“The Irish Buddhist” is out!

The Irish Buddhist: the Forgotten Monk who Faced Down the British Empire is out! We hope you enjoy it.

The hardcopy edition is available now around the world, from the (socially distanced) OUP warehouses. There’s a 30% discount for the hardcopy, available with the code AAFLYG6 from the OUP site ($27.97 / about €20 / £18.19). You can also get it in ebook (various formats but most at / under $25/€25/£20).

[Cover image: Dhammaloka in Rangoon in late 1901, likely Philip A. Klier, for Harper’s Magazine. Color image © Rosemary Taylor, 2010, Inchigeelagh, Cork.]

The Irish Buddhist tells the story of U Dhammaloka, an extraordinary Irish emigrant, sailor, and hobo who became one of the first Western Buddhist monks and an anti-colonial activist in early twentieth-century Asia. Born in Dublin in the 1850s, Dhammaloka energetically challenged the values and power of the British Empire and scandalized the colonial establishment of the 1900s. He rallied Buddhists across Asia, set up schools, published on a grand scale, and argued down Christian missionaries—often using Western atheist arguments. He was tried for sedition, tracked by police and intelligence services, and died at least twice. His story illuminates the forgotten margins and interstices of imperial power, the complexities of class, ethnicity, and religious belonging in colonial Asia, and the fluidity of identity in the high Victorian period.

Too often, the story of the pan-Asian Buddhist revival movement and Buddhism’s remaking as a world religion has been told “from above,” highlighting scholarly writers, middle-class reformers, and ecclesiastical hierarchies. By turns fraught, hilarious, pioneering, and improbable, Dhammaloka’s adventures “from below” highlight the changing and contested meanings of Buddhism in colonial Asia. Through his story, authors Alicia Turner, Laurence Cox, and Brian Bocking offer a window into the worlds of ethnic minorities and diasporas, transnational networks, poor whites, and social movements. Dhammaloka’s dramatic life rewrites the previously accepted story of how Buddhism became a modern global religion.

 

Endorsements:

“This groundbreaking study rewrites our understanding of the first Westerners to embrace Buddhism as a living faith. The authors offer a vivid portrait of a working class Irishman in colonial Burma for whom Buddhism was not just a personal spiritual quest but a radical social and political practice.”

—Stephen Batchelor, author of Secular Buddhism and After Buddhism

“This is an extraordinary book. The authors have painstakingly tracked down scraps of evidence of U Dhammaloka’s life from across continents, often in the most unlikely of places, and have succeeded in piecing together a wealth of information to reveal an unlikely and likeable hero. The result is not simply a gripping story. It is an education into the lives, ingenuity, and resilience of the usually undocumented, ordinary people living precarious lives on the margins of society across the globe at the height of Empire. It retraces the extensive networks of cooperation they formed in common cause for survival and a dignified life against a backdrop of extraction, exploitation and misrepresentation. This is a history of those who usually have no voice in its writing, a history that dismantles the civilizing myths of colonialism.”

—Kate Crosby, Professor of Buddhist Studies, King’s College, London

“With notable tenacity and thoroughness, the authors trace the wandering career of the first European convert Buddhist monk, U Dhammaloka. Recounting the life of the fascinating twentieth-century working-class Irishman turned Burmese Buddhist monk, the authors bring into sharp relief the ways in which currents of intellectual, religious, and economic change made Buddhism a global tradition in an age of migration, colonization, and empire in Asia.”

—Richard M. Jaffe, Director of the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute and Professor of Buddhist Studies, Duke University

“Among the early European converts to Buddhism, we think of Madame Blavatsky, Alexandra David-Neel, and Ananda Metteyya. But there were many more, perhaps none more intriguing than the Irishman U Dhammaloka. Drawing on some impressive detective work, the authors here paint a fascinating picture—more than a sketch, less than a portrait—of this shape-shifting Buddhist monk. In the process, they provide many insights into fin-de-siècle Buddhism.”

—Donald Lopez, Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, University of Michigan

 

Reviews:

“The Irish Buddhist captures a time of significant change and enterprise, one which easily resonates with the world of today.

The subtitle of the book is “The Forgotten Monk Who Faced Down the British Empire” and this biography is a fascinating, informative insight into a wonderful character who, without a decade worth of joint research, may well have been lost to the great ocean of the past.”

Daniel Seery in Dublin Inquirer

 


Dhammaloka trailers…

So…

Just before the crisis really started to hit outside of China, South Korea and Iran, we’d written a bunch of essays for different online publications on different aspects of Dhammaloka’s life and times, to go with the book launch.

The book didn’t come out on March 20th as expected for obvious reasons – but it’s now out from OUP NY (and OUP Europe on May 28th); order here with a 30% discount off using the code AAFLYG6. Or in ebook from all the main suppliers.

While we’re all waiting, here are the essays which have been published so far this year:

OpenDemocracy / Transformation: “The Irish Buddhist monk who faced down the British empire”

Irish History Compressed: “When Rangoon defended an Irishman challenging the British empire”

Secular Buddhism: “A secular Buddhist ancestor?”

Oxford University Press: “Why an Irish Buddhist resisted empire in Burma”

ROARMag: “The forgotten futures of anti-colonial internationalism”

RTÉ Brainstorm: “The Irish Buddhist who ended up on trial in Burma in 1911”

Belongg book talk (video): “The Irish Buddhist”

Discussed in the Echo Chamber podcast: “Laurence Cox on movements”

On the Blindboy podcast

And in the Irish Times

More to come…


“The Irish Buddhist” out April / May

The Irish Buddhist

Publication of The Irish Buddhist has been delayed but it should be out in April (North America) / May (Europe) with Oxford University Press.

There’s a 30% discount available using the code AAFLYG6 from the OUP site.

[Cover image: Dhammaloka in Rangoon in late 1901, likely Philip A. Klier, for Harper’s Magazine. Color image © Rosemary Taylor, 2010, Inchigeelagh, Cork.]

 

Endorsements:

“This groundbreaking study rewrites our understanding of the first Westerners to embrace Buddhism as a living faith. The authors offer a vivid portrait of a working class Irishman in colonial Burma for whom Buddhism was not just a personal spiritual quest but a radical social and political practice.”

—Stephen Batchelor, author of Secular Buddhism and After Buddhism

“This is an extraordinary book. The authors have painstakingly tracked down scraps of evidence of U Dhammaloka’s life from across continents, often in the most unlikely of places, and have succeeded in piecing together a wealth of information to reveal an unlikely and likeable hero. The result is not simply a gripping story. It is an education into the lives, ingenuity, and resilience of the usually undocumented, ordinary people living precarious lives on the margins of society across the globe at the height of Empire. It retraces the extensive networks of cooperation they formed in common cause for survival and a dignified life against a backdrop of extraction, exploitation and misrepresentation. This is a history of those who usually have no voice in its writing, a history that dismantles the civilizing myths of colonialism.”

—Kate Crosby, Professor of Buddhist Studies, King’s College, London

“With notable tenacity and thoroughness, the authors trace the wandering career of the first European convert Buddhist monk, U Dhammaloka. Recounting the life of the fascinating twentieth-century working-class Irishman turned Burmese Buddhist monk, the authors bring into sharp relief the ways in which currents of intellectual, religious, and economic change made Buddhism a global tradition in an age of migration, colonization, and empire in Asia.”

—Richard M. Jaffe, Director of the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute and Professor of Buddhist Studies, Duke University

“Among the early European converts to Buddhism, we think of Madame Blavatsky, Alexandra David-Neel, and Ananda Metteyya. But there were many more, perhaps none more intriguing than the Irishman U Dhammaloka. Drawing on some impressive detective work, the authors here paint a fascinating picture—more than a sketch, less than a portrait—of this shape-shifting Buddhist monk. In the process, they provide many insights into fin-de-siècle Buddhism.”

—Donald Lopez, Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, University of Michigan

 

 


Upcoming book launch events

NEW / RESCHEDULED EVENTS

Shan State Buddhist University / Transnational Network of Theravada Studies:

Rainy Season Research Series, online, Friday July 24th 2020

“Why was U Dhammaloka forgotten for a hundred years?” Laurence Cox and Brian Bocking

This talk introduces one of the first western Buddhist monks, his remarkable life (including his dramatic adventures in Burma and his travels with the Saopha of Kengtung). How and why was he forgotten – and what does this tell us about memory, lineage and history in Buddhism? And why does remembering U Dhammaloka make a difference?

Princeton, USA:

Fund for Irish Studies, Lewis Arts Center, Friday Feb 5th 2021

“Irish hobo, Buddhist monk, anti-colonial celebrity: the strange story of U Dhammaloka” (lecture by Laurence Cox, full details TBA – may be online or face to face)

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

We had over a dozen launch events in the pipeline in different countries and cities, at various stages of firming up. Obviously many of these will have to be postponed or cancelled depending on the situation. We’ll try to keep this as updated as possible.

Cork, Ireland:

Book launch at UCC Cork, 4pm Wed 22 April 2020 CHECK FOR UPDATES

All interested are cordially invited to hear Prof. Brian Bocking speak on Wednesday 22 April 4pm at the launch of the new book co-authored with Alicia Turner and Laurence Cox: The Irish Buddhist: the forgotten monk who faced down the British empire (Oxford University Press, New York, out March 2020). Venue: the College Seminar Room, O’Rahilly Building, UCC. Enquiries b.bocking@ucc.ie

Irish universities are closed from 13 March until 29 March but this period may be extended – please check before travelling.

Dublin, Ireland:

Talk at EPIC, the Irish Emigration Museum, 5.30 Thurs 21 May 2020 CHECK FOR UPDATES

Laurence Cox (details TBA)

Irish museums are closed from 13 March until 29 March but this period may be extended – please check before travelling.

Melbourne, Australia:

Irish Studies Centre, University of Melbourne, Tues 1 Sept 2020

Lecture by Brian Bocking, “A long-lost canvas: early Irish Buddhists in Melbourne”

Other events in King’s College London, Lausanne and other venues TBC…


Dhammaloka on trial

Laurence Cox will be giving an advance glimpse of Dhammaloka’s story in TCD’s Long Room Hub on Friday, October 11th at 4.30:

An Irish Buddhist on trial for sedition

On Friday, January 13th, 1911, the bazaars of colonial Rangoon closed down and “men women and children” pulled a gaily decorated cart containing Buddhist monk U Dhammaloka to the Chief Court for his appeal against his conviction for sedition. Dhammaloka – an Irish-born sailor, hobo and “poor white” – was a thorn in the side of the colonial establishment: a celebrity preacher drawing mass audiences across Burma with his challenges to empire, Christianity and western culture; a skilful organiser in today’s Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand; and active from Japan to Sri Lanka.

Using new material from a forthcoming OUP book with Brian Bocking and Alicia Turner, this paper explores the complex anti-colonial relationships made visible by the trial and the “forgotten futures” foreshadowed by pan-Asian Buddhist organising. The drama of Dhammaloka’s sentence, extradition attempt, faked death and final disappearance underlines the wider significance of religion and power in the high imperial period.

The paper is part of the (free) annual conference of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religion, which runs from 2 – 8 pm. Conference enquiries to Dr Alexandra Grieser at griesera@tcd.ie


“The Irish Buddhist” book out in March

It’s finally happening! After ten years of our joint research on U Dhammaloka, “The Irish Buddhist: the forgotten monk who faced down the British Empire” is due out in March 2020 from Oxford University Press.

U Dhammaloka

Photo of U Dhammaloka, 1902 (c) Brian Bocking

We’ll be updating this site with details of launch events which we’re planning for a few countries.

If you’re interested in hosting a talk or other events around the book, drop us a line via this email address and we’ll get back to you. We live in three countries and two continents (N America and Europe) and like talking about this story…

 


“Encounters between Buddhism and the West”

A new podcast from the Religious Studies Project (supported by the BASR) features Laurence Cox discussing Dhammaloka, the Irish encounter with Buddhism and dissident Orientalism. Just over 36 minutes long.


“The Dharma Bum” film – animated trailer now out

A trailer for the Dhammaloka documentary “The Dharma Bum” is now out at https://vimeo.com/131488311. The film, scheduled for release in 2016, uses some beautiful animation to tell the story of Dhammaloka, and the search for Dhammaloka. More about the project here.


Dhammaloka movie project, media coverage

Ian Lawton’s project for a film about Dhammaloka is getting coverage in all sorts of places, including

Lion’s Roar Buddhist magazine

The Wild Geese Irish diaspora site

Mindrolling podcast

Full Contact Enlightenment blog

Pegbar animation network

Engage! engaged Buddhism blog

Secular Buddhism podcast

rabble.ie Dublin semi-underground paper

Elephant mindfulness journal

Secular Buddhism Aoteoroa NZ site

Irish History Compressed site

Bodhi TV (Dutch Buddhists)

Duncan Trussell comedy podcast

New Age Journal

Ireland Calling diaspora news site

Mizzima – News from Myanmar

German-language Secular Buddhism site

The Tattooed Buddha magazine

Totally Dublin

As well as podcasts on RTE radio, Secular Buddhist Association, Duncan Trussell Family Hour, Mindpod Network…

and the Myanmar Times, Kindred Spirit…

More about the project here.


The first Buddhist mission to the west … led by an Irishman

The new issue of the British Association for the Study of Religion’s journal DISKUS, just published, includes an article by Brian Bocking, Laurence Cox and Yoshinaga Shin’ichi showing that the first Buddhist mission to the west was not Ananda Metteyya’s 1908 mission to London (as traditionally thought) or the Japanese missions to California from 1899 on (highlighted in more recent scholarship) but the 1889 – 1892 mission of the Buddhist Propagation Society in London, led by Irish-born Capt. Charles Pfoundes.

The research includes Pfoundes’ biography, the Japanese background to the mission, the London world of public debate within which it took place, Pfoundes’ approach to Buddhism and the difficulties of being the first missionary, the conflict with Annie Besant and Theosophy’s claim to represent “esoteric Buddhism”, and possible traces left by the mission.

The article is open-access and can be read online at http://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/DISKUS/index.php/DISKUS/article/view/51/44 with a link for PDF download. It includes original copies of the flyers for the Society and for some of Pfoundes’ public talks as well as excerpts from newspaper accounts, reports by Pfoundes to his Japanese sponsors and accounts by Japanese visitors – bringing to life a lost world and the extraordinary moment when Buddhist missionaries first grappled with the question of how to speak to western audiences.

This site now includes a new page dedicated to material dealing with Pfoundes.

IMG_2677

Image: Researchers at Pfoundes’ grave in Kobe:
Prof. Akai Toshio, Prof. Brian Bocking, Dr Laurence Cox, Prof. Alicia Turner, Prof. Yoshinaga Shin’ichi