Sunday, March 27, 2011

Live and Learn

The site Casus Belle Époque has been following the development of different schools of Buddhism. It has now reached the point of what it describes in a post on March 22 as “The ‘Discovery’ of Buddhism,” noting that “Works of Indian Buddhism weren’t discovered by Europeans until around the 1820s”:

Abraham-Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron searched for the ancient works of Zoroastrianism in this connection (and found the ancient Hindu Upanishad scriptures translated from the Sanskrit into Persian instead, which he, in turn, translated into Latin). His work was the origin of the theosophy movement begun by Perennial Philosophers, Madame Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, who later professed to be Buddhists. I will discuss their link to Gandhi and thus to “Engaged Buddhism” in the next post.

Like John Gray making Mme. Blavatsky a “nightclub singer” among other things in his book The Immortalization Commission, the work of Anquetil Duperron (1731-1805) is now made the “origin of the theosophy movement.” As great as Duperron’s work was making Zoroastrian texts and the Upanishads available to Europe in translation, this is another first: to claim it as “origin of the theosophy movement.”

Although the writer promised to discuss the Theosophists’ link to Gandhi, and though subsequent posts have dealt with him, nothing further on the subject has appeared on their site. Just as well. Gandhi’s image has received a new examination by Joseph Lelyveld in his book: Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle With India, to be released by the American publisher Alfred A. Knopf later this month. The review in the March 26 edition of The Wall Street Journal emphasizes some of the unflattering parts, as can be seen here. Joseph Lelyveld was executive editor of the New York Times until recently. He is the brother of David Lelyveld, known for his pioneering work on British India, Aligarh’s First Generation: Muslim Solidarity in British India, 1978.

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