Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Brian Bocking
Ireland-India-Asia: Entangled Histories and Cultural Processes
‘The Irish Buddhist’ U Dhammaloka in India and Beyond’
Centre for Historical Studies, JNU, New Delhi
Invited Lectures (Conference)
Optional Fields

Collaborative research undertaken since 2009 by Alicia Turner, Laurence Cox and Brian Bocking on the plebeian early Irish Buddhist U Dhammaloka (?1856-?1914) has  uncovered new evidence of numerous early European Buddhist monastics around the year 1900, overturning conventional 20th century narratives that claimed Ananda Metteyya (Alan Bennett) as the ‘first’ Western Buddhist monk.

U Dhammaloka’s radical transgression of racial and religious boundaries, his vigorous anti-Christian preaching and his huge popularity among the Buddhist laity made him an object of suspicion to the colonial authorities in Burma and beyond.  A year after returning from a controversial preaching tour of Ceylon and India in 1909, Dhammaloka was prosecuted in Rangoon under the Indian Penal Code and bound over (by a Cork judge) to keep the peace.

In this paper I examine the  Indian connections of early Western Buddhists including Dhammaloka and assess the significance of Dhammaloka’s Buddhist identity for a re-reading of Irish-Asian religious encounters at the turn of the 20th century.