On Sunday 4 September, the Director of Pustaka Nalanda Bro. Ananda Fong gave a talk on the contributions of Professor Thomas William Rhys Davids (1843 – 1922), founder of the Pāli Text Society (PTS) based in London. This was part of Pustaka Nalanda’s programme to commemorate historical personalities who had contributed significantly to the propagation of Buddhism over the last century.
Bro. Ananda Fong described how Prof. Rhys Davids came into contact with Pāli Language – the canonical language of Theravada School – when he served as a magistrate in Sri Lanka. He studied the language intensely and was intrigued by the vast and deep wisdom of Buddha’s teachings. As his knowledge and understanding of Buddhism gradually expanded, the son of a Welsh Congregational clergyman was convinced that this teaching was beyond the realm of faith and was indeed the ‘wisdom-jewel’ of humanity.
Back in Britain, Prof. Rhys Davids founded the Pāli Text Society to promote the translation and study of Pāli scriptures. Together with his Indologist wife, Dr. Caroline Rhys Davids, they translated, compiled and arranged ancient Pāli literature and made them available to Western readers. Today’s students owe a huge debt of gratitude to both scholarly husband and wife for their immense contributions.After Bro. Ananda’s sharing, devotees adjourned to Pustaka Nalanda (the Library) to look at some books written by Prof. Rhys Davids. His magnum-opus was undoubtedly the comprehensive Pāli-English Dictionary, published posthumously in 1923, and still a very popular reference today.
While visiting Nalanda Library, devotees also took part in an interactive quiz to learn more about Buddhism. It was a fun and lively way to deepen their understanding of the subject. We thank Pustaka Nalanda for organizing the meaningful “Prof. Rhys Davids Commemoration Day” programme. Sadhu anumodana.