UCC to celebrate centenary of Dhammaloka 'the Irish Buddhist'

by OLIVIA KELLEHER, The Irish Times, Jan 31, 2011

Dublin, Ireland -- THE LIFE of one of the first Western Buddhist monks, an Irishman who adopted the name Dhammaloka, is to be marked by an international line-up of scholars at University College Cork later this month.

The centenary of Dhammaloka, tried for sedition on January 31st 1911, by a judge in colonial Rangoon, will be remembered at UCC on February 19th.

“Dhammaloka Day” also sees the Irish launch of the special issue of the journal Contemporary Buddhism, devoted to the Dublin-born migrant worker who crossed the world to become a pioneering European Buddhist monk in Asia.

Dhammaloka was born in 1856 in Dublin and was known by several names, including Laurence Carroll and William Colvin. Dhammaloka was his Buddhist name given at ordination. Many knew him simply as “the Irish Buddhist”.

The details of his Dublin family, his life as a hobo in the US and a beachcomber in Asia are as mysterious as his eventual disappearance or death and a fake obituary in 1912.

He lived according to the strict rules of the ancient Burmese Buddhist monastic order; yellow-robed, shaven-headed, walking barefoot and taking only one meal a day.

He travelled extensively between 1900 and 1914 in countries such as colonial Burma, Siam, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaya, Japan, China and India.

Dhammaloka became known in many parts of southeast Asia in his time and drew large crowds when giving talks.

He was tried for sedition in Burma by Mr Justice Daniel Harold Ryan Twomey, a native of Carrigtwohill in Co Cork.

Dhammaloka Day will feature an international line-up of scholars of colonial-period and contemporary Buddhism including Burma expert Prof Alicia Turner, York University, Toronto; historian of American Buddhism Prof Thomas Tweed, University of North Carolina; historian of Irish Buddhism Dr Laurence Cox, NUI Maynooth; and scholar of Japanese religions Prof Brian Bocking, UCC.

Uncovering Dhammaloka’s story has involved research by Prof Bocking and his research colleagues Alicia Turner and Laurence Cox.