Edwin Arnold

English poet and journalist (1832–1904)
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Sir Edwin Arnold (June 10, 1832March 24, 1904) was an English poet and journalist who is most known for his work The Light of Asia.

Birthless and deathless and changeless remainaineth the spirit forever


  • Birthless and deathless and changeless remainaineth the spirit forever;
    Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems!
    • The Song Celestial' quoted in The Other Side of Death, by C.W. Leadbeater (1903)
  • He who died at Azan sends
    This to comfort all his friends:—
    Faithful friends! It lies I know
    Pale and white and cold as snow;
    And ye say, 'Abdallah’s dead!'
    Weeping at the feet and head.
    I can see your falling tears,
    I can hear your sighs and prayers;
    Yet I smile and whisper this:
    I am not the thing you kiss.
    Cease your tears and let it lie;
    It was mine—it is not I.
    • After Death in Arabia.
  • We are the voices of the wandering wind,
    Which moan for rest and rest can never find;
    Lo! as the wind is, so is mortal life,
    A moan, a sigh, a sob, a storm, a strife.
    • The Deva's Song.

The Light of Asia (1879)


For larger collection of quotes see The Light of Asia, by Edwin Arnold
(Full text online multiple formats)

  • The Buddhas who have been and who shall be, of these am I and what they did, I do.
  • Below the highest sphere four Regents sit
    Who rule our world, and under them are zones
    Nearer, but high, where saintliest spirits dead
    Wait thrice ten thousand years, then live again;
    And on Lord Buddha, waiting in that sky,
    Came for our sakes the five sure signs of birth
    So that the Devas knew the signs, and said
    "Buddha will go again to help the World."
    "Yea!" spake He, "now I go to help the World.
    This last of many times; for birth and death
    End hence for me and those who learn my Law.
    I will go down among the Sakyas,
    Under the southward snows of Himalay,
    Where pious people live and a just King."
    • Book The First.
  • Now, when our Lord was come to eighteen years,
    The King commanded that there should be built
    Three stately houses, one of hewn square beams
    With cedar lining, warm for winter days;
    One of veined marbles, cool for summer heat;
    And one of burned bricks, with blue tiles bedecked,
    Pleasant at seed-time, when the champaks bud--
    Subha, Suramma, Ramma, were their names.
    Delicious gardens round about them bloomed,
    Streams wandered wild and musky thickets stretched,
    With many a bright pavilion and fair lawn
    In midst of which Siddartha strayed at will,
    Some new delight provided every hour;
    And happy hours he knew, for life was rich,
    With youthful blood at quickest; yet still came
    The shadows of his meditation back,
    As the lake's silver dulls with driving clouds.
    • Book The Second.

Quotes about

  • Like everything the British poet Edwin Arnold wrote, The Light of Asia was quickly written: a poem in eight books of about five hundred lines each, mostly in blank verse, composed over a period of several months when Arnold was busy with other concerns. Immediately upon its publication in the summer of 1879, the poem began to sell copies and win attention. It was a life of Siddhartha Gautama, told from the point of view of “an Indian Buddhist” (so read the title page) in high English style. The immediate sensation surrounding The Light of Asia was remarkable: for some time on both sides of the Atlantic, newspapers and dining rooms were charged with discussion about the Buddha, his teaching, and Arnold’s presentation of Buddhism. The book’s success was also sustained. By 1885 the authorized English version had gone through thirty editions. Pirated editions, which went for as little as three cents in the U.S., make a count of the book’s circulation impossible, but it has been estimated at a million copies (not far short of Huckleberry Finn). After thirty years it had become one of the undisputed bestsellers of Victorian England and America, had been translated into a number of languages (German, Dutch, French, Czech, Italian, Swedish, Esperanto), and had inspired a stage version and even an opera.
    • Stirring the Victorian Imagination, By Wendell Piez, Tricycle Magazine, (Winter 1993)
  • Arnold’s great project was a blank verse poem based loosely on the Lalitavistara Sutra. It ran for forty-one thousand words and was composed in eight volumes and published in 1879 as the Light of Asia: the Great Renunciation. The Light of Asia was an instant success and would capture the English speaking imagination. It would be reprinted numerous times in England and the United States. The best estimate I could find was sixty editions in England and another eighty in the US. The Light has also been translated into many languages, including Hindi. But, most importantly, it is generally credited as the first book to bring the life and teachings of Gautama Siddhartha broadly to the attention of the English speaking public.

See also

Modern Buddhist writers 19th century to date
Theravada / Vipassana movement B. R. AmbedkarṬhānissaro BhikkhuAjahn ChahAnagarika DharmapalaJoseph GoldsteinHenepola GunaratanaNoah LevineNyanaponika Thera
Mahayana Daisaku IkedaYin ShunAlfred Bloom
Vajrayana Pema ChödrönKelsang GyatsoTenzin GyatsoMatthieu RicardRobert ThurmanChögyam Trungpa
Zen Taisen DeshimaruThích Nhất HạnhPhilip KapleauD. T. SuzukiHan Yong-unHsing YunSheng Yen
Other and Secular Buddhism Stephen BatchelorRobert Wright
Scholars Lokesh ChandraWalter Evans-WentzRichard GombrichThomas Rhys Davids
Non-Buddhists influenced by Buddhism Edwin ArnoldHelena BlavatskyFritjof CapraLeonard CohenAlexandra David-NéelHermann HesseCarl JungJon Kabat-ZinnFriedrich NietzscheHenry Steel OlcottRajneeshHelena RoerichJ. D. SalingerArthur SchopenhauerGary SnyderAlan WattsAlfred North Whitehead