Buddha's Village Forum

Seeking info on Nyanatiloka


Posted by Morley Chalmers , Jan 07,2008,19:32 Post Reply   Forum

I've been asked by BPS (Buddhist Publication Society in Sri Lanka) to gather up more information about Nyanatiloka, the great teacher who came to British Ceylon in the first decade of the last century, took ordination, the first continental European to do so, and founded the Island Hermitage in Ceylon as a place for non-Asian seekers.

He lived a long life and had a profound effect on bringing the Theravada teachings of the Buddha to the attention of the modern world. His students founded BPS. Both the Island Hermitage and BPS continue to this day. Nyanatiloka's dates are 1878-1957. Strangely there's no profile on him on Wikipedia, and the very thinnest of profiles on Nyanaponika one of Nyanatiloka's major students and a co-founder of BPS.

We're looking for two kinds of help.

1. First, we're looking for details on Nyanatiloka's life from the time he was interned by the British as an enemy alien at the start of the Second World War in 1939, right through to Nyanatiloka's death in 1957. Oddly, we have lots of rich detail on the first three-quarters of Nyanatiloka's life, much of it from his own hand, but barely anything from the period of the writing of the great Buddhist Dictionary and Nyanaponika's hand in encouraging the founding of BPS, and everything in between.

We're looking for pointers, both on the web and off, snippets, photos, whatever. If anything gets published we'll ask explicit permission prior to use. Right now we're on the hunt for what's available. We're open to additional material from 1878 to 1939, but that period is already rich in detail.

2. Second, we're looking for assessments on Nyanatiloka's life and his affect on the birthing of Theravada Buddhism beyond southeast Asia. While most individuals who knew Nyanatiloka personally are now themselves gone, we're looking for both contemporary and past writers commentaries on this quite remarkable figure. Again, we'll ask for explicit permission to publish prior to use. Right now, we're looking for what's available.

If you can help in either of these two objects, please respond to this posting here and we'll make further contact. Let's use the internet to recover this corner of our collective past.

With metta,




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