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    Stirring the Victorian Imagination Paid Member

    LIKE EVERYTHING the British poet Edwin Arnold wrote, The Light of Asia was quickly written: a poem in eight books of about five hundred lines each, mostly in blank verse, composed over a period of several months when Arnold was busy with other concerns. Immediately upon its publication in the summer of 1879, the poem began to sell copies and win attention. It was a life of Siddhartha Gautama, told from the point of view of "an Indian Buddhist" (so read the title page) in high English style. The immediate sensation surrounding The Light of Asia was remarkable: for some time on both sides of the Atlantic, newspapers and dining rooms were charged with discussion about the Buddha, his teaching, and Arnold's presentation of Buddhism. The book's success was also sustained. By 1885 the authorized English version had gone through thirty editions. More »
  • The Religion of Science Paid Member

    The Gospel of Buddha is a relatively small volume of passages culled from the Buddhist canon and arranged, like the biblical gospels, into “chapter and verse.” First published in 1894, by the turn of the century this collection was probably the single most popular Buddhist catechism in the world. By 1915 it was in its thirteenth English edition, with versions having appeared in Japanese, Chinese, German, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Urdu. Its broad acceptance among Asian Buddhist leaders of the time was unprecedented: the Zen Master Shaku Soyen wrote that the Gospel which was then being used as a reader at Tokyo Imperial University, served the needs of Japanese students of Buddhism better than did the Buddhist scriptures themselves. More »
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    Alexandra David-Néel Paid Member

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    The Bodhisattva of Rock Creek Cemetery Paid Member

    But we, who cannot fly the world, must seekTo live two separate lives: one, in the worldWhich we must ever seem to treat as real;The other in ourselves, behind a veilNot to be raised without disturbing both. —Henry Adams, 1891 More »
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    Letter to the Schools of the Buddha Paid Member

    On April 15, 1925, the French founder of the Theatre of the Absurd, Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) published his "Letter to the Schools of the Buddha" in the third issue of La Revolution Surrealiste. In the same issue were addresses to the Dalai Lama and the Pope and a "Letter to the Directors of Insane Assylums." The issue was subtitled "1925: End of the Christian Era."Read in the context of the artistic movement from which it came, Artaud's "Letter" is less an espousal of Buddhist ideas than an expression of dissatisfaction with the materialism of modern society. That dissatisfaction, in turn, led many artists and intellectuals to embrace Buddhism in the twenties and thirties, when gradually the actual teachings of Buddhism came more to the fore. More »
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    The Sensualist Paid Member

    While the usually sleepy English village of Chislehurst was being bombarded by German aircraft in the early morning of January 6, 1915, Alan Watts—who was to become one of the foremost interpreters of ancient Eastern wisdom for the modern West—was born to Laurence Wilson Watts and Emily Mary Buchan. The elder Watts was an executive with the Michelin tire company in London, and his wife taught at a local school for daughters of missionaries to China. It was because of his mother that Alan had early exposure to Asian culture, via art and other gifts brought by parents returning from China. A Sinophile all his life, Alan attributed the start of his interest in the writings of Chinese poets and sages to his mother’s gift of a Chinese translation of the New Testament. More »