The autobiography of Dharmanand Kosambi (1876–1947), pioneering scholar of Pali and Buddhist Studies, is one of the most moving and spellbinding life stories ever written.
Born in rural Goa, Dharmanand came under the spell of the Buddha’s teachings during his adolescence. At an early age he set off on an incredible journey of austere self-training across the length and breadth of Britain’s Indian Empire, halting to educate himself at places connected with Buddhism. His sojourns included living in Sri Lanka to master Pali, in a Burmese cave as a bhikshu, and in some viharas of North India—begging for monastic sustenance—as well as in Nepal and Sikkim which he reached after arduous, sometimes barefoot, treks. Over these itinerant years Dharmanand acquired such mastery of the Buddhist canon that he was variously appointed to teach and research at Calcutta, Baroda, Harvard, and Leningrad.
As a thinker Dharmanand blended Buddhist ethics, Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of truth and non-violence, and the ideals of socialism. He exchanged letters with the Mahatma, worked for his causes, and died in the approved Buddhist/Jain manner by voluntary starvation at Sevagram ashram. Arguably, no Indian scholar’s life has been as exemplary as Dharmanand’s, or has approximated as closely to the nobility and saintliness of the Mahatma’s.
Meera Kosambi’s Introduction contextualizes the life, career, and achievement of one of modern India’s greatest scholar-savants.
Meera Kosambi’s books include Dharmanand Kosambi: The Essential Writings (edited, 2010), Crossing Thresholds: Feminist Essays in Social History (2007), and Feminist Vision or ‘Treason against Men’? Kashibai Kanitkar and the Engendering of Marathi Literature (2008).