Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The First Irish Buddhist (video)

Dhr. Seven, Pat Macpherson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Alicia Turner, Laurence Cox, Brian Bocking

The Irish Buddhist (twitter.com/ceesa_ma)
The Irish Buddhist: The Forgotten Monk who Faced Down the British Empire is the biography of an extraordinary Irish emigrant, free-thinker (atheist), hobo, drinker, sailor, and migrant worker.

He became the first Westerner in the world to become a Buddhist monk. He was an anti-British colonial activist in Asia in the early 20th-century.

Born in Dublin in the 1850s, the man who took the Buddhist name Ven. U Dhammaloka at ordination in colonial Burma (birthplace of George "1984" Orwell) was:
  • Lawrence Carroll
  • Laurence O'Rourke
  • "Captain Daylight" (nom de plume)
  • William Colvin.
He energetically challenged the values and power of the Christian British Empire and scandalized the colonial establishment of the 1900s.

He rallied Buddhists across Asia, set up schools, and argued down Christian missionaries -- often using Western atheist ("free thinker") arguments. He was tried for sedition, tracked by police and intelligence services, and died at least twice.

The Dharma Bum (documentary)
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 (along with the world's only two other "world religions" Catholic-Christianity and Islam) has been told "from above," highlighting scholarly writers, middle-class reformers, and ecclesiastical hierarchies.

By turns fraught, hilarious, pioneering, and improbable, Ven. Dhammaloka's adventures "from below" highlight the changing and contested meanings of Buddhism in colonial Asia. Through his story, authors Alicia Turner, Brian Bocking, and Laurence Cox 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 -- and the mistaken story that British C. H. Allan Bennett (Ven. Ananda Metteyya) or another Westerner were the first to ordain as Buddhist monks. More

Lead author Prof. Alicia Turner, York University
Together with colleagues around the world three co-authors have spent the past ten years tracking down Ven. Dhammaloka's life. They came together due to their fascination with this many-sided Irish Buddhist monastic.
Associate Professor Laurence Cox
  • Associate Professor of Humanities and Religious Studies Alicia Turner, York University Toronto, a scholar specializing in modern Burmese Buddhism, nationalism, and secularism.
  • Associate Professor of Sociology Laurence Cox, Nat'l University of Ireland Maynooth, specialist in social movements, historian of Buddhism in Europe, especially Ireland.
  • Emeritus Professor of the Study of Religions Brian Bocking, University College Cork, and previously professor of the Study of Religions at SOAS, University of London, who has written widely on the academic study of religions and East Asian religions.
The Awakening of the West (Stephen Batchelor)
"This groundbreaking study rewrites our understanding of the first Westerners to embrace Buddhism as a living [tradition]. 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 [Allan Bennett]. 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 [end of century] Buddhism."
-Dr. Donald Lopez, Ph.D., Arthur E. Link Distinguished Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, University of Michigan
  • Release date: April 17, 2020
  • Hardcover (288 pages), $39.95 (pre-order price)
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Language: English, ISBN-10: 019007308X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0190073084

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