The Life of Nyanatiloka Thera: The Biography of a Western Buddhist Pioneer
Buddhist Publication Society, 2008 - 255 pages
Ven. Nyanatiloka was one of the pioneers of Buddhism in the modern world and the first European Buddhist monk. As the world’s senior Western bhikkhu, ordained in 1903, Nyanatiloka attracted many disciples, through whose work his influence continues to be felt today, more than fifty years after his death. Nyanatiloka was also a renowned scholar and translator of Pali scriptures. His classic The Word of the Buddha, written more than a century ago, is still widely read.
The core of this volume consists of a translation of Nyanatiloka’s autobiography, written in German when he was forty-eight. The remaining thirty-one years of his life, from 1926 until 1957, are presented as a biographical postscript, drawn from other sources.
The story of Nyanatiloka’s life provides an inspiring example of one man’s ability to put aside his cultural doubts and hesitations and embrace wholeheartedly a non-Western system of values, ideas and practices. The greatest hardships do not seem to deter him any more than his achievements appear to go to his head. For those who have not experienced the turmoil and uncertainty of war and are accustomed to instant access of information through the internet, Nyanatiloka’s accomplishments are all the more remarkable. The Life of Nyanatiloka Thera offers a fascinating insight into the formative period of Europe’s encounter with the Dhamma.