Mary Foster, Patron of Buddhism

In some sense Anagarika Dharmapala can be seen as the first modern Buddhist. For all its emphasis on change (anicca) Buddhists at the end of the 19th century were still locked in the past, content to do what had always been done and resistant to any innovation. But the world around them had changed, including the religious landscape. New religions with all the most up to date techniques and technologies to promote themselves and their ideas were closing in on Buddhists. However, a small but significant change was about to meet this challenge. On the 16th of May 1880 the American Henry Olcott and the Russian/American Helena Blavatsky arrived in Galle and in front of a crowd of thousands took the Five Precepts, an event that heralded the beginning of a realization that engagement with modernity was necessary if Buddhism was to survive. One person who was influenced by all this was Don David Hewavitharane, later to go by the name of Anagarika Dharmapala.



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