This site records the hunt for one man – U Dhammaloka, a remarkable Buddhist monk and anti-colonial agitator who was active across Asia – Ceylon (Sri Lanka), India, Burma, Siam (Thailand), Straits Settlements (Malaysia), Singapore, Australia, China and Japan – between 1900 and 1913 before disappearing. We know Dhammaloka had been a hobo (migrant worker) in the USA and before that was born in Dublin around 1856. He has a hundred-year head start but we are on his trail…
In searching for Dhammaloka we are also uncovering a whole hidden history of early western Buddhists in Asia. This story goes far beyond the usual story of a handful of gentleman scholars who founded respectable organisations and uncovers a much livelier world of ex-sailors going native, cross-racial alliances, international networks, radicals and eccentrics, steamships and telegraphs, and the remaking of what we now think of as Buddhism.
The Dhammaloka project also shows the complexity of the story of Buddhism and Ireland. Knowledge of Buddhism circulated through the medieval church and as travellers’ tales; Irish soldiers and civil servants played an active role in the British empire which conquered much of Buddhist Asia; the “dalai lama of little Thibet” was well-known to people who read romantic fiction in 1806; the first Buddhist missionary toured the country in 1889. The simple story whereby all Irish people were Catholics or Protestants until the 1960s or 1970s has to be replaced by a much more global understanding: there have been Irish Buddhists, and Buddhists in Ireland, for well over a hundred years.
This website showcases some of the findings from these strands of research. It covers the search for U Dhammaloka, research on early western Buddhists in Asia and the history of Buddhism and Ireland. There are links to published research of various kinds, details on events, online texts and other resources covering these three extraordinary stories.