We know he was a hobo (migrant worker) in the US, and a sailor in the Atlantic and Pacific. But there are also 28 years missing in his biography – years in which he evidently became quite a radical, and learned how to agitate effectively, maybe under another name. He hid this past so well that this part of his story still baffles researchers today.
Dhammaloka was a very popular touring preacher in Burma (Myanmar) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka); he set up schools in Singapore and Bangkok; he taught in Nepal and Cambodia; he was part of early international Buddhist networks in Japan and corresponded with Buddhists across the world; he was active in India and the Straits Settlements (present-day Malaysia); and he published tens or hundreds of thousands of Buddhist booklets.
Then as now he made a lot of people uncomfortable! He was not a nice, quiet scholarly gentleman but an Irish ex-hobo with the gift of the gab; he challenged the British empire and Christian missionaries in Asia. And the Buddhists whose traditions lasted wrote their own history which politely ignored other kinds of Buddhism that didn’t fit the story they wanted to tell…
Just like his missing 28 years, we don’t really know! He faked his own death in 1912; in 1913 he was still in the newspapers and making arrangements to go on tour; and then silence. Some sources hint that he vanished into Thailand, which like Tibet wasn’t under colonial control. Or maybe he changed his name again and started a new life?
From a website that is fund raising to make a film on Dhammaloka ~ https://dana.io/thedharmabum
Further links ~ https://dhammalokaproject.wordpress.com/u-dhammaloka/research-on-dhammaloka/