The following section in the Modernist poem The Waste Land is often linked to Buddhism, in the academic literature.

Burning burning burning burning / O Lord Thou pluckest me out / O Lord Thou pluckest // burning

It ends section three, The Fire Sermon.

I wanted to ask

  1. How common is the term "lord" for Buddha?
  2. Would the followers of any of the Buddhist traditions ask the Buddha, who gave the fire sermon, to choose them, or pluck them out?

I'm just a little skeptical that it is about the Buddha, despite the title to that section.

  • 1
    Was your question more about Buddhism, or was it more about whether The Waste Land references Buddhist literature? If it's the latter then a better title might be something like, "Did Eliot reference Buddhism when he wrote The Waste Land?"
    – ChrisW
    Jan 22, 2016 at 14:09
  • i don't think that title would fit cos i'm asking about one specific section
    – user2512
    Jan 22, 2016 at 18:10

2 Answers 2


How common is the term "lord" for Buddha?

People use it about 150 times in posts on this site.

Would the followers of any of the Buddhist traditions ask the Buddha, who gave the fire sermon, to choose them, or pluck them out?

I don't think so (it implies there's a 'me' and implies that I'm not responsible for my own salvation).

This is the closest I've heard to that "being plucked" (e.g. it mentions "an effort of calling to Amida for salvation"), yet this says that Eliot studied Pali.

Beware that the Wasteland was published in 1922, which I think was relatively early in the history of Buddhism in England.

This says that "Burning burning burning burning" is a quote from the (Lord) Buddha's Fire Sermon, but that "O Lord Thou pluckest me out" is a quote from Saint Augustine's Confessions.

  • thanks,, especially for the st augustine quote! i feel that he retained the christianity of it
    – user2512
    Jan 22, 2016 at 6:56
  • I agree; but fwiw but he was also "under the influence of [the] Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" at one time, and (studying the Classics) he must have been introduced to 'pagan' (i.e. pre-Christian) thought as well; and he knew e.g. Kipling's work, in summary maybe not exclusively Christian. Furthermore "Theosophy" was a thing at that time, and influenced the way in which some people then interpreted Buddhism.
    – ChrisW
    Jan 22, 2016 at 13:37
  • Anyway those are the author's own explanations there, in the notes.
    – ChrisW
    Jan 22, 2016 at 13:40

"Lord Buddha" is used all the time ". Translations from Pali would often use language from the Bible, at least in earlier translations.

Sounds like appreciation to Lord Buddha for plucking one out of the fire of sensual desire.

Many people asked to be taught the teachings in many ways, some misunderstood the teachings before they asked and some understood at least what they were basicly about but in the above I think perhaps they are using poetic licence.

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