Sunday, August 24, 2014

Remembering Ananda Guruge

The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka carries an appreciation of the late Ananda Guruge who died in California earlier this month at the age of 85. Renowned diplomat, author of Buddhist publications, UNESCO ambassador and university lecturer, he helped make accessible Anagarika Dharmapala’s literary output in his massive 1965 collection Return to Righteousness: A Collection of Speeches, Essays and Letters of the Anagarika Dharmapala. Nor did he shy away from the influence of Blavatsky on Dharmapala’s life.

The writer comments on his presentation of the Buddhist revival of the 1880s:

Guruge was a chronicler of this revival and an activist in it. His two collections of global correspondence from and to Sri Lanka in ‘From the living fountains of Buddhism: Sri Lankan Support to Pioneering Western Orientalists’ and ‘Return to Righteousness: A Collection of Speeches, Essays and Letters of the Anagarika Dharmapala’ provide nearly 1,500 pages of raw material for those interested in the revival. Not having seriously read this collection, our colonial anthropologists (I bought and read all their torturous writings) invented a fictional Protestant Buddhism for the revival. They claimed that Olcott and Blavatsky, two persons who were running away from Protestantism had introduced Protestant ideas to the revival. The situation was just the opposite as both arrived with intellectual begging bowls in hand. Blavatsky was mostly ignored and Olcott only used for the anti-colonial struggle, but rejected when he went against Buddhism and tried to infuse mystical theosophist ideas. Referring to the 1970 article by Gananath Obeyesekere, Guruge declared “Protestant Buddhism is an infelicitous term as it is misleading”.

A statement on his passing from the President of Sri Lanka can be read here.

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