Against empire, against God

At one remove from things, I've been working with Alicia Turner at York and Brian Bocking in Cork on the life of Dhammaloka, a working-class freethinker from Dublin (original name uncertain) who crossed the US as a hobo in the 1870s, worked his way to Asia and wound up a tally clerk in Rangoon - where (like large numbers of whites who "went native" in imperial Asia) he abandoned his job and white privilege, and became a Buddhist monk. This was a period when quite a few Irish people joined the cultural nationalist organisations of the anti-colonial Buddhist revival across Asia, as well as Hindu nationalist organisations in India, etc. In this Buddhist guise he spent around 15 years as a scourge of Christian missionaries (probably carrying on Dublin plebeian anti-clerical traditions) - closely tied by this point to the legitimacy of empire, and close enough to the bone to get him hauled into court on at least two occasions (he seems to have won in popularity both times). A lot of this consisted of reprinting freethinking (atheist) material from British and American sources, as well as organising across Asia, from Burma to Japan.

We now have a special issue's worth of Dhammaloka material - the first stab at a complete overview of it - and are organising a couple of events, one in London in December and one in Cork in February, to commemorate the centenary of his trial for sedition (first instance 1910, appeal 1911 before an Irish judge). More in the attached flyer. Dhammaloka flyer

Nice to be able to reach back through history and shake someone by the hand, as the man said.