Venerable Dr .H. Saddhatissa
I have always been proud of the small contribution that I have made to the revival of Buddhism in India pioneered by great leader like Anagarika Dharmapala and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. I first met Dr. Ambedkar the great Buddhist leader, the greatest emancipator of Untouchables eminent Indian leader
who rendered historic service to his motherland as an educator, as a scholar and as statesman, liberator of then down – trodden millions of Indians and reformers of Indian society. In 1940 when i was staying in New Delhi as head of the Buddha vihara. He called on me primarily to discuss the administration of sangha according to the vinayapitaka his intention was to draft the new Indian constitution along the lines set out in this discipline for the Buddhist monks. Out of this encounter, Dr. Ambedkar gradually displayed a deeper appreciation of the Buddha and his teaching. During out talks he revealed to me his desire to change his religion, and to encourage his followers to do likewise, in order to become free form the restrictions of the Hindu caste system. Dr. Ambedkar had, so he admitted, considered becoming a Muslim or Buddhism in view of its universal appeal. In the course of our discussion encouraged him in this last move pointing out to him the fact that not only was Buddhism native to India but that the so-called ‘untouchables’ were originally Buddhists who had been ostracized by later, ascendant Hindu rulers and Brahmin teachers. Years later, in 1950, with the assistance of the mahabodhi society of India, i organized a Buddhist procession on the full moon day of the month of Vesak (May) in New Delhi. Thousands, including the followers of Dr. Ambedkar, participated in what was the first such demonstration of popular religious fervour since the eclipse of Buddhism in India. This procession peacefully terminated at the Ambedkar bhavan premises where a packed gathering then took place in the presence of numerous admires of Buddhism and foreign ambassadors. Therefore, on the following day, a significant and historic meeting was held in New Delhi’s Buddha vihara at which no less than 101 Indian graduates formally embraced Buddhism by talking of the five precepts from me in the presence of Dr.Ambedkar. It was these pioneers who organized the famous mass conversion (diksa) at Nagpur on the 14th October 1956 where Dr. Ambedkar himself, together with half million of his followers, became Buddhist. At the instance of Dr. Ambedkar i then gave my historic speech to the vast assembly (vide the mahabodhi journal, Calcutta, November 1956, under the heading: a new chapter begins in the history of modern India). In 1950 the world fellowship of Buddhist was inaugurated in Colombo and i acted as a representative from India. Dr. Ambedkar also attended as an observer and expressed deep interest in seeing Buddhist practises in the island at first hand. To this end i arranged a tour which included a visit to Anuradhapura, an ancient city of Ceylon. Having said that he would like to hear a traditional sermon from a Buddhist monk, i asked the late venerable M siri silakkandha, head of abhayasinharama vihara, Colombo, to oblige. Dr. Ambedkar was highly pleased with sermon given at isurumuni vihara, Anuradhapura. We then visited most of the historical sites in Ceylon at the end of his Stay he became convinced of the wisdom of formally accepting the Buddha Dhamma as his guide for life Dr. Ambedkar ‘s determined crusade to transform his followers in to Buddhism was crowned with success.
Dr. Ambedkar will surely be most remembered for his untiring struggle to liberate his socially depressed community. He was a man who refused to succumb to the temptation of leading an easy life in high position .By his unceasing effort,courage and noble example. Dr Ambedkar has carved for himself a permanent place in the history of modem India. May his noble actions and shining examples long inspire the progressive development of Bharat!!