Thomas William Rhys Davids

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Thomas William Rhys Davids

Thomas William Rhys Davids (May 12, 1843 – December 27, 1922) was a British scholar of the Pāli language and founder of the Pali Text Society. He was closely associated with Max Müller and a friend of the High Priest Sumangala.

References in the Mahatma Letters

Rhys Davids is mentioned in Mahatma Letter No. 111, page 10-12, 14:

Mr. Rhys Davids' "Buddhism" is full of the sparkle of our most important esotericism; but always, as it would seem, beyond not only his reach but apparently even his powers of intellectual perception. To avoid "absurd metaphysics" and its inventions, he creates unnecessary difficulties and falls headlong into inextricable confusion. He is like the Cape Settlers who lived over diamond mines without suspecting it...[1]

In Mahatma Letter No. 85b, page 16:

I will give out for your benefit that which has never been given out before. I will explain to you a whole chapter out of Rhys Davids work on Buddhism, or rather on Lamaism, which, in his natural ignorance he regards as a corruption of Buddhism! Since those gentlemen — the Orientalists — presume to give to the world their soi-disant translations & commentaries on our sacred books, let the theosophists show the great ignorance of those "world" pundits, by giving the public the right doctrines & explanations of what they would regard as an absurd, fancy theory.[2]

In Mahatma Letter No. 68, page 17, writing of Mara (death):

Also, when Beal, or Burnouf, or Rhys Davids in the innocence of their Christian and materialistic souls indulge in such translations as they generally do, we do not bear them malice for their commentaries, since they cannot know any better. [3]

A similar reference is in Mahatma Letter No. 93b, page 25.


Additional resources

  • Kannangara, A. P. "The Genesis of an Orientalist: Thomas William Rhys Davids and Buddhism in Sri Lanka by Ananda Wickremeratne". The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 10.2 (1987), 161-164. Book review of biography is available here.
  • Wickremeratne, Ananda. The Genesis of an Orientalist: Thomas William Rhys Davids and Buddhism in Sri Lanka. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1985. Biography.