Academic journal article Contributions to Nepalese Studies

An Emic Critique of Austine Waddell's Buddhism and Lamaism of Tibet - a Gross Misrepresentation of the Vajrayana of Tibet

Academic journal article Contributions to Nepalese Studies

An Emic Critique of Austine Waddell's Buddhism and Lamaism of Tibet - a Gross Misrepresentation of the Vajrayana of Tibet

Article excerpt

In this review I would like to make the general Nepalese scholars aware that Buddhism and Lamaism of Tibet by Austine Waddell cannot and should not be taken as an authoritative book of "Tibetan Buddhism" (as it is well known as) but which I call Vajrayana of Tibet. There are literally thousands of mistakes, wrong information, misinterpretations and perhaps even deliberate distortions in this book. We cannot possibly take the whole book in this review but I would take the preface and the first 75 pages, which will give an idea of the whole book.

Before I take them up page by page, a little background seems necessary. First of all, Waddell was a son of a clergy (a Christian missionary). At the time when Waddell wrote (1894), Christian clergies studied and wrote on other religious systems to show to the world how other religious systems were inferior to Christianity; and how all other religious systems except Christianity were a form of devil worship or sorcery. We must keep in mind that Waddell being a son of a Christian missionary had this blinder on when he wrote about his "Lamaism of Tibet". Secondly, he wrote over a 100 years ago when even general information about Buddhism was minimal, what to speak of the Buddhism in Tibet. At that time the Anglo-German school of Buddhist studies was the dominant school related to Buddhist studies. And the conclusions of this school were based solely on Pali texts and Theravada Buddhism, which was more easily available to the English colonials and thus to the English scholars like Waddell. So his views are also heavily influenced by the views of the Anglo-German school (in XIII he has mentioned Rhys Davids, Oldenberg and Beal, all of Anglo-German school (Joshi 1983: 1). The basic view of this school of Buddhist scholars was that only the Pali tradition as represented by the Theravadins was the true form of Buddhism and all other forms of Buddhism were distortions or adulterated. This notion has been proven inaccurate and misleading in the last 100 years of scholarship; but I would not deal with it here. Furthermore, Waddell has not distinguished between High religion and Folk religion, which are found in all religious traditions. Thus, he has mixed them up in one single pot-pouri, which only confuses the issue rather than clarifies it. Even today, if Waddell were to interview even educated Hindus of the Kathmandu valley, and ask them what their religion's main scripture was, he would more likely than not get the answer, "Our Veda is the Srimad Bhagavat", or something like that, very few would actually mention Rig Veda/Sama Veda/Yajur Veda or Atharva Veda. If further asked, "Do you believe in Sankaracharya?", he would get the reply, "Yes, he was one of our greatest saints and I agree to everything he says, which Hindu would not?" I'm quite sure many scholars of Hindu background would completely agree to the above statement. But if Waddell were to ask this educated Kathmanduite, "But in his Sarirak Bhasya of the Brahma Sutra, Sri Sankaracharya has refuted the Bhagavata philosophy as being against the Vedic system (2.2.42). So how can you both agree with Sri Sankaracharya and the Srimad Bhagavata with the same breath? And furthermore, in the light of Sankara's refutation of the Bhagavata philosophy how can you even give it the status of a Veda?" The educated Hindu would be completely non-plussed to say the least. We are not talking here of uneducated country folks. So should Waddell write that the Veda of the Hindus is the Srimad Bhagavata? This is the type of mistake he has made about his "Lamaism".

He also never came in contact with proper Rinpoches/Geshes/Khenpos who are the really qualified people to interpret Tibetan Buddhism/Tibetan Vajrayana. Most of his research was done from Sikkim (preface XII) and none of his informants seems to be educated Khenpos/Geshes/or Rinpoches. At least he does not mention it anywhere. He seems to have only come in contact with ordinary monks of the "Pujari" type i. …

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