Barbarian Translations and Impure Forms: Hodgson, Waddell, Blavatsky

  • Laurie Hovell McMillin


either Bogle nor Turner could count Tibetan religion as an instance of Buddhism, but the work that would eventually describe, name, and classify the thing that most Tibetans practiced was already in its formative stages. As we have seen, Orientalists in the late eighteenth century began formal study of Indian religion and language, locating the truth of Indian religion in written documents rather than in current practices; for them, texts provided evidence of a by-gone Hindu Golden Age. Although they focused on what later came to be known as Brahmanism and Hinduism, even then Buddhism was an area of interest. Positing similarities between the living religions of Siam, Burma, Ceylon, Tibet, and China, European scholars in the early nineteenth century began to classify various practices, beliefs, and texts as part of the religion of Buddha or Buddhism.1 By the 1830s, Europeans understood Buddhism as defining the religious beliefs and practices of most ofAsia. As Philip Almond notes in The British Discovery of Buddhism, during this period, Buddhism became “an object” for Western scholars; it took “form as an entity that existed over and against the various cultures which [could] be perceived as instancing it, manifesting it, in an enormous variety of ways.”2


Late Eighteenth Century Impure Form Sanskrit Text Buddhist Practice Textual Attitude 
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  1. 1.
    Philip Almond, The British Discovery of Buddhism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 13.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid., p. 12.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Brian Houghton Hodgson, Essays in the Languages, Literatures, Religion of Nepal and Tibet Together with Further Papers on the Geography, Ethnology, and Commerce of these Countries (New Delhi: Manjusri, 1972 [18741), p. 99.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Ibid., p. 65 and p. 66. See Theodore Duka’s biography Life and Works of Alexander Csoma de Körös (New Delhi: Manjusri, 1971 [18851) and Donald S. Lopez, Jr.’s discussion of Csoma de Khrhs in “Foreigner at the Lama’s Feet,” Curators of the Buddha (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), pp. 256–259.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Edward Said, Orientalism (NewYork:Vintage. 1978), p. 93.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    L. Austine Waddell, The Buddhism and Lamaism of Tibet (New Delhi: Heritage, 1979 [1895]), p. viii. Subsequent citations are noted by page number in the text.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Bruce Campbell, Ancient Wisdom Revived (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 49.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    L. Austine Waddell, Lhasa and Its Mysteries (NewYork: Dover, 1988 [1904]), pp. 409–410.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    Rudyard Kipling, Something of Myself (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 35.Google Scholar

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© Laurie Hovell McMillin 2001

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  • Laurie Hovell McMillin

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