This present work to write a life sketch of 15 personalities known for their Buddhist work and for the search for truth is a wild venture in the field of Buddhist research. I call this effect a research because I have studied about their lives from various angles through the study of various sources.
To be frank enough, most of the writings included in this volume have seen their light in the Buddhist magazine The Himalayan Voice of which I was Chief Editor from 1997 to 2001. Some years later, I realized that they are not complete or finished works and I thought that it would be better if I bring out these writings in the form of a book with necessary revision and improvement.
With the sole exception of Socrates, fourteen other lives were either Buddhist by conviction or admirers or devotees of the Buddha. These 15 lives were distinguished people who, in various degrees, sacrificed their lives for the cause of truth and humanity.
Some people may cast doubt about my intention. For example, I would like to call Jawaharlal Nehru, Arthru Schopenhauer, Rabindranath Tagore and Edwin Arnold as great admirers of the Buddha and followers of Buddhism. I am afraid some people may charge me with accusing fingers if I call them Buddhists. For, these great men excepts Schopenhauer, had not called themselves Buddhists though they were full of devotion and admiration for the philosophy as well as the personality of the Buddha. Anagarika Dharmapala and Bhimrao Ambedkar were Buddhists by conviction and their love, dedication and admiration for the Buddha and Buddhism is total.
The case of Leo Tolstoy is different. His was an enigmatic personality. Changes that came in his life due to the feeling of guilt for his misdeeds in the prime time of his life, the awakening of the sense of renunciation under the influence of Buddhism on the verge of embracing an ascetic life give the impression that Tolstoy underwent a traumatic change in his life. His novels, stories and his book My Confession are a proof of that change which led this great man and writer to renounce life in the twilight of his life.
The life of Swami Vivekananda gives us a different picture Although a great advocate of Vedanta philosophy and the revival of Hinduism, Swami Vivekananda was also a devotee and admirer of the Buddha. In his moments of solitude and contemplation, he saw the image of Buddha a number of times even while he was very close to personality of the Buddha in speeches and writings, Swami Vivekananda looked to Bodhgaya, the sacred place of Buddhists, for inspiration. Edwin Arnold and Anagarika Dharmapala shared the same feeling towards Bodhgaya. They both compioned the cause of Bodhgaya. Anagarika Dharmapala collected donation for the restoration of the sacred sites of Buddhism. Mary Foster, a lady from the Hawaii, who, inspired by Anagarika Dharmapala, showered millions of dollars to support his cause. Edwin Arnold made the newspaper Daily Telegraph of which he was editor, his vehicle to give vent to his sentimental feelings for the restoration of deteriorating Buddhist sites in India.
All the 15 lives that I chose for writing this work led a saintly life though in various degrees. This is but natural. One who is devoted to living a life of sacrifice, duty and service is a part and parted of sainthood. The life of Ashoka, Vaidyaraj Jivaka, Bhikshu Ananda and Srong- btsam Gampo is very important role in the development of Buddhism. I have included Dharmaditya Dharmacharya, a Nepalese Buddhist scholar, in this work because as a Buddhist it is my duty to pay profound respect for him in recognition of his enduring struggle for the revival of Theravada Buddhism in Nepal. It is a very sad thing for the Nepalese Buddhists that he became a victim of hostile environment and circumstance.
Last but not least, I have covered the life and work of Greek philosopher Socrates. All the fourteen lives were connected with the Buddha and Buddhism. In that sense, the inclusion of his name may not appear to be justified. But, in fact, both the Buddha and Socrates shared a good deal of similarity. Both of them were seekers of truth. Both were revolutionaries in so far as their revolt to conventional and orthodox views is concerned. Both used the dialectic method of delivering the truth. In view of this similarity, I am tempted to do some painstaking work for covering his life.
I know my own limitations in course of completing this ambitions work. I am greatly indebted to some person, writers and organizations to whom and to which I should acknowledge my debt. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the authors and their books from which I borrowed freely and which I have mentioned in the quotations as well as in the bibliography.
Especially, I would like to express my gratitude to the San Jose University Library, at San Jose, in California. During my stay there at San Jose for four months in 2005 with my son and his family, I made profitable use of some libraries of that state. I also like to acknowledge my debt to the library of Nepal Bharat Sanskritik Kendra.
Finally, I would like to thank Mr. Govinda Prasad Shrestha who showed keen interest in the publication of this book. Hope the readers will advise me for further improvement.
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