Theravada Buddhism and the British Encounter
Religious, Missionary and Colonial Experience in Nineteenth Century Sri Lanka
Routledge – 2006 – 280 pages
This major new work explores the British encounter with Buddhism in nineteenth century Sri Lanka, examining the way Buddhism was represented and constructed in the eyes of the British scholars, officials, travellers and religious seekers who first encountered it.
Tracing the three main historical phases of the encounter from 1796 to 1900, the book provides a sensitive and nuanced exegesis of the cultural and political influences that shaped the early British understanding of Buddhism and that would condition its subsequent transmission to the West.
Expanding our understanding of inter-religious relations between Christians and Buddhists, the book fills a significant gap in the scholarship on Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka by concentrating on missionary writings and presenting a thorough exploration of original materials of several important pioneers in Buddhist studies and mission studies.
Introduction Part 1: 1796-1830 1. Introduction 2. The Early British Visitors: Mapping the Ground Part 2: 1830-1870 1. Introduction 2. The Arrogance of Power: The Memoir Writers 3. Christian Exclusivism: The Protestant Missionaries and their Friends 4. Missionary Scholars: Daniel Gogerly and Robert Spence Hardy 5. Buddhism's Glorious Core: Turnour's Allies Part 3: 1870-1900 1. Introduction 2. The Buddha as Hero: Arnold's The Light of Asia 3. Buddhism as Nihilism: The Missionary Perspective 4. Romantic Other, Negative Spin: Constance Gordon Cumming 5. Buddhism as Life-Affirming: Contesting the Missionaries 6. Contrasting Scholars: Reginald Copleston and T.W. Rhys Davids 7. Balancing the Exoteric and the Esoteric: Theosophists in Sri Lanka 8. Convert to Compassion: Allan Bennett Part 4: Remodelling Buddhist Belief and Practice: The Dynamics of Protestant Buddhism 1. The British as Witnesses to the Tradition: Continuity and Ruption 2. The Roots of Buddhist Modernism 3. One tradition; Differing Voices 4. Threat to the Dhamma; a Dhamma Renewed Part 5: Discourses of Contempt: The Encounter between Buddhists and Christian Missionaries 1. Co-existence and Dual Belonging 2. World Views in Collision 3. Betrayal and Retaliation 4. The Twentieth Century Epilogue
Elizabeth J. Harris is an Honorary Lecturer at Birmingham University and Secretary for Inter Faith Relations for the Methodist Church in Britain. A former Research Fellow at Westminster College, Oxford, she is the author of many books and articles on Theravada Buddhism and Buddhist–Christian encounter.