Local Agency in Global Movements: Negotiating Forms of Buddhist Cosmopolitanism in the Young Men’s Buddhist Associations of Darjeeling and Kalimpong

  • Kalzang Dorjee Bhutia (Author)

    Kalzang Dorjee Bhutia is currently a lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at Grinnell College. He received his PhD in Buddhist Studies from the University of Delhi, and his current book project focuses on the modern history of Buddhism in Sikkim in a global context.

Identifiers (Article)


The Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA), founded in Ceylon in 1898, was one of many Buddhist socio-cultural organisations established between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that imagined Buddhism as a global religion, compatible with colonial modernity and its educational, recreational, and religious goals. However, the YMBA functioned differently in its different locations, and this article will focus on the history of two YMBA branches, established in the eastern Himalayan urban centres of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, to explore how local agents adapted this model of social organisation to fit their own contexts. The founders of these two branches, a rebel Sikkimese noble turned Theravadin monk and educator, and a British army officer turned Buddhist preacher, both represent ways that Buddhism was constructed during a period of transnational intellectual cosmopolitanism. Their activities suggest how the particular locations of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, perched as they were between empires, facilitated such forms of global affiliation.


Academic discipline and sub-disciplines
religious studies, transcultural studies
religious reform, Young Men's Buddhist Association, Buddhism, Modern Buddhism, social organisations, Himalayas, Himalayan intellectual movements,