Conference abstracts and participants
Here are the abstracts for the conference papers and details of participants.
Dr Marcelo Vidaurre Archanjo, University College Cork
“Henrique Jose de Souza (1883-1963) and his Theosophical ‘Esoteric Buddhism’ Association in 1920s Brazil”
In Niterói City (1924), former capital of Rio de Janeiro State (Brazil), Henrique José de Souza (1883-1963) and a small group of collaborators founded the ‘Dharana Society’ (Brazilian Theosophical Society between 1928 and 1969; Brazilian Society of Eubiose from 1969). A Theosophical organization par excellence, this association was not bound, however, to the Theosophical Society founded by Blavatsky and headquartered in Adyar – India. The unique personality of its main founder, characterized by a sort of charismatic leadership shrouded in several “extraordinary spiritual phenomena,” combined with a strong nationalistic discourse, are hallmarks of this organization since its creation.
My goal in this paper is to demonstrate the representations regarding the ‘esoteric Buddhism’ drawn up by this organization in its first four years of operation (1924-1928: period under the name ‘Dharana Society’) placing it in the Brazilian culture and religious field, and in the historical context of Buddhism in Brazil. As main primary source I will use the articles published in the official journal of the group (‘Dharana Journal’), besides several texts authored by Henrique José de Souza. Preliminarily I’ll present a brief biography of Henrique José de Souza and the general characteristics of his organization. As background in this paper I will consider a significant event in the Blavatsky Theosophical Society’s cosmology and with great significance to Souza’s organization: the Maitreya Buddha’s advent, better known as the ‘World Teacher Project.’
Into the social and cultural context of late 19th century and early 20th century, I will also consider the contemporary Theosophy (The Theosophical Society and its several ‘branches’) not only as a vehicle of introduction and dissemination of some Buddhist concepts and ideas in the West, but mainly as an agent of re-meaning of these concepts and ideas.
Mr Kalzang Dorjee Bhutia, University of Delhi
“The First Vajrayana-turned-Theravadin Buddhist Monks: The Forgotten Legacy of Sikkimese King Sidkeong Tulku’s Theravadin Education Experiments in Myanmar and Sri Lanka”
While Sikkim, an Indian state in the Eastern Himalayas, is mostly known as a bastion of Vajrayana Buddhist culture, it is also home to a forgotten moment of inter-traditional Buddhist interchange in the twentieth century. Recent research on the tenth king of Sikkim, Sidkeong Tulku (1879-1914) by Alex McKay, Barbara and Michael Foster and others have revealed how from his youth, Sidkeong Tulku held a fascination with Buddhist reform. Sidkeong was known to have been a cosmopolitan intellectual, who was raised in the Tibetan monastic system, but went on to study at Oxford University under the patronage of the British Raj. However, despite this attempt to cultivate the Prince as a puppet of colonial policy, after returning to Sikkim, he became increasingly involved in conscious attempts to create links between Sikkim and other Buddhist nations in order to increase Sikkimese autonomy. He was particularly interested in Theravada Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia as an alternative system of Buddhism to his own that presented different forms of monastic discipline, and more importantly, alternate power structures between the sangha and the state. At the same time, the British Government eagerly pursued potential marital alliances with Thailand, Burma and Japan as a way to gain British influence in these nations while appealing to Sidkeong’s Buddhist interests. However, he had his own motives, and used these links to explore pan-Asian connections based around Buddhism as a basis for his increasingly anti-colonial sentiment. As part of this interest, he dispatched several young Sikkimese Buddhist monks to train in Theravadin Buddhist countries as an educational experiment. Based on oral and available archival sources, this paper will outline the largely forgotten stories of two of these cases: one in which a young monk was sent to Burma, with a tragic ending; and the other, in which a monk was sent to Ceylon only to become a celebrity in his adopted homeland. While the Burmese monk remains largely in the shadows of history, the Ceylonese student rose to become a well-known monk, intellectual, poet and freedom fighter against British policy on the island, Jathika S. Mahinda Thera (b. 1898?-d.1951). The very different outcomes of these cases raise interesting questions about how Buddhist figures and institutions negotiated colonialism and fostered anti-colonialism throughout Asia in the twentieth century, as the life stories of the two monks bring together three distinct South and Southeast Asian experiences of colonialism, while also leading to three very divergent postcolonial trajectories between Sikkim, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
Prof. Brian Bocking, University College Cork
“Flagging up Buddhism: Charles Pfoundes (Omoie Tetzunostzuke) among the Oriental Congresses and Expositions 1893-1905.”
In December 1902, the first Congress of Orientalists to be held in the East was convened in Hanoi. During an excursion to the Lim Pagoda, the gathering of distinguished European scholars walked to the pagoda “preceded by the flag of the Irish Buddhist, which represented rays of light proceeding from the mystic svastica in the centre” (Times of India, 19 January 1903, p.6). The Irish Buddhist here was Charles Pfoundes (1840-1907) who spent most of his adult life in Japan, possessed a Japanese name “Omoie Tetzunostzuke” and was ordained as a Buddhist around 1890. Lacking independent means but reasonably well-educated, entrepreneurial, fluent in Japanese and with a keen interest in Asian culture, Pfoundes survived as a cultural intermediary, explaining Japan and Asia to both Japanese and foreign audiences and proposing, or seeking involvement in, various international cultural ventures in Asia and beyond, some of which succeeded. This paper draws attention to the kinds of orientalist congresses and international expositions Pfoundes was involved in, viewing them as nodes within shifting networks of cultural communication and exchange which, like other monastic, political, ethnic etc. networks had the potential to exchange and promote ideas of Buddhism. Drawing on Pfoundes’ personal letters and papers, the paper briefly outlines Pfoundes’ life and then focuses on his involvement, in the last 15 years of his life, in actual or proposed international congresses and expositions in Chicago, Japan, Hanoi and Oregon.
Dr Phibul Choompolpaisal, University College Cork
“Tai-Burmese-Lao Buddhisms in ‘Modernised’ Ban Thawai (Bangkok): a mutual relationship between ethnic minorities’ Buddhisms and the British-Thai political centralisation in late 19th/early 20th century”
From the 19th to early 20th centuries during the period when the British and the French colonised Southeast Asia, ethnic minorities, including, the Thawai (or “Tavoy”), Shan, Mon and Lao migrated into the area of Ban Thawai (present name, “Yannawa”), the newly ‘modernised’ area of Bangkok. Located in the area, Wat Don Thawai, Wat Thung Kula, Wat Lao and Wat Yannawa became the most important Buddhist temples and communal centres of these migrants. In modernising the area, the British and the Thai government’s alliance lent support to the diversity of Buddhist and Christian practices in religious, socio-political and educational aspects. As a consequence, the first Buddhist and Christian bilingual schools and the most important Western-supported Christian churches in Thailand became established in the area. In return, the British-Thai alliance could establish diplomatic relationship with ethnic migrants and used such relationship to centralise power at local, national and international levels.
Based on interviews and data available in Thailand, I will demonstrate the mutual relationship between the local Buddhisms of Tai-Burmese-Lao ethnic minorities and the British-Thai alliance’s politics in the period before and during the first World War. I will examine the British-Thai support of these Buddhist communities in religious, socio-political and educational aspects. I will also explore the British-Thai political use of their diplomatic relationship with the Tai-Burmese-Lao communities in Ban Thawai and elsewhere i.e. across the borders of Thailand-Burma for centralisation of power. At a national level, the Thai government’s support of the locally ethnic, ‘centralised’ forms of Buddhism enabled it to exercise control over ethnic migrants in Thailand. At a Southeast Asian regional level, the alliance between the British, the Thai and the Tai-Burmese-Lao migrants allowed the British to maximise its power over the Burmese and its competitors, the French (and the German), in the major parts of Thailand and Burma.
Dr Laurence Cox, National University of Ireland Maynooth
“Rethinking early western Buddhists: beachcombers, ‘going native’ and dissident Orientalism”
This paper uses the life of U Dhammaloka and other early western Buddhists in Asia to discuss a linked series of implications of recent research in relation to the meanings of ‘being Buddhist’ in the imperial context.
The first of these is the issue of class, highlighted by the ‘beachcombers’, lumpenproletarians from various class backgrounds who, we are told, occasionally converted to Buddhism. Such extreme cases point up the wider situation of ‘poor whites’ in Asia – required (as soldiers, sailors, foremen and so on) by the imperial situation but regularly disaffiliated from the white elite and prone to form other kinds of alliances (for example, crossing boundaries of race and religion) – and the situation of struggling or failed members of the imperial service class. If we are to set ‘gentlemen scholars’ and other, more conventionally Orientalist, western Buddhists in a wider context, we need to relate these to the material context of western lives in imperial Asia. The paper draws on what is known of early western Buddhist ordinations to bring out some wider questions about their classed contexts.
A second theme is that of ‘going native’, and the changing policing of barriers of colour, religion and nationality in the imperial setting. While ‘going native’ has been extensively studied in relation to the north American context, often in relation to the material roles of those who made global capitalism and empire work (Linebaugh and Rediker), there is as yet little research on what is widely acknowledged to have been a frequent experience – and one of which ordination as a Buddhist monk is perhaps a paradigmatic situation. The paper explores some of the different barriers and challenges involved in this process and highlights the importance of Asian actors in creating the contexts within which western Buddhists ‘gone native’ found themselves.
Thirdly, the paper develops the concept of ‘dissident Orientalisms’, combining JJ Clarke’s argument that Orientalism often served to critique one’s own society with Joseph Lennon’s observation that Irish Orientalisms often constructed a pseudohistorical identification between Ireland and Asia as a way of resisting imperial histories of modernist progress. It highlights specifically Irish forms of solidarity with Buddhist Asia couched in religious modes, such as Dhammaloka’s appropriation of Daniel O’Connell’s ethno-religious nationalism.
Within the limits imposed by fragmentary data, this paper proposes a rethinking of ‘early western Buddhism’ in Asia as creative responses to the classed and raced structures of imperialism which are shaped by Asian actors; marked by solidarity across race and ethnicity in particular; and geared towards ‘alternative futures’ than the march of Christian and European power across Asia. Dhammaloka then appears as a relatively well-attested and particularly explicit variant of a wider phenomenon, in which the social groups needed to keep empire running defect from their assigned position within racial and religious hierarchies, come to operate within the institutional structures of a reviving Buddhism and on occasion contribute significantly to Asian (not merely western) Buddhist histories.
Philip Deslippe, University of California, Santa Barbara
“Brooklyn bhikkhu: the life and legacy of Salvatore Cioffi / the venerable Lokanatha”.
One of the most significant yet overlooked figures in the history of early twentieth century Buddhism is the man born as Salvatore Cioffi and known as The Venerable Lokanatha (1897-1966). Born in Italy and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Cioffi converted himself to Buddhism during the early 1920s while in medical school and by his own initiative traveled to Burma and India to study and be ordained. While Lokanatha was renowned in Burma, and upon his death had his body lay in state there, it was his missionary ventures to India that circuitously are his most significant. It was during one of the seemingly disastrous missions to India in the early 1930s that Lokanatha met with Dr. Ambedkar and planted the seeds for him to eventually convert to Buddhism, and along with him, millions of Dalits. This paper will give an overview of Lokanatha’s life and his contributions to global Buddhism, with a focus on his missionary tour of the United States in the late 1940s, which highlights not only the uniquely liminal position Lokanatha had found himself in by that time, but also the limited and confused place that Buddhism held in America in advance of the Beats and Hippies engaging with Buddhism.
Dr Tilman Frasch, Manchester Metropolitan University
“Towards ‘Buddhintern’: Asian Buddhist networks before the 19th century”
The 19th century is often seen as the ‘first global age’ for its intensifying trade relations, accelerating communication systems and the new forms of social and political interaction. Notably the improving communication systems – steam ships, telegraph, postal networks etc – created opportunities, which allowed people travel over large distances or remain permanently in contact. As a result, a host of government-sponsored international organisations emerged, whilst for those who feared to suffer from this governmental cooperation the rallying call made in the Communist Manifest set an example by way of the “Communist International” (Comintern). Religious groups did not stand aside, and the 19th century witnessed an upsurge of activities among virtually all faith groups, ranging from organised pilgrimages to the founding of international organisations. In the second half of the 19th century, Buddhists began case of Buddhism, the founding of the Mahabodhi Society and Anagarika Dharmapala’s participation in the World Parliament of Religions are two prominent examples for this engaging on a global scale.
But this link between modern communication and religious internationalism tends to ignore the fact that Buddhism had been a transnational religion from its earliest days – latest from the days when the emperor Ashoka sent monks to various regions inside and outside India – and that Buddhist communities in Asia had been in constant contact through the centuries. This paper will look more closely at the at the forms and contents of this intercourse between Buddhist communities (mainly ifrom South and Southeast Asia) from around the 5th century and thus put the “Buddhist International” of the 19th century in its historic context. The analysis of historic formations and their function will allow a more precise assessment of what was really novel in the 19th century relations and what has to be considered as well established traditions, the substance of Buddhist transnationalism.
Dr Elizabeth Harris, Liverpool Hope University
“Ananda Metteyya: controversial networker, passionate critic”
Ananda Metteyya (Charles Henry Allan Bennett 1872-1923), according to some representations of Buddhism’s transmission to the West, was a respectable member of an elite group of converts to Buddhism at the beginning of the twentieth century, who, in effect, stole recognition from a non-elite group. Whilst not contesting this basic premise, I first suggest in this paper that Ananda Metteyya was neither elite nor always, at least in the eyes of the Buddhist Society of Great Britain and Ireland, ‘respectable’. In fact, he came to pose a threat to the identity that the Society sought to create for itself. I then turn to three contexts within which Ananda Metteyya placed himself: international networks for the spread of Buddhism; anti-missionary networks within Sri Lanka and Burma; anti-imperialist networks. His main vehicle within the first was the Buddhasāsana Samāgama, the international Buddhist organisation he founded in 1902 and the journal that accompanied it, which was sent to between 500 and 600 libraries throughout the world. Also significant was Ananda Metteyya’s call for five men from four countries to come to Burma to be trained for higher ordination. Ananda Metteyya’s anti-missionary agenda was realized through the promotion of Buddhist education in Burma and through a ruthless written critique of Christianity and Christian proselytisation. An anti-imperialist agenda was implicit within this and is extended in his writing. This paper argues, therefore, that Ananda Metteyya was a central figure in the global networking of a substantial number of those interested in Buddhism in the early years of the twentieth century. He was also an early Engaged Buddhist, a critic of the West and a robust promoter of the East. He is a person worthy of the attention of this conference, however many additional, subverting narratives are added to his during the course of it.
Prof. Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa, University of Alabama
“Excavating the Roles of Women in Buddhist Modernity: Negotiating Gender Archive and Visibility in the Travels of Alexandra David-Neel (1868-1969) and Pelling Ani Wangdzin (188?-192?)”
Women and non-urban Buddhists are often absent from accounts of the Buddhist networks that thrived as part of the new global interchanges facilitated by colonial modernity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This paper will attempt to draw out experiences of Buddhist modernity for women by focusing on the travels of two roughly contemporary female Buddhist travelers in Asia: the controversial best-selling French-Belgian author, Alexandra David-Neel (1868-1969), and the little known Sikkimese teacher, Pelling Ani Wangdzin (188?-192?). What draws these women together is that they were both extremely well-traveled: David-Neel spent much of her life based between South, Central, East and Southeast Asia, while Pelling Ani Wangdzin sought an education that took her across the Himalayas to the furthermost eastern reaches of the Tibetan plateau, as well as into India and Nepal. However, there their similarities end, as both women, from radically different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, had extremely different experiences in how they traveled. David-Neel, as a European, enjoyed being hosted as an elite, and was forced to assume a disguise to cross borders, while Pelling Ani Wangdzin traveled as a pilgrim with little finances and enjoyed mobility through her anonymity. These experiences suggest the complexities of race and mobility in the colonial period for Buddhists across borders in Asia. More significant however is how these experiences were recorded. David-Neel’s records of her travels became bestsellers, translated across the globe into many languages, while accounts of Pelling Ani Wangdzin are now entirely in the oral archive, maintained through word of mouth in her native state of Sikkim in the Northeast Indian Himalayas. The question that emerges here is ultimately one of visibility – David-Neel was rendered visible in the archive through a position of privilege as a European Buddhist. In contrast, Pelling Ani Wangdzin’s experiences as a rurally based Asian woman have been marginalized by archival practices. This paper will draw out broader theoretical implications of these issues of visibility and invisibility in the archive, and suggest how records kept by David-Neel and colonial authorities may ironically be able to assist in remembering the lives of women like Pelling Ani Wangdzin through providing context and detail. However, ultimately the task of capturing the complexities of this period require oral and imaginative histories that challenge the archive in order to restore recognition and agency to those who were not always seen in the Buddhist world during this time, but who also took part in the new technologies and networks made possible by its broader socio-political changes.
Prof. Richard Jaffe, Duke University – NB paper change
“Global Waves on Omura Bay: The English Translation of the Gedatsu dōron (Vimuttimagga)”
In the late 1920s, two Sri Lankan Buddhists, Victor Pulle (1898–1960; aka, Soma Mahā Thera) and G. S. Prelis (aka, Kheminda Thera) made their way from Sri Lanka to Bangkok, Penang, Shanghai, and eventually Tokyo. Their stimulus for their journey was an encounter in Sri Lanka with the Chinese Buddhist translator, Wong Mou-lam, who urged that the two Sri Lankans travel to China to study Mahayana Buddhism, and, perhaps, work on translating some works from the Chinese Buddhist canon into English. Disappointed by the lack of opportunities to pursue their studies in 1930s Shanghai, the two made their way to Tokyo, where they began studying at the Nichiren academy, Risshō University, with the noted Indologist, Kimura Nichiki. Through his introduction, the two Sri Lankans met another lecturer in Indian thought, Ehara Ryōzui, who brought them to his home temple, Jōzaiji, in Kawatana, near Nagasaki. After hearing about the existence of a Visuddhimagga-like text, the Gedatsu dōron, extant only in Chinese, the three men set to work on a partial English translation of the the Gedatsu dōron (Vimuttimagga), giving it the name the Path of Freedom. The partial translation of the text was brought by Soma and Kheminda back to Sri Lanka, via Burma, where they stopped to receive the “higher ordination” and to study the Satipaṭṭhāna method of cultivation before returning to Sri Lanka.
In my paper I trace the complicated web of connections that brought Soma and Kheminda Thera to Kawatana, Japan and examine some of the motivations of the individuals involved in the story. I also examine some of the traces left by the two Sri Lankans in Japan and the part they played in helping Ehara with his own efforts to disseminate Nichiren Buddhism outside Japan. My goal is to illustrate with this small case study the complicated net of relationships that created the global Buddhist network in the first half of the twentieth century and the important role played by Japan as an Asian Buddhist metropole.
Ven. Jinho, University of Bristol
“The first bhikkhus in Britain”
In this research, I document and examine the lives of the first British monks in Britain, highlighting some of the important monastic pioneers and the early attempts to establish Buddhist monasticism in the twentieth century. Most of the information is drawn from existing narrative histories of Buddhism in Britain to provide a comprehensive account of this early history of British Buddhist monasticism. Finally, in my conclusion, I reflect on the major problems that the first Buddhist bhikkhus faced in the earliest stage of the history of Buddhist monasticism in Britain and why the earliest attempts to establish it ran into difficulties. It has been shown that by the end of the nineteenth century, British Buddhists had started to travel to Asia in order to receive ordination. The most common route they took was from London to Sri Lanka and from there to either Thailand or Burma or both countries.
The first ten monks who were ordained in Theravāda monasteries were ordained in the early twentieth century; the others between 1940 and 1953. A high percentage of the first British monks disrobed. The first British Theravāda monk passed away within one year of his ordination ceremony. The second and third monks both disrobed, citing illness, after several years of monastic life. In total, five of the ten monks disrobed for various reasons and three died young; the remaining two suffered from poor health. Thus a pattern emerges of early pioneering western Buddhist monks in the U.K. leading unsuccessful monastic lives due to illness, poverty or distractions. The possible reasons behind this phenomenon may be that, first, becoming a Buddhist monk was seen as violating social norms and conventional western values. Furthermore, considering the difficulty of keeping the precepts in a western society, these early Buddhist monks encountered challenges in everyday life that made it difficult to maintain their status as monastics. In addition, from the perspective of Buddhist training, British monks faced a lack of constant contact with the monastery and monastic training after returning to the UK. Traditionally, newly ordained monks are required to complete a long period of training to become stable and authentic members, something which the early pioneers were unable to do. Finally, without regular support from lay practitioners, which is a common social norm in Asian Buddhist countries, early western monks struggled to maintain their religious lives with minimal financial support.
Ms Julia Linder, University of Bonn
“The Theosophical Society of the East Indies in the late 19th century: its intermediary function in the spread of Buddhism in Indonesia”
At the end of the 19th century, the Theosophical Society established a widespread network on the Indonesian archipelago. Due to its focus on Eastern philosophies in general and Buddhist philosophy in particular, the Society served as a platform for the encounter and exchange of Buddhist teachings. Accordingly, the protagonists of the revival of Buddhism in modern Indonesia were dedicated members of the Theosophical Society.
The presentation illustrates how the Theosophical Society contributed to the revival of Buddhism in Indonesia. It places particular emphasis on the traceable influences of its teachings on contemporary Buddhism of Indonesia with regard to the alternating depictions of Buddhism between Europe and Asia.
Mr Douglas Ober, University of British Columbia
“Unfurling the Gem of Bharat Bhumi: Colonial Networks of Buddhist Exchange and the Indian Buddhist imagination in late British India”
Studies of the early rebirth of Buddhism in 19th and 20th century India—also labeled a “reinvention,” a “rediscovery,” a “revival” (C.f., Singh 2010; Zelliot 1979; Ahir 1989, 1991, 2010; Ling 1979, 1980)—have largely focused on two major social developments of late British India. First among these is the British‘discovery’ of Buddhism affiliated with the archaeological excavations and Orientalist scholarship of the colonial period (Almond 1988; Allen 2002; Ahir 2010: 9-107). The second major development concerns the efforts of the Sinhalese reformer, Anagarika Dharmapala(1864-1933), the American Buddhist missionary and Theosophist, Henry Olcott (1832-1907), and the activities of the MahaBodhi Society (Prothero 1996; Trevithick 2007; Guruge 1965). While both of these developments are pivotal to understanding the burgeoning networks of Buddhism in colonial India, the sole emphasis on them has oversimplified the diversity and neglected the vitality of other Indian Buddhist figures and movements active during the same period. In contrast to many of the aforementioned studies, this essay examines the “locative pluralism” (Blackburn 2010) of three pivotal, but lesser studied Indian Buddhist figures active in the early 20th century: the polyglotexplorer and Marxist revolutionary, Rahul Sankrityayan (1893-1963); the Tamil Buddhist apologist and Professor of Physics, P. Lakshmi Narasu (1860-1933); and the Maharashtrian Buddhist and Gandhian nationalist, Dharmanand Kosambi (1876-1947).
By focusing on these three figures and their local, regional and transnational activities, this essay demonstrates the varying degrees to which Indian Buddhists shaped and were shaped by the emerging discourses of the early 20th century Buddhist modernity. In particular, I argue that despite the ideological and at times, even social conflicts, that emerged between these different Indian Buddhist figures, they were increasingly unified by the view that to identify with the Buddha and India’s Buddhist past was a way to simultaneously assert one’s Indian-ness and reinvent an India that was universally appealing, modern, scientific and resistant to colonial rule.
Dr Andrew Skilton, King’s College London
“George Blake/Vijjavaddho Bhikkhu – Britains’ first Black Bhikkhu.”
This paper will offer a case study of a non-elite Buddhist convert from an unusual background, emerging at the very end of the period of interest to the conference but predating the popular interest in Buddhism of the 1960s onwards. It will be an introduction to George Blake, the first Jamaican Theravada monk and possibly the first bhikkhu of African and/or Caribbean heritage on record. Dr Blake left Jamaica as a schoolboy to join the RAF during the second world war. After his military service he worked in London where he became a Buddhist practitioner, receiving his samanera (novice) ordination in London and his upasampada (higher ordination) from Luang Por Sot at Wat Paknam in Bangkok in 1956, as part of a strategy on the part of the English Sangha Trust to form the first quorate ‘native’ bhikkhu sangha in England. After a period of very intensive meditation practice, and a rupture with the establishment at Wat Paknam (reflecting conflicting notions of loyalty and lineage between Thai and convert Buddhism that are ongoing), he disrobed and qualified as a clinical psychologist. He subsequently emigrated to Canada where he pursued a non-Buddhist professional career working with General Motors in Oshawa developing a clinic dealing with work-force addiction and alcoholism. After his retirement he has returned to his Jamaican and Buddhist roots and has developed a diverse local public presence as a prolific storyteller and therapeutic meditation teacher, drawing on his experience of meditation in Thailand in the 1950s. Blake links interest in Buddhism from the very end of the period concerned with more contemporary approaches to Buddhism.
Prof. Alicia Turner, York University
“The Bible, the bottle and the knife: religion as a mode of resisting colonialism for U Dhammaloka”.
The networks of exchange that crisscrossed colonial Asia at the turn of the twentieth century allowed for a diversity of cultural interaction and critique. These intersections took participants out of the rules of their own societies and allowed them to breach the boundaries created by local authorities under the guise of being “out of place.” European Buddhist converts, and particularly working class and beachcomber monks, defied the categories and assumptions of that defined Victorian colonial propriety. Their class and cultural backgrounds threated the privileged status constructed for Europeans in colonial Asia and their chosen affinity for Buddhism and Asian Buddhists made them appear to be traitors to the colonial project. With little to lose, they had a unique position from which to critique colonialism. The alliances they forged, much like those studied by Leela Gandhi under the rubric of “affective communities” defied the hegemonic forces of the day.
No critic was more outspoken or creative in his alliances than U Dhammaloka. The documented decade and a half of his life is Asia is littered with campaigns to rally Southeast Asians to the cause of Buddhism and opposition, always obliquely worded, to European colonial rule. Dhammaloka offered a potentially sophisticated, although never subtle critique of colonialism, colored by his own experience of empire in Ireland. Dhammaloka’s greatest vitriol was reserved for the “sky pilot” Christian missionaries who he described as coming “with a Bible in one hand and a knife and a bottle of gin in the other.” This typified his approach in many ways; his campaigns resisted missionary Christianity, promoted abstention from alcohol, and frequently alluded to the violence of colonial intervention. His standard line about the bible, the bottle and the knife, which was likely lifted directly from atheist literature of the time, offered a rude analysis of the combination of religious, materials and cultural modes of Imperial power. Yet what is particularly curious is that for Dhammaloka, religion was the primary mode of resisting colonial advances. The answer to imperialism, as well as much of the threat it posed, was to be found in the symbolic and mythic arena, that is religion, not the material or cultural fronts as later nationalists would have it. This was a very practical assertion of religion as a mode of resistance and power with wide ranging implications. I set out in this paper to explore why these pioneers chose Buddhism, of all possibility affinities, for their critique of colonialism and how this focus on religion, as both a problem and a way forward sheds light on the experience and critique of colonialism.
Dr Yoshinaga Shin’ichi, Maizuru National College of Technology
“Three Boys on the Great Vehicle—M.T.Kirby, William M. McGovern, and Utsuki Nishu”
Before W.W.II there were few organizations which could introduce foreigners to Japanese Mahayana Buddhism. One of the few exceptions was the Mahayana Association and its organ, Mahayanist. This association was organized by a Canadian, M.T.Kirby (n.d.) and an American, William M. McGovern (1897-1964) with help from Japanese Buddhist scholars and students in 1915 at Heian middle school of Jōdo Shinshū (Nishi Honganji) in Kyoto. Though it was short-lived (1915-1916) and is forgotten now, it was important as one of the earliest enterprises to propagate Mahayana Buddhism among English-speaking people. Also it was important as three young persons of this association would experience their foreign religious practices. M.T.Kirby had been a Catholic priest before coming to know Buddhism in Vancouver. After he came to Japan, he studied under Shaku Soen and received ordination as a Zen monk at Engakuji temple, Kamakura, in July, 1915. After him William McGovern became a Buddhist priest of Jōdo Shinshū (Nishi Honganji) at Anryūji Temple, Shiga prefecture. The third person was UTSUKI Nishu (1893-1951). He was born and raised in a temple of Jōdo Shinshū (Nishi Honganji), entered Bukkyo University (now Ryukoku University) to study English literature. He seems to have been on good terms with Kirby and McGovern, with whom he would correspond after they left Japan in 1916. Utsuki would travel to Los Angeles in 1917 where he studied Theosophy at the Krotona Institute of Theosophy at Hollywood for a year. Kirby and McGovern belonged to the early converts to Mahayana Buddhism with Beatrice Suzuki. Utsuki was one of very few Buddhists who became interested in Theosophy. Though their interests in other forms of religiosity (or spirituality) were not life-long, their examples tell us some aspects of “globalization”. This paper deal with the association and the three person’s relationship with Buddhism using the material found at Shōtokuji Temple, where Utsuki was a chief priest.
Dr Marcelo Vidaurre Archanjo, University College Cork.
Mr Kalzang Dorjee Bhutia, University of Delhi.
Prof. Brian Bocking, University College Cork.
Dr Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière, Centre Asie du Sud-Est, CNRS
Dr Phibul Choompolpaisal, University College Cork.
Prof. Steven Collins, University of Chicago
Dr Laurence Cox, National University of Ireland Maynooth.
Dr Kate Crosby, School of Oriental and African Studies
Philip Deslippe, University of California, Santa Barbara.
Dr Tilman Frasch, Manchester Metropolitan University.
Dr Elizabeth Harris, Liverpool Hope University.
Dr Adrian Hermann, University of Basel
Prof. Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa, University of Alabama.
Prof. Richard Jaffe, Duke University.
Ms Julia Linder, University of Bonn.
Prof. Justin McDaniel, University of Pennsylvania
Mr Douglas Ober, University of British Columbia.
Ms Pyi Phyo Kyaw, School of Oriental and African Studies
Dr Andrew Skilton, King’s College London.
Dr Chaisit Suwanvarangkul, University of Otago
Ms Isara Treesahakiat, University of Otago
Prof. Alicia Turner, York University.
Dr Yoshinaga Shin’ichi, Maizuru National College of Technology.