The Opposite of Buddhism §12

Conclusion & Bibliography

Swidden Agirculture (in Europe), depicted by Eero Järnefelt in 1892.

[Reminder: this lecture was written for a Cambodian audience, and intended for translation into Cambodian.]


I would conclude with an observation that serves as a counterweight, because the past is something that cannot be disregarded --and the legacy of colonial interpretation cannot be easily discarded.

Apart from all our ethical objections to it, colonialism supplies us with raw material for the study of history, even if the material is a set of fragments from a culture that the colonists had set out to destroy. This is something like the Archaeologist's ambivalence in finding a village that was both destroyed and preserved by a volcano (that is, the people and their culture were destroyed, but some evidence and remains were sealed away under lava). The destruction is vast and terrible, yet we can learn a great deal from the fragments that were preserved in that same act of destruction.

The problem is that we, who set to work on Buddhism today, are neither archaeologists nor botanists: we are neither digging up artefacts that explain themselves, nor working to sketch out an image of nature on a blank sheet of paper. I think that our role has been, lamentably, similar to the development workers and charities that have been trying to eradicate swidden agriculture (so called “slash-and-burn farming”, 刀耕火地) with no clear understanding of its indigenous significance, nor of the colonial agenda that prefigured the present interventions.

In facing the legacy of past scholarship on Buddhism, soon to be indexed and instantly available in digital archives, we need to be consciously engaged in a critique of it as a genre of European literature, as a sort of religion unto itself, and as a pseudo-science that evolved to support Western hegemony.

When we read uncritically we learn less than the book contains and are misled by the author's assumptions. When we read critically, and in a context of historical comparison, we learn more than the authors knew themselves because our attention is directed to the limits of their authorship, delving into what their omissions can now disclose.



App, Urs. 2010. “Arthur Schopenhauer and China: A Sino-Platonic Love Affair”, Sino-Platonic Papers, No. 200 (April, 2010). University of Pennsylvania.

Armitage, David. 2000. The Ideological Origins of the British Empire. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, U.K.

Balbir, Nalini. 2008. Thoughts About European Editions of Pali Texts, a lecture presented at Bangkok, June 4th 2008. Subsequently printed in: The Thai International Journal for Buddhist Studies [TIJBS], 2009, Vol. 1, Mahidol University Press: Thailand.

Bassett, D.K. 1962. “The Trade of the English East India Company in Cambodia, 1651-1656”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, No. 1/2 (April, 1962), p. 35-61.

Conze, Edward. 1963. “Buddhist Philosophy and Its European parallels”, in: Philosophy East and West, vol. 13, no. 1. University of Hawaii Press, p.9-23.

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. 1938. Book Review (of What was the original gospel in 'Buddhism'?), Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 58, No. 4, p. 679-686. Available online:

Duka, Tivadar. 1885. The Life and Works of Alexander Csoma de Körös. Trübner: London.

Elst, Koenraad. No date. Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate. Aditya Prakashan: New Delhi, India. (The text is also available online:

Gethin, Rupert. 1997. “Cosmology and meditation: from the Aggañña-Sutta to the Mahayana”, in: History of Religions, Vol. 36, No. 3 (Feb 1997). University of Chicago Press.

Gombrich, Richard. 1986. Book Review, in: Indian Economic and Social History Review, #23 (March), p. 121-124.

Gombrich, Richard. 1994. How Buddhism Began. Athlone Press: London.

Gombrich, Richard. 2009. What the Buddha Thought. Equinox Press: London.

Hacker, Paul & Wilhelm Halbfass. 1995. Philology and confrontation: Paul Hacker on traditional and modern vedānta. SUNY Press: New York, U.S.A.

Hallisey, Charles. 1995. “Roads Taken and Not Taken in the Study of Theravāda Buddhism,” in: Donald S. Lopez, editor, Curators of the Buddha: The Study of Buddhism Under Colonialism, p. 31-61. University of Chicago Press: U.S.A., 1995.

Joshi, L.M. 1973. Aspects of Buddhism in Indian History. Sir Baron Jayatilleke Memorial Lecture, published as The Wheel No. 195-6, Buddhist Publication Society: Kandy, Sri Lanka. (Now available as an e-text.)

Kuzminski, Adrian. 2008. Pyrrhonism: How the Ancient Greeks Reinvented Buddhism. Lexington Books: Lanham, Maryland, U.S.A.

Mazard, Eisel. 2009. “Interpreting Buddhist Philosophy when the Dictionary is a Heresy”, a lecture delivered at SOAS, University of London, Oct. 23rd, 2009, at the invitation of Professor Kate Crosby.

McEvilley, Thomas. 1980. "Plotinus and Vijñānavāda Buddhism", in: Philosophy East and West, Volume 30, Number 2, p. 181-193. University of Hawaii Press: Hawaii, U.S.A.

McEvilley, Thomas. 1982. "Pyrrhonism and Mādhyamika", in: Philosophy East and West, Volume 32, Number 1, p. 3-35 . University of Hawaii Press: Hawaii, U.S.A.

Müller, Max. 1867. Chips from a German Workshop, Tome 1. Charles Scribner's Sons: New York, USA. (This book is now available as an etext from Project Gutenberg.)

Müller, Max. 1871. Chips from a German Workshop, Tome 3. Charles Scribner's Sons: New York, USA. (This book is now available as an etext from Project Gutenberg.)

Müller, Max. 1881. Chips from a German Workshop, Tome 4. Charles Scribner's Sons: New York, USA. (This book is available as an etext from Project Gutenberg.)

Müller, Max. 1903. The Silesian Horseherd. Longmans, Green, and Co.: New York. (Available as an etext from Project Gutenberg)

Nakprat, Suriya. 1991. A Descriptive Study of the Buriram Dialect of High Khmer. Nagpur University: Nagpur, India.

Norman, K.R. 1993. Collected Papers Vol. IV. Pali Text Society: London.

Norman, K.R. 1997. A Philological Approach to Buddhism. Bukkyō-Dendō-Kyōkai: U.S.A. and Japan. (Based on a series of lectures delivered in 1994.)

Nyanatiloka, 1957 (1st ed. 1938: the Associated newspapers of Ceylon), Guide Through the Abhidhamma Piṭaka: being a synopsis of the philosophical collection belonging to the Buddhist Pali canon, followed by an essay on the Paṭicca-Samuppāda. Buddhist Publication Society: Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Oltramare, Paul. 1923. L'Histoire des Idées théosophiques dans l'Inde: La théosophie Bouddhique, Paris: Librairie orientaliste Paul Genthner, Annales du Musée Guimet, Bibliothèque d'Études. (Tome 31 in the series.)

Obeyesekere, Gananath. 1992. Colonel Olcott’s reforms of the 19th Century and their Cultural Significance, Ralph Peiris Memorial Lecture at the Mahaweli Centre (Colombo, Sri Lanka) on January 11, 1992. The text is available digitally ( and it seems likely that it was published (on paper) at some point (perhaps by the RASSL?) but I have found no trace of any printed edition.

Rhys-Davids, C.A.F. 1898. "On the Will in Buddhism", in: The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Jan. 1898. p. 47–59. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, England.

Rhys Davids, C.A.F. 1922. The Book of the Kindred Sayings, vol. 2. Pali Text Society: Oxford.

Rhys-Davids, C.A.F. 1939a. “Original Buddhism and Amrta”, in: Mélanges Chinois et Bouddhiques, July 1939, p. 371-382.

Rhys-Davids, C.A.F. 1939b. What was the original gospel in 'Buddhism'? Epworth press: London.

Rhys-Davids, T.W. 1881a. The Hibbert Lectures: Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by Some Points in the History of Indian Buddhism. Williams and Norgate: London.

Rhys Davids, T.W., 1881b. Buddhist Suttas. Vol. XI of The Sacred Books of the East series, edited by Max Müller. The Clarendon Press: Oxford, p. xxi. (Available as an e-text:

Rhys-Davids, T.W. 1896. Buddhism, its History and Literature. G.P. Putnam's Sons: New York, U.S.A.

Sadasivan, S.N. 2000. A Social History of India. A.P.H. Publishing, Delhi: India.

Shaw, Sarah. 2007. Buddhist Meditation Practices in the West, a lecture delivered at the 4th International Buddhist Conference for Vesak (May 26th-29th, 2007), archived at:

Snodgrass, Judith. 2007. “Defining Modern Buddhism: Mr. and Mrs. Rhys Davids and the Pā̄li Text Society”, in: Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, vol. 27, no. 1. Duke University Press: U.S.A.

Sprenger, Guido. 2006. "Out of the Ashes: Swidden Cultivation in Highland Laos", in: Anthropology Today, Vol. 22, No 4, p. 9 et seq.

Walter, Mariko Namba. 2006. “Sogdians and Buddhism”, in: Sino-Platonic Papers No. 174, University of Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Walters, Jonathan S. 1990. Review of Theravāda Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Columbo (by Richard Gombrich), in: Philosophy East and West, Vol. 40, No. 2.

Wickremeratne, Ananda. 1984. The Genesis of an Orientalist. Motilal Banarsidass: Delhi, India.

Yuyama, Akira. 2000. Eugene Burnouf: The Background to his Research into the Lotus Sutra. The International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology, Soka University: Tokyo.