Alexandra David-Néel as a Buddhist Saint, Intellectual, and Missionary: A French Woman's Influence on Modern Buddhism


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships in Buddhist Studies




Department of Religion at Columbia University


Alexandra David-Néel, the French explorer and writer, famous for reaching Lhasa in 1924, was probably the first to use the phrase 'Buddhist Modernism' (1911). She was one of the most prolific inventors and active promoters of Modern Buddhism, with more than 30 books published between 1898 and 2003. However, in spite of the abundant literature she inspired, no scholarly work has been done to elucidate her specific contribution to the understanding, imagination, and popularity of Buddhism in the West. The aim of this research is to remedy this lack through: the study of the myth she contributed to create around her own person, an analysis of her writings on Buddhism in the cultural context of her time, and an investigation of her role in the promotion of Buddhism as a world religion.