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The E-Sylum:  Volume 7, Number 15, April 11, 2004, Article 19

NUMISMATICS HELPED WESTERN STUDY OF BUDDHISM

  A book review in The Japan Times notes the role of
  numismatics in the west's discovery of the origins of
  Buddhism.  The book in question is "Buddha and the Sahibs:
  The Men Who Discovered India's Lost Religion" by Charles
  Allen. John Murray, 2003, 322 pp., 8.99 (paper).

  "The story begins with a botanist. At the end of the 18th
  century, a Scottish doctor named Francis Buchanan was
  employed to carry out surveys of Burma and Nepal, neither
  of them with ease, the latter with great difficulty, while on
  missions to those countries. While he was engaged on this,
  he obtained glimpses of a new religion.

  It was a new religion to the British, employees of the Honorable
  East India Company (EICo), but an old one to the subcontinent
  where it had been born. Its fate was curious: Like Christianity,
  this faith had faded from its land of origin, but been taken up with
  enthusiasm in surrounding countries, and extended its influence,
  in varying forms, over most of a continent. It was now about to
  be rediscovered.

  "Discovered," in this context, means by Europeans and the
  Western world."

  "Some of the unsolved mysteries were contained in inscriptions
  that nobody could read. A talented young Englishman named
  James Prinsep, who contributed much to the welfare of ordinary
  Indians and was adept at acquiring languages, managed to break
  the code on one important column.   This had wider consequences
  than at first appeared. "Prinsep's unlocking of the Delhi No. 1
  script . . . remains unquestionably the greatest single advance
  in the recovery of India's lost past," says the author.

  Numismatics also formed a part of the Prinsep's investigation,
  and Allen explains in detail some of mysteries that he unraveled.
  When he died, still a young man but exhausted by his work, the
  native people, independently of the British, "raised a subscription
  of their own to build a ghat in his memory." Prinsep's Ghat still
  exists, on the banks of the Ganges in Benares, though it is now
  "popularly known as Princes Ghat."

  "Because of these remarkable men's work, "by the end of 1836
  the Indian origins of Buddhism had been established beyond
  doubt."

  To read the full article, see: Buddhism Origin Article

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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