East-West Communication and Modern Buddhism: Timothy Richard’s Translations of Buddhist Scriptures and His Understanding of Buddhism
305 , 2015-04-01 , 関西大学東西学術研究所
Timothy Richard (1845–1919) was a Welsh Baptist missionary who spent 45 years in China, where he was deeply involved in political and intellectual circles. Among his diverse range of activities, this paper investigates his understanding of Buddhism and his translations from the Buddhist canon. Richard drew attention to “the Mahayana Buddhism of East Asia” in contrast to the Theravadan tradition that had been the focus of most previous Western scholars and missionaries, and was immensely interested in the historical relationship between Buddhism and Nestorian Christianity. In addition, he translated the Buddhist concept of tathata and tathagata as “Incarnate God” or “True Model,” depicting the Buddha as a transcendent anthropomorphic deity and stressing the doctrinal similarities between Mahayana Buddhism and Christianity. It is difficult to deny that Richard’s missionary activity and other literary activity probably distorted his understanding of Buddhism and his researches into the Buddhist canon. Yet at the same time, when viewed from the perspective of the history of Buddhism, his activities are clear evidence of the East-West encounter that has taken place in modern Buddhism, and this is the aspect which this paper focuses upon.