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Caroline Augusta Foley Rhys Davids

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Caroline Augusta Foley Rhys Davids, M.A., D.Litt. (1857-1942) was born a Christian in England and decided to learn Pali and the teachings of Buddha in an attempt to disprove Buddhism. She then decided to become a Buddhist after discovering the profound teachings of Buddha. She dedicated her life to translating the discourses of the Buddha from the original Pali to English. She was the second president of the Pali Text Society. Her husband, Thomas Rhys Davids was also a Buddhist scholar and translator. Their contributions were significant because they paved the way for future translators. By making the teachings more accessible, Buddhism has spread to many western nations.


 Caroline Augusta Foley Rhys Davids (1857–1942) was a Pāli language scholar and translator, and from 1923-1942 president of the Pali Text Society which was founded by her husband T.W. Rhys Davids whom she married in 1894.

    1 Early Life and Education
    2 Marriage and Career
    3 Influence of Spiritualism
    4 Family
    5 Major Works and Translations
        5.1 Original Works
        5.2 Translations
    6 External links
        6.1 Articles by C. A. F. Rhys Davids

 Early Life and Education

Caroline Augusta Foley was born on September 27, 1857 in Wadhurst, East Sussex to John Foley and Caroline Elizabeth Foley (maiden name Caroline Elizabeth Windham). Caroline was born into a family with a long ecclesiastic history--her father, John Foley, served as the vicar of Wadhurst from 1847-88; her grandfather and great grandfather had served as rector of Holt, Worcestershire and vicar of Mordiford, Herefordshire, respectively. She studied at University College, London studying mainly economics, philosophy, and psychology. While studying there, she also began studying Sanskrit under Reinhold Rost. As a student, she was already a prolific writer and a vocal campaigner in the movements for poverty relief, children's rights, and women's suffrage. She completed her BA in 1886 and her MA in 1889.

 Marriage and Career

A mutual friend introduced Caroline and her future husband T. W. Rhys Davids, knowing that they both shared an interest in Indic studies, and they married soon afterwards. T. W. Rhys Davids encouraged Caroline to pursue Buddhist studies and do research about Buddhist psychology and the place of women in Buddhism. Thus, among her first works were a translation of the Dhamma-sangaṇi, a text from the Theravāda Abhidhamma Piṭaka, which she published under the title A Buddhist manual of psychological ethics: Being a translation, now made for the first time, from the original Pali, of the first book in the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, entitled :Dhamma-sangaṇi (Compendium of States or Phenomena) (1900); a second early translation was that of the Therīgāthā, a canonical work of verses traditionally ascribed to early Buddhist nuns (under the title Psalms of the Sisters [1909]).

She obtained the position of Lecture in Indian Philosophy at Manchester University in 1910 and held that position until 1913. Between 1918 and 1933 she worked as Lecturer in the History of Buddhism at the School of Oriental Studies (later renamed the School of Oriental and African Studies). While teaching, she simultaneously acted as the Honorary Secretary of the Pali Text Society which had been started by her husband to transcribe and translate Pāli Buddhist texts. She held that position from 1907 until her husband's death in 1922; the following year, she took his place as President of the Society.

Her translations of Pāli texts were at times idiosyncratic but her contribution was considerable. She was one of the first scholars to attempt translations of Abhidhamma texts, known for their complexity and difficult use of technical language. She also translated large portions of the Sutta Piṭaka, or edited and supervised the translations of other PTS scholars. Beyond this, she also wrote numerous articles and popular books on Buddhism; it is probably in these manuals and journal articles where her controversial volte-face towards several key points of Theravāda doctrine can first be seen. Although earlier in her career she accepted more mainstream beliefs about Buddhist teachings, later in life she rejected the concept of anattā as an "original" Buddhist teaching. She appears to have influenced several of her students in this direction, including A. K. Coomaraswamy, F. L. Woodward, and I. B. Horner.

Influence of Spiritualism

Unlike her husband, C.A.F. Rhys Davids became strongly influenced by spiritualism and possibly by Theosophy. Of the two, it was probably spiritualism and her own education in psychology under George Croom Robertson at University College London which most influenced her later reinterpretation of Buddhism. It should be noted that she seems to have had little actual interaction with Theosophical groups until very late in her career, and can even be seen to criticize Theosophical belief in some works. She became particularly involved in various forms of psychic communication with the dead, first attempting to reach her dead son through seances and then through automatic writing. She later claimed to have developed clairaudience, as well as the ability to pass into the next world when dreaming.
[edit] Family

Caroline and Thomas had three children, Vivien Brynhilda (1895), Nesta Enid (1900) and Arthur Rhys Davids (1897), a fighter ace pronounced missing in action in 1918 during World War I. She died in Chipstead, Surrey, June 26, 1942.

 Major Works and Translations

 Original Works

    A Buddhist manual of psychological ethics: Being a translation, now made for the first time, from the original Pali, of the first book in the Abhidhamma Pitaka, entitled :Dhamma-sangaṇi (Compendium of States or Phenomena) (1900)

    Buddhism: A Study of the Buddhist Norm (1912)

    Buddhist Psychology: An Inquiry into the Analysis and Theory of Mind in Pali Literature (1914)

    Old Creeds and New Needs (1923)

    The Will to Peace (1923)

    Will & Willer (1926)

    Gotama the Man (1928)

    Sakya: or, Buddhist Origins (1928)

    Stories of the Buddha : Being Selections from the Jataka (1929)

    Kindred Sayings on Buddhism (1930)

    The Milinda-questions : An Inquiry into its Place in the History of Buddhism with a Theory as to its Author (1930)

    A Manual of Buddhism for Advanced Students (1932)

    Outlines of Buddhism: A Historical Sketch (1934)

    Buddhism: Its Birth and Dispersal (1934) - A completely rewritten work to replace Buddhism: A Study of the Buddhist Norm (1912)

    Indian Religion and Survival: A Study (1934)

    The Birth of Indian Psychology and its Development in Buddhism (1936)

    To Become or not to Become (That is the Question!): Episodes in the History of an Indian Word (1937)

    What is your Will (1937) - A rewrite of Will & Willer"

    What was the original gospel in 'Buddhism'? (1938)

    More about the Hereafter (1939)

    Wayfarer's Words, V. I-III - A compilation of most of C. A. F. Rhys Davids articles and lectures, mostly from the latter part of her career. V. I (1940), V. II (1941), V. III (1942 - posthumously)


    Psalms of the Early Buddhists: Volume I. Psalms of the Sisters. By C. A. F. Rhys Davids. London: Pali Text Society, 1909. On-line edition at the Celebration of Women Writers

  External links

    Mrs. Rhys Davids' Dialogue with Psychology (1893-1924) By Teresina Rowell Havens. Philosophy East & West. V. 14 (1964) pp. 51-58

  Articles by C. A. F. Rhys Davids

    The Patna Congress and the "Man" By C. A. F. Rhys Davids. The Journal Of The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain And Ireland. (1929) pp. 27-36
    The Soul-Theory in Buddhism By C. A. F. Rhys Davids. The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1903) pp. 587-591
    Buddhism and Ethics By C. A. F. Rhys Davids. The Buddhist Review Vol. 1 No. 1. (1909) pp. 13-23
    Pali Text Society By Shwe Zan Aung and C. A. F. Rhys Davids. The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. (1917) pp. 403-406
    Original Buddhism and Amṛta By C. A. F. Rhys Davids. Melanges chinois et bouddhiques. July 1939. pp. 371-382
    Intellect and the Khandha Doctrine By C. A. F. Rhys Davids. The Buddhist Review. Vol. 2. No. 1 (1910) pp. 99-115
    Notes on Early Economic Conditions in Northern India By C. A. F. Rhys Davids. The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. (1901) pp. 859-888
    On the Will in Buddhism By C. A. F. Rhys Davids. The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. (1898) pp. 47-59