The many lives of U Dhammaloka


Between 1900 and 1913 the Dublin-born bhikkhu (Buddhist monk) U Dhammaloka, ex-hobo, radical freethinker and scourge of missionaries, carried out a very public campaign across Asia in opposition to “the Bible, the bottle and the Gatling gun”. Prof. Brian Bocking (founder of Ireland’s first non-confessional department for the study of religions at Cork), Prof. Alicia Turner (editor of the Journal of Burma Studies, York University Toronto) and I have been trying to reconstruct Dhammaloka’s life – and in the process have changed the existing picture of early western Buddhism.

The Dhammaloka Project archive documents the results, which have also found expression in two special issues of Contemporary Buddhism on “The ‘Irish Buddhist'” and “Southeast Asia as Buddhist Crossroads”. This second special issue has now been published as a book (in a hardback library edition, but a paperback is promised if the hardback is successful).

Ian Lawton is currently working on a documentary project about Dhammaloka’s life, supported by crowdfunding. I recently did a podcast on Dhammaloka for the Religious Studies Project.