IX – Popularizers of Buddhism in the West

1. Friends and Admirers of Buddhism

Outside the charmed circle of scholars regarding whose pioneering efforts I have so far spoken, there was a growing body of educated Westerners, who had been attracted to Buddhism. They distinguished [cxxxix] themselves from both the objective scholars, who concentrated on scientifically extending the frontiers of knowledge, and the early Christian missionaries who studied Buddhism for expressed or implicit sectarian purposes. These people, who could best be described as friends and admirers of Buddhism, sought to share with others their spiritual and cultural experience. Their approach was practical and the objective was clear: they thought highly of what they had come to know in the life and teachings of the Buddha and were convinced that Buddhism had a message which the world – specially the Western world – needed. So their role was conceived to be one of propagation of Buddhist ideas and values. They set up organizations for the purpose, published periodicals and produced books of a popular nature. Several of them are mentioned in the letters published in this Volume or are themselves the writers of some letters.

Henry Steele Olcott

The most important among them was Henry Steele Olcott (1832–1906) even though his main arena of work was India and Sri Lanka, as far as Buddhism was concerned. The work he did through the Theosophical Movement with Madame H. P. Blavatsky was pan-religious and it certainly did give an important place to Buddhism. But, as explained in Olcott’s letter to Ven. Piyaratana Tissa (Paragraph 485), what the Theosophical Society saw in Buddhism was another religious system with which it could confront Christianity. Since his arrival in the East –first to Bombay and then to Sri Lanka, Olcott did become a serious student of Buddhism and his major contribution to popularizing the message of the Buddha in the West is his “Buddhist Catechism”, Colombo, July 1881.

We have the background to its writing and its approval by Ven. Hikkaḍuwe Śrī Sumaṅgala from the Diary Leaves of Olcott:–

“My Catechism had been translated into Sinhalese, and on 15th May, I went with it to Widyodaya College to go over the text, word by word with the High Priest and his Assistant [cxl] Principal, Hiyayentadūwe, The reference is to Ven. Hiyayentadūwe Śrī Devamitta Nāyaka Thera. one of his cleverest pupils and a man of learning. On the first day, although we worked eight hours, we disposed of only 6 ½ pages of the MS. On the 16th, beginning early in the morning and continuing until 5 p.m„ we got over 8 pages; then we stuck.

The impasse was created by the definition of Nirvāna, or rather of the survival of some sort of “subjective entity” in that state of existence. Knowing perfectly well the strong views entertained by the school of Southern Buddhists of which Sumaṅgala is the type, I had drafted the reply to the question: “What is Nirvāṇa?” in such a way as to just note that there was a difference of opinion among Buddhist metaphysicians as to the survival of an abstract human entity, without leaning either towards the views of the Northern or Southern school. But the two erudite critics caught me up at the first glance at the paragraph, and the High Priest denied that there was any such difference of opinion among Buddhist metaphysicians.

Upon my citing to him the beliefs of the Tibetans, Chinese, Japanese, Mongolians, and even of a Sinhalese school of which the late Polgahawatte was leader, he closed our discussion by saying that, if I did not alter the text, he should cancel his promise to give me a certificate that the Catechism was suited to the teaching of children in Buddhist schools, and should publish his reasons therefor. As this would virtually destroy the usefulness of my educational monograph, and cause such a breach between him and myself as to make it tenfold more difficult to push on the schools project, I yielded to force majeure, and made the paragraph read, as it has ever since stood, in the many editions through which the Catechism has since passed. The tedious labor of critical revision was finally completed, the MS. fair-copied, re-revised, trimmed, added to, and at last made ready for the printer, all this taking weeks and causing no end of bother to me.

It was such a novelty, this, to condense the essence of the whole body of Buddhist Dhamma into a little hand-book that one might read through in a couple of hours, and their inherited [cxli] tendency towards passive resistance to all innovations upon the fixed order of things was so strong that I had to fight my way inch by inch, as one might say.

It was not that the priests did not feel the greatest friendliness for me and the highest appreciation of the possible good that might accrue to the nation from our school project, but the conservative instinct was too strong to be pacified at once, and points that had been passed upon had to be reconsidered, and long discussions entered into as to the spirit of the Buddhist sacred books, before I could be allowed to go to Press with my work.

I am perfectly convinced that if I had been an Asiatic of any race or caste, the book would never have appeared, the author would have simply been tired out and have abandoned his attempt. But knowing something of the bull-dog pertinacity of the Anglo-Saxon character, and holding me in real personal affection, they finally succumbed to my importunity. The Sinhalese and English versions appeared simultaneously, on 24th July, 1881, and thenceforward, for some weeks, the hand-presses of Colombo could not strike off copies fast enough to meet the demand.”

An equally innovative and far-reaching effort of Olcott was the identification of the Fourteen Fundamental Buddhist Beliefs which were compiled in 1891 and accepted by representatives of Burma, Sri Lanka, Chittagong, Japan (nine sects) and later by the chief Mongolian Lamas. Regarding the approval by Mongolian Lamas, Olcott said, “It has been recently reported to me by H. E. Prince Ouchtomsky, the learned Russian Orientalist, that having had the document translated to them, the Chief Lamas of the great Mongolian Buddhist monasteries declared to him that they accept every one of the propositions as drafted with the one exception that the date of the Buddha is by them believed to have been some thousands of years earlier than the one given by me” – Appendix to Buddhist Catechism 44th Edition 1915. These points form an appendix to “The Buddhist

The success of this little manual of Buddhism was instant. During the life-time of Olcott, it ran into forty-one editions in English and translations were published in Sinhala (by Don Baron [cxlii] Jayatilaka, who was then the Principal of Ananda College), Tamil, French and Spanish. So while Olcott is rightly remembered for his unique role in the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, his service through this single publication to the propagation of Buddhism in the West had been equally significant.

Paul Carus

Another whose name comes up in this Volume is Paul Carus (1852–1919) – an American like Olcott. Carus was in touch with Ven. Subhūti and Ven. Seelakkhandha. He seems to have introduced Warren and Barth to these scholar-monks.

It was Carus’ father-in-law, E. C. Hegeler, the founder of the Open Court Publishing House, that invited Anagārika Dharmapāla to Chicago in 1896. Though Carus was not a scholar, with requisite linguistic knowledge to study Buddhism in depth, he published a successful periodical under the name “The Monist” and wrote articles on Buddhist themes. The discussion with Ven. Seelakkhandha on relic worship is indicative of the kind of intellectual interest he displayed in Buddhism. (See paragraph 519)

In 1894 he published his best known book, “The Gospel of Buddhism” in which he presented what Winternitz called a mosaic of “edifying passages from the most varied sources, from earlier and later Pali texts, from the various biographies of Buddha and European works on Buddhism”. It gained such popularity in both U.S.A. and outside as to necessitate the issue of thirteen editions between 1894 and 1919. It is from this that Lin Yutang extracted several Buddhist stories for his “Wisdom of India”, London, 1950. The thirteenth edition was translated into German. Another book by Carus, called “The Dharma” was utilized by Olcott in the preparation of his “Buddhist Catechism”. A lasting contribution Carus made to the propagation of Buddhism in USA is the patronage and assistance he extended to D. T. Suzuki, the pioneering writer on Zen Buddhism.

Count Angelo Gubernatis

Mentioned in one of Rosts’ letters as visiting Sri Lanka (Paragraph 166) is Count Angelo de Gubernatis. His fame as a [cxliii] Sanskritist was based on his dramatic adaptation of the story of Nala and Damayanti in 1869. Subsequently he became a popularizer of Buddhism and, with A. Obolonsky, produced a play on the life of the Buddha in French called “Le Prince Siddhartha – Drame en 5 actes et 22 tableaux,” Tours 1899. What impact his visit to Sri Lanka in 1885 had on his interest in Buddhism and what particular influence Ven. Subhūti (whose library he wished to see and whose acquaintance he wished to make) exerted on him, we are, unfortunately, in no position to surmise.

Bhikkhu Ānanda Metteyya, Earnest Rost and Francis J. Payne

Brief references are made in several letters in this volume to Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya, Ernest Rost and Francis Payne and also to their contribution in founding the Buddhist Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya (formerly Charles Henry Allen Bennett) was ordained in Burma in 1902. He was the second Englishman to have become a Buddhist monk, the first being Bhikkhu Asoka (formerly Gordon Douglas) ordained in Colombo in 1899. See the excellent essay (or rather monograph) of Olcott Gunasekera on “The Spread of Buddhism throughout the Ages” in Narada Felicitation Volume Colombo, 1979 pp. 172 f. In 1908 he led a mission to establish Buddhism as a living religion in the British Isles. It was to assist him that the Buddhist Society of Great Britain and Ireland was established. Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya was the author of “The Wisdom of the Aryas”, Major Earnest R. Rost was the founder-secretary of the Society and editor of its organ “The Buddhist Review”. As his letter to Ven. Seelakkhandha indicates, his strategy for spreading the knowledge of Buddhism in England was the “judicious translation of the Tripiṭaka and lectures on the True Doctrine”. He carried on the work of the Society only for the first eighteen months.

Francis Payne, who accepted Buddhism in 1905, was an active founder-member of the Society. “To keep alive the religion” was his objective and he took over the editing of the Buddhist Review and, as he himself told Ven. Seelakkhandha in 1911, all his energy was absorbed in keeping the Review going. Christmas Humphreys introduces him “as one of the great figures in the early [cxliv] history of Buddhism in England.” Christmas Humphreys: A Popular Dictionary of Buddhism, London, 2nd Edition, 1976 p. 147. A very active member of the British Mahā Bodhi Society, Payne corresponded frequently with Anagārika Dharmapāla and one of these letters, dated 3 April 1925 was reproduced by me in my Introduction to “Return to Righteousness”. When the Buddhist Society of Great Britain and Ireland ceased to function, Payne established in 1923 the London Buddhist League, which functioned for about an year. Mention is made of his plans to translate the Buddhist Canon into Elizabethan English, but I have no information on the progress made.

With regard to three other popularizers of Buddhism, in the West, we have ample information specially on their association with scholar-monks of Sri Lanka: they are Sir Edwin Arnold, the renowned poet and author of”The Light of Asia”; Henry Clarke Warren, the co-founder of the Harvard Oriental Series and the compiler of “Buddhism in Translations “, and Frank Lee Woodward, the Buddhist educator and author of “the finest anthology of the Pali Canon ever produced”, This assessment was by Christmas Humphreys in the Introduction to the 1973 edition of this book. namely “Some Sayings of the Buddha.”

2. Sir Edwin Arnold (1832–1904) The information in this section comes mainly from “Eminent Orienta-lists – Indian, European, American” – (G.A. Natesan and Co., Madras) 1922.

Enchanted by what his sensitive and cultivated mind perceived in the culture of India, Edwin Arnold assumed the role of an interpreter of the East to the West – a role in which he truly excelled. He was equally impressed by the totality of India’s spiritual heritage and this spirit of eclecticism finds expression in a poem in his “With Sa’di in the Garden”:–

Sweet friends who love the Music of the Sun,
And listened – glad and gracious – many an one,
While on a light strung lyre, I sought to tell
Indian Siddhartha’s wisdom; and the spell
Of Jayadev’s deep verse; and proud deeds wrought
By Pandu princes; and how gems are fraught [cxlv]
With meanings; and to count his golden bead
Of Allah’s names of Beauty; and to read
High tender lessons Upanishads teach –
“Secret of Death”, and subtle soul of speech
In holy Om; and to con – line by line –
The lofty glory of the “Lay Divine” –
Arjuna’s speech with Krishna; – once more come
And listen to the Vina and the Drum!
Come once more with me from our sombre skies
To hear great Sa’di’s tuneful mysteries.

Though the reference to “Indian Siddhartha’s wisdom” tops the list of fascinating aspects of India’s religious tradition, as he found it, he had no special partiality to Buddhism. In fact, he wrote a substantial poem each on all these themes: “Pearls of the Faith” extolled Islam and in the Preface he said, “The soul of Islam is its declaration of the unity of God: its heart is the inculcation of an absolute resignation to his will”; “The Song Celestial” – claimed by some critics to be another masterpiece of the poet – is a rendering of Bhagavad Gitā, which he called a famous and marvellous poem; In the volume entitled “Indian Poetry”, the first poem called “The Indian Song of Song” is a rendering of Jayadeva’s “Gitagovinda”; and in “Indian Idyll” are presented eight episodes from the Mahābhārata including the immortal love stories of Sāvitri-Satyavān, Nala-Damayanti and concluding with the philosophical analysis of the doctrine of Karma in Anuśāsana-Parva.

The instant success of the “Light of Asia” on the life and teachings of the Buddha virtually overshadowed all his other work. On this poem, Winternitz wrote, “Even down to our own day the Indian legend of Buddha has so well preserved its ever youthful freshness and vitality, that again and again it has inspired poets including Western poets, to compose epic and dramatic renderings of this immortal theme. Thus Edwin Arnold’s epic “The Light of Asia” was in the 19th century, still capable of inspiring such enthusiasm that it saw over sixty editions in England and over a hundred in America and really laid the foundation for this poet’s [cxlvi] fame”. Winternitz: loc. cit p. 418–419. The poet’s own aim as expressed in the preface was “to aid in the better mutual knowledge of East and West” and he hoped that “this poem and his Indian Song of Songs” Translation of Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda. and ‘Indian Idylls’ will preserve the memory of one who loved India and the Indian peoples.”

The popularity of the poem throughout the world, the encomia that were poured on him by the Buddhists of Asia and the approbation accorded to the poem by scholars and, more significantly, scholar-monks had an impact on Sir Edwin Arnold’s later life. He became a champion of Buddhism making such statements as the following in his “Seas and Lands”:–

“I have often said and I shall say again and again, that between Buddhism and modern science there exists a close intellectual bond.”

He said further,

“That the destiny of men has been and must be and will be worked out by himself under eternal and benign laws which never vary and never mislead; and that for every living creature the path thus lies open, by compliance, by effort, by insight, by aspiration, by goodwill, by right action, by loving service, to that which Buddhists term Nirvāṇa, and we Christians “the peace of God that passeth all undei standing.”

The correspondence, published in this Volume as well as the letters of Anagārika Dharmapāla which I have reproduced in this Introduction, shows Sir Edwin in the last years of his life, when, riding on the crest of fame as a protoganist of Buddhism, he virtually led the movement for the restitution of Buddha Gaya to the Buddhists.

An evaluation, made very early on the poem and quoted so frequently that I could not trace its originator, summed up the contribution it made to the spread of knowledge on Buddhism:–

“It may probably be claimed for it that many people otherwise well-read and educated would never have had more than the [clvii] faintest notion of the exquisite beauties of the Buddhistic faith, had they not been presented to them in so delightful and at the same time so accurate a form as by the ‘Light of Asia’ ”

To this may be added Lin Yutang’s observation:

“Most Western readers of the elderly generation owe their impression of Buddha to this poem” Wisdom of India, London, 2nd Edition 1950 p. 354.

The Buddhists have been conscious of this immense service. Scholars like Mrs. Rhys Davids Wayfarer’s Words: Vol. II p.476 had drawn attention to the criticisms which Sir Edwin had levelled against the Saṅgha in such strong terms as the following:–

“The extravagances which disfigure the record and practice of Buddhism are to be referred to that inevitable degradation which priesthoods always inflict upon great ideas committed to their charge. The power and sublimity of Gautama’s original doctrines should be estimated by their influence, nor by their interpreters nor by that innocent but lazy and ceremonious church which has arisen on the foundations of the Buddhistic Brotherhood or ‘Saṅgha.’ ” (Preface)

But the very monks who were so reviled were quick to ignore them. They were equally magnanimous not to raise any issue when Sir Edwin published his poem on the Christian theme under the title “The Light of the World”. Referring to this poem Lin Yutang said, “More curiously still it (i.e. Light of Asia) was a greater success than the author’s later volume, Light of the World, depicting the life of Jesus” – Loc. cit. p. 354. Many explanations are given to his decision to write this poem. It could be in response to the barrage of criticism that was directed by the Christian clergy. Of the attitude of these critics, I have found a very interesting example in C. F. Gordon Cumming’s “Two Happy Years in Ceylon”:– C. F. Gordon Cumming: “Two Happy Years in Ceylon” Vol. II, p. 417-418.

“Yet it is to this system that so great an impetus has been given even in Europe and America by the agency of so beautiful [cxlviii] a writer as Sir Edwin Arnold, who, in his passionate admiration for the good and noble, depicts things not as they really are, but as he would have them to be; for truly what he calls “The Light of Asia” has most practically proved to be only bewildering darkness.

Surely such an ovation as was accorded to him by the Buddhists when he visited Ceylon in 1886 was doubtful honour for a Christian. At one Buddhist college near Colombo well-nigh three thousand Buddhists assembled to testify their gratitude to the poet who has painted their leader in colours all borrowed from the life and teaching of Him Who is the true Light of the World. The honoured guest was placed on a raised platform beneath an honorific canopy, while Buddhist ecclesiastics robed in yellow satin chanted chorals, litanies, and anthems in Pali and Singhalese, Sir Edwin replying in Sanskrit.

One of those best acquainted with practical Buddhism in Ceylon describes it as “the most cunningly-devised system of atheism and negation, of idol-worship, tree and serpent worship, demon-worship, and pessimism which has ever held the human mind in bondage” – a system exactly answering to the awful Scriptural summary, “Having no hope, and without God in the world.”

Archdeacon Farrer says, Buddhism, as it appears, not in ‘The Light of Asia’, but in the original ‘Life of Gautama’, is but a philosophy of despair, which knows no immortality, no conscience, and no God. Humanity has groped in blindness after its Creator; in Christ alone has it learned the love of His Fatherhood and the riches of His salvation.”

If Sir Edwin Arnold wrote his poem on Christ half-heartedly merely to meet the charges of disloyalty levelled by his Christian critics, the failure of “The Light of the World” could be intrinsic. I have not made a comparison of the two poems and am, therefore, unable to vouch for the comments made by an Indian critic to the effect that this poem “somehow lacks the serene beauty, the uplifting power and the harmony of numbers that make the poem [cxlix] on the Buddha a work of great beauty and power” and that “the treatment of the subject is inadequate and there are frequent infelicities due to his not rising to the height of the subject.” Quoted in “Eminent Orientalists-Indian, Europeon, American”, Madras 1922.

Be it as it may, there is no real reason for us in this Volume to compare these poems for their literary merits or spiritual impact. It suffices to recognize that Sir Edwin Arnold wrote a timely poem in a felicitous idiom at a time the world was being gradually awakened to the message of the Buddha. The world needed it at that time and it was gratefully received with due acclamation. Its value has continued to be recognized until very recent times. As late as 1950, Lin Yutang included the entire poem in his “Wisdom of India” giving several reasons for this decision. In 1956, when the Buddhist Literature Committee (Chairman: Ven. Polwatte Buddhadatta) of the Lanka Bauddha Mandalaya decided to bring out a special publication to be presented to Heads of States on the occasion of the 2500 Buddha Jayanti, it was unanimously agreed that “The Light of Asia” should be in it. This special publication called “The Path of Buddhism” contained “Buddhism for the Beginner” by Ven. Bhikkhu Silācāra; “The Light of Asia” by Sir Edwin Arnold; “Dhammapada” translated by Ven. Nārada; “The Word of the Buddha” by Ven. Nyānātiloka and “The Significance of the Buddha Jayanti” by Sir John Kotelawala, Columbo, 1956. In 1972, Christmas Humphreys in his Introduction to F. L. Woodward’s “Some Sayings of the Buddha” said “The Light of Asia is still the best seller of Buddhism to the West”. Like Olcott’s “Buddhist Catechism”, Sir Edwin’s poem represents, above all, the rise within Western society of an enlightened, tolerant and sensitive intelligentsia who were prepared to join hands with savants and activists of traditionally Buddhist countries in ushering in the revival of Buddhism. For this reason alone these works will continue to be cherished with gratitude, even if the style is “somewhat dated.” A. L. Basham’s comment on “Light of Asia”, The Wonder that was India, London 1956 p. 280. [cl]

3. Henry Clarke Warren (1854–1899)

Warren’s claim to be dealt with in this section of the Introduction is his single major contribution to the popularization of Buddhism in the West, namely, “Buddhism in Translations”, Harvard Oriental Series, Vol. III. The catalogue of the series describes it as follows:–

“Passages selected from the Buddhist sacred books, and translated from the original Pali into English, by Henry Clarke Warren, late of Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1896, Pages, 522. Royal 8v. Price, £3. Of Warren’s Buddhism, a seventh issue, abridged, giving the Life of Buddha, for circulation in India, was published in 1922. Pages, 173. Strong paper covers. Royal 8v. Price, $1 – The Warren Memorial (see below) was also reprinted in both the seventh and eighth issues.

Buddhism portrayed in the words of the Buddhists themselves. The life of Buddha (a beautiful narrative), his teachings, and his monastic order form the substance of this work. The Pali passages, done into vigorous English and accurately rendered are chosen with such broad and learned circumspection that they make a systematically complete presentation of their difficult subject. Warren’s material is drawn straight from the fountainhead. It is this fact that has given to his work an abiding importance and value. It has been highly praised by competent judges. Moreover, it has enjoyed a very wide circulation in America and Europe and the Orient. And nearly half of the work was included by President Eliot in The Harvard Classics (New York, P. F. Collier and Son), of which a quarter of a million sets and more have been sold. The usefulness of Warren’s work has thus been incalculably enhanced.

The life of Henry Warren as a scholar is memorable in the annals of Amer;can learning. A brief memorial ot his life and public services is appended to volume 30 of this Series, of which he was joint-founder.” [cli]

It was received with very great enthusiasm. Lafcadio Hearn (whose invaluable services as a popularizer of Buddhism – particularly Japanese Buddhism – go unmentioned in this Introduction simply because we have no correspondence between him and the Sri Lankan Saṅgha) called it “the most interesting and valuable single volume of its kind I have ever seen.” I have mentioned on p. 135 Anagārika Dharmapāla’s description of it as an “excellent pioneer work”. The best compliment was offered by Charles William Eliot, President of Harvard University, who in 1910 included the last two hundred pages of Warren’s book in the fifty-volume series of The Harvard Classics, which was designed as an effort to provide “a five-foot shelf of books enough to give a good substitute for a liberal education to any persistent reader who had been denied that privilege in his youth”. It is in Vol. 45, pages 587-798.

Warren’s life was, like Childers’, all too short but it continues to be an inspiration and an example to those who have, with courage and determination, to overcome the most inconvenient and difficult physical handicaps. As his own letters in this Volume describe, he was a cripple from childhood; “shut out by his crippled body from many of the joys of boyhood and young manhood, he bravely set himself to make the most of what remained to him.” A Brief Memorial by C. R. Lanman appended to HOS Vol. III (seventh issue) p. 378. The unusually varied programme of studies he pursued for his bachelor’s degree at Harvard included History of Philosophy (special interest in Plato and Kant), natural science – particularly Botany and several languages including Sanskrit. After his graduation in 1879 he continued his study of Sanskrit under Charles R. Lanman and Maurice Bloomfield at John Hopkins University in Baltimore. It was a visit to England in 1884 which brought him into the field of Buddhist studies as a result of the influence of Rhys Davids.

The next fifteen years he dedicated entirely to Buddhist and Pali studies, concentrating on “two extensive works, each likely to be of long-lived usefulness and enduring significance in the history of Oriental studies” Ibid p. 384. namely, the edition and the translation of [clii] Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhi-Magga (Way of Salvation) and the monumental “Buddhism in Translations”. In twelve years, he had progressed to the point where the second work was published in 1896 with a major part consisting of his translation of Visuddhi-Magga. Warren continued with the editing of Visuddhimagga Published posthumously after revision by Dhammānanda Kosambi as HOS
Vols. 39 and 40
right up to his death three years later.

It is during this period that he was in touch with Ven. Subhūti and Ven. Seelakkhandha. The letters in this Volume – particularly those to Ven. Subhūti on the electrical novelties he presented to the Nāyaka Thera and on Prince Prisdong’s ordination – depict a cheerful man, satisfied with the success his publication had achieved, and perpetually curious and learning. But the four-year period covered by these letters were also those in which he had to undergo excruciating physical suffering. His teacher and friend, Lanman, described these years in the following words:–

“He had been accustomed, while at work, to stand up at a high desk, with two crutches under his arms to take the weight off his spinal column. Towards the end, even this was too hard, and he worked resting the weight of his trunk on his elbows while kneeling at a chair, so that the knees of his trousers showed hard usage… During his last years, finding scant comfort in a bed, he had constructed in his house a little room like a box… And on the floor of this he slept... Five or six days before Mr. Warren died, he asked Mr. Eliot (i.e. President of Harvard) to come over to his house. In writing of that visit, Mr. Eliot says, ‘I was much impressed by his calmness, patience and perseverance in intellectual labour under the most trying conditions. There was an heroic serenity about him and an indomitable resolution very striking to me, who have worked hard, but only under the most favourable conditions of health and strength’.” Loc. cit. pp. 380-381.

His correspondence with the two Sri Lankan Nāyaka Theras had been a source of encouragement. Of this Lanman writes: “One of the most pleasing features of his later years was his intercourse [cliii] with the Venerable Subhūti, a Buddhist Elder, of Waskaḍuwe, Ceylon. This distinguished monk, whose great learning and modesty and kindness had endeared him years before to Childers and Fausböll and Rhys Davids, was no less ready with words of encouragement for Mr. Warren, and with deeds of substantial service, especially the procuring of much-needed copies of Manuscripts.” Ibid p. 387.

Warren’s list of other publications from 1884 up to his death in January 1899 consists entirely of short translations, essays and learned papers. They include:

1884–Little Kālinga Birthstory, Providence Journal (according to Lanman, presumably the first translation ever made in America from Pali). Ibid p. 382
1885–”On superstitious customs connected with sneezing” JAOS Vol. XIII.
–”Pali Manuscripts in the Brown University Library” JPTS, 1885.
1892–”Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga” Transactions of the Ninth International Congress of Orientalists, London.
1893–”On the so-called Chain of Causation of the Buddhists” JAOS Vol. XVI
1893–”Table of Contents of the Visuddhimagga”, JPTS for 1891-93.
1894–”Report of progress of work upon Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga, JAOS Vol. XVI.

All this work – specially the critical edition of the Visuddhimagga–qualifies him to be recognized as a scholar. But Warren, himself, in his letter of 20 November, 1896, clarified his role (Paragraph 521). He said:

“From your letter to me I am afraid you think I have written more than I have. I have written only one real book, “Buddhism in Translations” which is not as good as it might have been if the [cliv] present of the King of Siam to Harvard University of the Tripiṭaka had come sooner... I like to write about Buddhism for the Buddha teaches such good things that I want everyone to know of them.

This is how Warren became a popularizer of Buddhism in the West. The lofty ideals which prompted Warren to dedicate his ailing self to this great cause are further exemplified in the objective of the Harvard Oriental Series which he founded with Lanman and to which he bequeathed his fortune. Its objective as later explained by Lanman is “to make available to us people of the West the incomparable lessons which (if we be wise enough to maintain the teachable habit of mind) the Wise Men of the East can teach us, lessons that concern the simple life, moderation of our desires, repose of spirit, and, above all, the search after God and the realization of the divine immanence”. It is this Series that published the text of Jātaka-mālā (HOS Vol. I), the translation of the Dhammapada Commentary (Buddhist Legends – HOS, Vols. XXVIII, XXIV and XXX), Lord Chalmers delightful translation of Sutta-nipāta (Buddha’s Teachings – HOS, XXXVII) and Warren’s and Kosambi’s edition of Visuddhimagga (HOS, XXXIX and XL).

It is indeed gratifying that Henry Clarke Warren finds a place in this Volume and it has given me an opportunity to present some invaluable information on his inspiring life and work. What makes my task doubly pleasant is to recall that in the last years of his life – at the time of his worst sufferings – he received solace, happiness and encouragement from not one, as Lanman had recorded, but two of the “Living Fountains of Buddhism” of Sri Lanka.

4. Frank Lee Woodward (1871–1952)

Though I include Frank Lee Woodward in the category of popularizers of Buddhism in the West, he has an equal right to be treated as a scholar, for he was one of the most serious students of Buddhism and Pali. A brief account of his scholarly contributions is given in Paragraph 547. Ed. note: I include the relevant passage here. “Studying his Pali within a short time, he embarked on a most prolific career as both an editor and a translator of Pali works, almost all of them published by the Pali Text Society. Starting with the translation of a Pali/Sinhala work under the title, “The Manual of a Mystic” in 1916, he proceeded to translate the Saṁyutta-nikāya, sharing it with Mrs. Rhys Davids: Vol. III (1917) Vol. IV (1922) and Vol. V (1925). He followed these with the edition of Udāna in 1926 and that of the voluminous commentary on the Saṁyutta-nikāya called the Sāratthappakāsinī: Vol. I (1929), II (1932) and III (1937). In 1925, he edited a translation of a part of Aṅguttara-nikāya prepared by A. D. Jayasundara and published in Adyar, Madras. In the same year, he published in Oxford his delightful and extremely popular anthology of Buddhist texts under the title Some Sayings of the Buddha (The World’s Classics). In 1926 he had his edition of the Udāna commentary published by the Pali Text Society. Between 1932 and 1936 appeared his translation of the Aṅguttara-nikāya while the translation of Udāna was issued in 1935. In the ’forties he worked on the edition of another voluminous commentary: Paramatthadīipanī on Thera­gāthā – which too was published in three volumes: Vol. I (1940), Vol. II (1952) and Vol. III (1959). He also worked on a Concordance on the Pali Tipiṭaka during the last days of his life in Tasmania up to his death on 3 November 1952.” See p. 441 of the book. His collaboration with Mrs. Rhys Davids commenced around 1915 and his association with the Pali [clv] Text Society extended beyond his death in November 1952 to the posthumous publication of the last part of Paramatthadīpanī in 1959. He was equally adept in making critical editions of voluminous Pali texts and translating into lucid English parts of the Buddhist Canon as in the more laborious tasks such as wading through the entire Tripiṭaka – all but five books of the Khuddaka Nikāya – for tracing expressions for the Pali Tripiṭaka Concordance. About his scholarship as well as his attitude to academic work, the most eloquent tribute comes from Mrs. Rhys Davids, who said:

“In the dark days following the completion of Part 1 (i.e. the translation of Saṁyutta Nikāya during the First World War years), and when other labours were blocking the way, Mr.F. L. Woodward wrote from his Tasmanian home offering service. With purity, disinterested kindness of heart, he consented to write for us a draft translation of Part. II. Joyous and swift is his wisdom, like Sāriputta’s. In a few months the typescript was done, completed even to footnotes. We cannot sufficiently thank him for the brotherly hand that has helped us to keep walking. Not many would have spent well earned leisure hours in rendering service from across the world like this”. (Emphasis mine).

Again in 1927, she said about his translation of further parts of Saṁyutta Nikāya:

“I find it both accurate and alive. Great is our debt to the labourer, gifted, genial, patient, accurate, trustworthy who have placed here within our reach more knowledge of the old world movement, concerning which many knowing very little have written much.” (Emphasis mine).

This last sentence, which I stress, speaks volumes for both Woodward’s erudition and his humility which is so very clearly reflected in his “Some Sayings of the Buddha – According to the Pali Canon.”

Even if Woodward had made no other contribution, this book which he first published in 1925 would have endeared him to the Buddhists the world over and secured him a place of honour among [clvi] the handful of dedicated workers on whose labours the knowledge of Buddhism in modern times is based. Its quality and relevance was soon recognized and the Oxford University Press not only republished it in 1939 in “the World Classics” series but reissued it in 1942, 1945 and 1949. All these editions carried an Introduction by Sir Francis Younghusband of Tibetan fame. Woodward’s own Preface of barely four paragraphs mirrors his self-effacing character. In the first paperback edition of this book in 1973, Christmas Humphreys, replacing Sir Francis’ Introduction with one of his own, said “This is, for its size, the finest anthology of the Pali Canon ever produced”. He stated further:

“The Editor of this anthology, Mr. F. L. Woodward, was born in England in 1871. Trained as a schoolmaster, he was in 1903 appointed Principal of the Mahinda College in Galle, Ceylon. During his distinguished career in the field of Eastern and Western education he learnt Pali and Pali Buddhism together, the learned language of a living religion. He retired to Tasmania and for the next thirty years was engaged in translating many of the most important volumes of the Canon and editing the Commentaries to as many more. He therefore had very high qualifications for the task of choosing and arranging extracts from the Canon for this anthology.”

Much is known of Woodward’s sojourn in Sri Lanka and his contribution to the development of Buddhist education, thanks to efforts of his own student, D. H. Panditha Gunawardene See D. H. Panditha Gunawardena: F. L. Woodward – Out of His Life and Thought, Colombo, 1973. V. Vitharana: The Message of Woodward, Mahinda College OB A, Colombo, 1977. and a later beneficiary of Woodward’s labours, Vinnie Vitharana. Within ten years of his arrival in Sri Lanka, Woodward had perfected his Pali to the point that the stanzas in the Aṅguttara-nikāya were rendered into English by him and included in Edmund R. Gunaratne’s translation published by the Pali Text Society in 1913. In 1915 he began the translation of Dhammapada which was published under the title “The Buddha’s Path of Virtue”. For some time, Woodward was the editor of the magazine: “The Buddhist.” [clvii]

When Woodward published “Some Sayings of the Buddha” in 1925, all the books hitherto discussed in this Introduction (namely, The Light of Asia, Buddhist Catechism. The Gospel of the Buddha, Buddhism in Translations) were current, popular and being published in several editions and translated into a number of Western languages. Woodward made no apology for adding another work nor did he explain how his book differed from others. If he gave one, he could have highlighted two points: the size and the authenticity. Olcott’s Buddhist Catechism is also handy in size but the contents are culled from interpretations of scholars rather than from the Buddhist Canon. Warren’s “Buddhism in Translations” contains authentic extracts from the Canon and the related Pali literature but it is a massive book of over five hundred royal octavo pages. Woodward produced one which was not too large and was entirely based on the Pali Canon. Thus, as Christmas Humphreys vouches “it has lived in the pockets of thousands of English Buddhists from that day (i.e. 1925) to this (i.e 1973).” F. L. Woodward: “Some Sayings of the Buddha” Oxford University Press 1973 p. XX.

A further advantage which the reader found in Woodward’s book is the simplicity of language and clarity of style, which eluded many translators of Canonical works. Referring to Asian translators Mrs. Rhys Davids complained that their translations were very “wooden” and they left out many terms untranslated (Paragraph 313). The Western translators, on the other hand, tended to draw terms from Christianity and Western thought and religious usage, which though vaguely parallel, were not equivalent in connotation and significance (e.g. Law or Truth for Dhamma; brother and sister for bhikkhu, bhikkhuni; soul for atta; lent for vassāna; heaven and hell for sagga and niraya; spectres for peta etc.). Whether a translator was Asian or Western, a further characteristic, which is often observed, is that sentences turn out to be long drawn, complicated and heavy as a result of an effort to keep as closely as possible to Pali. Here is just one sentence from Rhys Davids’ translation of Milinda-pañha:–

“Just, O King, as when a huge and mighty cauldron is placed in an oven full of water, and crowded with grains of rice, then the [clviii] fire burning beneath heats first of all the cauldron, and when that has become hot the water begins to boil, and as the water boils the grains of rice are heated and dive hither and thither in the water, and a mass of bubbles arises, and a garland of foam is formed – just so, O King, King Vessantara gave away whatsoever in the world considered most difficult to bestow, and by the reason of his generosity the great winds beneath were unable to refrain from being agitated throughout, and on the great winds being thrown into confusion the waters were shaken, and on the waters being disturbed the broad earth trembled, and so then the winds and the waters and the earth became all three, as it were, of one accord by the immense and powerful influence resulted from that mightly giving.” Rhys Davids: Questions of King Milinda (SBE Vol. XXXV), London 1890 p. 176.

What makes Woodward’s anthology readable is that he had developed a technique of preserving the spirit of the original Pali in a lucid, direct and dynamic English presentation. An example of his prose style, even when long Pali sentences are involved, is taken from an extract from Samyutta Nikāya:–

“Now, monks, In revising the book for the “World Classics” edition, Woodward replaced brother and sister with monk and nun and Tathāgata with Wayfarer. if a log does not ground on this bank or the further bank, does not sink in midstream, does not stick fast on a shoal, does not fall into human and non-human hands, is not caught in an eddy, does not rot inwardly, – that log, monks, will float down to ocean, will slide down to ocean, will tend towards ocean. And why? Because, monks, Ganges’ stream floats down to ocean, slides down to ocean, tends towards ocean”. Woodward: Some Sayings of the Buddha, Oxford 1973 p. 32.

The blank verse into which he usually translated Pali stanzas adds to the beauty of his translations. In his hands, the beautiful [clvix] lyric on the Buddha’s dialogue with Dhaniya preserves the lilting melody of the Pali original:–


“Cooked is my rice, milked are my kine”, said Dhaniya the herd,
“And here on Mahi’s bank I dwell with them that are my peers.
Thatched is my hut, well-fed the fire. Rain down, god, if thou wilt!”

“From anger free, with every bar removed”, the Lord replied,
“A dweller here on Mahi’s bank I sojourn but one night.
Roofless my hut and quenched my fire. Rain down, god, if thou wilt!”

“No gadflies here are to be seen”, said Dhaniya the herd.
“Amid the marshland grasses there my kine a-roaming go.
The rain that comes they can endure. Rain down, god, if thou wilt!”

“I made a raft to cross the stream, of logs well put together.
Now have I crossed and gone beyond, by stemming of the Flood.
So now I need my raft no more. Rain down, god, if thou wilt!”

“My wife she is a loyal one – no wanton”, said the herd.
“Full many a day she’s dwelt with me, and she is kind and dear.
I hear no man speak ill of her. Rain down, god, if thou wilt!”

“My mind it is a docile one, set free”, the Lord replied.
“Full many a day I tamed it down and shaped it to my will.
No evil now is found in me. Rain down, god, if thou wilt!” [clx]

“By the labour of my hands I live”, said Dhaniya the herd.
“My children, they all dwell with me, and they are stout and strong.
Of them I hear no word of ill. Rain down, god, if thou wilt!”

“I too, I am a slave to none”, the Exalted One replied,
“And by the powers I have won I roam through all the world.
I have no need for service more. Rain down, god, if thou wilt!”

“Kine have I, yea, and calves that suck”, said Dhaniya the herd,
“And cows in calf, and they shall carry on the breed for me,
And a bull, the lord of all the herd. Rain down, god, if thou wilt!”

“I have no kine, I have no calves that suck”, the Lord replied.
“I have no cows in calf to carry on the breed for me;
No bull, the Lord of all the herd. Rain down, god, if thou wilt!”

“Well-set the pegs that hold my kine: shaken they cannot be.
My tethers, made of munja grass, brand new and twisted well,
No sucking calf can break’em. So rain down, god, if thou wilt!”

“But I, the Bull, have burst the bonds that bind”, the Lord replied,
“Have burst them as a tusker rends the twisted creeper-cords.
Never again shall I be born. Rain down, god, if thou wilt!”

Forthwith the mighty rain poured down and filled the hills and plains.
When he heard the raining of the god Dhaniya thus spake his mind: [clxi]

“No little gain is ours that we the Exalted One have seen.
In thee we take our refuge, thou that hast the eye to see.
Be thou our teacher, mighty sage. The good wife and myself
Docile will live the holy life with thee, O happy one.
And passing over birth and death an end of suffering make!”

(Māra, the Evil One, then said:)

“He that hath sons delights in sons’, then said the Evil One.
He that hath kine delights in kine. Delight binds man to birth.
But he that hath no bond to bind delighteth thus no more.”

(The Lord said:)

“He that hath son must sorrow have because of sons, and he
That owneth kine owns trouble. Ownership is woe to man.
Happy the man that owneth naught to bind him to rebirth!” Ibid pp. 117-119.

If at all, this rendering is excelled only by Lord Chalmers’ metrical translation published twelve years later:


Dhaniya: My food is dressed; my kine
are milked; by Māhī’s banks
my folk and I abide;
my fire is lit; my roof
will keep the weather out.
–So, an the heavens will,
the storm may burst amain.

The Lord: My mood is blest; my mind
is tilled; by Māhī’s banks
one night I stay; my Fires
are quenched; my Roof yawns wide.
–So, an the heavens will,
the storm may burst amain. [clxii]

Dhaniya: No gnats, no gad-flies here!
Amid the fen’s lush grass
my cattle roam at large;
they’re proof against the rain!
So, an the heavens will,
the storm may burst amain.

The Lord: I framed a well-wrought Raft,
which bore me o’er the Flood;
I need no further rafts.
–So, an the heavens will,
the storm may burst amain.

Dhaniya: A staunch and loyal dame
have I, by many years
of comradeship endeared,
of whom I hear naught wrong.
–So, an the heavens will,
the storm may burst amain.

The Lord: A staunch, enfranchised heart
have I, by many years
of discipline subued;
in me naught wrong persists,
–So, an the heavens will,
the storm may burst amain.

Dhaniya: No hireling’s livelihood
is mine; – I keep myself.
Round me are stalwart sons,
of whom I hear naught wrong.
–So, an the heavens will,
the storm may burst amain.

The Lord: I serve no man for hire;
with what I “gained” I range
the world, nor need a wage.
–So, an the heavens will,
the storm may burst amain. [clxiii]

Dhaniya: Both cows and sucking calves
have I, with cows in calf,
and heifers ripe to breed,
and o’er my kine a bull.
–So, an the heavens will,
the storm may burst amain.

The Lord: No cows nor sucking calves
have I, no cows in calf,
no heifers ripe to breed,
nor bull to rule my kine.
–So, an the heavens will,
the storm may burst amain.

Dhaniya: Stout pales surround my byres;
new ropes secure my kine;
not e’en a call gets through.
–So, an the heavens will,
the storm may burst amain.

The Lord: Breaking my Bonds in twain,
with strength as of a bull,
or elephant that snaps
a creeper – never-more
shall I conception know!
–So, an the heavens will,
the storm may burst amain.

Here, flooding hill and dale,
down poured the rain; and, as
he heard it, Dhaniya
thus hailed these happenings:–

Dhaniya: Great gain is ours to view
the Lord. We come. O seer,
for refuge unto thee:
be thou our teacher sage! [clxiv]

Fain would my dame and I,
follow the Blessed One,
till, birth and death o’erpast,
we make an end of Ills.

Māra: Upon his sons is based
a father’s joy, – as on
his herds their owner’s joy.
For, man is based on joys,
nor has he any joy
whose life depends on naught.

The Lord: Upon his sons is based
a father’s joy, – as on
his herds their owner’s joy.
But woes assail not him
whose life depends on naught. Lord Chalmers: Buddha’s Teachings (HOS Vol. 37), 1937 pp. 5-11.

Apart from readability, Woodward’s book stands out on account of the emphasis he has placed on the practical aspects of morality and conduct rather than on a schematic presentation of doctrines. With sixteen years of experience in a Buddhist community, coming in direct contact with learned scholar-monks like Ven. Alutgama Seelakkhandha and observing, at first hand, Buddhism as lived and practised by traditional Buddhists, Woodward could make an apt selection of passages which reflects Buddhism’s relevance to modern times. Hence the chapters like “The Tongue”, “The Stability of Societies”, “In Time of Sickness”, “Charity”, “Happiness in the World”, and “Advice, mostly to the Laymen”. The other chapters which outline the life of the Buddha, the main elements of the doctrine and the evolution of the Saṅgha display a similar effort to identify facts and statements of practical relevance.

Of all the popularizers of Buddhism in the West, Woodward was, undoubtedly, the best suited to the task. None other had the personal involvement which he was privileged to have. The [clxv] ring of authenticity is clearer in his work than in any of his predecessors. “Some Sayings of the Buddha” continues to be as indispensable an introduction to Buddhism as it was when it was first published. That is so in spite of several anthologies which have since come into circulation. These include Dwight Goddard’s “A Buddhist Bible” (1938), Clarence Hamilton’s “Buddhism, A Religion of Infinite Compassion” (1952), Edward Conze’s “Buddhist Texts through the Ages”, (1954), E. A. Burn’s “The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha” (1955) and Christmas Humphreys’ “The Wisdom of Buddhism” (1960). These anthologies go far beyond Woodward’s “Some Sayings of the Buddha” in that they draw material from the wide spectrum of the Buddhist literature in Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese, etc. whereas Woodward restricted himself to the Pali Canon. These later anthologies include many of the passages which Woodward had selected. Yet, the freshness of direct communication from a source closest to the origin, which characterizes Woodward’s effort, is not evident in others. The reason for this must be that Woodward has imbibed the spirit of living Buddhism from the LIVING FOUNTAINS OF BUDDHISM while in Sri Lanka.