Philosophical Library would like to take a look back on the life of philosopher Ananda Coomaraswamy

In honor of his 139th birthday, Philosophical Library would like to take a look back on the life of philosopher, historian and metaphysician Ananda Coomaraswamy. Born on August 22, 1877 in Colombo, Ceylon to an aristocratic family, Ananda faced the passing of his father at the early age of two and moved to England, his mother’s country of origin. Most of his youth was spent studying abroad. At the age of twelve, he began attending Wycliffe College and graduated from London’s University College with a degree in geology and botany by the age of twenty-three. Ananda returned to Ceylon to begin the four years worth of field work which would earn him a doctorate in science for his study of Ceylonese mineralogy. He wrote on the topic of mediaeval Sinhalese art which fueled his desire to educate the western world about Indian art. He returned to London and sought out artists he could possibly influence with his findings. Ananda eventually became acquainted with two of the city’s most famous artists of early Modernism. The artists soon began implementing details of Indian aesthetics into their pieces.

“What I have sought is to understand what has been said.” – Ananda Coomaraswamy

Ananda Coomaraswamy moved too India where he studied Rajput painting and, years later in 1917, traveled to the United States where he served as the first Keeper of Indian Art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He spent much of his time in the bohemian art circles of New York City and formed friendships with many of the artists. Meanwhile, Ananda studied Western religious works, Sanskrit and Pali religious literature. Doing so allowed him to write catalogues which would appear in the Museum of Fine Arts. His work History of Indian and Indonesian Art was published in 1927.

“There is then no sacred or profane, spiritual or sensual, but everything that lives is pure and void.” – Ananda Coomaraswamy

By 1933, Ananda was appointed the title of Fellow for Research of Indian, Persian and Mohammedan Art at the museum. His contributions to the museum included building the first substantial collection of Indian art in the United States, and he continued his work there until his passing in 1947.

“The artist is not a special kind of man, but every man is a special kind of artist.” – Ananda Coomaraswamy

Ananda Coomaraswamy was an early interpreter of Indian culture as he spent many years studying its works of art and literature. His philosophy of religion from the Indian point of view can be read in his book titled Hinduism and Buddhism. Here, Ananda suggests that those who study the religion from a meaningful perspective rather than a mere historical perspective will find the teachings of Indian religion to be extrinsic as well as the essential unity of all religions. Hinduism and Buddhism can be added to the collection of anyone seeking to delve deeper into the Indian culture of religion and philosophy. To purchase this title, please click here.

“[…] Buddhism has been so much admired mainly for what it is not.” – Ananda Coomaraswamy, Hinduism and Buddhism


Ananda Coomaraswamy. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved July 26, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ananda_Coomaraswamy

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