The Magical Western Buddhist Monk - Allan Bennett, or Ananda Metteyya
|Allan Bennett/Ananda Metteyya
With an upcoming exhibition featuring some of Aleister Crowley's artwork I have been reading Lawrence Sutin's fascinating psychosexual biography of Crowley, Do What Thou Wilt. In its pages I have come across a name vaguely familiar to me: Allan Bennett.
|Allan Bennett in pre-Buddhist days
Born in London in 1872, Bennett was one of Crowley's closest confidantes in his youth, and was said by Crowley to possess impressive magical powers.He was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
But Bennett's career as esoericist and magician changed course when he began living as a Buddhist monk in Burma, when he went by the name of Ananda Metteyya. In 1905 he was living at a temple in Rangoon when Crowley, who had once flirted with Buddhism himself, came to visit. Just a couple of days spent with the Western monk was enough to prove to Crowley that Buddhism wasn't for him, and he became more convinced to pursue his own philosophy of individualist magical practice.
Bennett/Metteya seemed to be living a devoted life as a monastic, though the harsh living conditions had caused him to look frail and sickly, and his presence as a western man living as a Buddhist monk was a thorn in the side of the British authorities who, according to Sutin, "viewed askance any embrace by British citizens of native belief." Though the British colonials must, by 1905, have become a little accustomed to Western spiritual wanderers. They were pretty adept at chasing them away from Tibet, and various Theosophically-influenced adventurers had been travelling around India and Burma for a couple of decades.
Bennett/Metteyya is said to have been only the second Englishman to have been ordained as a Buddhist monk in the Theravadin tradition, and he brought the tradition back to his home country, establishing a Buddhist mission in the United Kingdom.