Sunday, October 26, 2014

Anagarika Dharmapala

The President of India’s Twitter feed announces the release of a new stamp honouring Sri Lankan Buddhist Anagarika Dharmapala. “The release of the commemorative postage stamp on Anagarika Dharmapala will contribute towards further strengthening the bilateral ties between India and Sri Lanka and bring the two nations closer,” said President Mukherjee.

Reporting on the occasion a number of South Asian news sources mentioned: Along with Henry Steel Olcott and Helena Blavatsky, the creators of the Theosophical Society, he was a major reformer and revivalist of Ceylonese Buddhism and an important figure in its western transmission. 

Events celebrating the 150th anniversary of Dharmapala’s birth were held in England and Sri Lanka in September. In London, An Exhibition on the Life and Work of Anagarika Dharmapala, Founder of London Buddhist Vihara, was held from September 14 to 20, 2014. Over the seven days guests included the Mayor of Ealing, the UK Sri Lanka High Commissioner, and the President of the Buddhist Society among others. In Sri Lanka a stamp was also issued commemorating his anniversary.

Previous coverage of Dharmapala (1864-1933) and his connection with Blavatsky can be found here. Steven Kemper’s Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World, the first book length study of his career, to be released next month by the University of Chicago Press, will no doubt bring him renewed recognition. According to the publisher’s press release:

Drawing on huge stores of source materials—nearly one hundred diaries and notebooks—Kemper reconfigures Dharmapala as a world-renouncer first and a political activist second. Following Dharmapala on his travels between East Asia, South Asia, Europe, and the United States, he traces his lifelong project of creating a unified Buddhist world, recovering the place of the Buddha’s Enlightenment, and imitating the Buddha’s life course. The result is a needed corrective to Dharmapala’s embattled legacy, one that resituates Sri Lanka’s political awakening within the religious one that was Dharmapala’s life project.

Chapter 1 deals with Dharmapala as a Theosophist.

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