Buddhism and Ireland: From the Celts to the Counter-Culture and Beyond, by Laurence Cox, Equinox, 413 pp, £24.99, ISBN: 978-1908049308
Though Irish Studies has been a burgeoning field in recent decades, several areas still lie fallow or are scarcely cultivated. But green shoots, so spectacularly absent in the economic domain, have begun to appear. Irish intellectual history, for instance, long an untilled field, has been the subject of the late lamented Tom Duddy’s pioneering monograph, A History of Irish Thought. Though religion has been ubiquitous in Irish history, the cultural study of both Catholicism and Protestantism, not to mention Irish engagements with more exotic religious beliefs, has not been extensive. It could be argued that Ireland’s greatest contributions to the world, for better or for worse, were its missionaries of various Christian denominations, yet this evangelism has attracted little academic scholarship, though there are signs of change. There is, for instance, Fiona Bateman’s NUI, Galway PhD thesis (which deserves publication), “The Spiritual Empire: Irish Catholic Missionary Discourse in the Twentieth Century”, as well as Sarah Hunter’s ongoing doctoral research in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) on the Dublin University Mission.
An important development in recent years has been the establishment of a non-confessional Study of Religions Department at University College Cork, the first of its kind in the Republic of Ireland. Though Irish Studies would not be a central part of its remit, the ongoing research of its head of department, Brian Bocking, on the works and days of early Irish converts to Buddhism, U Dhammaloka and Charles Pfoundes (working in collaboration with Alicia Turner of York University in Toronto and the author of the present book, Laurence Cox of NUI, Maynooth), is a truly path-breaking investigation of the much unheralded Irish involvement in religions other than Christianity. Oliver Scharbrodt of the same department was the principal investigator of a funded project on Islam and Ireland and is engaged in research on the intriguing figure of Mir Awlad Ali in nineteenth century Dublin. The Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religion was founded in 2011, and it has already organised two conferences. In association with the Study of Religions Department at UCC, it is setting up the Journal of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions, an international peer-reviewed online journal dedicated to the interdisciplinary academic study of religions.
The central strength of this outstanding study of the surprisingly long relationship between Ireland and Buddhism is Cox’s rigorous contextualisation of the spread of Buddhism in terms of colonialism—both in the East and West—the centrality of anti-colonial struggle, and the resultant two sectarian states in Ireland. The discourse of colonisation in the nineteenth century was frequently couched in missionary terms. Indeed, religious missionaries were seen, and saw themselves, as being, unproblematically, adjuncts to secular colonisation. The original function of missionaries was to service the colony, that is their own people. But, as the Irish political economist John Elliot Cairnes, writing in 1864, put it, the “grand object of the government of England in its early period of colonization or ‘plantation’ [1492-1776] was to enforce uniformity” of religion. According to the nineteenth century English colonial theorist Herman Merivale, government had a duty to promote the civilisation of native tribes in the colonies. In history, he claimed, “no instance can be shown of the reclaiming of savages by any other influence than that of religion”. This was a view that was generally accepted by the colonisers; the only debate centred on whether the natives should be civilised before being Christianised or vice versa. The great Sikh scholar Max Arthur Macauliffe, born in Co Limerick, descanted on the importance of the Sikh religion to the state, meaning the imperial British state, while Dhammaloka energetically attacked Christian missionaries, seeing them as agents of empire.
According to Cox, from at least the seventh century, accounts of Buddhism by Europeans circulated in Ireland. The quantity and quality of this information expanded greatly from the mid-thirteenth and again from the sixteenth century. But in the nineteenth century, Irish people “became part of the process of producing knowledge about Buddhist Asia via the British Empire, missionary work and Orientalist scholarship”. Between the 1860s and 1950s a number of individual Irish people “went native” in Buddhist Asia or privately identified as Buddhist in Ireland. As Cox puts it:
The first known (anonymous) Buddhists in Ireland appear in the 1871 census; the first (named) Irish Buddhists arrived in Japan in the 1860s and Ceylon in 1889; the first ordination, in Burma, came in 1900.The first talk by a Buddhist in Ireland was in 1889; the first visit by ordained (Asian) Buddhists in 1925 and the first explicitly Buddhist event in 1929.
The counter-culture of the 1960s and 1970s led to formal Buddhist institutions, beginning in the late ’70s. Buddhist teachers trained abroad arrived from the 1990s, founding a second wave of institutions. From the latter part of the 1990s new immigrant groups arrived in Ireland with their own versions of Buddhism. By 2006 it had become the third largest religion in Ireland.
Cox uses dependency and world systems theory, as well as occasionally deploying Marxist concepts and he is particularly attentive to questions of race, gender, and ethnicity. He follows Joseph Lennon in highlighting “solidarity and mutual identification between colonial situations in Ireland and Asia”. He also identifies the strategic use of Asian religions for western cultural dissent and sees parallels between “Engaged Buddhism” and liberation theology.
He writes perceptively about the reception history of Buddhism in Ireland, ranging from the western circulation of knowledge about Buddhism from the Greeks, the early Church fathers, the later Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the early modern period. He asks what texts were available, when, where, and in what languages, what were Buddhism’s vectors of diffusion, indeed frequently confusion. Ireland’s encounter with Buddhism was mediated through an international church, the British Empire, immigration and emigration, and the tales (celebrated for their tallness) of traders, missionaries and travellers. There were time lags in the transmission of this knowledge and its distribution was uneven. He tells us about the Bog Buddha found in Baltrasna, Co Meath in 1886 and about how the Revd James Hannay, Canon of St Patrick’s Cathedral, felt called upon, in his Donnellan lectures in TCD, to defend Christianity against claims of Buddhist influence:
The casual reference to monasticism as a realisation in Christianity of Buddhist conceptions, which are made, very light-heartedly, by preachers and essayists, do not seem to be based on any historical study whatsoever.
Hannay, by the way, was better known as the popular and prolific novelist George A Birmingham.
The relationship between Ireland and Asia is put starkly by Cox: “The most common Asian encounter with Ireland was at the point of a bayonet.” There was a huge expansion of the relationship from 1855, with the opening up of the Indian Civil Service to competitive examinations. Previously there was an elaborate system of patronage in place so that between 1809 and 1850 only 5 per cent of recruits were Irish. But between 1855 and1863 as many as 24 per cent of the recruits were Irish, reaching a peak of 33 per cent in 1857. This dramatic increase had a major influence on Irish Orientalism as a scholarly discipline. Sir Daniel Twomey of Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, retired as chief justice of Rangoon, “having made a major contribution to integrating Buddhist canon law with Anglo-Indian civil law”. Trinity College Dublin became the centre of Irish Orientalism, and typically those who taught Oriental studies had spent time in Asia as civil servants, diplomats, even soldiers and missionaries. Thomas Watters, son of a Presbyterian minister from Co Down, and a Queen’s College Belfast graduate, is a good example. TW Rhys Davids, co-founder of the Pali Text Society, wrote that “Mr. Watters probably knew more about Chinese Buddhist Literature than any other European scholar”. William Hoey, also a Belfast graduate, became, on retirement, reader in Hindustani and Indian history at TCD. John Van-Somersen Pope, the son of a Methodist missionary, compiled a Burmese dictionary and was sympathetic to the Burmese but, under pressure from the colonial state, was unable to satisfy Burmese nationalism and was forced from office. An eminent Pali and Tamil scholar and translator, he subsequently became professor of Modern East Indian languages at TCD. Vincent Arthur Smith, the historian of India and Ceylon, published Buddhist materials and collaborated with Hoey on some Buddhist archaeological projects. Smith too was appointed reader in Indian history and Hindustani at TCD. Robert Childers, a strong Buddhist sympathiser, moved from a career in the Ceylon Civil Service to become professor of Pali and Buddhist literature at University College London. He was the father of executed Irish nationalist Robert Erskine Childers and the grandfather of President Childers. His dictionary of Pali was, according to one scholar, a “pioneering work of Buddhist doctrine based on his own scholarship and dialogue with members of the monastic Sangha”. The first reference to “Theravada” in the Oxford English Dictionary is from Childers’s dictionary of 1875. Helen Waddell, the daughter of a Presbyterian missionary, first in China and later in Japan, was also sympathetic to Buddhism, but had no desire to convert to it.
In Great Britain and the US, theosophy was crucial to the development of western Buddhism, yet, Cox tells us, “Irish Theosophy and Buddhism barely overlap”. He sees theosophy as a late-Victorian hybrid religion whose Irish adherents saw Ireland as connected with Asia, not through empire, but through spiritual affinity. It was a way of being Irish that was neither Catholic nor Protestant. Not all theosophists were Buddhists but “any serious member had to engage with Buddhism”.
In 1884 Charles Johnston and WB Yeats co-founded the Trinity-based Dublin Hermetic Society with AE, to promote, according to Selina Guinness, “the study of Oriental religions and Theosophy generally”. Johnston co-founded the Dublin Theosophical Lodge in 1886, replacing the Hermetic Society. He took Oriental Studies in TCD and joined the Indian Civil Service, becoming a noted translator of Hindu works from Sanskrit. James Stephens, from a working class Protestant background, was sympathetic to the Dublin Lodge and AE’s Hermetic Society, but also to the socialism of Connolly and Larkin. Susan Mitchell also was a member of the Hermetic Society.
In 1889, Colonel Henry Olcott, the co-founder and the first president of the Theosophical Society, spoke in Dublin, Limerick, and Belfast, the first known public appearance by a Buddhist in Ireland. He spoke twice in Dublin, one of his topics being “The Irish Fairies Scientifically Considered”. The Freeman’s Journal attacked the Theosophical Society, declaring that the “study of Eastern literature, philosophy and religion is not fit for ordinary Westerners”. The “J.C. Meredith” who wrote to The Irish Times in 1896 in response to “American theosophists in Dublin”, presumably a reference to Olcott, was James Creed Meredith, who later became a judge of the Supreme Court, and who had been central both to the setting up and dismantling of the Dáil courts.
William Quan Judge, the most prominent Irish “Buddhist”, was born and raised in Dublin but his family emigrated to New York in 1864. He was, with Olcott and Madame Blavatsky, the co-founder of the Theosophical Society, becoming general secretary of the American Section and vice-president of the International Society, organising the Theosophical Congress at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions. He and the American Society split with Olcott and Besant in 1895. Before the split, Judge was a frequent lecturer in Ireland, which, as Cox says “like other Theosophists he saw as having a unique spiritual destiny”.
Cox agrees with Selina Guinness’s argument that Irish theosophy represents, not a flight from history but rather an engagement with it. Chapter 4 of this book has the splendid title “Esotericism against Empire”, this seeming paradox bringing to mind the Children’s Crusade or (biblically) Matthew 19:12, “eunuchs for the kingdom”. According to Cox:
As with some second-generation Theosophists, most Irish Buddhists chose instead to ‘go native’ in Asia, allying with nationalist movements in Sri Lanka or Japan, resisting Christian missionary activity in Burma, or becoming Tibetan monks. Within Asia, the Buddhist Revival which they joined was itself a cultural nationalist response to colonialism, so that they encountered familiar processes in the new form of Buddhist modernism.
And “going native” almost always meant dismissal from official posts. British researchers, on the other hand, often identified a “pure” Buddhism in ancient India, “presenting the Buddha as a Luther-like figure rebelling against the priestcraft and hierarchies of Hinduism” which was welcomed by Theravadin modernisers in countries like Ceylon. Hence Tibetan Buddhism was presented as far more “Catholic” than early Buddhism.
Cox makes good use of the 1901 and 1911 census returns to identify Buddhists who, for various reasons, were unwilling to out themselves. For instance, a 1901 male Buddhist in Galway was Joseph McCausland from Donegal, who graduated in Arts that year but who was then a medical student, qualifying in 1908. Three of the five Dublin Buddhists in one household in the 1911 census, Ralph Mecredy, Francis Crosslee, and Elizabeth May Warrington spoke Irish. They, and Elizabeth’s daughter, Isobel, initially, under the census heading “If Deaf and Dumb; Dumb only; Imbecile or Idiot; or Lunatic. Write the respective infirmities opposite the name of the afflicted person”, listed their disability as “Vegetarian”, but thought better of it and crossed out the entry. There was a Buddhist even in Ballyhooly.
Robert Gibson (1880s-1914) was perhaps “the only Irish-born person to openly call himself Buddhist in Ireland in the hundred and one years between the first census returns of 1871 and D. A. Marks in 1972”. He was the co-founder of the pioneering Dromcollogher cooperative creamery and an “esoteric Buddhist”. When asked by one Mrs Ponsonby if he wanted anything to read he replied: “Madam … I have the Grocers’ Gazette and the Light of Asia. What more can man want?” He organised a stop in Olcott’s 1889 tour and he hosted him at his home. He also hosted Annie Besant’s lectures. In later life he manufactured Gibson’s Universal Antiseptic Ointment, an alleged cure for eczema, ringworm, and other complaints. He was, needless to mention, famous as a judge of butter.
Another extraordinary figure in early Irish Buddhism was Captain Charles Pfoundes (1840-1907). Originally “Pounds”, and a self-mythologiser of note, he claimed to have taken part in the second opium war against China. He spent many years in Japan, becoming fluent in Japanese. His father was James Baker Pounds of Wexford and his mother, Caroline Pounds née Elam, was a noted botanical water-colourist. He claimed to have been the commanding officer of the State of Victoria’s first military ship and in 1870 he was superintendent captain of a Japanese steamship company. By the late 1870s he had embarked on a career as an orientalist, publishing a collection of newspaper articles, a catalogue of Japanese art (which he was auctioning), and collections of folktales. In 1876-7 he lectured in Buddhism in the US, returned to Japan briefly before moving to England, where he married. He lectured extensively on Japanese topics and was by now held in high esteem by Japanese Buddhists and appointed London correspondent of the Japanese Buddhist Propagation Society. Japanese Buddhists were worried by the rise of Christian missionary activity. It seems Pfoundes returned to Japan to work for the society, appealing to national sentiment and attacking Christian missionaries for slighting Buddhism and despising Japan as a barbarian country. He published a collection of these essays. By the end of the century he was attempting to become a Japanese citizen. Some gentlemen scholars looked down on him but some present-day scholars, such as Bocking, hold him in higher regard. He may have returned to London after 1905 but he died in Kobe in 1907. He claimed to have studied for nearly nine years in a Buddhist monastery and to have been ordained. He was suspicious of theosophy; he had been a member of Blavatsky’s theosophical lodge but fell out with the Society.
John Bowles Daly was educated at TCD, finally graduating with an LLD, which could not be classed as an achievement in the nineteenth century. He started out as a Church of Ireland curate in Monkstown, Co Cork. Between 1884 and 1889 he published several books, mainly on Ireland, including a novel, Broken Ideals. Daly and Pfoundes knew one another in London where, in 1889, Daly met Olcott and later travelled with him to Ceylon. Daly was the general secretary of a freethinking and occult branch of the Theosophical Society which Olcott set up, but it failed. Daly, who became a Buddhist in 1890, was appointed general manager of the Buddhist Theosophical Society schools and remained until 1893. He also founded and was the first principal of Mahinda College in Galle. Sri Lankan histories record him as a “pioneer of Buddhist education”. He rejoiced in the fact that “The shameful apathy of Buddhist parents in allowing their sons and daughters to be trained as Christians, has come to an end”. But Olcott and Daly parted ways, Olcott saying that Daly was ignorant of Eastern literature, had a “furious temper”, and “insulted and enraged some of the leading Buddhists”. But there were other more positive accounts, though even some of these noted his “choleric and irascible temper”. He probably stayed in Ceylon for four or five years before moving to India as editor of The Indian World and the Indian Daily News. One of his works, a report on the lay control of the landholdings of monasteries, was described by none other than Max Weber as “very instructive”. He seems to have later moved to Australia.
By far the most celebrated of Cox’s amazingly colourful cast of Irish converts to Buddhism, or sympathisers with it, was Lafcadio Hearn. He was an interpreter of “old Japan” to its modernising Meiji present and to the west, the author of thirteen books on Japan and one on China, and an early Buddhist sympathiser. He was a journalist in the US with freethinking publications, writing on religion and oriental philosophy. He was “enchanted” by Edwin Arnold’s Light of Asia and he travelled to Japan in 1890, becoming an English schoolteacher, later moving to a university. He married a Japanese woman, adopted a Japanese name, and took out Japanese citizenship. Interpreting Japanese culture as largely Buddhist, he was, like his cousin William Edward Hearn (the first Professor of Greek in Galway and a founding professor of the University of Melbourne), very interested in evolutionary theory. He was a Buddhist sympathiser rather than an adherent, though the fifteen-year old Alan Watts converted to Buddhism on reading his work. Hearn saw himself as having “gone native” and did not mix with European expatriates and the diplomatic world of Tokyo. He said that missionaries should be shot on sight and spoke of Jesuit attempts at conversion as “a crime against humanity, a labour of devastation”. Politically he was consciously anti-imperialist: the British consul (himself Irish) saw Hearn as a nationalist “in the most extreme sense of the term”. He supported the Boers against the British and, like Pfoundes, the Japanese against the Russians.
The pioneers of western Buddhist monasticism are conventionally seen to be two British and one German gentlemen-scholars but Alicia Turner, Brian Bocking, and Laurence Cox have identified an earlier figure, a working class Irishman, a “beachcomber”, a hobo, and certainly no gentleman. He gave himself at least three names: Lawrence Carroll, Lawrence O’Rourke, and William Colvin. His religious name was U Dhammaloka and his work spanned Burma, Singapore, present-day Malaysia, Siam, Cambodia, India, Ceylon, Nepal, Japan, China, and Australia. If he was Laurence Carroll, he appears to have been a Catholic grocer’s son from Booterstown, Co Dublin who soon emigrated, first to Liverpool and then to the US, arriving in 1872. He became a hobo, working his way west to California and in the mid-1870s he found work on packet ships to Yokohama. After a few trips he was left behind in Japan, eventually making his way to Rangoon. Around 1900 he shot to public prominence as a celebrity preacher, prolific correspondent, temperance activist, publisher, international networker and “terror to evil-doers”. Though deficient in formal education, he had great organising skills and he took to defending Buddhism in the white man’s world with great energy and enthusiasm. He saw three not unrelated threats to the East: “the Bible, the whisky bottle and the Gatling gun”. He addressed mass audiences, published in English-language newspapers, drawing on the radical and plebeian traditions of polemical free-thought, or atheism. The Buddhist Tract Society publications distributed in huge numbers across Burma, included the works of atheists like Tom Paine and Robert Blatchford. Dhammaloka was a great polemicist in person and in print. In Singapore he set up a Buddhist mission and founded a Buddhist school; in Siam he founded the country’s first bilingual Buddhist school, one of the first in all of South Asia, which is still in operation today. In contrast, English convert Ananda Metteyya was appreciated by Europeans for his role as scholar-monk, his gentlemanly status, his interest in bringing Buddhism to the west and his ambition to have Buddhism recognised as a world religion alongside Christianity. However, according to Cox, “the plebeian Dhammaloka challenged Christian missionaries in Burma, and was popular among Asian Buddhists for his crossing racial lines and performance of correct ritual behaviour”. In 1910 Dhammaloka was charged with sedition for preaching against Christian missionaries but he was merely bound to the peace. He appealed before Mr Justice Twomey of the Chief Court but was unsuccessful. Dhammaloka, who had turned the wearing of shoes on pagodas by Europeans into a political issue of respect for native religion, faced Daniel Twomey, the grandfather of the anthropologist Mary Douglas; the calced colonial judge, speaking ex cathedra, found wanting the appeal of a fellow-Irishman, the nomadic and discalced monk Dhammaloka. The “Irish Pongyi” (monk) allegedly died of beri-beri in a Melbourne temperance hotel in 1912 but, as one might expect, death had no dominion over him for, in 1914, he was reported as being alive, and presumably well, and running the Siam Buddhist Freethought Asociation in Bangkok.
This scholarly, perceptive, and richly detailed study by a scholar who is himself a practising Buddhist provides us with many other truly fascinating accounts of Irish converts to Buddhism or sympathisers with it. For instance, Sir Thomas Lipton, the founder of the tea firm, claims to have met an Irish Buddhist monk in the centre of China. Elizabeth O’Connor, wife of the MP and journalist TP O’Connor, told a story of one Dr Patrick Murphy, when in the medical service in India, meeting a Buddhist priest who was from Galway. Belfast-born William MacQuitty, who was a film-maker and photographer, was a lay Buddhist who knew the Dalai Lama, who wrote the foreword to his 1969 book Buddha. From 1901 to at least 1905, Ramsay Colles (1862-1919), born Richard William Colles, and the son of a Kilkenny engineer, was the Irish representative for the Maha Bodhi Society. He was the author of a History of Ulster and a correspondent of Swinburne and Walt Whitman. Frank McCourt in Angela’s Ashes claims that in Limerick around 1940 there was a Mr Timoney, a British army veteran, whose Indian wife had been killed in a disturbance, who was “a known Buddhist and a danger to good Catholics around him”. He was, McCourt states, institutionalised on the intervention of the local bishop. Poet and editor Maxwell Dunn (c 1895-1963), who was born in Dublin, eventually emigrating to Australia, was ordained a Soto Zen priest and was the first Buddhist chaplain at the Olympic Games. Alicia Turner recently discovered “How I Became a Buddhist” by “An Irish Gael” in the London Mahabodhi Society’s British Buddhist for 1928. She was probably Vivian Butler-Burke, an Irish-American friend of Micheál MacLiammóir who settled in Ireland in 1921. She is described as “an heiress, a vegetarian, a Republican, a correspondent of Tucholsky and Gandhi and a member of the Maha Bodhi Society”. She founded Ireland’s first Buddhist centre. Buddhist sympathiser Patrick Breslin, who was influenced by theosophy and was a defender of psychic phenomena, was one of the three Irish victims of Stalin’s purges. He was a member of the Communist Party of Ireland and was sent by Jim Larkin to the International Lenin School in Moscow.
Cox tell us that when Tibetologists were asked to referee the “ultra-exotic work” and bestseller The Third Eye (1956), one of the many books by Tibetan lama Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, they “objected strongly, and were so offended by its subsequent publication that they hired a private investigator, who in short order discovered the author to be Cyril Hoskin, a plumber’s son from Devon”. After the publication of The Third Eye, but before he was rumbled, Scotland Yard asked Hoskin for his Tibetan passport or residence permit, whereupon he decamped to Ireland, where his then disciple Michael Dillon provided him with a house in Howth. He lived there until 1959 with his wife and their friend and secretary, Sheelagh Rouse, when all three moved to Canada for somewhat prosaic tax reasons. But before he left he rescued a Siamese cat which later “telepathically dictated” Living with the Lama to him. Early editions of his books, while he was still in Howth, advertised shamrock Buddhas for sale.
Another fascinating figure was Terence Gray, who became Wei Wu Wei, an Anglo-Irish aristocrat from a Lisburn family who married a Rimsky-Korsakov and later a Georgian princess. But perhaps most extraordinary of all was Michael/Laura Dillon, who became Sramanera Jivaka/Lobzang Jivaka, the world’s first female-to-male transsexual through plastic surgery. She was brought up in England after the family home in Lismullen in Meath was burned during the War of Independence. She studied in Cambridge, Cox tells us, (but was it perhaps Oxford?) as a woman before World War II and took on a male identity during the war. Returning to Ireland as a man, he qualified in medicine at TCD while undergoing pioneering, and illegal, surgery in Britain. He was disowned by his brother, the 8th Baronet of Lismullen. He wrote a pioneering study of transsexuality and, while working as a ship’s doctor in 1958, his transsexuality was leaked to the press. He fled to India and subsequently wrote several books.
Part III of Buddhism and Ireland addresses the question of Buddhism within Ireland from “Counter-Culture to Respectability”, linking its development with travel abroad, the women’s movement, gay liberation, environmentalism and the peace movement. Cox provides us with a fascinating account of “blow-ins” from counter-cultures elsewhere, Buddhist missionaries from western countries, the influence of Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums, Alan Watts’s The Way of Zen, DT Suzuki’s books on Zen, and The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Here too we find the related phenomena of yoga, transcendental meditation, vegetarianism, macrobiotic food, occultism, tarot cards, New Age travellers, consciousness-expanding literature and substances. Irish Buddhism’s relationship to the counter-culture, Cox tells us, can be neatly traced through the Alternative Ireland Directory, associated with Cork’s wholefood Quay Co-op. He highlights the Catholic Church’s changing position on “Eastern spirituality” from the relative ecumenism of post-Vatican II to Cardinal Ratzinger, who, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, declared Eastern spirituality incompatible with Catholicism and banned Eastern-inspired meditation practices. The Irish Theological Commission (1994) condemned the New Age Movement, including western Buddhism. Its main source of information was US evangelicals, with Buddhism featuring as a somewhat unlikely part of a more general global threat.
The historical material in this book is so rich and fascinating that it is impossible to do justice to the section on contemporary Irish Buddhism in this review. This is a splendid study which should appeal to general readers and not merely to devotees or those who have an academic interest in Buddhism. It is an outstanding contribution to a new and exciting branch of Irish Studies.
Tadhg Foley is Emeritus Professor of English at National University of Ireland, Galway.