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The Lotus and the Lion

Buddhism and the British Empire

J. Jeffrey Franklin

Publication Year: 2008

Buddhism is indisputably gaining prominence in the West, as is evidenced by the growth of Buddhist practice within many traditions and keen interest in meditation and mindfulness. In The Lotus and the Lion, J. Jeffrey Franklin traces the historical and cultural origins of Western Buddhism, showing that the British Empire was a primary engine for curiosity about and then engagement with the Buddhisms that the British encountered in India and elsewhere in Asia. As a result, Victorian and Edwardian England witnessed the emergence of comparative religious scholarship with a focus on Buddhism, the appearance of Buddhist characters and concepts in literary works, the publication of hundreds of articles on Buddhism in popular and intellectual periodicals, and the dawning of syncretic religions that incorporated elements derived from Buddhism.

In this fascinating book, Franklin analyzes responses to and constructions of Buddhism by popular novelists and poets, early scholars of religion, inventors of new religions, social theorists and philosophers, and a host of social and religious commentators. Examining the work of figures ranging from Rudyard Kipling and D. H. Lawrence to H. P. Blavatsky, Thomas Henry Huxley, and F. Max Müller, Franklin provides insight into cultural upheavals that continue to reverberate into our own time. Those include the violent intermixing of cultures brought about by imperialism and colonial occupation, the trauma and self-reflection that occur when a Christian culture comes face-to-face with another religion, and the debate between spiritualism and materialism. The Lotus and the Lion demonstrates that the nineteenth-century encounter with Buddhism subtly but profoundly changed Western civilization forever.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-6


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pp. vii-8

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pp. vii-x

The idea for this book grew out of a simple observation in my reading of British literature from the second half of the nineteenth century. I kept encountering signs of Buddhism, signs that generations of critics seemed to have ignored or had read generically as signs of “the Orient” rather than specifically as evidence of the presence of Buddhism in Victorian culture. In the writings ...

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pp. xi-xii

My most general thanks go to the University of Colorado Denver—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Department of English—for the support and encouragement that made this project possible, and to Cornell University Press—the editors, outside readers, and staff who supported and worked hard to make this book a reality. I am grateful to two journals, Victor-...

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pp. 1-24

...in addition to the usual life-size images of Buddha and the Triad, there was a female divinity, carved at Jallandhur in India, copied from a statue representing Queen Victoria in her younger days—a very fitting farther and suggest that there are really some points in the philosophy of the East, and especially of India, which are fated sooner or later ...

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Chapter 1The Life of the Buddhain Victorian Britain

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pp. 25-49

Thousands of late-Victorian Britons went about with images of the Buddha floating in their heads. While this may sound like a statement out of Lewis Carroll—who indeed did allude to Buddhism in the Alice books—it is none-theless a fact, if for no other reason than that three book-length poems recounting the life of the Buddha were published in London in the 1870s and ...

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Chapter 2 Buddhism and the Emergence of Late-Victorian Hybrid Religions

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pp. 50-87

The last quarter of the nineteenth century witnessed the generation of new, alternative or syncretic religions in Europe at a rate perhaps unprecedented in modern Western history. Examples include The Church of Christ, Scientist; the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn; the Theosophical Society; and Anthroposophy. Some scholars would challenge this broadened use of the term ...

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Chapter 3 Romances of Reincarnation, Karma, and Desire

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pp. 88-127

...“No subject claims more earnest attention from religious thinkers in the present day than the doctrine” of reincarnation, according to A. P. Sinnett, a recognized late nineteenth-century authority on the subject (Sinnett, “Preface” v). T. E. Slater, in Transmigration and Karma (1898) argued that no one can deny “that there is such a law as Karma” and that “it is clearly taught ...

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Chapter 4 Buddhism and the Empire of the Self in Kipling’s Kim

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pp. 128-176

The world that exists is the result of the non-existence of any Criticism of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim (1901) has a history of polarization that is familiar to Kipling scholars, though not all scholarship has participated in this debate. The divide is between these two camps, oversimplified here for the sake of argument: (1) those who celebrate the novel’s accomplishment in ...

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Conclusion:The Afterlife of Nirvana

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pp. 177-208

There is no thing that is Nirvana; there is only the word “Nirvana.”Nirvana is everywhere, and in more senses than one. I recently heard the word used three times within a day: once by a radio DJ to indicate the state induced by a particular group’s music (not the group Nirvana), once in an advertisement for a health-and-beauty spa, and once by my teenage daughter ...

Appendix 1 Selective Chronology of Events in the European Encounter with Buddhism

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pp. 209-212

Appendix 2 Summary of Selected Buddhist Tenets

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pp. 213-218


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pp. 219-244


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pp. 245-264


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pp. 265-273

E-ISBN-13: 9780801458590
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801447303

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1