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L. R. Balley
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Why conversion to Buddhism
L. R. Balley
Baba Sahib Ambedkar himself spoke heartily in a talk on BBC London on May 12, 1956 explaining the reasons why he chose Buddhism out of the prevalent religions of the world.
He said: “I prefer Buddhism because it gives three principles in combination which no other religion does .All other religions are bothering themselves with God and life after death Buddhism teaches” Prajana” (Understanding) as against superstition and supernaturalism,”Karuna (Love) and Samata (Equality). This is what man wants for a good and happy life on the earth. These three principles of Buddhism make their appeal to me. These Three principles should, also make an appeal to world. Neither God nor soul can save society.
The Dalit Community as a whole was well on its way, though limpingly, to recover from the shocks and blows received from the particular Scico-economic system in the past so many centuries consequent to the introduction of the Constitution of India in 1950.The Constitution with its liberal prosperous brought with it promise for a Happy and prosperous future for the unfortunate class of the Untouchables. But ill luck for the Country and especially for the Dalits that the same old hydra headed monster of casteism reminiscent of the dark ages is fast on its way back to raise its ugly head. The resistance being offered to stem its come back in the name of secularism and pluralism by certain parties is more political in nature than real. To them secularism means only to solicit the help and votes of all sections of population, religious or social, to seize political power.
The real targets ultimately to bear the brunt of the catastrophe, therefore, are Dalits and Dalits only and more else. Little doubt, therefore, that the onus and responsibility to bury this ghost deep down the earth lies on the shoulders of the Dalits more than any other Section.
Varanashram Dharam is an essential feature of Hinduism and Hindu Society .All other religions, indigenous or foreign, do not believe in the divine sanction for Varan Vyavastha nor observe caste division. So there is no meeting ground either in religious beliefs of social intercourse between Hindus and others. This militates against the sprit of liberty, equality and fraternity, the very bedrock of social democracy. Brahmanism, the mother womb of all iniquitous social order does not confine itself to spiritual life of its mother members but the temporal life also. This provides no scope for cohesion between all Indian citizens. The recent unfortunate genocide witnessed in Gujarat is a glaring example in point.
It is a caste-based polity, caste based election, caste based elections, caste based justice and caste based distribution of national wealth and resources. But when it comes to caste based reservation in Govt.Servies, all hell is let loose.
The greatest and the real benefactor of India, Dr.Ambedkar the great, did play his part in his own way to reform the society thought his untiring efforts so as to make India a united, integrated and modern country. But what was his reward? He was beguiled and reviled, jeered and sneered all throughout his life. Verily, Political tyranny is nothing compared to social tyranny. He, who defies society, is much more courageous man than a politician who defies government. A Self respecting visionary, as he was, Dr.Ambedkar had no other option, therefore, but to bid good-bye lock, stock and barrel to the religion that preached hatered and poison eternally and sternly.
What Dr.Ambedkar did for the wretched lot of the people called the untouchables of India and what sea-change in the life pattern and the psyche he has brought about in the society has no parallel in the history. So it hardly makes any sense for anyone to say that the recipe to emancipate the suffering people from thralldom of Brahmanical social order as shown by him was not right or that it is not in the long-range interest of the Dalit community. Now coming over to the question of conversion or non conversion to religion or social order other than, Hindu religion, it would be pertinent to note: Can any one fight effectively and decisively against the atrocities of the oppressor while still remaining dependent on the help and mercy of the oppressor? It is simply unthinkable. Buddhism is only a philosophy of life to make the man more enlightened, more logical and more rationalistic in dealing with the day-to-day problem of life having nothing to do with the dogmas and myths like predestined fate, Karam Kand, birth in the lower castes for the sins menials only to serve others etc. A man with courage of conviction can prove to be a better fighter, than an unconvinced man ideologically neither here nor there. A Buddhist is as good and as inseparable a component of the state structure as any body else can be.
Besides the Buddhist ideology is the concern of the whole humanity and can hardly be confined to the Dalits only.
Posted on October 13, 2007
FUTURE OF BUDDHISM
The causes that led to disappearance of Buddhism from its land of birth need to be pointed out so as to comment upon and determine the future of Buddhism especially in India. Historians have pointed put many causes for the decline rather ruination of Buddhism India. Some of the main causes were as under:
The falgbearer of Brahmanism has not long ago demolished a mosque in Ayodhya. There have been cases of rape of Christian nuns, plundering of their churches. The Buddhists have been the continuous victims of Brahmins persecution and oppression. At many places the statues of Buddha were broken and Buddhist shrines were desecrated. The management of the Bodh Gaya is still in the hands of such Hindus as have no affection for Buddhism and many unbuddhistic practises are being observed in the Maha Vihra of Bodh Gaya.The Brahmist leaders often boast that India is the birth of Gautama Buddha. But the social set up is not congenial to Buddhism. Therefore the new Brahminic zeal is a potential danger to Buddhism.
The lowly people of India who are termed as the scheduled castes in the constitution of India and who numbers more than 150 million are the descendants of the Buddhists. The majority community being the Hindu, its governing class being the Brahmins, they don’t like Buddhism to flourish because in Buddhism lies the annihilation of the graded inequality, monopolisation of administration and financial resources. There would have been atleast 100 million Buddhists in India by now had the Hindu majority not created legal impediments in the cultural advancement of the oppressed section of the Indian Society. It may be noted here that it was provided in the Indian Constitution, through an amendment, that “no person can be a member of the Scheduled caste unless he professes Hindu religion.” After a strenuous struggle this legal bar has been removed. In the next census the number of Buddhists will certainly increase tremendously.
If the disinformation is being spread against the Buddhist movement of India – continues, it may result into misleading those who desire to see the movement becoming more strong and wide spread.
Some points here need to be clarified:
1. It is alleged that Dr. Ambedkar (By his followers) is equated with Buddha. This is a balatant lie. In one of his speech he called ‘BUDDHA , MY MASTER, MY ONLY TEACHER,” ( Speech on voice of America 1954) 2. It is said that the Buddhist movement in India is a political movement. For those Indians who suffered for centuries, Buddhism is a vehicle of all-round change-ethical, social and even economic. Buddha preached against exploitation of man by man, to wage a struggle for civil rights’, social justice and economic emancipation. If it all is considered politics, then Indian Buddhist do candidly accepts this charge. Buddhism has taught them to be moral and free from want and worry so they feel pride in waging struggle for their human and constitutional rights. 3. Often the lowly people are looked down upon because they are very backward economically. Their present condition is not of their making. Instead of contempt they deserve sympathy, compassion and help.
This kind of mischievous propaganda against the Indian Buddhist movement shall have to be disbelieved and totally rejected if it desired that Buddhism should spread in India. India has great potential for spreading of Buddhism. Its future can be bright, Very bright, if needed precautions are taken. And a programme for the all round emancipation of the people is formulated and organisational machinery is established and sincerely operated for the benefit of the needy mankind. I close this brief narration with 3Cs
(1) Clarity about programme (2) Coordination and (3) Common resources.
If my submissions are given serious thought, I hope, then the future of Dhamma in India would be very bright and it may regain its original glory and purposefulness. It is gratifying that the Punjab Buddhist Society U.K under the benevolent guidance of Ven: Chanderbodhi has taken lead for fulfilling the historic noble task of spreading the Buddhism.
Posted on August 08, 2007
DR. B. R. AMBEDKAR INDIA’S GREATEST SOCIAL REFORMER
While paying tribute to Dr. Ambedkar, on his death, on 6th December 1956, the then Prime Minister of India, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru said: “Dr. Ambedkar would be remembered mostly as the symbol of revolt against all the oppressing features had kept peoples mind awake. Although he was highly controversial figure, he played a very constructive and very important role in the government activities. He revolt against.”
What he revolted? Though Mr. Nehru has given an indication, yet his rebellion need to be explained more as he devoted whole of his life to its success. Among many theories Dr. Ambedkar propounded, one is very prominent, it is this: “History bears out the proposition political revolutions have always been preceded by social and religious revolutions”.
Indian Society is still a tribal society, steeped in orthodoxy and superstitious, divided in thousands of castes-sub castes. It is continuously practicing even today inhuman practices in the midst of the present modern world. Dr. Ambedkar personality was unique. Numerous author, Indian as well as foreigners, have described his contribution to the economic development of his country and the emancipation of Indian masses in different ways. One such author has said:
“Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was an intellectual, a educationist, a thinker and an advocate of Humanism.”2
The author has rightly and truly mentioned the qualities and qualifications are to reconstruct the Indian Society on the principles of the liberty, equality and fraternity the principles he learnt not from French “his master, The Buddha.” He persistently pursued his idea of bringing out basic reforms in the Indian Society as he said:-
1936: “if the source of the power and the dominion is at any given time or in any given society social and religious then social reform must be accepted as the necessary sort of reform. 1953: in India social structure must be altered.
1954: To leave inequality between class and class between sex and sex which is the soul of Hindu Society untouched and to go on passing legislature relating to economic problem is to make a farce of the constitution and build a palace on dung heap.”
In order to achieve his object of reformation of Indian society particularly its Hindu part, he piloted code bill. As the Indian Parliament was, then dominated by orthodox Hindus, the bill could not be passed. Therefore, in protest, Dr. Ambedkar resigned on 28th September, 1951 as law Minister of India. After his resignation within 4 Years the Hindu code Bill was passed in parts.
As a result of enactment of Hindu marriage Act, Hindus of different Sects, Castes and the Communities and Gotras could inter- marry which was not possible earlier. It is worth noting the Hindu code Bill was applicable to all sorts of Hindus – Sikhs, Buddhist and Jains. This was the first legal step Dr. Ambedkar took to reform the society.
Article 13: All Laws – ordinance, order by law, rule, regulation, notification, custom or usage having in the territory of India the force of the Law, immediately before the commencement of this constitution, in so far they are inconsistent with the provision of fundamental rights shall, to the extent of inconsistency, be void.
Article 14: The state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of the law within the territory of India.
Article 15: The state shall not discriminate against any citizen in matters relating on ground only for religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
Article 16: There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.
Article 17: “Untouchability” is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability running out of “untouchability” shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.
Article 23: Traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar forms of forced labors are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law. As a decisive lasting step Dr. Ambedkar gave a historic verdict on Hinduism, its proper name being “Brahmanism.”
He opined: “As Prof. Max Muller observers: Modern Hinduism rest on the system of caste on a rock which is no argument can shake.”
“Hinduism is overwhelmed with fear of pollution. It has not got the power to purify. It has not the impulse to serve and that is because by its very nature it’s inhuman and immoral. It is a misnomer to call it religion. Its philosophy is opposed to very thing for which religions stands.”
“Religion is every where else is engaged in the task of rising and ennobling mankind Hinduism is busy in debasing and degrading it.”
“The Philosophy of Hinduism neither satisfies the test of social utility nor does it satisfy the test of individual justice.”
He therefore discarded Hinduism and got converted with Buddhism on October, 1956 at Nagpur in Maharashtra with millions of his followers. Why did he embrace Buddhism? On this question he clarified as under:
I prefer Buddhism because it gives three principles in combination which no other religion does. All other religions are bothering themselves with god and soul and life after death. Buddhism teaches ‘Prajana’ (Understanding as against superstition and supernaturalism). It teaches ‘karuna’ (Love). It teaches ‘Smata’ (equality). This is what a man wants for a good and happy life on earth. These three principles of Buddhism make their appeal to me. These three principles should, also make an appeal to the world. Neither God nor soul can save society.”
Thus Dr. Ambedkar not only presented his theory of social re-construction, he took measures to do so would be evident from the details given above. It is Dr. Ambedkar and none else from the Indian leader ship may be social, religious or political who could be so realistic, so courageous and so farsighted who could lay principles of social reform and become an example to be followed faithfully and sincerely.
Indians as a nation are therefore, grateful to Dr. Ambedkar for his all round constructive contribution to the Society.
(1) Dr. Baba Sahib Ambedkar Writings and speeches Bombay 1979, Vol., page 43. (2) Mainstream Weekly, New Delhi, dated 8 May, 1999, page 20. (3) Dr. Baba Sahib Ambedkar Writings and speeches Bombay 1979, Vol., page 45. (4) Daily Hindu, New Delhi, Dated 26th June 1953 (5) Dr. Baba Sahib Ambedkar Writings and speeches Bombay 1979, Vol.14, part 2 page 1326. (6) Science of Religion page 28 Dr. Baba Sahib Ambedkar Writings and speeches Bombay 1989, Vol.3, page 92. (7) ibid page37 (8) ibid page71 (9) Talk on BBC London on 12th May, 1956.
Posted on August 03, 2007