Existentialistischer Dhamma: Ñāṇavīra Theras (1920–1965) Notes on Dhamma und die Herausbildung des Existentialistischen Theravāda

Master’s thesis by Simon Adam Lenhart (Sīhacitto Bhikkhu)


The Notes on Dhamma (1960–1965), written by Ñāṇavīra Thera (1920-1965, born in England as Harold Edward Musson) who led the life of a Bhikkhu in the Theravāda tradition between 1948 and 1965 in Śrī Laṅkā (then Ceylon), present in regard to their existential-phenomenological hermeneutics a document of special novelty in the interpretation of central doctrinal themes contained in the scriptures of the Pāli suttapiṭaka. This thesis attempts a first academic exploration of their background, content and method. In the Notes, the author interprets central topics of the Buddhist teachings against the background of subjective existential philosophy appliying the phenomenological method and putting the sutta texts into dialogue with writings of western philosophers of the existential and phenomenological school of thought. The thesis shows how the author openly challenges established interpretative schemes of the orthodox Theravāda tradition and how his personal and existential reading of the suttas tries to stand clear of scientific and mystical modes of interpretation. This thesis also focuses on the present development of the formation of an Existentialist Theravāda on the basis of Ñāṇavīra Thera’s writings which led to the foundation of the Path Press entity, Path Press Publications and the establishing of two monastic communities (Hillside Hermitage, Śrī Laṅkā and Samaṇadīpa, Slovenia).

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