28 September, 2012

Buddhists in India Today: Descriptions, Pictures and Documents

Buddhists in India Today: Descriptions, Pictures and Documents

By- Detlef Kantowsky

Detlef Kantowsky’s Buddhisten in Indien heute (1999) brought to a German audience new material, including many photographs and documents, on six facets of Buddhists’ life in India today. This English translation by Hans-Georg Tuerstig will bring Kantowsky’s innovative study to an even wider audience. He has examined the literature on the New Buddhists, converts in the wake of Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism in 1956, and also studied the All India Bhikkhu Sangha, the organization of monks chiefly from  that conversion. The efforts of the Sangha as documented in their conferences are the new material in the literature on the Ambedkar movement.

The Maha Bodhi Society chapter also contains an unusual document, a letter from the founder, Anagarika Dharmapala, and the chapter on Bodh Gaya introduces three maps from very different perspectives. The central meaning of Nagpur to the Ambedkar movement is brought out and the Indian wing of the British Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, the TBMSG, is analysed. The Life of S.N. Goenka, who brought Vipassana meditation back to India, and his establishment, Dhammagiri, brings the book to the close.

Dr Kantowsky examines these facets of Buddhists today in a very personal way, including his opinions as well as the useful photographs and documents he has discovered in his journey among Buddhists. He has allowed Eleanor Zelliot to add her comments, sometimes contradictory, in a chapter at the end of the volume to which he replies in a Postscript. The result is a stimulating account of a living religion.

Dr D. Kantowsky, born in Berlin in 1936, retired as Professor of Sociology from the University of Konstanz (Germany) in 1999. He pursued postgraduate studies at Banaras Hindu University from 1964 to 1967 and spent more than a year in a village of Varanasi district. He has maintained close research contacts with the region ever since, and is founder-editor (1990) of a series of publications on ‘Buddhist Modernism’ especially in the West.

Professor emerita of History of Carleton College, Eleanor Zelliot has been visiting India for half a century. Since 1963 she has done research on and written about the Ambedkar movement and all its facets. She has also written on Maharashtrian intellectual history and the medieval bhakti movement.

ISBN  81-7304-511-9  2003   238p.   Rs.500/Pounds 40

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