Allan Bennett’s Life: An Illustration of Nineteenth Century ‘Seekership’, and the Western Adaptation and Appropriation of Buddhism
The Life of Allan Bennett, Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya - (Volume 1 of Allan Bennett, Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya: Biography and Collected Writings) - John L. Crow
John L. Crow [+]
Florida State University
Elizabeth J. Harris [+]
University of Birmingham
This is the first biography of Allan Bennett, one of the first British men to gain higher ordination as a Buddhist monk and one of the seminal figures in the development of Buddhism in the UK. Bennett rejected Christianity early in his life and turned to late nineteenth century new religious movements, namely theosophy and the Order of the Golden Dawn. His involvement in the latter led to friendship with Alistair Crowley. His main spiritual interest at this point in his life was the occult and the esoteric. After he travelled to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1899 for health reasons – he had chronic asthma - he was attracted to Buddhism. Believing Buddhism in Burma (Myanmar) was purer than in Sri Lanka, he opted for ordination there in 1902. From Burma, he created an international Buddhist network, founding an international Buddhist association, the Buddhasāsana Samāgama and starting a journal, Buddhism – An Illustrated Quarterly Review . In 1908, he led a Buddhist mission to England. Convinced that the West needed Buddhism as an antidote to growing materialism, he became a prolific writer. Two volumes of his writings were published. The first recorded a series of talks he gave in London in 1917-1918, published just two months before he died ( The Wisdom of the Aryas ). The second was published posthumously ( The Religion of Burma and Other Papers ). Controversy has surrounded his life, particularly in western Buddhist circles, because of his early involvement with the occult.