Irish Network for Studies in Buddhism (INSB) seminar

From Laurence Carroll to U Dhammaloka:
Irish hobo, Buddhist monk, anti-colonial agitator

Irish Network for Studies in Buddhism (INSB) seminar

Tuesday, 10 September, 2 – 5 pm

Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College (east end of TCD campus, close to Westland Row and Lincoln Place entrances; Google map

In 1872 Booterstown-born Laurence Carroll worked his way across the Atlantic to start a life as a sailor and hobo which would take him across the United States and eventually across the world. In 1900 he was ordained a Buddhist monk in Rangoon and became U Dhammaloka, using western atheist arguments to challenge Christian missionaries and the British empire in Asia. As U Dhammaloka he became a very public figure in Japan, China, Singapore, present-day Malaysia, Siam, Burma, Nepal, India and Ceylon and was charged with sedition, pursued by the colonial police, placed under surveillance and faked his own death before disappearing mysteriously in Penang in 1913.

Famous in his own time, Dhammaloka’s story did not suit later generations in Ireland or in Asia and has only recently been rediscovered by an international team of researchers. This seminar presents the results of a year attempting to track Dhammaloka’s hobo past and follow his traces in Asia. Dhammaloka’s history shows us different ways of thinking about what Buddhism means, the history of Irish religion and the meaning of atheism.



  • Welcome (Dr Jude Lal Fernando)
  • Introduction:  a beachcomber Buddhist in colonial Asia (Dr Laurence Cox)
  • The first Dharma bums: hobo and monk as ways of life (Ms Rachel Pisani)
  • Qs & As
  • Break
  • From the edge of the ambit: an interpretation of Dhammaloka’s 1909 tour of Ceylon (Dr Mihirini Sirisena)
  • What does it all mean? Empire, religion and paths not taken (Dr Laurence Cox)
  • General discussion

Hosted by the Irish School of Ecumenics

This research forms part of the Irish Research Council-funded project
“Early western Buddhists in Asia”

The exhibition “Encountering Buddhist Asia” has been extended at NUI Maynooth until
August 23rd; full details at

The associated book Buddhism and Ireland is published on September 1st by Equinox.

Department of Sociology
National University of Ireland Maynooth
Co. Kildare, Republic of Ireland