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Buddhist Cantos from Bucharest I. Ion Pillat’s Visări budiste (1912) as “readings from Burnouf” [Asia in Europe II]

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Buddhist Cantos from Bucharest I. Ion Pillat’s Visări budiste (1912) as “readings from Burnouf” [Asia in Europe II]

This contribution in three parts analyses for the first time Ion Pillat’s Buddhist poetry of his debut volume (Visări budiste [Buddhist Reveries] from Visări păgâne [Pagan Reveries], Bucharest: «Minerva» – Institut de Arte Grafice și Editură, 1912) compared against plausible European and Asian religious and literary sources, contexts, and significance, in order to palliate the callous non-sense of some literary critics and the cultural prejudice inflicted by some scholars of religion. The five poems – A Buddhist Prayer (a title subsequently changed to A Prayer to the Buddha), Samsara [saṃsāra], Towards Nirvana, Karman and A Hymn of Worship – are illustrative of the wider topics and literary moves of an ‘Asian Renaissance’, and highlight the Buddhist legacy of Eugène Burnouf (1801-1852), a professor of the Collège de France who would become the founding father of modern Buddhist Studies worldwide and whose Magna Carta of Buddhism Studies would also have a Romanian echo, from Odobescu (who moreover frequented his classes) to Eminescu (who authored more and better Buddhist cantos) or Georgian (the first to critically edit Sanskrit texts) to young Pillat, a schoolboy, then student in Paris since 1905, to become the first translator into Romanian of another pupil of Sanskrit India in Paris and Harvard in the 1910-1914, T. S. Eliot.

Keywords: Ion Pillat | Asia in Europe | Buddhist writings in Pāli and Sanskrit | European literature | karman | saṃsāra | Romanian literature | T. S. Eliot.

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