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Buddhism In The Modern World

The work of explorers and archaeologists was followed by literary activities of Western scholars from 2369/1826 onwards. Translations and transliterations of the Pali canonical literature, treatises, commentaries, chronicles and grammar, essays and treatises on Pali and Buddhism, and Pali dictionaries were made by scholars of different nationalities: English, French, German, Danish, Dutch, American, and others.* The founding of the Pali Text Society in London by Prof. T.W. Rhys Davids in 2424/1881 was a great step forward in Pali studies. The Society has published to date nearly the whole of the Pali Canon and all the important works of the Pali non-canonical literature together with their translations (a larger number than scriptural publications in Thailand). Special mention should be made of lexicography. The well-known ‘Dictionary of the Pali Language’ by R.C. Childers published in London in 2418/1875 is regarded as the first advance in this field. When this work was found inadequate, the Pali Text Society published the ‘Pali-English Dictionary’, edited by T.W. Rhys Davids and William Stede (2464-68/1921-25), which is still the main reference for all students of Pali. This was followed by ‘A Critical Pali Dictionary’ by Dines Anderson and Helmer Smith, the first part of which was published in Copenhagen in 2470/1927. However, only two volumes of it in twenty-one parts (a - uparima, in 1085 pages) have been published so far. In London, Pali scholars have also been preparing for the Pali Text Society ‘Pali Tipitฺakam Concordance’, about 1340 pages (a - pura) of which have been published since 1952. Great advances have also been made in the study of Sanskrit Buddhist literature both in the original and in later versions, especially in Tibetan and Chinese. In England, Buddhist publications and researches have followed to the present an unbroken line and contributed greatly to the steady progress of Buddhist studies. France and Germany have also made considerable contributions. It is, however, the United States that is stepping forward to take the lead in Buddhist publications and research works. Rapid progress was made during recent years.

The labours of Western scholars brought about an awakening among the scholars of India. The Buddhist Text Society was founded in Calcutta in 2435/1892 and the pioneer work in the field of Buddhist studies was done in Bengal. In the course of time Santiniketan, Patna and Nalanda in eastern India and Bombay, Poona and Baroda in western India became active centres of Buddhist studies.1 Alongside literary activities, Buddhist revival in India began as an organized movement with the founding of the Maha Bodhi Society in 2434/1891.

The founder of the Maha Bodhi Society was Anagarika Dharmapala, a young Buddhist of Ceylon. Dharmapala was born in 2407/18642 in a wealthy and influential Buddhist family in Colombo. His personal name was Don David Hewavitharne. He was educated in a Christian missionary school. As he could not love his wine-drinking and pleasure-loving missionary teachers, he developed an attachment towards Buddhist monks who were meek and abstemious. Under the influence of Colonel Olcott and Madame Blavatsky he took an interest in Theosophy and then adopted a life of religious dedication as an Ana-garika.

In 2428/1885, Sir Edwin Arnold, the author of The Light of Asia (a long poem about the Buddha, which made many converts and stimulated scholarly study of Buddhism), visited Bodh Gaya1 which was in the hands of the Mahants, Hindu Saivites, and was shamefully neglected. He pointed out this fact in a series of articles in the London Telegraph. Inspired by Sir Edwin Arnold’s articles, Dharmapala visited Bodh Gaya and was so shocked at what he saw that he made a vow to dedicate his life both to the task of restoring the Holy Place to Buddhist hands as a worthy place of pilgrimage, and to the revival of the Noble Dharma in the land of its birth.
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Article Added on Tuesday, July 21, 2009
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