Brian Bocking: "Dhammaloka in Tokyo: The hidden history of early Western Buddhist monastics"

Thursday May 12th 2011, 5:15PM
Event Sponsor
Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford
Encina Hall West, Room 208
Brian Bocking: "Dhammaloka in Tokyo: The hidden history of early Western Buddhist monastics"


The 'Irish Buddhist' U Dhammaloka, until recently lost to history, was ordained in the Burmese tradition probably in the 1880s. One of the earliest Western Buddhist monks, he was a Buddhist revivalist celebrated throughout South and East Asia in the early 1900s. Dhammaloka was a working-class Irishman with limited formal education but he was an effective orator and a tireless campaigner; for Buddhism and temperance, against Christianity. Remarkably, U Dhammaloka was the only foreign Buddhist to speak, alongside Shimaji Mokurai and other prominent Japanese Buddhist clerics and intellectuals, at the founding of the 'International Young Men's Buddhist Association' in Tokyo in 1902. Who was U Dhammaloka, why did he go to Japan in 1902, what impact did the Japanese visit have on his subsequent activities in South-east Asia - and what are Dhammaloka's links with San Francisco?

For an introduction to Dhammaloka by Prof. Bocking see the youtube video at


Brian Bocking is Professor of the Study of Religions at University College Cork (UCC), Ireland, where he is leading the development of the new Study of Religions department, the first of its kind in the Republic. Until December 2007 he held the Chair in the Study of Religions at SOAS, London, and was previously at Bath, England, Tsukuba, Japan and Stirling, Scotland.

Brian Bocking’s academic interests extend across the field of the study of religions; most of his publications are in Buddhism, Japanese religions, contemporary religious movements and approaches to the study and teaching of religions. His books include the first English translation of the 5th century Chinese text of Nagarjuna’s Middle Treatise (1995); a Dictionary of Shinto (1996) and a study of the changing form and interpretations over four centuries of a Japanese religious scroll known as ‘the Oracle of the Three Shrines’ (in Japanese sanja takusen) (2001). He has written many articles on Japanese religions, especially New Religions and Shinto, as well as working on theoretical and pedagogical issues in the study of religions, with a recent article on the problematic notion of ‘religious experience’ and another on the teaching of ‘Asian’ religions at university level (details at )