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Buddhadharma : Winter 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 09 84 literary work, including his influential Buddhist Dictionary, which is still a stan- dard reference. The Life of Nyanatiloka Thera includes a long extract from a book by Walther Eidlitz that describes life in Dehra Dun. This is a fascinating glimpse into a chapter of history that deserves to be better known—a microcosm of cultural interchange and political intrigue in the shadows of the Himalayas during a time of global conflict. After the war Nyanatiloka returned to Ceylon, where he spent most of the rest of his life. In 1951 he moved upcoun- try to the new Forest Hermitage, which had a healthier climate. By the end of his life Nyanatiloka was known and respected internationally, and his funeral in 1957 was a national event in Sri Lanka attended by many dignitaries. This brief synopsis certainly can’t capture the full scope of Nyanatiloka’s heroic life. His struggles included not only imprisonment, illness, long wander- ings, earthquakes, and hunger, but—for a long time at least—a lack of under- standing in Germany. During his lifetime, his attempts to establish a monastery in Europe met with frustration. Neverthe- less, in the autobiographical section of the book his tone always remains calm, humble, and even cheerful. If it were not for Bhikkhu Nyanatusita’s excellent end- notes we would not appreciate how dif- ficult things were for Nyanatiloka. It would be difficult to overstate how important Nyanatolika’s legacy has been for the development of Buddhism in the West. The tradition he established empha- sized careful, precise, scholarly work, and has been prolific both in translation and original works. The publisher of this book, the Buddhist Publication Society, was founded by his disciple Nyanaponika and continues to produce a regular stream of books and pamphlets. It is not an exag- geration to say that the existence of the traditional Theravada teachings in the West today owes more to Nyanatiloka than to any other person. It seems that quite a lot can come from a simple bowl of porridge. Reviews