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Blavatsky Et Al And Sri Lanka


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I, for one, wonder how anything non-Buddhist and American-based could affect anything in Theravada Buddhism, especially in the last century. Where can I learn more about this?

It is my understanding that the Theosophical Society has or had a headquarters in India at Adyar early this century. They were a very interesting group, still well-known, chiefly for being the "finders" of Krishnamurti.

But neither he, nor the Theosophists, were Buddhists, so I can't imagine how they would affect Buddhism. What say you?

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I visited the TS bookshop in Melbourne. Its fantastic. Literature on every religion there is or was, just browsing through the shelves you discover all sorts of gems. The Buddhism section is huge. First time I went I found a great little book on Bodhidharma. Not surprising that people 'discovered' Theraveda on their shelves. You go in looking for one thing and come out carrying three others you never heard of. I never got involved with the society itself. The staff were all really helpful and the shop always had a healthy patronage (Despite the fact its hidden away up on the third floor of an old office building).

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Thank you, Hermespan for bringing up the topic of the Buddhist revival in Ceylon and Madame Blavatsky's and Colonel Olcott's involvement in it.

It was Colonel Olcott more than Madame Blavatsky that played an important role in the revival. When the two of them arrived in Galle in 1880 they took refuge in the Triple Gem, becoming the first Westerners to publicly do so. Mme Blavatsky returned to India, but Olcott came back to Ceylon the following year and soon became involved in the Buddhist Revival there. However, as Stephen Protheroe (author of God is Not One) points out:

Despite claims that Olcott initiated the Sinhalese Buddhist Revival, his connection with the movement was, as he himself recognized, neither as originator (credit Mohottivatte Gunananda) nor as culminator (credit Anagarika Dharmapala) but as organizer and articulator. It was Olcott who agitated for Buddhist civil rights, and who gave the revival its organizational shape by founding voluntary associations, publishing and distributing tracts, and, perhaps most important, establishing schools. It was he who articulated most eloquently the "Protestant Buddhism" synthesis. The most Protestant of all early "Protestant Buddhists," Olcott was a culture broker with one foot planted in traditional Sinhalese Buddhism and the other in liberal American Protestantism. By creatively combining these two sources, along with other influences such as theosophy, academic Orientalism, and metropolitan gentility, he helped to craft a new form of Buddhism that thrives today not only in Sri Lanka but also in the United States. http://aryasangha.or...tt-prothero.htm

The Theosophical Society draws on Eastern mysticism and esoteric Buddhism, Hinduism and Sufism. However, although largely a Western phenomenon, its early headquarters were and are still in Adyar, a district in Chennai (Madras). Theosophy also draws on Western mysticism and esoteric religious and philosophical thought. It sits in the mainstream of Perennial Philosophy and has no core doctrines as such. It is non-dogmatic, though a believer in karma would be much more at home in it than an evangelical Christian. The Society publishes extensively Theosophical and non-Theosophical works through its publishing house, Quest Books.

I think a practising Buddhist who is not philosophically dogmatic and who enjoys exploring philosophical questions would feel comfortable in Theosophical study circles and lectures. "Theosophy", meaning "divine wisdom", is closer to Vedanta than Theravada agnosticism, but this didn't seem to worry Olcott and Blavatsky or their Sinhalese hosts.

There's a long thoroughfare in Colombo named after Colonel Olcott. From memory, it runs for quite some distance between the main shopping and business precinct and the Fort railway station. It's Olcott Mawatha (Olcott Road).

Several, I used to visit the TS Bookshop in my university days when it was still located next to the Regent Theatre in Collins Street in the old Theosophical Society building. When I left the Melbourne Catholic Education Office in 1986 to relocate to Queensland my colleagues gave me a generous voucher for purchases at the new TS Bookshop in Russell Street. They knew my interests, and, in those days at any rate, Catholics were not discouraged from looking into other traditions.

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Too bad that the those americans could not plant enough buddhist seeds in Sri Lanka, as became painfully obvious during the civil war in Sri Lanka.

Cool username, NDNM.

cool answer, no NDNM because i do not know what that means ( is it a religious thing?)

Edited by nidieunimaitre
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I can not understand how somebody can call himself a buddhist, and speak about buddhism in Sri Lanka.

100.000 hindus were massacred, most of them civilians.

Reincarnation??? Not kill animals???

I do not mean to redicule your buddhist conviction (I assume you are an honest man), but please do not refer to Sri Lanka in connection with true buddhism.

What true buddhism is, is a matter for debate.

That Sri Lanka (or Thailand) are true buddhist states is NOT a matter for debate.

Edited by nidieunimaitre
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Too bad that the those americans could not plant enough buddhist seeds in Sri Lanka, as became painfully obvious during the civil war in Sri Lanka.

Cool username, NDNM.

cool answer, no NDNM because i do not know what that means ( is it a religious thing?)

"Ni dieu, ni maitre" ("neither God nor master"). I shortened it to NDNM.

From Wikipedia, Anarchism and religion:

Anarchists "are generally non-religious and are frequently anti-religious, and the standard anarchist slogan is the phrase coined by the (non-anarchist) socialist Auguste Blanqui in 1880: `Ni Dieu ni maître!’ (Neither God nor master!).

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Yes, it seems that ethnocentrism may have trumped the Buddhadharma in the Sri Lankan civil war.

Mind you, I don't know a lot about it, but have heard that some of the clergy expressed some bloodcurdling views.

But I don't know that we could blame Colonel Olcott or the other Buddhist revivalists for that.

Edited by Xangsamhua
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Yes, it seems that ethnocentrism may have trumped the Buddhadharma in the Sri Lankan civil war.

Mind you, I don't know a lot about it, but have heard that some of the clergy expressed some bloodcurdling views.

But I don't know that we could blame Colonel Olcott or the other Buddhist revivalists for that.

I fully agree about that colonel.

But I do blame people who can mention buddhism (or any other religion) without blinking an eye.

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  • 7 years later...

Both Alcott and Blavatsky became Buddhists at the same time. Alcott had undertaken to help revive Buddhism back then.

Buddhism is largely a moral code, Theosophy is much larger in scope as deals with how the universe forms and humanities evolution and part in that.

Blavatsky was unsurprisingly maligned by Christian groups, but she did largely introduce the concepts of karma and reincarnation to the west. Read her The Secret Doctrine (original not the revised version) and see if you dont find it both challenging and thought provoking.

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Alcott was a child abuser and Blavatsky a fraudulent medium. They thought they had found the new messiah in Khrisnamurti but he soon abandoned them, and the clutches of Alcott. Was into all this rubbish in the early 70's but thankfully forgotten most of it. Annie Bessant was another one and Alice Baily's with her impenetrable books about this cobbled together mysticism.  

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