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Mr. Emerson's Revolution

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Jean McClure Mudge

Emerson in the West and East

6.2 Asia in Emerson and Emerson in Asia

Alan Hodder

Texte intégral

Please tell Maganlalbhai [Gandhi’s nephew] that I would advise him to read Emerson’s essays. They can be had for nine pence in Durban. There is a cheap reprint out. Those essays are worth studying. He should read them, mark the important passages and then finally copy them out in a notebook. The essays to my mind contain the teaching of Indian wisdom in a Western garb.
Mahatma Gandhi, letter to his son, 25 March 1907

Asia in Emerson

1While Emerson has often been viewed as the most American of writers — formulator of such a reputedly distinctive American ideal as self-reliance — it is important to recognize that he was at the same time an unprecedentedly cosmopolitan thinker, drawing on a far-flung range of sources, Eastern as well as Western. Our first public intellectual, he was at the same time our first global intellectual, and as his fame spread throughout the middle and final decades of the nineteenth century, his writings in English and in translation often found an appreciative, at times even an ardent, readership, in various non-Western lands as well. Indeed, numbered among his most admiring readers were several who went on to play momentous roles in the modern religious, literary, or political history of their respective nations, most notably India and Japan. Among Indians, these included Hindu religious reformer and missionary, Swami Vivekananda; Indian poet and Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore; and even Mohandas (“Mahatma”) Gandhi himself, chief architect of Indian independence. As colonial subjects themselves, such Indian leaders participated centrally in the tense, politically fraught, ongoing cultural and political exchange between Europe and its Asian colonial possessions. No less significant for modern East-West religious and cultural exchange was D. T. Suzuki, the great ambassador of Zen in the West, whose work also contributed significantly to modern Japanese self-definition vis-à-vis the West.

  • 156 See Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance: Europe’s Discovery of India and the East, 1680-1880, (...)

2The most conspicuous expression of Emerson’s international outlook was perhaps his precocious and, in retrospect, quite prescient interest in the classical religious and literary traditions of China, Persia and, most especially, Hindu India. For many centuries, the rich heritage of Asian civilizations had been effectively closed to the European West as a result of the vigorous expansion of Islam in the seventh century, the dominion of the Islamic Caliphates from the seventh through the twelfth centuries, and the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century. But with Vasco da Gama’s circumnavigation of the Cape of Good Hope in 1498, and the subsequent opening of the Indian and East Asian spice trade, barriers to intercultural exchange between Asia and Europe were once again lifted, inaugurating a period of cultural renewal in Europe that the French scholar, Edgar Quinet, referred to as the “Oriental Renaissance.” For many European scholars and artists of the Romantic period, news of the long forgotten and, to many, unsuspected cultural richness of India and China came as an intellectual windfall. To such Romantic thinkers, India in particular came to be viewed as the cradle of Western civilization, despite what they considered the decadence of many contemporary Hindu customs.156

3For the sake of convenience, we might date the beginning of this renaissance to the founding in 1784 of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, a scholarly association composed initially of some thirty British civil servants working in Calcutta under the auspices of the East India Trading Company. The Society’s grand ambition was to discover everything that could be known about the human and natural history of the vast Indian subcontinent and to propagate that knowledge for a wider English and European readership. Within a few years, a torrent of translations, monographs, and articles on a wide range of subjects issued from the Society’s press totally transforming European knowledge of several Asian civilizations, past and present. While the various authors of these studies were often accomplished amateur scholars in their own right, they all worked in one capacity or another for the East India Company and later, the British Raj. Among the chief contributors to the Society’s work were Sir William Jones (1746-1794), an accomplished philologist, and the Society’s founder and second president, who arrived in Calcutta in 1783 to join the Supreme Court in Bengal; Charles Wilkins (1749-1836), a printer for the East India Company and first European to learn Sanskrit, who produced the first English translation of the Bhagavad Gītā; Henry Thomas Colebrooke (1765-1837), an accountant turned magistrate, who wrote widely on classical Hindu religion and culture; Brian Houghton Hodgson (1800-1894), a British civil servant residing in Nepal, who put together an invaluable collection of Sanskrit manuscripts bearing on the origins and development of Buddhism; and Horace H. Wilson (1786-1860), another magistrate, who went on to become one of the most accomplished Sanskritists of his generation. But for the work of this gifted cadre of British scholar-magistrates, Emerson’s knowledge of Asian traditions would have been all but impossible.

4For such lately independent partisans of American liberty as Emerson and his Transcendentalist friends, the British discovery of the traditions of India and beyond was not without a certain pointed political irony since it was underwritten and occasioned by the same British colonial apparatus that Americans had only just recently thrown off after a long and costly war of independence. Generally speaking, nineteenth-century European and American knowledge of Asian traditions and cultures often arose as an instrument or byproduct of the continued political and economic expansion of Britain and other European colonial powers in various spheres of South and East Asia. For British magistrates working in India, one principal early motive for the acquisition of Sanskrit and the translation of selected Hindu texts was to facilitate political jurisdiction over the Indian population. Jones’s own scholarly program serves as a notable case in point. One of the first Sanskrit texts he chose to translate was the ancient Hindu legal code, the Manu-smṛti or “Laws of Manu”— a choice dictated as much by legal and political considerations as by his own scholarly interest. His groundbreaking translation, which he entitled The Institutes of Hindu Law (1794), proved to be one of the first books that Emerson — and after him, Thoreau — consulted in his first tentative efforts to acquire a knowledge of Indian traditions.

  • 157 For full-length studies of early American interest in Asian religions, see Carl T. Jackson, The Ori (...)

5Although Emerson was arguably the first American to embrace Asian religious and philosophical traditions as an important complement and corrective to biblical traditions, his interest in Asian civilizations was not wholly unprecedented in earlier American colonial history. Puritan patriarch Cotton Mather had corresponded with Danish missionaries in Madras as far back as the 1720’s, and later in the century, Benjamin Franklin conceived an active interest in Confucianism that later led to a learned exchange with Sir William Jones, with whom he had worked in Paris in the run-up to the American Revolution. In 1794, Joseph Priestly, a transplanted English Unitarian, produced the first serious study of Asian religions in America, and somewhat later, Hannah Adams included an account of Asian religions in her own comparative survey of world religions. Yet, for all these earlier intercultural transactions, no one did more to prepare the ground for later American interest in Asian cultures, particularly Asian religious cultures, than Emerson and his Concord neighbors, most notably Henry David Thoreau and Amos Bronson Alcott.157

  • 158 For the following treatment of Emerson’s Asian readings, see also my previous article: “Asia,” in R (...)

6In light of his appreciative reception of Asian religious and literary traditions later in life, Emerson’s first reactions to what he could glean about the cultures of India and the Far East do not seem in retrospect especially promising. Since the start of American maritime contacts with India and China in the mid-1780s, Emerson’s hometown of Boston had become a clearing-house for information about the far-off cultures of South and East Asia. Fantastic stories of Indian juggernauts, widow burning, and ascetics draped on hooks passed over India Wharf and the Boston waterfront together with the muslins, spices, and teas of the East India trade. Sensationalistic travel accounts appearing in the magazines and newspapers of the day found a ready readership. Since as early as 1803, Emerson’s father, William Emerson, himself published several articles on India and the Far East in the Monthly Anthology and Boston Review, a journal which he edited till his death in 1811. Of course, much of the information provided in these sources proved to be anecdotal and often quite bigoted, reflecting the blend of fascination and repugnance often characterizing the popular imagination in the still provincial and strait-laced town of Boston.158

  • 159 Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 16 vols, eds. Wil (...)
  • 160 JMN 2: 86; Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 10 vols, eds. Ralph L. Rusk and (...)
  • 161 JMN 1: 83.

7It is no surprise then that as a young man, Emerson never fully escaped the sense of religious chauvinism and moral superiority characteristic of his time and place. On the one hand, he unthinkingly absorbed the platitudes of the Romantic era, conceiving Asia, and particularly India, as the land of mysticism and the cradle of civilization. “‘All tends to the mysterious East,’” he piously affirmed in one of the earliest entries of the journal he called his “Wide World.”159 By the same token, he was quick to mock the “immense goddery” of the Hindu pantheon. In a letter to his Aunt Mary Moody Emerson in 1822, he even dismissed European orientalist scholarship as “learning’s El Dorado.”160 In preparation for his senior class poem for the Harvard College Exhibition of 1821, he pored through various available journals and books, reading everything about India that he could get his hands on, but the poem that resulted, “Indian Superstition,” simply reflected the biases of his time and place. There he depicted India as an ancient, once proud civilization that in more recent times had fallen into unfortunate confusion and superstition. If anything, his attitude to Chinese civilization at this time in his life was even more censorious: “In the grave and never-ending series of sandaled Emperors whose lives were all alike, and whose deaths were all alike, and who ruled over myriads of animals hardly more distinguishable from each other, in the eye of an European, than so many sheeps’ faces — there is not one interesting event, no bold revolutions, no changeful variety of manners & character. Rulers & ruled, age and age, present the same doleful monotony, and are as flat and uninteresting as their own porcelain-pictures.”161

8Blunting the harshness of this reception somewhat, however, were several subsequent influences. While plainly put off by the theology and/ or ritualism of Indian and Chinese traditions, Emerson apparently found some of the belletristic literature quite charming. Of particular appeal was the so-called Oriental tale — of which the Arabian Nights and Samuel Johnson’s “Rasselas” provided noteworthy instances. Another example, Robert Southey’s “The Curse of Kehama,” Emerson perused carefully in preparation for his senior-class poem. Perhaps more important in turning the tide of his early prejudice was the Indian reformer, Rammohan Roy, later hailed as the father of modern India, whose life and career Emerson found profiled in the pages of the Christian Register in 1820-1821.

6.23 Rammohan Roy at 50, 1822.

  • 162 JMN 4: 283.

9A highly educated brahmin from Bengal, Roy had dedicated his life to reforming contemporary Hindu social and religious customs in accordance with what he conceived to be classical Vedic and Upanishadic ideals. Like other members of the Unitarian community, Emerson was so taken with this socially enlightened man of the East that by the middle of the next decade, he placed Roy on a short list of the world’s greatest and most self-reliant individuals, each of whom, “annihilates all distinction of circumstances.”162

  • 163 JMN 3: 362.

10When over the course of the next few years, Emerson’s interests in Asian thought expanded to include other primary and secondary sources, he also found much to appreciate in India’s philosophical contributions. In the early 1830s, he copied out a passage from the Mahābhārata, the great national epic of India, which was contained in Gérando’s history of comparative philosophy, noting that Idealism was “a primeval theory.”163 Soon thereafter, he read a précis of the Bhagavad Gita, arguably the pivotal text of the Hindu Renaissance, which was contained in French scholar Victor Cousin’s survey of the philosophical traditions of the world.

6.24 Victor Cousin, late 50s ‒ early 60s, c. 1850s.

  • 164 L 1: 322-23; 6: 245-46.

11In a letter to the celebrated Indologist Friedrich Max Müller in 1873, Emerson traced the beginnings of his mature interest in Hindu thought to this first encounter with the Gita in Cousin’s sketch.164 Interestingly, Emerson’s earliest investigations of the philosophical traditions of India roughly coincided with the vocational crisis that led in 1832 to his formal resignation from his pastorate at Boston’s Second Church, signaling a new sense of intellectual freedom and the development of his own eclectic religious and philosophical vision.

  • 165 The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 10 vols, eds. Robert E. Spiller, et al. (Cambridge, Mas (...)

12Despite these few isolated instances, throughout the tumultuous period of the late 1820s and early 30s when, in rapid succession, Emerson experienced the death of his first wife, resigned his ministry, and set off on a precarious new career as a lecturer and essayist, his journal was relatively silent about his interests in Asian religious literature. What references that do occur, however, make it clear that he was now conceiving these Eastern sources in a new light, having all but completely cast off the pejorative views of his student days. One particularly noteworthy instance of this occurs in his discussion of the universal religious sentiment and critique of institutional Christianity in the address that he delivered to the graduating class of Harvard’s Divinity School in 1837: “The sentences of the oldest time, which ejaculate this piety, are still fresh and fragrant. This thought dwelled always deepest in the minds of men in the devout and contemplative East; not alone in Palestine, where it reached its purest expression, but in Egypt, in Persia, in India, in China. Europe has always owed to oriental genius, its divine impulses. What these holy bards said, all sane men found agreeable and true.”165

  • 166 Cf. The Dial: A Magazine for Literature, Philosophy, and Religion (New York: Russell & Russell, 196 (...)

13Over the course of the next several years, Emerson also acquainted himself with such non-Western sources as the Zendavesta, Zoroaster, Sir William Jones’s translation of the Laws of Manu, H. H. Wilson’s translation of the Meghadūta, selected articles on Asian traditions from the Edinburgh Review, various translations of the Confucian classics, “The Arabian Nights” and anthologies containing works by the Sufi poets Saadi and Hafez, and Charles Wilkins’s translation of the Hitopadeṣa. By this point, his growing exposure to religious writings of the East encouraged him to look beyond the scriptural canons of Christians and Jews to a more global scriptural anthology or world bible, an impulse he shared with several of his Transcendentalist friends, including Henry Thoreau and Bronson Alcott. This conception led in 1842 to the publication of the “Ethnical Scriptures” column in the Transcendentalist literary magazine, The Dial. Having recently taken over editorship of the journal from Margaret Fuller, Emerson introduced this new column, with Thoreau’s assistance, to highlight excerpts of recent translations of a range of non-Western texts that they had profited from in their readings.166

  • 167 For an instructive analysis of the parallels between Emersonian and Neo-Confucian thought, see Yosh (...)
  • 168 The Dial, 3: 493-94.

14Emerson also made important use of the teachings of Confucius and other Chinese sages of the Confucian school as these had been rendered in recent English translations of the Neo-Confucian canon of the Four Books.167 Together with Thoreau, he included excerpts from Joshua Marshman’s translation of the sayings of Confucius for the April 1843 issue of The Dial, and both writers periodically drew upon their knowledge of Confucian teachings in their subsequent writings as well.168

6.25 “Ethnical Scriptures, Sayings of Confucius,” The Dial, 1843.

15For Emerson, Confucius came to serve as paragon of the moral law, particularly as it governed society and social relations.

6.26 Confucius, 551-479 BCE.

16According to Confucius, social welfare and harmony must always be rooted in individual character, in the essential human virtues of humaneness and benevolence. In the Confucian emphasis on individual social responsibility, Emerson found a salutary counterbalance to Transcendentalist tendencies to solitude. Confucius thus typified for Emerson the virtues of charity, moderation, gentility, and a humane worldliness. In his speech to a visiting delegation of Chinese officials in Boston in 1868, he extolled Confucius and Confucian teachings as the hallmark of China’s contributions to world civilization:

  • 169 The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Centenary Edition, 12 vols., ed. Edward Waldo Emerson (B (...)

Confucius has not yet gathered all his fame. When Socrates heard that the oracle declared that he was the wisest of men, he said, it must mean that other men held that they were wise, but that he knew that he knew nothing. Confucius had already affirmed this of himself: and what we call the Golden Rule of Jesus, Confucius had uttered in the same terms five hundred years before. His morals, though addressed to a state of society unlike ours, we read with profit to-day. His rare perception appears in his Golden Mean, his doctrine of Reciprocity, his unerring insight,— putting always the blame of our misfortunes on ourselves. . . .169

17Emerson’s study of Islamic literature and culture was more selective but no less consequential. While he sampled various travel accounts and classical texts, including George Sales’English version of the Qur’ān, he showed no particular regard for Islamic theology as such. Instead he focused almost exclusively on the poetry of Persian Sufism, particularly the poetry of Saadi and Hafiz.

6.27 Saadi Shirazi in a rose garden, c. 1645.

6.28 Title page, Hafiz of Shiraz, Selections from his Poems, 1875.

6.29 Frontispiece to Hafiz of Shiraz.

  • 170 See Arthur Christy, The Orient in American Transcendentalism: A Study of Emerson, Thoreau, and Alco (...)

18Although familiar with some of the conventions of Arabic and Persian literature since his school days, especially as it was manifested in the Oriental tales noted earlier, he conceived a great fondness for Sufi poetry when he read Joseph von Hammer’s German translations in 1841. Subsequently, he looked to Persian poetry as an inspiration for his own verse, even to the point of adopting the cryptic name of “Seyd” (a kind of anagram of the name of the Sufi poet Saadi) as his designation of the ideal poet. Although the Puritan in Emerson shied away from the sensuality of Sufi poetry, he admired its richness of imagery and expansiveness of expression. Above all perhaps, he found in the ecstatic, aphoristic, and somewhat disjointed character of this verse a model and sanction for his own preferred mode of literary performance, both in poetry and prose.170

19The beginning of Emerson’s most sustained engagement with Asian religious philosophy, however, may be dated to the summer of 1845, when he received a copy of Charles Wilkins’s complete English translation of the Bhagavad Gita.

6.30 Title page, The Bhagvat-Geeta, translated by Charles Wilkins.

  • 171 L 3: 290.
  • 172 JMN 10: 360.

20The fact that he mischaracterized this text at the time as “the much renowned book of Buddhism” probably says more about the elementary state of Asian studies in the U. S. in the 1840s than it does about Emerson’s study to that point.171 But reading it in full at this midpoint of his career instigated a wave of appreciation for Hindu religious and philosophical teachings that would carry him to the end of his life. Three years after the Gita’s arrival in Concord, he and his Transcendentalist friends were still reveling in the inspirations of modern Hinduism’s favorite sacred text: “I owed,— my friend and I,— owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavat Geeta. It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spake to us, nothing small or unworthy but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age & climate had pondered & thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.”172

  • 173 W 4: 28.

21By this point, having also examined H. H. Wilson’s translation of the Vishnu Purāṇa and, somewhat later, Röer’s translation of selected Upanishads, Emerson began to form a more rounded conception of Hindu religious philosophy. His essay on Plato, included in Representative Men (1850), reflects this recent immersion in these classical Hindu texts and quite a considerable assimilation of their teachings. What chiefly impressed him about this material theologically were their characterizations of divine reality in impersonal and monistic terms: “In all nations, there are minds which incline to dwell in the conception of the fundamental Unity. The raptures of prayer and ecstasy of devotion lose all beings in one Being. This tendency finds its highest expression in the religious writings of the East, and chiefly in the Indian scriptures, in the Vedas, the Bhagavat Geeta, and the Vishnu Purāṇa. Those writings contain little else than this idea, and they rise to pure and sublime strains in celebrating it.”173 In point of fact, both the Gita and the Vishnu Purāṇa also contain strong theistic elements, but consistent with his critique of Christian theism in his address to Harvard’s Divinity School, it was their characterizations of reality as impersonal and absolute that he found especially compelling.

  • 174 W 4: 30.
  • 175 Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Random House, 1979).

22Emerson’s essay on Plato also exhibits the influence of an intellectual orientation typical of European orientalists generally, most notably in his inclination to essentialize “Eastern” thought in general terms and then to juxtapose it in abstract terms with the civilizations of “the West.” Here perhaps is the most conspicuous instance of this tendency: “The country of unity, of immoveable institutions, the seat of a philosophy delighting in abstractions, of men faithful in doctrine and in practice to the idea of a deaf, unimplorable, immense Fate, is Asia; and it realizes this faith in the social institution of caste. On the other side, the genius of Europe is active and creative: it resists caste by culture: its philosophy was a discipline: it is a land of arts, inventions, trade, freedom. If the East loved infinity, the West delighted in boundaries.”174 The sort of dichotomizing of East versus West exemplified by this passage provides yet another instance of the kind of invidious Western cultural projection that Edward Said famously dubbed “orientalism,” though here appearing on American soil. As Said showed, this way of thinking consistently operated in the service of Europe’s larger colonial ambitions on Middle Eastern and, by extension, American, Asian, and African territories.175 Of course, as Americans still recovering from Britain’s recent colonial project in North America, Transcendentalists like Emerson occupied a more ambiguous political position than European orientalists did, but his language and general way of thinking about “the East” is nonetheless clearly indebted to standard orientalist tropes. To be sure, Emerson’s particular motive for conceptualizing the relationship between East and West in this general way was partly rhetorical — to illustrate his pet doctrine of polarity, with East and West defining the two poles to which Plato was assigned the role of mediator — but he never entirely abandoned this schematic and stereotypical way of thinking about Asian cultures even in his more studious moments.

  • 176 CW 6: 313. Cf. Christy, Orient in American Transcendentalism, 73-113.

23To judge from the numerous entries Emerson made in his journals from the mid-forties on, in which he copied long passages from his Indian readings and reflected on their significance, he explored this area of literature assiduously during the last few decades of his life. References to Hindu images or ideas in particular surface repeatedly in both his late prose and poetry. The lectures and essays appearing in the late-life collections Representative Men, The Conduct of Life —, and Society and Solitude frequently advance or illustrate an argument with reference to exotic ideas from the Hindu classics in which he was immersing himself. For example, his doctrines of “compensation” and “fate” often found illustration in the Indian doctrine of action or karma; he compared “illusion” to the Hindu goddess “Yoganidra” and the doctrine of māyā; and, as several commentators have pointed out, even the quintessentially Emersonian doctrines of the “self” and the “over-soul” found a vivid expression in the Vedantin notions of ātman and brahman respectively.176 Although such Indian doctrines often performed a mainly illustrative role, Emerson turned to them repeatedly as if to highlight and dramatize the universal value of his ideas.

  • 177 JMN 11: 137.

24Two particularly remarkable instances of this Hindu appropriation occur in the poetry of this period. “Hamatreya” (1847), a poem drawing explicitly upon a passage from the Vishnu Purāṇa, offers a scornful critique of Yankee acquisitiveness in the face of the evanescence of human life and the inevitability of death. More noteworthy is Emerson’s famous poem, “Brahma,” produced some ten years later, which he based on a verse from the Kaṭha Upaniṣad. Here Emerson presents a vision of the immortality of the soul thoroughly indebted in both its conception and terminology to the classical philosophy of the Upanishads. Although some early readers dismissed the poem as incomprehensible, Emerson refused to change a line, adhering closely to the form and message encountered in his reading. Despite such instances of explicit indebtedness, Emerson never adopted as whole cloth what he read of Hindu or other Asian religions; on the contrary, he always utilized this material selectively as vehicles by which to extend and dramatize his own ceaseless expression. What he admired most about the Hindu books, he wrote in 1849, was their scope and largeness of treatment: they offered “excellent gymnastic for the mind.”177

Emerson in Asia

25Just as Emerson had extolled the virtues of Asian civilization to his American and European readers, it was not long before Asian readers returned the favor by proclaiming the value of Emerson’s writings among their own countrymen and women. Such readers felt a special enthusiasm and even kinship for Emerson’s essays, and found much to admire, not least his seemingly familiar visions of the self and the over-soul, his promotion of self-reliance and the God within, and his inspired paeans to nature. But as in the case of Emerson’s discovery of the East, the East’s discovery of Emerson was largely contingent upon larger movements of world history, in particular nineteenth and early twentieth-century colonial politics, and the opening up of various Asian cultures to the political, commercial, and cultural interests of the West. With the consolidation of British political power in India in the late-eighteenth century and growing European dominion throughout the Asian world generally, Emerson’s writings began to circulate through the newly established channels of colonial conquest and power. For some readers in Eastern lands, Emerson’s essays came as refreshment from an unsought source; for others, as inspiration and support in their own struggles for personal and national self-determination. But of various scattered Asian responses to Emerson’s writings in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the quickest and most concerted came from English-speaking readers in India and Japan.

  • 178 Cf. Spencer Lavan, Unitarians in India: A Study in Encounter and Response (Boston, Mass.: Skinner H (...)

26Knowledge of Emerson’s writings among nineteenth-century Western-educated Hindus owed itself initially to the educational sponsorship of the Brahmo Samaj (“The Society of God”), a religious society founded in 1828 by the Bengali social reformer, Rammohan Roy, which was closely associated with English and American Unitarians residing in India. Raised in the colonial and cosmopolitan setting of early nineteenth-century Calcutta, Roy made it his mission in life to purify the Hinduism of his day of its inveterate concern with image worship, caste restrictions, and the repression of women, particularly such notorious practices as child marriage and the immolation of widows on their husbands’ funeral pyres. In its place, Roy advocated a more tolerant, socially responsible, and monotheistic Hinduism, informed by Christian morality, as well as by the philosophical and contemplative vision of the ancient Vedic traditions, particularly the Upanishads. Roy found particular support for his reform program among members of the English Unitarian community of Bengal, whose vision of a universal faith coincided very closely with his own. Throughout the subsequent decades of the nineteenth century, under a succession of talented and charismatic leaders, the Brahmo Samaj expanded its work of religious and social reform, drawing to itself, like a magnet, a whole host of young, idealistic, Western-educated Hindus who saw in the universalizing vision of the Samaj the promise of a more progressive, independent, and cosmopolitan India.178

  • 179 JMN 16: 37.

27In 1855, Charles H. A. Dall, a Unitarian missionary from Boston, arrived in Bengal to establish an American Unitarian presence on the subcontinent and to help strengthen relations between the already-existing English Unitarian community and the Brahmo Samaj. Keen to ensure that the religious and theological contributions of the American Unitarian movement did not go unnoticed, Dall circulated copies of the complete works of William Ellery Channing, Emerson, and Theodore Parker among his Brahmo friends and students. Though Emerson had long since broken off formal relations with Boston’s mainstream Unitarian establishment, he knew Dall personally and even conferred with him upon Dall’s return to Boston in 1866 about Dall’s experiences in India.179 From this time forward, young members of the Brahmo Samaj began to absorb Emerson’s essays, together with the more obligatory fare of the British educational system.

  • 180 Protap Chunder Mozoomdar, “Emerson as Seen from India,” in The Genius and Character of Emerson: Lec (...)
  • 181 Richard Hughes Seager, ed., The Dawn of Religious Pluralism: Voices from the World’s Parliament of (...)

28One decided early beneficiary of Emerson’s writings was Protap Chandra Majumdar, a third-generation leader of the Brahmo Samaj, who rose to prominence in the Brahmo movement under the tutelage of its charismatic mid-century leader, Keshab Chandra Sen. Having been introduced to liberal Christianity by Charles Dall, Majumdar adopted a form of Christian humanism and scientific theism more devoutly pro-Christian than even that espoused by other Brahmo leaders, a fact that quickly endeared him to several important Unitarian leaders in England and the United States. Before his death in 1905, Majumdar made three trips to the West at the invitation of his Unitarian friends. In the first of these, commencing in 1883, Majumdar even made his way to Concord in hopes of paying his respects to Emerson personally, but unluckily, Emerson had passed away only a few months before. On his return to Calcutta the next year, Majumdar was asked to compose a tribute to the lately deceased Emerson on the topic, “Emerson As Seen From India,” that would be read at the 1884 session of the Concord School of Philosophy. Majumdar readily agreed and responded with as fervent a tribute as his sponsors could possibly have hoped for. Noting the suggestive parallels between Emerson’s writings and Vedic nature worship, and between Emerson’s “Over-Soul” and the teachings of the Upanishads, Majumdar extolled Emerson as the very embodiment of “the wisdom and spirituality of the Brahmans.”180 Several years later, in a lecture entitled “The World’s Religious Debt to Asia,” which he delivered at the Parliament of World Religions in 1893, Majumdar publicly made this connection once again, crediting Emerson’s “Over-Soul” as the inner link between the human and divine.181

29Appearing at the Parliament also was the young Hindu scholar-teacher, Swami Vivekananda, monastic leader of the newly emergent Ramakrishna order, who would soon seize the limelight from his senior colleague and many of the other Asian delegates as well.

6.31 Swami Vivekananda at 30, September, 1893, Chicago.

  • 182 Ibid., 421-32.
  • 183 Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1978), 4: 95.

30Born Narendranath Datta, Vivekananda was a highly gifted, Western-educated Bengali who had participated in the activities of the Brahmo Samaj as a young man, embraced its liberal Unitarian values, and strongly supported its agenda of political and social reform. The turning point in his life came, however, in his meeting in 1881 with the revered Hindu saint Ramakrishna, whose teachings and example inspired in him, and many other like-minded young Brahmos, a renewed appreciation for the spiritual power of their native faith. Vivekananda’s presentation in Chicago in 1893 created something of a sensation — few of the delegates attending the conference could muster the kind of eloquence and erudition that he did — and his fame quickly spread, leading to lecture dates and tours throughout the United States.182 In the winter of 1900, Vivekananda was back in the United States and among his various engagements was a lecture series on Sanskrit literature to the local Shakespeare Society in Pasadena, California. Commenting on the Hindu classic, the Bhagavad Gita, Vivekananda took the opportunity to point out to his audience its critical importance for Emerson and, furthermore, the importance of Emerson for all subsequent American history: “I would advise those of you who have not read that book to read it. If you only knew how much it has influenced your own country even! If you want to know the sources of Emerson’s inspiration, it is this book, the Gita. . . and that little book is responsible for the Concord Movement. All the broad movements in America, in one way or another, are indebted to the Concord party.”183 Such grandiose assertions notwithstanding, Emerson’s principal distinction, as far as Vivekananda was concerned, was that he effectively served as a conduit for the timeless wisdom of the Vedas and Upanishads.

31This early appropriation of Emerson by Western-oriented Indian teachers effectively set the terms for Emerson’s subsequent reception among Hindus, both by members of the Brahmo Samaj and among English-speaking Indian readers more generally. For Indian nationalists, including Vivekananda, Emerson was important first because of the political and spiritual value they saw in his insistence on self-reliance, and second, because they conceived Emerson’s teachings on self-reliance as having, at least in part, an Indian, even a Vedic provenance, by virtue of his own readings of classical Indian texts. This sort of response is evident even in the case of Rabindranath Tagore, the celebrated Bengali poet and Nobel laureate.

6.32 Rabindranath Tagore in his sixties, before 1930.

  • 184 Bailey Millard, “Rabindranath Tagore Discovers America,” The Bookman 44 (November 1916): 247-48. Se (...)
  • 185 Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi (Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1946) (...)

32In an interview on one of his several trips to the United States, Tagore, remarked: “I love your Emerson. In his work one finds much that is of India. In truth he made the teachings of our spiritual leaders and philosophers a part of his life.”184 Like Vivekananda, his Bengali countryman and contemporary, Tagore was an outspoken advocate of Indian independence and a warm admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, even though he opposed certain key features in Gandhi’s program of reform. In a less explicitly political context, the same pattern may be observed in the writings of the Hindu monk and missionary, Paramahansa Yogananda, who founded the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles in 1925. By this point in time the habit of invoking Emerson’s authority to illustrate and validate Hindu religious philosophy had become a matter of common practice among Western-educated Indian leaders and reformers. The famous account Yogananda wrote about his spiritual life, Autobiography of a Yogi (1946), was heavily footnoted with references to Emerson’s essays as if to confer acceptability in an American context.185

  • 186 Mohandas Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (New Delhi: Government Publications Division (...)
  • 187 W 1: 33.
  • 188 Gandhi, Collected Works, 42: 469; 67: 284.

33From a political standpoint, the most noteworthy example of Indian indebtedness to Emersonian thought, however, was perhaps Gandhi himself, India’s greatest modern statesman and principal architect of Indian independence. It appears that Gandhi had become acquainted with Emerson’s essays as early as 1907, when he cited Emerson in an essay on personal morality. Two years later, while serving a sentence in the Pretoria jail in South Africa, he was reading Emerson again, along with Ruskin, Carlyle, Tolstoy, and the Upanishads. In a letter to his son Manilal, dated March 25 of that year, Gandhi enthusiastically recommended Emerson’s essays, along with the work of Tolstoy: “Please tell Maganlalbhai that I would advise him to read Emerson’s essays. They can be had for nine pence in Durban. There is a cheap reprint out. Those essays are worth studying. He should read them, mark the important passages and then finally copy them out in a notebook. The essays to my mind contain the teaching of Indian wisdom in a Western garb.”186 Over the course of the next several decades, through a period of tumultuous social and political change in India and abroad, Gandhi periodically affirmed the importance of Emerson’s ideas. He was especially enamored of Emerson’s memorable dictum from “”: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines.”187 In a speech delivered in 1928, for example, Gandhi defended Tolstoy’s “seeming contradictions” by invoking Emerson’s choice aphorism and did so several times thereafter, when defending himself against charges that his own personal and political life was sometimes betrayed by inconsistencies.188

  • 189 Mohandas Gandhi, Young India, December 8, 1920. For a helpful analysis of the relation of self-reli (...)

34While references to Emerson do not bulk large in Gandhi’s writings — at least relative to such primary intellectual and spiritual resources as the Bhagavad Gita, Tolstoy, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Upanishads — they are nevertheless suggestive in view of the apparent close affinities between Emerson’s self-reliance and Gandhi’s program of Swaraj (“self-rule”). In general terms, Swaraj was the principal term Gandhi used to signify his overall political program to achieve Indian self-rule and independence from Britain at the earliest possible moment. The primary sense of Swaraj was thus clearly political, where it was often simply synonymous with home-rule, but it also had important economic, social, cultural, and educational applications as well. One of the main thrusts of Swaraj from an economic standpoint was the Khadi movement by means of which Gandhi hoped to recover Indian economic self-sufficiency through the boycott of British textiles and the resuscitation of India’s homegrown manufacture of cotton cloth. But while the primary application of Swaraj was broadly political, social, and economic, he always conceived of it as simply the outer expression of individual moral and spiritual self-culture. He related Swaraj to the more abstract term satyagraha (“truth-seizing”), which he himself coined, and to ahimsa (“nonviolence”) and swadeshi (“self-reliance”). Indeed, he consistently insisted that the success of the independence movement depended on the cultivation of individual self-rule, self-sufficiency, and self-reliance. In his Young India column of 1920, for example, he asserted that “Government over self is the truest Swaraj, it is synonymous with moksha or salvation, and I have seen nothing to alter the view that doctors, lawyers, and railways are no help, and are often a hindrance, to the one thing worth striving after.”189

  • 190 Mohandas K. Gandhi, Gandhi: An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth (Boston, Mass. (...)

35Gandhi discovered the link between the outer and inner dimensions of Swaraj in his reading of the Bhagavad Gita, a text that he valued highly along with other Indian nationalist leaders and of course Emerson himself. Ironically, Gandhi first encountered the Gita as a student in London on the recommendation of two young Theosophist friends in the form of Edwin Arnold’s English translation. “The book struck me as one of priceless worth,” he wrote in his autobiography many years later. “The impression has ever since been growing on me with the result that I regard it today as the book par excellence for the knowledge of Truth.”190 Setting aside the actual literal and historical setting of the poem, Gandhi sought the heart of the Gita’s teaching in the doctrine of disinterested or selfless action (karma-yoga) as represented in the second chapter. In context, the character of this teaching was clearly religious and moral, and Gandhi recognized it as such. The point of disinterested or selfless action for Gandhi was the liberation of the self, and the point of liberation of the self was the realization of God. This was the heart of Gandhi’s ethics, and the basis of his approach to social and political reform. Emerson was not the source of this crucial feature of Gandhi’s religious and political thought, but he clearly provided an important touchstone, as we see in the reference to the essay “Self-Reliance” above. And to Gandhi, as to other Indian readers before him, Emerson’s example was all the more appealing because it seemed to him so congruent with traditional Indian views of the self and the immanence of the divine — “the teaching of Indian wisdom in a Western garb.”

  • 191 Gandhi, Collected Works, 76: 264-65.

36On July 1, 1942, six months after the United States entered World War II, Gandhi drafted a letter to Franklin Delano Roosevelt apprising him of his views regarding India’s support for and participation in the ongoing war. Writing by this point as the acknowledged head of the Indian National Congress and leader of the independence movement, Gandhi began his letter to the American President in warmly personal terms, mentioning his many American friends and correspondents, and the scores of Indians then receiving higher education in the U. S. He then adds the apparently innocuous remark: “I have profited greatly by the writings of Thoreau and Emerson.” Pleasantries aside, Gandhi then proceeds to make clear that his own support for the Allied cause, like that of the Indian National Congress as a whole, would be necessarily contingent on the full realization of Indian independence, adding the pointed observation: “I venture to think that the Allied declaration that the Allies are fighting to make the world safe for freedom of the individual and for democracy sounds hollow so long as India, and for that matter, Africa are exploited by Great Britain and America has the Negro problem in her own home.” To Roosevelt, the logic of Gandhi’s political position could hardly find a more compelling articulation. The seemingly casual juxtaposition of Emerson and Thoreau, two icons of American freedom, with India’s actual subjugation to British imperial rule highlighted the political duplicity in the Allied expectation of Indian support.191

6.33 Mahatma Gandhi in his early 60s, c. late 1930s.

6.34 Jawarlal Nehru at 53 with Gandhi at 73, 1942.

  • 192 Lawrence Buell, Emerson (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003), 195.
  • 193 For a fuller analysis of the Indian reception of Emerson and Emerson’s reception of India, see my p (...)

37Even Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi’s successor as president of India, though less concerned with any supposed affinities between Emersonian and Indian thought, nevertheless found in Emerson’s essays support for burgeoning Hindu self-reliance and national self-determination.192 While Nehru obviously read Emerson in more overtly political terms than did some of his predecessors, none of these Indian responses can be entirely separated from the larger colonial and postcolonial situation, if only because this was what brought Emerson to India in the first place. To read Emerson as a Western exponent of ancient Vedic wisdom served not only to inspire these modern Indian readers in terms they could appreciate, but also to bolster their claims for independence and a pivotal position in world civilization.193

  • 194 The full text of Emerson’s remarks was reprinted verbatim in the Boston newspaper, The Commonwealth(...)

38Hardly less significant from a cultural standpoint was the response of Japanese readers and scholars to Emerson’s writings, especially during the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) eras of modern Japanese political history. The first significant encounter apparently took place in Boston on July 30, 1872 when an assemblage of local merchants and dignitaries, including Emerson himself, hosted a delegation of fifty Japanese officials at the Revere House. Although Emerson was still reeling from the devastating impact of an accidental fire that nearly burned down the family home in Concord a few days before, he responded to the invitation to speak with characteristic aplomb. In his brief remarks to the assembled guests, he candidly acknowledged what he described as his “extreme ignorance of Japan,” before going on to summarize previous Western contacts with the Far East, up to the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry off the coast of Japan in 1852, and highlighting Japan’s distinctive contributions to world culture. “I remember,” he noted, “that in my college days our professor in Greek used to tell us always in his records of history, ‘all tends to the mysterious East,’ and so slow was this progress that only now the threads are gathered up of relation between the farthest East and the farthest West.”194

  • 195 See Yoshio Takanashi, “Emerson, Japan, and Neo-Confucianism,” ESQ 48 (1st and 2nd Quarters 2002): 4 (...)

39Sponsoring the Japanese embassy’s momentous visit to the United States in 1872 was the new, outward-looking Meiji government in Tokyo, which had come to power only a few years before. The restoration of the Meiji emperor had quickly resulted in the abandonment of the old feudal system and, eventually, Japan’s emergence as a modern industrial state. While beholden to the West for recent advances in science and technology, Japanese rulers also saw the need to retain and foster certain indigenous spiritual traditions, in particular, the naturalistic traditions of Shinto, which became, in effect, Japan’s state religion, and Neo-Confucianism, which had combined classical Confucian ethics with a more contemplative and transcendentalist metaphysics. Japan thus found itself on the cusp of change, and for a number of influential scholars and teachers, Emerson was seen to support both the new selective respect for things Western and the ancient indigenous wisdom traditions of China and Japan.195 Like the Hindu teachers cited above, some Japanese scholars saw features of their own most valued traditions reflected back to them in the writings of this man of the modern west.

40One of the first personal expressions of Emerson’s impact on Japan comes to us from an eyewitness — the young Japanese baron, Naibu Kanda, who had been sent to Amherst College for his education.

6.35 Naibu Kanda, c. 21, 1879.

  • 196 Bunsho Jugaku, A Bibliography of Ralph Waldo Emerson in Japan from 1878 to 1935 (Kyoto: The Sunward (...)

41On March 19, 1879, Kanda recorded in his journal his reactions to a talk on “mental temperance” that Emerson had given earlier that evening to a rapt gathering of Amherst College students. “We sat there for one hour charmed by every sentence which he uttered,” Kanda wrote, “and when he ended I could not but feel that I had received an impetus toward a life of greater simplicity and truthfulness.” For Kanda the magic of Emerson’s words never entirely wore off. Returning to Japan in 1879, the young baron soon began what became a life-long career as an English instructor at Tokyo University, from which position he dispensed Emerson’s essays and communicated his enthusiasm to a willing generation of Japanese readers.196

42By the next decade, Emerson’s writings had also caught the attention of a select group of Japanese scholars and writers, including Tokutomi Soho, a popular social commentator and advocate of modernization, who included quotations from Emerson’s writings in the literary magazine Komumin no tomo (“The People’s Friend”). In 1888, Nakamura Masanao produced a Japanese translation of Emerson’s essay “Compensation,” which was followed two years later, by Sato Shigeki’s translation of the essay, “Civilization.” By the 1890’s, Emerson’s writings began to exert a strong influence on Japanese literary culture more widely, and before long, quotations from Emerson found their way into Japanese newspapers, magazines, and even common usage as well. One of the chief sponsors of this enthusiastic reception of Emerson in Japan was the Romantic writer Kitamura Tokoku, who in 1894 produced a Japanese biography of Emerson, Emerson, the first such treatment of any American author.

  • 197 Takanashi, “Emerson, Japan, and Neo-Confucianism,” 41-43. See also Takanashi, Emerson and Neo-Confu (...)
  • 198 Yukio Irie, “Why the Japanese People Find a Kinship with Emerson and Thoreau,” ESQ 27 (2nd Quarter (...)

43Kitamura also contributed numerous short essays on Emerson to the journal Bungakukai (“Literary World”), which had become the mouthpiece of a small group of self-avowed “romantic” writers, including Kunikida Doppo and Tokutomi Roka, who looked to Kitamura as their leader and shared in his admiration of Emerson. The high tide of Japanese interest in Emerson came, however, during the Taisho period. In 1917, Hirata Tokuboku and Togawa Shukotsu brought out a translation of Emerson’s complete works in eight volumes, thus laying a firm foundation for the further propagation and popularization of Emerson’s writings in Japan throughout the next few decades. Although popular interest in Emerson tapered off in the years leading up to the Second World War, Emerson studies enjoyed a brief revival immediately following the war when Emerson was viewed as a principal philosopher of American democracy.197 For readers in Japan, Emerson’s writings expressed and resonated with their love of the natural world, their admiration for simplicity in art and life, and their reverence for a metaphysical dimension of reality — be it the great emptiness or the over-soul — that infused and transcended the material world.198

44Among early Japanese interpreters, however, perhaps the most noteworthy for Western readers — and consequential from an inter-religious, inter-cultural, and political standpoint — was D. T. Suzuki, the pre-eminent exponent of Zen Buddhism in the West for much of the twentieth century and, for many early students, its principal interpreter.

6.36 D. T. Suzuki at 90, 1960.

45It was Suzuki’s representation of Zen, after all, that galvanized the interest of the first Anglo-American students of Zen Buddhism — from such Beat writers as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, to the philosopher Alan Watts — and through them, of later more committed practitioners, as well. In retrospect, Suzuki’s remarkable success in making Zen not only palatable but compelling to many Americans owed itself in considerable part to his success in presenting Zen in recognizably Western forms of discourse and understanding. By the same token, Zen as Suzuki conceived of it superseded all other forms of spirituality — East as well as West. The effect was to confer on Japan a position of religious, cultural, and philosophical superiority.

  • 199 For the now classic critique of the interplay between Zen and Japanese nationalism in Suzuki’s work (...)

46Suzuki arrived in the United States for the first time in 1897 to assist Paul Carus, editor of the journal Open Court, in interpreting and translating various Asian religious and philosophical classics for Western readers. Suzuki’s apprenticeship with Carus effectively inaugurated a dialogue and collaboration with Western students of Asian, and especially Buddhist, culture that would continue until his death in 1966. Beginning in the decade of the 1930s, Suzuki turned his attention increasingly to the propagation of Zen among Western readers. Several books published during this period dealt extensively with the nature of Zen and its relationship to the Japanese character. Perhaps the most influential of these, Zen and Japanese Culture (1959), was first presented in a series of lectures that Suzuki presented in the West in 1938 during the run-up to the Second World War. Here he described Zen as a form of pure unmediated experience, beyond all subject-object dichotomies and conceptual distinctions, which was the foundation and essence of all religious experience. In Suzuki’s understanding, Zen was not only the essence of other forms of Buddhism, but also of all religions and philosophies generally. By the same token, he was quick to conceive of it as uniquely characteristic of Japanese spirituality and the Japanese national character. For Suzuki, Japan was the natural home of Zen and only among the Japanese had it assumed its highest forms of expression.199

  • 200 Daisetz T. Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1959), 343- (...)

47Crucial to the formation of Suzuki’s conception of Zen as a universal form of religious experience was his reading of several Western philosophers, not least Emerson himself. In Zen and Japanese Culture, Suzuki pauses at one point to note the “deep impressions made upon me while reading Emerson in my college days.” Yet, like the Indian readers discussed previously, he conceived of Emerson less as an original, distinctively Western source in his own right than as a Western reflection of essentially Asian insights. Citing a reference to Buddhism in one of Emerson’s letters, Suzuki notes: “Emerson’s allusion to ‘sky void idealism’ is interesting. Apparently he means the Buddhist theory of śūnyatā (“emptiness” or “void”). Although it is doubtful how deeply he entered into the spirit of this theory, which is the basic principle of the Buddhist thought and from which Zen starts on its mystic appreciation of Nature, it is really wonderful to see the American mind, as represented by the exponents of Transcendentalism, even trying to probe into the abysmal darkness of the Oriental fantasy.” Indeed, reading Emerson for the first time, he goes on to note, was like “making acquaintance with myself.” Yet, while Emerson’s efforts were clearly laudable, they were still, in his view, rather elementary: “The American Transcendentalist’s attitude toward Nature has no doubt a real mystical note, but the Zen masters go far beyond it and are really incomprehensible.”200

  • 201 Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture, 344.

48As had Vivekananda before him, not only did Suzuki construe Emerson as a Western exponent of essentially Asian — in this case Japanese — wisdom, he also conceived of Transcendentalism as a sort of wellspring of subsequent American culture: “Let us note here, in passing, how Oriental thoughts and feelings filtered into the American mind in the nineteenth century. The Transcendentalist movement begun by the poets and philosophers of Concord is still continuing all over America. While the commercial and industrial expansion of America in the Far East and all the world over is a significant event of the twentieth century, we must acknowledge at the same time that the Orient is contributing its quota to the intellectual wealth of the West — American as well as European.”201 Here in this pointed juxtaposition of American commercial wealth with Japanese intellectual wealth, we witness yet another instance of the ideological and political uses to which Emerson was put in the colonial and postcolonial eras. Emerson provided Suzuki with a pretext to push back against the mounting political and cultural influence of the West by virtue of Emerson’s own estimable but imperfect efforts to incorporate the spiritual wisdom of the East — and even to assert the cultural and religious superiority of Japan in the years leading up to World War II.

49What we are left with then is another vivid instance of the complex cultural exchange at work in so many of these early East-West encounters. Like his Indian contemporaries and predecessors, Suzuki essentially viewed Emerson as an expression of Asian thought by virtue of Emerson’s sometime reliance on Asian traditions as an expression of his own thought. None of these Asian readers apparently conceived of Emerson or his writings in primarily a political sense. It was his literary, philosophical, or religious contributions that struck them most of all. Yet how these exchanges took place, whether from West to East or East to West, and what they came to signify, were strongly determined by underlying political realities. Asian intellectuals and political leaders from Vivekananda to Suzuki immediately recognized the potential of Emerson’s writings to aid in the realization of their own visions of self-determination and social justice, and wasted no time in enlisting his help.

Notes

156 See Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance: Europe’s Discovery of India and the East, 1680-1880, trans. Gene Patterson-Black and Victor Reinking (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984).

157 For full-length studies of early American interest in Asian religions, see Carl T. Jackson, The Oriental Religions and American Literature: Nineteenth-Century Explorations (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981); and Arthur Versluis, American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).

158 For the following treatment of Emerson’s Asian readings, see also my previous article: “Asia,” in Ralph Waldo Emerson in Context, ed. Wesley T. Mott (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 40-48.

159 Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 16 vols, eds. William H. Gilman, et al. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960-1982), 1: 12. Hereafter JMN.

160 JMN 2: 86; Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 10 vols, eds. Ralph L. Rusk and Eleanor Tilton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1939-1994), 1: 116-17. Hereafter L. See also Alan D. Hodder, “Emerson, Rammohan Roy, and the Unitarians,” in J. Myerson (ed.), Studies in the American Renaissance (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1988), 133-34.

161 JMN 1: 83.

162 JMN 4: 283.

163 JMN 3: 362.

164 L 1: 322-23; 6: 245-46.

165 The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 10 vols, eds. Robert E. Spiller, et al. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971-2013), 1: 80. Hereafter CW.

166 Cf. The Dial: A Magazine for Literature, Philosophy, and Religion (New York: Russell & Russell, 1961), 3: 82.

167 For an instructive analysis of the parallels between Emersonian and Neo-Confucian thought, see Yoshio Takanashi, Emerson and Neo-Confucianism: Crossing Paths over the Pacific (New York: Macmillan, 2014).

168 The Dial, 3: 493-94.

169 The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Centenary Edition, 12 vols., ed. Edward Waldo Emerson (Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 1903-1904), 11: 472-73. HereafterW.

170 See Arthur Christy, The Orient in American Transcendentalism: A Study of Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott (New York: Octagon Books, 1978), 137-54.

171 L 3: 290.

172 JMN 10: 360.

173 W 4: 28.

174 W 4: 30.

175 Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Random House, 1979).

176 CW 6: 313. Cf. Christy, Orient in American Transcendentalism, 73-113.

177 JMN 11: 137.

178 Cf. Spencer Lavan, Unitarians in India: A Study in Encounter and Response (Boston, Mass.: Skinner House, 1977); David Kopf, The Brahmo Samaj and the Shaping of the Modern Indian Mind (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979).

179 JMN 16: 37.

180 Protap Chunder Mozoomdar, “Emerson as Seen from India,” in The Genius and Character of Emerson: Lectures in the Concord School of Philosophy, ed. F. B. Sanborn (1885). Reprinted in The Genius and Character of Emerson: Lectures in the Concord School of Philosophy, ed. F. B. Sanborn (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1971), 365-71.

181 Richard Hughes Seager, ed., The Dawn of Religious Pluralism: Voices from the World’s Parliament of Religions, 1893 (La Salle, IL: Open Court Press, 1993), 444.

182 Ibid., 421-32.

183 Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1978), 4: 95.

184 Bailey Millard, “Rabindranath Tagore Discovers America,” The Bookman 44 (November 1916): 247-48. See also R. K. Gupta, The Great Encounter: A Study of Indo-American Literary and Cultural Relations (Maryland: Riverdale Company, 1987), 131-37.

185 Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi (Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1946). See notes to pp. 27, 40, 44, 63, 69, 270.

186 Mohandas Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (New Delhi: Government Publications Division, 1979), 9: 208-09, 241.

187 W 1: 33.

188 Gandhi, Collected Works, 42: 469; 67: 284.

189 Mohandas Gandhi, Young India, December 8, 1920. For a helpful analysis of the relation of self-reliance to other aspects of Gandhi’s thought, see Raghavan Iyer, “Introduction,” in The Moral and Political Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, ed. Raghavan Iyer (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), 9.

190 Mohandas K. Gandhi, Gandhi: An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth (Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 1993), 67.

191 Gandhi, Collected Works, 76: 264-65.

192 Lawrence Buell, Emerson (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003), 195.

193 For a fuller analysis of the Indian reception of Emerson and Emerson’s reception of India, see my previous article, “‘The Best of Brahmins’: India Reading Emerson Reading India,” Nineteenth-Century Prose 30 (Spring/Fall 2003): 337-68.

194 The full text of Emerson’s remarks was reprinted verbatim in the Boston newspaper, The Commonwealth, on August 10, 1872.

195 See Yoshio Takanashi, “Emerson, Japan, and Neo-Confucianism,” ESQ 48 (1st and 2nd Quarters 2002): 41-45.

196 Bunsho Jugaku, A Bibliography of Ralph Waldo Emerson in Japan from 1878 to 1935 (Kyoto: The Sunward Press, 1947), xi-xiii.

197 Takanashi, “Emerson, Japan, and Neo-Confucianism,” 41-43. See also Takanashi, Emerson and Neo-Confucianism. We also wish to thank our colleague Hideo Kawasumi of Seikei University for information on Emerson’s reception in Japan.

198 Yukio Irie, “Why the Japanese People Find a Kinship with Emerson and Thoreau,” ESQ 27 (2nd Quarter 1962): 13-16.

199 For the now classic critique of the interplay between Zen and Japanese nationalism in Suzuki’s work, see Robert Scharf, “The Zen of Japanese Nationalism,” History of Religions 33: 1 (August 1993): 1-43.

200 Daisetz T. Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1959), 343-44.

201 Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture, 344.

Table des illustrations

Légende 6.23 Rammohan Roy at 50, 1822.
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Légende 6.24 Victor Cousin, late 50s ‒ early 60s, c. 1850s.
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Légende 6.25 “Ethnical Scriptures, Sayings of Confucius,” The Dial, 1843.
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Légende 6.26 Confucius, 551-479 BCE.
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Légende 6.27 Saadi Shirazi in a rose garden, c. 1645.
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Légende 6.28 Title page, Hafiz of Shiraz, Selections from his Poems, 1875.
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Légende 6.29 Frontispiece to Hafiz of Shiraz.
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Légende 6.30 Title page, The Bhagvat-Geeta, translated by Charles Wilkins.
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Légende 6.31 Swami Vivekananda at 30, September, 1893, Chicago.
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Légende 6.32 Rabindranath Tagore in his sixties, before 1930.
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Légende 6.33 Mahatma Gandhi in his early 60s, c. late 1930s.
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Légende 6.34 Jawarlal Nehru at 53 with Gandhi at 73, 1942.
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Légende 6.35 Naibu Kanda, c. 21, 1879.
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Légende 6.36 D. T. Suzuki at 90, 1960.
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