Thursday, August 28, 2014

Quiz with Chamara Sumanapala. Part 13: Colonel Henry Steel Olcott

Colonel Henry Steel Olcott was an American military officer, a journalist and a successful lawyer. He served in the military during the American Civil War, briefly taking part in the military campaign. Later, in 1875, he was one of the founding members of the Theosophical Society and became its first President. In 1878, he arrived in India. Two years later, he arrived in Ceylon and embraced Buddhism. He became a key campaigner of the Buddhist revival movement in Sri Lanka. As a part of the movement, the Theosophical Society started several Buddhists schools in major towns of the country to compete with the existing Christian schools. Colonel Olcott later left for India where he spent most of his time. He died on February 17, 1907, aged 75. Although the schools founded by the Theosophical Society have since been taken over by the government, these schools still commemorate February 17 as “Olcott Day.”
Colonel Olcott with Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera

01. Henry Steel Olcott was born on August 02, 1832, in a township in the US state of New Jersey. Located close to the city of Newark, the state capital, this town has a history going back to 1666. Although it is a comparatively small town, with a population of just over 30 000, it has been associated with many famous people. Samuel Prescott Bush, grandfather of former US President George Bush and great grandfather of the former US President George W. Bush was born here. What is the name of this township?

02. In the early part of the American Civil War, Olcott took part in military campaigns in North Carolina. His commanding officer was a US Army General known for the distinct style of facial hair. It was from his name that the term ‘sideburns’ was derived. Who was this US General?

03. In the 1860s and 1870s, there were five main debates among the Buddhists and Christians in Ceylon over religious issues. The culmination was the “Panadurawadaya” or the “Debate of Panadura.” In this the Chrstian side was soundly defeated by Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera. A summary of the debate was published in the USA as “Buddhism and Christianity face to face.” It is said that Colonel Olcott decided to visit Ceylon upon reading this. Who wrote this book?

04. Colonel Olcott and Madame Helena Blavatsky arrived in Ceylon in May 1880. They embraced Buddhism in a temple in Waliwatta, Galle. Today, a statue of Colonel Olcott is seen in the temple. What is the name of this temple?

05. Colonel Olcott spent a few years in Ceylon. During his stay, he contributed to the designing of the Buddhist Flag, which is considered to be the Flag of Buddhism by the majority of the Buddhists in the world. He was more involved in the successful campaign to make Vesak Day a public holiday. Vesak became a public holiday in Ceylon and the Buddhist Flag was also unveiled that Vesak Day. In which year did these events happen?

Answers to Quiz 12: The Fall of Singapore

1. Sir Winston Churchill
2. Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival
3. Johor-Singapore Causeway
4. Changi Chapel
5. Admiral of the Fleet Louis Mountbatten (also known as Lord Mountbatten)

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