which others have chosen for them….

[A]n absence, or shattering, of foundational trust … portends a looming identity crisis….

If the crisis proves too difficult to overcome, some kind of identity pathology may set in.

-- Identity, by M.S. Merry


by the forces of universalism, and toward nearby ones shapes by the nationalist imagination. Consider Rabindranath Tagore’s career as a poet committed to universalist values, Asian solidarity, and cultural exchange. When he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, little of his poetry had been translated into English, but non-Bengali readers knew him as a poet of soaring idealism and properly Indian thoughts about the unity of humankind.

Hindu Universalism, also called Neo-Vedanta and neo-Hinduism, is a modern interpretation of Hinduism which developed in response to western colonialism and orientalism. It denotes the ideology that all religions are true and therefore worthy of toleration and respect.

It is a modern interpretation that aims to present Hinduism as a "homogenized ideal of Hinduism" with Advaita Vedanta as its central doctrine. For example, it presents that:
... an imagined "integral unity" that was probably little more than an "imagined" view of the religious life that pertained only to a cultural elite and that empirically speaking had very little reality "on the ground," as it were, throughout the centuries of cultural development in the South Asian region.

Hinduism embraces universalism by conceiving the whole world as a single family that deifies the one truth, and therefore it accepts all forms of beliefs and dismisses labels of distinct religions which would imply a division of identity.

This modernised re-interpretation has become a broad current in Indian culture, extending far beyond the Dashanami Sampradaya, the Advaita Vedanta Sampradaya founded by Adi Shankara. An early exponent of Hindu Universalism was Ram Mohan Roy, who established the Brahmo Samaj. Hindu Universalism was popularised in the 20th century in both India and the west by Vivekananda and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. Veneration for all other religions was articulated by Gandhi:
After long study and experience, I have come to the conclusion that [1] all religions are true; [2] all religions have some error in them; [3] all religions are almost as dear to me as my own Hinduism, in as much as all human beings should be as dear to one as one's own close relatives. My own veneration for other faiths is the same as that for my own faith; therefore no thought of conversion is possible.

Western orientalists played an important role in this popularisation, regarding Vedanta to be the "central theology of Hinduism". Oriental scholarship portrayed Hinduism as a "single world religion", and denigrated the heterogeneousity of Hindu beliefs and practices as 'distortions' of the basic teachings of Vedanta.

-- Universalism, by Wikipedia


Three years later, on his way to the United States, he stopped in Japan and was greeted as more than a hero. He was an Asian hero and likely a man who recognized the need for national identity and reform. Some twenty thousand people met him when he arrived at Tokyo Station. While in Japan he gave several speeches excoriating the evils of nationalism and then sailed on to the United States. On his way home, he stopped again in Japan and was greeted by two people.1 An age when some Asians were beginning to think of broader forms of community was equally an age when other Asians had a hard time even making sense of the idea. In 1879 Edwin Arnold’s The Light of Asia gained a worldwide following for its retelling of the Buddha’s life as an epic poem. Translated into Japanese, The Light of Asia became The Sun Rises.2

What Kant meant by universalism is the proposition that a human being’s highest obligation belongs to humankind as such.3 When an actor must make a choice, Kant argued, he should favor the universal over the local. The absolutism of Kant’s definition duly noted, there are less absolute ways of thinking about universalism, as well as a large number of historical examples of universalizing movements. To the extent that they incorporated individuals categorized as “outsiders” and recategorized them as “insiders,” the world’s twenty-odd civilizations qualify as universalizing, as do the religions that spread over great stretches of the world – Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism. I will use the expressions “universalist” or “universalizing” to refer to a social movement that transcends local identities and incorporates different kinds of people in the same project, settling for inclusion that falls short of the Kantian extreme.

[“T]he United Buddhist World,[“] the title announcing his hopes for drawing Buddhists into a pan-Asian community linked to supporters in Europe and America … shaping Buddhist opinion worldwide … publishing articles by Western scholars on the array of Buddhisms … the great cause of his life, putting the weight of the world’s Buddhists behind recovering Bodh Gaya, the place in North India where the Lord Buddha attained enlightenment…. that place belonged to the Hindu other …. putting a group of Saivite world renouncers on notice that Buddhists would no longer tolerate the old accommodation…. insisting that a sacred space now in the hands of a cruel and demonic other must be returned to its rightful owners…. inserting non-Indian Buddhists into Indian affairs… The immediate issue is how a Buddhism of universal aspirations was joined to the Buddhism of national identity…. Buddhism provides an example of a religious universalism, spread by offering non-Buddhist communities access to practices of value and authority through venerating the founder, his teachings, and the monks who embodied his example…. Bodh Gaya was the Buddhist Mecca, but it belonged to a community of Saivite renouncers. Returning the place to Buddhists would return Buddhism to India. The Buddhism Dharmapala wanted to install there would be a universalized Buddhism. It would be neither sectarian nor national, its universality enabled by remaining undefined…. He converted only two people in his lifetime, and when he spoke of returning Buddhism to India, he usually had in mind recovering Bodh Gaya, not growing the number of Indian Buddhists…. the mission consisted in Dhammadana (the gift of Dhamma), putting the Buddha’s teachings on offer, making them present in new parts of the world, not conversion itself…. “the universal ideal of citizenship … chooses the particularized category of the nation-state to announce its universality”…. "I took up the larger work of universal Buddhism in January 1891 at the holy spot under the shade of the Bodhi tree” … What drew none of his energy was promoting doctrinal agreement relative to a universalized Buddhism, valuing the “united Buddhist world” only as a force useful in recovering Bodh Gaya. The phrase disappeared without explanation from the journal’s masthead in 1924… Dharmapala’s universalism followed logically from his commitment to the mahatmas, whose renunciation and spiritual advancement led them to transcend nation, ethnicity, and other social identities. “They are, then a very small number of highly intelligent men belonging not to any one nation but to the world as a whole.”

-- Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World, by Steven Kemper


My interest in universalism derives from its being nationalism’s binary opposite. As one particularism among many, nationalism rests on an identity defined as commensurate with other identities, and that identity does not appear as such without the existence of an encompassing universalism in the form of “the total ground that constitutes the differences as differences.”4

The fundamental principle, is the reconciliation of the opposites. We cannot choose one opposite over another. We must experience the relationship between the two and reconcile them into a higher synthesis.

-- Reconciliation, Orientation and Unity, by Jack Courtis


Universalisms come in various forms, but two are pertinent here -– the religion and the civilizational -– and their allure derives from their kinship to our common humanity, rationality, and the very possibility of seeing others in ourselves (or as ourselves or in lieu of ourselves). Most universalisms benefit from a good press, the more so when compared to the inferiority and danger of the particularisms, giving force to the notion that particularity corrupts the universal. But any survey of real-world universalisms exposes their own corruptions. Its appeals as trope or value duly noted, “civilization,” once unpacked, turned out to be European civilization, another particularism dressed up as a universal. The same could be said of modernity or socialism. Putting aside the allure of the universal, I will use the expression without worrying about definitional issues, assuming only that universalisms are social movements that transcend local identities.

In what follows I want to pursue the historical realization of a universalizing movement in the life of a Buddhist reformer whose life has seldom been associated with bringing together different sorts of people. Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933) was a spokesman for reviving Sinhala (Sri Lanka’s dominant ethnic group) pride and reforming the island’s traditional religion, Buddhism. For Sinhala Buddhists, he has become the figure that countered the effects of three hundred years of colonial domination and missionary effort. During his lifetime his uncompromising temperament made him his share of enemies, but his beatification began before he died in 1933. When his ashes were brought back to Colombo, they were carried in a miniature casket raised above the head of a senior monk, leading a procession of many thousands, itself made up of smaller processions of Buddhists from across the island.5 The procession led from the Fort Railway Station to Maha Bodhi headquarters – a journey of some two miles – the procession itself stretching half that distance. Cries of “sadkha, sadhu, saaa” were raised as the procession advanced. The late president Ranasinghe Premadasa remembered attending as a student, having been asked to “come bare-footed to participate in the function as a mark of respect.”6 These are gestures usually reserved for the Buddhist monkhood, membership in which requires the president of Sri Lanka or the king of Thailand to show respect to the youngest initiate.

Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society was formed on 17th June 1880 and was incorporated by an Act of Parliament No. 25 of 1998. WHEREAS Col. Henry Steel Olcott, an American Theosophist and Madam Helena P. Blavatsky, a Russian author and Theosophist, inspired by the message of Buddhism disseminated by the ‘Panadura Debate’ of August, 1873, arrived in Sri Lanka on 17th May, 1880, and proclaimed themselves Buddhist by observing Thisarana Paanchaseela.

After the formation of Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society on 17th June 1880 the premises No. 54, Maliban Street, Colombo has been bought by the society in 1885. Col. Olcott continued his social activities until his last days in this premises.

The First English School also started in this premises and Mr. Lead Beater was the first principal. This school was shifted to Maradana where present day Ananda College which became one of the foremost colleges in Sri Lanka.

-- Introduction, by Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society


Dharmapala’s status has grown over the years. His birthday is remembered with celebrations across the island. There were six processions on that occasion reaching Colombo by 1964; by 1979 the island had twelve statues of Dharmapala; and nowadays there are several streets named after him in Colombo and others in Anuradhapura, Galle, Matara, and Kandy.7 Speeches given at Dharmapala’s birthday celebration at Maha Bodhi Society headquarters – the organization he founded in 1891 – suggest why people take him seriously. In 1986 Hedigalle Pannatissa said “that there would be no Sinhala Buddhists today if not for the Anagarika … and that Buddhism in this country would survive only if the Maha Bodhi Society survives.”8 He was followed by Akuretiye Amarawansa, who described Anagarika as a bodhisattva (a person who strives to become an enlightened being, such as the Lord Buddha). The Indian high commissioner summed it up, saying that Dharmapala was

a Jeffersonian persona of the East … scholar, nationalist, first a lay Buddhist preacher, then a Buddhist monk, a founding father of Sinhala education … [and] nationalist journalism … who singlehandedly restored a sense of dignity and self-respect to the people of Sri Lanka about their own past and gave them confidence about the future.


The high commissioner’s words of appreciation have not kept others from trying to rescue Dharmapala from misunderstanding and neglect. Gunadasa Amerasekera’s Dharmapala Marksvadida? (Was Dharmapala a Marxist?) sets the record straight. Even half a century after his death

the masses and scholars have no clear idea of the services rendered by him. There are several reasons for this …. Every political party in this country has ignored and tried to forget him …. Sri Lankans influenced by colonial practices and their descendants brought to the public a view of Dharmapala that suited their purposes…. The historians who rose from the colonial class added no small injury to Dharmapala…. Lankan historians have completely forgotten him.9


In popular accounts, he more often appears as a transformative figure become a saint.10

Dharmapala’s mythologized status in the Sinhala public sphere makes him a figure not to be criticized. In a paper read at the International Center for Ethnic Studies in Colombo in 1998, Michael Roberts drew on the early diaries to suggest that Dharmapala “continuously battled with his sexual urges which came into serious conflict with his goal.”11 In the hub-bub that followed, a member of Parliament delivered a speech calling for an investigation into Roberts’s “smear campaign.”12 The MP had served as vice chancellor of Sri Jayewardenepura University and did not question Roberts’s research. What he questioned was why the article “with many negative references to the Anagarika” appeared in a state-owned newspaper and “whether the Sri Lankan identity and Sinhala culture had become bad words to the Lake House [the newspaper’s publisher] hierarchy.” In the 1920s Lake House regularly pummeled Dharmapala. In the 1990s a member of Parliament wanted Lake House investigated for an article that treated him as a human being.

Amerasekera’s anxieties about Dharmapala’s being neglected duly noted, no one writes about modern Sri Lanka without writing about Dharmapala, and his historical contributions are more likely to be overstated than undervalued. He was, according to K. M. de Silva, among the first to advocate svaraj, or national independence, seeing full well the political potential of the Buddhist resurgence.13 Others make Dharmapala function as a placeholder, an ancestor to invoke, recall, and invent for the sake of explaining contemporary events:

Michael Roberts has said that Wijeweera [the leader of the 1971 insurrection in Sri Lanka] is a progeny of Anagarika Dharmapala. Gamini Keerawelle has asserted that the JVP [Wijeweera’s political party] is a continuation of the political tendency initiated by Dharmapala and John de Silva.14


Richard Gombrich and Gananath Obeyesekere associate his name with a new way of practicing an old religion, Protestant Buddhism, arguing that the hybridized values and practices associated with Dharmapala (and his mentor, the Theosophist Henry Steel Olcott) shaped the expansion of bourgeois values as they spread through villages and provincial towns during the first half of the twentieth century.15 S.J. Tambiah and H.L. Seneviratne look upon his career as giving shape to the virulent nature of contemporary Sri Lankan politics.16 Tambiah points out that Dharmapala’s journalism joined Buddhism to Sinhala ethnic identity and constructed that identity as a racial one. Seneviratne writes that he gave rise to a tradition of Dharmapalite monks, linking those monks in turn to the estrangement among Sinhalas, Tamils, and Muslims that now motivates the island’s politics.

"Protestant Buddhism": Term introduced by the scholar Gananath Obeyesekere referring to a phenomenon in Sinhalese Buddhism having its roots in the latter half of the 19th century and caused by two sets of historical conditions: the activities of the Protestant missionaries and the close contact with the modern knowledge and technologies of the West. In 1815 the British become the first colonial power to win control over the whole of Sri Lanka and signed the Kandyan convention declaring the Buddhist religion practised by the locals to be inviolable. This article was attacked by Protestant evangelicals in England and the British government felt obliged to dissociate itself from Buddhism. The traditional bond between Buddhism and the government of the Sinhala people had effectively dissolved while official policy favoured the activities of Protestant missionaries and the conversion to Christianity had become almost essential for those who wished to join the ruling élite. Leader of the movement that started as a result of these conditions was Anagārika Dharmapāla. The movement can be seen both as a protest against the attacks on Buddhism by foreign missionaries and the adoption in the local Buddhism of features characteristic of Protestantism. In essence, Protestant Buddhism is a form of Buddhist revival which denies that only through the Saṃgha can one seek or find salvation. Religion, as a consequence, is internalized. The layman is supposed to permeate his life with his religion and strive to make Buddhism permeate his whole society. Through printing laymen had, for the first time, access to Buddhist texts and could teach themselves meditation. Accordingly, it was felt they could and should try to reach nirvāṇa. As a consequence lay Buddhists became critical both of the traditional norms and of the monastic role.

-- Protestant Buddhism, by Oxford Reference


Much is overlooked in these accounts. Even though Dharmapala was the leading figure in the emergence of Sinhala nationalism, he spent most of his life living outside Lanka. He lived the great majority of his adult years in Calcutta and London. The man who took the title anagarika (homeless) purchased, worried over, and lived in a number of residences.17 But it is equally true that he was frequently away from whatever place he was then calling home. He traveled around the world in 1889, 1896, 1902, 1913, and 1925-6; visited Japan on four occasions; and made tours of Akyab (1892), Shanghai (1894), Siam (1894), north India (1899 and 1923), London (1904), Hawaii (1913), China, Korea, and Borobudur (1913). In 1925 and 1926 he toured Europe and the United States, before spending considerable time in London, where he established the first Buddhist temple in Europe. In these contexts he associated himself with clerics, Theosophists, scholars, and a steady stream of well-to-do Westerners, usually female and interested in Asian spirituality. Nor did his days end in Lanka. When he returned from Europe at the end of his life, he settled not in Colombo but in North India near a temple he built to celebrate the place where the Buddha preached his first sermon. To the extent that he spent most of his life away from the island, he was homeless in a sense of the word not usually intended.

Between the time he found a place to live in Calcutta in 1892 and his final move to Sarnath in 1931, he returned to Sri Lanka some twenty-five times. (Because the text that follows does not proceed chronologically, readers may want to consult Appendix 2 to get a sense of Dharmapala’s life as it unfolded.) A number of visits were brief sojourns (a visit home on his way to somewhere else), most lasted for a few months, and three kept him in the island for about a year. On those visits he established and managed schools, hospitals, and seminaries and made tours through the villages of Sri Lanka in an oxcart or lorry that he had rebuilt to serve as a camping car. He established a school just outside Colombo to teach volunteers the skills of self-reflection and missionary work. He gave a series of fiery speeches. He campaigned against beef eating. He purchased land and started a rubber estate and weaving school in Hiniduma, his father’s native place. The newspaper he established in 1906, the Sinhala Bauddhaya, spoke directly to readers about these projects (as opposed to the more cosmopolitan content of the journals he published abroad). He wrote a regular column for the Bauddhaya, Karunu Denagatuyutu (Things you should know), addressing readers in a way that was by turns inspirational, informative, and hectoring. Even though the great majority of those articles were written in Calcutta or London, most addressed his Sinhala readers about local affairs and conveyed his insistence that Buddhists live up to his standards.

Dharmapala’s universalizing mission depended on the historical moment. Steamships and trains made traveling long distances practical, the printing press allowed him to distribute his ideas widely, and an international postal system allowed him to do so quickly.18 Wherever he happened to be residing, he was able to send forth not only the weekly Sinhala Bauddhaya articles, regular contributions to the Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society and the United Buddhist World, and the English-language newspaper he established in 1911 but also a prolific stream of letters to supporters, newspaper editors, and colonial officials. He lived a life of few possessions. He wore his robes and underclothes until they were tattered. He cut his own hair. His eyeglasses broke, and he decided not to replace them. His one indulgence was fountain pens, which he purchased frequently and gave away just as often. When the typewriter became available, he became an early adopter. Before he constructed his camping car, he made preaching tours of the villages of Lanka, traveling by oxcart. The cart had uses beyond transport. At night he mounted a gramophone and magic lantern on it and projected images on a bedsheet of sacred places in India, Burma, Japan, and other parts of the island of Sri Lanka, talking to people about his travels to Buddhist places as well as Europe and America.19 After the show, he slept in the cart.

In India Dharmapala pursued projects with enthusiasm at least equal to that of his work at home – recovering the place in North India where the Buddha had his enlightenment, building a temple at the place where he preached his first sermon and another temple in Calcutta, establishing a movement to restore the sasana (the Buddha’s teaching and its institutional context) to India. In these contexts, he associated with elite Bengalis who were intellectually drawn to Buddhism and congenial to Dharmapala because of their common ties to the Theosophical Society. His challenge was convincing Bengalis who had no intention of becoming Buddhists to support a specifically Buddhist cause. The moment was favorable to Bengalis taking an interest in a religion not their own, but it was only a moment. In Calcutta he established the Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society and the United Buddhist World, the title announcing his hopes for drawing Buddhists into a pan-Asian community linked to supporters in Europe and America (Calcutta itself was not home to any Buddhist community except for a small number of Arakanese and Chinese). The journal was almost entirely his own operation -– he wrote many of the articles, solicited and edited the others. He used it for his purposes: shaping Buddhist opinion worldwide, publicizing his views, criticizing his enemies, publishing articles by Western scholars on the array of Buddhisms next to news of the British Empire and marriages in his own family. In a similar way, the Maha Bodhi Society was his society, he its only full-time worker and the person who made ends meet.

The worldwide reach of the Maha Bodhi Society gave him a vehicle to pursue the great cause of his life, putting the weight of the world’s Buddhists behind recovering Bodh Gaya, the place in North India where the Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. The sense of having lost a precious resource made the struggle poignant, and he sought redress in modern contexts – British colonial administrative and legal systems, newspapers, lectures he gave on his travels, and the salons of well-to-do people he met in the West. In the Bodh Gaya case Buddhists took the offensive, putting a group of Saivite world renouncers on notice that Buddhists would no longer tolerate the old accommodation. Despite British sympathy for the Buddhist cause, the legal issue was straightforward. The Saivites held a deed to the place. The struggle spilled outside the courtroom, serving to define two religious communities, Hindu and Buddhist. In other parts of India a set of interlinked, continent-wide Hindu pilgrimage sites have served not only to rally a religious community to a cause. Such struggles have allowed Indians of different kinds to see themselves as Hindus, insisting that a sacred space now in the hands of a cruel and demonic other must be returned to its rightful owners.20 The struggle for Bodh Gaya had wider implications, inserting non-Indian Buddhists into Indian affairs. That intervention was still more consequential because it came at a time of diplomatic tension among Britain, China, and Japan.

Returning Buddhist attention to Bodh Gaya was poetic because it was the place from which Buddhism had begun and spread across Asia. But now that place belonged to the Hindu other. The initial diffusion of Buddhism across Asia began some two hundred years BCE and ran to the thirteenth century CE or so, creating the landscape of Asia before the colonial period. Benedict Anderson speaks of the effects of certain religions -– Christianity and Islam are his chief examples -– as universalisms that played similar roles around the world. He calls them “great transcontinental sodalities,” linking people in far-flung places in communities that were held together by a script language offering access to the highest truths, sacred sites and kings who ruled by divine warrant, and a sense of temporality that merged history and cosmology.21 The diffusion of Buddhism meant that since early in the Common Era there had been a community of Buddhists – their considerable differences duly noted – spanning South and East Asia. These communities were more notional than administrative, but displacing these identities from people’s minds, Anderson says, was essential to making space for the nineteenth-century rise of the nation-state.22

For reasons that are more historical than philosophical, nationalism complicated Dharmapala’s universalizing project. As Lanka’s leading nationalist campaigned to create a united Buddhist world, he needed to gain the cooperation of people themselves energized and reshaped by nationalist feelings. His challenges included not only nationalism but also the proliferation of other universalisms. To make a united Buddhist world Dharmapala had to engage with the British imperium, Theosophy, Christianity, and Western civilization. Each interacted with Dharmapala’s own universalizing project, but I will concentrate on Theosophy and the British Empire in successive chapters, not ignoring Christianity and Western civilization altogether, but seeing both in their relationship to Theosophy and empire. My goal is to lay out the interaction of these contrary forces. Seeing Dharmapala only in a Sri Lankan context has led to his life’s being misconstrued by scholars and nationalists alike. But the antidote is not assuming that locating Dharmapala outside of Sri Lanka allows us access to his universalism. The antidote involves recognizing that he negotiated a variety of universalisms and particularisms both in Sri Lanka and beyond.

This peculiar linking-together of opposites -- knowledge with ignorance, cynicism with fanaticism -- is one of the chief distinguishing marks of Oceanic society. The official ideology abounds with contradictions even when there is no practical reason for them. Thus, the Party rejects and vilifies every principle for which the Socialist movement originally stood, and it chooses to do this in the name of Socialism. It preaches a contempt for the working class unexampled for centuries past, and it dresses its members in a uniform which was at one time peculiar to manual workers and was adopted for that reason. It systematically undermines the solidarity of the family, and it calls its leader by a name which is a direct appeal to the sentiment of family loyalty. Even the names of the four Ministries by which we are governed exhibit a sort of impudence in their deliberate reversal of the facts. The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy; they are deliberate exercises in doublethink. For it is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely. In no other way could the ancient cycle be broken. If human equality is to be for ever averted -- if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently -- then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.

-- Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), by George Orwell


Understanding Dharmapala outside of Sri Lanka does not give us a different Dharmapala. It simply gives us more Dharmapala.

When the nation-state became a worldwide phenomenon in the nineteenth century, new nations developed against the background of these universalisms. The spread of the national idea was modular and reiterative, emergent nations imitating the older ones, dividing the landscape into relatively smaller social units, typically bound together by a common language and the idea that citizens shared a common identity, usually ethnic or religious. Anderson’s argument to the contrary, the rise of nationalism did not altogether displace these older forms of community.23 It simply complicated them. Since the First World War, for instance, universalism called people to identities and practices that made distinctions among nation-states (“We [the citizens of Japan or Turkey, to cite well known cases] are now civilized and deserve equality with Western nations”) or that functioned both beyond and within the nation-state (“We are reformed Hindus, brothers and sisters to our coreligionists in India, but equally much Indonesians”). The immediate issue is how a Buddhism of universal aspirations was joined to the Buddhism of national identity. Did any Buddhist ever say, “We are Sinhala patriots, but also future members of an united Buddhist world”?

Practical problems beset the activist who assumes the role of nationalist at home and universalist abroad. One arises in respect to dealing with other kinds of people. “What distinguishes the civilizational idea from nationalism,” Prasenjit Duara writes, “is its appeal to a higher transcendent source of value and authority, capable of encompassing the Other.”24 The same definition works as well for “religion,” assuming a distinction between what the word “transcendent” references in each instance. In the case of religion, the transcendent source “transcends” in the sense of emanating from, and resonating with, the ultimate conditions of existence. A civilization, by contrast, makes its claim to value and authority on a more worldly basis, transcendent in another sense and residing in this world, not the other. China offered outlying communities access to prestigious forms of value and identity with the adoption of Han practices for everyday behavior, ranging from ancestor veneration to eating with chopsticks. Buddhism provides an example of a religious universalism, spread by offering non-Buddhist communities access to practices of value and authority through venerating the founder, his teachings, and the monks who embodied his example. There is no reason why these two forms of universalist practice cannot be joined (or utilized by Western colonial regimes). The British colonial model came to combine both, legitimating rule over faraway societies in terms of a civilizational project that promised peace, protection of property rights, and religious freedom. As the nineteenth century went on, that project was joined to a religious one (in the form of the Christian faiths then being proselytized in the colonies).

The conflict between universalism and nationalism produced a clear winner. The nationalisms do not need to be named because they have given us the landscape of a world made of nation-states and revolutionary movements still struggling to forge their own. The nineteenth-century universalisms do not rush to mind, but there has been a full complement of examples –- Esperanto, Baha’ism, vegetarianism, universal international arbitration, Theosophy,….

"The Semites ... are ... degenerate in spirituality and perfected in materiality. To these belong the Jews and Arabs. The former are a tribe descended from the Chandals of India, the outcasts, many of them ex-Brahmins, who sought refuge in Chaldea, Scinde, and Iran, and were truly born from their father Abraham (no Brahmin.) ….

Human crossing may have been a general rule from the time of the separation of sexes, and yet that other law may assert itself, viz., sterility between two human races, just as between two animal species of various kinds, in those rare cases when a European, condescending to see in a female of a savage tribe a mate, happebs to choose a member of such mixed tribes. Darwin notes such a case in a Tasmanian tribe, whose women were suddenly struck with sterility, en masse, some time after the arrival among them of the European colonists. The great naturalist tried to explain this fact by change of diet, food, conditions, etc., but finally gave up the solution of the mystery. For the occultist it is a very evident one. "Crossing", as it is called, of Europeans with Tasmanian women -- i.e, the representatives of a race, whose progenitors were a "soulless" and mindless monster and a real human, though still as mindless a man -- brought on sterility. This, not alone as a consequence of a physiological law, but also as a decree of Karmic evolution in the question of further survival of the abnormal race...

It is a most suggestive fact -- to those concrete thinkers who demand a physical proof of Karma -- that the lowest races of men are now rapidly dying out; a phenomenon largely due to an extraordinary sterility setting in among the women, from the time that they were first approached by the Europeans. A process of decimation is taking place all over the globe, among those races, whose "time is up" -- among just those stocks, be it remarked, which esoteric philosophy regards as the senile representatives of lost archaic nations. It is inaccurate to maintain that the extinction of a lower race is invariably due to cruelties or abuses perpetrated by colonists. Change of diet, drunkenness, etc., etc., have done much; but those who rely on such data as offering an all-sufficient explanation of the crux, cannot meet the phalanx of facts now so closely arrayed. "Nothing", says even the materialist Lefevre, "can save those that have run their course .. It would be necessary to extend their destined cycle ... The peoples that have been spared ... Hawaiians or Maories, have been no less decimated than the tribes massacred or tainted by European intrusion." (“Philosophy,” p. 508.)

True; but is not the phenomenon here confirmed of the operation of CYCLIC LAW difficult to account for on materialist lines? Whence the “destined cycle” and the order here testified to? Why does this (Karmic) sterility attack and root out certain races at their “appointed hour”? The answer that it is due to a “mental disproportion” between the colonizing and aboriginal races is obviously evasive, since it does not explain the sudden “checks to fertility” which so frequently supervene. The dying out of the Hawaiians, for instance, is one of the most mysterious problems of the day. Ethnology will sooner or later have to recognize with Occultists that the true solution has to be sought for in a comprehension of the workings of Karma. As Lefevre remarks, “the time is drawing near when there will remain nothing but three great human types” (before the Sixth Root-Race dawns), the white (Aryan, Fifth Root-Race), the yellow, and the African negro — with their crossings (Atlanto-European divisions). Redskins, Eskimos, Papuans, Australians, Polynesians, etc., etc. — all are dying out. Those who realize that every Root-Race runs through a gamut of seven sub-races with seven branchlets, etc., will understand the “why.” The tide-wave of incarnating EGOS has rolled past them to harvest experience in more developed and less senile stocks; and their extinction is hence a Karmic necessity…..

On the data furnished by modern science, physiology, and natural selection, and without resorting to any miraculous creation, two negro human specimens of the lowest intelligence — say idiots born dumb — might by breeding produce a dumb Pastrana species, which would start a new modified race, and thus produce in the course of geological time the regular anthropoid ape….

[F]rom the first appearance of the Aryan race, when the Pliocene portions of the once great Atlantis began gradually sinking and other continents to appear on the surface, down to the final disappearance of Plato’s small island of Atlantis, the Aryan races had never ceased to fight with the descendants of the first giant races….

[T]he progeny of the giants who produced monstra quaedam de genere giganteo, monsters from whence sprang the lower races of men, now represented on earth by a few miserable dying-out tribes and the huge anthropoid apes.


-- The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy, by Helena P. Blavatsky


antivivisectionism, animal-rights campaigns, as well as other movements that worked against the grain of both nationalism and other localisms.

Around the shrines dedicated to the Himalayan Masters clustered many smaller tabernacles dedicated to anti-vivisection, vegetarianism, and a new social order.

-- The Occult Establishment, by James Webb


The list has a quixotic quality, exacerbated by the decline of these movements’ fortunes over the last century. If I add international labor, Marxist, socialist, anti-imperial and anarchist movements, the list of universalizing movements suddenly profits from including movements with larger influence joined to the same high ideals. What recommends all of these projects from the whimsical to the deadly earnest is neither politics nor its absence but their common commitment to reason, human dignity, social reform, and hope.25 A disproportionate number emerged in the late nineteenth century.
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Re: Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala, by Steven

Postby admin » Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:39 am

Part 2 of 5

Universalism has been further reshaped by another development, the rise of “world religions,” and this notion has had effects on both the nation-state and processes that operate beyond it.26 There were “religions of the world” – in the sense of great transcontinental sodalities – long before there were “world religions” according to Tomoko Masuzawa’s definition. Her focus falls on “world religions” as a discursive formation by which religions were made commensurate. Because the commentators were typically Christians, they took their own religion as the paradigm, organizing (and often inventing) their knowledge of other traditions on a Christian matrix. A world religion naturally has a dogma or coherent set of beliefs. Its adherents bring an exclusive orientation to that religion. It is organized around sacred places and pilgrimage. But comparison itself had effects on both the study of religion and the missionary enterprise:

One of the most consequential effects of this discourse is that it spiritualizes what are material practices and turns them into expressions of something timeless and suprehistorical, which is to say, it depoliticizes them.27


The Buddhism Dharmapala carried to India, other parts of Asia, and the West, was a world religion in just this sense. It was Buddhism spiritualized. That said, the depoliticizing effects of the “world religion” idiom hardly applies to his work at home. When he approached the Buddhism of his own people, he took it as anything but timeless. In the nineteenth century it had been driven to ruin by Christian missionaries and colonial domination, and the religion he struggled for in Lanka was a Buddhism remade politically and economically.

The commensuration of Asian religions had real-world advantages. Having Buddhism defined as a world religion and Southern Buddhism (which he came to represent) defined as distinct from Northern (embodied in the persons of several Japanese monks and laymen) got him invited to the World’s Parliament of Religions –- even though Theosophy was not.

The Theosophical Society was represented by the Vice-President of the society, William Quan Judge and by activist Annie Besant…. Absent from this event were Native American religious figures, Sikhs and other Indigenous and Earth centered religionists.

-- Parliament of the World's Religions, by Wikipedia


An important influence on western spirituality was Neo-Vedanta, also called neo-Hinduism, a modern religious movement inspired by the ecstatic visionary experiences of Sri Ramakrishna (1836 – 1886) and his beloved disciple Swami Vivekananda (1863 – 1902). It was Vivekananda who coined the term “Hinduism” to describe a faith of diverse and myriad beliefs of Indian tradition. Also a Freemason, Vivekananda was a key figure in the introduction of Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the western world. Vivekananda taught the doctrine of the unity of all religions, and is perhaps best known for a speech at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893, the first attempt to create a global dialogue of faiths. Vivekananda quoted two passages from the Shiva mahimna stotram: “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take, through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee!” and “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths that in the end lead to Me.”[2]

In addition to Vivekananda, the Parliament of the World’s Religions was dominated by the Theosophists and their counterparts among the representatives of neo-Vedanta and Buddhist Modernism. According to K. Paul Johnson, the Parliament gave Theosophists “a breakthrough into public acceptance and awareness which had hardly seemed possible a few years before.”[3] Colonel Olcott shared his sentiments in Old Diary Leaves, “How great a success it was for us and how powerfully it stimulated public interest in our views will be recollected by all our older members.” Several of the World Parliament’s speakers on behalf of international religions had been Theosophists, such as Dharmapala and Kinza Hirai, who represented Buddhism, Mohammed Webb for Islam, and Chakravarti for the Hindus. In his 1921 history of the Theosophical movement, René Guénon wrote that after the 1893 Parliament, “the Theosophists seemed very satisfied with the excellent occasion for propaganda afforded them in Chicago, and they even went so far as to proclaim that “the true Parliament of Religions had been, in fact, the Theosophical Congress.”
[4]

-- The Untold Story of Gandhi and Theosophy, by David Livingstone


The occasion put a relatively young and underprepared layman in a position of equality with venerable figures. Many – Dharmapala, the Japanese Buddhist delegation, and Swami Vivekananda – would continue to encounter one another after the parliament. Commensuration produced a formal equality that was not realized in practice. The parliament’s organizers were explicit about their motives:

As any wise missionary in Bombay or Madras would be glad to gather beneath the shelter of his roof the scholarly and sincere representatives of the Hindu religions, so Christian America invites to the shelter of her hospitable roof … the spiritual leaders of mankind … though light has no fellowship with darkness, light does have fellowship with twilight … and those who have the full light of the Cross should bear brotherly hearts toward all who grope in a dimmer illumination.28


As Masuzawa has argued, the parliament was the most spectacular expression of the comparative project applied to religion, preserving Western advantage in a language of pluralism.

Dharmapala learned a lot of what he knew about Buddhism from texts, most of which were written in English and the work of Western scholars.29 From those texts he acquired a sense of Buddhism’s structural congruence with Western religions. He read Ernest Eitel and learned that one European thought that Buddhist morality was second only to Christian;30 he traveled to the Parliament of Religions with a copy of The Light of Asia, which provided him an account of the Buddha as a human being (Diary, August 3, 1893).31 Arnold’s treatment of the Buddha’s greatness gave Dharmapala hope that he could engage Westerners from a position of equality.

"Theosophical Propaganda": Personal propaganda can be a very large field of Theosophical activity, and, indeed, it is worthy of great spiritual stature, since it is concerned with quickening the evolution of humanity as a whole. Being a field in which discretion and real wisdom is required, a consideration of some of its difficulties may be worth while.

Of course, the best medium for the propaganda of the ancient wisdom is the advanced human Ego, who radiantly illustrates the teachings by his very presence. But most of us are very much on the same evolutionary stage of earth life, and as regards the propagation of Theosophy, we have to rely on our presentation of the teachings, and the sincerity and warmth and conviction we can summon to our expressions. And it is a position of great responsibility, (possibly more so than we realize) to be the medium whereby a mind contacts these archaic truths, perhaps for the first time in such wealth of detail. Responsibility because, while untold good can be achieved by such contact, yet clumsy and unsuitable methods can certainly do harm. I have not witnessed very many first contacts with Theosophy, but I am sure of how extremely crucial this period is, during which great care and thoughtful handling is necessary. Admittedly, the Theosophist sometimes meets that type of mind which is very "ripe" for many of the teachings — a mind very easily convinced of their veracity because of its own proximity to them. Yet, while the Theosophical propagandist is particularly on the look out for such minds, they are a minority usually among the enquirers and people whom he contacts.

One of the main difficulties is to impart Theosophical thoughts without coloring them with any personal paint. It is of extreme importance that they should be given to the enquirer exactly as they had been previously received. An enquiring mind, rejecting a personal opinion or idea which he has been given as part of the Theosophical doctrines, may be repelled from Theosophy as a whole because of this indigestible item. This is why it is so necessary to become as much as possible a living illustration of Theosophy. A wide discrepancy between the teachings and the personality explaining them can have a similar bad effect.

Another difficulty of equal importance arises from the inertia of thought in the human mind. The old phrase "casts of mind" expresses it admirably. It is when these "casts of mind" are concerned, that I think the greatest amount of wisdom and thought is required. They cannot ever be overcome by rough methods such as challenging them directly, but must be destroyed by softening the mind gradually to sensitiveness to new thoughts, all achieved with stepping as little as possible on mental toes. Perhaps I am not being explicit enough when I speak of not challenging these "casts of mind" directly. What I mean is that very rarely is it enough to say, in so many words "Here are the Theosophical teachings, you will have to scrap your previous views." This is also what I am thinking of when I speak of "stepping on mental toes." And it is not just silly sentimentality — very far from it. It is all because of what we call openmindedness, that attribute of the mind whereby it is more or less respondent, impressionable to new thought. To become most "open" the mind must have a certain sympathetic adjustment with another, adjustment never achieved by mere parrot fashion reiteration of Theosophical teachings. One of the main essentials of this adjustment is a great respect for the other's view, a respect, which, if amounting to an intimate realization of the other's general outlook, can be even more effective.

I think it is an Eastern method of teaching, in which the teacher, by asking a few questions, gains a fair idea of his student's own mental tendencies and opinions. Then, forgetting temporarily his own thoughts, he tunes his mind to that of his student, using his resources of imagination, and step by successive step he brings his student's mind to those thoughts he wished to impart, stopping at any ungrasped idea, and dwelling on it until it is understood before continuing Well, although there can never be hard and fast rules made, I think something of the sort is often needed in personal propaganda. The Theosophical propagandist, who takes these traits of the human mind into consideration, is employing real wisdom in the job in hand.

-- Theosophical Propaganda, by Frank Watson, The Theosophical Forum, May 1942


Even before he read The Light of Asia, he had read Arnold’s Return to India, which described the ruination to which Bodh Gaya had fallen. In Western contexts he found a cause, representing Buddhism to the world at large and renewing it in the land where it originated. Every world religion had a sacred center; Bodh Gaya was the Buddhist Mecca, but it belonged to a community of Saivite renouncers. Returning the place to Buddhists would return Buddhism to India. The Buddhism Dharmapala wanted to install there would be a universalized Buddhism. It would be neither sectarian nor national, its universality enabled by remaining undefined.

The desire to live being the cause of rebirth, when that is extinguished rebirths cease and the perfected individual attains by meditation that highest state of peace called Nirvāna.

-- The Buddhist Catechism, by Henry S. Olcott


The “world religioning” of Bodh Gaya had another effect, allowing Dharmapala to ignore the fact that Bodh Gaya had functioned historically as part of a set of political and economic formations. The place was embedded in those relationships when the Buddhists held it, and it came to be embedded in a new set of relationships as Buddhists disappeared from India. When the Tibetan Dharmasvamin reached Bodh Gaya in the thirteenth century, he found the shrine in disrepair and only a few monks living there. The Buddhist presence soon disappeared altogether, and between 1590 and 1690 Saivite monks of the Dasanami order established a math (monastery) at the place. In 1727 a Mughal prince gave the Saivites a deed to the temple and its environs, and their rights from that point on were confirmed by the kind of evidence – property rights established by a written document – that the British thought counted. When Dharmapala first visited in 1891, the place had been reembedded in a set of colonial political and economic arrangements, and in that formation the Saivites’ rights were hard to deny. The strangeness of the arrangement – the central place in the history of Buddhism now controlled by Hinduas –- and the sympathy shown him by Englishmen from Arnold to Lord Curzon made him downplay the Saivites’ legal advantages. Even the archaeological office reconstruction of the place in 1883 gave him further reason for hope. The British knew the importance of the place, and they would surely restore it to its rightful owners.

Imperial Citizenship

Comparing one religion to another had benefits for religious actors as well as scholars. For one thing, emphasizing a religion’s spiritual content made it available for missionizing. Even though Dharmapala was less of a missionary than he might have been, he characterized his work as missionizing, and his plan was to station Buddhist monks in the temples he established. He converted only two people in his lifetime, and when he spoke of returning Buddhism to India, he usually had in mind recovering Bodh Gaya, not growing the number of Indian Buddhists. In the West he spoke of conversion as irrelevant to his mission. He understood Buddhism as an energetic, expansive religion, but the mission consisted in Dhammadana (the gift of Dhamma), putting the Buddha’s teachings on offer, making them present in new parts of the world, not conversion itself.32 From his perspective, what motivated both spreading the Dhamma and recovering Bodh Gaya derived from a sense that Buddhism was a “spiritual” tradition, ready to be carried to new places and logically the only tradition to belong at Bodh Gaya.

India’s connection to a Buddhist past aside, the subcontinent was part of an empire and that empire allowed Dharmapala to pursue his campaign in English and in tandem with Indian and British scholars, civil servants, and citizens of the Raj sympathetic to the religion.33 Having a place in the empire gave him the possibility of claiming “a language (if not a status) of citizenship on the very virtue of its denial, [foregrounding] the imperial aegis as the basis for delineating universal ideals of citizenship.”34 The same double game -– leveraging the rights of imperial subjects to conclusions the masters of empire would not countenance but that followed logically from those they would consider -– was even more the case for Dharmapala when he moved to London in 1926 to share the Dhamma with the British.

gobbledegook: wordy and generally unintelligible jargon.

-- gobbledegook, by Merriam-Webster


At its grandest, carrying Buddhism to the British put him in roles both civic and religious. He would carry Buddhism into the heart of the empire and show the British the kind of compassion they had not shown Buddhists and other people in the colonies. He imagined effects at a distance – having understood the Buddha’s compassion, English Buddhists would no longer tolerate the brutal treatment of Buddhists in Lanka.

Sukanya Banerjee has argued that in Dharmapala’s time the way elite Indians saw themselves as citizens of the empire was soon overwhelmed by the rise of Indian nationalism. To make the case, she investigates two autobiographical accounts, Surendranath Banerjea’s Nation in the Making and Cornelia Sorabiji’s India Calling, Bannerjea and Sorabji’s memoirs articulated the universalist ideal of citizenship, moving their positions as subjects toward citizenship as a rights-bearing category. The moderate Bengali legislator framed citizenship in a parliamentary idiom, just as India’s first female attorney (and the first Indian woman to study law at Oxford) spoke of vocational choice in a professional one. When Sorabji found her path to becoming an attorney blocked, she invoked her status as a citizen of the empire. However much both visions of imperial citizenship were supplanted by nationalist citizenship, Banerjee argues that more modest aspirations such as inclusion in the Indian civil service marked the beginning of nationalist political development. Her conclusion is pertinent. It was empire, “rather than a pre-existing prototype of the nation that generated a consciousness of the formal equality of citizenship.”35 The British set in motion contradictory aspirations – inclusion in the empire as equals and construction of colonies as prospective nation-states free from British domination.

If the British were able to make plausible a vision of equality and inclusion, they were equally good at inflicting prejudice and petty insult on the subjects of the empire who were most interested in citizenship and equality. Dharmapala’s travels were regularly unsettled by confrontations with supercilious British civilians, civil servants, drunken soldiers, and unthinking travelers who treated him as a curiosity or inferior. Almost all of these incidents happed in India, many on trains or at train stations, or more generally as he traveled, converting impromptu opportunities for temporary solidarity and equality into moments of humiliation. There is no doubt that these incidents wounded him: in his diaries and notebooks he periodically wrote out lists of these encounters, always noting the severity of his response, which included throwing a Englishman’s liquor bottle from a moving train on one occasion and pushing a person out of a compartment while the train stood in the station on another. The imperium was uneven and uncoordinated, its brutalities emerging irregularly from assumptions about the relationship of colonizers and colonized. Doris Lessing recalls the preposterousness of it all: “How very careless, how lazy, how indifferent the British Empire was, how lightly it took on vast countries and millions of people.”36 The counterpoint to lightness was those moments when the British encountered the people of their colonies – often well-to-do and traveling on trains or steamers – and misused them.

Banerjee argues that Dadabhai Naoroji’s political critique, Poverty and Un-British Rule in India, reveals another side of the paradox implicit in Dharmapala’s project, that “the universal ideal of citizenship … chooses the particularized category of the nation-state to announce its universality.”37 Naoroji had a language to encompass both empire and its constituent parts. Conceiving of the empire as the body politic, Naoroji envisioned the body constituted of colonies, held together by the principles of classical political economy. In Poverty and Un-British Rule in India, he argued that Britain was draining India’s wealth and thus bleeding it to death, moving repeatedly between the blood that sustained the body politic and the capital that sustained its economy. Banerjee points out that Naoroji was not hostile to the English presence in India. He endorsed it, and wanted that presence increased, uring the English to consider India their home, their interests brought into alignment with India’s.38 What he railed against were English people who behaved as “strangers” and “invaders.”

The affinity between Naoroji and Dharmapala goes beyond their common response to British condescension. Both saw themselves as imperial citizens, Naoroji using the discourse of political economy to argue that draining the wealth of India was bad not only for the colony but also for the metropole. The exploitation of India had simultaneous effects in both places, threatening the metropole’s financial position, its citizens’ well-being, and the moral claims implicit in British identity – thus the title of Naoroji’s book. What made the poverty of India a threat to the economic health of England was simply that the empire was a corporate entity. Prosperity, he argued, was key to the empire’s health, and it depended on British sympathy for, and fellow feeling with, Indians. Dharmapala, by contrast, made his case for the body imperial by speaking in Buddhist terms, arguing for British sympathy as the foundation of Britain’s own moral progress. Political economy, professionalism, bureaucracy, and travel from one part of the empire to another all carry the signs of rational modernity. Each context offers distinct rhetorical advantages for making claims to citizenship. South Asians fought for citizenship in many ways, and two South Asians – Gandhi and Dharmapala – found ways to use asceticism to assert the universalist ideal of citizenship.

In 1913 Dharmapala visited parts of China then under Japanese occupation. From Tientsin, he wrote to His Majesty George V, identifying himself as a Buddhist missionary “born in Ceylon, of Sinhala parents, working for the welfare of all Buddhists in Asia, especially Ceylon, and trying to resuscitate Buddhism in India.” In the balance of the letter, he developed themes familiar from his public addresses as well as articles in the Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society and the Sinhala Bauddhaya: The “Government pass[es] such laws as are prejudicial to the progress of the people,” destroying location education in favor of vernacular schools, drawing tax revenue from the liquor trade that profits only the British officials, helping British colonials while the “sons of the soil” are treated as “aborigines and savages.” The legislation of Governor Sir West Ridgeway’s administration took land from villagers and left them “wandering as vagrants.” The government takes revenue from the people but does not give: “There are no technical schools, no industrial schools, no agricultural schools, no weaving schools, and this after 100 years of British Rule!” His arguments were well meant if not always politically astute. He concluded with a reference to the proper use of colonia possessions: “Japan is showing what a civilized nation could accomplish in colonies. Formosa and Korea are instances,” making the case for the leading Asian example of “civilization.”39

Once Dharmapala is removed from the national context, “civilization” comes into view as a central idea in understanding his life’s work. Where Buddhism distinguished Sinhalas from Christians – British and Sri Lankan alike – civilization gave Buddhists a claim to equality with the British. Civilization united the metropole and the colony and made them commensurate. The British had their civilization, and Sinhala Buddhists had theirs, even if now fallen into disrepair.

Dharmapala portrayed the imperium by tying everything together in the person of the king:

The Sinhalese are a loyal people and they are absolutely loyal to your Majesty. But it is not to be expected that the Sinhalese will see in every Englishman in Ceylon the personality of the King, and this is what every white man that hails from a British colony or from Great Britain expects from the native Sinhalese.40


In quick order, Dharmapala moved from the body politic as worldwide political and economic formation, an array of colonies being sucked dry by taxation and land appropriation without reciprocity, to the colony in terms of either education or sympathy. Leaving the imperial formation behind, he reduced colonial relations to three persons – the king, Sinhalas, and the Englishmen they see in lieu of the king. Looking upon the king, those subjects feel absolute loyalty. They simply cannot feel the same affection for the local official who thinks he is king. Those officials have insulted Sinhalas by taking them for savages, denying the kind of education that they most need (and that the West –- Dharmapala is thinking of America and Japan – can provide), and corrupting them with the arrack shops that supply the empire with tax revenue, while leaving the locals destitute.

Dealing with the monarchy, Dharmapala spoke as subject, not citizen. He insisted on his loyalty, which he demonstrated by conferring face to face with colonial officials, offering unsolicited advice by mail, sending the secretary of state for the colonies a copy of his booklet The Arya Dharma, and lending the empire financial support – buying war bonds during the First World War, donating his own money to the war effort, adding substantial amounts of Maha Bodhi funds, and making donations of cloth for flood relief. Just as often he approached the colonial state with a petition, writing to an array of British officials, from local administrators to the governor in Lanaka, local magistrates to the viceroy in India, and the secretary of state for the colonies and King George back in England. While in Calcutta he wrote to colonial officials about the 1915 riots in Lanak, sending three petitions to Whitehall and asking for an independent commission to look into the incident. The administrative cover page to the letter in the Colonial Office lays out a bureaucrat’s response to his petition: “This scoundrel is suspected of being more responsible for the riots than anybody else.”41 Whatever influence Dharmapala exerted on the riots, it was indirect because he had left the island a year earlier.

When he spoke to Sinhala audiences, he was usually contemptuous of the British, but his official letters were courteous and expressed loyalty to the empire. Colonial officials misread his intentions, he insisted, in the same way they had misread the character of the 1915 riots:

The riots in Ceylon had no political bearing. It was religious. But the causes have not been traced as yet, why such a loyal people as the Sinhalese have been after a hundred years of settled government, that they should throughout the Island rise against only a particular community should be soberly inquired into.42


In 1915 British officials had suspicions about his connections to Germans and Japanese (and in one case to the Russians). Dharmapala saw those relationships as religious – he had written to a Russian official trying to locate a Buryat lama. As he traveled to places such as Japan, he met the usual collection of foreigners with social causes, usually associated with religion. British intelligence gathering on him was unreliable, but it discovered that he met the Indian revolutionary figure Mohammed Barakatullah in Japan. Dharmapala was fully aware of, and put off by, Barakatullah’s efforts to spread Islam in Japan. But his reaction to the man derived from his feeling that Islam was “unsuited to civilized people,” not Barakatullah’s revolutionary aspirations.43

Organisations founded in the United States and in Japan emulated the example of London's India House. Krishna Varma nurtured close interactions with Turkish and Egyptian nationalists and with Clan na Gael in the United States. The joint efforts of Mohammed Barkatullah, S. L. Joshi and George Freeman founded the Pan-Aryan Association — modelled after Krishna Varma's Indian Home Rule Society — in New York in 1906. Barkatullah himself had become closely associated with Krishna Varma during a previous stay in London, and his subsequent career in Japan put him at the heart of Indian political activities there. Myron Phelps [Myron H. Phelps, a Broadway (New York) lawyer)], an acquaintance of Krishna Varma and an admirer of Swami Vivekananda, founded an "India House" in Manhattan in New York in January 1908...

In September 1913 a Ghadarite named Mathra Singh visited Shanghai to promote the nationalist cause amongst Indians there, followed by a visit to India in January 1914 when Singh circulated Ghadar literature amongst Indian soldiers through clandestine sources before leaving for Hong Kong. Singh reported that the situation in India as favourable for revolution.

By October 1914, many Ghadarites had returned to India and were assigned tasks like contacting Indian revolutionaries and organisations, spreading propaganda and literature, and arranging to get arms into the country. The first group of 60 Ghadarites led by Jawala Singh, left San Francisco for Canton aboard the steamship Korea on 29 August. They were to sail on to India, where they would be provided with arms to organise a revolt. At Canton, more Indians joined, and the group, now numbering about 150, sailed for Calcutta on a Japanese vessel. They were to be joined by more Ghadarites arriving in smaller groups. During September and October, about 300 Indians left for India in various ships like SS Siberia, Chinyo Maru, China, Manchuria, SS Tenyo Maru, SS Mongolia and SS Shinyo Maru. Although the Korea's party itself was uncovered and arrested on arrival at Calcutta, a successful underground network was established between the United States and India, through Shanghai, Swatow, and Siam. Tehl Singh, the Ghadar operative in Shanghai, is believed to have spent $30,000 for helping the revolutionaries to get into India. The Ghadarites in India were able to establish contact with sympathisers within the British Indian Army as well as build networks with underground revolutionary groups.
….

The revolutionaries started negotiations with the Chinese government through James Dietrich, who held Sun Yat-sen's power of attorney, to buy a million rifles. However, the deal fell through when it was realised that the weapons offered were obsolete flintlocks and muzzle loaders. From China, Gupta went to Japan to try to procure arms and to enlist Japanese support for the Indian independence movement. However, he was forced into hiding within 48 hours when he came to know that the Japanese authorities planned to hand him over to the British. Later reports indicated he was protected at this time by Toyama Mitsuru right-wing political leader and founder of the Genyosha nationalist secret society.

The Indian Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, a strong supporter of Pan-Asianism, met Japanese premier Count Terauchi and Count Okuma, a former premier, in an attempt to enlist support for the Ghadarite movement.
Tarak Nath Das urged Japan to align with Germany, on the grounds that American war preparation could actually be directed against Japan. Later in 1915, Abani Mukherji— a Jugantar activist and associate of Rash Behari Bose— is also known to have tried unsuccessfully to arrange for arms from Japan. The ascendancy of Li Yuanhong to Chinese Presidency in 1916, led to the negotiations reopening through his former private secretary who resided in the United States at the time. In exchange for allowing arms shipments to India via China's borders, China was offered German military assistance and the rights to 10% of any material shipped to India via China. The negotiations were ultimately unsuccessful due to Sun Yat Sen's opposition to an alliance with Germany...

In the United States, an elaborate plan and arrangement was made to ship arms from the country and from the Far East through Shanghai, Batavia, Bangkok and Burma. Even while Herambalal Gupta was on his mission in China and Japan, other plans were explored to ship arms from the United States and East Asia. The German high command decided early on that assistance to the Indian groups would be pointless unless given on a substantial scale. In October 1914, German Vice Consul E.H von Schack in San Francisco approved the arrangements for funds and armaments. $200,000 worth of small arms and ammunition were acquired by the German military attaché Captain Franz von Papen through Krupp agents, and arranged for its shipment to India through San Diego, Java, and Burma. The arsenal included 8,080 Springfield rifles of Spanish–American War vintage, 2,400 Springfield carbines, 410 Hotchkiss repeating rifles, 4,000,000 cartridges, 500 Colt revolvers with 100,000 cartridges, and 250 Mauser pistols along with ammunition. The schooner Annie Larsen and the sailing ship SS Henry S were hired to ship the arms out of the United States and transfer it to the SS Maverick. The ownership of ships were hidden under a massive smokescreen involving fake companies and oil business in south-east Asia. For the arms shipment itself, a successful cover was set up to lead British agents to believe that the arms were for the warring factions of the Mexican Civil War. This ruse was successful enough that the rival Villa faction offered $15,000 to divert the shipment to a Villa-controlled port.….

In India, unaware of the delayed shipment and confident of being able to rally the Indian sepoy, the plot for the mutiny took its final shape. Under the plans, the 23rd Cavalry in Punjab was to seize weapons and kill their officers while on roll call on 21 February. This was to be followed by mutiny in the 26th Punjab, which was to be the signal for the uprising to begin, resulting in an advance on Delhi and Lahore. The Bengal cell was to look for the Punjab Mail entering the Howrah Station the next day (which would have been cancelled if Punjab was seized) and was to strike immediately. However, Punjab CID successfully infiltrated the conspiracy at the last moment through a sepoy named Kirpal Singh. Sensing that their plans had been compromised, D-Day was brought forward to 19 February, but even these plans found their way to the intelligence.
Plans for revolt by the 130th Baluchi Regiment at Rangoon on 21 January were thwarted. Attempted revolts in the 26th Punjab, 7th Rajput, 130th Baluch, 24th Jat Artillery and other regiments were suppressed. Mutinies in Firozpur, Lahore, and Agra were also suppressed and many key leaders of the conspiracy were arrested, although some managed to escape or evade arrest. A last-ditch attempt was made by Kartar Singh and V. G. Pingle to trigger a mutiny in the 12th Cavalry regiment at Meerut. Kartar Singh escaped from Lahore, but was arrested in Varanasi, and V. G. Pingle was apprehended in Meerut. Mass arrests followed as the Ghadarites were rounded up in Punjab and the Central Provinces. Rash Behari Bose escaped from Lahore and in May 1915 fled to Japan. Other leaders, including Giani Pritam Singh, Swami Satyananda Puri and others fled to Thailand.

On 15 February, the 5th Light Infantry stationed at Singapore was among the few units to mutiny successfully. Nearly eight hundred and fifty of its troops mutinied on the afternoon of the 15th, along with nearly a hundred men of the Malay States Guides. This mutiny lasted almost seven days, and resulted in the deaths of 47 British soldiers and local civilians. The mutineers also released the interned crew of the SMS Emden, who were asked by the mutineers to join them but refused and actually took up arms and defended the barracks after the mutineers had left (sheltering some British refugees as well) until the prison camp was relieved. The mutiny was suppressed only after French, Russian and Japanese ships arrived with reinforcements. Of 200 people tried at Singapore, 47 mutineers were shot in public executions,the rest were transported for life to East Africa. Most of the rest were deported for life or given jail terms ranging between seven and twenty years. In all 800 mutineers were either shot imprisoned or exiledSome historians, including Hew Strachan, argue that although Ghadar agents operated within the Singapore unit, the mutiny was isolated and not linked to the conspiracy. Others deem this as instigated by the Silk Letter Movement which became intricately related to the Ghadarite conspiracy.….

In December 1915, the Indian members founded the Provisional Government of India, which it was hoped would weigh on Habibullah's advisory council to aid India and force the Emir's hands. In January 1916, the Emir approved a draft treaty with Germany to buy time. However, the Central campaign in the Middle East faltered at around this time, ending hopes that an overland route through Persia could be secured for aid and assistance to Afghanistan. The German members of the mission left Afghanistan in June 1916, ending the German intrigues in the country. Nonetheless, Mahendra Pratap and his Provisional Government stayed behind, attempting to establish links with Japan, Republican China and Tsarist Russia. After the Russian revolution, Pratap opened negotiations with the Soviet Union, visiting Trotsky in Red Petrograd in 1918, and Lenin in Moscow in 1919 and he visited the Kaiser in Berlin in 1918. He pressed for a joint Soviet-German offensive through Afghanistan into India. This was considered by the Soviets for some time after the 1919 coup in Afghanistan in which Amanullah Khan was instated as the Emir and the third Anglo-Afghan war began. Pratap may also have influenced the "Kalmyk Project", a Soviet plan to invade India through Tibet and the Himalayan buffer states.

-- Hindu–German Conspiracy, by Wikipedia


Dharmapala had little feel for the ways his associations (not to mention his writings in the Sinhala Bauddhaya and his speeches) might be construed. He assumed that British suspicions about his loyalty were brought on by an article he wrote in the Sinhala Bauddhaya questioning the chastity of British women (Sarnath Notebook no. 23, Diary for 1918).44

In March 1896, in the San Francisco suburb of Oakland, the Sri Lankan Buddhist revivalist and missionary Hewavitarne (Anagarika) Dharmapala, on a lecture tour of the USA, met Countess Canavarro. Seeking spiritual sustenance, she struck him as determined and forceful. According to Tessa Bartholomeusz, four months after meeting her, Dharmapala proposed that she travel to Sri Lanka and establish an order of Buddhist “nuns”, and become full-time principal of the island’s first Buddhist girls’ high school, Sanghamitta, named for the first female Buddhist missionary to Sri Lanka.

On the evening of August 30, 1897, at the New Century Hall on New York’s Fifth Avenue, Dharmapala administered to the Countess Canavarro the five Buddhist precepts (pansil), making her the first female convert to Buddhism on American soil. Thus, she became the first in a new order of “Buddhist nuns” which Dharmapala wanted to create in Sri Lanka, some seven centuries after female ordination died out. She took on the enormously significant religious moniker “Sister Sanghamitta”, recalling the ancient missionary, as well as the school she intended to run….

Dharmapala and the Countess wanted to establish Sanghamitta on the lines of a Roman Catholic convent school, with Buddhist nuns teaching the girls. Accordingly, the school was relocated from its existing location, Tichbourne Hall, and moved to the same location as the ‘convent’—the Sanghamitta Upāsikārāmaya. Dharmapala and the Countess decided on Gunter House, a single-storey building set amidst a hectare of gardens in Darley Lane (now Foster Lane), which the Maha Bodhi Society bought for LKR 25,000 (LKR 30 million in today’s currency).

The convent, school, and an orphanage were soon up and running, large crowds attending the opening. There was no shortage of pupils for the school. The Countess, who styled herself as Mother Superior, came to be known by the children as Nona Amma (or Madam mother). Sister Dhammadinna (a Burgher woman called Sybil LaBrooy) managed the household, and several Sinhalese ‘nuns’ completed the staff.

In mid-1898, Catherine Shearer, a nurse from Boston’s Eliot Hospital, joined her, becoming ‘Head Sister’ Padmavatie. However, the two did not get along. The Countess expected Shearer to run things for her, while she busied herself with Mahabodhi Society work.

This friction between them betokened a deeper difference in attitudes. According to Bartholomeusz, the Countess considered Shearer “a dreamer”, but herself remained ignorant of the discipline expected from a Buddhist nun. Much against his will, she accompanied Dharmapala to Kolkata and appears, at some point, to have tried to seduce him. Finally, she removed herself from Gunther House and set up a convent on her own. This not only proved unsuccessful but also doomed the Sanghamitta Convent…..

In November 1900, after the Sanghamitta Convent debacle, the Countess returned to the USA, moving to the East Coast of the USA. She lectured on Buddhism and the Orient in general, several of her lectures being published.

Soon after, she entered a companionate marriage with a fellow Theosophist, Myron H. Phelps, a patent lawyer. The couple travelled to Sri Lanka posing as brother and sister. However, she continued describing herself as a Buddhist “nun”.

In December 1902, the Countess accompanied Phelps to Akka in Palestine, to meet ‘Abbás Effendí (`Abdu’l-Bahá), the Bahá’í leader. The Countess interviewed ‘Abbás’ sister, Behiah Khanum, who provided the biographical material which went into Phelps’ book Life and teachings of Abbas Effendi. In late 1903, still bearing the name “Sister Sanghamitta”, she declared her acceptance of the Bahá’í faith.

Two years later, she and Phelps were to play host to the influential Hindu revivalist and moderniser Ponnambalam Ramanathan and his Australian secretary, Lillie Harrison, who would later become Ramanathan’s wife and take on the name Leelawathy. Ramanathan’s intellectual view of Hinduism attracted Phelps: by 1908, he would see himself as a Hindu.

Phelps left the Countess, journeying to India to join the independence movement.

-- The Californian Countess And Early Lankan Feminism, by Vinod Moonesinghe


He did not use the word “citizen,” but he identified with the empire, making reference in World War I to “our losses in the Dardanelles,” putting the figure at “87,650 up to August 21, 1915” (Sarnatha Notebook no. 53). Being part o fthe empire was only one rational for his presumption. His condemnation of British rule was moral, motivated by a practice independent of both subjecthood and citizenship. He thought his asceticism and high aspirations gave him grounds for criticism, and his status as a world renouncer allowed him to criticize not just bureaucrats and British rule but everyone (Sarnath Notebook no. 53, September 6, 1915):

My comfort is the Buddha, His Dhamma, and the Holy Ones. The British in Ceylon resent criticism, they do not want that we should criticize them. Since 1896 I am criticized, the Sinhalese resented my criticism and attacked me. The Christians have been always against me. The Ceylon papers have attached me, Burmese, Arakanese. Siamese, Japanese, Bangalese [sic] have followed suit. The bureaucrats are angry. They wish to see me hanged.45


He could have mentioned more targets – his own family, all of his associates, and the Buddhist monkhood.

In a town near Kandy he offered a rationale for criticizing the British Crown that followed the logic of citizenship. He had seen a working-class European in the audience when he preached earlier that day, and the man stopped him at the train station, insisting that he should not criticize the British. He responded that he was the loyal opposition, trying to do for Sinhalas what Lloyd George had done for the Welsh.46 His diaries paraphrase that same sentiment throughout the first two decades of the twentieth century (which was the period when his loyalty was most at issue). As he wrote the attorney general in Lanka,

True that I criticize in my articles the officials; but my loyalty to the British Throne is as solid as rock and I have invariably expressed sentiments of loyalty to the King. But I love my religion and Sinhalese Race, and my happiness depends on their welfare.47


His defense follows from the nature of the empire, a corporate entity constituted of component parts, each with the right to object. He made a bolder claim. In making the Lloyd George analogy, he put Lanka and Wales on the same plane, arguing that a man from a Crown colony had as much right to political critique and strong language as a politician born to a country in the United Kingdom.

Dharmapala justified his criticism further by invoking his love for not only the monarchy but also the British people. Those expressions came to the fore after his internment in 1914, when he turned his attention to spreading the Dhamma in Europe and America. Looking back, he wrote that “the idea was put in my mind” long before, in 1886 (Diary, October 7, 1925). There are real-time references as early as 1891 (Diary, May 8). The statements of conciliation are also early. In 1894, he wrote in his diary that the thought had come to him to be gentle to all – “There is no use in abusing the Government.” But as time went on, he moved back and forth between affection and abuse, the abuse predominating. By 1913 his brother was appealing to readers of the Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society for funds to build a hostel or house “in the heart of the Empire,” where a Buddhist Society could popularize Buddhism and allow a sympathetic bond of union between Sinhala and advanced thinkers in England.48 That same year Dharmapala wrote in his diary that England would be his next project (August 22, 1913). By the 1920s his plans for a Buddhist mission in London became more serious, and he turned his mind fully to the project, responding to being interned and a string of failed projects elsewhere. Whatever affection he expressed for the British people earlier, he now fixed his attention on them as an exercise in loving those who had mistreated him. He would humanize them through the power of Dhamma (Sarnath Notebook no. 27, Diary for 1918).

In London he developed another argument for reciprocity in the empire. Internment in Calcutta kept him confined to the city limits for eighteen months, leading him to compare himself recovering from internment and the people of Europe then recovering from war: “May all Europe realize Peace! My individual suffering is nothing compared to the sufferings of millions wounded in the battlefield” (Sarnath Notebook no. 105, June 12, 1917). Even though he had received the “greatest share” of the unjust punishment given Sinhalas after the 1915 riots, he wrote of having “no ill will against his persecutors” (Sarnath Notebook no. 40). As he tried to set up a center for the Dhamma in London, many landlords sent him away because of his plans to use a house for institutional purposes or because he was Asian. He found a suitable place, but before he installed monks there, he returned home and sailed on to India. His plans outraced his circumstances: he envisioned young Englishmen marrying Sinhala women to become preachers of the Dhamma to the people of England. He could imagine such matches occurring in England (and not in the colonies) because English people are civilized at home. South Asia attracted a lower class of Englishman, he thought, but even when a civilized person went out to India, the place itself made him become cruel and rapacious. The colonies almost insisted on it. The metropole was a venue for thoughtful exchange and even marriage between people from different parts of the empire. But the imperial system was not only interlocked, it was transitive; making English people in London appreciate the Dhamma would have effects in Asia.

The Delhi durbar of 1911 inspired its own attempt to picture the empire as an articulated and interactive entity. A district judge from Trichinopoly compared the relationship of metropole and colony to marriage:

Today, amid scenes of enthusiasm unparalleled in the history of the world the marriage conceived nearly 25 years ago by the great poet Disraeli has finally been consummated and England’s King was publicly proclaimed India to be England’s help meet in this great Imperial work.49


From that great day onward, the judge concluded, after one hundred years of striving for the welfare and prosperity of India, “the people of both countries will be welded in one, and Indians and Englishmen alike will be citizens of one common Empire.”50 Once settled in London, Dharmapala contemplated the work of imperial citizenship in a less bodily and more abstract way. Those good citizens of the metropole would exercise their influence over British officials and civilians who ran wild in India and Lanka. The model was Dhamma study and intellectual exchange, English people humanized by exposure to the Dhamma, in turn restraining their peers who had no knowledge of compassion because they knew nothing of Buddhism.

Abdullah Laroui has spoken of class as sometimes enabling nationalism, however much class at first seems to be antithetical to it.51 For two hundred years, class and nationalism competed for the heart of the historical subject. In Dharmapala’s case, class considerations shaped his thinking about proper behavior, and assertions usually attributed to his being a Protestant Buddhist make more sense as deriving from his sense of class identity. Once joined together, high birth and Buddhist belief, he thought, had a synergistic force, giving his well-to-do equals in London the tools to discipline their less refined compatriots in South Asia. Whatever loyalty the empire inspired, that patriotism had a higher expression that could be realized in the empire properly reformed:

I think of the future greatness of the English and I therefore wish to make them learn Dhamma. [?] The Anglo-Indian bureaucrats in India & Ceylon are not the best representatives of the British people. (Diary, September 27, 1927)


Buddhist universalism, to be sure, meant more to Dharmapala than the universalism of empire, but both universalisms were motivated by a class factor, itself tied to civilization. The Buddhists with whom Dharmapala associated – his immediate supporters, his family, and members of the Maha Bodhi Society at home and abroad – were in his judgment civilized people. So were the English people he encountered in London. The lower-class behavior of both colonial officials and Sinhala villagers owed to their lack of civilization. Class functioned in contradictory ways in Dharmapala’s life, linking him to like kinds of people across the empire while putting him in a position of responsibility at home to people not of his class. That responsibility underlay the national project.
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Re: Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala, by Steven

Postby admin » Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:47 am

Part 3 of 5

Universalism and Other Local Forces

Universalism takes its force from its opposites – localism, nationalism, particularism, and so on. The conventional response to their interaction is to conclude that the unfolding of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw the particularisms prevail over the universalisms. The historical record supplies persuasive examples – Banerjee’s elite Indians seeing themselves as imperial citizens, feelings displaced by the onrushing force of Bengali nationalism and then swept away by a larger, Indian nationalism. Even without encountering more particularistic forces, universalist movements confront their own self-contradictions because of the nature of things – they are framed from a particular point of view and constructed in local form. The most notorious example is French universalism, although American universalism has its own illusions. In a postmetaphysical world, it is hard to make a decisive argument for any set of values having universal warrant. But universalisms do not live in the world of truth claims; they live in a word of historical forces. However deep the French commitment to spreading a universal religion – in this case Catholicism – the revolution by all rights should have ended it. Instead the French carried on with the civilizing mission in the form of Enlightenment values.

French universalism has been motivated by the idea that the French language is simply better than other languages. It deserves special treatment because it offers the world not only its famous clarity but unique access to universal values. Naomi Schor recalls a fax from President Jacques Chirac she found one day in her departmental mailbox, addressed to her as a teacher of French:

To call oneself Francophone is ultimately to combat a major risk for humanity: linguistic and therefore cultural uniformity …. The question is: why should French of all languages lead the campaign against linguistic globalization? …. First, French is essentially suited, to express a full range of human attributes; it is “A language reputed for its capacities to synthesize reality, reflect ideas, feelings, emotions.” Second, and inevitably, French is the language of the universal: “Every language has its genius. The one we [Francophones] share predisposes to a certain vision of the relationships between men and communities. A vision that inspires the values of solidarity, fraternity: a sense of the universal.”52


The immediate threat to French linguistic universalism was the worldwide spread of the English language. Worrying over the loss to humanity in English “linguistic and cultural uniformity,” Chirac found no irony in hoping for the success of its French equivalent.

When he began the Maha Bodhi Society, Dharmapala made a commitment to include all varieties of Buddhism in the case. As he put it in the first issue of his journal, “The society representing Buddhism in general …. shall preserve absolute neutrality with respect to doctrines and dogmas taught by sections and sects among Buddhists.”53 Recovering Bodh Gaya, he thought, would provide a unifying focus for Buddhist communities across Asia, however disparated. Drawing Buddhist communities – some national, some sectarian, into a unified movement was originally Henry Steel Olcott’s idea, and respect for Olcott provided motivation for Dharmapala’s openness to other varieties of Buddhism. Having accompanied the Theosophical leader to Japan in 1889, Dharmapala had seen the antipodes of the Buddhist world before he saw Bodh Gaya, and he knew just how different Japanese Buddhism was from his own, the more so because of the sectarian differences among Buddhists in Japan. Olcott wanted all Buddhist leaders to agree to points of doctrine and thus produced an appendix to his Buddhist Catechism, offering fourteen propositions to which Buddhists could agree. The fourteen points are followed by the signatures of ranking monks of Japan, Burma, Lanka, Chittagong, which Olcott personally solicited by traveling to meet each group, often coercing agreement after the application of force majeure.54 Where Olcott wanted unity among different kinds of Buddhists, Dharmapala wanted only neutrality at Bodh Gaya. He was also committed to doctrinal neutrality in the Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society, which published articles on Mahayana and Tibetan Buddhism.

For Olcott, pursuing doctrinal unity was joined to a commitment to brotherhood. Against a colonial background, Olcott’s reputation as a Civil War hero, man of science, and Westerner sympathetic to Buddhism made him welcome from Lanka to Japan. Those virtues also made his insistence on Buddhist universalism at least tolerable to the Japanese. Olcott’s antiracist views and genuine affection for Asians gave doctrinal universalism an existential character. He was a likable man, and his values made him more so. Dharmapala did not share his hopes for world brotherhood, speaking of the “consolidation of the Buddhist nations” when he represented Buddhism to non-Buddhists more often than when he dealt directly with Buddhists.55 But the symmetry of the two journals they founded –- The Theosophist or Universal Brotherhood and the Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society and the United Buddhist World -– was not accidental.56 If brotherhood was not an end in itself, Dharmapala saw some connection between his efforts to rally forces for Sinhala reform and a universalist project: “And what is the cry of my own race, is it not the cry of all humanity – all the world over?”57 And he saw the connection between the shrine at Bodh Gaya and Buddhist universalism: “I took up the larger work of universal Buddhism in January 1891 at the holy spot under the shade of the Bodhi tree” (Diary, February 18, 1930). What drew none of his energy was promoting doctrinal agreement relative to a universalized Buddhism, valuing the “united Buddhist world” only as a force useful in recovering Bodh Gaya. The phrase disappeared without explanation from the journal’s masthead in 1924.

The oxymoronic qualities of universalist programs duly noted, the situatedness of all human lives poses further complexities. Dharmapala’s commitment to include all varieties of Buddhism in promoting the Buddhist cause did not keep him from assuming that the Maha Bodhi Society would play the lead role in recovering Bodh Gaya and spreading Buddhism. He had established his journal toward that end, and he wrangled an invitation to the World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893 as the representative of Southern Buddhism, a considerable achievement for a man of twenty-nine, especially as he was not a member of the group that traditionally spoke for Buddhism, the Buddhist monkhood. In his opening remarks, he conveyed greetings to the delegates of Asia’s 475 million Buddhists, ignoring the Japanese monks seated nearby who had traveled to Chicago to represent Buddhism in its Japanese form. Had their English been better, they would have resented his preemptory words. Beyond his claim to speak not just for Sinhala Buddhism or Southern Buddhism but for Buddhism as such, Dharmapala faced challenges, however he understood the Buddhism he represented. Olcott understood that his success at producing consensus –- in particular the agreement to the principles at the end of the Buddhist Catechism –- owed in part to his not being a Buddhist at all.58

What motivated Chirac’s anxiety for French universalism was a contending universalism in American form – arrogant, successful, and indifferent to the virtues of French language and civilization. Dharmapala’s work as a Buddhist reformer was constrained by the effect of as many universalisms as one is likely to encounter in a single life. In chapters 4 and 5 I concentrate on two of those universalisms, the British Imperium and Theosophy.59. Neither had anything resembling the historical depth of Buddhism, yet they enjoyed important advantages. Both aspired to universality, and both pursued universalizing goals. The traditional word for Buddhism as a social formation, Buddhasasana, may not have begun as a universalizing project. The Buddha’s teachings were understood as applicable to the human condition as such, and the spread of Buddhism across Asia must have had some connection to his universalizing logic. But Buddhism saw itself as a come-and-see thing, available to the curious but not requiring its propagation for doctrinal reasons. Even if it had missionizing ambitions and saw its reach extending at least across Asia, the Buddhasasana was constrained by the travel and communication technologies of the premodern world. Olcott and Dharmapala, by contrast, lived in the age of steamships, railways, and automobiles as well as telegraphy, typewriters, telephony, and a global postal system. Olcott traveled some forty-three thousand miles in 1890, and Dharmapala made five world tours, one time making a trip from India to Hawaii merely to felicitate his patron Mary Foster. 60 Even in old age Dharmapala’s mother made seven pilgrimages from Colombo to Bodh Gaya.

Dharmapala founded and managed the Maha Bodhi Society. In 1916 he informally adopted a young Sinhala boy Mallika Hewavitarne had brought to Calcutta to be educated, assist him, and eventually manage the Maha Bodhi Society. Devapriya Valisinha took over for him after he received higher ordination in 1931, but until that point, Dharmapala comprised the Maha Bodhi Society as a working organization.61 He edited the journal, and he made all decisions relating to establishing branches of the society, building new establishments at Calcutta and Sarnath, and pursuing the Bodh Gaya cause. When he moved to Calcutta, the headquarters of the Maha Bodhi Society moved to Calcutta. He started the journal with money he had raised for supporting four monks at Bodh Gaya; when they abandoned their posts, he simply moved on to the next project, feeling free to reallocate funds as he saw fit. He made the Maha Bodhi Society the choke point that controlled access to Bodh Gaya or at least the platform for a Buddhist presence at the place, and his imperious personality made that centrality even less appealing to other Buddhist leaders. As much as he constituted the Maha Bodhi Society, it is also possible to say that his family constituted it. The society was the family charity. His mother led pilgramages, his father gave financial support, and his brothers did a variety of things -– serving on the board, endowing a publication series, negotiating for relics in India, and overseeing the construction of his projects abroad.

Dharmapala drifted away from the Burmese members of the Maha Bodhi Society over his accusations that the Burmese wanted to pursue the Buddhist cause on their own. Some Thai princes showed interest when Dharmapala first visited Bangkok in 1894, but by 1902 the Thai king was complaining to British officials of his importuning them. There were already Buddhists in Calcutta – ethnic Maghs from Chittagong who had their own temple and their own monk – and they joined forces with Dharmapala on a few occasions.62 After a promising beginning, he showed little interest in including this community of Indian Buddhists in his efforts to recover Bodh Gaya. Nor did he develop any relationship with the Chinese community in Calcutta. He lost the support of the Japanese, who had been more than welcoming on his first two visits to Japan. By 1902 they began to ignore him altogether. When Sister Nivedita brought a Japanese Buddhist to Bodh Gaya to strike a deal with the mahant, the party arrived at a time when Dharmapala was out of town. In 1905 a British military officer and a group of Tibetans and Bengalis established the Buddhist Shrine Restoration Society to make another end run around the Maha Bodhi Society. By the 1920s, the Lanka Dharmadutha Sabha and the International Buddhist Brotherhood began to duplicate the Maha Bodhi Society’s mission and shared members with it. These initiatives represented only a few of the divisions that beset uniting the Buddhist world. Not a few of them were products of Dharmapala’s efforts to create that world.

However central to his goals a united Buddhist world may have been, Dharmapala’s relationship to Buddhism was itself scarcely unitary.63 It is more to the point to speak of his Buddhisms.64 Leaving aside the Protestant Buddhism that Obeyesekere and Gombrich attribute to him, Dharmapala presented a distinctive Buddhism for every constituency. In village settings, correspondence with colonial officials, and the pages of the Sinhala Bauddhaya, he understood Buddhism as emerging from a political tradition that colonialism had disrupted. That Buddhism was dominated by civilizational elements, now brought low by political and economic domination. The idea that organized the Buddhism he preached at home was reform. In Calcutta the Buddhism he advocated had no political content because Dharmapala emphasized the spiritual tradition characteristic of a world religion. Under these circumstances the Buddhism he proposed was a “world religion,” defined by its civilizational affinity with Hinduism. Both early and late, he argued that there was no difference between Buddhism and Hinduism.65 In 1923 he gave a speech at the annual meeting of the Hindu Maha Sabha that went one step further, insisting that Buddhists were Hindus.66 His thinking was shaped by Vivekananda’s thinking, and early on he borrowed Vivekananda’s statement that “Hinduism cannot live without Buddhism, Buddhism cannot live without Hinduism” as the epigraph of the Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society. In an Indian context, he insisted on Buddhism’s vigor and missionary impulse, again responding to Vivekananda’s views and the broader perception that India’s historical downfall derived from Buddhist passivity and quietism.

In Western settings Dharmapala presented a Westernized Buddhism. He traveled with a Bible, which he employed as a reference tool. His education in a variety of missionary schools had given him knowledge of Christianity at least equal to what he knew of Buddhism before he turned his mind to his own religion. He used his knowledge of both religions to argue for their similarity. At the World’s Parliament of Religions he set Buddhism apart from other religions and then brought it into congruence with Christianity: “[Buddha] taught that sin, sorrow, and deliverance …. are the inevitable results of his own acts (Karma). He thus applied the inexorable law of cause and effect to the soul. What a man sows he must reap.”67 In both his diaries and speeches to audiences at home, he was contemptuous of Christianity, but he also saw Buddhism looming behind Christianity:


People in America call themselves Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. They are followers of Wesley, Luther, Calvin, and other personalities, but not Jesus. If they had followed the teachings of Christ they would have then been Buddhists. (Diary, August 25, 1897)


This was scarcely his conception of Christianity in Lanka, nor was his saying in Calcutta that Hinduism and Buddhism were one something he brought up when he went home. He wrote in his diary that Christianity needed reform, suggesting that the Old Testament be dropped from the text altogether (Diary, August 12, 1919). When he settled in London, he had more evolved views of what a Western Buddhism would look like, deciding that it would need more emphasis on compassion, in keeping with the New Testament, and less asceticism.

The central Buddhism in his life was of course his own, and it differed substantially from what might be called the regional Buddhisms of India, England, and Sri Lanka. Those Buddhisms had elements of equality, but there was nothing egalitarian about his own Buddhism.68 What drew him to Theosophy was what defined his own Buddhism – idealism and commitment to asceticism far in excess of anything he could expect from Western Theosophists or Buddhist monks in his own society. He was equally committed to the Theosophical masters, or mahatmas (advanced seekers whose orientation was Buddhist and who had shared their wisdom with Blavatsky first in person when she visited them and later in astral letters with which they communicated with her). At various points Dharmapala called this Buddhism sabba nuta yana, bodhiyana, or the path of samma sambodhi (Sarnath Notebook no. 53. The most instructive expression he used for his own Buddhism was uttari manussa dhamma – the moral code of the spiritually advanced man. Sometimes he referred to it as the “sacred science of the uttari manussa dhamma,” and what he had in mind was the science of dhyana meditation that leads to increasing elevated states of consciousness and ultimately to nirvana (which Sinhala monks believe is not possible in the present age).69 It was his celibacy, dietary restraint, and meditative practice that produced his own spiritual growth. It also set him apart from other Buddhists.


Don Carolis Hewavitarne, Dharmapala’s father, pointed his son toward the bodhisattva path (Diary, August 14, 1925).70 He told his son to try to become a Buddha (Diary, November 30, 1930). Dharmapala remembered that the best part of his childhood was spent alone in his father’s garden (Sarnath Notebook no. 53). “I liked solitude,” he wrote elsewhere. He improvised ritual offerings in the garden and suggested preoccupations that continued through his life:

I liked the company of ascetics. I used to bathe twice a day, and was very clean, and kept everything neat and tidy. Sweeping the floor, cleaning the furniture was my hobby, and I liked flowers. Evil companionship I abhorred. Cruelty to animals, and their destruction I abhorred …. I had no reverence for people because of their wealth and position. I wished to follow the Bodhisat life of self-sacrifice. I was very susceptible to unjust criticism. The simple life I liked. The life of King Sirisanghabo was to me a great incentive to adopt the life of ascetic renunciation. (Sarnath Notebook no. 4)


By 1889 he was rising at 2 a.m. to meditate. In 1891 he vowed to take only one meal a day (monks take two) (Diary, August 12, 1891). He writes in one of his notebooks:

In the early days of the MBS [Maha Bodhi Society] many were the days that I had not an anna for expenses. I did not have the means to buy kerosene oil for the night. I have gone without food and to satisfy my hunger I have swallowed the chewed betel. There was no sacrifice I was not prepared to go through. My motto was “Victory or death, the motto of Prince Siddhartha.” (Sarnath Notebook no. 101)


There was another paradigm for Dharmapala’s unceasing expectations of himself, the “Holy Ones” living in the Himalayas. In 1897 he planned a trip to Tibet to encounter the two mahatmas with a Buddhist orientation, a prospect that so terrified his father that he gave his son a meditation retreat in Colombo to keep him home (Sarnath Notebook no. 101).

Dharmapala’s lifelong commitment to the Himalayan masters and Blavatsky is either forgotten in accounts of his life or disregarded after Dharmapala broke with Olcott in the late 1890s. Nationalist writers need to protect the purity of his views by showing him pulling away from Theosophy -– attacking first Olcott, then the Buddhist Theosophical Society in Colombo -– and it is true that Dharmapala had a public falling out with Olcott and the Colombo Theosophists. When Annie Besant took over the society, he became estranged from Indian Theosophy too. But their estrangement can be overstated – having broken away from the Theosophical Society, he started paying dues again in 1913 and lent Besant considerable sums of money (despite her refusing his request for a loan). He lent much larger sums of money to the Colombo Theosophists in the 1920s. More to the point, Dharmapala maintained his affinity for the mahatmas and Blavatsky until the end of his diary keeping in 1930. Throughout the 1920s, his daily entries often begin with an injunction from Master Koot Hoomi: “The only refuge for his who aspires to true perfection is the Buddha alone.” Koot Hoomi’s aphorism was given in an astral letter transmitted to A.P. Sinnett and conveyed to Dharmapala by Blavatsky. It can be read in two ways: as a statement of his commitment to the Buddha or of the intervention of the “Holy Ones.” If the appeal of the aphorism depended on its Buddhist references, why invoke the authority of a mahatma to warrant the Buddha’s being the only refuge? The ambiguity of the statement is a fair characterization of Dharmapala’s own Buddhism: he sought perfection and looked to the Buddha and Koot Hoomi for it.

One gets a better sense of the late nineteenth-century world by noting how many figures he encountered pursuing their own universalisms –- Colonel Olcott and Madame Blavatsky, Lord Elgin, Lord Curzon, Prince Kropotkin, Swami Vivekananda, Sister Nivedita, and Okakura Kakuzo. Their projects suffered from their own contradictions. The Theosophists were undone in a variety of ways. Their universalist project appealed to other well-born people and had little reach beyond them. The Theosophical commitment to spiritualism did not sit comfortably with its scientism. The British imperial system was another universalism, its political and economic interests justified by reference to the self-proclaimed virtues of colonial rule – peace, the rule of law, the protection of private property, and perhaps most fundamentally, the encouragement of liberty.71 If the empire was the first imperial formation since antiquity to promote liberty, the attempt to export British freedom was contradicted by the very nature of imperialism. As P.J. Marshall put it in his inaugural lecture as professor of imperial history at King’s College, the British were a “free though conquering people.”72 The larger point is that most of Dharmapala’s encounters with other ideological movements – from Curzon to Olcott, Vivekananda, and Okakura – brought one universalizing project into contact with another. To say that the universalisms were destined to yield to nationalism is to get it only half right. The failure of the universalisms was guaranteed by intrinsic problems – self-contradition, the impracticality of their totalizing aspirations, and economic and political isolation – sufficient to undermine any movement.

Rescuing Dharmapala From the Nation

A world has been lost by either treating Dharmapala’s life abroad as a sidebar to his life at home or ignoring it altogether, and that loss entails more than the sheer volume of his career spent away from the island. The narrow focus creates a teleological understanding of his life as leading to the major events in subsequent Sri Lankan history. Without attending to his life abroad, we lose track of the role he and other Buddhists played in the historical moment because universalism and nationalism were interactive, not to say kindred, movements. By not considering the effects of travel between Calcutta and Colombo and onward to Japan and the West, we lose the existential effects on him of moving among different worlds and what Stanley Cavell calls the “returned familiar.” These foreign experiences influenced his views on empire and social class, which in turn shaped his ideas about reform at home. We distort the character of his nationalism and the way ideas about class and civilization shaped him because of the way he embodied these identities abroad. We fail to notice three of the four Buddhisms I’ve suggested – the Buddhism he pursued in India, the Buddhism he preached to Westerners, and his own Buddhism, organized around meditation, asceticism, and abiding regard for the two Buddhist mahatmas. He practiced that Buddhism wherever he went, and he tried to propagate it at home by establishing the Ethico-Psychological College in 1898 to educate people to become the kind of Buddhist he was, with an emphasis on meditation and missionary work. That part of his life – even though it was centered on his own country – has been overwhelmed by the attention given to Protestant Buddhism and his role in constructing a nationalist movement.73

The most ubiquitous form of political community in the modern world, the nation has been drawn irresistibly to historical accounts of its own origins. As Prasenjit Duara notes, both before the “nation” becomes the nation-state and after, it creates a force field, attracting historical writings to it, calibrating the historical task to the life of the nation, and producing accounts that are incomplete, exclusionary, and teleological. National identities are unstable not simply because they call forth competing claims from other ethnic communities living in the same colony or territory. They are also unstable because “all good nationalisms contain a transnational vision.” Duara’s examples are pan-Africanism, pan-Asianism, pan-Europeanism, pan-Islamism, Shiism, and Judaism.74 In the persons of Vivekananda and Okakura, Dharmapala encountered the pan-Asian side of both Indian and Japanese nationalisms, giving the three of them parallel motivations for conflict over Bodh Gaya. For Vivekananda and Okakura, a legitimate place at Bodh Gaya resonated with both pan-Asian and nationalist causes. But for Dharmapala, the struggle at Bodh Gaya – which continued for four decades as opposed to Vivekananda and Okakura’s week-long foray – had no motivations of a nationalist kind.75 His struggle for Bodh Gaya was pan-Asian; at moments, it reached beyond Asia. He called that campaign simply Buddhist.

While he never thought of making a specifically Sinhala claim on Bodh Gaya, Dharmapala argued that regaining control over the place was essential for the well-being of his people. The nationalist side of his transnational vision was simply that the energy necessary for spreading Buddhism and recovering its sacred places was also essential for reinvigorating the Sinhala nation. When Buddhism first became a pan-Asian force, he thought, it had been vital because it had been a missionizing religion. It could regain that initiative, throwing off colonial domination by relaunching this transnational project. He saw the local advantages of a grand enterprise; the leading figures in reforming the nation -– D.B. Jayatilaka, W.A. de Silva, D.C. Senanayake, F.R. Senanayake, and other leaders of the temperance and Buddhist movements more generally – did not agree. The considerable Sinhala support Dharmapala enjoyed when he first began to litigate for Bodh Gaya fell away after he lost the 1895 case, and in the years following he never enjoyed any appreciable amount of domestic support for his missionizing abroad. What popular support he gathered came from villagers, and they had little to give him. Instead he relied on his father and Mary Foster, the Hawaiian Theosophist who became his chief supporter after the death of his father.76 Other nationalists may have been less “militant” than Dharmapala, but they had a steady focus on the nation, and he did not. They also had little sympathy for the self-disciplining character of his local work. Even the most overtly Buddhist of the other nationalists of the time, D.B. Jayatilaka, kept his distance. In view of the Whiggish character of most accounts of Dharmapala’s Sinhala nationalism, it is therapeutic to be reminded that there was once a Sri Lankan nationalism.77

Scholars sometimes assert that the central role as a Buddhist nationalist that is currently ascribed to Dharmapala is the product of Ananda Guruge’s 1965 Return to Righteousness. On this view, Dharmapala’s prominence was a product of a government publication that celebrated his role in reviving the spirit of the Sinhala people. Anyone who has read newspaper accounts of the enshrinement of his remains in Colombo will dismiss that idea. Long before his death he was a national figure and lightning rod for public feelings regarding religion and nation.78 In the cause of showing how he turned monks into activists, Seneviratne provides an example of his public presence in the 1940s:

Hendiyagala [Silaratana, one of Seneviratne’s Dharmapalite monks] held a Dharmapala commemoration meeting in 1945. A large color portrait of Dharmapala was carried around the villages of his [rural development] activity. This was consciously done “to give an idea of Dharmapala to our children.”79


Guruge may have provided a convenient compendium of Dharmapala’s words and accomplishments, but his popular appropriation began long before its publication.

Where Guruge’s book had its effect was not so much on the Buddhist public as on scholars who have relied on the book’s treatment of Dharmapala. It is not surprising that he comes across as a patriot in a government publication. What is surprising is that scholars have approached Dharmapala only in terms of Guruge.80 We can do better by looking at the evidence. Before 1911 and after his internment in Calcutta ended, Dharmapala did not spend any appreciable amount of time in Sri Lanka. He did not want to die there, and he did not want his ashes returned to his homeland after his death. Approaching the island for the first time after the British allowed him to return to Lanka, he wrote, “All good thoughts vanish when one arrives in Ceylon. Today it is occupied by an accused [sic] people who do more evil than good. Liquor, opium etc. are found in abundance, the trade is in the hands of aliens” (Diary, April 18, 1921). In 1930 his thoughts had moved to death and rebirth: “What a blessing to be born in India. Ceylon is the country of Chandalas” (Diary, July 22, 1930).81 At the very least we need to begin with a more nuanced view of the man’s complexities and contradictions. Removed from the nationalist context, we can see him clearly and return him to that context in a defensible way.

The conventional reading of Dharmapala’s deathbed wish – “May I be born twenty-five times to preach the Dhamma in India” – stresses his commitment to Buddhism. And noting that reference is fair enough, but there is something unsettling about a nationalist’s projecting himself deep into the samsaric future in a place other than home. It is also instructive to cite another aspiration, his wanting to be reborn to a “righteous Brahmin family” in India (Diary, November 17, 1930). The deeper one looks into Dharmapala’s diaries, the more curious the whole thing becomes. The obvious way to account for his investmen tin India is to attribute his deciding to spend his last days abroad to his estrangement from family and friends. His hypercritical way of dealing with others had cumulative effects on many people, and scandal played another part in driving him away. Perhaps it is fitting for a man who lived as a solitary renouncer to die alone, be cremated in India, and request his ashes be interred in a sacred place. Rather than reading the wish for twenty-five futures in India as a hyperbolic religious wish and nothing else, I think that the Indian reference derives from his conception of himself as a world renouncer, solitary and homeless. Long before scandal and estrangement, he expressed similar wishes – while in Japan he wished for rebirth there, and during a visit to Switzerland rebirth there -- but there is no reference in the diaries to his wanting to be reborn in Lanka. Once he put two destinies in one aspiration: “I shall be born in Japan to save India” (Diary, July 14, 1913). When he was desperate to raise money for the London vihara, he contemplated dying in still another place, threatening “to lay his bones in London” if followers did not contribute.82

I do not mean to reduce the question of Dharmapala’s self-understanding to deathbed wishes or his diaries. Nor do I mean to be churlish to my colleagues, but they have misused him as much as the nationalists. Let me focus on two cases, both of which illustrate what happens when Dharmapala’s career is used as an opening exercise in the rise of a nationalist struggle and party to an evolving national subjectivity. K. M. de Silva writes that Dharmapala saw the political potential inherent in the revival of Buddhism and was among the first to advocate svaraj.83 The word is more generally associated with Gandhi and his struggle for Indian independence, and that is likely where Dharmapala got the notion. Gandhi used the neologism to mean self-rule in two senses, discipline over the self and political independence.84 When Dharmapala used the expression in his diaries, he too emphasized that political change depended first on individual moral reform. To this extent, de Silva is right: Dharmapala invoked self-rule, but he did so in reference to moral reform, saying that home rule under the aegis of the British Empire would come only after Sinhalas had reformed themselves. I doubt that most scholars who speak of his politics would think that his political aspirations began with Lankans practicing self-discipline. Nor would they assume that svaraj for Dharmapala meant home rule, as opposed to independence pure and simple.

The Theosophical Society and the Arya Samaj were united from 1878 to 1882, as the Theosophical Society of the Arya Samaj.
Arya Samaj monotheistic Indian Hindu reform movement that promotes values and practices based on the belief in the infallible authority of the Vedas. The samaj was founded by the sannyasi (ascetic) Dayanand Saraswati on 10 April 1875. Members of the Arya Samaj believe in one God and reject the worship of idols. Arya Samaj was the first Hindu organization to introduce proselytization in Hinduism.

-- Arya Samaj, by Wikipedia

And, along with H. S. Olcott and Anagarika Dharmapala, Blavatsky was also instrumental in the Western transmission and revival of Theravada Buddhism. Dharmapala (1864–1933) was a pioneer in the revival of Buddhism in India after it had been virtually extinct there for several centuries. Along with Olcott and Blavatsky, Dharmapala was also a major reformer and revivalist of Ceylonese Buddhism and very crucial figure in its Western transmission. Dharmapala also believed that Sinhalese of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) are a pure Aryan race, and advised that Sinhalese women should avoide miscegenation by refraining from mixing with minority races of the country.….

At the Parliament, Vivekananda’s speech also made a profound impression on Annie Besant (1847 – 1933), who had assumed the leadership of the worldwide theosophical movement when Blavatsky had passed away in 1891. Born in London into a middle-class family of Irish origin, Besant was proud of her heritage, and became involved with Union organizers including the Bloody Sunday demonstration, which she was widely credited for inciting. During 1884, Besant had developed a very close friendship with Edward Aveling, who first translated the works of Marx into English. He eventually went to live with Marx’s daughter Eleanor Marx, whose network was being spied on by Theodor Reuss. Besant was a leading speaker for the Fabian Society. The Fabians were a group of socialists whose strategy differed from that of Karl Marx in that they sought world domination through what they called the “doctrine of inevitability of gradualism.” This meant their goals would be achieved “without breach of continuity or abrupt change of the entire social issue,” and by infiltrating educational institutions, government agencies, and political parties….

As President of the Theosophical Society, Besant became involved in politics in India, joining the Indian National Congress, and during World War I helped launch the Home Rule League, modeling demands for India on Irish nationalist practices. This led to her election as president of the India National Congress in late 1917. As editor of the New India newspaper, she attacked the colonial government of India and called for clear and decisive moves towards self-rule. In June 1917 Besant was arrested, but the National Congress and the Muslim League together threatened to launch protests if she was not set free. The government was forced to make significant concessions, and it was announced that the ultimate aim of British rule was Indian self-government.

After the war, a new leadership emerged around Mohandas K. Gandhi, who was inspired by the ideals of Vivekananda, and who was among those who had written to demand Besant’s release, and who had returned from leading Asians in a non-violent struggle against racism in South Africa. In 1888, he had travelled to London, England, to study law at University College London, when he met members of the Theosophical Society. They encouraged him to join them in reading the Bhagavad Gita. As a result, despite not having shown any interest in religion before, Gandhi began his serious study of the text, which was to become his acknowledged guide throughout his life. According to Kathryn Tidrick, Gandhi’s approach to the Gita was theosophical. Gandhi later credited Theosophy with instilling in him the principle of the equality among religions. As he explained to his biographer, Louis Fischer, “Theosophy… is Hinduism at its best. Theosophy is the brotherhood of man.” The organization’s motto inspired Gandhi to develop one of his central principles, that “all religions are true.”

Gandhi had met Blavatsky and Besant in 1889. And when Gandhi set up his office in Johannesburg, among the pictures he hung on his walls were those of Tolstoy, Jesus Christ and Annie Besant, and in a letter he wrote to her in 1905 he expressed his "reverence" of her. Besant bestowed on him the title by which he became famous, "Mahatma,” a Hindu term for "Great Soul,” and the same name by which Theosophy called its own masters. Besant's distinctive influence on Gandhi was through her contribution to theory was the “Law of Sacrifice,” which was set out most fully in Esoteric Christianity. The Law of Sacrifice was derived from a Fabian reading of the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna's selfless activity brought the world into existence and continues to sustain it. Action performed in this “sacrificial” spirit, says Krishna, is free from Karma. From this Besant developed the notion of the Law of Sacrifice, a form of “spiritual alchemy,” through disinterested action, “cast upon the altar of duty.”
The man who acts in harmony with the divine selflessness animating the universe becomes:
...a force for evolution… an energy for progress, and the whole race then benefits by the action which otherwise would only have rough to the sacrificer a personal fruit, which in turn would have bound his Soul, and limited his potentialities.

Despite his popular image as holy man, Joseph Lelyveld’s Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With India, according to his reviewer, reveals Gandhi was a “sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist—one who was often downright cruel to those around him. Gandhi was therefore the archetypal 20th-century progressive intellectual, professing his love for mankind as a concept while actually despising people as individuals.” According to Lelyveld, Gandhi also encouraged his ­seventeen-year-old great-niece to be naked during her "nightly cuddles,” and began sleeping with her and other young women. He also engaged in a long-term homosexual affair with German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder Hermann Kallenbach, for whom Gandhi at one point left his wife in 1908.

Though Gandhi was concerned for the plight of the Indians of South Africa, he shared the racist beliefs of the Theosophists. Of white Afrikaaners and Indians, he wrote: “We believe as much in the purity of races as we think they do.” Gandhi lent his support to the Zulu War of 1906, volunteering for military service himself and raising a battalion of stretcher-bearers. Gandhi complained of Indians being marched off to prison where they were placed alongside Blacks, “We could understand not being classed with whites, but to be placed on the same level as the Natives seemed too much to put up with. Kaffirs [Blacks] are as a rule uncivilized—the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live like animals.”

Gandhi and Mussolini became friendly when they met in December 1931, with Gandhi praising the Duce's "service to the poor, his opposition to super-urbanization, his efforts to bring about a coordination between Capital and Labour, his passionate love for his people." He also advised the Czechs and Jews to adopt nonviolence toward the Nazis, saying that "a single Jew standing up and refusing to bow to Hitler's decrees" might be enough "to melt Hitler's heart."


-- The Untold Story of Gandhi and Theosophy, by David Livingstone


De Silva characterizes Dharmapala’s career as an effort “to make an ideological link between religion and political nationalism.”85 The project failed, de Silva concludes, because other nationalists rejected his leadership, and without that solidarity the nationalists could not turn the discontent and enthusiasm he provoked into “a political force of real significance.” The man who emerges from the diaries, notebooks, journals, periodicals, and correspondence was more of an ascetic than a political leader. But the fact is that the nationalist narrative begs for a militant leader, and Dharmapala’s speeches were nothing if not militant. The question is how much of a leader he wanted to be. If scholars can make him that political leader, they can attribute the failure of nationalism to secondary causes: he was away from the island, or he spread his energy across many projects that were not political, or he was hard to like. The British misreading of his intentions – suspecting him of sedition – itself facilitates the nationalist appropriation of Dharmapala. That for which the colonial government reviled him nationalists honor him.

No one has made as much of Dharmapala’s influence as Gananath Obeyesekere, and he has discovered that influence in a variety of contexts. Dharmapala gave “all Buddhists a sense of self-respect.” He gave educated village intellectuals something more profound – he politicized them. He gave them “a way of life and a new identity.” With independence this class of people became the leadership of village Sri Lanka. They harnessed the village vote in the 1956 election that brought S.W. R. D. Bandaranayake to power. But his influence on village life does not stop there:

This was also the stratum that led the 1971 insurrection in Ceylon. The ascetic dedication, rigid Puritanism, and organizational skills of the 1971 rebels, and their nationalist adaptation of Marxism, reflect at least partly the heritage of Anagarika Dharmapala.86


I do not intend to dispute this genealogy of influence except to note the overreaching. Obeyesekere puts Dharmapala to still other ends, seeing him as the source of a Protestant Buddhism, which then becomes a precondition for an evolving national subjectivity. Sri Lanka had a nationalist movement, but it was tepid and neither confrontational nor violent, making it tempting to look for its sources in cultural movements – temperance campaigns, riots against other ethnic groups, and Buddhism as remade by Dharmapala. I hate to drag Kitsiri Malalgoda’s account of religious controversies between Christians and Buddhists, the rise of low-country monastic fraternities, and their subsequent segmentation into this matter, but Malalgoda linked all of these events to Protestant Buddhism in a way that illustrates the narrative compulsions of both the nation and Protestant Buddhism.87

Obeyesekere used the expression to emphasize that the changes Olcott and Dharmapala brought to Buddhism were Protestant in two ways. They were borrowed from Protestant missionaries who dominated many coastal settings in the island, and they were a protest against Christian domination of the public sphere.88 Malalgoda’s reading of Obeyesekere’s argument adds a third feature of Protestant Buddhism, itself derived from the logic of Protestantism – that laypeople became involved in religious leadership, displacing monks who historically played that role alone. Over the years, Obeyesekere himself packed more and more into the expression.89 By 1975, he talked more of Puritan values and this worldly asceticism; by 1988 Gombrich and Obeyesekere produced a book chapter on Protestant Buddhism, associating it with a polemical style, fundamentalism, the idea that Buddhism was a philosophy, not a religion, and dependent on a battery of English-language concepts.90 The emphasis on Protestantism led Obeyesekere to conclude that Dharmapala’s Buddhism was influenced by the Protestant emphasis on individual responsibility, and Obeyesekere passed the baton to Gombrich, who carried it onward.

Gombrich and Obeyesekere deduced even more changes in Sinhala Buddhism from the historical development of Protestantism. Protestant influence brought both religious individualism and egalitarianism to the practice of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The Protestant rejects priests and saints, and in a Buddhist context individualism means denying the intermediary role of the monkhood.91 Gombrich and Obeyesekere linked that individualism to still more social change: the laicization of Buddhism made the religion “one and the same for everybody.”92 The facts speak otherwise. Dharmapala had no interest in undermining the role of the monkhood, not at home and not in missionizing Buddhism abroad. He wanted rather to reform the monkhood.

In March 1896, in the San Francisco suburb of Oakland, the Sri Lankan Buddhist revivalist and missionary Hewavitarne (Anagarika) Dharmapala, on a lecture tour of the USA, met Countess Canavarro. Seeking spiritual sustenance, she struck him as determined and forceful. According to Tessa Bartholomeusz, four months after meeting her, Dharmapala proposed that she travel to Sri Lanka and establish an order of Buddhist “nuns”, and become full-time principal of the island’s first Buddhist girls’ high school, Sanghamitta, named for the first female Buddhist missionary to Sri Lanka.

On the evening of August 30, 1897, at the New Century Hall on New York’s Fifth Avenue, Dharmapala administered to the Countess Canavarro the five Buddhist precepts (pansil), making her the first female convert to Buddhism on American soil.
Practice in general

Lay followers often undertake these training rules in the same ceremony as they take the refuges. Monks administer the precepts to the laypeople, which creates an additional psychological effect.

-- Five Precepts, by Wikipedia

Thus, she became the first in a new order of “Buddhist nuns” which Dharmapala wanted to create in Sri Lanka, some seven centuries after female ordination died out. She took on the enormously significant religious moniker “Sister Sanghamitta”, recalling the ancient missionary, as well as the school she intended to run….

Dharmapala and the Countess wanted to establish Sanghamitta on the lines of a Roman Catholic convent school, with Buddhist nuns teaching the girls. Accordingly, the school was relocated from its existing location, Tichbourne Hall, and moved to the same location as the ‘convent’—the Sanghamitta Upāsikārāmaya. Dharmapala and the Countess decided on Gunter House, a single-storey building set amidst a hectare of gardens in Darley Lane (now Foster Lane), which the Maha Bodhi Society bought for LKR 25,000 (LKR 30 million in today’s currency).

The convent, school, and an orphanage were soon up and running, large crowds attending the opening. There was no shortage of pupils for the school. The Countess, who styled herself as Mother Superior, came to be known by the children as Nona Amma (or Madam mother). Sister Dhammadinna (a Burgher woman called Sybil LaBrooy) managed the household, and several Sinhalese ‘nuns’ completed the staff.

In mid-1898, Catherine Shearer, a nurse from Boston’s Eliot Hospital, joined her, becoming ‘Head Sister’ Padmavatie. However, the two did not get along. The Countess expected Shearer to run things for her, while she busied herself with Mahabodhi Society work.

This friction between them betokened a deeper difference in attitudes. According to Bartholomeusz, the Countess considered Shearer “a dreamer”, but herself remained ignorant of the discipline expected from a Buddhist nun. Much against his will, she accompanied Dharmapala to Kolkata and appears, at some point, to have tried to seduce him. Finally, she removed herself from Gunther House and set up a convent on her own. This not only proved unsuccessful but also doomed the Sanghamitta Convent.

-- The Californian Countess And Early Lankan Feminism [Miranda de Souza Canavarro], by Vinod Moonesinghe


For that matter, he believed in the role of religious intermediaries, putting the monkhood and brahmacaryas such as him in the position to lead others because of their asceticism. Focusing on this-worldly Protestantism rather than his interest in the occult, meditation, and the otherworld leads Obeyesekere and Gombrich to mistake what Dharmapala intended. The man who followed the uttari manussa dhamma was anything but egalitarian in matters of his spiritual development and everyday conduct.93 He did not believe in the “priesthood of all believers.”
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Re: Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala, by Steven

Postby admin » Fri Jul 24, 2020 7:08 am

Part 4 of 5

With the exception of Harischandra Valisinha, Dharmapala had little success in attracting others to take on the anagarika role.94 The five anagarikas he ordained in 1897 soon faded away.

The man who took the title anagarika (homeless) purchased, worried over, and lived in a number of residences.17 But it is equally true that he was frequently away from whatever place he was then calling home. He traveled around the world in 1889, 1896, 1902, 1913, and 1925-6; visited Japan on four occasions; and made tours of Akyab (1892), Shanghai (1894), Siam (1894), north India (1899 and 1923), London (1904), Hawaii (1913), China, Korea, and Borobudur (1913). In 1925 and 1926 he toured Europe and the United States, before spending considerable time in London, where he established the first Buddhist temple in Europe. In these contexts he associated himself with clerics, Theosophists, scholars, and a steady stream of well-to-do Westerners, usually female and interested in Asian spirituality. Nor did his days end in Lanka. When he returned from Europe at the end of his life, he settled not in Colombo but in North India near a temple he built to celebrate the place where the Buddha preached his first sermon. To the extent that he spent most of his life away from the island, he was homeless in a sense of the word not usually intended.

-- Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World, by Steven Kemper


He had thought of establishing a brahmacarya order as early as 1891, and in the 1920s he returned to his hopes for a Brahmacarya Samagama (Diary, May 29 and July 22, 1920, February 5, 1921). The language is itself instructive of the way he thought of himself and his plans for the Anagarika Order, the vocabulary to which he reverted in 1925.95 He stipulated that the order would wear “the orange coloured robe: but not sewn in the Bhikkhu fashion.” More suggestive of his own self-conception was his attitude toward laymen, brahmacarya, and monks. The Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path apply to both roles, but he added:

Of the four holy stages, Anagami, Sakadagami and Sotapatti are for Upasakas and Brahmacharis [men observing celibacy]. No householder can be an Anagami. The tradition is that Arhats do not exist today. We may try and attain the fruits of holiness of Sotapatti, Sakadagami, and Anagami.96


In other words, he believed in the possibility of enlightenment in a way that Sinhala monks did not.97 He sought it for himself – thus the dhyana meditation – and to that extent did not see himself as a householder: “no householder can be an Anagami.” He did not see it being realized in this lifetime but made it a realistic goal. Once he said nirvana was achievable in seven lifetimes.

Even if we separate Dharmapala’s Buddhism from “Protestant” Buddhism, emphasizing religion itself causes us to overlook the class prejudices that weighed on his instructions to Sinhala villagers (and his behavior on Indian trains). Instead of suggesting that Dharmapala -– his family only one generation removed from their village origins – was ill at ease in Colombo, his own remarks suggest that he was considerably more uncomfortable in village settings.98 I can make the case for his feelings about both class and village life with a single example and flesh out the account later:

There was a kind of haughtiness inherent in me which made me think low of wealth and rank …. If my class made [me] wear silk outside, I worse my silk cloth as an undershirt. But I loved the poor. I wish to show my sympathy by feeling myself poor, and make them feel I was like them. New clothes, silk dresses I abhorred. (Sarnath Notebook no. 53)


He did not replace worn clothes very often, and his robes were cotton, but he worse silk underclothes throughout his life. He did not identify with the generality of human beings and did not want to live in the world they inhabited because that was the realm of samsara.

Gombrich and Obeyesekere say that nowadays Protestant Buddhism “exerts sway over larger areas of the nation.” They also project Protestant Buddhism backward in time, writing that Malalgoda “accepted [this term] for his masterly account of the movement’s origins.”99 The thrust of Malalgoda’s analysis ends long before Dharmapala’s life although he concludes with a short chapter entitled “Protest Consolidated,” mentioning Protestant Buddhism for the first time on page 246 of a 262-page book, then suggesting that there were signs of Protestant Buddhism even before Olcott’s arrival in 1880.100 Whatever salience Protestant Buddhism has for understanding the efforts of Olcott and Dharmapala to reform the religion after 1880, pushing the idea backward in time more than a hundred years follows from the temptation to tie all things to a theoretical idea with a provocative name. Agglomerating events ranging from the politics of the Kandyan kingdom, caste assertion, and monastic segmentation to Protestant Buddhism is overtly teleological, the nation-to-be looming on the narrative horizon.

The argument for Dharmapala’s life marking the beginning of the growing laicization of Buddhist life serves a narrative that centers on the growth of lay domination in the life of Buddhism and the nation. In place of this formulation, I want to start with simple matters. He wore ochre robes, not white, because he was an ascestic who pursued social reform, not a social reformer who practiced asceticism.101 In that color choice rest several implications. He thought he was entitled to lead Buddhist affairs not because he was a pious layman but because he was a world renouncer and considerably more ascetic than the monks he knew. But for a childhood disability at age four – sometimes he says a nanny dropped him, but more often he speaks of a paralytic stroke, and once he wrote that he became lame by “running about” (Diary, January 31, 1919) -– he would have become a monk and not invented a role that made him neither a monk nor a layperson but an ascetic without a community.102 He wore white robes to the World’s Parliament of Religions, but by 1895 he began to wear the color of South Asian renunciation. The switch is symptomatic of his sense of himself not as a pious layman but a brahmacarya, a word that he used in a variety of ways to describe himself -– “brahmacharya” of the bodhisattva path, world wanderer, pilgrim, and “Brahmacharya Anagarika Dharmapala.” He followed a course other Buddhists did not follow. Speaking at Town Hall in New York City in 1925 he made this distinction:

Popular Buddhism is what the Western Pali scholars have so far been able to expound. The real psychology of Buddhism is too abstruse for the masses to apprehend, and only very few have the desire even among the yellow robed fraternity in Buddhist lands to enter into the penetralia of Paramartha Dharma [Ultimate truth: (don. dam. bden. pa. Skt: paramartha-iatya) The true nature of all phenomena, i.e. their emptiness and identitylessness.] wherein is to be found the secrets of mystic development.103


9. BUT WHERE WAS THE DANGMA WHEN THE ALAYA OF THE UNIVERSE (Soul as the basis of all, Anima Mundi) WAS IN PARAMARTHA (a) (Absolute Being and Consciousness which are Absolute Non-Being and Unconsciousness) AND THE GREAT WHEEL WAS ANUPADAKA (b)?

(a) Here we have before us the subject of centuries of scholastic disputations. The two terms “Alaya” and “Paramartha” have been the causes of dividing schools and splitting the truth into more different aspects than any other mystic terms. Alaya is literally the “Soul of the World” or Anima Mundi, the “Over-Soul” of Emerson, and according to esoteric teaching it changes periodically its nature. Alaya, though eternal and changeless in its inner essence on the planes which are unreachable by either men or Cosmic Gods (Dhyani Buddhas), alters during the active life-period with respect to the lower planes, ours included. During that time not only the Dhyani-Buddhas are one with Alaya in Soul and Essence, but even the man strong in the Yoga (mystic meditation) “is able to merge his soul with it” (Aryasanga, the Bumapa school). This is not Nirvana, but a condition next to it. Hence the disagreement. Thus, while the Yogacharyas (of the Mahayana school) say that Alaya is the personification of the Voidness, and yet Alaya (Nyingpo and Tsang in Tibetan) is the basis of every visible and invisible thing, and that, though it is eternal and immutable in its essence, it reflects itself in every object of the Universe “like the moon in clear tranquil water”; other schools dispute the statement. The same for Paramartha: the Yogacharyas interpret the term as that which is also dependent upon other things (paratantral); and the Madhyamikas say that Paramartha is limited to Paranishpanna or absolute perfection; i.e., in the exposition of these “two truths” (out of four), the former believe and maintain that (on this plane, at any rate) there exists only Samvritisatya or relative truth; and the latter teach the existence of Paramarthasatya, the “absolute truth.” “No Arhat, oh mendicants, can reach absolute knowledge before he becomes one with Paranirvana. Parikalpita and Paratantra are his two great enemies” (Aphorisms of the Bodhisattvas). Parikalpita (in Tibetan Kun-ttag) is error, made by those unable to realize the emptiness and illusionary nature of all; who believe something to exist which does not — e.g., the Non-Ego. And Paratantra is that, whatever it is, which exists only through a dependent or causal connexion, and which has to disappear as soon as the cause from which it proceeds is removed — e.g., the light of a wick. Destroy or extinguish it, and light disappears. Esoteric philosophy teaches that everything lives and is conscious, but not that all life and consciousness are similar to those of human or even animal beings. Life we look upon as “the one form of existence,” manifesting in what is called matter; or, as in man, what, incorrectly separating them, we name Spirit, Soul and Matter. Matter is the vehicle for the manifestation of soul on this plane of existence, and soul is the vehicle on a higher plane for the manifestation of spirit, and these three are a trinity synthesized by Life, which pervades them all. The idea of universal life is one of those ancient conceptions which are returning to the human mind in this century, as a consequence of its liberation from anthropomorphic theology. Science, it is true, contents itself with tracing or postulating the signs of universal life, and has not yet been bold enough even to whisper “Anima Mundi!” The idea of “crystalline life,” now familiar to science, would have been scouted half a century ago. Botanists are now searching for the nerves of plants; not that they suppose that plants can feel or think as animals do, but because they believe that some structure, bearing the same relation functionally to plant life that nerves bear to animal life, is necessary to explain vegetable growth and nutrition. It hardly seems possible that science can disguise from itself much longer, by the mere use of terms such as “force” and “energy,” the fact that things that have life are living things, whether they be atoms or planets. But what is the belief of the inner esoteric Schools? the reader may ask. What are the doctrines taught on this subject by the Esoteric “Buddhists”? With them “Alaya” has a double and even a triple meaning. In the Yogacharya system of the contemplative Mahayana school, Alaya is both the Universal Soul (Anima Mundi) and the Self of a progressed adept. “He who is strong in the Yoga can introduce at will his Alaya by means of meditation into the true Nature of Existence.” The “Alaya has an absolute eternal existence,” says Aryasanga — the rival of Nagarjuna. In one sense it is Pradhana; which is explained in Vishnu Purana as: “that which is the unevolved cause, is emphatically called by the most eminent sages Pradhana, original base, which is subtile Prakriti, viz., that which is eternal, and which at once is (or comprehends) what is and what is not, or is mere process.” “Prakriti,” however, is an incorrect word, and Alaya would explain it better; for Prakriti is not the “uncognizable Brahma.” It is a mistake of those who know nothing of the Universality of the Occult doctrines from the very cradle of the human races, and especially so of those scholars who reject the very idea of a “primordial revelation,” to teach that the Anima Mundi, the One Life or “Universal Soul,” was made known only by Anaxagoras, or during his age. This philosopher brought the teaching forward simply to oppose the too materialistic conceptions on Cosmogony of Democritus, based on his exoteric theory of blindly driven atoms. Anaxagoras of Clazomene was not its inventor but only its propagator, as also was Plato. That which he called Mundane Intelligence, the nous ([[nous]]), the principle that according to his views is absolutely separated and free from matter and acts on design, was called Motion, the ONE LIFE, or Jivatma, ages before the year 500 B.C. in India. Only the Aryan philosophers never endowed the principle, which with them is infinite, with the finite “attribute” of “thinking.” This leads the reader naturally to the “Supreme Spirit” of Hegel and the German Transcendentalists as a contrast that it may be useful to point out. The schools of Schelling and Fichte have diverged widely from the primitive archaic conception of an ABSOLUTE principle, and have mirrored only an aspect of the basic idea of the Vedanta. Even the “Absoluter Geist” shadowed forth by von Hartman in his pessimistic philosophy of the Unconscious, while it is, perhaps, the closest approximation made by European speculation to the Hindu Adwaitee Doctrines, similarly falls far short of the reality. According to Hegel, the “Unconscious” would never have undertaken the vast and laborious task of evolving the Universe, except in the hope of attaining clear Self-consciousness. In this connection it is to be borne in mind that in designating Spirit, which the European Pantheists use as equivalent to Parabrahm, as unconscious, they do not attach to that expression of “Spirit” — one employed in the absence of a better to symbolise a profound mystery — the connotation it usually bears.

The “Absolute Consciousness,” they tell us, “behind” phenomena, which is only termed unconsciousness in the absence of any element of personality, transcends human conception. Man, unable to form one concept except in terms of empirical phenomena, is powerless from the very constitution of his being to raise the veil that shrouds the majesty of the Absolute. Only the liberated Spirit is able to faintly realise the nature of the source whence it sprung and whither it must eventually return. . . . As the highest Dhyan Chohan, however, can but bow in ignorance before the awful mystery of Absolute Being; and since, even in that culmination of conscious existence — “the merging of the individual in the universal consciousness” — to use a phrase of Fichte’s — the Finite cannot conceive the Infinite, nor can it apply to it its own standard of mental experiences, how can it be said that the “Unconscious” and the Absolute can have even an instinctive impulse or hope of attaining clear self-consciousness? A Vedantin would never admit this Hegelian idea; and the Occultist would say that it applies perfectly to the awakened MAHAT, the Universal Mind already projected into the phenomenal world as the first aspect of the changeless ABSOLUTE, but never to the latter. “Spirit and Matter, or Purusha and Prakriti are but the two primeval aspects of the One and Secondless,” we are taught. The matter-moving Nous, the animating Soul, immanent in every atom, manifested in man, latent in the stone, has different degrees of power; and this pantheistic idea of a general Spirit-Soul pervading all Nature is the oldest of all the philosophical notions. Nor was the Archaeus a discovery of Paracelsus nor of his pupil Van Helmont; for it is again the same Archaeus or “Father-Ether,” — the manifested basis and source of the innumerable phenomena of life — localised. The whole series of the numberless speculations of this kind are but variations on this theme, the keynote of which was struck in this primeval Revelation. (See Part II., “Primordial Substance.”) (b) The term Anupadaka, “parentless,” or without progenitors, is a mystical designation having several meanings in the philosophy. By this name celestial beings, the Dhyan-Chohans or Dhyani-Buddhas, are generally meant. But as these correspond mystically to the human Buddhas and Bodhisattwas, known as the “Manushi (or human) Buddhas,” the latter are also designated “Anupadaka,” once that their whole personality is merged in their compound sixth and seventh principles — or Atma-Buddhi, and that they have become the “diamond-souled” (Vajra-sattvas), the full Mahatmas. The “Concealed Lord” (Sangbai Dag-po), “the one merged with the absolute,” can have no parents since he is Self-existent, and one with the Universal Spirit (Svayambhu), the Svabhavat in the highest aspect. The mystery in the hierarchy of the Anupadaka is great, its apex being the universal Spirit-Soul, and the lower rung the Manushi-Buddha; and even every Soul-endowed man is an Anupadaka in a latent state. Hence, when speaking of the Universe in its formless, eternal, or absolute condition, before it was fashioned by the “Builders” — the expression, “the Universe was Anupadaka.” (See Part II., “Primordial Substance.”)

-- Stanza I from the Book of Dzyan, The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy, by Helena P. Blavatsky


He was a world renouncer, not an everyman in a simulacrum of national dress.

Accounts of Dharmapala’s life sometimes characterize him as an activist and reformer who invented the anagarika role to allow him to act in the world while also practicing asceticism. Most say something about the name emphasizing the activist role – Dharmapala was the “protector of Buddhism” and thus an activist first and foremost.104 I hope to show that his asceticism was foundational and his activism secondary. All he reveals of how he decided on the name Dharmapala is that he was attracted to its Aryan virtue. On his trip to Adyar in 1884 he noted that “the sight of the Brahmans made an impression on my mind as to make me follow the Aryan customs” (Sarnath Notebook no. 101). A few pages later, still writing about his life, he made an analogy:

However unselfish I may be there are bad people who take advantage of my goodness. Khantivada tapasa was innocent as a babe but the King who confronted him was like a demon. Dhammapala Bodhisat was ordered to be killed by the King. The earthquake does not recognize good from bad. All are killed.105


Another precedent may have been the medieval Dharmapala, the author of the mahatika to Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga, and a monk associated with esoteric knowledge, trance states, and spiritual attainments.106 None of these speculations settles the matter, but we get closer to Dharmapala’s self-understanding by following his own words, and those words speak more of spiritual progress than “protecting the Dhamma.”

He made the Maha Bodhi Society the choke point that controlled access to Bodh Gaya or at least the platform for a Buddhist presence at the place, and his imperious personality made that centrality even less appealing to other Buddhist leaders. As much as he constituted the Maha Bodhi Society, it is also possible to say that his family constituted it. The society was the family charity. His mother led pilgrimages, his father gave financial support, and his brothers did a variety of things –- serving on the board, endowing a publication series, negotiating for relics in India, and overseeing the construction of his projects abroad….

The central Buddhism in his life was of course his own, and it differed substantially from what might be called the regional Buddhisms of India, England, and Sri Lanka. Those Buddhisms had elements of equality, but there was nothing egalitarian about his own Buddhism.68 What drew him to Theosophy was what defined his own Buddhism – idealism and commitment to asceticism far in excess of anything he could expect from Western Theosophists or Buddhist monks in his own society. He was equally committed to the Theosophical masters, or mahatmas (advanced seekers whose orientation was Buddhist and who had shared their wisdom with Blavatsky first in person when she visited them and later in astral letters with which they communicated with her). At various points Dharmapala called this Buddhism sabba nuta yana, bodhiyana, or the path of samma sambodhi (Sarnath Notebook no. 53. The most instructive expression he used for his own Buddhism was uttari manussa dhamma – the moral code of the spiritually advanced man. Sometimes he referred to it as the “sacred science of the uttari manussa dhamma,” and what he had in mind was the science of dhyana meditation that leads to increasing elevated states of consciousness and ultimately to nirvana (which Sinhala monks believe is not possible in the present age).69 It was his celibacy, dietary restraint, and meditative practice that produced his own spiritual growth. It also set him apart from other Buddhists.

-- Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World, by Steven Kemper


With the exception of Tessa Bartholomeusz, no one has paid much attention to the way Dharmapala understood his renunciation. She does so for other purposes, interpreting the recent history of female renunciation in the island by arguing that he thought of renunciation in three ways. Each of those ways derives from a stage of his life – the pious layman, the brahmacarya, and the samanera (monastic initiate) who will one day receive ordination as a bhikkhu.107 Stressing the liminal qualities of the way he understood brahmacarya, she says that he invented a way of staying active in the world while following moral precepts that laypeople do not follow. She takes the bramacarya role as evidence of Dharmapala’s “re-inventing” a way of being a pious layman by blurring the distinction between laity and monkhood. Here she is led astray by the Protestant Buddhism notion, causing her to emphasize the wrong side of the brahmacarya or anagarika role, the interface between the role of a layman and a brahmacarya. The emphasis belongs on the interface between the role of a brahmacarya and a monk. He was a liminal figure well enough, but he occupied the far side of the limen at the interface of two forms of renunciation. He did not choose the yellow robes casually; he wore them to distinguish himself from the pious layman.

In “What a Bhikkhu Is Expected to Do,” Dharmapala made the distinction that “the lesser duties are called the abhi sama carika and the greater duties adi brahma cariya,” but he then used the story of Sariputta, who the Samantapasadika says violated one of the lesser duties of a monk by entering a trance state for seven days without having swept the place before he sat down to meditate. “The Blessed One,” Dharmapala concluded, “emphasized that the bhikkhu who fails to observe the minor duties of abhi sama carika vattam shall never fulfill the larger duties of addi brahma cariyam.” The higher duties are more important but depend on the lower duties, leading him to say, “The Blessed One was very explicit in his condemnation of the slothful Bhikkhu who lives on the charity of others and avoid[s] the duties of the Brahmachari” (Sarnath Notebook no. 4).108 He is writing about the monkhood, but he is thinking of himself, the brahmacarya who is committed to lower duties such as cleanliness and higher ones such as celibacy and meditation, both carried out with the unceasing energy that marked the Buddha’s life.

From his boyhood Dharmapala saw himself becoming a monk (and he came back to that aspiration throughout his life). He was comfortable in his solitude and committed to self-discipline. He sought out the company of monks. His disabled leg caused him to believe that he was unqualified to be a full-fledged monk. But as a young man he sought lower ordination as a samanera. The first time came when he planned to ask Hikkaduve Sumangala to ordain him as a samanera under the bo tree at Bodh Gaya (Diary, February 8, 1899).109 His diaries do not explain why that ordination did not happen, but he mentions that in 1906 bhikkhu Devamitta offered to make him a samanera. “Then my work was unfinished. Today everything is finished” (Diary, December 30, 1930).110 He was initiated as a samanera at Bodh Gaya in 1931 and given higher ordination early in 1933. From the time of his renunciation in 1895 he was a monastic manqué – more ascetic than the monkhood and seeking a goal that was impossible for a pious layman and unrealistic for Buddhist monks at his time, his own enlightenment.111 His insistence on his activism notwithstanding, Seneviratne quotes Dharmapala telling monks not to abandon the paramartha dhamma for social service.112 That distinction confounds the claim that he was a “champion of Protestant Buddhism.”113

Gombrich and Obeyesekere mention a religious wish that Dharmapala made – Gautama naming budu vemva (May I become enlightened / May I become a Buddha Gautama / May I become the Buddha Gautama).114 That aspiration pinpoints the center of his self-understanding and life’s work. They suggest that the assertion is triply ambiguous – the conventional wish is for enlightenment (bodhi or budu); the two presumptuous aspirations are “May I become the Buddha” and “May I become a Buddha.” This is a puzzle with a solution. He sometimes expressed his wish to become a bodhisattva, but in other places he was explicit about the higher aspiration:

My life will be given birth after birth to Humanity. I will practice paramitas. I will save the world. I will take vivarana [a warrant] from the coming Buddha. (Diary, April 1, 1897)115


His identification with the Buddha did not end with a warrant that set him on his own path to Buddhahood; he wrote in his diary, “I have given up the Arhat path and have taken the Sama Sambodhi path” (January 11, 1904). He tied his robes to mimic the way the Buddha tied his in lithographs (Diary, December 30, 1895). He measured his public life against a forty-five-year standard, the length of the Lord Buddha’s ministry (Diary, July 17, 1905).116 His own intentions aside, he was born to the role. His parents set him on that path. When he asked them for permission to become a lifelong brahmacarya, he did so by letter. His father replied by letter, “Dear Son, you had better become a Buddha.”117u

Obeyesekere misconstrues Dharmapala’s relationship with his parents, and whatever one wants to make of his Freudian reading of his behavior. That reading needs to begin with getting the domestic facts right. He argues that Dharmapala loved his mother but despised his father.118 His frequent wishing his parents well notwithstanding, his diaries reveal that he was alienated from both of them. Obeyesekere says that his father tried to insinuate him into the Colombo elite and wanted him to enter business. Quoting the passage where his father advised him to aspire to become a Buddha, he misses clues that one can find even in Guruge’s book. Dharmapala’s father did not want him to enter business, and Dharmapala did not flee to India to avoid the Oedipal conflict with him. He left the island and spent his life in India trying to recover Bodh Gaya. For the record, Dharmapala did not take on the burden of celibacy to accommodate the homosexuality Obeyesekere attributed to him.119 The conflicts that drove his life did not derive from Freudian forces, whatever their form. They derived from his seeking the highest spiritual goals – enlightenment, bodhisattva status, Buddhahood – in a world where he was involved with other people, linking them together in new ways, reforming, and admonishing them.

Sorting out the facts accomplishes more than setting the record straight. Understanding the man’s identity goes to the issue of what Buddhist nationalists had to work with when they appropriated him. I have no quarrel with Seneviratne’s saying that a lineage of Dharmapalite monks invoked him to justify their activism, although he presents almost no evidence that Dharmapala himself had their activism in mind. What he wanted from monks was for them to engage their traditional obligations more energetically and spread the Dhamma abroad. The key is his celibacy. His sexual orientation was heterosexual, and mastering his sexual desire bedeviled him throughout his life. Celibacy was central to his life’s work because he was a South Asian who wanted to make spiritual progress. It had nothing to do with his adoring his mother or harboring Oedipal feelings toward his father. It had to do with the aspiration to follow the Buddha’s example. His “this-worldly asceticism” was not a product of his Protestant values. It was a product of his wanting to achieve nirvana. Had he not had a damaged leg, he would have joined the monkhood. Even his “service to Humanity” had no obvious connection to Protestantism, but it has one to Theosophy. Helping others had to do with his wanting to imitate the Buddha’s course, which consisted in forty-five years of sharing the truth with other seekers. His struggle to recover Bodh Gaya was not motivated by worldly purposes alone. It was motivated by his identifying with the Buddha and following his course toward enlightenment.

During Dharmapala’s lifetime, the Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society published a number of articles by distinguished Buddhologists – from von Glasenapp and Sylvain Levy to B.C. Law, Nalinaksha Dutt, and Fyodor Stcherbatsky – and he was appreciative of the role Western scholarship played in making the Dhamma known around the world. He valued the many scholars who were personally sympathetic to Buddhist, but he insisted that they could not themselves understand the Dhamma. They were not celibate, and not practicing celibacy kept them from fully understanding the teachings. By contrast he was celibate and therefore capable of knowing things Western scholars could not.

The question is often asked, “Why should celibacy and chastity be a sine qua non rule and condition of regular chelaship, or the development of psychic and occult powers?” The answer is contained in the Commentary. When we learn that the “third eye” was once a physiological organ, and that later on, owing to the gradual disappearance of spirituality and increase of materiality (Spiritual nature being extinguished by the physical), it became an atrophied organ, as little understood now by physiologists as the spleen is — when we learn this, the connection will become clear. During human life the greatest impediment in the way of spiritual development, and especially to the acquirement of Yoga powers, is the activity of our physiological senses. Sexual action being closely connected, by interaction, with the spinal cord and the grey matter of the brain, it is useless to give any longer explanation. Of course, the normal and abnormal state of the brain, and the degree of active work in the medulla oblongata, reacts powerfully on the pineal gland, for, owing to the number of “centres” in that region, which controls by far the greater majority of the physiological actions of the animal economy, and also owing to the close and intimate neighbourhood of the two, there must be exerted a very powerful “inductive” action by the medulla on the pineal gland.

All this is quite plain to the Occultist, but is very vague in the sight of the general reader. The latter must then be shown the possibility of a three-eyed man in nature, in those periods when his formation was yet in a comparatively chaotic state. Such a possibility may be inferred from anatomical and zoological knowledge, first of all; then it may rest on the assumptions of materialistic science itself.

It is asserted upon the authority of Science, and upon evidence, which is not merely a fiction of theoretical speculation this time, that many of the animals — especially among the lower orders of the vertebrata — have a third eye, now atrophied, but necessarily active in its origin. [363] The Hatteria species, a lizard of the order Lacertilia, recently discovered in New Zealand (a part of ancient Lemuria so called, mark well), presents this peculiarity in a most extraordinary manner; and not only the Hatteria punctata, but the chameleon, certain reptiles, and even fishes. It was thought, at first, that it was no more than the prolongation of the brain ending with a small protuberance, called epiphysis, a little bone separated from the main bone by a cartilage, and found in every animal. But it was soon found to be more than this. It offered — as its development and anatomical structure showed — such an analogy with that of the eye, that it was found impossible to see in it anything else. There were and are paleontologists who feel convinced to this day that this “third eye” has functioned in its origin, and they are certainly right. For this is what is said of the pineal gland in Quain’s Anatomy (Vol. II. ninth edit., pp. 830-851.

“Thalamencephalon” Interbrain): —

“It is from this part, constituting at first the whole and subsequently the hinder part of the anterior primary encephalic vesicle, that the optic vesicles are developed in the earliest period, and the fore part is that in connection with which the cerebral hemispheres and accompanying parts are formed. The thalamus opticus of each side is formed by a lateral thickening of the medullary wall, while the interval between, descending towards the base, constitutes the cavity of the third ventricle with its prolongation in the infundibulum. The grey commissure afterwards stretches across the ventricular cavity. . . . . The hinder part of the roof is developed by a peculiar process, to be noticed later, into the pineal gland, which remains united on each side by its pedicles to the thalamus, and behind these a transverse band is formed as posterior commissure.

“The lamina terminalis (lamina cinerea) continues to close the third ventricle in front, below it the optic commissure forms the floor of the ventricle, and further back the infundibulum descends to be united in the sella turcica with the tissue adjoining the posterior lobe of the pituitary body.

“The two optic thalami formed from the posterior and outer part of the anterior vesicle, consist at first of a single hollow sac of nervous matter, the cavity of which communicates on each side in front with that of the commencing cerebral hemispheres, and behind with that of the middle cephalic vesicle (corpora quadrigemina). Soon, however, by increased deposit taking place in their interior, behind, below, and at the sides, the thalami become solid, and at the same time a cleft or fissure appears between them above, and penetrates down to the internal cavity, which continues open at the back part opposite the entrance of the Sylvian aqueduct. This cleft or fissure is the third ventricle. Behind, the two thalami continue united by the posterior commissure, which is distinguishable about the end of the third month, and also by the peduncles of the pineal gland...

“At an early period the optic tracts may be recognised as hollow prolongations from the outer part of the wall of the thalami while they are still vesicular. At the fourth month these tracts are distinctly formed. They subsequently are prolonged backwards into connection with the corpora quadrigemina.

“The formation of the pineal gland and pituitary body presents some of the most interesting phenomena which are connected with the development of the Thalamencephalon.”

The above is specially interesting when it is remembered that, were it not for the development of the hinder part of the cerebral hemispheres backwards, the pineal gland would be perfectly visible on the removal of the parietal bones. It is very interesting also to note the obvious connection to be traced between the (originally) hollow optic tracts and the eyes anteriorly, the pineal gland and its peduncles behind, and all of these with the optic thalami. So that the recent discoveries in connection with the third eye of Hatteria punctata have a very important bearing on the developmental history of the human senses, and on the occult assertions in the text.

It is well known, (and also regarded as a fiction now, by those who have ceased to believe in the existence of an immortal principle in man,) that Descartes saw in the pineal gland the Seat of the Soul. Although it is joined to every part of the body, he said, there is one special portion of it in which the Soul exercises its functions more specially than in any other. And, as neither the heart, nor yet the brain could be that “special” locality, he concluded that it was that little gland tied to the brain, yet having an action independent of it, as it could easily be put into a kind of swinging motion “by the animal Spirits which cross the cavities of the skull in every sense.”

Unscientific as this may appear in our day of exact learning, Descartes was yet far nearer the occult truth than is any Haeckel. For the pineal gland, as shown, is far more connected with Soul and Spirit than with the physiological senses of man. Had the leading Scientists a glimmer of the real processes employed by the Evolutionary Impulse, and the winding cyclic course of this great law, they would know instead of conjecturing; and feel as certain of the future physical transformations of the human kind by the knowledge of its past forms. Then, would they see the fallacy and all the absurdity of their modern “blind-force” and mechanical processes of nature; realizing, in consequence of such knowledge, that the said pineal gland, for instance, could not but be disabled for physical use at this stage of our cycle. If the odd “eye” in man is now atrophied, it is a proof that, as in the lower animal, it has once been active; for nature never creates the smallest, the most insignificant form without some definite purpose and use. It was an active organ, we say, at that stage of evolution when the spiritual element in man reigned supreme over the hardly nascent intellectual and psychic elements. And, as the cycle ran down toward that point when the physiological senses were developed by, and went pari passu with, the growth and consolidation of the physical man, the interminable and complex vicissitudes and tribulations of zoological development, that median “eye” ended by atrophying along with the early spiritual and purely psychic characteristics in man. The eye is the mirror and also the window of the soul, says popular wisdom, and Vox populi Vox Dei.

In the beginning, every class and family of living species was hermaphrodite and objectively one-eyed. In the animal, whose form was as ethereal (astrally) as that of man, before the bodies of both began to evolve their coats of skin, viz., to evolve from within without the thick coating of physical substance or matter with its internal physiological mechanism — the third eye was primarily, as in man, the only seeing organ. The two physical front eyes developed later on in both brute and man, whose organ of physical sight was, at the commencement of the Third Race, in the same position as that of some of the blind vertebrata, in our day, i.e., beneath an opaque skin. [367] Only the stages of the odd, or primeval eye, in man and brute, are now inverted, as the former has already passed that animal non-rational stage in the Third Round, and is ahead of mere brute creation by a whole plane of consciousness. Therefore, while the “Cyclopean” eye was, and still is, in man the organ of spiritual sight, in the animal it was that of objective vision. And this eye, having performed its function, was replaced, in the course of physical evolution from the simple to the complex, by two eyes, and thus was stored and laid aside by nature for further use in AEons to come.

-- The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy, by Helena P. Blavatsky


He had parallel reservations about Buddhist laypeople working for the welfare of the sasana. As he wrote to his assistant Devapriya, himself an anagarika bramacarya, “If you don’t like to be a ‘bramacharya’ enter the order of monks. You must be a monk or a brahmacharya to do sasana work. As a householder you can’t do any work for the sasana.”120 So much for the argument that Dharmapala intended the laicization of Buddhism.

In thinking about his social projects, it is essential to begin with the solitary and otherworldly direction of Dharmapala’s life and to think of him as a man who was first a religious seeker and second a social reformer.121 When he entered the Buddhist monkhood late in life, he did not follow the local convention of attaching the name of his birthplace to his monastic name. He replaced the village name with Devamitta (sent by the gods).122

The Kumara — the Rudra gods, so called (see further), are described as incarnations of Siva, the destroyer (of outward forms), named also Vamadeva. The latter, as a Kumara, the “Eternal Celibate,” the chaste Virgin youth, springs from Brahma in each great Manvantara, and “again becomes four”; a reference to the four great divisions of the human races, as regards complexion and type — and three chief variations of these. Thus in the 29th Kalpa — in this case a reference to the transformation and evolution of the human form which Siva ever destroys and remodels periodically, down to the manvantaric great turning point about the middle of the Fourth (Atlantean) Race — in the 29th Kalpa, Siva, as Swetalohita, the root Kumara, becomes, from moon-coloured, white; in his next transformation — he is red (and in this the exoteric version differs from the Esoteric teaching); in the third — yellow; in the fourth — black.

-- The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy, by Helena P. Blavatsky


He did not so much invent a new Buddhist role for laymen as adapt an overdetermined South Asian role in his own life circumstances. Trying to recover Bodh Gaya, he acted not as a nationalist, universalizer, pious layman, or social reformer. He imitated the life of the Buddha, who vowed not to leave the padmasana (the place where he sat as he attained nirvana) until he achieved enlightenment. Dharmapala’s vow promised that he would not leave the spot until he had returned it to Buddhist control. His vow had social implications, to be sure, but the place where he made it and the way it resonated with the Buddha’s own vow indicates his motivation to become a Buddha.

All trees have bark.
All dogs bark.
Therefore, all dogs are trees.

-- A List Of Fallacious Arguments, by Don Lindsay


Paying attention to his sense of himself as a world renouncer avoids using him for the sake of either the nation or Protestant Buddhism. It avoids dividing his life into irreconcilable parts, nationalist at home and universalist abroad. It avoids teleology.

Argument By Selective Observation: also called cherry picking, the enumeration of favorable circumstances, or as the philosopher Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting the misses. For example, a state boasts of the Presidents it has produced, but is silent about its serial killers. Or, the claim "Technology brings happiness". (Now, there's something with hits and misses.)

Casinos encourage this human tendency. There are bells and whistles to announce slot machine jackpots, but losing happens silently. This makes it much easier to think that the odds of winning are good.

-- A List Of Fallacious Arguments, by Don Lindsay


What allowed him to move easily and often between contexts was that he was a world renouncer at home and abroad, keeping distance from the roles he embodied in both places.

Stolen Concept: using what you are trying to disprove. That is, requiring the truth of something for your proof that it is false. For example,… arguing that you do not exist, when your existence is clearly required for you to be making the argument.

-- A List Of Fallacious Arguments, by Don Lindsay


His thinking of himself as such made it easy for him to imagine being reborn in India, Japan, Switzerland, or England.

Internal Contradiction: saying two contradictory things in the same argument.

-- A List Of Fallacious Arguments, by Don Lindsay
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Re: Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala, by Steven

Postby admin » Fri Jul 24, 2020 7:12 am

Part 5 of 5
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Notes:

1. Rustom Bharucha, Another Asia: Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 7.

2. To be more precise, in the 1920s Japanese Buddhists composed a hymn based on The Light of Asia, the title of which translates as “the sun rises” or “sunrise comes.” Judith Snodgrass, “Performing Modernity: The Lumbini Project, Tokyo 1925,” Journal of Religiouis History 33, no. 2 (2009): 133-48.

3. Immanuel Kant, “Towards Perpetual Peace,” especially 105-8, and “The Metaphysics of Morals,” 132-6, in Kant’s Political Writings, ed. Hans Reiss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970).

4. Ernesto Laclau, “Universalism, Particularism, and the Question of Identity,” October 61 (1992): 84.

5. “The Late Ven. Dharmmapala,” Ceylon Daily News, May 15, 1933.

6. A.S. Fernando, “Anagarika Dedicated His Life to Serve Entire Mankind,” Sunday Observer, June 2, 1991.

7. “Six Processions for Dharmapala Meeting Today,” Ceylon Observer, September 13, 1964; “Anagarika Dharmapala Remembered,” Ceylon Daily News, September 29, 1979; Kahawatte Siri Sumedha, Anagarika Dharmapala: A Glorious Life Dedicated to the Cause of Buddhism (Varanasi: Maha Bodhi Society of India, 1999), 36.

8. “Anagarika Would Doubt Sincerity of Those Who Praise Him,” Ceylon Daily News, September 19, 1986.

9. Gunadasa Amerasekera, Dharmapala Marksvadida? (Colombo: M.D. Gunasena, 1980), 2. Amerasekera’s target is the Catholic historian G.C. Mendis.

10. “Dharmapala and the National Identity,” Divaina, September 17, 1993.

11. “Dharmapala Battled His Sexual Urges,” Sunday Observer, September 20, 1998.

12. “MP Seeks Probe over Defamation of Anagarika,” Sunday Times, October 4, 1998.

13. K. M. de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1981), 377.

14. C.A. Chandraprema, “The J.V.P. and Gunadasa Amarasekera: Two Sinhala Buddhist Tendencies,” Lanka Guardian 11 (1988): 15 and 24 at 15.

15. Richard Gombrich and Gananath Obeyesekere, Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), 207-18.

16. See, for instance, S.J. Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed: Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 131; and H.L. Seneviratne, The Work of Kings: The New Buddhism in Sri Lanka (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999).

17. In 1930 Dharmapala transferred eleven pieces of property to the Anagarika Dharmapala Trust. Sinha Ratnatunga, They Turned the Tide: the 100 Year History of the Maha Bodhi Society of Sri Lanka (Colombo: Government Press, 1991), 134.

18. Mark Frost, “’Wider Opportunities’: Religious Revival, Nationalist Awakening and the Global Dimension in Colombo, 1870-1920,” Modern Asian Studies 36 (2002): 937-67.

19. “Anagarika Dharmapala,” Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society and the United Buddhist World 14 (1906): 126. At the end of his 1892 diary, Dharmapala made a list of “magic lantern slides” he showed in village settings. The majority show the Bodh Gaya temple, but he also screened images of Hindu ascetics, a funeral pyre, Indian convicts, a Bengali wedding ceremony, an Indian darbar (council), the Jain temple in Calcutta, and Lord Elgin and his suite.

20. Sheldon Pollock, “Ramayana and Political Imagination in India,” Journal of Asian Studies 52, no. 2 (1993): 261-97.

21. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983), 40.

22. Gombrich has argued against calling the premodern Buddhist world a social formation, even a notional one. His view is that Buddhism’s lack of interest in civilizational matters and disregard for exclusive allegiance meant that there was no Buddhist world save what little coherence the monkhood as a transcontinental institution provided. “The Buddhist Way,” in The World of Buddhism, ed. Heinz Bechert and Richard Gombrich (London: Thames and Hudson, 1984), 9-14. An account of Buddhism that neither hypostasizes the tradition nor reduces it to what the Buddha taught can be found in Frank E. Reynolds and Charles Hallisey, “Buddhism,” in Encyclopedia of Reglion, ed. Lindsay Jones, 2nd ed. (Detroit: Thomson/Gale, 2005), 1087-1101. I prefer to think of early Buddhism as a social formation held together by civilizational practices, such as the importance of Asokan kingship, as well as traffic in relics, ordination traditions, monks, texts, and artistic forms.

ASHOKA, ARCHITECT OF BUDDHIST HELLS

Since the Buddha didn’t even endorse the idea of the afterlife, someone else must have adapted the Vedic hells to the Buddhist idiom. The Buddha’s sermons were not written down during his lifetime, and were maintained in an oral tradition for hundreds of years, so we can’t establish precisely when the hells were injected into Buddhist doctrine. However, we can identify the time period when they appeared in Buddhist literature.

Buddhist writings began to proliferate during the rule of the Indian King Ashoka, a major Buddhist historical figure. Although reverenced by the Buddhist hierarchy because of his conversion to Buddhism and adoption of the faith as his state religion, Ashoka killed all three of his brothers, slaughtered hundreds of thousands to establish the Mauryan Empire, and ruled the Indian subcontinent with an iron hand from 273 to 232 BCE. Although Buddha had ordered that his teachings not be written down, Ashoka put up many stone pillars with admonitions reflecting his Buddhist beliefs, and these pillars are some of the first "Buddhist writings." According to Buddhist tradition, the Third Buddhist Council was conducted under Ashoka’s auspices, in the seventeenth year of his reign. There were many conflicting doctrines contending for legitimacy at the Council, and various factions appealed to Ashoka to give royal approval to their doctrines. The factions that received Ashoka’s endorsement would also have accommodated his doctrinal predilections.

Hell first appears in Buddhist literature in the Ashokan era, in a compilation of Buddhist tales entitled the Mahavastu, in which one of Buddha's disciples, Maugdalayana, makes a trip to hell to fetch his mother, and returns to tell the tale. The Mahavastu includes the "Jataka Tales," that ostensibly tell the story of the Buddha's past lives, and present him as a transcendent being with supernatural powers who merely pretended to suffer from human vulnerabilities for the edification of ordinary humans. Thus the Mahavastu upends the revolutionary story that Buddha was a man who rejected wealth and power as the son of a king, and wandered in the jungle, meditating in solitude until he mastered his fate through the diligent study of his own mind. The Buddha of the Mahavastu is presented as an inherently divine being, a spiritual king, who descended to the earthly plane like a standard Hindu deity. The Mahavastu is thus the first of an innumerable sequence of Buddhist books that fit the Buddha into a standard Hindu cosmo-conception, and inject his life story with mystagoguery. The Mahavastu is written in Buddhist Sanskrit, not Pali, the language of the original Buddhist Scriptures, and thus likely includes interpolations made to reach a rapprochement with Hinduism.[41] Such writings can be seen as a corruption and concealment of the true doctrine that remake Gautama Buddha in the image of a universal monarch, depriving him of his inspiring character as a humble, egalitarian renunciate.

Before he converted to Buddhism, Ashoka was obsessed with the tortures of hell, and even built a torture den designed to look like a beautiful palace that would lure unsuspecting visitors to enter in search of pleasure. His chief torturer, Girika, swore an oath to kill every person who entered the torture palace, that history has named “Ashoka’s Hell.” Legend says that Girkia convinced Ashoka to “to design the torture chamber based on the suffering endured by people reborn in Buddhist hell,” and “was so terrifying, that Emperor Ashoka was thought to have visited hell so that he could perfect its evil design.”[42] When Girika failed in his efforts to boil a Buddhist saint alive, Ashoka put Girika to death, demolished the torture palace, and converted to Buddhism. This legend is often paired with the story that Ashoka repented of warfare after killing 350,000 people while conquering the kingdom of Kalinga; thus, there is some ambiguity about which event prompted Ashoka to convert. In any event, historians concur that after he conquered Kalinga, although he did not abandon warfare altogether, Ashoka reduced the frequency and brutality of his wars, and encouraged the growth of the Buddhist Sangha. As a Buddhist king, Ashoka realized that threatening people with hellfire could be more effective than actually killing them. As the Tao Teh Ching observes, "If the people no longer fear death, it is useless to threaten them with death."[43] People who do not fear death are the ultimate danger to authority, as Ashoka had learned in the conquest of Kalinga, where the people sacrificed their lives in great numbers to resist his domination.

Ashoka's doctrinal servants were enthusiastic purveyors of hell, and placed strong emphasis on the idea that the disembodied soul, after death, cannot actually die. Thus, in a clever innovation that makes this point, the first Buddhist hell is called "Alive Again!", where victims are executed by horrendous devices, and revived again to suffer the same fate, ad infinitum.

-- 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


23. I have made this argument more fully in The Presence of the Past: Chronicles, Politics, and Culture in Sinhala Life (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991).

24. “The Discourse of Civilization and Decolonization,” Journal of World History 15 (2004): 2.

25. See Martha Nussbaum, “Kant and Cosmopolitanism,” in Perpetual Peace: Essays on Kant’s Cosmopolitan Ideal, ed. James Bohman and Matthias Lutz-Bachmann (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997), 27.

26. In its original form, the expression appeared in German, referring to Christianity as the “uniquely universal” religion of Christ. As the taxonomic and pluralistic expression “world religions” developed, this Christian monopolistic use of the term persisted. Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions; or, How European Universalism Was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 23.

27. Masuzawa, Invention of World Religions, 20.

28. Walter R. Houghton, ed., Neely’s History of the Parliament of Religions and Religious Congresses at the World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago: F.T. Neely, 1893), 28.

29. Gombrich writes that Dharmapala was perhaps the first Buddhist to learn meditation from a text. Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo (London: Routledge, 1988), 189. It is true that he learned how to embody the chela role (the student of a Tibetan mahatma) from reading Blavatsky’s “Chelas and Lay Chelas” (Theosophist, July 1882), and how to be a vegetarian from reading a vegetarian cookbook (Diary, August 12, 1925). Meditation, as it happened, he learned in person during the annual convention of the Theosophical Society in Adyar. As his diaries have it, “Woke at 3 a.m. & sat for a while in meditation …. Bro. S. Ramasamier of Chela fame came in the evening…. Ramasamier showed me how to sit in ‘Siddhasana.’ I saw at Mihintale two years ago a marble statue of the Buddha sitting in this posture. You sit in such a way as to shut the passages of the anus and the penis” (January 2, 1891). At the same meeting he “had a few instructions on Dhyana Bhavana from my Burmese friend” (January 9, 1891). The manual on dhyana meditation – to which Gombrich refers – he did not locate until 1893. So if we are to make any claim here, we might say that Dharmapala was the first Buddhist to learn meditation from Theosophists.

30. Ernest Eitel, Buddhism: Its Historical, Theoretical and Popular Aspects (London: Trubner, 1873), 64.

31. Edwin Arnold, The Light o fAsia; or, The Great Renunciation: The Life and Teaching of Gautama, Prince of India and Founder of Buddhism (New York: A. L. Burt, 1879); The Diaries of Anagarika Dharmapala, typescript, 36 vols., Maha Bodhi Society, Colombo, Sri Lanka, hereafter cited parenthetically as “Diary” followed by specific dates. For more information about the form and content of the Diaries, see appendix 1.

32. His disdain for conversion derived from his encounter with Christian teachers in the missionary schools he attended as a boy. There was a second constraint that must have occurred to him. A layperson such as himself could not administer the Three Refuges to anyone, and thus he could not convert anyone. Olcott traveled in the West with a heterodox, if official, warrant in the form of a certificate from Hikkaduve Sumangala and other leading monks, which authorized him to “register interested people” as Buddhists. C.V. Agarwal, The Buddhist and Theosophical Movements, 1873-2001 (Calcutta: Maha Bodhi Society of India, 2001). Olcott’s document, dated February 2, 1884, is reprinted as the endpaper of the book.

33. Philip Almond provides a persuasive account of the affinity between Buddhism and the Victorian imagination in The British Discovery of Buddhism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

34. Sukanya Banerjee, Becoming Imperial Citizens: Indians in Late-Victorian Empire (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 17.

35. Becoming Imperial Citizens, 17.

36. Doris Lessing, Walking in the Shade: Volume Two of My Autobiography, 1949-1962 (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), 209.

37. Becoming imperial Citizens, 193.

38. Becoming Imperial Citizens, 53.

39. British National Archives, CO/54/768/33250, September 24, 1913.

40. Ibid., CO/54/768/33250, 1913.

41. Ibid., CO/54/791/39771, August 28, 1915.

42. Ibid., CO/54/791/35095, July 30, 1915.

43. “Islam in Japan,” Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society 19 (1911): 28-30, at 29.

44. “1900 June at Chittagong. I had written an article for the Bauddhaya condemning the habits of the European women. This gave offense to the European community. This was before the war. The whole European community rose up in arms, and the Govt. of Ceylon prosecuted the printer of the paper and he was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment. My mother advised me not to return to Ceylon for 2 years.” The Notebooks of Anagarika Dharmapala, manuscript, 58 vols., Dharmapala Museum, Sarnath, India. Hereafter cited parenthetically as Sarnath Notebook followed by notebook number. For more information about the form and content of the Notebooks, see Appendix 1.

45. The meaning of Dharmapala’s reference to “the Holy Ones” is unclear. At first glance, the referent is obvious – the Buddhist monkhood – but he avoids using “sangha,” the expression that conventionally follows the other two parts of the Triple Refuge. He might be referring to the Theosophical mahatmas, Buddhist adepts residing in the Himalayas, but I suspect he is overcoding the Buddhist monastic role in Theosophical terms.

46. Dharmapala’s critic turned out to be a kinsman of Lloyd George, a connection that led to a friendship between a Welsh train conductor and a Buddhist ascetic. The two always greeted one another in later years when they ran into one another on the Kandy line.

47. In Ananda Guruge, ed., Return to Righteousness: A Collection of Speeches, Essays and Letters of the Anagarika Dharmapala (1965; repr., Colombo: Ministry of Cultural Affairs, 1991), 59. When Dharmapala inaugurated Buddhist temples in Calcutta and Sarnath, he invited the most senior British officials and used the occasion to invoke his devotion to the Crown. But he also did so on occasions where his expressions of loyalty were hardly required by the event. He established his short-lived newspaper the Ceylon Nation in 1911, for example, to commemorate the coronation of King George V. The paper was intended as a vehicle for Sinhalese Buddhists to express their grievances to British authorities. “The Ceylon Nation,” Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society, 10 (1912): 30.

48. C. A. Hewavitarne, “An Appeal,” Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society, September 21, 1913, 197. Hewavitarne notes that spreading the Dhamma in England would draw “Ceylon closer to the heart of the Empire.”

49. E.L. R. Thornton, “God Save the King,” Hindu, quoted in “A Notable Speech,” Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society 20 (1912): 22-3, at 23.

50. It was only with the coming of the British Commonwealth that the British began to think that the status of imperial subject was inadequate to the complexity of people in the Commonwealth. To that extent, Dharmapala’s lifetime spanned the same period when the interaction of universalism and particularism came to the fore, and the structure of the empire played a part in producing the category “citizen.”

51. The Crisis of the Arab Intellectual Traditionalism or Historicism?, trans. Diarmid Cammel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), 153-77.

52. “The Crisis of French Universalism,” Yale French Studies 100 (2001): 45n4.

53. Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society 1, no. 1 (1892): 1-2.

54. Olcott, Old Diary Leaves: The True Story of the Theosophical Society, 6 vols. (Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1895-1935), 2:301.

55. “Diary Leaves of the Buddhist Representative to the World’s Parliament of Religions,” in The Maha Bodhi Centenary Volume, 1891-1991, ed. M. Wipulasara (Calcutta: Maha Bodhi Society, 1991), 72-5, at 73.

56. The principles, rules, and bylaws of the society itself showed the dual commitment, as did the society’s name, The Theosophical Society, or Universal Brotherhood. The first principle was “The Theosophical Society is formed upon the basis of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity.” Theosophist 1 (1880): 179-80, at 179.

57. “What is Buddhism?,” Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society 36 (1928): 502-12, at 510.

58. Old Diary Leaves, 2:301. Olcott was a Buddhist, but a white Buddhist, and embodying those two identities allowed him to sliop out of one identity and into the other. David Karunaratne’s account of Dharmapala, for instance, critique’s Olcott’s universalism, arguing that Sinhalas doubted his “Buddhist sincerity because he married the daughter of a Christian father and looked after Christian children. He became a Buddhist but he treated all religions as one religion. Therefore it is well-known that Colonel Olcott was not sufficiently Buddhist.” Anagarika Dharmapala (Colombo: M.D. Gunasena, 1965), 66-7.

59. Dharmapala’s universalism followed logically from his commitment to the mahatmas, whose renunciation and spiritual advancement led them to transcend nation, ethnicity, and other social identities. “They are, then a very small number of highly intelligent men belonging not to any one nation but to the world as a whole.” Anagarika Dharmapala, “The Great White Brotherhood,” Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society 18 (1910): 362-3, at 363.

60. “General Report of the Sixteenth Convention and Anniversary of the Theosophical Society,” supplement, Theosophist 13 (1892): 1-42, at 2.

61. “Past General Secretaries after Anagarika Dharmapala,” in Wipulasara, Maha Bodhi Centenary Volume, 56-7.

62. These Arakanese Buddhists celebrated Vesak early on with the Maha Bodhi Society, Maha Bodhi Society events were sometimes held at their vihara, and the Arakanese helped Dharmapala rent his quarters at 2 Creek Road (Diary, December 13, 1917). The two groups also enjoyed the patronage of the same elite Bengalis. Hemendu B. Chowdhury, Jagajjyoti Kirpasaran Mahathera 125 Birth Anniversary Volume (Calcutta: Bauddha Dharmankur Sabha, 1990). Why there was not more solidarity between the two groups is unclear, although differences of class are hard to overlook. Dharmapala had misgivings about Kripasaran, whom he described as “illiterate but respected” (Sarnath Notebook no. 23).

63. I have discovered after the fact that I have been thinking about Dharmapala’s several Buddhisms in a way that parallels Anne Blackburn’s approach to Hikkaduve Sumangala. I thank her for articulating the point better than I could. Locations of Buddhism: Colonialism and Modernity in Sri Lanka (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).

64. In 1897 Dharmapala responded to an article by a Protestant minister who dismissed Buddhism by saying that it was “one thing in Ceylon, quite another in Tibet, and still another in China and Japan.” Dharmapala’s response was to insist that all Buddhists shared the same basic beliefs, while admitting everyday differences in Buddhist practice. “Is There More Than One Buddhism?,” Open Court 2, (1897): 82.

65. Dharmapala gave his first lecture, “Buddhism in Its Relationship to Hinduism,” in Calcutta at the Albert Hall on October 25, 1891.

66. “The Hindu Maha Sabha,” Amrita Bazar Patrika, reprinted in Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society 31 (1923): 354-6.

67. “Buddhism and Christianity,” in Houghton, Neely’s History, 803.

68. Part of Gombrich’s rationale for saying that Dharmapala practiced a “Protestant Buddhism” is based on an argument for religious egalitarianism: “Dharmapala accepted the Western Protestant view of religion as one and the same for everybody.” Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo (London: Routledge, 1988), 192.

69. “The Maha Bodhi Society,” Ceylon Daily News, December 29, 1926.

70. Don Carolis put great confidence in astrology, and when he examined his son’s horoscope, Dharmapala noted that “within my hearing he said that my stars were bad and that I could therefore make no progress in my studies. This was balm to me” (“My Autobiography,” Sarnath Notebook no. 53). In a later passage he writes of his father, “He did not care to have me follow him to learn his business, and he had a clerk who did all correspondence.” I suspect Don Carolis discovered that his son was a hatara Kendra paluvima kenek, having a horoscope that destines a man to become either a king or a beggar. In the local context what recommends a life of renunciation is the practical impossibility of becoming a king and the undesirability of becoming a beggar.

71. Jack P. Greene, ed., Exclusionary Empire: English Liberty Overseas, 1600-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 2-8.

72. A Free Though Conquering People: Eighteenth-Century Britain and Its Empire (London: Ashgate, 2003).

73. Gombrich and Obeyesekere, Buddhism Transformed. Gombrich and Obeyesekere characterize Kitsiri Malalgoda, Buddhism in Sinhalese Society, 1750-1900 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), as itself a history of Protestant Buddhism, 6. Malalgoda applies the Protestant Buddhism notion to circumstances that predate Olcott’s arrival, characterizing the Buddhist resistance more as an indigenous response to Christian missionizing than a product of Theosophical intervention, 246.

74. Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 7-16, at 13.

75. When he visited in the fifth century, Faxian saw three monasteries at Bodh Gaya, one of which was the Sinhala monastery. In the seventh century Xuanzang found only the Sinhala monastery, and he says the monks there were studying the “Great Vehicle.” Li Rongxi, The Life of Hsuan-Tsang: The Tripitaka-Master of the Great Tzu En Monastery (Beijingt: Chinese Buddhist Association, 1993). When the Tibetan Dharmasvamin visited just before the place was abandoned by Buddhists, one of the last remaining monks at Bodh Gaya was Sinhala. But it is unclear whether “Sinhala” carries an ethnic referent or an ideological one, as in the Buddhism spread from the island to Burma and Thailand in medieval times.

76. Frank J. Karpiel, “Theosophy, Culture, and Politics in Honolulu, 1890-1920,” Hawaiian Journal of History 30 (1996): 177-89.

77. For all of its emphasis on fostering Buddhism and Sinhala causes, Dharmapala’s newspaper, the Bauddhaya, gave editorial support to both Ponnambalam Ramanathan in the first legislative council election, and E.W. Perera, a Catholic, who led the Lankan delegation in talks in London about independence. Ratnatunga, The Turned the Tide, 94.

78. A newspaper account describing Dharmapala as a curious blend of the prophet Jeremiah and Jonathan Swift suggests why Buddhists and non-Buddhists found him hard to ignore. “A Colombo Diary,” Ceylon Daily News, January 13, 1927.

79. The Work of Kings, 96-117, at 103, quoting Hendiyagala Silaratana, Vinnanaya (Kuliyapitiya: Sastrodaya Press, n.d.), 289, 310.

80. Not looking for evidence beyond Guruge has led to inferences that have no warrant. Consider Combrich’s saying that Dharmapala left Colombo because his political activities had attracted official attention. Theravada Buddhism, 188. In 1892 he left for Calcutta to continue his campaign for Bodh Gaya, not because his militancy had gotten him into trouble with colonial officials. Trouble came some two decades later. After he returned to Calcutta in 1914, his mother wrote him that he should not come home because she had heard rumors of official displeasure. But he was not “exiled” in 1915. Ibid.

81. Dharmapala’s comment links his people to low birth by making a literary reference to low status that I suspect he learned from the Mahavamsa.

82. A Sincere Buddhist, “Mr. Dharmapala and His Work,” Ceylon Daily News, December 9, 1926.

83. A History of Sri Lanka, 377. In a chapter on the nationalist movement in the early twentieth century, de Silva suggests that the failure of the nationalist movement to influence “the formal political activities of the elite at this time” was due to Dharmapala’s “being out of the island for considerable amounts of time.” “The Reform and Nationalist Movements in the Early Twentieth Century,” in University of Ceylon History of Ceylon, vol. 3 (Colombo: Colombo Apothecaries, 1973), 384. De Silva finds another source of the failure of nationalist movement in Dharmapala’s failure to act on “clearly defined political objectives” because he has so many other interests. I would say that these other interests need to be understood in the context of personal reform preceding social reform. De Silva’s assertion that Dharmapala was the “most militant” of the nationalists needs more substantive reconsideration. It implies that Dharmapala, advocating svaraj, fell out with other nationalists because he was more radical than they were. His language was more radical, but the change he advocated understood svaraj as personal reform, and his political goals were much the same as other nationalists. What separated Dharmapala from his colleagues is what separated Gandhi from Nehru – his politics were driven by a spiritual agenda not shared by others.

84. The diaries track Dharmapala’s relationship with Gandi over several decades with comments on Gandhi’s political strategies, public presence, and minimal knowledge of Buddhism and temporizing support for the Bodh Gaya cause. On one occasion Gandhi spoke on Buddhism at the temple Dharmapala built in Calcutta.

85. A History of Sri Lanka, 378.

86. Gananath Obeyesekere, “Personal Identity and Cultural Crisis: The Case of Anagarika Dharmapala of Sri Lanka,” in The Biographical Process: Studies in the History and Psychology of Religion, ed. Frank E. Reynolds and Donald Capps (The Hague: Mouton, 1976), 221-52, at 244.

87. Buddhism in Sinhalese Society, 246, 260-2.

88. “Religious Symbolism and Political Change in Ceylon,” 58-78.

89. As John Holt points out, Protestant Buddhism in its first iteration, that is, Obeyesekere’s “Religious Symbolism and Political Change in Ceylon,” Modern Ceylon Studies 1 (1970): 43-63, represented a protest against Christianity, and in Gombrich and Obeyesekere’s 1988 Buddhism Transformed, it became a protest against traditional Buddhism. Holt, “Protestant Buddhism?,” Religious Studies Review 17, no. 4 (1991): 309.

90. Obeyesekere, “On Buddhist Identity in Sri Lanka,” in Ethnic Identity Creation, Conflict, and Accommodation, ed. Lola Romanucci-Ross and George A. De Vos, 3rd ed. (Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira, 1993), 222-47, originally published in Gombrich and Obeyesekere, Buddhism Transformed, 202-40.

91. Buddhism Transformed, 215-6.

92. Theravada Buddhism, 192.

93. At the Paris Congress of Orientalists in 1897, Dharmapala told his audience: “Buddhism has two aspects – one for the simpleminded, the other for the philosopher …. Worship was intended for the simple people.” (Diary, September 14, 1897).

94. Harischandra adopted the robes of a tapasa when he took on the brahmacarya role on January 1, 1898. Praneeth Abhayasundere, Brahmachari Walisinge Harischandra (Colombo: Department of Cultural Affairs, 2000), 35. Dharmapala said Harischandra was “the only individual who follows my ideas.” Ibid., 20. Harischandra called himself an anagarika, and the only other anagarika was Devapriya. He did not exactly choose that role, having been brought up by Dharmapala to follow him as leader of the Maha Bodhi Society.

95. “Why Not Establish an Anagarika Order of Brothers?,” Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society 33 (1925): 181-2.

96. Ibid., 181.

97. Bhikkhu Devamitta Dhammapala, “Reminiscences of My Early Life,” Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society 41 (1933): 151-62, at 155.

98. Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism, 186.

99. Buddhism Transformed, 8, 6.

100. Buddhism in Sinhalese Society, 1750-1900, 246.

101. Gombrich has him in white robes. Theravada Buddhism, 190. On July 12, 1892, Dharmapala was sent to Darjeeling by Hikkaduve Sumangala to present a relic and leaves from the Bodh Gaya bo tree to Tibetan lamas. At a procession, Dharmapala rode “on a dark bay horse, dressed in the orange colored garment of the order of Upasakas.” F.H. Muller, “Meeting at Darjeeling,” supplement, Theosophist 13 (1892): lxxxvii-lxxxviii, at lxxxvii. I’d call that foray a trial and locate the decisive change as coming in 1895.

102. “In my 4th year, my left [crossed out] right leg was permanently injured and I could not [crossed out] which debarred me from entering the order of Bhikkhus. Had not this defect been a hindrance I would have become a Bhikkhu. Some bad karma I might have done in the past or it might have been due to neglect of my nurse.” (Sarnath Notebook no. 4). Elsewhere he speaks of his right leg in particular – “But for my lameness in my right leg I would have joined the order” (Diary, January 31, 1919) – or attributes the injury to a “paralytic stroke” (Diary, September 17, 1926).

103. “Message of the Buddha,” in Wipulasara, Maha Bodhi Centenary Volume, 76-83, at 81.

104. See, for instance, Torkel Brekke, Makers of Modern Indian Religion in the Late Nineteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 68.

105. Dharmapala made another reference to Khantivada in his diary: “I do no harm to anybody but there are many who work agst: me. Khantivada was patience personified, but his holy body was hacked to death by a cruel king” (January 4, 1927).

106. L.S. Cousins, “Aspects of Esoteric Southern Buddhism,” in Indian Insights: Buddhism, Brahmanism and Bhakti: Papers from the Annual Spalding Symposium on Indian Religion, ed. Peter Connolly and Sue Hamilton (London: Luzac Oriental, 1997), 185-207. The society in Lanka distributed five thousand copies of the “Dhammapala Jataka” to Theosophical Schools. C.P. Goonewardene, “Report on the Buddhist Work of the Theosophical Soc’y,” supplement, Theosophist 10 (1889), 20-3 at 22. The “Dhamapala Jataka” itself appeared in Theosophist 10 (1888): 100-5. The story centers on a young boy of the Dhammapala lineage who is reported to have died under tragic circumstances. His family is completely nonplussed by the news, responding that they know the boy has not died because no Dhammapala dies young. Their lineage is so righteous that they invariably enjoy long lives. What might have recommended the story of Dhammapala to Dharmapala is the conventional closing in which the Buddha says, “And the characters of this story are we ourselves; the Brahman Dhammapala is now King Suddhodana, the preacher is Sari Putra… and the Prince Dhammapala is I Myself” (105). The story and the five thousand books both speak of Dhammapala, unlike Dharmapala’s own spelling. Although it was not consistent, the journal itself referred to him as Dhammapala (when he was going by Dharmapala). See, for example, “Brother Dhammapala,” supplement, Theosophist 10 (1889), cxix.

107. Women under the Bo Tree: Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka (Cambridge: Chambridge University Press, 1899), 55-6.

108. Dharmapala gave a title to this account of bhikkhu life and signed it, and eventually published it.

109. Bartholomeusz does not speak of Dharmapala’s disability on his early interest in becoming a monk. She mentions the episode when he sought ordination in 1899 and his taking ordination in the 1930s (Women under the Bo Tree, 55-6) but attributes no significance to either.

110. When he received ordination in 1933, he took the name Dhammapala. The transition from “Dharmapala” to “Dhammapala” reflects his recognition that the Pali form of his name was more appropriate.

111. I read that diary entry in 1930 as saying that being a samanera in 1906 would have impeded his sasana work, even if the thrust of the comment falls on 1930 when he was ready to step aside from involvement in the world. Whether he became a samanera in 1906 or remained a brahmacarya, the key was celibacy for both his spiritual development and social reform.

112. The Work of Kings, 110n40.

113. Bartholomeusz, Women under the Bo Tree, 55.

114. Buddhism Transformed, 312.

115. The Pali tradition assumes that there were twenty-five previous Buddhas in the infinite past. When the hjistorical Buddha met the previous Buddha countless lifetimes before his incarnation as Gautama, he made a vow to become a Buddha. The vivarana functions as a warrant, given by the incumbent Buddha, that the vow will be realized. See I.B. Horner, Buddhavamsa (London: Pali Text Society, 1975); and Jan Nattier, “The Meanings of the Maitreya Myth: A Typological Analysis,” in Maitreya, the Future Buddha, ed. Alan Sponberg and Helen Hardacre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 23-47. Arhats do not receive a warrant, but the texts equivocate on this point. Even when an arhat achieves nirvana in a flash, he has seen the Buddha in a previous life. Otherwise he would not have known the Dhamma. See Peter Masefield, Divine Revelation in Pali Buddhism (London: Allen and Unwin, 1995). I think it is fair to say that Dharmapala knew only the tradition that has only future Buddhas meeting and receiving a warrant from the Buddha.

116. Before his public career reached that forty-five-year point, Dharmapala worried that his health problems would keep him from matching that figure, noting, “If I live 18 years more, I would have worked 45 years” (Diary, December 20, 1917). By 1930 he was writing that he had lived the life of an anagarika for forty-five years (Diary, September 26, 1930). He also made calculations relative to how old his reincarnated self would be at the Buddha Jayanti, assuming he were to die presently: “If I die in 1932, I will be 15 in 1956” (Diary, May 11, 1930).

117. Lakshman Jayawardana, ed., Mage Jivita Kathava (Colombo: Dayawansa Jayakody, 2000), chapter 10.

118. “Personal Identity and Cultural Crisis,” 230-1.

119. “Personal Identity and Cultural Crisis,” 231. Obeyesekere says that Dharmapala was at least “latently” homosexual because of his close identification with his mother. He was not close to his mother and struggled with heterosexual urges virtually to the end of his life.

120. “Writing to Devapriya with Fatherly Love,” in Ananda W.P. Guruge, ed., Dharmapala Lipi (Anagarika Dharmapala ge Sinhala Lipi Sangrahayaki) (Colombo: Government Press, 1965), 415.

121. In Gombrich’s account, “By devoting his life to Buddhism Dharmapala meant not merely, in fact not primarily, seeking his own salvation, but promoting the Sasana, and indeed the general welfare of Buddhists as he saw it.” Theravada Buddhism, 190.

122. That choice can be interpreted in numerous ways -– as evidence of his seeing himself without connection to any one place in Sri Lanka, disdain for Sri Lanka, an expression of his universalism, his sense of mission, or a reference to the monk Devamitta who was going to give him ordination in 1906.

Excluded Middle (False Dichotomy, Faulty Dilemma, Bifurcation): assuming there are only two [or some other limited number of] alternatives when in fact there are more.

-- A List Of Fallacious Arguments, by Don Lindsay
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Re: Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala, by Steven

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Part 1 of 5

Chapter One: Dharmapala as Theosophist

Who will be the agent between the world and the Masters?

-- Anagarika Dharmapala, at Madame Blavatsky’s death


Dharmapala was much more deeply influenced by Theosophy than scholarly accounts have allowed. Neglecting those Theosophical influences derives from the allure of a national subjectivity – specifically Buddhist and Sinhala – as a tool for interpreting postcolonial Sri Lanka. Such accounts reduce Theosophy to a vehicle for Buddhist reform or limit Theosophy’s influence on Dharmapala’s life to the period between 1891 and 1905, when he left Theosophy behind and became a Buddhist pure and simple. Often they mark the turn at the point when Blavatsky told him to fix his mind on learning Pali or when he fell out with Olcott. For many of the Sinhala Buddhists who joined the Theosophical Society after Olcott’s arrival, what recommended Theosophy was the society’s Western associations and willingness to help the Buddhist cause. For Dharmapala, Theosophy was quite a lot more. He learned how to embody the brahmacarya role by reading Sinnett’s Occult World.1 The mahatmas (advanced spiritual beings) gave him a compelling example of selfless service. Right up to the end of his diary keeping, he continued to invoke the mahatmas who watched over humanity from their Himalayan retreats. They provided him with examples that advanced spiritual states were possible, and they modeled the service to humankind that he pursued throughout his life.

Theosophy served as an instrument for his own high aspirations and idealism: the content remained largely Buddhist, but the notion that one could aspire to higher states of consciousness came from the mahatmas, who had themselves achieved those states. In contrast with the low spiritual aspirations of local monks, the mahatmas gave him a paradigm for his perfectionism. Theosophy gave him a rationale for carrying Buddhism to the West.2 Theosophy taught him that doing so was an act of the highest wisdom (parama vijnana). Summing up his life just before his death, he focused on people who had shaped his career; two were his parents and two Theosophists:

Sadhu! Sadhu!! Buddhists of Japan, China, Tibet, Siam, Cambodia, Ceylon & Burma are dead. The germ of Bodhi was impregnated in my heart by my father. The germ of renunciation was impregnated by my Mother, and the Devas induced Mrs. Mary Foster of Honolulu to help me. The path of perfection was shown to me by Mme. Blavatsky in my 21st year. (Diary, December 20, 1930).


Even someone as peripheral to his life as C.F. Powell played a part.3 When they worked together at Theosophical headquarters, Dharmapala found a real-world example of service to humanity and realized that he could do it himself.

Giving proper balance to Buddhism and Theosophy in Dharmapala’s life confronts challenges unlike comparable analytical tasks – sorting out, let’s say, the ways Gandhi was influenced by Christianity although never ceasing to think of himself as a Hindu.

GANDHI AND THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY

Blavatsky's health eventually started to fail, forcing her to move to London. There she founded the Blavatsky Lodge and was visited by Mohandas K. Gandhi, who was receiving a Western education and studying to become a lawyer.

He was encouraged by Blavatsky and the Theosophists to read Hinduism’s religious text, the Bhagavad Gita, though he initially declined, embarrassed by a lack of knowledge of his native religion. He was also ashamed at his lack of comprehension of Sanskrit, but eventually said he was willing to read along with them.

This opened Gandhi’s perception of the religion, having previously cast it off as antiquated and a superstition that his parents shamefully still practiced. But reading the Gita changed his worldview, and it became his guide to life.

This was the first step in breaking down the “civilized” constructs that British imperialist culture had instilled in Gandhi, eventually leading to his non-violent, peaceful protests against that very system. He heard Blavatsky talking about a universal brotherhood and the commonality between all religion and races, inspiring one of the most famous political activists of all time.

It’s well documented that Gandhi attributed much of his inspiration to his time spent with the Theosophical society. He spoke of Blavatsky as being a major catalyst for his ideas, and while he was living in South Africa, Gandhi kept a picture of Annie Besant, Blavatsky’s successor, on his office wall.

Though he was intrigued by the Theosophical Society and its philosophies, he didn’t want to become a member, due to its esoteric, secretive nature. Gandhi believed that secret societies were anathema to democracy and would hinder its success. Besides, Gandhi was a man of the people, though he would eventually join as an associate member, a now defunct title.

GANDHI AND ANNIE BESANT

Annie Besant was an Irish activist who was involved in political and spiritual movements, which presented alternatives to capitalism and imperialism. She fought for women’s rights, freedom of thought, and secularism.

Besant was a compelling orator, and a speech she gave at Trafalgur Square in London was partially responsible for the Bloody Sunday of 1887, during which police clashed with protesters of the Irish National League and the Socialist Democratic Federation, arresting hundreds and injuring 75.

Eventually she joined the Theosophical Society after writing a review on one of Blavatsky’s books and subsequently interviewing her. She found socialism and economics lacked a spiritual aspect, and found Theosophy filled that void.

With her history in politics and newfound appreciation for Theosophy, she became involved in Indian politics, launching the foundation of the Indian Home Rule Movement in 1916. She became a member of the Indian National Congress and fronted the first political party in India whose goal was to overthrow the imperial British regime.

Obviously, she was met with some resistance and spent time in jail for a few months, but was eventually released and made president of the Indian National Congress for one year. The man who petitioned for her release from prison and who became her successor was none other than Mohandas Gandhi, when he returned home from his time spent in South Africa.

From then on, Gandhi would take over for Besant and develop his satyagraha movement to peacefully protest against British imperialism. And though they grew apart due to ideological differences, Besant continued to campaign for Indian independence.

Though the extent to which the occult Theosophical movement influenced Gandhi and Indian independence is not commonly known, it is well documented. It could also be said that the widespread influence of Eastern spirituality on Western culture that is so prominent today can be attributed largely to Blavatsky and Theosophy. Had she and her followers not taken the steps to influence Indian independence and the revivification of Hinduism, Indian history may have been different.

-- Gandhi Learned Hinduism from Blavatsky's Occult Theosophy , by Gaia Staff


What makes the present task complicated derives from the same virtues that made Theosophy successful as a social movement. Two of those virtues reinforce one another. Theosophy thought about itself as something other than a religion. It was rationalistic and scientific. Its self-description emphasized that the group was devoted to discussion and exploration. Joining the group did not entail abandoning the religion the new Theosophist had practiced previously. Membership in a Theosophical society was additive, and the society exercised authority that was softer than soft.

QUESTION No. 1. -- "What are the Pitris?" ...

Note. -- This question was -- with rare exceptions -- very badly answered. A large number of Esotericists simply replied, "I do not know," or, "I am not very clear," -- a confession of ignorance which no one, after a year of study, should have been obliged to make. An Esotericist has the duty of right-thinking as well as right-living, and a lamentable want of study is shown in most of the papers. It is wholly impossible to give more advanced teaching to those who are not even familiar with the broad outlines of the doctrines given to the world in the Secret Doctrine. Even the Notes on the Secret Doctrine, given monthly in Lucifer, would have enabled Esotericists to answer this question.

Q. (2) -- "What is Kama Rupa?" ...

NOTE. -- Many students answered this question by merely translating Kama-Rupa into "body of desire" -- an answer that could have been given by any outsider who had picked up a Theosophical publication dealing with the seven principles. Only a very small minority stated that the Rupa was formed after death -- a fact which seems to imply, that great majority of Esotericists have not taken the trouble to read the third Instructions. Such gross ignorance as the the confounding of Kama-Rupa with Kama-Loca is also shown in some of the answers. The mistake in some cases was probably due to the acceptation by the students of Mr. Sinnett's classification, without any analysis. Kama-Rupa must be included in the classification, because potentially it exists, although it is not concentrated or collected into a definite form until death breaks up the body. This may be understood in the same way as when we say that in such-and-such a man's body there are so many ounces of carbon, which, however, we know will not reveal themselves as carbon until released from the other elements.

Q. (3) -- "What is the difference between the Higher and the Lower Self?" ...

Note. -- Scarcely any avoided a confusion between the Higher Self and the Higher Ego. Some fell into the most hopeless blunders, showing that they had no clear ideas of the septenary constitution of man. Serious mistakes were also made as to the meaning of the "Lower Self;" one wild guess identifying it with the Auric Egg. Yet every Esotericist has invoked the Higher Self, and ought surely to have taken the trouble to make clear to himself what it was he invoked.

Q. (4) -- "What is the Astral Light?" ...

Note. -- That the Astral Light contains the record of earth was generally stated, although one student informed his surprised teacher that the Astral Light was the divine spark within us. This particular student is required to study more and think more. Few, however, understood the relation of the Astral Light to the earth as its Linga Sarira.

Q. (5) -- "Give reasons for joining the E.S."

Note. -- This question was, on the whole, very well answered, the replies showing earnestness and sincerity.

Q. (6) -- "What Theosophical book do you consider has most helped you?"

Note. -- If the books named are carefully studied, knowledge will be rapidly acquired.

Q. (7) -- "What is Occultism; and what do you consider to be Practical Occultism?" ...

Note. -- Badly answered. Hardly anyone had caught the central idea of Occultism.

-- The Esoteric Papers of Madame Blavatsky, by H. P. Blavatsky


The group that Olcott established in Colombo got the name Buddhist Theosophical Society. The specifically Theosophical content was negligible, but the group retained the name long after Olcott died and any need remained for reliance on Theosophy.

Leela Gandhi characterizes Theosophy as an “affective community” in which people of one sort mixed freely with others in the spirit of equality and solidarity. In her account imperialism did not itself foster human solidarity, but the imperial condition – in places as diverse as London and Calcutta – gave rise to cosmopolitanism, which had an elective affinity for intercultural friendship.

Elective Affinity: A term used by Max Weber to describe the relationship between Protestantism and capitalism (in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 1905). It refers to the resonance or coherence between aspects of the teachings of Protestantism and of the capitalist enterprise, notably the ethos of the latter. The relationship was unconscious so far as the actors involved were concerned. The concept has remained firmly tied to Weber's work although it has been used loosely by other sociologists, often in situations where it seems likely that there is an association between certain variables, but it is not yet clear what form this connection might take. A more modern way of describing the situation to which the concept applies might be in terms of the connections between beliefs, actions, and the unintended consequences of action. (see R. H. Howe , ‘Max Weber's Elective Affinities’, American Journal of Sociology, 1978.) See also PROTESTANT ETHIC THESIS; UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES.

-- Elective Affinity, by Encyclopedia.com


That cosmopolitanism produced “affective communities,” each marked by belonging without uniformity. Those communities provided an alternative to self-identical communities where an actor encounters others in “relation to himself, perpetually repeated.”4 The emphasis on equality and solidarity duly noted, the situation among Theosophists was more complicated. The movement produced its own variety of self-identical communities. In Burma there were three Theosophical societies – a Buddhist one for Burmese, a Hindu one for Indians, and one made up of Europeans and “half-castes,” specifically occupying themselves with the study of mesmerism.5 Members of the Philadelphia Theosophical Society requested permission to form a branch to admit only Germans to membership, leading to the establishment of Die Deutsche Theosophische Gesellschaft [German Theosophical Society].6 Whether bringing members of different sorts into one circle of inquiry or providing separate Theosophical venues for self-identical groups of people, Theosophy offered its members the invidious pleasures of investigating traditional religious truths at a depth that ordinary Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians did not know.

A second virtue was more semiotic than organizational. Blavatsky began by appropriating ancient Egyptian categories and practices, but she hit her stride after turning her attention to South Asia, a turn that was initiated by the putative trip she made to Tibet to learn the “ancient wisdom” from a group of adepts who lived in ashrams scattered across the Himalayas. These mahatmas made up what Blavatsky called a Great White Brotherhood, and their wisdom could be found in diminished form in all religions. At full strength, that wisdom was delivered in letters that Blavatsky and others received from the mahatmas. The language was English or French, the concepts were Hindu or Buddhist.

[Rudolf] Steiner claimed that [Franz] Hartmann had once told a story of how William Quan Judge had complained to him that he never received any letters from the mysterious Himalayan masters. Judge refused Hartmann's suggestion that he write some to himself with the stricture that he must be able to say that his letters arrived out of the blue in the known fashion of Mahatma letters. Hartmann's solution was simple: he volunteered to climb on a chair and drop the letters on Judge's head.

-- The Occult Establishment, by James Webb


Shifting between registers gave Theosophical talk a kind of transidiomaticity that it shared with South Asian figures such as Vivekananda, Aurobindo, and Mahatma Gandhi. Transidiomatic South Asian talk spread to people as diverse as Rudyard Kipling, James Joyce, and Robert J. Oppenheimer.7

Transidiomatic Practices

One of the most significant breathroughs in language studies in the late twentieth century was the introduction of the notion of communicative practice. Under the influence of European political philosophers such as Foucault and Bourdieu, language and communication scholars adopted the notion of practice to deal not only with communicative codes and ways of speaking (some of the rallying concepts of the first wave of the ethnography of communication), but also with semiotic understanding, power asymmetry and linguistic ideology. By focusing on the “socially defined relation between agents and the field that ‘produces’ speech forms” (Hanks 1996:230), a practice-oriented approach can then explore speakers’ orientations, their habitual patterns and schematic understandings and their indexical strategies. Hanks defined communicative practice as constituted by the triangulation of linguistic activity, the related semiotic code or linguisitic forms and the ideology of social indexicality. He invoked a poetic image of practice as “the point of conversion of the quick of activity, the reflexive gaze of value, and the law of the system” (1996:11).

This triangulation of linguistic activity, semiotic codes and indexicality needs to be complexified to account for how groups of people that are no longer territorially defined, think about themselves, communicate using an array of both face-to-face and long-distance media, and in so doing produce and reproduce social hierarchies and power asymmetries. I propose to use the term transidiomatic practice to describe the communicative practices of transnational groups that interact using different languages and communicative codes simultaneously present in a range of communicative channels, both local and distant.

Transidiomatic practices are the result of the co-presence of digital media and multi-lingual talk exercised by deterritorialized/reterritorialized speakers. They operate in contexts heavily structured by social indexicalities and semiotic codes that produced relatively stable power asymmetries and cultural hegemonies. Anyone present in transnational environments, whose talk is produced by both biological and digital means, and who interacts with both present and distant people is engaged in transidiomatic practices.

-- Theories and Methods, edited by Peter Auer, Jurgen Erich Schmidt


As this discourse traveled from its first occupational niche, it mutated, and its rhetorical force was transformed. When J. Robert Oppenheimer said the first nuclear explosion reminded him of a passage from the Bhagavad Gita – “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds” – he put the Hindu text to new purposes, acquiring new meanings and losing old ones. What was originally a discourse framed in a particular register could speak to new audiences without having to “posit the particular medium of communication as a coherent foundation,” bypassing the necessity for a “more conscious or full-fledged translation.” In this context, Theosophical discourse profited from an advantage it did not earn – it borrowed the authority of older ones without continually having to provide context and explication, and that authority enabled it to become “a material phenomenon with corresponding effects within social networks of power.”8

Argument by Gibberish (Bafflement):

this is the extreme version of Argument By Prestigious Jargon. An invented vocabulary helps the effect, and some net.kooks use lots of CAPitaLIZation. However, perfectly ordinary words can be used to baffle. For example, "Omniscience is greater than omnipotence, and the difference is two. Omnipotence plus two equals omniscience. META = 2." [From R. Buckminster Fuller's No More Secondhand God.]

Gibberish may come from people who can't find meaning in technical jargon, so they think they should copy style instead of meaning. It can also be a "snow job", AKA "baffle them with BS", by someone actually familiar with the jargon. Or it could be Argument By Poetic Language.

An example of poetic gibberish: "Each autonomous individual emerges holographically within egoless ontological consciousness as a non-dimensional geometric point within the transcendental thought-wave matrix."

-- A List Of Fallacious Arguments, by Don Lindsay


Blavatsky was no South Asian, but she oustripped her Indian peers by the volume and audacity of her appropriations, taking Sanskrit expressions and fitting them to her own purposes. Her teachings took their rhetorical force from head-to-head exchanges she had with the Tibetan adepts she had met in the Himalayas, although the first conversation came when an exceptionally tall Indian prince – whom she immediately recognized as her “Protector” – approached her in Hyde Park and told her that she had great work to do for humankind. If she accepted, he told her, she would have to spend years in Tibet learning the knowledge to be transmitted.9 The knowledge that ended up in Isis Unveiled derived from some one hundred books on the occult and cited some fourteen hundred works in various languages.10 To her followers, what the mahatmas told her was explicated by scholarly citations; to the cynical, what the mahatmas told her came directly from those sources.

During the past three years I have made a more or less exhaustive analysis of the contents of the writings of Madame H. P. Blavatsky; and I have traced the sources whence she derived - and mostly without credit being given - nearly the whole of their subject-matter. The presentation, in detail, of the evidences of this derivation would constitute a volume; but the limitations of this paper will admit only of a brief summary of the results attained by my analysis of these writings. The detailed proofs and evidence of every assertion herein are now partly in print and partly in manuscript; and they will be embodied in full in a work I am preparing for publication, - an expose of theosophy as a whole. So far as pertains to Isis Unveiled, Madame Blavatsky’s first work, the proofs of its wholesale plagiarisms have been in print two years, and no attempt has been made to deny or discredit any of the data therein contained. In that portion of my work which is already in print, as well as that as yet in manuscript, many parallel passages are given from the two sets of writings, - the works of Madame Blavatsky, and the books whence she copied the plagiarised passages; they also contain complete lists of the passages plagiarised, giving in each case the page of Madame Blavatsky’s work in which the passage is found, and the page and name of the book whence she copied it. Any one can, therefore, easily test the accuracy of my statements.

In Isis Unveiled, published in 1877, I discovered some 2000 passages copied from other books without proper credit. By careful analysis I found that in compiling Isis about 100 books were used. About 1400 books are quoted from and referred to in this work; but, from the 100 books which its author possessed, she copied everything in Isis taken from and relating to the other 1300. There are in Isis about 2100 quotations from and references to books that were copied, at second-hand, from books other than the originals; and of this number only about 140 are credited to the books from which Madame Blavatsky copied them at second-hand. The others are quoted in such a manner as to lead the reader to think that Madame Blavatsky had read and utilised the original works, and had quoted from them at first-hand, - the truth being that these originals had evidently never been read by Madame Blavatsky. By this means many readers of Isis, and subsequently those of her Secret Doctrine and Theosophical Glossary, have been misled into thinking Madame Blavatsky an enormous reader, possessed of vast erudition; while the fact is her reading was very limited, and her ignorance was profound in all branches of knowledge.

The books utilised in compiling Isis were nearly all current nineteenth-century literature. Only one of the old and rare books named and quoted from was in Madame Blavatsky’s possession, - Henry More’s Immortality of the Soul, published in the seventeenth century. One or two others dated from the early part of the present century; and all the rest pertained to the middle and later part of this century. Our author made great pretensions to Cabbalistic learning; but every quotation from and every allusion to the Cabbala, in Isis and all her later works, were copied at second-hand from certain books containing scattered quotations from Cabbalistic writings; among them being Mackenzie’s Masonic Cyclopaedia, King’s Gnostics, and the works of S. F. Dunlap, L. Jacolliot, and Eliphas Levi. Not a line of the quotations in Isis, from the old-time mystics, Paracelsus, Van Helmont, Cardan, Robert Fludd, Philalethes, Gaffarel, and others, was taken from the original works; the whole of them were copied from other books containing scattered quotations from those writers. The same thing obtains with her quotations from Josephus, Philo, and the Church Fathers, as Justin Martyr, Origen, Clement, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Eusebius, and all the rest. The same holds good with the classical authors, - Homer, Ovid, Horace, Virgil, Plato, Pliny, and many others. The quotations from all these were copied at second-hand from some of the 100 books which were used by the compiler of Isis.

In a number of instances Madame Blavatsky, in Isis claimed to possess or to have read certain books quoted from, which it is evident she neither possessed nor had read. In Isis, i., 369-377, are a number of quotations from a work of Figuier’s, that she claimed to have taken from the original work, which she says (i., 369) now "lies before us". As every word from Figuier in Isis was copied from Des Mousseaux’s Magie au Dix-neuvieme Siecle, pp. 451-457, the word "lies" in the sentence used by her is quite a propos. In Isis, i., 353, 354, et seq., she professed to quote from a work in her possession, whereas all that she quoted was copied from Demonologia, pp. 224-259. In ii., 8, she claimed that she had read a work by Bellarmin, whereas all that she says about him, and all that she quotes from him, are copied from Demonologia, pp. 294, 295. In ii., 71, she stated that she had a treatise by De Nogen, but all that she knows about him or his treatise was taken from Demonologia, p. 431. In ii., 74, 75, the reader is led to believe that certain quotations from The Golden Legend were copied by her from the original; the truth being that they were taken from Demonologia, 420-427. In ii., 59, she gave a description of a standard of the Inquisition, derived, she said, from "a photograph in our possession, from an original procured at the Escurial of Madrid"; but this description was copied from Demonologia, p. 300.

In Isis, i., pp. xii, to xxii., is an account of the philosophy of Plato and his successors. Nearly the whole of these ten pages was copied from two books, - Cocker’s Christianity and Greek Philosophy, and Zeller’s Plato and the Old Academy. There are some 25 passages from Cocker and 35 from Zeller; and, of all these, credit is given for but one citation from Cocker and about a dozen lines from Zeller. In Isis, ii., 344, 345, 9 passages are copied from Zeller, but one of which is credited.

Here follows a list of some other of the more extensive plagiarisms in Isis. It includes the names of the books plagiarised from, and the number of passages in them that were plagiarised:

-- The Sources of Madame Blavatsky's Writings, by William Emmette Coleman


In this context Hindu and Buddhist religious terms had already entered a transidiomatic environment before Blavatsky appropriated them – the index to Isis Unveiled runs from akasa and arhat to yama an dyuga, but there are hundreds of terms in between. That vocabulary in hand, she managed to create a world of intimacy, brotherhood, spiritual growth, and humanitarian purpose, and that world naturally meshed with Western knowledge of South Asian religion that was de facto authoritative. Texts were everywhere – not Sanskrit or Pali but English and German – and the messages themselves appeared in either book or letter form, their allure coming from their having been communicated to Blavatsky directly. She alone had actually encountered a mahatma, and she controlled access to them.

Gombrich and Obeyesekere find theoretical leverage in a notion that parallels Srinivas Aravamudan’s “transidiomaticity.” When Sinhalas today say that Buddhism is not itself a “religion,” they “overcode” other religions. By claiming that Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion, they gain a familiar advantage: “If Buddhism is not a religion like Christianity, Hinduism or Islam, that leaves open the possibility that it moves on a higher plane of generality, a more exalted plane.”11 Buddhists gain another advantage in the bargain, subsuming mere religions under their wing. Gombrich and Obeyesekere write that Buddhism may have learned this trick from Theosophy. The present chapter confirms their speculation by tracing the Buddhist “not a religion” argument to Theosophy. There are other discourses and practices that modern Buddhism owes to Theosophy. The additive nature and transidiomatic diction of Theosophy allowed Dharmapala to move casually between subject positions that could be Buddhist, Theosophist, or both.12 To the extent that Dharmapala was a Buddhist universalist, he was so because he was first a Theosophical universalist.

In Japan, Bodh Gaya, Calcutta, and the West, Dharmapala negotiated forces well beyond his control and encountered people who spoke different languages and entertained different objectives even as they cooperated with him. He made his own decision about renouncing the world, invented a role for himself, and made, broke, and remade a relationship with the Theosophical Society on his own terms. All of these turns engaged issues of identity and difference, universalism and particularism by way of Dharmapala’s own self-understanding, and after the fact, he could see just how fateful was the decision to push his Buddhist identity to the fore:

Had I remained in the T.S. [Theosophical Society] I don’t know what I would have been today. I would have studied Theosophical literature and become half Vedantin, half Buddhist, or become a chela and [line buried in crease o page]… and work in the Theosophical Society carrying out the wishes of the Theosophical leaders, or become the general Secretary of the Buddhist Section. I would have had a larger field to work with friends all over the Theosophical world. But my impulse and wisdom carried me towards the Path of Samma sambodhi. (Sarnath Notebook no. 53)


The problem here is that after his turn back to Buddhism, he continued to speak regularly in a Theosophical idiom and hold to a set of Theosophical practices. Phrases such as “samma sambodhi” resonate with both Buddhism and Theosophy.13

Scholars have found Theosophical influence in a variety of modernist contexts, from W.B. Yeats to linguistic theory, from James Joyce to abstract art.14 Gauri Visvanathan argues that Annie Besant’s conversion to Theosophy from socialism and atheism “prepares the ground for the emergence of the relational model of the commonwealth,” replacing rule by force with the idea that the empire realized the Theosophical notion of universal brotherhood.15

In his "Confession of Faith" Rhodes outlined the types of persons who might be useful members of this secret society. As listed by the American Secretary to the Rhodes Trust, this list exactly describes the group formed by Milner in South Africa:

"Men of ability and enthusiasm who find no suitable way to serve their country under the current political system; able youth recruited from the schools and universities; men of wealth with no aim in life; younger sons with high thoughts and great aspirations but without opportunity; rich men whose careers are blighted by some great disappointment. All must be men of ability and character.... Rhodes envisages a group of the ablest and the best, bound together by common unselfish ideals of service to what seems to him the greatest cause in the world. There is no mention of material rewards. This is to be a kind of religious brotherhood like the Jesuits, 'a church for the extension of the British Empire.'"
….
When the war broke out in 1914, the reports were not finished, so it was decided to print the four sections already sent out, with a concluding chapter. A thousand copies of this, with the title Project of a Commonwealth, were distributed among the groups. Then a popular volume on the subject, with the title The Problem of the Commonwealth and Curtis's name as editor, was published (May 1916). Two months later, the earlier work (Project) was published under the title The Commonwealth of Nations, again with Curtis named as editor. Thus appeared for the first time in public the name which the British Empire was to assume thirty-two years later. In the September 1916 issue of The Round Table, Kerr published a statement on the relationship of the two published volumes to the Round Table Groups. Because of the paper shortage in England, Curtis in 1916 went to Canada and Australia to arrange for the separate publication of The Problem of the Commonwealth in those countries. At the same time he set up new Round Table Groups in Australia and New Zealand. Then he went to India to begin serious work on Indian reform. From this emerged the Government of India Act of 1919, as we shall see later.

By this time Curtis and the others had come to realize that any formal federation of the Empire was impossible. As Curtis wrote in 1917 (in his Letter to the People of India): "The people of the Dominions rightly aspire to control their own foreign affairs and yet retain their status as British citizens. On the other hand, they detest the idea of paying taxes to any Imperial Parliament, even to one upon which their own representatives sit. The inquiry convinced me that, unless they sent members and paid taxes to an Imperial Parliament, they could not control their foreign affairs and also remain British subjects. But I do not think that doctrine is more distasteful to them than the idea of having anything to do with the Government of India."

Reluctantly Curtis and the others postponed the idea of a federated Empire and fell back on the idea of trying to hold the Empire together by the intangible bonds of common culture and common outlook. This had originally (in Rhodes and Milner) been a supplement to the project of a federation. It now became the chief issue, and the idea of federation fell into a secondary place. At the same time, the idea of federation was swallowed up in a larger scheme for organizing the whole world within a [url=x]League of Nations[/url]. This idea had also been held by Rhodes and Milner, but in quite a different form. To the older men, the world was to be united around the British Empire as a nucleus. To Curtis, the Empire was to be absorbed into a world organization. This second idea was fundamentally mystical. Curtis believed: "Die and ye shall be born again." He sincerely felt that if the British Empire died in the proper way (by spreading liberty, brotherhood, and justice), it would be born again in a higher level of existence — as a world community, or, as he called it, a "Commonwealth of Nations."

-- The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden, by Carroll Quigley


Laurie Sears finds more unlikely effects. In her account Javanese shadow puppetry was less a long-standing indigenous tradition than a tradition remade under Theosophical inspiration. Wayang under Theosophical interpretation had other applications. It became a way of imagining a nation that transcended Java and incorporated the rest of Indonesia.16

Wayang, also known as wajang, is a traditional form of puppet-shadow play originally found in the cultures of Java, Indonesia. form of puppet theatre art found in Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia, wherein a dramatic story is told through shadows thrown by puppets and sometimes combined with human characters. The art form celebrates Indonesian culture and artistic talent; its origins are traced to the spread of Hinduism in the medieval era and the arrival of leather-based puppet arts called thalubomalata from southern India.

-- Wayang, by Wikipedia


Joy Dixon has shown how Theosophy informed fin-de-siecle feminism in both Britain and India.17 There is little news in asserting that a religious movement committed to universal brotherhood would appeal to other social formations, but the connections embody the spirit of an extraordinary historical moment.

The conventional treatment of Dharmapala’s Theosophy suffers from two misreading. The first – that he gave up his commitment to Theosophy sometime between 1891 and 1905 – simply ignores the facts. It is true that he sometimes said things that support the two-part model. Usually he attributed the transition to Blavatsky’s counsel, but sometimes he took the arrival at Bodh Gaya as critical, as when he noted,” I came to India first because I was a Theosophist, and I came to Buddha Gaya as a Buddhist” (Memorandum to Diary of 1919). In other places he attributed the break to Olcott’s disrespect for the relic that he had given him. In any case, what he abandoned was the Theosophical Society; he did not abandon Theosophy as a philosophy of spiritual advancement but held on to a belief in the mahatmas, dhyana meditation, and Blavatsky’s teachings till the end of his life. His alienation was alienation not from Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society but from Annie Besant’s. She took Theosophy in a Hinduized direction, but Dharmapala never left the Blavatsky’s Theosophy. Besant’s Theosophy left him. To complicate things, he was reconciled with Besant in 1911 and rejoined the Indian Theosophical Society in 1913, even while railing against her betrayal of the society’s commitment to Buddhism.

The second misreading is more consequential. It bears on Obeyesekere’s argument that Dharmapala invented a “Protestant Buddhism,” leading to a contemporary Buddhism in Sri Lanka shaped by Protestant characteristics – internalization, rationalization, and the elevation of the laity, or laicization.18 As productive as the idea has been for Obeyesekere as well as other scholars working on Buddhist modernity, Dharmapala’s life was more influenced by the exposed hand of Theosophy than the hidden hand of Protestantism. Olcott led him toward a universalism of the “affective community” variety. Seeking a united Buddhist world held together by “general principles of belief universally recognized by the entire Buddhist world,” Olcott traveled across Asia for the sake of Buddhist unity.19

In 1880, Henry Olcott took it upon himself to restore true Sri Lankan Buddhism and "to counter the efforts of Christian missionaries on the island." In order to accomplish this aim, he adopted some of the methods of Protestant missionaries. An American scholar of religion Stephen Prothero stated that in Ceylon Olcott was performing "the part of the anti-Christian missionary." He wrote and distributed anti-Christian and pro-Buddhist tracts, "and secured support for his educational reforms from representatives of the island's three monastic sects." He used the Christian models for the Buddhist secondary schools and Sunday schools, "thus initiating what would become a long and successful campaign for Western-style Buddhist education in Ceylon."

-- Christianity and Theosophy, by Wikipedia
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Re: Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala, by Steven

Postby admin » Tue Aug 04, 2020 7:53 am

Part 2 of 5

Where Olcott called his journal The Theosophist or Universal Brotherhood, Dharmapala called his the Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society and the United Buddhist World. But Theosophy, as Olcott told Sinhala Buddhists, was quite a lot more than Buddhism:

You see … gentlemen that the Theosophical Society is not a Buddhist, any more than it is a Parsee, a Hindu, a Jain, a Jew, or a Christian Propaganda. If it were, then there would [be] no room in its membership for any but Buddhists, whereas, here before your very eyes, you see that its Hindu and Parsee fellows are thoroughly devoted to its interests. The salutation of brotherhood has smoothed all the common asperities that keep man and man asunder, and a responsive thrill from every heart attests the tie of common humanity that links us all together beneath our varied complexions, costumes, and creeds.20


Local Buddhists had little interest in what Leela Gandhi calls a “co-belonging of non-identical singularities.”21 They had great interst in Olcott’s hostility to Christianity.

Dharmapala had scant interest in brotherhood that transcended Buddhism, and even his interest in building a Buddhist world did not seek that unity as an end in itself. He wanted Buddhist unity for one purpose: recovering a site of importance to all Buddhists, Bodh Gaya. But his belief in the mahatmas made him a universalist in another sense that transcended Buddhism. Like the mahatmas, who work for the good of all humanity, Dharmapala pledged himself to the same cause:

[Blavatsky] gave me the key to open the door of my spiritual nature and Col. Olcott taught me to work forgetting myself. I left home, parents, Govt: service and everything for the sake of this blessed life…. My aspirations are towards the highest goals of perfection to become Buddha and save Humanity, and this I will do. (Diary, March 10, 1897)


Internal Contradiction:

saying two contradictory things in the same argument. For example, claiming that Archaeopteryx is a dinosaur with hoaxed feathers, and also saying in the same book that it is a "true bird". Or another author who said on page 59, "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle writes in his autobiography that he never saw a ghost." But on page 200 we find "Sir Arthur's first encounter with a ghost came when he was 25, surgeon of a whaling ship in the Arctic.."

This is much like saying "I never borrowed his car, and it already had that dent when I got it."

This is related to Inconsistency.

-- A List Of Fallacious Arguments, by Don Lindsay


One could say that he became a Buddhist working to save humanity by way of a Theosophical intervention or that his being a Buddhist led him to a Theosophy that confirmed what he believed and reinvigorated his childhood religion. The less segmentary way of putting it is to say that he devoted his life to universalizing goals that were transidiomatic and overcoded.

Argument by Gibberish (Bafflement):

this is the extreme version of Argument By Prestigious Jargon. An invented vocabulary helps the effect, and some net.kooks use lots of CAPitaLIZation. However, perfectly ordinary words can be used to baffle. For example, "Omniscience is greater than omnipotence, and the difference is two. Omnipotence plus two equals omniscience. META = 2." [From R. Buckminster Fuller's No More Secondhand God.]

Gibberish may come from people who can't find meaning in technical jargon, so they think they should copy style instead of meaning. It can also be a "snow job", AKA "baffle them with BS", by someone actually familiar with the jargon. Or it could be Argument By Poetic Language.

An example of poetic gibberish: "Each autonomous individual emerges holographically within egoless ontological consciousness as a non-dimensional geometric point within the transcendental thought-wave matrix."

-- A List Of Fallacious Arguments, by Don Lindsay


Dharmapala Becomes a Theosophist

There were signs of Dharmapala’s future early in his childhood, and they pointed to a life of religious seeking. His childhood was difficult. His father moved him so frequently that he had attented eight institutions before he finished secondary school. His diaries never speak of his playing with other children, and he had a distant relationship with his brothers and sisters, first because he was the eldest and later because of his temperament. Instead he writes of playing by himself in his father’s garden and enjoying the beauty of the place: “The best part of my youth was spent in my father’s garden house at Kotahena from 1874-1876…. The garden was a paradise… [an] expanse of ever green garden, mainly lawn, the best in Colombo” [Sarnath Notebook no. 53]. Finding a sapling of the bo tree that grew there, Dharmapala guarded it with brichs and offered lights to it; his “father would say this is ‘Kaputu bo’ [crow’s bo tree] and I must not worship it” [Sarnath Notebook no. 4).

Over the forty-four-year interval he kept a diary, he frequently referred to his “dear” father and his “beloved” mother, but being fostered out from age four to ten put emotional as well as physical distance between him and his parents:

From my tender age up I was being brought up in my uncle’s home. I was used to strict discipline. Whatever my aunt gave I had to sit silently. I did not receive the tender affection which a boy of four should receive from his mother. (Sarnath Notebook no. 4)22


He had more grievances toward his mother than his father:

My mother’s attitude towards me was strange. I prayed for her happiness many thousand times in 1901. I went to her with great expectations; but I found a cold heart; and she forced me by her expressions to leave her home. Why should this have happened. Miss Holmes [Josephine Holmes, American socialite and Theosophist] thinks it was the work of the angels of light; they did not want that I should be tied down to a home life; and nobody could have forced me out except mother and she was influenced to make me get out!! Today I am without father, mother, brothers, leaving my share to go to the devil; with one supreme idea in my mind to be pure and righteous and to spread the Dhamma to all English speaking people. (Diary, August 16, 1902)


Even though Dharmapala was less of a missionary than he might have been, he characterized his work as missionizing, and his plan was to station Buddhist monks in the temples he established. He converted only two people in his lifetime, and when he spoke of returning Buddhism to India, he usually had in mind recovering Bodh Gaya, not growing the number of Indian Buddhists. In the West he spoke of conversion as irrelevant to his mission. He understood Buddhism as an energetic, expansive religion, but the mission consisted in Dhammadana (the gift of Dhamma), putting the Buddha’s teachings on offer, making them present in new parts of the world, not conversion itself.32 From his perspective, what motivated both spreading the Dhamma and recovering Bodh Gaya derived from a sense that Buddhism was a “spiritual” tradition, ready to be carried to new places and logically the only tradition to belong at Bodh Gaya.

-- Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World, by Steven Kemper


Dharmapala’s attitude toward his father was marked by the same sense of rejection:

I have not seen my father since last Monday. The fact that there is no attachment to me neither could I show my attention to the people at home. Never did I receive kindness at their hands. When I was a little boy I was brought up by my uncle; when I was put into School as a boarder, someway or other I was away from home. In 1885 [I] renounced home. I see now that my residence with my parents since last December had no good results. Several times I suggested to set apart Gunter House for religious work. My father loves money more than me. (Diary, March 19, 1898)


His independence had several sources – one of them was the lack of affection he felt from the mother who fostered him out and a father who had “no attachment to [him].” His father also introduced him to the idea of renunciation, initiating him as a brahmacarya at age nine.23 The vow lasted only for a day, but the pattern was set. The father who – according to his son at least – felt no attachment to his son guided him to practice nonattachment.

When he returned to his parents’ home after his stay with his uncle, Dharmapala spent considerable amounts of time alone – in their garden where the snakes glided about openly, knowing that they would not be harmed – and began to envision a life of service, discipline, and sacrifice:

In… School I was fearless, daring, and had a kind of aristocratic hauteur, and did not care anybody [sic]. At home I had the same spirit, and what I wanted I got. I was stubborn [crossed out] resolute, and could not bear any kind of intolerance. I had no love for worldly things. I loved simplicity, solitude, and any form of helping the poor, even to the extent of giving everything I had …. [My mother] used to preach to me the doctrine of impermanency weekly, and my father exhorted me to practice humility. He used to tell me “do not depend on worldly wealth.” Well then if everything is to end in change I thought I shall not want this worldly wealth. From my 10th year the ethic of “other-worldliness” and the beauty of saintliness became impregnated in my mind. (Sarnath Notebook no. 4).


The “aristocratic hauteur” Dharmapala saw in himself and the otherworldliness his father urged on him gave shape to his withdrawal from the household life, strengthening both his innerliness and personal reserve.

Attending Christian schools provided discipline in another form:

In my 12th year began the strict discipline of the Christian Boarding School. It was horrid, unnatural, fit for a criminal bible and prayer all day long. The Christian teachers knew only so much and nothing more. But I was cheerful. I did not submit to the discipline where the mind was concerned. I read the Bible and also books of my own religion. I did not pray. I sang the glory of the Buddha’s greatness, and prayer was to me the characteristics [sic] of the coward. (Sarnath Notebook no. 4)


Sending the boy to Christian schools was his father’s effort to do the best for his son, not an act of cruelty. Don Carolis had the idea that his eldest son was out of the ordinary.24 His horoscope said as much. It did not bode well for success in worldly endeavors, and he noted that “my father therefore gave me liberty of action.”25 He did quite a lot more. He told the boy to aspire to Buddhahood and provided a monthly stipend as he pursued the bodhisattva path (Diary, August 12, 1925). The life that the boy envisioned, in other words, became the life that the man lived.

During his childhood Dharmapala had another inspiration when he saw an apparition:

I do not know whether the sight I witnessed, when [I] was a little boy. was a phantasm; but I do remember very well the time. The house was vacant. It was noon. I climbed the stairs alone and reached the steps wherefrom I could see three men dressed in silken robes of a green colour with tribal decorations, all glittering, sleeping on the bare floor. One raised his head, and I greatly frightened ran down. Whether it was a hallucination or a phantasm, I have no idea. The picture has never left my mind. (Sarnath Notebook no. 23)


The three men in silken robes foreground the Tibetan adepts who enter his life later. He never made that connection explicit, but that uncanny experience prepared him for what was to come. He learned a life of discipline from his father; he received more discipline (of a Christian variety) in school and learned to resist with his own resolve. And he had direct experience of another world that was the object of that discipline.

Dharmapala came upon Shelley’s Queen Mab in his uncle’s library, and it became his favorite poem. The affinity between a Buddhist reformer and an English poem is not obvious, but part of its appeal came from Queen Mab’s rebellion against orthodoxy, Christianity, and the social order. The poem’s hope for human perfectibility spoke to his own spiritual goals, as did its invocation of individual destiny against the backdrop of social degradation: “I have never ceased to love its lyric indignation against the tyrannies and injustices that man heaps on himself and its passion for individual freedom,” he wrote.26 A Sinhala account of his feeling for the poem reveals still more:

I never had desire [asava] for cruelty and injustice which the normal man carries on his back. The ordinary man never believed that by his perseverance that he could go to higher planes spiritually. But this poem gave the paradigm [siddhantaya].27


The poem resonates with the encounter with the three phantasms, his own sense of having no ordinary destiny, and his father’s plan that he should aspire to a role beyond the borders of his historical moment and social class. Dharmapala later wrote that the poem should be placed in the hands of young men (Diary, October 9, 1909), and he reread it as late as age fifty-five, returning to the tortured romance of self and society (Diary, October 19, 1919).

Dharmapala’s solitude had other motivations. As an adult he had suspicions about other people’s intentions, and many relationships came and went. His own understanding of the failure of many relationships was linked to his own idealism:

It is perhaps due to my past Karma that prevents me from associating with people who are not upright. I expect strict uprightness from people, and when I find a so-called friend showing signs of dishonesty I leave him. This has been my characteristic since my boy-hood. (Diary, May 8, 1927)


His solitude extended to his spiritual life. Early on he received two messages from one of the Himalayan adepts, Master Koot Hoomi, relayed to him by Blavatsky. Those communications came in 1884 and 1886, followed by forty years with no sign of recognition from the mahatmas. By Dharmapala’s reasoning, changes in the organization of the Theosophical Society itself broke the relationship to the mahatmas: “Even the Masters left the Theosophical Society because they found none to take HPB’s [Blavatsky’s] place” (Diary, May 8, 1927).

In January 1884 Dharmapala attended the annual Theosophical meetings in Adyar and accepted the principles of chelaship. It was his first trip abroad. Once home he began to live the life of a chela (student) “and exerted daily to get the blessings of the Masters, to work for Humanity, and to follow the example of the Bodhisattva.”28 In November 1885 he took the next step, renouncing the worldly life. He had no clear idea of what that career would entail, but it would not include marriage or close relations with his family:

[I wrote] a letter to my beloved father, expressing my resolve to be a Brahmachari and solicited his permission. This letter I handed to my mother requesting her to deliver it [to] my father. I was then staying at the T.S. headquarters at 61, Maliban Street. When I saw my mother next time, she expressed her deep satisfaction and blessed me …. My dear father simply said, “You are the eldest in the family, and your brothers are all young, and if you leave me who will take care of them?” I answered and said, “Dear father each one has his own Karma, and their Karma will take care of them.” In this wise the parting took place.29


Everyone has his own karma, and karma, not family, takes care of people. Recognizing that he had been fostered out and felt unwelcome in his parent’s house when he returned suggests the name he chose for himself: “anagarika” (homeless) was as much about his self-understanding as the act of renunciation.30

A childhood accident shaped his life’s trajectory. Dharmapala explained how his leg was injured in several ways, running from karma to a paralytic stroke to the inattention of a nursemaid:

In my 4th year, my left [crossed out] right leg was permanently injured and I could not [crossed out] which debarred me from entering the order of Bhikkhus [Buddhist monks]. Had not this defect been a hindrance I would have become a Bhikkhu. Some bad karma I might have done in the past or it might have been due to neglect of my nurse. I was irreverent to all except the holy. I liked the real ascetic Bhikkhus. (Sarnath Notebook no. 4)


His diaries make references in other places to his wanting to become a Buddhist monk, but he led a full-time religious life outside the monkhood, and that meant a religious life that had no Buddhist precedent.31 But it had a Theosophical precedent. In what I take to be a mature characterization of his self-understanding, Dharmapala spoke of his life course in terms that capture the transidiomatic character of his renunciation – “Brahmacariya of the bodhisattva path” (Diary, December 17, 1917).

He learned cleanliness from one of his teachers: “I was greatly influenced by my Sinhalese teacher, a man of immaculate habits and a strict disciplinarian. He was a bachelor. I learnt lessons of cleanliness from him. He was known as Harmanis Gurunanse” (“My Early Associations,” Sarnath Notebook no. 4). He adds,

In my early boyhood I was a constant attendant of the Roman Catholic Church attached to St. Mary’s School…. On feast days of the Catholics it was my habit to take [a] basketful of flowers to the Church. Continuous attendance daily made me quiet at home [and] in the monastery. The fathers knew me as a Buddhist. My most beloved father taught me Pali gathas as a protection from evil. He was a calligraphist and he wrote the gatha on a palm leaf for me and asked that I commit into memory which I did. He was very devout and was in the habit of reciting the adoration gatha whenever he was riding in the carriage with me. He never showed that he loved me. To me he appeared rather strict. I feared him because he insisted that I should study, which was abhorrent to me. I did not like to be tied down to a place. The garden was to me an arcadia. I loved to roam about …. I never could take, even when I was twelve years old, the Bible seriously. To pray to God I abhorred. It meant cowardice.


Absent a psychological interpretation, his references to discipline, cowardice, and the synergy between abandonment and world renunciation still leap off the page.

As a boy Dharmapala frequented the temple of the orator Migettuvatte Gunananda, who “was thundering week after week by his denunciations against the Catholic faith.” Migettuvatte told his listeners about the founding of the Theosophical Society “for the study of religion” and that the two principal members were themselves Buddhists; Dharmapala recalled that “the very utterance made a profound impression in my mind.” He was still more impressed when Migettuvatte “commenced to issue a pamphlet about the doings of the T.S. and about Tibetan Mahatmas. I became more and more interested” (Sarnath Notebook no. 4). As Dharmapala was becoming more interested in Theosophy, the two leading Theosophists were becoming more interested in Asia, settling in Bombay in 1879.

It was in 1878 when the late Miggettuwatta Priest first announced at a bana preaching in the Pahala pansala that a TS had been formed in America. In 1878 I read the first number of the Theosophist. Since then devotedly I followed the path of the Theosophist. In 1883 Nov I sent my application but it was refused as I was young. Then I sent a letter to the “Unknown Brother,” c/o HPB having read Sinnett’s Occult World. In 1884 Jany: I joined the TS along with Peter D’Abrew L. Ed: Silva. Walking, talking eating etc. I knew only one thing: -- “Mahatma.” (Diary, September 21, 1905)


For the rest of his life, he remained committed to that mahatma, Koot Hoomi, the adept most closely associated with Buddhism.

A year or so later Dharmapala had an experience that bore directly on his views about sexuality and asceticism:32

In my 17th year, my mother lost her youngest infant daughter suddenly. She became frantic, for a work [sic; week?] she refused to come out of the room and refrained from taking food. I went and accosted her and said “Mother what is the meaning of this. Get up and wash yourself.” She woke up from her dream. This suffering of my mother made us to think of the misery of bringing forth children, and the future results of having sexual contact with a woman. I said to myself “I shall not be the cause of giving pain to a woman.” From that day I avoided the company of woman, and in November 1883 I took the vow of chastity and pledged to observe the precept of Bramacariya. In Jany 1884 I joined the TS and Col. Olcott initiated me, and I was accepted as a Chela by the Master KH. Mme Blavatsky addressed me as “Chela” and “Lanoo.” (Diary, October 18, 1930)


This passage emphasizes his trying to snap his mother out of her depression or at least to keep herself clean, but it moves off in a different direction. He will avoid sex to avoid giving pain. The conclusion is such a logical jump that it is tempting to suppose that by the time of his infant sister’s death in 1881 or 1882 he had already been influenced by reading the Theosophist and its accounts of the Tibetan mahatmas and their celibacy.

The first link in the chain that joined Dharmapala to the Theosophical movement reached back to the public debate between Migettuvatte and a group of local Christians.33 The Panadura vadaya (controversy or debate) came as the last of several exchanges marked by vituperation from both parties as Buddhists began to resist the hegemony of Christianity in the local public sphere.34 Following the Panadura debate, these encounters were reported in the Ceylon Times and later published with revisions made by the two parties, along with an introduction and annotations by an American Methodist minister with spiritualist interests. When Olcott read Reverend Peebles’s account, he made contact with Migettuvatte, sending him a copy of Isis Unveiled and a Theosophical pamphlet.35 What is pertinent here is the first contact between Theosophists and Buddhists was motivated by interests that were as much political as ideological – Olcott saw a chance to come to the aid of Buddhists trying to defend their territory; Migettuvatte saw a foreigner willing to help.

Migettuvatte was attracted to Olcott because of his hostility to Christian missionizing, not his interest in universal human spirituality. But the monk was interested enough to publish a pamphlet discussing the Tibetan mahatmas, and Dharmapala thus acquired some of his knowledge of the mahatmas in a pamphlet with a Buddhist imprimatur: “Then the priest commenced to issue a pamphlet about the doings of the T.S. and about Tibetan Mahatmas. I became more and more interested” (Sarnath Notebook no. 4) He could not get enough of the latest Theosophical intelligence about the mahatmas, and the order of events is itself instructive:

In 1883 I read A.P. Sinnett’s Occult World and a copy of the Theosophist of August 1882 on the “Chelas.” I read [obscure] the article and decided to become a chela of the Masters. I addressed a letter to the “Unknown Brother” and sent it to HPB’s address at Adyar. I gave up eating meat & fish and vowed to lead the Chela’s life. (Sarnath Notebook no. 4)36


In the Theosophist he read Sinnett and Blavatsky on “Chelas and Lay Chelas,” and he read them before he read The Light of Asia and India Revisited. None of his early influences were scholarly, and none were canonical texts, and of what he read, Theosophy predominated.

When he withdrew from the world in November 1883, he did so as a Theosophist.

Today I am without father, mother, brothers, leaving my share to go to the devil; with one supreme idea in my mind to be pure and righteous and to spread the Dhamma to all English speaking people. (Diary, August 16, 1902)

-- Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World, by Steven Kemper


The July No: Theosophist of 1882 containing the article “Chelas & Lay Chelas” fell into my hands in Novr: 1883 when I decided to follow the Path of Chelaship, and I wrote a letter to HPB & to the “Unknown Mahatma.” In Jany: 1884 Col. Olcott initiated me. In Decr: 1884 HPB took me to Adyar. In Oct:, 1885 I left home. (Diary, August 12, 1925)


To say that he renounced the world as a Theosophist is not to say that he was a Theosophist before he was a Buddhist. But by his late teens, he was reading Theosophy, and the cognitive interests he found there – the mahatma Koot Hoomi, Blavatsky, meditation, and Tibet – laid out the path his Buddhism would follow. He recalled:

It was in 1885 that I desired to visit Tibet and I was very serious to come across any one who could tell me about Dhyana Yogis. I heard that Thero Doratiyawa was practicing Dhyana – I sincerely believed in the existence of the Himalayan adepts. To work for them was to me a great privilege, and I was assured by Col. Olcott that the Masters had accepted me as a Chela. In 1885 I received a presentation copy of the Voice of Silence from H.P.B. with the words – “Lanoo” – In the hope that he will be the light that has begun to shine on him. (Memorandum to Diary for 1919)


From that point onward, he spoke of the voice that Blavatskyj celebrated in Voice of Silence as a source of counsel.

After he had finished his schooling at Saint Thomas College in 1883, he spent eight months reading books borrowed from the Pettah library, which provided him with the general knowledge he craved. His father did not like his idling in the library, but Dharmapala thought he was preparing himself: “I did reading, thinking, educating myself in the highest knowledge [parama vijnana]. I considered taking the message of Buddhism to the Western world was a parama vijnana.”37 His father had his own goals, to apprentice his son to a local proctor and to guide his son to a job in a government office.

Brekke argues that his father attempted to keep Dharmapala from making his first trip to Adyar because of “the young man’s lack of interest in worldly affairs” (Makers of Modern Indian Religion, 72). The opposite is the case. Don Carolis guided Dharmapala toward a life of renunciation and service, in part because he thought the boy had no head for business.

-- Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World, by Steven Kemper


In 1883 Catholics attacked Buddhists, bringing Olcott back to Colombo, and he admitted Dharmapala to the Theosophical Society in January 1884 (Diary, February 17, 1920). He announced his intention to carry Buddhism to the Western world – inspired by the Theosophical universalism implicit in the “brotherhood of mankind” trope – as opposed to joining together the Buddhist countries of Asia.

Argument By Repetition (Argument Ad Nauseam):

if you say something often enough, some people will begin to believe it. There are some net.kooks who keeping reposting the same articles to Usenet, presumably in hopes it will have that effect.

-- A List Of Fallacious Arguments, by Don Lindsay


It is hard to miss the echoes in his characterization of his Buddhist work as a parama vijnana, a staple of Theosophical discourse or in his plan to carry Buddhism to the West the same way Olcott brought Theosophy to Asia.

While clerking in the Department of Public Instruction from 1884 to 1886, Dharmapala got more involved with the Theosophical Society. When he passed the government clerical examination, his father again asked him – also via letter – to take the job offered in the Department of Public Instruction, saying that he would match the salary to underwrite works of charity. Dharmapala declined the job and his father’s support for charity: “I loved Humanity more and to be a servant of another servant to me meant degradation.
My friends thought I did a foolish act in rejecting Govt. service, but to me it meant freedom.”38 He described himself as committed to lokottara culture, an expression for the otherworld with both Buddhist and Theosophical referents. One of the many appeals of the Theosophical Society was its insistence on the possibility of becoming an arhat in this world.39 Such was not the conventional belief of Sinhala Buddhists of the time, who assumed that it was no longer possible to achieve nirvana in this lifetime, but only after numberless lifetimes of perfecting one’s moral virtues.40 He looked at the monkhood’s diminished expectations as symptomatic of their spiritual decline. They had settled for less; he would not. His own high expectations led him to Theosophy, and his exposure to it provided a script – meditation, Tibet, adepts, advanced spiritual states – for those expectations. He did not expect liberation in short order, and to that extent his views were no different from the Sinhala monkhood. He simply thought that the struggle for liberation ought to begin at once and with appropriate intensity.

Blavatsky played the oracular role in the Theosophical Society and Olcott the administrative. He said that Theosophy aspired to “direct as distinguished from a revealed knowledge of God.”41 Its objectives were two-fold, “to know something of man and his powers, [and] to discover the best means to benefit humanity – physically, morally, spiritually.”42 Once Olcott reached India, he established levels of membership for each objective, giving priority to those fellows who entered the Esoteric Section – “freed from all exacting obligations to country, society, and family, [they] must adopt a life of strict celibacy”:

A man may be a most zealous, useful, and respected Fellow, and yet be a patriot, a public official, and a husband. Our highest section is composed of men who have retired from active life to spend their remaining days in seclusion, study, and spiritual perfection. You have your married priests, and your sanyasis and yogis. So we have our visible, active men, seen in the world, mixed up in its concerns, and a part of it; and we have our unseen, but none the less active, adepts …. who benefit mankind without their hand being ever so much as suspected.43


Olcott got down to his own case: “Though I am ostensibly President of the Theosophical Society, yet I am less than the least of these Emancipated Ones.” In joining the Esoteric Section, Dharmapala put himself beyond “country, society, and family,” a constraint that did not stop him from reforming Sinhala Buddhist society and having a say in the family business. But it also provided a charter for his renunciation and service to humanity.

Dharmapala’s journey to meet the Emancipated Ones began when he attended his first Theosophical convention at Adyar in December 1884. His own chronology of those days shows him being pulled in two directions – he began his account with his work, quickly turning to his yearning for solitude:

In 1884 February I joined the T.S. [and] in February I was in office; but my soul yearned after peace. In 1886 I severed from the bustling world; in 1887 working for Humanity, in 1888 ditto, 1889 in Japan, in 1890 working for humanity, in 1891 in Japan. Suffering Humanity wants rest. Prayer to a god won’t relieve the man from the miseries of Existence, rites and ceremonies won[sic] do. Purity of life is needed. This night at 12 for the first time in my life I experienced that “Peace which passesth [sic] all understanding.” How peaceful it was. (Diary, February 17, 1891)44


The entry for the previous day speaks of a dream of “spirited horses and a turtle of extraordinary size …. What does this mean?” And the entry for the day after has him saying that the individual who yearns after peace and rest can have it by following the Noble Eightfold Path for seven years, noting that it took the Buddha six years of “deep research and an unswerving life of purity.” Blavatsky used the seven-year figure for the time required for a chela to become an adept, claiming that she had lived that long in Tibet.

Argument From Spurious Similarity:

this is a relative of Bad Analogy. It is suggested that some resemblance is proof of a relationship. There is a WW II story about a British lady who was trained in spotting German airplanes. She made a report about a certain very important type of plane. While being quizzed, she explained that she hadn't been sure, herself, until she noticed that it had a little man in the cockpit, just like the little model airplane at the training class.

-- A List Of Fallacious Arguments, by Don Lindsay


Koot Hoomi was Blavatsky’s favorite mahatma, and he became Dharmapala’s favorite, sending him two astral messages.45 As with Olcott, Sinnett, and other Theosophists fortunate enough to receive communications, his messages came in the form of letters. Koot Hoomi communicated with Blavatsky, and in time she presented the chela with another letter, not written by the mahatma but in her own handwriting, transcribing what the mahatma had told her. The process was implausible enough to force Blavatsky to defend it, the more so because messages “were tinged throughout with the very obvious peculiarities of her own inimitable style, and are sometimes interspersed with remarks definitely emanating from her own mind.”46 She explained to Sinnett that “these letters are not written but impressed, or precipitated, and then all mistakes corrected…. I have to think it over, to photograph every word and sentence carefully in my brain, before it can be repeated for precipitation…. For the present it is all I can tell you.”47 Later she provided a fuller account, saying that “the Masters have been pleased to permit the veil to be drawn aside a little more, and the modus operandi can thus be explained now more fully to the outsider.”

The work of writing these letters in question is carried on by a sort of psychological telegraphy; the Mahatmas very rarely write their letters in the ordinary way. An electro-magnetic connection, so to say, exists on the psychological plane between a Mahatma and his chelas, one of whom acts as his amanuensis. When the Master wants a letter to be written in this way, he draws the attention of the chela, whom he selects for the task, by causing an astral bell to be rung near him.48
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Re: Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala, by Steven

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Part 3 of 5

Even with her own hand giving shape to the way the message was relayed to the world, Blavatsky had explanations – the mahatmas were working through her, and the process was a mystery she herself did not fully understand.

The Great White Brotherhood was made up of adepts who practiced a variety of religions, but Master Koot Hoomi and Master Moriya were Buddhists, so their communications held special interest for both Blavatsky and Dharmapala. When he was making his third American tour in 1902-3, he noticed an advertisement for a lecture he was to give, identifying him as a pupil of Blavatsky. He wanted nothing of it, writing, “This is incorrect. I was pupil of the Master ‘K.H.’ Through H.P.B. I sent the letter to the Mahatma K.H. She called me ‘Lanoo, Brother Dharmapala’” (Diary, March 9, 1903). An aphorism from Koot Hoomi that Dharmapala inserted regularly at the top of the daily entries in his diary of the 1920s metonymized the relationship between Buddhism and Theosophy.

Metonymize: To represent (something) by a part of itself.

-- Metonymize, by Yourdictionary.com


“The only refuge for him who aspires to true perfection is Buddha alone, Master K.H.” Blavatsky had told him that the message had come to her from Koot Hoomi, and it reinforced her more mundane advice to turn his mind to learning Pali.49 Blavatsky and Koot Hoomi’s insistence on the Buddha alone notwithstanding, he remained committed to both Blavatsky and Koot Hoomi, and his ties to Theosophy ran through Buddhism, as his ties to Buddhism ran through Theosophy:

Reading “Blavatsky Letters.” She sacrificed everything for the Master. The Master KH gave our Buddha’s teachings to the West through Sinnett, and Master M gave occult teachings through HPB. Theosophy at first was nothing but Mesmerism, Spiritualism, Crystal gazing and Kabbala. The early volumes of the Theosophist are evidence thereto. Master KH through Sinnett opened the door of the “Occult World.” Since then the world came to know of the existence of the Adepts beyond Himalayas. (Diary, January 17, 1926)


Like Blavatsky, Dharmapala’s knowledge of the occult and Buddhism came from texts, but he conceptualized its transmission along human lines of descent, one guru passing that knowledge on to his chela.50

Blavatsky described Damodar Mavalankar as her one “full success.” Hundreds of aspirants were called to Tibet, she said. Damodar actually tried to go, and she thought that he was destined to become a mahatma himself.51 Olcott loved him for his energy and his obedience – in contrast to Dharmapala’s disobedience.

Among other real helpers whom we had found in India, there was poor, slendar, fragile Damodar Mavalankar, who had thrown himself heart and soul intot he work with a devotion which could not be surpassed. Frail as a girl though he was, he could sit at his table writing, sometimes all night, unless I caught him at it and drove him to bed. No child was ever more obedient to a parent, no foster-son more utterly selfless in his love to a foster-mother, than he to H.P.B….. When a lad, brought near to death by fever and tossing in delirium, he had had a vision of a benignant sage, who came and took his hand and told him he should not die but should live for useful work. After meeting H.P.B., his interior vision gradually opened, and in him whom we know as Master K.H., Damodar saw revealed the visitor of his youthful crisis. That sealed his devotion to our cause, and his discipleship to H.P.B. (Sarnath Notebook no. 53)52


Dharmapala knew of Damodar, having met him in 1880 when he came to Lanka as part of the Theosophical party, and he took pride in Blavatsky’s calling him the “Ceylon Damodar.”53

Damodar remained a devotee of Master Koot Hoomi and an enthusiastic worker for the society until 1885. Having taken the vows of a sannyasin and practicing various austerities – “regulating his diet, devoting specified hours to meditation, cultivating a spirit of perfect unselfishness, and working night and day …. on the duties [Olcott] gave him in the Society” – he resided at Theosophical headquarters in Adyar and traveled with Olcott on trips through India.54 According to Olcott, he was enjoying “rapid psychical development,” making nightly astral visits to the master’s ashram in the Himalayas. Koot Hoomi responded to those visits by sending astral emissaries to Dharmapala and Olcott camping near Lahore. On another occasion, while staying with the maharajah of Kashmir in his summer place in Jammu, Damodar made an astral visit that lasted sixty hours; described as “frail” and “girlish” before, he returned “robust, tough, and wiry, bold and energetic.”55 While Olcott was away in Burma, Damodar left Adyar for Tibet and was never seen again.56

The lure of Tibet transcended the Theosophical Society. Sarat Chandra Das made several trips there, bringing back texts for the Buddhist Text Society and intelligence for the government of India. In Calcutta the Zen monk Ekai Kawaguchi won Das’s support and made two trips to Tibet and four to Nepal. In 1887 the Sinhala monk Ilukwatte Medhankara made plans to visit Bodh Gaya with Dharmapala, but he also cherished the idea of going to Tibet to meet the masters.57 After Damodar’s disappearance Dharmapala met a Burmese monk at Bodh Gaya who told him that he intended to make the trip because the Burmese believed that there were three arhats living in Tibet (Diary, February 25, 1891). Olcott attributed the interest in mahatmas to the popularity of his own journal and proposed an alternative to the life-threatening trek across the Himalayas:

Western curiosity, piqued by our Theosophical literature, has been in active quest of the Mahatma in Tibet and its Borderland, but has not found him…. Many a postulant for spiritual knowledge, despairing of meeting with a Guru near by, has undertaken the fearful foot journey to the Himalayas in search of one; often braving the extremes of physical misery under the spur of hope .... If they had only known their own Shastras, they might have spared themselves the painful quest by so purifying their minds and heart by self-mastery as to draw the Guru to their own doorstep.58


Dharmapala applied himself to mastering the self by giving up meat and fish, reducing the quantity of food he ate, and practicing meditation and celibacy, confident that service to humanity would itself reduce selflshness.

Dharmapala was certain the mahatmas were living in the Himalayas, the evidence lying in the very sophistication of their communications, and his reasoning makes clear how much he wanted to believe:

It cannot be believed that there is no Hermit in Tibet who had attained the Dhyanas. During the Buddha era or in a non-Buddhist era for there could be panna abigannalabis [seekers who had attained five stages of wisdom). These great beings should exist there. The letters sent to Mr. Sinnett are from two Buddhist hermits. Any other man from another religion would not be able to write letters of that nature.59


He knew that both Master Moriya and Koot Hoomi were trying to revive the sasana in India (Diary, May 9, 1924).60 In 1897 he began discussing his own desire to visit Tibet (Sarnath Notebook no. 101). Traveling home from America that year, he stopped in Paris to attend the Congress of Orientalists. There he announced to the delegates his intention to visit Tibet "in search after truth."61 Eventually he recognized that his disability made the trek throroughly impractical, writing in his diary that “in the next life I hope to be born physically strong to climb the Himalayas and to study the sacred science” (May 9, 1924).

As a young man, Dharmapala was serious enough about the trek to cause his father to make him an offer – call off the trip in return for a meditation retreat in Colombo (Sarnath Notebook no. 101). By the time he was gifted the meditation hall, he had discovered two meditation manuals in out-of-the-way places in the Kandyan highlands. He found both in 1890, having learned some years before of the existence of vidarsana monks at Hanguranketa. On a lecture tour with his Theosophical colleague Bowles Daly, Dharmapala stopped at the monastery of Doratiyawa and discovered the text he sought in the temple library (Samath Notebook no. 23). The second text he found in a temple in Teldeniya while on another lecture tour. In this case, he could not borrow the manuscript immediately but had D. B. Jayatilaka arrange for copying the text, which Dharmapala then carried to London, where it was translated by T. W. Rhys Davids.62 He kept both manuscripts with him and constructed meditational exercises from them, focusing his attention on dhyana meditation, which had esoteric goals not shared by the vipassana meditation that came to dominate local practice.

When he began diary entries with Koot Hoomi's aphorism "The only refuge for him who aspires to true perfection is Buddha alone, Master K.H.,” he referenced both Theosophy and Buddhism. The same ambiguity appears in Theosophical statements that he drew on for the sake of imagining what was at stake in the activist side of his life. He cited the mahatma letters as a warrant for returning Buddhism to India:

There was a time, when from sea to sea from the mountains and deserts of the north to the grand woods and downs of Ceylon there was but one faith one rallying cry -- to save Humanity from the miseries of ignorance in the name of him who taught first the solidearity [sic] of all man. (October 29, 1930)


Saving "Humanity from the miseries of ignorance" was an equally Buddhist and Theosophical goal but framed in an idiom specifically Theosophical. Even at the end of his life Dharmapala saw returning Buddhism to India as motivated by the mahatmas: “The two Masters wished the Religion of the Lord Buddha to be reestablished in India. Subba Row and his clique conspired against the scheme" (September 24, 1930).63 Subba Row was the least of his problems. With Blavatsky's death most Theosophists turned toward Hinduism, and under Annie Besant's hand Theosophy had no interest in Buddhism and even less in missionizing it.

IN THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY AND OUT

After he finished his day's work at the Department of Public Instruction copying documents, Dharmapala went to the Theosophical Society office and did chores for C. P. Gunawardana [Gunawardene/Goonewardene]. He slept in the office, lying on a bench and using a coir mat as a pillow with the idea that the rough surface would keep him from sleeping (Sarnath Notebook no. 53). Once he gave up government service, he found other ways to serve and suffer. Despite his commitment to Blavatsky, who he said "influenced me and my spiritual life more than any other" (Sarnath Notebook no. 53 ), he had little contact with her after he joined the society because she left India after the Coulomb affair in 1884.64 In 1888 Dharmapala and Charles Leadbeater started the Buddhist, the journal of the Buddhist Theosophical Society. They were steady companions, working and residing together at Theosophical headquarters on Maliban Street.65 From 1886 until 1890 Dharmapala served as general manager and assistant general secretary of the Buddhist Theosophical Society in Colombo and manager of its newspaper, the Sarasavi Sandarasa. 66

When Olcott was in the island, Dharmapala traveled with him by oxcart on village tours, where Olcott lectured and Dharmapala translated into Sinhala. Olcott was in and out of the island during the time. His travels were prodigious -- one year he traveled 43,000 miles and 47,000 the next -- and he visited Lanka regularly, some three times more than any other part of the Theosophical world.67 He was a man always in motion, and his restlessness must have set an example for Dharmapala, who himself was “always on wing.”68 Although a vegetarian, Olcott had no personal interest in asceticism, and traveling by oxcart along unpaved roads and pathways was the only way to get where he was going.60 For Dharmapala the oxcart provided ascetic practice as much as transportation. Sleeping in the oxcart – and later, when auto travel developed in Sri Lanka, in the lorry that served as his camping car – kept Dharmapala from lodging with local families, which in turn allowed him to maintain both solitude and distance.

[x]
1. Dharmapala on preaching tour in camping car, Sri Lanka.

Dharmapala read widely during those first years in the society, while also following Blavatsky’s direction to turn his mind to learning Pali. He says that his knowledge of Buddhism during the first days of his work in the society was limited to the Satipatthana Sutta -- "philosophical study of the Dhamma was then impossible having no printed texts” (“Notes on the Muslim Period," Sarnath Notebook no. 6). With no formal instruction in the language, he simply began reading -- first the Dhamma Pradipika and then the first fascicule of the Visuddhimagga, the text enabling him to learn Pali by reading Pali ( Sarnath Notebook no. 23). The Visuddhimagga, he thought, was the book all Buddhist monks must understand ("What a Bhikkhu Is Expected to Do," Sarnath Notebook no. 4). That said, most of the texts he read were English-language books:

Theosophical literature was my love. No book on Buddhism had been published except the Light of Asia. Col. Olcott's Buddhist Catechism was the only Buddhist exegesis. [obscure] time Sinnett's Occult World and Esoteric Buddhism I devoured. The journal Theosophist I read thoroughly. My Buddhist studies began after I met Mg Hpo Mhyin in Rangoon. He was a mine of information. He had a splendid library, and my stay with him in April 1891 was supremely beneficial to me. I read the “Sacred Books of the East" volumes and gathered information. I perused the P.T.S. publications and discovered the explanation given about the Sukara Maddavam in the Udana P.T.S. During my stay in Calcutta ... I visited the B.A.S. Library daily and gathered information. At Buddha Gaya in Feby I read Dutt's History of India. I read Elliot's History of the Muhammedan Period and discovered the fact that Buddhism was destroyed by Muhammedan invaders. (Sarnath Notebook no. 4)


He moved among books and periodicals, works of Buddhist doctrine, Theosophy, and history. The center of his life was Buddhism, but a Buddhism inflected by the cognitive interests of Theosophy in mysticism, the esoteric, and intensive striving.

[x]
Buddhist Theosophical Society, Colombo, 1889. Seated on ground: far left, Dharmapala; two places to right, Don Carolis; two places further right, C. P. Gunawardana. Seated on chairs, from left: two Japanese monks, Ven. Heyiyantuduve Devamitta, Hikkaduve, Olcott, a third Japanese monk, and, extreme right, A. P. Dharmagunawardene. Standing: Charles Leadbeater, center.

Olcott meant the Theosophical Society to provide a vehicle for study and research, and belonging did not prevent a member's working for his own religion. Olcott encouraged it. Dharmapala acted on that premise, starting the Maha Bodhi Society as a vehicle for Buddhist work alongside his work for Theosophy. In its first headquarters in Calcutta, the Maha Bodhi Society shared space with Theosophical Society. He moved between a Maha Bodhi activity here and a Theosophical activity there; when he attended the World's Parliament of Religions, he attended a Theosophical conference beforehand. But he could recount his work with the society as a linear narrative:

I joined the TS January 1884. In 1886 I worked with Col. Olcott & CW Leadbeater. From 1886 to 1889 with CWL and also with Charles Francis Powell, in 1890 with Dr. Bowles Daly. From 1884 to 1904 I was in the Theosophical Society. In 1905 I resigned. From 1905 to 1910 I was at loggerheads with Mrs. Besant and the CTS. In 1911 reconciled. In 1914 rejoined the TS. Since 1915 active [work?] in my sympathy with Mrs. Besant gave her Rs. 500 in 1917. (Sarnath Notebook no. 23)


He undertook some of his most important Maha Bodhi projects in the interval from 1884 to 1905, when he resigned from the Theosophical Society. His estrangement from Theosophy is often noted, his reconciliation in 191 I ignored.

From the beginning Olcott and Dharmapala had a teacher-student relationship. As long as Dharmapala assumed the student role, the relationship continued, but he became uncomfortable in that role after their visit to Japan. Olcott had an affectionate relationship with him, and he left government service to work for Olcott. He could not leave his post without a medical excuse. Peter de Abrew gave a bribe, and a medical waiver was produced. Dr. Rockwood insisted on a medical problem, not simply a letter of excuse, and he created one by applying a poultice to Dharmapala's chest. The blister that resulted was painful: "The whole night I kept crying on account of the excruciating pain .... H.S.O. came and comforted me and spoke words of encouragement, saying that the Mahatmas want heroes not cowards" ("To the Beloved Mahatmas Who Loved Our Lord," Sarnath Notebook no. 50). The affection continued, Olcott expecting him to remain as obedient as Damodar, but Dharmapala was not inclined to obedience. As he said of his work in the colonial bureaucracy, he was not happy being a servant of a servant. Olcott opposed Dharmapala's trip to the World's Parliament, and he became much more independent afterward.

They fell out for a variety of reasons, the most common explanation fixing on relics. As an outsider and rationalist, Olcott had no feel for relic' veneration and dismissed the notion that the relic of the Buddha's tooth , venerated at the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, was even a human tooth,70 Dharmapala was committed to relic veneration: he presented the Koreans with a relic, having carried it on his person for thirteen years (Diary, August 20, 1913); he spoke of bequeathing the Foster Seminary in Kandy to the Temple of the Tooth (Diary, March 25,1926); and he wanted his own ashes distributed to various Buddhist sites on the model of the Buddha's remains (Diary, April 30, 1926),71 Accounts that invoke relics as the source of their breakup are complicated by their sometimes looking to one incident and sometimes to another. Olcott had received several relics. The first was a relic of Sivali arhat given first to Leadbeater that Olcott came to possess, but it was a second relic, the tooth relic, that produced the crisis. On a visit to Adyar, Dharmapala found the relic being exhibited and took offense: "I rebuked him for his rudeness in exposing the replica of the Tooth Relic and for using harsh words. He got angry, and thus came the separation in 190 5" (Sarnath Notebook no. 58). Another incident followed remarks Olcott made about the relic. Hikkaduve reacted strongly, expressing his disappointment in Olcott's calling Buddhists "bigoted and ignorant" for believing in the authenticity of the tooth,72 Olcott's words seem to have offended Dharmapala more than his treatment of the relics themselves.

Whatever role relic veneration played in Olcott's alienation from Dharmapala, there were signs of conflict long before 1905. In 1887 Olcott told him not to make the pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya with Ilukwatte Medhankara, and he complied. Olcott had reservations when Dharmapala established the Journal of the Maha Bodhi Society, fearing that it was not well-edited and could not compete with lithe most serious organs of learned Societies."73 When Dharmapala got himself invited to the Parliament of Religions, Olcott urged him not to go,74 In the early days at Bodh Gaya, Olcott supported his plans for the place, both men believing that the mahant would sell the Maha Bodhi temple. Later when the Tikari Raj land became available, Olcott agreed -- at least initially -- that Buddhists should be allowed to own their most sacred place, and Olcott sailed to Burma to raise support to buy Bodh Gaya,75 He made himself a party to the dispute, negotiating with the mahant, meeting with the collector, and attending the police inquiry into the assault on the meditating monks in February 1893. Olcott was alarmed by the attack and arranged for quarters in Gaya for the monks to be resettled but from that point pulled away from Bodh Gaya.76 He wrote to Dharmapala that his hopes for Bodh Gaya were a chimera (Sarnath Notebook no. 23), and elsewhere Dharmapala says that he had told him to abandon Bodh Gaya altogether. 77 Olcott urged him to restore Sarnath instead (Diary, June 23, 1930). A year later when Olcott accompanied Annie Besant on her lecture tour of North India, he took her to Sarnath but ignored Bodh Gaya.

Contrary to Olcott's wishes, Dharmapala did not abandon his campaign to gain control of Bodh Gaya, keeping to the vow he had made on his first day there. In February 1895 the Calcutta High Court granted the mahant's appeal of the lower-court decision calling for punishment for the attack on the Bodh Gaya monks. At some point in 1896 Olcott and Besant advised Dharmapala not to buy land at Bodh Gaya.78 That same year, when Olcott returned to the island to inspect Buddhist schools, he attended a meeting of the Maha Bodhi Society and resigned his position as honorary general adviser because "Mr. Dharmapala did not seem disposed to take my advice when given."79 Dharmapala wrote in his diary that "I became self reliant after Col. Olcott had deserted me in May 1896," the month of Olcott's resignation (Diary, November 24, 1926), and that although the final breach did not come until 1905, "since 1898 he became selfish" (Diary, February 17, 1920). Olcott felt that Dharmapala was the selfish one. Their falling Out aside, Dharmapala continued to attend Theosophical conventions, noting that there had been no discord at the 1898 convention and that he was welcome at Adyar until 1904.

The following year Olcott launched a broadside against Dharmapala that marked the public dissolution of their relationship. In the wake of the Calcutta High Court's decision that ended hopes of recovering the Maha Bodhi temple, other Sinhala Buddhists began to complain not so much about the cost of litigation but the disparity between the amount of contributions received and the amount Dharmapala had paid his attorneys. Contributions for his other projects ebbed away, and he began to publicly criticize the Buddhist public -- they had forsaken him, and they did not care about the great cause. Losing Bodh Gaya left him bitter and judgmental, and he said things sure to antagonize all constituencies. Prospects for Buddhism in Lanka were gloomy, he told Sinhalas, while things looked better for the growth of Buddhism in India. The fact of the matter was that his chief supporters in the Calcutta Theosophical Society had gone over to the dark side, abandoning the Buddhism of Blavatsky for the Hinduism of Besant. Olcott rushed in, defending the unsteady relationship between the Theosophists and the Buddhists. He said that even in Blavatsky's day, most Theosophists had not become Buddhists, although the twenty Theosophists who accompanied him to the island inr880 had done just that. In helping others to understand their own religions better, Olcott acted as a Theosophist. But he also continued to help his "avowed" religion, Buddhism.80

Olcott went after Dharmapala in an article in the Theosophist, looking back on a twenty-year friendship:

I do not want to say a harsh word to Dharmapala, but I am duty bound to defend the Sinhalese from his unjust aspersions and to tell the truth. Dharmapala has been in intimate relations with me from the time when, as a very young man, he threw up his clerkship in a Government office at Colombo, to devote himself to Buddhistic propaganda, and for many years he followed my advice. Scores of times he has been held up by us as a model of an unselfish, devoted young man, a second Damodar. But since his visit to America, to attend the Exposition, he has not seemed willing to listen to the advice of his elders, but has put forth various schemes which they were obliged to regard as impracticable, if not utopian. Among them, was his "Ethico-Psychological College"-a title bad enough to strangle it at its birth. This embryonic college was opened without pupils or teaching staff, with a big and showy procession, a great tom-toming and trumpet-blowing, a sensational telegraphing to the papers, and after that came reaction and silence. Our dear young man, finding himself saddled with a thing that he could not manage, wrote me that I ought now to retire from the Theosophical Society and come and live there: in other words, pull his very hot chestnuts out of the fire!


He acknowledged Dharmapala's "philanthropic ... intentions, perfect integrity, and unselfish zeal." His problems were willfulness and an lack of business sense. His having turned on Besant and his other well-wishers, he added, revealed his "juvenile critical incapacity."81

Taking responsibility for consenting to Dharmapala's bringing litigation against the mahant, Olcott noted that even with excellent legal representation he had failed to deliver Bodh Gaya. The result was "many Buddhists, showing bitter feelings against Dharmapala because of the heavy cost of the now famous suit." On the witness stand, Dharmapala "made almost as bad a figure as was possible," becoming confused, losing his memory, and alienating his supporters.82 Olcott concluded by pointing out that public suspicion about the casual way he shifted his contributors' funds from one project, recovering Bodh Gaya, to others, establishing the Ethico-Psychological College and the Sanghamitta convent, had no basis. Dharmapala was as honest as could be; he simply lacked business sense and discretion. Olcott's private thoughts reveal neither nuance nor sympathy. Writing Leadbeater, he called him a "spoilt suckling," as "vain to a degree and more kinds of an ass ... than are enumerated by Linnaeus in his classification of the varieties in the family of Equus Asinus."83

As Dharmapala became increasingly disturbed by the Theosophical Society's emphasis on Hinduism that followed Blavatsky's death, he wrote that his Pali studies "gave [him] insight into Buddhism & [his] interest in Theosophical bunkum declined. It was dry hash" (Sarnath Notebook no. 101). The Theosophists soon broke into two groups---:the Blavatsky Association and the Besantine party. When he traveled in the West, he had more en- . counters with Blavatsky Theosophists than with the Besantine party, but he tried to avoid getting involved in Theosophical sectarianism. As he wrote in a notebook, he reconciled with the Calcutta Theosophical Society in 1911. By contrast his relationship with Colombo Theosophists did not warm until the I920s. Reconciled with Besant, he made a further gesture in 1915:

Seeing a carriage I presumed that it was Mrs. Besant's, and that she had come to the TS [Theosophical Society] Hall. I found out that she was there and I went to the TS, and sat in the bench for some time. She was inside the room with doors closed. When the members came out I asked her to visit the MBS quarters. She came and I took her upstairs & showed the Shrine Room. She worshipped the Image of the Lord. I asked her to send me photos of HPB, HSO [Olcott] & herself. She suggested that I should hang Norendro Babu's picture. (Diary, October 7, 1915)


Soon he had new hopes: "Mrs. Besant the good mother has arrived in Calcutta. She is staying at the TS. I went to see her. I offered my services to her. May she be a mother to me henceforth" (Diary, February 1, 1916).

Dharmapala lent Besant money in 1916, grousing that she had refused him a loan earlier: "In 1900 when I wanted a loan from Mrs. Besant of Rs. 600/- she declined to advance it, and last year I gave her for her use Rs. 500/-" (Diary, December 23, 1917). By 1920 he thought his relationship with the society was entirely rehabilitated: "I believe I am one of the oldest members of the Theosophical Society, and one of the few surviving members among those who met [Blavatsky] in 1880" (Diary, May 18,1920). By then he had come to see Besant against the background of Blavatsky and the mahatmas:

Received letter from Mrs. Besant that she is coming to attend the ceremony on the 26. Tears rushed down my eyes when writing to her, and I thought of dear HPB & the Masters. The former was instrumental in bringing me to Madras in 1881 Decr. In those days the Masters were to me everything. Pali studies opened my eyes to know of the infinite nature of the Tathagato. (Diary, November 14, 1920)


What motivated his reconciliation with Theosophists in Calcutta is hard to rationalize because he received less and less support from them as time passed. The steady point in his life as a Theosophist was Koot Hoomi, who exemplified his aspirations for spiritual growth.

Dharmapala's relations with Theosophists in Colombo had begun to sour when he argued for removing the word "Theosophical" from the Buddhist Theosophical Society in 1897-8. By 1905 he declared that no Buddhist could be a Theosophist. But he remained entangled with Theosophy and Theosophists for decades, a continuity usually overlooked by focusing on his life in Sri Lanka alone. When Olcott established the Buddhist Theosophical Society in Colombo, D. B. Jayatilaka became a member, serving as principal first of Dharmaraja College in Kandy and later of Ananda College in Colombo. He founded the Young Men's Buddhist Association and led the temperance movement, giving him a base of influence parallel to, and separate from, the Maha Bodhi Society. When the Hewavitarne family went to court to recover the Rajagiriya school from local Theosophists, Jayatilaka became a defendant in the case.84 By 1906 Dharmapala saw that he had other Buddhist enemies: "Jayatilaka, Mirando, Wickramaratna, H. S. Perera & W. A. de Silva are in league and are conspiring to destroy me" (Diary, April 20, 1906). It is unclear whether the "one stupid Buddhist" mentioned in a later passage from the diary is Jayatilaka, but hostility between Dharmapala and the Colombo Theosophists had a personal basis as much as an ideological one:

Since last September I have been trying to make the local Theosophists see the danger [because of the heterodox views of the Buddhist Catechism]; they pooh-poohed me. The high priest remained indifferent, and the foolish Theosophists circulated 80,000 copies of the two Supplements agst me personally .... One stupid Buddhist will cause distruction [sic] to thousands. (Diary, May 25, 1906)


A libel case followed in 1909, and he wrote that he was prepared to pay the damages discussed by Jayatilaka (Diary, July 27, 1909).

When the Colombo Theosophists needed money in 1906, they mortgaged Ananda College to Adyar. As strained as Dharmapala's relations were with the Colombo Theosophists, he shared an interest in Ananda College and by the 1920s was making common cause with them to avoid Adyar's taking control of what had begun as a local enterprise:

They [the Adyar Theosophists] lent Rs. 34000 ... and the latter was paid intense [sic] on the amount @ 4% for 24 years Rs. 32640/-. I must be ready to lend Rs. 34000 to the Colombo Theosophical Society to redeem the mortgage. (Diary, December 17, 1930)


He lent Rs. 5,000/- in 1928 without a promissory note and never recovered that money (Diary, June 3 and September 28, 1930). Those loans were not prompted by new affection for Jayatilaka, who, Dharmapala claimed, mismanaged Buddhist schools and failed to pay the arrears of salaries of "starving teachers" while wasting his time at political meetings (Diary, November 13, 1930). He thought Jayatilaka "had abandoned his coreligionists and is now a government man. He will betray his coreligionists and hand over the Buddhist Schools to Govt" (Diary, September 27, 1930). In the small world of Buddhist reformers, Dharmapala saw his need for support from Colombo Theosophists. By 1930 he was able to imagine merging the publishing efforts of Theosophical Society and the Maha Bodhi Society: "Big commercial concerns are amalgamated. Why not the Sandaresa & the S. Bauddhaya, the Buddhist Press & the Maha Bodhi Press[?] stet ... A United Buddhist Press is needed. II A paragraph later, he imagined complete consolidation: "wrote out my dying suggestions to Arthur Silva about the amalgamation of the TS and MBS" (Diary, December 17, 1930 ).

THEOSOPHICAL BUDDHISM

When the Theosophical party reached the island in 1880, they came with the intention of becoming Buddhists, and all twenty members of the party did so. The Sinhala elite knew that Olcott was a man who would stand up to the missionaries and help them in their efforts to revive Buddhism, carrying forward Migettuvatte's efforts. Olcott had already declared himself a Buddhist in New York City, and Buddhism was his "avowed" religion.85 In other words, they came with a specifically Buddhist mission, and local Buddhists understood their mission in specifically Buddhist ways. Such specificity ran counter to standard practice of the society. Most members of the party were Bombay Hindus and Zoroastrians; henceforth they would be Buddhists in addition to whatever other involvements they might have as Theosophists. Exactly how Zoroastrians and Hindus understood their conversion is another question, as is the complicated relationship between their birth religions, Theosophy, and Buddhism.

At least a few local Buddhists were interested in phenomenalism. It was Migettuvatte who had received Olcott's mailing with Isis Unveiled as well as Theosophical literature, and he had pieces of both translated into Sinhala, printed in pamphlet form, and circulated.86 He had seen an early demonstration of Olcott's producing phenomena, and other monks wanted to follow suit:

The monks, who had read Megittuwatte's excerpts from H.P.B.'s books, pressed her to exhibit her powers, and young Wijeratne, on hearing about the handkerchief phenomenon on board ship, asked her to repeat it for him. So she did, and again for a Mr. Dias; each time obliterating her own embroidered name and causing theirs to replace it .... The excitement, of course, rose to fever heat and culminated when she made some fairy bells ring out sharp in the air, near the ceiling and out on the verandah.87


Dharmapala noticed interest among some laypeople in phenomenalism, observing that "in my youth many elderly persons testified to the remarkable things that [Blavatsky] had done."88 There were other signs of local predispositions to Theosophy. Like many Sinhalas, Don Carolis Hewavitarne took astrology seriously, and he was interested in the interpretation of dreams. Others were impressed-for reasons both practical and intellectual -- by the mesmeric healing Olcott demonstrated as he traveled about the island.

The Theosophical Society planned to solicit interest from South Asians by employing a two-part strategy, using curiosity about phenomenalism performed by newly arrived Western members to draw interest from South Asians:

When the natives see that an interest is taken by the English, and even some high officials in India, in their ancestral science and philosophies, they will themselves take openly to their study. And when they come to realize that the old "divine" phenomenon were not miracles, but scientific effects, superstition will abate .... The present tendency of education is to make them materialistic and root out spirituality. With a proper understanding of what their ancestors mean by their writings and teachings, education would become a blessing.89


The scheme is nothing if not clever: use ancient "phenomenalism" now understood scientifically to return South Asians to their own traditions drawing them away from superstition, and converting education from a self- estranging practice to a reformative one. In such contexts practices such as phenomenalism were as transidiomatic as "guru English."

Olcott did not begin to practice mesmeric healing until his third visit in 1882, when his public demonstrations drew still more people to him.90 He explained his ability to heal by passing his hands over the body of the distressed person in terms of the local belief in budu ras, which he overwrote as "auras," explaining that such auras extended eighteen inches beyond the periphery of the human body. He shared an interest in budu ras with Hikkaduve. Olcott traveled upriver in Burma to see colored emanations from a Buddhist relic mound, and Hikkaduve saw similar effects at a stupa in Badulla on the Buddha's birthday.91 In this context it is hard not to understand the Maha Bodhi flag, the ("universal" symbol of Buddhism, in a light that has Theosophical references. The flag was designed by members of the Colombo Theosophical Society, and it displays the six colors that hovered around the Buddha's body (budu ras). Olcott did not design the flag -- Buddhist Theosophists did that -- but Olcott was confident that the mahatmas themselves had influenced the design.92 Olcott's contributions to the flag continue to be a point of contention in Sri Lanka, but the flag's Theosophical motivations are altogether forgotten.

Once Olcott began corresponding, Migettuvatte got his letters translated into Sinhala and distributed them to his own followers. He also began to lecture his supporters "regarding the manifold advantages that the Buddhists were to receive by the acquisition of Colonel Olcott and Mme. Blavatsy into their fold." He assured them that "the Mahatmas" were "devoted followers of Gautama Buddha."98 A week or so after they had arrive at Galle, Olcott and Blavatsky received pan sil (the five precepts) from Bulatgama Sumanatissa, and they "were formally acknowledged as Buddhists." despite the fact that they "had previously declared (themselves) Buddhists long before, in America, privately and publicly. So that this was but a formal confirmation of (their) previous professions."94 The self-conversion is itself indicative of their heterodox relationship to Buddhism.

Our Buddhism was that of the Master-Adept Gautama buddha, which was identically the Wisdom Religion of the Aryan Upanishads, and the soul of all the ancient world-faiths. Our Buddhism was, in a word, a philosophy, not a creed.95


Local Buddhists assumed that Olcott and Blavatsky were accepting a creed, their creed.

The party's warmth of feeling was reciprocated by their hosts. Blavatsky was moved into the background, and Olcott's affability made friendship easy.96 The Buddhists were likely to have assumed the metaphysical discussions Olcott mounted with Buddhist monks were the questions of a new Buddhist trying to learn more about his avowed religion, for Olcott they were occasions for looking for points of contact between his highly imagined interpretation of Buddhist esotericism and the views of scholarly monks such as Hikkaduve, Dodanduve Piyaratana, and Vaskaduve Subhuti. Before the part arrived in 1880, Olcott had corresponded with Dodanduve Piyaratana, telling him that the Theosophical Society was predicated "on the basis of a Brotherhood of Humanity" and assuring him that "it is also a league of religions against the common enemy -- Christianity."97 He announced that he would be coming to India in a few months and added that "it is important to see you and the holy and learned ministers of the true faith .... I know nothing, having no means of observation. I ought or might feel called upon to make a public profession and enter the fold. "98

In establishing the Theosophical Society in New York, Blavatsky continued to play the intellectual role that she had developed in Europe. Her views about universal brotherhood came from that same oracular source. Her Great White Brotherhood was a community of adepts whose rigorous training and absolute purity gave them supernatural powers. Heading the brotherhood was the Lord of the World, who

came originally from Venus with several helpers and now inhabits the body of a sixteen-year old boy. In descending order of authority, his helpers are the Buddha, the Mahachohan, Manu and Maitreya .... Other Masters include Jesus, a "Syrian" who rather confusingly has responsibility for all religions, not merely Christianity; the Hungarian Prince Rakoczialso known as the Comte de Saint Germain-who presides over Magic and whose previous incarnations included both Roger and Francis Bacon, Hilarion, a handsome Greek in charge of Science; Serapis ... and the Venetian Master .... Much lower down the hierarchy is Master Dwaj Khool, who does celestial odd jobs. In addition, the Brotherhood of Masters includes all great religious leaders and occult teachers of the past. Buddha, Confucius, Solomon, Lao Tzu, Boehme, Roger Bacon, Francis Bacon, Cagliostro, Mesmer, Abraham, Moses and Plato are all members. Below them ... are the arhats ... and their disciples, known as chelas.99


The exuberant architecture of the occult world, its cosmopolitanism across space and time, and its genius for seeing the this of that and the that of gave Blavatsky's vision a wondrous plausibility that must have been part of its appeal to considerable numbers of people. It was a world that appealed to Olcott, who regarded chance as "a word void of sense" and thought that "all men whose minds lie open to the spiritual intelligence ... are born Theosophists."100

From their mountain ashrams the brotherhood worked for the good of humanity, acting through human agents to counteract malign powers known as the Dark Forces. Those agents were chelas, and the young Dharmapala began by resolving to study the occult sciences as a way to learn more of the Himalayan Brotherhood and to serve Koot Hoomi, who himself served the Buddha. Blavatsky told him to turn his attention to studying Pali, and he would find all he sought there, advice usually taken to mean to devote himself to Buddhism. But on at least two occasions he wrote that her instructions were for him to study Pali and to serve humanity. In one notebook entry he wrote:

HPB studied the philosophy of Buddhism and became a Buddhist and paved the way for Buddhism by her writings-She did not tell me to study Theosophy but advised me to study Pali and work for Humanity. (Sarnath Notebook no. 43)


The mahatmas also "serve Humanity," that last word appearing in Theosophical literature with a capital H. Dharmapala's first encounters with "Humanity" came during those early days when he was consuming a steady diet of Theosophical literature. WI When he recounted the short version of Blavatsky's instructions to him, he has her saying, "Study Pali wherein you shall find all you seek." In the long version, published in Asia magazine, he remembered her as saying, "It will be much wiser for you to dedicate your life to the service of humanity. And, first of all, learn Pali, the sacred language of the Buddha."102

The ambiguity of Blavatsky's advice may owe to either her transidiomatic instructions or Dharmapala's way of remembering her advice. He went on in the same passage to conflate Buddhism and Theosophy even more:

H. S. Olcott came to Ceylon to work for Buddhism and started the Buddhist national Fund in 1881. There was no Theosophy then. It was all Buddhism. A good Theosophist can't be a Mohammedan. He can't be a Hindu, he can't be a Christian. He can only be a Buddhist.


There are several puzzles in this passage, but I assume that he is claiming that -- because Buddhism is the clearest window on the ancient wisdom that is Theosophy -- Buddhism is the only religion that allows one to understand Theosophy. When his relationship with the society -- both with Olcott and the branch in Colombo -- soured in 1905, he wrote a series of articles that made it clear that a Buddhist could not be a member of the Theosophical Society. 103 The salient point is not the flip-flop, first excluding everyone who was not a Buddhist from Theosophy, then denying that a Buddhist could be a Theosophist. There are two other points here: he saw Theosophy only in relationship to Buddhism, ignoring the society's attempt to comprehend the wisdom of all religions, and his grievances in 1905 were aimed at the Theosophical Society in Colombo, less so at Theosophy as an ideology.
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