Dr. M. L. Kasare
Vaishali Nagar, Wardha
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was brought up in a religious atmosphere by his father. When he was a schoolboy, he read the Ramayana and Mahabharata and other Hindu scriptures. When he passed his Matriculation in 1907, a meeting was held to honour young Bhimrao. In this meeting, his teacher Shri K.A.Keluskar, presented him his book ‘Life of Gautam Buddha’. This book had made a deep impression on the mind of young Bhimrao. When he avariciously read the biography, he was more and more curious to know about the Buddha and Buddhism. From the great mission of the Buddha Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar could determine that a man could become great not merely due to his royal birth, but because of his motivation of a social purpose.
Dr. Ambedkar wrote thought-provoking article on ‘Buddha and the future of his religion’. He laid down that the only religion acceptable to the modern society would be the Buddha’s religion, and if it is not done, the society would perish. He realized that no other concept of religion appeals to the intellectuals, to the scientific and modern mind more than Buddhism. Dr. Ambedkar’s writing invariably displayed his vigorous endeavor to underline social justice and good of his country, and salvation of the lowest and the common man. The Dhamma is rational, scientific and free from superstitions. It is complete civilization of man. It is a system of faith and reason, an institution of creative self-culture, and social welfare. The aim of Buddhist ethics is regeneration of humanity, and the means prescribed are entirely peaceful.
In the World Buddhist Brotherhood held at Rangoon 1954, Dr. Ambedkar delivered a historic and prophetic speech and gave clarion call that “it will be a grave error to suppose that Buddhism disappeared from India without leaving its influence on the Indian people and their culture”.
The Buddha strove to reconstruct the social order. Dr. Ambedkar interprets the teachings of the Buddha in accordance with the Spiritual and Social consciousness of humanity in his age.
Even though the teachings of the Buddha are ever true and ever lasting, they still need reinterpretation in each age in accordance with the growing spiritual and social consciousness of humanity. This duty falls upon Dr. Ambedkar. He fulfilled this historical mission successfully through his monumental work the ‘The Buddha and His Dhamma’. His work on Buddhism is really revolutionary and has reinterpreted the Dhamma in the light of experience and knowledge gained by the humanity. This great volume has thrown valuable light on certain problems of Buddhism, which had baffled the Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike for many centuries.
Dr. Ambedkar instilled a new life in them. He was very much attracted to the glorious doctrine of Buddha and showed his inclination towards the Dhamma in 1935. He took more than 20 years to investigate the Truth and it was after having satisfied himself fully that the Dhamma was par excellence, he not only took refuge himself, but his followers also followed suit. He attracted people towards Buddhism by laying emphasis on its message of social equality and scientific outlook so badly needed in the atomic age of today. It is true that Dr. Ambedkar recognized that religion, as a social force cannot be ignored. He agreed with Edmund Burke who said, “True religion is the foundation of society, the basis on which a true Civil Government rests”.
The year 1956 undoubtedly marked the beginning of a new era for the revival of the Buddhism in India. In 1956, the Buddhist world celebrated 2500th Buddha Jayanti. Government of India also celebrated the occasion with enthusiasm. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, described this event as “Home coming of Buddhism in the country of its origin”.
Dr. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism on the auspicious day of ASHOKA VIJAYA DASHAMI i.e. Dussehra on 14th October, 1956, along with his more than five lakh followers. That was an unprecedented event in the history of the modern world.