Mediterranean Joyce Meditates on Buddha

Eishiro Ito


  Joyce learned much about Buddhism when he lived in Trieste and referred to it in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.  Buddhism and Oriental pacifism were concepts that interested Joyce, especially in his Triestine days around World War I.  He appears to have learned Buddhism through Theosophy in his early days.  This paper aims to discuss how Buddhism influenced Joyce's works. 
  Joyce attempted to absorb all kinds of religious and philosophical teachings and parodied many in his texts.  In 1903, Joyce wrote a review of H. Fielding-Hall's The Soul of a People, in which he conveyed a romantic view of Hall's version of Burmese Buddhism as "a wise passive philosophy"and sympathized with Buddhist methods of non-violence and pacifism. One major source of Joyce's Buddhist allusions was Henry S. Olcott's The Buddhist Catechism (1881).  Joyce's copy of the book was dated May 7, 1901.  Although the book remained popular and authoritative in his day, it cannot be regarded as a reliable Buddhist handbook because it preaches an occultist version of Buddhism or Theosophy.
  There are numerous allusions to Buddhism in Joyce's works.  In this paper I reinterpret Joyce's Triestine works, especially Ulysses, using The Buddhist Catechism and Mme Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled mainly.

The full version is available in Language and Culture, No.5 (Center for Language and Culture Education and Research, Iwate Prefectural University, January 2003), 53-64.
Copyright 2003 Eishiro Ito



  Ireland has been guided and shaped by the Catholic Church, which James Joyce once tried to follow, but he could not.  He chose to become a gpriest of beauty,h rather than a priest of Roman Catholicism.  When he lost faith in Catholicism, he found an alternative in Dublin, that is, Theosophy or Eastern mysticism.  He might have visited the Dublin Lodge of the Theosophical Society on the introduction of William Butler Yeats or George Russell around 1902.  Joyce owned five books by Theosophical authors: the two books by Annie Besant were acquired by Joyce in Trieste.   He came to know about the Buddha and Buddhism.  It is likely that he saw the reclining Buddha statue at the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin at the turn of the century.
  When Joyce left Dublin for the Continent, he seems to have left behind most of his Theosophical books.  But he did not forget Theosophy and the Buddha in Trieste at all.  In June 1905, Trieste, Joyce finished composing Chapter 24 of Stephen Hero in which Stephen Dedalus refers to the Buddha in comparison with Jesus Christ.1  Stephen also mentions the Buddha and Theosophy in Ulysses, and Leopold and Molly Bloom also monologue on the Eastern god.  Buddhism and Oriental pacifism were interesting concepts for Joyce, especially in his Triestine days around World War I.  Later Joyce attempted to absorb all kinds of religious and philosophical teachings and parodied many in his texts Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.
  Stuart Gilbert remembered in James Joyce's gUlyssesh that Joyce asked him if he had read any of Alfred Percy Sinnett's Buddhist works as well as Victor Berard's Les Pheniciens et l'Odyssee(viii).  Gilbert noted that Berard's book gave Joyce many hints to reconstruct the Mediterranean scene in the age of the rhapsodists (vii).  Then can we say the same thing about Sinnett's Buddhist works?  Joyce seems to have derived some key ideas from them. My aim is to discuss how Buddhism influenced Joyce's works.

I. Joyce and Buddhism

  In his early days, Joyce became interested in Buddhism as a philosophical alternative to Christianity.  In 1903, Joyce wrote a review of H. Fielding-Hall's The Soul of a People, in which he conveyed a romantic view of Hall's version of Burmese Buddhism as "a wise passive philosophy"(CW 93)2:

Our civilization, bequeathed to us by fierce adventurers, eaters of meat and hunters, is so full of hurry and combat, so busy about many things which perhaps are of no importance, that it cannot but see something feeble in a civilization which smiles as it refuses to make the battlefield the test of excellence. (CW 94)

  It clearly shows Joyce's sympathy with Buddhist methods of non-violence and pacifism.  But the review did not provide many details on Buddhism.
  In Stephen Hero, Stephen monologues about the Buddha, commenting on the street woman in the black straw hat after he was disappointed when Emma told him about the rumor that he was a mystic and read dreadful books:

  The woman in the black straw hat has never heard of the name of Buddha but Buddha's
  character seems to have been superior to that of Jesus with respect to unaffected
  sanctity. I wonder how she would like that story of Yasodhara's kissing Buddha after
  his illumination and penance. Renan's Jesus is a trifle Buddhistic but the fierce
  eaters and drinkers of the western world would never worship such a figure. Blood
  will have blood. (SH 190)

This passage was omitted when Joyce reconstructed the story for A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but it proves that Joyce read some books about Buddhism and was influenced by the Buddha when he was disappointed in Christianity.  Joyce probably got some hint from Stanislaus Joyce's Dublin Diary: gJesus was a far more intellectual type than Buddha or Mohammed or St. Francis, though not so beautiful as Buddha nor so masterful as Mohammed nor so charmingly simple as Francis D'Assisih(89).3
  Yasodhara was Gautama Siddhartha's wife before he became the Buddha.  The Buddha (meaning the wise or enlightened one) is the title of Gautama Siddhartha (c.563-c.483 B.C.).  At the age of twenty-nine Prince Gautama, after spending his youth shielded from the harshness of the world, was startled out of his ease by his first sight of old age, sickness, and death.  Fleeing secretly at night from his palace, he became an ascetic, leaving Yasodhara and their son.  After renouncing his former life, he attained enlightenment and traveled to preach and spread the doctrine.  Seven years passed.  King Suddhodana, the Buddha's father, invited him to his palace at Kapilavatthu.  King Suddhodana took him to the palace and served him food.  After the meal, there was great excitement in the palace and all but Princess Yasodhara came to show their reverence to the Buddha.  Yasodhara thought that if there was any virtue in her the Noble Lord would come to her himself.  The Buddha saw that if he did not visit her, Yasodhara's heart would be broken with grief.  So he handed his bowl to the King, and accompanied by his two chief disciples, entered the chamber of Yasodhara and sat on the prepared seat, saying, gLet the King's daughter show reverence as she likes.h  gSwiftly she came, clasped his ankles, and placing her head on his feet, reverenced him as she liked.h4  So Stephen probably refers to the Buddha's biography in that passage or he just wants Emma to be more obedient or generous to him like Yasodhara.  A possible source is The Soul of A People, in which Fielding-Hall showed his deep compassion for Yasodhara(31-33).  One major source of Joyce's Buddhist allusions is Henry S. Olcott's The Buddhist Catechism (1881).  As Richard Ellmann checked, Joyce's copy of the book was dated May 7, 1901:

  ... He also joined the rest of intellectual Dublin in taking an interest in occultism;
  his copy of H. S. Olcott's A Buddhist Catechism is dated May 7, 1901.  His brother
  Stanislaus thought James was looking for a substitute religion, but it is probable
  that he, like Yeats and unlike George Russell, was attracted more by the symbology
  than by the pious generalization of Theosophy. (JJ 75-76)5

Although the book remained popular and authoritative until early in the twentieth century, it cannot be regarded as a reliable Buddhist handbook because it preaches an occultist version of Buddhism.   The small booklet is divided into five categories: 1) The Life of the Buddha, 2) The Dharma or Doctrine, 3) The Sangha, or Monastic Order, 4) A Brief History of Buddhism and 5) Some Reconciliation of Buddhism with Science.  In Part One, Olcott notes that the gword ereligion' is most inappropriate to apply to Buddhism, which is not a religion, but a moral philosophy.h  Then the questions and answers continue:

  2.  Q. What is Buddhism?
A.  It is a body of teachings given out by a great personage known as the Buddha.
  3.  Q. Is eBuddhism' the best name for this teaching?
     A. No: that is only a Western term: the best name for it is Bauddha Dharma.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
  12. Q. Was Buddha his name?
     A. No.  It is the name of a condition or state of mind, of the mind after it has
         reached the culmination of development.
  13. Q. What is its meaning?
A. Enlightened; or he who has the all-perfect wisdom.  The Pali phrase is
  Sabbannu, the One of Boundless Knowledge.  In Sanskrit it is Sarvajna.

The first scholar who pointed out the importance of Buddhism in Joyce's works is Stuart Gilbert.  In his book James Joyce's gUlysses,h  Gilbert remembered one occasion when Joyce and he chanced to be discussing Eliphas Levi's theories of magic and Mme Blavatsky's entertaining Isis Unveiled: ghe asked me if I had read any of Sinnett's workh(vii-viii).  A. P. Sinnett, ga cultured and intelligent manh according to Gilbert, was a member of Mme Blavatsky's circle in India and her biographer.  Naturally he took the hint and procured Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism and Growth of the Soul, well-written books from which Joyce certainly derived some of his material.  But as Gilbert remembered, Joyce shied off the conversation on spiritual literature, perhaps because of his Catholic upbringing(viii).  Gilbert also confessed that he was sometimes asked if Joyce believed in Theosophy, magic and so forth(viii).  Gilbert seems to have doubted if Joyce really believed in any such doctrines, though many Joycean readers know that Joyce owned several deeply rooted superstitions.  But it should be underlined that Gilbert insisted on the importance of Sinnett's theosophical works on Buddhism for reading Ulysses as well as Berard's Les Pheniciens et l'Odyssee.

II. Joyce and Theosophy

  There are numerous allusions to Buddhism in Joyce's works.  Then, how did Joyce know Buddhism?  He had a copy of Olcott's The Buddhist Catechism, read Fielding-Hall's The Soul of a People and Sinnett's books.  Joyce probably learned Buddhism mostly through Theosophy.  Theosophy is a body of religious doctrine strongly influenced by the gEsoteric Buddhism,h prehistoric gBudhismh (spelt with one, instead of two d's) or pre-Vedic Brahmanism.  In A Portrait, Stephen hears his fellow students' catcall, "We want no budding buddhists"(P246).  As Don Gifford notes in Joyce Annotated, this is echoing Irish prejudice against the interest in Theosophy and the occult evinced by W. B. Yeats and some of his associates(269).  Theosophists were then an avand-garde group fascinated by the mysticism of Eastern religions, various Christian heresies, and the medieval Cabala.  Theosophical doctrine derived in part from Buddhist teaching.  Stephen in Ulysses alludes to Mme Blavatsky and to Isis Unveiled in the Proteus episode and in the Scylla and Charybdis episode.  In addition, AE (George Russell) and John Eglinton, who appear in the Scylla and Charybdis episode, were at one time affiliated with the Dublin Lodge of the Theosophical Society.  But Stephen's attitude is apparently cynical towards Theosophy.  It is likely that Joyce consulted Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism and The Growth of the Soul.
  The Theosophical Society was founded by Mme Blavatsky in 1875 in New York in connection with Olcott and others.  She published many books, among them, Isis Unveiled (1877) and The Secret Doctrine (1888), which deal with occult doctrines, spiritualist themes and esoteric knowledge.
  The main objects of the society were thus set out according to the 11th Britannica:  g1) To establish a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity; 2) to promote the study of comparative religion and philosophy;  3) to make a systematic investigation into the mystic potencies of life and matter, or what is usually termed eoccultism'h(EB26.789).6  The first object, the society's theory of universal brotherhood was, however, of far wider scope, being based upon a mystical conception of gthe One Lifeh ?an idea derived from and common to various forms of Eastern thought, Vedic and Buddhist.  In her early days, Mme Blavatsky was much influenced by what they called gEsoteric Buddhismh which is somewhat close to Theravada (Southern) Buddhism or gThe Teachings of the Eldersh which is practiced in South[-East] Asian countries like Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), Myanmar (Burma), Thailand (Siam), etc.  But her teachings and doctrines, often criticized, are not coherent throughout her life.  Her important gsutrah The Secret Doctrine, is partially based on The Book of Dzyan, a mysterious Thibetan(?) Buddhist book many scholars and critics suspect does not actually exist.  The second object, the study of comparative religion and philosophy, led to the theory that all the great religions of the world originated from the same supreme source, and that they were all to be regarded as so many diverse expressions of one and the same fundamental truth, or gWisdom Religion.h  From time to time Mme Blavatsky's numerous friends and associates were allowed to witness the manifestation of goccult phenomena,h which, she insisted, were the outcome of her connection with these gMahatmas.h  That is probably Theosophy's most serious defect.  There are numerous passages in the sacred books of the East, especially those of the Buddhists, which warn the student against the assumption that gmagicalh performances of any kind are to be regarded as proving the truth of the performer's teaching.   In The Secret Doctrine, Mme Blavatsky often mentioned Mahayana (Northern) Buddhism, especially Thibetan Buddhism, presumably inspired by Japanese Buddhist missions at that time, as Olcott noted (116-18).  Mahayana Buddhism prevails in Thibet (now part of China), China, Korea and Japan.  In the catechism-style of the Ithaca episode, the readers know that Bloom would like to travel to two Buddhist countries as well as Jerusalem: gCeylon (with spicegardens supplying tea to...), Jerusalem, ... the forbidden country of Thibet (from which no traveller returns), the bay of Naples (to see which was to die), the Dead Seah (U17.1980-90).  Joyce's Bloom combines these and says gVedi Thibet, e poi muorih (gSee Thibet and then dieh).  It is widely known among Theosophists that Mme Blavatsky claimed to stay in Thibet from 1868 to 1870.
  Theosophy is a field where Joyce's youthful investigations might have not sustained the same level of interest on the Continent as they had in Ireland.  As Michael Patrick Gillespie notes in Inverted Volumes Improperly Arranged, of the five texts by theosophical authors--Walter Adams, Annie Besant, William Horton and Henry Olcott--which Ellmann lists in The Consciousness of Joyce, only the two books by Annie Besant were acquired by Joyce in Trieste: Une introduction a la theosophie and The Path of Discipleship: Four Lectures delivered at the Twentieth Anniversary of the Theosophical Society, at Adyar, Madras, December 27, 28, 29 and 30, 1895(15).  Gillespie suspects that Joyce disposed of the Adam's, Horton's and Olcott's books before leaving Dublin (14).  Joyce, however, seems to have investigated Theosophy and Buddhism in Trieste.
  As Gillespie says, this interest marks Joyce's early efforts in the search of a structuring principle or philosophy that could serve as a framework for his artistic development while giving it greater freedom that Catholicism would permit (28).  Joyce's inclination towards Theosophy and Eastern mysticism may have been short-lived.  Joyce presumably could not distinguish Theravada Buddhism from Mahayana, nor did he know that Ceylon's Buddhism belongs to Theravada and Thibet's to Mahayana Buddhism.  But he remembered Theosophy in his Triestine days at least enough to use some for Bloom's rationale for vegetarianism in the Lestrygonians episode and Stephen's parodies in the Scylla and Charybdis episode in Ulysses.

III. Buddhist or Theosophical Allusions

  In Ulysses, Bloom explains gre-incarnationh or gmetempsychosish to Molly in the Calypso episode.  Re-incarnation is one of the principle Buddhist doctrines.  His reference to re-incarnation is the one which probably summarizes and simplifies the gRe-incarnationh chapter of Sinnett's The Growth of the Soul7:

  -- Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body after
  death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
  before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say
  we have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives. (U4.362-65)

  Three main characters of Ulysses, Bloom, Stephen and Molly remember the Buddha.  Bloom's and Molly's Buddhist references are quite easy to understand while Stephen's references are very difficult, influenced and distorted by Theosophy.
  The first reference to the Buddha is in the Lotus-Eaters episode where Bloom imagines the East on a sunny, warm morning.  In Westland Row he halts before the window of the Belfast and Oriental Tea Company and reads a tea poster gchoice blend, made of the finest Ceylon brandsh(U5.18-19): he soon associates it with gThe far east.  Lovely spot it must be: the garden of the world, big lazy leaves to float about on, cactuses, flowery meads, snaky lianas they call them...h(U5.29-31).  Ceylon is famous for tea products, and also the place where Olcott's Buddhist Catechism was compiled as he noted at the end of the booklet.  Next he imagines the people's idle lives there like the Lotus-Eaters in the Odyssey, gSleep six months out of twelve.  Too hot to quarrel. Influence of the climate.  Lethargy.  Flowers of idleness.  The air feeds most. Azotes.  Hothouse in Botanic gardens.  Sensitive plants.  Waterlilies.  Petals too tired to.  Sleeping sickness in the airh(U5.33-36).  Then Bloom remembers the chap in the picture gin the dead sea floating on his back, reading a book with a parasol openh(U5.37-39).
  For a time Bloom forgets the East while he walks westward to check his post box at Westland Row Post Office, encounters C. P. MeCoy talking about Paddy Dignam's death, etc. and reads Martha Clifford's letter in the lee of Westland Row Station wall.  After finishing it, he resumes his walk and reaches the open backdoor of All Hallows (St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church).  He steps into the porch and doffs his hat:

    Same notice on the door. Sermon by the very reverend John Conmee
 S. J. on saint Peter Claver S. J. and the African Mission. Prayers for the
 conversion of Gladstone they had too when he was almost unconscious.
 The protestants are the same. Convert Dr William J. Walsh D. D. to the
 true religion. Save China's millions. Wonder how they explain it to the
 heathen Chinee. Prefer an ounce of opium. Celestials. Rank heresy for
 them. Buddha their god lying on his side in the museum. Taking it easy with
 hand under his cheek. Josssticks burning. Not like Ecce Homo. Crown of
 thorns and cross. Clever idea Saint Patrick the shamrock. Chopsticks?
  (U5.322-30)  (Italics mine.)

The greclining Buddha,h National Museum of Ireland, Dublin. gThe figure is of marble, with
the drapery painted gold, and is 140 cm long by 23 cm wide by 41 cm highh(Smurthwaite 3).8

In the Roman Catholic church, Bloom remembers and mocks the Jesuit missionaries in China showing his sympathy for the Chinese people.  Bloom's comment on gheathenh Chinese people's preference for an ounce of opium over Christianity might satirize the Opium War between Britain and Ching Dynasty China (1839-42). Then he remembers the reclining Buddha statue he saw in the National Museum of Ireland.  According to Olcott, as we have seen, the Buddha is not gtheir god,h but the ggreat personage known as the Buddha.h  In general, there are three poses for the Buddha's statues: 1) standing Buddha as a preacher, 2) sitting Buddha in meditation and 3) reclining Buddha, dying and ready for Nirvana.   The above Buddha, from Burma, is very beautiful, well-proportioned and, sensual, when compared with Japanese Buddha statues.  Olcott noted that the Buddha was ga man of surpassing beauty of form and features, and that he had on his body certain marks which are said to be seen on the body of every Buddhah (25).  Most Northern statues of the Buddha are standing or sitting, so Mahayana Buddhists do not often see lying or reclining Buddha images like the statue Bloom saw in the main entrance hall of the National Museum, off Kildare Street, which was presented in 1891 by Colonel Sir Charles Fitzgerald as ga trophy of Britain's newest colony exhibited to the people of her oldesth according to John Smurthwaite(3).  Joyce mistakenly associates the Buddha's reclining pose with idleness.  In fact, the reclining Buddha statue was made to express how the Buddha attained the Nirvana after he had eaten the pork dish offered by Cunda, the smith, which made his stomach totally uncurable: ghe had bedding spread with the head towards the north according to the ancient custom.  He lay upon it, and with his mind perfectly clear, gave his final instructions to his disciples and bade them farewellh according to Olcott (22).
  The episode name, gLotus-Eaters,h brings to mind the Buddha, because the Buddha is typically portrayed sitting on a lotus flower that arises pure from the muck.  Joyce probably knew the lotus flower is also the important symbol for the Buddha.  In Mahayana Buddhism, one of the most important and influential sutras is the gLotus Sutra.h  In the Odyssey, the Lotus Eaters appear in Book IX.  Early in Odysseus's voyage he and his men were driven by a storm to the land of the Lotus-Eaters, ga race that live on vegetarian foodh and Odysseus disembarked to take on water.  Some of Odysseus's men met the friendly Lotus-Eaters, and ate the lotus:  gAll they now wished for was to stay where they were with the Lotus-eaters, to browse on the lotus, and to forget that they had a home to return toh(141).9   Odysseus drove the infected men back to the ships and set sail.  Bloom here regards Ceylon as a land of the Lotus-Eaters and longs for the reclining Buddha contrasting its peaceful image with Christ's torture of thorns and cross.
  After the church service ends, Bloom goes out and walks southward along Westland Row for Sweny's (a chemist).  He buys a sweet lemony wax for Molly.  Then he walks cheerfully towards the mosque-shaped Turkish baths.  The episode ends with glotus flower,h a metaphor for the fulfillment of his name gBloomh and his feigned name gHenry Flowerh: gHe foresaw his pale body reclined in it at full, naked, in a womb of warmth, oiled by scented melting soap, softly laved.  He saw... his navel, bud of flesh: and saw the dark tangled curls of his bush floating, floating hair of the stream around the limp father of thousands, a languid floating flowerh (U5.567-72).  It is a Joycean association of the Buddha/bud/bod (Ir. penis) often found in Finnegans Wake.  Here Bloom becomes a reclining Buddha in his mind.
  Stephen monologues in the Scylla and Charybdis episode:

    Dunlop, Judge, the noblest Roman of them all, A. E., Arval, the Name
  Ineffable, in heaven hight: K. H., their master, whose identity is no secret to
  adepts. Brothers of the great white lodge always watching to see if they can
  help. The Christ with the bridesister, moisture of light, born of an ensouled
  virgin, repentant sophia, departed to the plane of buddhi. The life esoteric is
  not for ordinary person. O. P. must work off bad karma first.  (U9.65-70)
             -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -
     Yogibogeybox in Dawson chambers. Isis Unveiled. Their Pali book
  we tried to pawn. Crosslegged under an umbrel umbershoot he thrones an
  Aztec logos, functioning on astral levels, their oversoul, mahamahatma. The
  faithful hermetists await the light, ripe for chelaship, ringroundabout him.
  Louis H. Victory. T. Caulfield Irwin. Lotus ladies tend them i'the eyes, their
  pineal glands aglow. Filled with his god, he thrones, Buddh under plantain.
  Gulfer of souls, engulfer. Hesouls, shesouls, shoals of souls. Engulfed with
  wailing creecries, whirled, whirling, they bewail.(U9.279-85)(Italics mine)

Stephen mocks and parodies Theosophy and Buddhism here.  As Gifford notes, the first passage he remembers Daniel Nicol Dunlop (editor of Irish Theosophists, c. 1896-1915), William W. Judge (Irish-American Theosophist), Arval (the Esoteric Section), Master Koot Hoomi (one of Blavatsky's two masters), the Theosophical version of Christ's career in the plane of buddhi, the life esoteric and karma (UA 197-98).  In the second passage, Stephen mentions Isis Unveiled, Pali book (the Ur-book), Aztec logos (the groundwork of universal truth with an Aztec flavor), astral levels, oversoul, mahamahatma (Sanskrit: ggreat, great-soulh), chelaship (an Esoteric Buddhism term), Lotus ladies (Apsalas, Hindu nymphs), pineal glands (gthird eyeh) and Gulfer of souls (God in Theosophy) (UA 210-12).
  In the legend of the Buddha, after he abandoned his worldly career, he attempted an excessive asceticism.  In the course of this contemplation the Buddha achieved enlightenment, becoming a gBodhisattva.h  The Sanskrit term gbodhih means genlightenment.h  gThus the Prince Siddhartha Gautama was a Bodhisattva up to the moment when, under the blessed Bodhi tree [not a plantain] at Gaya, he became Buddhah (Olcott 28); in Theosophical terms, he achieved the astral level and thus became gtheir oversoul, mahamahatma.h  Stephen in the Scylla and Charybdis episode seems to try to achieve some enlightenment arguing his Hamlet theory.  In this sense, Stephen can be identified with a Bodhisattva.  Stephen's comment on the Buddha is, as he monologues, probably influenced by Mme Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled.  She mentioned:

  The lotus, the sacred flower of the Egyptians, as well as the Hindus, is the symbol of Horus as it is that of Brahma... With the Buddhists, it has the same signification.  Maha-Maya, or Maha-Deva, the mother of Gautama Buddha, had the birth of her son announced to her by Bhodisat (the spirit of Buddha), who appeared beside her couch with a lotus in his hand.  Thus, also, Osiris and Horus are represented by the Egyptians constantly in association with the lotus-flower.
  These facts all go to show the identical parentage of this idea in the three religious systems, Hindu, Egyptian and Judaico-Christian.  Wherever the mystic water-lily (lotus) is employed, it signifies the emanation of the objective from the concealed, or subjective--the eternal thought of the ever-invisible Deity passing from the abstract into the concrete or visible form.(I,91-92)

  Thus Stephen's monologue intensifies the relationship between the lotus flower and the Buddha.  In the Oxen of the Sun episode, Stephen cites Theosophists' word about the karmic law and re-incarnation: gTheosophos told me so, Stephen answered, whom in a previous existence Egyptian priests initiated into the mysteries of karmic lawh (U14.1168-69).  Needless to say, the two concepts of re-incarnation and the karma are also Buddhist terms.
Molly monologues in the Penelope episode:

  hes sleeping at the foot of the bed how can he without a hard bolster its well
  he doesnt kick or he might knock out all my teeth breathing with his hand
  on his nose like that Indian god he took me to show one wet Sunday in the
  museum in Kildare street all yellow in a pinafore lying on his side on his
  hand with his ten toes sticking out that he said was a bigger religion than
  the jews and Our Lords both put together all over Asia imitating him as hes
  always imitating everybody I suppose he used to sleep at the foot of the bed
  too with his big square feet up in his wifes mouth damn this stinking thing

In Molly's imagination, Bloom's sleeping pose is similar to that of Buddha's statue.  Bloom, now impotent after his son Rudy's death, has not had sexual intercourse with Molly for a long time.  The Buddha never had sex after leaving his wife Yasodhara and his child at the age of 29.  Bloom's sleeping pose identifies him with the reclining Buddha.  He sleeps with his head at one end of the bed and she with her head at the other, so that they can avoid having another child.  His sleeping arrangement might also imply his secret will to renounce the world.  Bloom has been exaggerating or is treating a number of Eastern religions as one, but such exaggerations were common in the late nineteenth century when Westerners tended to inflate the populations of the East and to lump Eastern religions together without distinction(UA 627).  According to The Century Book of Facts (1906), Christians numbered 477,080,158, and Buddhists, 147,900,000,10 but Mme Blavatsky suggests in Isis Unveiled that Christians numbered 260,000,000 and Buddhists numbered 450,000,000 in the middle of the nineteenth century(II.539).  Molly's comment reminds the readers of Bloom's obscure longing for the Far East he shows in the Lotus Eaters episode.
  Then when did Joyce think of putting these Buddhist references into Ulysses?  In Ulysses's Notesheet, the word gBuddhah appears twice: gR <A Gautama, A Jesus, An Ingersoll>h (gCirceh II, 324; U15.2198-9), gR <LB Buddha> (gPenelopeh I; U18.1199-205).   In the Scylla and Charybdis episode, Stephen's Buddhist references in the two passages can be seen in the Rosenbach Manuscript (9,2&8) and the Little Review version (V, 11,32&37) with some theosophical terms like gIsis Unveiled,h gPali bookh and gmahamahatmah: Joyce added some more theosophical terms including glife esoteric,h gkarma,h and goversoulh to the same passages later at the stage of Typescript (Buffalo V.B.7;JJA12.351;354).  The last Buddhist reference Joyce inserted is in the Lotus Episode at the stage of Placard X: gBuddha their god lying on his side in the museum.  Taking it easy with hand under his cheek.  Not like Ecce Homo.  Crown of thorns and crossh(JJA17.190;U5.328-30).   Judging from the dates Joyce inserted the Buddhist references, he planned to use them in Ulysses from the beginning.   So it is rather surprising Joyce inserted the reclining Buddha passage last, while Molly's mentioning the Buddha statue was planned earlier.  In my personal view, however, Joyce seems to have decided in which part of the novel to introduce the statue after long deliberation.


  As we have seen, Joyce learned about Buddhism through many Buddhist books and Theosophy.  His review of Fielding-Hall's The Soul of a People indicates how sympathetically he regarded Buddhism which put war aside as irrelevant, when he heard an army in Trieste at the beginning of World War I.  Joyce's hatred of force also emerges in Exiles and Ulysses, and Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait remains non violent, with his weapons of gsilence, exile, and cunning,h as Richard Ellmann noted.11  Joyce's knowledge about Buddhism was not always correct, but he thought for a time that the Buddha could be a substitute for Jesus Christ from whom he vainly wanted to escape when he was young.  Influenced by Buddhism, or what Joyce called ga suave philosophy,h Mediterranean Joyce meditated upon the Buddha and wrote Ulysses, the Greek-Irish novel, and other writings in Trieste.
  In A Portrait, Stephen calls himself in Greek, gBous Stephenoumenos!  Bous Stephaneforos!h(P182) which means gOx as garland-bearer of the sacrificeh and gox- or bull-soul of Stephenh as Seamus Deane notes.12  It recalls to my mind that the earlier Buddhist sculptures, like the famous Bamian wall-cut figures which were destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001, were made by the Greco-Buddhist people in Bactria (now Afghanistan).  It can be argued that Stephen is a kind of sacrificial bull, especially in the context of the Bodhisattva concept, as Roshan L. Attrey says in The Function of Oriental Allusions in James Joyce's gUlyssesh(268).
  East is East and West is West but for ever the twain shall meet because gExtremes meeth (U15.2098) in Trieste, boundary between East and West, gwhere extremes meeth (FW440.34-35).  Mme Blavatsky cited the famous Venetian Marco Polo in Isis Unveiled: gAs Marco naively expresses it, Buddha led a life of such hardship and sanctity, and kept such great abstinence, ejust as if he had been a Christian.  Indeed,' he adds, ehad he but been so, he would have been a great saint of our Lord Jesus Christ, so good and pure was the life he led'h (II, 581).  In the Circe episode, Elijah tells Stephen, gYou have that something within, the higher self.  You can rub shoulders with a Jesus, a Gautama, an Ingersollh (U15.2198-9).  Both Stephen and Bloom long for the Buddha in the way they want to long for Jesus Christ.  In Ulysses, the Mediterranean novel, Joyce enriched Bloom's character with elements of Buddhist pacifism and Stephen's character with elements of Buddhist enlightenment.


  1  Cf. Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, p. 207.
  2  James Joyce, The Critical Writings of James Joyce, p. 93.
  3  The Complete Dublin Diary of Stanislaus Joyce, p.89.  Stanislaus also
     mentioned Renan's Vie de Jesus: gThe portrait Renan has done in his
     Vie de Jesus of ele charmant docteur' seems to me not so much like
    Jesus as like Ernest Renanh(91).  Cf. also Robert Scholes and Richard
    M. Kain, The Workshop of Daedalus, pp.72&76.
  4  Cf. gIntroduction to Basic Buddhism.h  This is the English translation
    of the Buddha's standard biography in Myanmar (Burma) where the
    greclining Buddhah statue was made.  In The Buddhist Catechism,
    Henry S. Olcott mentioned the Buddha's visit, but did not tell the
    detail of Yasodhara's meeting with the Buddha (19-20).
  5  The book, however, is not included in the surviving collection but in
     the hundred items gwhich he can be shown to have possessed or at
     least read during the same period, as Ellmann notes in The
     Consciousness of Joyce, p. 91.  As Michael Patrick Gillespie argues in
     Inverted Volumes Improperly Arranged: James Joyce and His Trieste
     Library, Ellmann drew for titles to supplement his list from John J.
     Slocum and Herbert Cahoon's A Bibliography of James Joyce, 1882-
     1941, in which they published the titles and present locations of
     thirteen books that Joyce had owned in Ireland in 1904. Gillespie
     suspects how much long-term impact these books had on Joyce once
     he left Ireland (14).  James S. Atherton observes that Joyce's
     spelling of some Sanskrit words in Finnegans Wake is noticeably similar
     to that adopted by Olcott (225).  So Olcott's book seems to have given
     very long-term impact to Joyce.
  6  It is well-known that Joyce often referred to the 11th edition of
     Encyclopaedia Britannica (1910-11).
  7  A. P. Sinnett, The Growth of the Soul, Chapter III eRe-incarnation,'
     pp. 51-87.
  8  John Smurthwaite, gThat Indian God,h James Joyce Broadsheet, 61
     (Feb.2002), p. 3.
  9  Homer, the Odyssey (trans. E. V. Rieu), p. 141.
10  Cf. Don Gifford, gUlyssesh Annotated, p. 627.
11  The Critical Writings, p. 93.
12  Cf. A Portrait, gNotes,h p. 306.  He owes a great debt to Chester
     Anderson's Viking Critical Library edition (1968) and to Don Gifford's
     Joyce Annotated (2nd ed., 1892) as he confesses (277).

Works Cited

Aithal, S. Krishnamoorthy.  gAllusions to the Buddha in Ulysses.h
    James Joyce Quarterly, 16.4 (Summer 1979), 510-12.
- - -.  gIndian Allusions in Ulysses.h Eire-Ireland.14,4 (Summer 1979),
Atherton, James S.  Books at the Wake: A Study of Literary Allusions in
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    Southern Illinois University Press, 1959.
Attrey, Roshan L.  The Function of Oriental Allusions in James Joyce's
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Blavatsky, H. P. Isis Unveiled.  2 vols.  Pasadena, CA: Theosophical Society
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Ellmann, Richard.  James Joyce.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.
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Fielding[-Hall], H[arold].  The Soul of a People.  London: Macmillan and Co.,
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* I am indebted to Audrey Whitty of the National Museum of Ireland for showing me many Buddha statues including the reclining Buddha and other Eastern collections which are not open to the public, and to Niamh Deegan of the Museum's Rights and Reproductions Office for granting permission to reproduce a photograph of the statue.



Copyright (c) 2003 Eishiro Ito.  All rights reserved.