From Irish hobo to Burmese Buddhist: celebrating the centenary of U Dhammaloka's trial for sedition

I've talked about the late great Dhammaloka - a Dublin-born hobo who became a Buddhist monk in colonised Burma and was done for sedition for attacking Christian missionaries - here before. It's not much comfort in times like this to remember that people have survived worse, and fought worse, before, but it's true nonetheless. Dhammaloka's real name is still uncertain - he gave at least three, whether because he'd learned to do so as a migrant worker (or perhaps a union activist) or to avoid something from his past coming back to haunt him - but he made his way from Dublin to Liverpool while still a teenager, worked his way across the Atlantic, up and down the East Coast as a sailor, across the States as a hobo and then back and forth across the Pacific till he lost his job in Yokohama, and worked his way on a tramp steamer to Rangoon. And that was before he really got started...

UCC are holding a "Dhammaloka Day" on February 19th (more details, including a short video, here) to celebrate the centenary of his trial for sedition. The real story of course is that he was sent down by a judge from Carrigtwohill in Cork (he was also denounced by an ex-Hearst journalist from Killarney and supported by a Theosophist from Mallow), so an alternative headline would be "Corkman sentences Dubliner" (in Rangoon).

Like a lot of Buddhists of the day, Dhammaloka saw no need for a god - in fact he was an active correspondent of American and British atheists, republished Tom Paine (in Burmese!) and introduced Bradlaugh to Burma: somewhat ahead of his time for the Ireland in which Connolly felt the need to protest the compatibility of socialism and Catholicism.

Readers with university subs can find the special issue of Contemporary Buddhism (11/2) on Dhammaloka via their library catalogues; otherwise it will be available on the day.

Dhammaloka Day poster