The politics of Buddhist revival: U Dhammaloka as social movement organiser
AbstractThis article explores some important aspects of U Dhammaloka's Buddhism, drawing in particular on the work of his Rangoon-based Buddhist Tract Society between 1907 and 1910. It explores his work – in the Society and more generally - as in effect a social movement organiser within the Buddhist Revival, looking at his funders, publishers, printers, translators and distributors as well as those who wrote about him, laid down their hair for him to walk on, covered his train or boat fares, put up his friends in monasteries or let them cross borders, etc. It also looks at what we know about his organisations and involvement in other people's organisations, asking who he intended to mobilise and who his audience was, how his use of confrontation and polemic fitted into this, and how successful he was. Following this, it goes on to discuss the intellectual sources of the free-thinking (atheist) positions espoused in the Society's publications, and asks more generally how his posture can be located in relation to the politics of plebeian free thought in Ireland, Britain, the US and Asia. These questions arose out of an attempt to shed some light on the missing half-century before Dhammaloka became a public Buddhist figure; while the article can give no definite answers in terms of organising experience, intellectual inheritance or formative backgrounds, it suggests an alternative perspective which highlights a substantial, internationally-connected "Workers' University", grounded in the freethinking cultures of self-taught plebeian radicals, at the roots of western Buddhism.
Cox, Laurence (2010) The politics of Buddhist revival: U Dhammaloka as social movement organiser. Contemporary Buddhism, 11 (2). pp. 173-227. ISSN 1463-9947