Marie Beuzeville Byles was born in 1900 into a Christian family in England. At the age of eleven years, she migrated with her family to Australia. She was one of the first women to graduate in Law from the University of Sydney and certainly the first to set up practice as a solicitor after graduation. At that time, the best that a woman graduate in Law could expect was employment in a Law Office as a solicitor's clerk. This, Marie could not accept so she established her own practice at Eastwood, a Sydney suburb. The 'Sydney Morning Herald', of November 24th. 1979, in her obituary observed that:
She became a legendary figure, winning achievement as mountaineer, explorer and author.' She explored the mountains of New Zealand and China until a foot operation made such pursuits no longer possible. With her friend Paddy Pallin, she established the Boudi National Park Trust. As a result of a viscious assault on her, reputedly by the husband of a lady she defended in the Family Law Court, she spent the latter years of her life as a recluse.
It was dunng the 1940's in Sydney. whilst studying books on non-Christian religions, that Marie Byles became intensely interested in Buddhism. She wrote at least six books, four of which were on Buddhist topics. 'World Buddhism', Vol.5. No.l. 1956. a publication of the World Fellowship of Buddhists reports:
'Miss Marie Byles, who spent a short holiday and study tour in Ceylon after a trip to the Himalayas for meditation purposes, is now writing a book on "The Human Aspect of the Buddha's Life" for publication shortly.'
She spent the year 1954 in North India reaearching this book which was eventually published under the title of "Footprints of Gautama the Buddha". This is the only book that she wrote which is still in print. Another of her books was "Joumey into Burmese Silence" was the result of her spending some time in Burma practicing Vipassana Meditation. Marie gave many talks to the Theosophical Society in Sydney, as well as broadcasting on their regular Sunday night programme on Radio Station 2GB. She also preached Dhamma at the Unitarian Church in Sydney. Marie disliked participation in organised groups, preferring to study and meditate in a hut in the garden of her Cheltenham (a Sydney suburb) home. She was a pacifist, naming her home 'Ahimsa', which means harmlessness and her garden meditation hut, the 'Hut of Happy Omen'.
It was to Marie's home that Sister Dhammadinna, the Buddhist missionary nun, came in 1952 seeking a place to stay. Marie offered this elderly nun a couple of blankets and the floor of the Hut of Happy Omen as her accomodation, believing that the Buddhist Sangha should be satisfied with spartan living conditions. Sister Dhammadinna was far from happy with this omen and was forced to seek more appropriate accomodation. Marie's library was very comprehensive, containing the complete English translation of the Tripitaka. Since her death, the home and garden have been given to the people of Sydney as a quiet retreat. It is currently administered by the National Trust. Her library was bequeathed to the Fisher Library at the University of Sydney.
See Also: http://www.nsw.nationaltrust.org.au/properties/files/mariebyles_online.pdf