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Rescued from the Nation

Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World

Anagarika Dharmapala is one of the most galvanizing figures in Sri Lanka’s recent turbulent history. He is widely regarded as the nationalist hero who saved the Sinhala people from cultural collapse and whose “protestant” reformation of Buddhism drove monks toward increased political involvement and ethnic confrontation. Yet as tied to Sri Lankan nationalism as Dharmapala is in popular memory, he spent the vast majority of his life abroad, engaging other concerns. In Rescued from the Nation, Steven Kemper reevaluates this important figure in the light of an unprecedented number of his writings, ones that paint a picture not of a nationalist zealot but of a spiritual seeker earnest in his pursuit of salvation.  
           
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. 

Reviews

“Kemper’s book is a pleasure. Dharmapala was one of the key figures in the pan-Asian movements to revive Buddhism during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and Kemper offers intriguing details about his contributions that complicate our understanding of the Sinhalese native as he engaged with the Theosophists, British colonial officers, Bengali intellectuals, and even Japanese clergy. His book is a major contribution and will surely become the most-referenced work on Dharmapala.”

Tansen Sen, Baruch College, City University of New York

Table of Contents

Preface                       
Introduction: World Renunciation in a Nineteenth-Century World

1. Dharmapala as Theosophist
2. Buddhists in Japan
3. Universalists Abroad
4. Dharmapala, the British, and the Bengalis
5. Dharmapala and the British Empire
6. World Wanderer Returns Home
Afterword
 
Appendix 1. The Diaries and Notebooks Explained
Appendix 2. A Chronology of the Life of Anagarika Dharmapala
Bibliography
Index

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