Polemical Publications and Socioeconomic Shake-Ups
Nineteenth-Century Ceylonese Buddhist Revivalism from Migettuwatte Gunananda to Anagarika Dharmapala
Keywords:Ceylon, Dharmapala, Olcott, Protestant Buddhism
For the past five decades, scholarship on nineteenth century Ceylonese Buddhism has focused on the concept of “Protestant Buddhism” to describe both the development and form of the island’s Buddhist revivalism. Different critiques of this concept have provided alternative explanations of the relationship between Sinhalese Buddhism and the realities of “modernity” in colonial Ceylon. By focusing on the oft-neglected specific developments themselves rather than on that which characterized or constituted them, this article tracks the different phases of the island’s Buddhist revival from its instigation by Migettuwatte Gunananda through its expansion by Henry Steel Olcott to its culmination by Anagarika Dharmapala. By combining insights from the writings of those involved with existing work on the period, this paper demonstrates how Dharmapala, rather than Gunananda or Olcott, drove Ceylonese Buddhist revivalism to its apex by connecting religious revival to economic upliftment during the final phases of the long nineteenth century.
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