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Showing posts from May, 2011

The Buddha and Books Part 1

I’ve just finished reading The Lacquer Lady by F Tennyson Jesse (first published in 1929). The novel is set in Mandalay in the 1880s and charts the fall of the Burmese royal dynasty and the annexation of Lower Burma by England. Jesse visited Burma in the 1920s, where she learned about the downfall of the kingdom and something of the people involved in those events. The book is beautifully written, and a profound study of passion and politics. There’s much in it that’s ripe for discussion, but one of the things that struck a particular chord with me was the way in which the Buddha and his followers are described. In Jesse’s book the Burmese in general, and the Burmese royal family in particular, are characterized as children: “a nursery of vicious children…playing with toy soldiers, but with real lives, had become so vicious that the grown-ups had to step in and take charge”. The grown-ups are, of course, the British with their “bloodless conquest”. The Buddhists’ “religion of pessim