Filed in History

Modern Buddhism: So New, So Familiar

Modern Buddhism—with its roots in colonial Asia—claims to return to the essence of the Buddha’s teachings. Has a new sect emerged?

Donald S. Lopez, Jr.

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By seven o’clock on the morning of August 26, 1873, a crowd of some five thousand had gathered around a raised platform in the town of Panadure outside of Colombo, Ceylon—what is now Sri Lanka. On one side of the platform stood a table covered in white cloth and adorned with evergreens. This was the side occupied by the Christian party and its spokesman, Rev. David de Silva. The other side, more richly decorated, was filled by some two hundred Buddhist monastics and their spokesman, a monk named Gunananda. For the next two days, that platform would be the sparring ground for a heated debate over which religion would liberate the people of Ceylon: Buddhism or Christianity.

© R. F. Young

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