Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

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Miguel
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Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by Miguel » Sun Sep 30, 2018 11:33 pm

Hello, friends.

I am at present working on a paper regarding the Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873, that took place in Sri Lanka. It will consist mostly in a critical commentary of the book Buddhism and Christianity Face to Face by J.M. Peebles, the summary of the debates published in 1878, but as a critical commentary it will require the constant reference to a wide range of bibliography, both from Christian and Buddhist sources, as, for example, the Memoir of Adoniram Judson of 1852, in order to delve by analogy in the Christian missionary side of the debates.

When it is ready, I will be required to present it through oral exposition to the whole class over the course of an hour. This is why I need your help. I am going to talk to people who have only an extremely vague idea of what Buddhism is, and who can be extremely dogmatic on the first opinion they make about anything (I study Philosophy), but who at the same time will constitute the next generation of intellectuals. What I decide to say and how will I say it will be of great importance for the propagation of the Dhamma, and for the lives of these young fellows, who would benefit of the guidance of Buddhism if they can see its truth and purity as I do. In consequence, I come here before you to formulate three petitions, to be answered from anyone who might be concerned by them:

1) Should anybody here have access to reliable information about the debates, the events that led up to them and their consequences, be it in the form of written text, documentary, oral anecdotes or even the possibility of speaking to Sinhalese monks and scholars, or know somebody who might have access to such information, please kindly share it with me, either here or by private message.
2) Should any of the Venerable Sirs here in this site have the time to spare, and the desire to do so, their help on threading the scriptural origins of the arguments expounded by the bhikkhus would vastly improve the quality and soundness of the arguments themselves and of my work, demonstrating thus that what is contained in it comes directly and faithfully from the fountain of Buddhist teachings. It will be profoundly appreciated. This request is extensive to any layman who has read widely the Canon.
3) Should anyone have had, or known of, Christian-Buddhist formal (or, if solid argumentation is involved, even informal) debates that might have taken place since the times of the Panadura Debate in 1873, please inform me. It would be much better if they have records of the debates themselves, or may know where to find them.

I would also like to hear any general commentaries that there may be regarding how should I divide the work, how should I treat the subjects, and so on. As for now, I have been meaning to dedicate the first chapter to an introduction of how and why the debates came to happen, a second, the largest one, to the actual critical analysis of the debate, intervention by intervention, and a third, discussing why it is said that the Buddhist won, and exploring what this meant and means for the survival of Buddhism when threatened by monotheistic faiths, from then to derive to a more philosophical examination on how religions are constituted and tend to interact with each other.

I cannot stress enough the importance, as an introduction to Buddhism, that this work I have decided to undertake may have for these people, and, although I will not be preaching the Dhamma, simply to expound it as it is does already the job of presenting it as desirable to live in accordance with. I feel as I have been charged with a very important mission, and thus I have come here to ask for the help of all who can provide it, as a project that can be of interest for this whole community.

Many thanks to you in advance,
Miguel.

(Although I am aware that this concerns primarily the Dhammaduta subforum, where I originally thought of posting it, I have decided to post it here instead, for I hope that it will, in time, be the origin of a fruitful debate on matters regarding the more general aspects of the Theravada tradition, as we discuss the actual arguments involved in the debates rather than the debates as simple historical events. Should the moderators think otherwise, however, I have no problem in following their instructions).

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Will
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Re: Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by Will » Sun Sep 30, 2018 11:55 pm

There may be nothing new to you Miguel in this brief outline, but check it out:

http://www.bts.slt.lk/about.html
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Pondera
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Re: Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by Pondera » Mon Oct 01, 2018 2:57 am

I apologize for your lack of responses and the one I am about to give...it isn’t directly related to your project me thinks - but anyway.

What I find interesting about Buddhism is that around the time of Christ, Buddhism underwent a radical shift in scope. What I am referring to is the rise of Mahayana. If you look at Mahayana and you compare it to Christianity, Jesus seems to embody all of their lofty ideals.

He died for the sins of others. His death redeems us from an eternity in Hell. Belief in Him results in an eternity in heaven. He gave his very life for the sake of others.

I won’t go on. But perhaps if you look at the paradigm shift between Theravada and Mahayana you might derive interesting results in relation to Christianity.

Theravada is as different from Christianity as it is from Mahayana - and Mahayana sprouted from Theravada. In my view Mahayana is complete. Christ did the work of the ultimate Bodhisattva and in that respect we don’t require any more adherents to said faith.
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Re: Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by SarathW » Mon Oct 01, 2018 4:33 am

May this some help?

https://panadurawadaya.wordpress.com/

Please see the summary in English at the bottom of the page.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by DooDoot » Mon Oct 01, 2018 5:16 am

Miguel wrote:
Sun Sep 30, 2018 11:33 pm
What I decide to say and how will I say it will be of great importance for the propagation of the Dhamma, and for the lives of these young fellows, who would benefit of the guidance of Buddhism if they can see its truth and purity as I do.
Already the above gives the impression of a lack of academic objectivity/impartiality. I recall when I read something about the debates, both sides appeared to accuse each other of superstition because both sides were presenting unverifiable belief systems or doctrines. For the non-Buddhists listening your presentation, the Dhamma refuge might be important to share:
Dhamma Vandana

Svâkkhato Bhagavatâ Dhammo Sanditthiko Akâliko Ehi-passiko Opanâyiko Paccattam veditabbo viññuhiti.

Translation - Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and how; not delayed in time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known/verified by the wise, each for himself.

http://www.buddhanet.net/pali_chant.htm
If you believe 100% of the arguments by the Sri Lankans to the Christians were "truth & purity", I doubt this will be academically favourable in your presentation. Keep in mind the Sri Lankans themselves at the time were reintroduced to Buddhism. They were laymen and not exactly Arahants.

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Re: Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by paul » Mon Oct 01, 2018 5:50 am

The Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka was influenced by the rise of vipassana in Burma during the colonial period:

“…the Burmese monk Ledi Sayadaw, a pivotal architect of modern insight meditation, and explores Ledi’s popularization of the study of crucial Buddhist philosophical texts in the early twentieth century. By promoting the study of such abstruse texts, Braun shows, Ledi was able to standardize and simplify meditation methods and make them widely accessible—in part to protect Buddhism in Burma after the British takeover in 1885. “—-“Birth of Insight”, Braun (review).

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Re: Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by Miguel » Mon Oct 01, 2018 11:10 am

Thanks to all for your responses, I hope that more people joins the conversation soon.
Will wrote:
Sun Sep 30, 2018 11:55 pm
There may be nothing new to you Miguel in this brief outline, but check it out:

http://www.bts.slt.lk/about.html
You're right, Will, but that is a great outline anyway. It will help me clear and organize the ideas on paper.
Pondera wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 2:57 am
I apologize for your lack of responses and the one I am about to give...it isn’t directly related to your project me thinks - but anyway.

What I find interesting about Buddhism is that around the time of Christ, Buddhism underwent a radical shift in scope. What I am referring to is the rise of Mahayana. If you look at Mahayana and you compare it to Christianity, Jesus seems to embody all of their lofty ideals.

He died for the sins of others. His death redeems us from an eternity in Hell. Belief in Him results in an eternity in heaven. He gave his very life for the sake of others.

I won’t go on. But perhaps if you look at the paradigm shift between Theravada and Mahayana you might derive interesting results in relation to Christianity.

Theravada is as different from Christianity as it is from Mahayana - and Mahayana sprouted from Theravada. In my view Mahayana is complete. Christ did the work of the ultimate Bodhisattva and in that respect we don’t require any more adherents to said faith.
Don't worry, Pondera, I understand that not many people have the time to spare in these matters. Thank you for your opinion. It has certainly been discussed numerous times the possible influence of the salvation cults that rose in popularity around the first centuries BC, such as the mystery cults (those of Mithra, Cibeles and Isis, to mention a few), in the origins of Mahayanist thought. It is an interest point you make there of seeing how the postulates of both religions might annul each other, but I'm afraid that the scope of the paper is too narrow (and it must remain so) to find a place in which to include disquisitions of that sort. It's still food for thought, though.
SarathW wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 4:33 am
May this some help?

https://panadurawadaya.wordpress.com/

Please see the summary in English at the bottom of the page.
Yes, Sarath, it seems very helpful as a complement and contrast to the summary of the book I mentioned before. Can you, by chance, write and read the Sinhala language? If so, please let me know.
DooDoot wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 5:16 am
Already the above gives the impression of a lack of academic objectivity/impartiality. I recall when I read something about the debates, both sides appeared to accuse each other of superstition because both sides were presenting unverifiable belief systems or doctrines. For the non-Buddhists listening your presentation, the Dhamma refuge might be important to share:
Dhamma Vandana

Svâkkhato Bhagavatâ Dhammo Sanditthiko Akâliko Ehi-passiko Opanâyiko Paccattam veditabbo viññuhiti.

Translation - Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and how; not delayed in time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known/verified by the wise, each for himself.

http://www.buddhanet.net/pali_chant.htm
If you believe 100% of the arguments by the Sri Lankans to the Christians were "truth & purity", I doubt this will be academically favourable in your presentation. Keep in mind the Sri Lankans themselves at the time were reintroduced to Buddhism. They were laymen and not exactly Arahants.
Actually, DooDoot, the more compelling arguments made from one side and another are about internal inconsistencies in their belief systems, which also each side tried to solve as simple misrepresentation ('strawmaning', so to say) of actually consistent views. It should be evident by now that I think that the most efficient way to actually spread the Dhamma is to present it as it is, and to present its relations with other religions as they actually were, and that, in consequence, I am trying to be as objective as I can in treating the subject; giving to each his due. But it is not to be ignored the fundamental fact that the Buddhists did won the debates, and that they are clearly going to appear under a more favorable light because of that. Thus I said:
I will not be preaching the Dhamma, simply to expound it as it is does already the job of presenting it as desirable to live in accordance with.
And, in relation to that:
...as a critical commentary it will require the constant reference to a wide range of bibliography, both from Christian and Buddhist sources, as, for example, the Memoir of Adoniram Judson of 1852, in order to delve by analogy in the Christian missionary side of the debates.
Also, I do not believe that the totality of the arguments presented by the Buddhist side are without flaw. I used the expression 'true and pure' to refer to the Dhamma, not to the particular exposition of it as done by the debating bhikkhus. I wrote:
...it will be of great importance for the propagation of the Dhamma, and for the lives of these young fellows, who would benefit of the guidance of Buddhism if they can see its truth and purity as I do.
Thank you for your extract of the chants of refuge. To people who appreciate the autonomy of thought, such words are bound to be well-regarded.
paul wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 5:50 am
The Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka was influenced by the rise of vipassana in Burma during the colonial period:

“…the Burmese monk Ledi Sayadaw, a pivotal architect of modern insight meditation, and explores Ledi’s popularization of the study of crucial Buddhist philosophical texts in the early twentieth century. By promoting the study of such abstruse texts, Braun shows, Ledi was able to standardize and simplify meditation methods and make them widely accessible—in part to protect Buddhism in Burma after the British takeover in 1885. “—-“Birth of Insight”, Braun (review).
Great to know that to try to understand the situation in the years posterior to the debate. Does your source mention more explicitly the name of the texts that Ven. Ledi Sayadaw synthesized and whose study he promoted? And does it give an account on how their study affected the Sinhala Sangha?

Thanks to all!

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Re: Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by SarathW » Mon Oct 01, 2018 11:21 am

Yes, Sarath, it seems very helpful as a complement and contrast to the summary of the book I mentioned before. Can you, by chance, write and read the Sinhala language? If so, please let me know.
Yes, I can read Sinhalese.
I have read the whole debate.
I was very unimpressed with it.
In my opinion, it was a blind leading the blind debate.
However, it appears that has raised some interest in the community and the world which lead to the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Perhaps it is not the content of the debate but the ability of a person to stand up and challenge the British and their ideology.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by paul » Mon Oct 01, 2018 11:48 am

Miguel wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 11:10 am
Great to know that to try to understand the situation in the years posterior to the debate. Does your source mention more explicitly the name of the texts that Ven. Ledi Sayadaw synthesized and whose study he promoted? And does it give an account on how their study affected the Sinhala Sangha?
The text was the Abhidhamma.
The transmission is complex, but I will ask pilgrim to comment on how it affected the Sri Lankan revival as he has read the book.

Braun's condensed account:
https://www.spiritrock.org/document.doc?id=5335

Certainly Ven. Nyanaponika and later western monks living in Sri Lanka presented a unified vipassana focus in their writings:
"In 1952, both Venerable Nyanatiloka Thera and Nyanaponika Thera were invited by the Burmese (Myanmar) Government to be consultants to the Sixth Buddhist Council, to be convened in 1954 to re-edit and reprint the entire Pali Canon and its commentaries.[5] After their work with the Council was completed, Ven. Nyanaponika Thera stayed in Burma for a period of training in Vipassana (Insight Meditation)"---Wikipedia

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Re: Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by BKh » Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:19 pm

Miguel wrote:
Sun Sep 30, 2018 11:33 pm
Buddhism and Christianity Face to Face by J.M. Peebles
Is there a quality digital version of this available for free on-line? It should be in the public domain, but Project Gutenberg doesn't seem to have it.

Looks like an interesting project.
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Re: Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by Dhammanando » Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:52 pm

BKh wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:19 pm
Is there a quality digital version of this available for free on-line?
There are three scanned copies at archive.org

https://archive.org/search.php?query=pe ... ristianity

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Re: Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by BKh » Mon Oct 01, 2018 2:21 pm

Dhammanando wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:52 pm
BKh wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:19 pm
Is there a quality digital version of this available for free on-line?
There are three scanned copies at archive.org
Sorry, I should have been more clear. I'm interested in something that is text, not scans. The PDF's are indeed well scanned, but I'm after something like an epub or html. The archive.org auto ocr versions are not great, hence the "quality" qualification. I don't think of PDFs as digital, but obviously they are. :tongue:
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Re: Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by Will » Mon Oct 01, 2018 2:37 pm

BKh wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:19 pm
Miguel wrote:
Sun Sep 30, 2018 11:33 pm
Buddhism and Christianity Face to Face by J.M. Peebles
Is there a quality digital version of this available for free on-line? It should be in the public domain, but Project Gutenberg doesn't seem to have it.
Here is a pdf: http://gen.lib.rus.ec/search.php?req=Bu ... lumn=title
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Re: Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by pilgrim » Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:11 am

paul wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 11:48 am

The text was the Abhidhamma.
The transmission is complex, but I will ask pilgrim to comment on how it affected the Sri Lankan revival as he has read the book.

Braun's condensed account:
https://www.spiritrock.org/document.doc?id=5335

Certainly Ven. Nyanaponika and later western monks living in Sri Lanka presented a unified vipassana focus in their writings:
"In 1952, both Venerable Nyanatiloka Thera and Nyanaponika Thera were invited by the Burmese (Myanmar) Government to be consultants to the Sixth Buddhist Council, to be convened in 1954 to re-edit and reprint the entire Pali Canon and its commentaries.[5] After their work with the Council was completed, Ven. Nyanaponika Thera stayed in Burma for a period of training in Vipassana (Insight Meditation)"---Wikipedia
It has been some time since I held that book in my hands, but I do have another book "The Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka" by George Bond which may be of interest. Unfortunately it covers the Panadura debates in a couple of pages and does not mention Ledi Sayadaw but almost half the book covers the Vipassana movement into Sri Lanka and its take up by lay people

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Re: Threefold request for help: Christian-Buddhist debates of 1862-1873

Post by Dhammanando » Tue Oct 02, 2018 1:48 am

Miguel wrote:
Sun Sep 30, 2018 11:33 pm
I am going to talk to people who have only an extremely vague idea of what Buddhism is, and who can be extremely dogmatic on the first opinion they make about anything (I study Philosophy), but who at the same time will constitute the next generation of intellectuals.
I wonder, are you familiar with Gunapala Dharmasiri's Buddhist Critique of the Christian Concept of God? If not, I commend it to your attention as a book that will probably prepare you for about 90 percent of the brickbats that philosophy undergrads are likely to hurl in your direction.

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