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C h a p t e r 2 Ziegenbalg’s and La Croze’s Discoveries Studies about the European discovery of Buddhism tend to belong to one of two categories. The first depicts a gradual unveiling of what we today know about Buddhism (its founder, history, geographical reach, texts, rituals, art, and so forth) in form of a three-act play. Act 1 deals with antiquity and the Middle Ages, act 2 with the missionary discovery until about 1800, and act 3 with the ‘‘scientific’’ discovery of Buddhism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Such a three-stage scenario characterizes, for example, the studies of de Lubac (2000) and Batchelor (1994). Lately this kind of scenario came to be replaced by one that begins in the early nineteenth century and features a single act with an inconsequential prelude. Such one-act scenarios claim that the ‘‘phenomenon’’ of Buddhism only became a reality for Europeans around 1820 when the term ‘‘Buddhism’’ (and its equivalents in other languages ) came into common use in Europe. They underlie, for example, the studies of Almond (1988) and Droit (1997 and 2003). The first decades of the nineteenth century represent a crucial turning point in both scenarios since they mark the beginning of modern ‘‘scientific’’ study of Buddhism. Welbon ’s The Buddhist Nirvān .a and Its Western Interpreters devotes fewer than five pages to the eighteenth century and squarely focuses on the ‘‘beginnings of a scientific study’’ in the nineteenth century, which it portrays as a clean break from a worthless prelude of ‘‘fabulous reports, desultory descriptions, and unfounded conjectures’’ (Welbon 1968:23). The ideas and discussions of pre-nineteenth-century ‘‘commentators’’ on Buddhism—whatever their interest may be for antiquarians of our own time—patently had not been widely circulated, nor had they aroused sustained interest on the part of scholars and laymen. Only the most PAGE 77 ................. 17751$ $CH2 05-21-10 15:28:13 PS 78 chapter 2 ingenious enthusiast would attempt to make a case for the ordered development of a body of knowledge concerning Buddhism before the end of the eighteenth century. (p. 23) A similar ‘‘sudden’’ scenario has come to dominate portrayals of the discovery (or, to underline the break with the past, the ‘‘creation’’) of Hinduism by Europeans. Interestingly, this discovery is usually regarded as a separate play on a different stage and with a different set of actors. Since Buddhism was supposedly discovered later than Hinduism, publications about the discovery of Hinduism usually make no mention at all of Buddhism . Numerous recent publications place the ‘‘discovery’’ or ‘‘creation’’ of Hinduism some decades earlier than that of Buddhism. According to Will Sweetman, ‘‘the concept of a unified pan-Indian religion is firmly established by the 1770s, when ‘Holwell’s Gentooism’ appeared,’’ and the first use of the word ‘‘Hindooism’’ occurred in 1787 (2003:163). In this view the identification of ‘‘Hinduism’’ as India’s ‘‘national religion’’ ran parallel to the establishment of ‘‘India’’ as a meaningful geographical entity: ‘‘The concept of ‘Hinduism’ and the concept of ‘India’ in its modern sense, are coeval’’ (p. 163). This roughly coincides with the period when, according to Thomas Trautmann, a ‘‘new Orientalism’’ raised its head. It is characterized by a double shift: a shift of interest from ‘‘European fascination with China that was so marked in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries’’ to ‘‘a fascination with India’’ and, second, ‘‘a titanic shift of authority’’ (Trautmann 1997:30) involving the knowledge of indigenous languages and texts. This ‘‘new claim of authority’’ focused first on Persian and then on Indian texts; and the pioneers of this ‘‘new Orientalism’’ were, according to Trautmann, a Frenchman and three Englishmen: The first works of the new Orientalism, prior to the formation of the Asiatic Society at Calcutta, were mostly translations from Persian: Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron’s translation of the Zend-Avesta (1771) with the help of Parsi scholars in India; John Zephaniah Holwell’s Interesting historical events, relative to the provinces of Bengal, and the empire of Indostan (1765–71), which relies on Persian sources in part, although it also contains what purport to be translations from a mysterious ancient Hindu text, Chartah Bhade Shastah (Sanskrit, Catur Veda Śāstra), a work not heard of since; Alexander Dow’s translation of Firishtah’s Persian History of Hindostan (1768); and the Code of Gentoo laws (1776), PAGE 78 ................. 17751$ $CH2 05-21-10 15:28:13 PS Ziegenbalg’s and La Croze’s Discoveries 79...


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