Sri Lankan Support to Pioneering Western Orientalists
ANANDA W. P. GURUGE
“We Europeans must, of course, stand in need of such help as we are so far from the living fountains of Buddhism and so scantily furnished with materials.”
– Viggo Fausböll
in his letter to Ven. Waskaḍuwe Subhūti Nāyaka Thera
on 14th March 1877
“The Western World discovered Pali, and the Buddhist scriptures barely a hundred years ago; Sri Lanka again provided the most
material. It was George Turnour’s discovery and translation of the Mahā Vansa, in 1837, which helped scholars working in India to
identify King Piyadassi of the inscriptions, which they were trying to decipher, with King Asoka of history. Subsequent advance was made comparatively easy.
‘Vincent Fausböll translated the Dhammapada in 1855 and Robert Caesar Childers, a member of the Ceylon Civil Service as was Turnour, published a Pali-English Dictionary in 1870. They were given considerable help by the Sinhalese Bhikkhus, especially Subhūti and Dhammarama.
Dr. Rhys Davids, another member of the Ceylon Civil Service, founded the Pali Text Society in 1881, and with the help of his wife, gradually unveiled to the Western World, the unique and original literature contained in the Buddhist scriptures.”
His Excellency J. R. Jayewardene – President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: BUDDHIST ESSAYS (First Edition 1942) Fifth Revised Edition 1983: Chapter VI. Page 39.