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Prepared by Mrs Pang-Han Ah Yew Henry Steel Alcott
Biography (1) • Born 2 Aug 1832 in Orange, New Jersey • 1st of six siblings • Abandoned Univ studies in 1851 - failure of father’s business • Moved to farming in Ohio studied scientific agriculture – educationalist - researcher • Developed interest in hypnotism • 1860 –married -4 children -divorced
Biography (2) • Enlisted for American Civil War – assigned investigation into fraud at New York Mustering & Disbursement Office • Promoted & seconded to Navy Dept in Washington, DC –investigated fraud • Investigated murder of Lincoln • Resigned to study law –specialised in insurance, customs & revenue cases • Revived interest in the occult – journalist on spiritualistic phenomena
Biography (3) • 1874 turning point –met Blavatsky • 1875 both set up Theosophical Society – president & secretary • 1878 departed for India –moved HQ to Chennai, Madras • 1880-1891 distrust co-founder (fraud charges) • 1895 split between Alcott & new co-founder Judge • Continued theosophical work with Beasant • 1906 injured leg, 1907 died of heart disease in Adyar
Summary: Alcott’s contributions • Uplifted the helpless Sinhala Buddhists under colonial rule - a Western champion of Buddhism against the Christian minions. • clamoured and awakened a sleeping nation to rise up- raise the consciousness of monks and laymen to their responsibilities in fighting the missions, resuscitating Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and attempting to promote interchange and ecumenical unity among the different forms of Buddhism in Asia. • compelled the then colonial government to declare the Vesak Full Moon Day, a public holiday • designed the six coloured Buddhist Flag -gained universal recognition.
Summary: Alcott’s contributions 5. Responsible for the establishment of National Schools such as Ananda College. 6. Made an extensive study of Buddhism- accepted the triple Gem and observing Panchaseela 7. Realised the sad plight of the Sinhala Buddhists at that time - thought of the need to unite and create a formidable workforce to act fast. 8. Realised the need to provide Buddhist children with an appropriate Buddhist environment through a systematic objective, he established the Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society on June 17, 1880 - provide Sri Lankan children with a good knowledge of their religion
Summary: Alcott’s contributions 9. Establishedan English school was with 37 children - provided education free of charge till 1889 - Ananda College - 460 Buddhist schools 10. Founded vernacular schools in village areas and English schools in the cities. 11. Many modelled on mission schools and some equal to the best of them in providing a modern English education to Buddhist children - trained for administrative, professional, and mercantile positions under the colonial regime - primarily through these schools modern Buddhism (that is, the Western conception of Buddhism) diffused into the society and became the basic religious ideology of the educated Buddhist bourgeoisie.
Summary: Alcott’s contributions • 12. Published The Buddhist Catechism in 1881. “Finding out the shocking ignorance of the Sinhalese about Buddhism,”on the lines of the similar elementary handbooks so effectively used among Christian sects... • 13. Olcott read ten thousand pages of Buddhist books from English and French sources and on May 5, 1881, he finished his first draft which he showed to the scholar monk Sumangala and the orator Mohottivatte Gunananda - monks was to effectively and uncompromisingly throw out overt or hidden elements of Theosophy - final version could receive their official imprimatur as being ‘Buddhist’.
Conclusion • Every Sinhalese in the past, present and future is indebted to him. • Pioneer who was responsible for the establishment of National Schools • future prosperity of the nation will depend on the good conduct and education of the living children • Produced national leaders and other country and colleges for ladies