Dharmapala lived at a time of rising globalization and emergent uniformities among the nations and religions of the world. That said, Dharmapala was very much a South Asian figure, even if one influenced by Theosophical ideas. As a world renouncer he felt both entitled and obliged to preach to the colonial master in a way that followed the Buddha’s own course. Celibacy was central to his understanding, the burden he carried that allowed him to criticize. A physical disability kept him from fully renouncing as a Buddhist monk, but the role he invented needs to be understood as an attempt not to extend lay piety but to embody as much asceticism as his disability allowed. By occupying a liminal place between layman and cleric, he cut an anomalous figure, and that ambiguity was easy to misunderstand. He thought of his activism as required by his spiritual quest just as was his commitment to civilized standards and cleanliness. What he saw as a life course that imitated the Buddha could easily be seen as lay activism.
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