Theravada Buddhism and the British Encounter: Religious, Missionary and Colonial Experience in Nineteenth Century Sri Lanka, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Theravada Buddhism and the British Encounter

Religious, Missionary and Colonial Experience in Nineteenth Century Sri Lanka, 1st Edition

By Elizabeth Harris


278 pages

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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.

Table of Contents

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

About the Author

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.

About the Series

Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism

Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism is a comprehensive study of the Buddhist tradition. The series explores this complex and extensive tradition from a variety of perspectives, using a range of different methodologies. The series is diverse in its focus, including historical, philological, cultural, and sociological investigations into the manifold features and expressions of Buddhism worldwide. It also presents works of constructive and reflective analysis, including the role of Buddhist thought and scholarship in a contemporary, critical context and in the light of current social issues. The series is expansive and imaginative in scope, spanning more than two and a half millennia of Buddhist history. It is receptive to all research works that are of significance and interest to the broader field of Buddhist Studies.

Some of the titles in the series are published in association with the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, which conducts and promotes rigorous teaching and research into all forms of the Buddhist tradition.

Editorial Advisory Board:
James A. Benn, McMaster University, Canada

Jinhua Chen, The University of British Columbia, Canada

Rupert Gethin, University of Bristol, UK

Peter Harvey, University of Sunderland, UK

Sallie King, James Madison University, USA

Anne Klein, Rice University, USA

Lori Meeks, University of Southern California, USA;

Ulrich Pagel, School of Oriental and African Studies, UK

John Powers, Australian National University, Australia;

Juliane Schober, Arizona State University, USA

Vesna A. Wallace, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Michael Zimmermann, University of Hamburg, Germany

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / Buddhism / General (see also PHILOSOPHY / Buddhist)
RELIGION / Buddhism / Theravada
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General