Dr. B.R.Ambedkar’s Contribution To Buddhist Education In India


Dr. B.R.Ambedkar’s Contribution
To Buddhist Education In India

By Nishikant Waghmare

16 February, 2007

“Noble is your aim and sublime and glorious is your mission. Blessed are those who are awakened to their duty to those among whom they are born. Glory to those who devote their time, talents and their all to the amelioration of slavery. Glory to those who would reap their struggle for the liberation of the enslaved in spite of heavy odds, carpine humiliation, storms and dangers till the downtrodden secure their Human Rights.”– Bharat Ratna Babasaheb Dr.B.R.Ambedkar.

Today’s Ambedkarites may have reduced their mentor to a symbol to center their electoral campaign on, but history will view Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar differently—as a man whose genius extended over a diverse arrange of human affairs. Born to Mahar parents, Babasaheb would have been one of the many Untouchable of his times condemned to a life of suffering and misery, had he not doggedly overcome the oppressive circumstances of his birth to rise to pre-eminence in India’s public life. Ambedkar was, of course, a towering leader of the Untouchables, but he was also much more- patriot, scholar, thinker and Founding Father of the Indian Constitution.

Ambedkar started the Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha and the Samaj Samanta Sangh for the uplift of untouchables. He led processions and dharnas for his community, demanded separate electorates for them, parted ways with Gandhi, violently differing with Gandhi’s approach toward the Untouchables, and finally, left the Hindu fold, embracing with thousands of his followers the more egalitarian faith of Buddhism.

India got Independence 55 years ago, till today Dalit has to suffer for basic needs for their day to day living i.e. Drinking water, food, shelter and Right to live as human being in society. The Untouchables “Dalit” were denied even Human Rights, which are essential for a bare existence of human life. They were not allowed to drink water from public well; and even their shadow was supposed to pollute the so- called upper Castes. The Hindu social order made the life of the Dalit miserable in every sense of the term. The Hindu Dharmashastra gave sanction to this evil Caste system and the practice of Untochability. This continued for the Centuries.

Then arose on the horizon Dr. BabaSaheb Ambedkar, the liberator of the Millions of downtrodden in India. He made abolition of the Caste system and Untouchability a mission of His life. Perhaps it would take a rebirth by the Mahatma Gandhi to end the abominable evil of Caste. As he he had said: “If I do not want to attain moksha, I do not want to be reborn. But if I were to be reborn, I should be born an Untouchable… not as a Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya or Shudra But as an Atishudra, a Bhangi.”

Babasaheb Ambedkar raised the banner of Buddhism and brought back to his motherland the Buddha who suffered an exile for over twelve hundred years. Ambedkar, a man of provocative learning, challenged opponents of Buddhism to hold discussions with him, and was confident that he would defeat all Pandits. He propagated Buddhism in India. He made the provision for the study of Pali in the Indian constitution. The Government of India had declared Buddha Jayanti a holiday mainly through his efforts. Dr. Ambedkar was the greatest Pioneer of Buddhist revival in India.

India, no doubt, continues to be proud of its Buddhist heritage. Since regaining independence, Buddhist symbols like the Wheel of Dhamma and the Asoka Capital, have become national symbols and the Mathura Buddha adorns the house of Parliament and inspires Indian lawmakers.

The Buddha established a classless society by opening the gates of the Sangha to all deserving individuals, making no distinction between caste and class. The fundamental principle of Buddhism is equality… Buddhism was called the religion of the Shudra’s… ” There was only one man who raised his voice against separatism and Untouchability and that was Lord Buddha… Buddhism is the only religion, which does not recognize caste and affords full scope for progress.

Dr. Ambedkar’s speech on the Eve of the great conversion at Nagpur on October14, 1956, Dr. Ambedkar said Buddhism can serve not only this country, India, but the whole World at this juncture in the world affairs; Buddhism is indispensable for world peace you must pledge today that you, the followers of Buddha, will not only work to liberate yourself, but will try to elevate your country and the world in general.

Dr. Ambedkar declared: “By discarding my ancient religion which stood for inequality and oppression today I am reborn. I have no faith in the philosophy of incarnation; and it is wrong and mischievous to say that Buddha was an incarnation of Vishnu. I am no more a devotee of any Hindu god or goddess. I will not perform shradha. I will strictly follow the eightfold path of Buddha. Buddhism is a true religion and I will lead a life guided by the tree principles of knowledge, right path and compassion. Dr. Ambedkar denounced Hinduism, its customs and traditions and declared that from that moment onwards he would strive for the spread of equality among human beings.

Emancipation and empowerment of Dalits is possible only through education. The present Dalit leadership, unlike Spartacus or Ambedkar, is suffering from intellectual bankruptcy. It fails to criticize the ruling classes or follow Ambedkar’s philosophical and ideological roots. Nearly 60 to 70 per cent of India’s wealth belongs to Dalits. It is their blood and sweat. But they are the principle victims of the system.

Dr. Ambedkar explained to his people that “a great responsibility had fallen on their shoulders in connection with the upholding of Buddhism; and if they would not follow rigidly and nobly the principles of Buddhism, it would mean that the Mahars reduced it to a miserable state, no other person under that the sum was burdened with such unparalleled responsibility as he was, he concluded.

Dr. Ambedkar set the wheel of Dhamma in motion once again, spreading the message of his Master to all the corners of the world. The Buddhists said the “the Dhamma Chakra was set revolution by Dr.Ambedkar and it was the greatest religious revolution which India had witnessed in modern times.”

Dr. Ambedkar dedicated himself to the propagation of the Buddhist faith in India. He wrote a book on Buddhism titled “Buddha and His Dhamma” explaining its tenets in simple language to the common man. His two other books “Revolution and Counter Revolution in India’ and “Buddha and Karl Marx”

The malafide intentions of including the Buddha in the Avatara pantheon are also clear from the fact that the Brahmins never worshiped the Buddha and no temples were built in his honour. Logically, the theory that Buddha is an incarnation of Vishnu is dubious one. Therefore, Dr. Ambedkar exhorted Buddhists not to believe that the Buddha was an incarnation of Vishnu. Now even a Brahmin Priest agrees that the Buddha was not an incarnation of Vishnu. Principal Vipassana Teacher, Shri S.N.Goenka and Sankaracharya of Kanchikam Kote Peetham Sri Jayendra Saraswati made a joint declaration on 11.11.1999 at Sarnath that Gotama the Buddha was not an incarnation of Vishnu.

“I am reported to be against peace. This is not correct. I am for peace. But, the peace, which is, based on justice not the peace of a graveyard. So long as justice is not respected in the world there cannot be any peace. Buddhism and Buddhism alone can save the World.”

Dr. B.R.Ambedkar a great scholar, Lawyer and freedom fighter along with hundreds of thousands of Mahar’s an untouchable caste, converted to Buddhism and changed the face of Buddhism in India. Dr. Ambedkar’s conversion was a symbolic protest to the oppressions of caste inequality. His conversion was an intellectual decision that would meet with the least opposition from the Hindu majority.

India, have no leader of the kind Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Indian Crusader for Social Justice and Champion of Human Rights. One of the greatest contributions of Dr. Ambedkar was in respect of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The fundamental Rights provide for freedom, equality, abolition of Untouchability and remedies to ensure the enforcement of rights.

Fifty-five years after independence, Caste prejudices in India have not erased very much. And now there is a deliberate attempt to revive these prejudices to their former position.

Grundtvig’s conception about Nordic mythology and Christian “Anskuelese” may be compared with Ambedkar’s views on the original tradition of Buddhism as a source of inspiration. In describing the work of on Buddhism he said” we have started this movement to develop and educate our minds” Explaining the need for religion among the poor as a need arising for hope, Ambedkar referred to a German professor of his, Professor Wintermitz.

“The Watergang Rabelan Depth was the book which he recommended and by which I was much inspired. It is only the poor, he said who need religion.” Hope is the spring of action in life. Religion affords hope. Therefore, mankind finds solace in the religion, and that is why the poor cling to religion.”

Those who are turned to Buddhism, but remained within Hinduism but wanted Hinduism to change, Ambedkar made the following suggestion:

“You must give a new doctrinal basis to your religion-a-basis that will be in consonance with Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, in short, with Democracy.”

Dr. BabaSaheb Ambedkar once commented, “Dalit representatives elected from reserved seats open their mouth in the Indian parliament only when they have to yawn.”

It was the Buddha who, for the first time in the known history of mankind, attempted to abolish slavery and “invented the higher morality and the idea of the brotherhood of the entire human race, and in striking terms condemned” the degrading caste-system which in Indian society at that time was firmly rooted. The Buddha declared: “By birth is not one an outcast, By birth is not one a Brahmin, By deeds is one an outcast, By deeds is one a Brahmin.”

Dr. Ambedkar in His book “Annihilation of Caste” reproduces his major difference with the Mahatma Gandhi. While he was for abolition of the caste system, prescribed by Hindu sage Manu, Gandhi was for giving up caste prejudice, and for reform of the system, so that the stigma of Untouchability may be removed, but function of various castes remains.

As Dr. Ambedkar could not abolish the caste system, when Mahatma Gandhi asked for dedication on the shared cause of struggle for freedom, he asked for separate electorates for the so-called “outcastes” whom the Mahatma called “Harijan”- sons of the ‘God’

Dr. Ambedkar turned on Gandhi too: The Dalits leaders converted to Buddhism perhaps the least dogmatic or hierarchic of world religions. Dr. Ambedkar’s response to Gandhi was that he wanted to treat the symptom, not the cause of the disease- you can’t abolish Untouchability without addressing the Caste and the Dharma system, which is at the root of it.

“ Gandhiji, felt that the high castes should change their hearts: Dr. Ambedkar said that we’ ve been suffering for over 2000 years, many Hindu saints have come and gone; but nothing has changed, so he legally empowered to challenge it.” Article 17, of the Constitution that abolished “Untouchability” The problem is if you implement it half of India would be in Jail.”

There have been many Mahatmas in India whose sole object was to remove Untouchability and to elevate and absorb the depressed Classes, but every one of them has failed in his mission. Mahatmas have come, Mahatmas have gone. But the Untouchables have remained as Untouchables.

Buddhists of India need the friendship, understanding and cooperation for uplifting themselves and for strengthening the hands of those who are striving for peace, equality and justice. Let the scent of the Dhamma spread in all directions and illumine the minds of those who put much faith in steel and fire but ignore the value of peace, loving kindness and compassion.

Venerable Anagarika Dharampal, great son of Sri Lanka, came to India and was distressed to find even the great Bodhi Gaya Temple in a dilapidated condition under the control of Brahmin Mahant. He struggled to take possession of Boudh -Viharas of the Buddhist but failed owing to the hostile attitude of the British Government and the Upper Caste Hindus. He founded Maha-Boudhi Society to propagate the Dhamma and to continue the struggle for reviving Buddhism.

Dr. S. Radhakrishna, Late -President of India and Philosopher said; Buddhism brought about a profound change in the lives of the Indian people. “For us in this country the Buddha is an outstanding representative of our religious tradition.”

Dr. G.P.Malalasekera said: Let us not forget that some of the leaders of religion have themselves been revolutionaries. The Buddha, for instance, was one of the greatest rebels in human history. He denied the assumptions on which religion in His day was based and gave the religious quest an entirely new orientation. He refused to accept the sincerity of the Vedas or the power of the Priesthood. He refuted the illusion that human problems could be solved with sacred rituals and incarnations. He was a sworn enemy of the Caste –System on which the World structure of Indian Society rested. He was ridiculed and persecuted and several attempts were made on his life.

Dr. Ambedkar said, my final words of advice to you is “Educate, Agitate, Organize” have faith in yourself. With justice on our side, I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for reclamations of the human personality.

Amedkar was Bharat Ratna in the refuge of Tri- Ratna Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Therefore all Ambedkarites must call themselves as Buddhist and nothing else. Thus Ambedkar’s whole life and mission was a practical contribution to humanistic Buddhist education in India and not just intellectual and philosophical which is common these days. Though he was not a Buddhist by birth but by practice and at heart he was a Buddhist.

BabaSaheb Ambedkar had said Tuesday July 31, 1956, at his official residence 26 Alipur Road, New Dehli at 17-50 to his Honorary Personal secretary Mr. Nanak Chand Rattu… Tell my people Nanak Chand: “Whatever I have done, I have been able to do after passing through crushing miseries and endless troubles all my life fighting with my opponents. With great difficulty, I have brought this caravan where it is seen today. Let the caravan march on and further on despite the hurdles, pitfalls and difficulties that may come in its way. If my people, my lieutenants are not able to take the caravan ahead, they should leave it where it is seen today, but in no circumstances should they allow the caravan to go back?”

The most significant development in the resurgence of Buddhism in modern India was the movement inaugurated by BabaSaheb Ambedkar, as a result of which mass conversions of Buddhism have been taking place in many parts of the country. The Neo-Buddhist is progressively gaining self-sufficiency as regards temples and shrines, monastic leadership and guidance, educational institutions and religious literature. In India, too, Buddhism is numerically the fastest growing religion.

I, for one, truly believe that individuals can make a difference in society. Since periods of great change such as the present one come so rarely in human history, it is up to the each one of us to make the best use of our time to help create a happier world for new generation to live with peace, freedom and love for mankind on planet earth. This century is the most important century of humankind said: His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

BabaSaheb Ambedkar said: The first point, which makes off Buddha from the rest, is his self-abnegation. JESUS insists that he is the Son of God. MOHAMMED went a step further. He claimed that he was the messenger of God on earth and insisted that he was the last messenger. Lord KRISHNA went a step beyond both Jesus and Mohammed. He claimed that he was “Parameshwar” – the God of Gods. BUDDHA never arrogated to himself a status. He was born a son of man and was content to remain common man and Krishna claimed for them selves a role of MOKSHADATA, Buddha was satisfied with playing the role of MARGADATA.

Buddha’s Teachings are based on wisdom, morals and concentration, which are applicable not only for Buddhist nations but are of Universal application. He is the giver of path of sublime promotions and reliever from painful demotions. Hence let us all practice His teachings without hesitations walking on the path of noble truth realization and making “Nibbana” as our final destination.

The socio-cultural movement, which gradually transformed the original teaching of Buddha to popular Buddhism as practiced by millions of people, needs to be given due consideration in a study of Buddhism as religion.

“The Hindus wanted the Vedas and they sent for Vyasa, who was not a caste Hindu. The Hindus wanted an Epic and they sent for Valmiki, who was an Untouchable. The Hindus wanted a Constitution, and they sent for me.”-Dr. B.R.Ambedkare.

“Law is secular, which any body may break while fraternity or religion is sacred which everybody must respect. My philosophy has a mission. I have to do the work of conversion: for I have to make the followers of Triguna theory to give it up and accept mine. Indians today governed by two different ideologies. Their political ideal set out in the preamble to the Indian Constitution affirms a life of liberty, equality and fraternity. Their social ideal embodied in their religion, denies them.” Dr. B.R.Ambedkar
(All-India Radio broadcast of speech on October 03, 1954)

Buddhism makes enlightenment the sole aim of life. This was the philosophy that Ambedkar accepted and tried to revive. Besides this there was another reason. Buddha, whose life and movement Ambedkar had studied, was a believer of the educatability and the creativity of the people. Under the influence of those teachings, the most rejected peoples of India has once risen and uplifted their life as well as that of the whole society. If that was once possible in India, it must be possible again. He had a solid historical basis to trust India’s ordinary folk as India’s future democrats.

This is what Jawaharlal Nehru wrote of the commitment of Ambedkar to the untouchables: “Dr.B.R.Ambedkar would be remembered mostly as the symbol of revolt against all the oppressing features of Hindu society. In a way he symbolized the hopes and aspiration of the oppressed and the Untouchables.”

Buddha was the first religious leader of the world, who expounded peace and equality in the history of man. Five precepts (Panchsheeel) of Buddha’s life are principles of building world peace the precepts Panchsheel based on Buddha’s life would help to build world peace and harmony among the Nations.

Our Humanity is cultivated through our emotions. Each day we should look not only to be moved by others, But also to move them through kindness, patience and caring. Said Venerable Master Hsing Yun.

It is my hope and prayer that we will always live a happy, joyful, peaceful life based on non-violence, truth, equality, love and compassion, this great message of Buddha is relevant today.

Nishikant Waghmare, Peace Representative, The World Peace Prayer Society, USA. Director- Asia & Pacific, Airline Ambassadors International UN NGO USA.


Dr. B. R. Ambedkar – -“Buddha and His Dhamma” Siddhartha Publication Mumbai, 1957.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar – – “Annihilation of Caste”

Dr.B.R. Ambedkar – – “Writing and Speeches” The Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, Mumbai 1987.

Mr.Bhagwan Das- “Buddhism in India” Dalit Liberation Today, June 1997, New Delhi.

H.H. Dalai Lama – – “A Human Approach to World Peace.”

H.H. Dalai Lama — “Compassion and the Individual”

Dhananjay Keer – -“Dr. Ambedkar’s Life and Mission” Popular Prakashan, Mumbai, 1971, “Revival of Buddhism”

Dr. Prof. Ananda W.P. Guruge – – “What In Brief Is Buddhism” Published by Mitram Books, A Subsidiary of, Dhamma Healing Way. Inc. Monterey Park, CA. USA, 1999.

W.J. Basil Fernando – – “ Demoralization and Hope” A Comparative study of the Ideas of N.E.S. Grungtvig of Denmark and B.R. Ambedkar of India, A Publication of Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, 2000.

Venerable Narada Mahathera – – “The Buddha and His Teachings” Buddhist Missionary society, Kuala Lumpur, 1988, “Is Buddhism A Religion”

Venerable Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda – – Ven. Narada Mahathera, Dr. G.P. Maklalasekera “Gems of Buddhist Wisdom” The Buddhist Missionary society, Kuala Lumpur.

S. Krishna (Anand) –“The Buddha the Essence of Dhamma and its Practice” Publication By, Samrudh Bharat Publication, Mumbai, August 2002

The Times of India — “100 Indians who made a difference this Century” Monday, December 6, 1999. Mumbai.

Venerable Bhikkhu Vinayarakkhita, Dharmayatana, Maharagama, Sri Lanka.

Dr. BabaSaheb Ambedkar… “The Man who made all the difference.”




Not just Hindu raj, Ambedkar opposed every argument for Partition as well


Amid the heat generated by the Muslim League’s Lahore resolution on Pakistan and the extreme reactions across the subcontinent, the sole dispassionate voice was that of Dr B.R. Ambedkar. Pakistan or Partition of India (1940), his full-length book, became a reference treatise for all those engaged with the issue, including the main dramatis persona, M.A. Jinnah. For others, however, it remained unduly controversial. For Ambedkar, Muslims were not the worst victims of the Hindu society. They had a better deal compared to the untouchables. The book was such that any casual or motivated reader could easily pick up stray pieces to support his own hypothesis. Hence, many distortions are in vogue but the commonplace impression is that Ambedkar supported Partition. On the contrary, he demolished all arguments for the creation of Pakistan. Admitting the communal antagonism between Hindus and Muslims, he demonstrated that it could not be a valid reason for a partition of the country. With examples of Canada, South Africa and Switzerland, where antagonistic communities lived amicably under a single Constitution, he dismissed the inevitability of Pakistan merely on the grounds of a communal divide. The two-nation theory as the basis for Pakistan was also refuted by Ambedkar. While noting that Muslims were advancing from the state of community to that of a nation, he contended that it did not necessarily constitute the basis for Pakistan. Even if the Muslims were assumed to be a nation, it did not warrant a Pakistan since India had not yet lost its ‘organic filaments’. While admitting that India too was not a nation, he disagreed with those including Jinnah who thought that India could not become one. Those who argued for Partition, he wrote, were guided by colonialist writers who emphasised differences between people and ignored the forces that bound them together. Ambedkar also thought the Muslim apprehension that Swaraj would become a Hindu raj untenable because the Muslims had already reconciled to living in the more rabid Hindu raj sustained by Hindu princes against whom the Muslim League had never raised any objection. He did not see much substance in the political objection of the Muslims that Hindu society was undemocratic simply because they were not its worst victims. The Muslims, he observed, enjoyed a much better deal compared to people from the untouchable castes. While he was skeptical about the innate imperialist characteristics of Hinduism creating accommodative conditions for the peaceful coexistence of minorities, he did not spare the Muslims for their own minority communalism. For him, the abolition of parties like the Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha and formation of a mixed party of Hindus and Muslims was the only effective way of burying the ghost of Hindu raj. He did not perceive much difficulty in the formation of such a party based on the material conditions of the majority. In fact, such political unity was achieved between 1920 and 1937 when in most provinces the Muslims, non-Brahmins and depressed classes worked as a team under the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms. Having dispelled the validity of the Muslims’ misgiving that they would be persecuted under Hindu raj, Ambedkar did not rule out the possibility of the emergence of the latter when he prophetically declared: “If Hindu raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. It is incompatible with democracy. Hindu raj must be prevented at any cost.” Ambedkar struck at the root of the Muslim argument that the creation of Pakistan would solve the communal problem. He termed the Muslim League’s Pakistan scheme a political perversion because instead of solving the problem of minority Muslims, it made them more vulnerable and favoured the majority Muslims who did not need or deserve it. Pakistan was unnecessary for Muslims in areas where they were a majority and worse than useless for Muslims where they were a minority. On December 15, 1946, in his maiden speech in the Constituent Assembly, he hoped that some day the light would dawn upon Muslims and “they, too, would begin to think that a united India was better for everybody.” Secularism and democracy were the sole basis of coexistence. In the crowd of small and big villains of the Partition drama, Ambedkar stands out as the only hero, a true statesman.


Choosing Their Religion: Dalits Conversion to Buddhism


Dalits Conversion to Buddhism

Rebelling against their baggage of birth, Dalits across India are converting from Hinduism to better their lives. Do they achieve their dreams? The answer is not simple.

About 30 kilometres from Jhajjar and exactly 20 days after five Dalits there were killed for “supposedly skinning a live cow”, a dark Diwali noon this week saw seething Dalit anger burn its bonds with Hinduism. Under a leafless tree in Haryana’s Meham district, 90-odd men, women and children took angry vows never to worship Hindu gods, perform Hindu rituals, celebrate Hindu festivals.

“I never formally converted to Buddhism. Conversion anyway is a misnomer as Hindus never saw us as Hindus, but outcasts.”—Namdeo Dhasal, founder, Dalit Panthers

They were converting to Buddhism, they said, in the hope that they will better their lives. “You value cows more than us, make us rake your latrines, never forget we are lower-caste even if we become president,” fulminated Ajit Dhaiya, a fortysomething irrigation department worker who had come from Bhiwani to attend the conversion ceremony. “You can keep your religion and your cows, we are off.”

The vigorous shaving of heads, lighting of incense sticks, and parroted chants—”We shall never worship Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar; we shall never think of the Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu”—before a dull brass idol of a new god seemed less a pledge to be Buddhist and more a rejection of Hinduism. Till, Meham labourer-painter Satbir Budh, 38, spoke of his seven years of being a Buddhist convert: “From being known as a Chamaar, I am now called a Buddh. From being barred entry in the village temple, I am an annual pilgrim at Buddh Vihar at Nagpur’s Dikshabhumi; I was an outcast all my life, I belong now.”

To belong, to connect, not to be persecuted (or even killed) for being born “untouchable”, all of it is possible in this lifetime. But possible, a growing number amongst Dalits are saying, only by discarding Hinduism, the faith that weighs them weak with the baggage of birth. This rejection of their inherited faith occurs sometimes in quiet private ceremonies, at other times as loud political protests. Like the mass Dalit conversions that happened in Gurgaon in Haryana 14 days after the Jhajjar lynchings on October 15.

“Conversion is an ongoing process, that’s why in the beginning it will seem incomplete. Tangible benefits accrue over time.”—Gopal Guru, Delhi University professor

Or like the spurt of conversions Dalit outfits foresee occurring in protest against the new bill in Tamil Nadu that proposes to prohibit “conversion from one (religion) to another by use of force or allurement or fraudulent means”. But beyond the drama of such conversion politics, of religious propaganda and protest, are stories of people who have changed their faith to change their fate. To salvage self-respect and grab upward mobility outside the Hindu hierarchy. How have they fared on their chosen new paths?

“Becoming Buddhist made me realise that like others with good health and intellect, I too could achieve my potential,” says Keshav Tanaji Meshram, 65, one among the six lakh Dalits who turned Buddhist in the historic 1956 conversion rally held by Babasaheb Ambedkar. “Dalits were in intellectual bondage, believing we should be happy with whatever we received. But conversions have made no difference in the way upper-caste Hindus look at us.” A retired professor and acting head of the Marathi department in Mumbai University for two years, Meshram claims a Brahmin vice-chancellor held back his promotion despite the fact that he had authored 32 books: “I was told I didn’t have a doctorate but so

didn’t many other department heads. My caste was the main reason.” Adds Om Prakash Singhmar, 49, a junior engineer with the Delhi Development Authority who converted to Buddhism two years ago, “Most continue to look down on me as a Dalit, even though I have converted.” But the changes are internal, he insists: “I feel less frustration now, more equal.

“Even if you convert, caste remains a reality.”—P. Ambedkar, Babasaheb’s grandson

I am convinced that my children, who have started identifying themselves as Buddhists in all school forms, will reap the benefits of my conversion.”

Academic insight corroborates Singhmar’s belief. Says Gopal Guru, professor of political science at Delhi University, “Conversion is an ongoing process, that’s why in the beginning it will seem incomplete.Tangible benefits and changes accrue over time.” Activist fervour takes the point further. Says Udit Raj, India’s new “conversion messiah” and chairperson of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations, “Dalits convert because they know its benefits. And even if there weren’t any benefits, they should anyway reject a religion that has people killing Dalits to protect a cow.”

All conversions, though, are not knee-jerk reactions to the latest caste atrocity nor the result of cynical manipulation by politicians. The Dalits of Meenakshipuram in Tamil Nadu discussed conversion for seven years before quitting Hinduism to free themselves from the practices of untouchability and police harassment. In 1981, 150 Dalit families in this sleepy hamlet in Tirunelveli district embraced Islam. Meenakshipuram was now Rahmat Nagar. Murugesan, now 45, was rechristened Amir Ali, little knowing that his name connoted wealth. He says he counts his blessings and monetary gains: “Caste Hindus stopped calling us dirty caste names. They had to call me Amir bhai. The wealth too came. I’ve been to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia three times, worked in the harbour there. All Muslims there ate from the same plate. I was no longer untouchable. Had I remained a Pallan (a Dalit sub-community), I’d have continued to drink tea from separate glasses kept for untouchables.” Ahmed Khan, two years old when the mass conversion happened, is a role model for the village youth today. At 23, he has already done a three-year stint in Dubai: “In the last 15 years, every Muslim family here has had two-three members working in the Gulf.”

Thousands of miles away, Delhi-based Trilok Singh, 30, loves to hear of Meenakshipuram’s affluence. It reaffirms his belief in the decision he took to convert to Christianity five years ago. A Jatav, Trilok lived in a Delhi slum cluster till a leap of faith taught him lessons in upward mobility. “I have learned manners after my conversion,” says he. “We always had a TV, vcr and fridge. But being treated as an equal in society has taught me how to put them in the right place in my house, so they look beautiful.” The first thing Trilok did after he converted was to move out of the slum and invest in a small flat in Vasundhara in Ghaziabad. He then married Anita Silas, a parishioner in the church he went to every Sunday. The couple now have two daughters, the eldest going to a neighbouring playschool. “My decision not to remain a Dalit has changed my life,” says Trilok.

But this tale has more twists than many others. Caste wheedles its way into most religions in India. Categories like Dalit Christians, Reddy Christians, Nadar Christians continue to matter. Syrian Christians are known to call themselves “originally Brahmin”. Moreover, there is discrimination even within the church: in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruchirapalli and Palayamkottai districts, there are separate pews and burial grounds for Dalit Christians. The nine-judge Supreme Court ruling in the Mandal case in 1993 recognised caste in Christianity. And Islam too has its hierarchies, like the Ashrafi Muslims and the Ajlafi (literally servile) Muslims.

“There are inequalities in other religions but not even near as stark as in Hinduism,” says Delhi-based advocate Rashid Saleem Adil, 57, who was Ram Singh Vidyarthi two decades ago. How else could a high-brow Syed family agree to give its daughter to him in marriage despite the fact that he never hid being a Dalit convert? They were certainly more tolerant than his first wife’s Hindu relatives, who, he claims, “schemed, plotted and poisoned” him when he converted. “I can only say this to Hindutva devotees,” he says, “if you think it’s hard being a Muslim convert, try living life as a born Dalit.”

However, dilemmas do plague decisions to convert.Dalits who turn to Islam or Christianity today risk losing the many privileges of reservations. Hence the appeal of Buddhism, since V.P. Singh ensured in 1990 that neo-Buddhists would not lose out on reservations. So why should a Dalit who has converted to another religion that doesn’t believe in caste still enjoy caste-based reservations? Says Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Babasaheb and an MP since 1990 from Akola, “Because they hail from backward castes and are economically poor. Also, no matter what religion you adopt, your caste remains a reality.” Spokespersons of the Hindu establishment would call this a case of having your cake and eating it too, while the converts would call this their inalienable economic right.

There was a time, though, when there were no reservations, and when such quantifiable risk factors didn’t hold back those who wanted to renounce Hinduism to escape caste. From being an almost entirely marginalised community of toddy-tappers and coir-weavers who were not allowed into caste-Hindu temples and whose women were not supposed to cover their breasts, the Nadars of Tamil Nadu gained immense social and economic mobility by embracing Christianity in hordes. It began in the 1780s, when the Nadars had everything to gain and nothing to lose, certainly not reservations. There was repression though; houses of neo-converts were often set afire by the upper castes. “But missionary education and self-respect was something we gained,” says David Packiamuthu, a retired English professor and a Nadar Christian, And two centuries later, the community has thrown up achievers like former Tamil Nadu chief minister K. Kamaraj, super-cop Walter Thevaram, tennis icon Vijay Amritraj and Shiv Nadar, founder of the hcl group of companies. Significantly, all successful Nadars (like Kamaraj and Shiv) are not Christians. The mass conversions helped the upward mobility of even the non-converts. In other words, the threat of conversion itself is a powerful social accelerator.

But that’s in the long run. In the present, observe many critically, neo-converts seem to be grasping for meaning in their new belief systems. The late-fortyish Durgawati of Kaji-Newada village on the Jaunpur-Lucknow highway in Uttar Pradesh converted to Christianity three years ago. “They said it would change my life, but I was still treated as an outcast for being a Christian,” she says. Then came a monk, and she converted to Buddhism. But other than the belief that her chronic ailments have been cured by the Buddha, Durgawati isn’t sure what else has changed in her life.

Namdeo Dhasal, 53, founder of the Dalit Panthers, ironically pens a weekly column in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna now. His house brims with festive decorations and traditional food on Diwali. But these, he says, are only manifestations of the “cultural influences” of his Hindu neighbourhood. Because he is actually a Buddhist, “though I never formally converted to Buddhism, and in any case conversion is a misnomer as Hindus never saw us as Hindus but outcasts”. Though many Dalits are converting, adding to the contradictions is the fact that Article 25 of the Constitution lists Buddhists as Hindus. Neo-Buddhists also have few religious or cultural occasions to celebrate and feel a sense of community. Shanta Devi Wagh, a shopkeeper in Delhi’s Bhim Nagar slum, isn’t quite sure what she is supposed to do as a Buddhist convert: “We have to celebrate three days: April 14, December 6 and October 14 (Ambedkar’s birth, death and conversion days).” But she is certain of what not being a Dalit any more means to her: “My soul feels peace.”

Not all neo-converts, though, are too bothered by the burden of a new identity. In Rahmat Nagar, most neo-Muslims do not wear a fez cap, not one woman is burqa-clad, and for the men it certainly does not mean multiple marriages.”Even namaz is something they read only on Fridays,” says Dameem-ul-Ansari, hazrat at the mosque. But the Dalit-Muslims here have had no difficulty marrying among and socialising with ‘traditional’ Muslims from other villages.

And for those who still feel that Dalits like Durgawati convert to just about any religion that lures them with sham spiritualism, affected adoration and material motives, Professor Meshram recites a Hindi film golden oldie: “Pal bhar ke liye koi humein pyar kar le, jhoota hi sahi.” Roughly translated: “Let someone love me for just a moment, even if it’s a pretence…” There is surely a message here for all belonging to a faith which insists that God resides in every object, whether living or inanimate.

By Soma Wadhwa And S. Anand With Charubala Annuncio and Sutapa Mukerjee @ outlook magazine

NOV 18, 2002

Ambedkar, The Nation-builder

By Vivek Kumar

The Pioneer
It is beyond doubt that Ambedkar has been a victim of the process of

“reductionism”. He has either been reduced to the status of a Dalit leader

or, at the most, as the chief architect of the Constitution. However, if
we evaluate his contribution in terms of statesmanship, political
leadership, and intellectual inputs in economic, social, political,
educational and judicial realms, we will be forced to call him a
nation-builder. His endeavour to deconstruct and reconstruct Indian
society on structural basis rather than by social reform is testimony to
Ambedkar, a product of unequal social order with stigmatised identity,

vehemently criticised the social reformers of his time for paying only lip

service to the issues of caste and untouchability. It is ironical that
they never realised that these institutions have proved detrimental to a
quarter of Indian population. Most social reformers during this period
talked about social reforms like abolition of sati, child marriage, female
infanticide, imparting education to women, emphasis on widow remarriage,
use of swadeshi, etc., instead of structural changes.
According to Ambedkar, the irony was that the social reformers were

unaware that these evils were offshoots of the caste structure. Hence,

what India needed was annihilation of the caste system and not social
reforms. Second, these evils were not present among Dalits and Shudras;
hence, these reforms had nothing for them. As the caste institution
affected Dalits differently, Ambedkar wanted to end the caste system
itself. This, he knew, could be done only by questioning the sanctity of
Hindu sacred texts, institutionalising inter-caste marriages and
inter-dining, and dismantling the hereditary priesthood.
Another structure which Ambedkar questioned and wanted dismantled was the

Indian village. He faced scathing criticism for ignoring the village as

the unit of administration in the draft constitution. Why was the
Constitution not being raised and built upon the village panchayats? His
critics wanted India to contain many village governments. Ambedkar showed
the real image of Indian villages to the Constituent Assembly by stating
that Indian villages were devoid of equality, liberty and fraternity, and
hence of democracy.
“It is the very negation of republic. If it is a republic, it is a

republic of Touchables, by the Touchables and for the Touchables. The

republic is an empire of the Hindus over the untouchables,” said Ambedkar.
That is why he pleaded that the individual should be considered the unit
of the Constitution, which was happily accepted. How can we ignore
Ambedkar’s contribution towards the nation as whole, and 70 per cent of
India’s population that still lives in villages?
Ambedkar’s major contribution towards reconstituting the Indian social

structure was dismantling the hierarchical Indian society based on

ascriptive and particularistic cultural traits and establishment of
parliamentary democracy. He saw that democracy would ensure equality,
liberty, fraternity, prosperity, and happiness to the common people.
Therefore, he emphasised that social and economic democracies are sine qua
non for a successful political democracy. But he cautioned against leaders
taking a superficial view of democracy. He was against treating
constitutional morality, adult suffrage and frequent elections as the be
all and end all of democracy, because even western thinkers had made the
same mistake.
Parliamentary democracy collapsed in Italy, Germany and Russia in the 20th

century because it could not create a government of the people or by the

people; it was producing government of the hereditary ruling class. Real
democracy, according to Ambedkar, would lead to the governing class losing
power. His vision is bearing fruit today, when we see the subaltern
classes – the Dalits and the OBCs who have never tasted power – in the
corridors of power.
Finally, Ambedkar envisaged establishment of equality – social, economic,

and political – not just as a slogan but as a concrete policy. He made

equality of opportunity a fundamental right. But he was conscious that in
an unequal society, equality of opportunity could lead to further
production of inequality because those groups which were already ahead in
the social ladder would always have an advantage. Therefore, Ambedkar also
enshrined “equality of condition” in the Indian Constitution. This
condition was nothing but reservations for the Dalits.
With these measures, he possibly wanted to change the composition of the

institutions of power with representation of marginalised sections. But

when we observe the output of these policies for equality, we see a gap.
Still, the marginalised sections lag far behind amidst their modest
mobility. Can we build a strong nation if a quarter of its population is
still lagging behind? Till this population is left behind, Ambedkar and
his vision will remain relevant.
Crsty: http://www.countercurrents.org/dalit-vivekkumar280404.htm

ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆ: ಅಂಬೇಡ್ಕರ್ ಮಾರ್ಗದಲ್ಲಿದೆ ಪರಿಹಾರ

ಭಾರತದ ಭೂಪಟದಲ್ಲಿ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಹೇಗೆ ಕಾಣುತ್ತದೆ ? ಉತ್ತರ ಸ್ಪಷ್ಟ. ಮಕುಟದ ಹಾಗೆ .ಆದರೆ ಆ ಮಕುಟ ಒರಿಜಿನಲ್ಲಾಗಿ ಹಾಗೆಯೇ ಇದೆಯೇ? ಖಂಡಿತ ಇಲ್ಲ. ಹಾಗೆ ಇರುವಹಾಗೆ ತೋರಿಸಲಾಗುತ್ತಿದೆ! ಹಾಗಿದ್ದರೆ ವಾಸ್ತವವಾಗಿ ಆ ಮಕುಟ  ಹೇಗಿದೆ? ಒಂದು ಭಾಗ ಪಾಕ್ ಆಕ್ರಮಿತ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ರೂಪದಲ್ಲಿ ಪಾಕಿಸ್ತಾನಕ್ಕೆ ಸೇರಿದೆ . ಮತ್ತೊಂದು ಭಾಗ ಅಕ್ಸಾಯ್ ಚಿನ್ ರೂಪದಲ್ಲಿ ಚೀನಾಕ್ಕೆ ಸೇರಿದೆ. ಉಳಿದ ಒಂದು ಭಾಗ ಮಾತ್ರ ಜಮ್ಮು ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ರೂಪದಲ್ಲಿ ಭಾರತದ ಜೊತೆ ಇದೆ .
ಛೆ!  ಇದೆಂತಹ ಅಪಮಾನ? ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ಉಳಿದೆರಡು ಭಾಗಗಳನ್ನು ಪಾಕ್ ಮತ್ತು ಚೀನಾಕ್ಕೆ ನಾವು ಕಳೆದುಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದೇವೆಯೇ? ಖಂಡಿತ ಇಲ್ಲ. ಏಕೆಂದರೆ ವಾಸ್ತವವಾಗಿ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ನಮ್ಮದಲ್ಲವೇ ಅಲ್ಲವಲ್ಲ! ಹೇಗೆ ಹಿಂದೂ ದೇಶವಾಗಿದ್ದರೂ ನೇಪಾಳ ನಮ್ಮದಲ್ಲವೋ, ಬೌದ್ಧ ದೇಶವಾಗಿದ್ದರೂ ಭೂತಾನ ನಮ್ಮದಲ್ಲವೋ,  ಹಾಗೆ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಕೂಡ ನಮ್ಮದಲ್ಲ .(ಹಾಗಂತ ಅದು ಪಾಕಿಸ್ತಾನದ್ದೂ ಕೂಡ ಅಲ್ಲ!) ಭಾರತ ಪಾಕಿಸ್ತಾನ ವಿಭಜನೆಯ ಬಿರುಗಾಳಿಗೆ ಸಿಕ್ಕಿ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ವೆಂಬ ಸ್ವತಂತ್ರ ಪ್ರಾಂತ್ಯ ಮತ್ತದರ ಒಂದು ಭಾಗ ನಮ್ಮ ದೇಶಕ್ಕೆ ಸೇರಿದೆಯಷ್ಟೆ. ಒಂದರ್ಥದಲಿ ನಮ್ಮ ದೇಶವನ್ನು ಸುಡುತ್ತಿದೆ ಬೆಂಕಿಯ ಕೆಂಡದ ಹಾಗೆ,. ಅತ್ತ ನುಂಗಲೂ ಆಗದೆ ಇತ್ತ ಉಗುಳಲೂ ಆಗದೆ.
ಹಾಗಿದ್ದರೆ ಇಂತಹ ವಿಕ್ಷಿಪ್ತ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ಇತಿಹಾಸವಾದರೂ ಏನು? ಸಂಕ್ಷಿಪ್ತವಾಗಿ ಹೇಳುವುದಾದರೆ ಭಾರತ ಆಗಸ್ಟ್ 15, 1947 ರಂದು ಸ್ವತಂತ್ರವಾದಾಗ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಭಾರತದ ಭಾಗವಾಗಿಯೇ ಇರಲಿಲ್ಲ.! ಏಕೆಂದರೆ ಮೊದಲೆ ಹೇಳಿದ ಹಾಗೆ ಬ್ರಿಟಿಷ್ ಅಧಿಪತ್ಯಕ್ಕೆ ಒಳಪಡದ ಅದು ಸ್ವತಂತ್ರ ಪ್ರಾಂತ್ಯವಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಆಗ ಮಹಾರಾಜ ಹರಿಸಿಂಗ್ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ರಾಜನಾಗಿದ್ದ , ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ ಕಕ್ ಎನ್ನುವವರು ಪ್ರಧಾನಿ ಕೂಡ ಆಗಿದ್ದರು.  ಜುಲೈ 3 1947 ರಂದು ಭಾರತಕ್ಕೆ ಸ್ವಾತಂತ್ರ್ಯ ಕೊಡುವ ಇಂಗಿತ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಪಡಿಸಿದ ಲಾಡರ್್ ಮೌಂಟ್ ಬ್ಯಾಟನ್ ತಕ್ಷಣ ಬ್ರಿಟಿಷ್ ಸಕರ್ಾರದ ಭಾಗವಾಗಿಲ್ಲದ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರಕ್ಕೆ ಭೇಟಿ ನೀಡಿದರು . ಅಲ್ಲಿಯ ರಾಜನ ಜೊತೆ  ಮಾತನಾಡಿದ ಮೌಂಟ್ ಬ್ಯಾಟನ್  ಬ್ರಿಟಿಷ್  ಸಕರ್ಾರ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರವನ್ನು ತನ್ನ ಚಕ್ರಾಧಿಪ್ಯಪತ್ಯದ ಒಂದು ಭಾಗವೆಂದು ಪರಿಗಣಿಸಿಲ್ಲ . ಆದ್ದರಿಂದ ನೀವು ಆಗಸ್ಟ್ 15 ರ ಒಳಗೆ  ಭಾರತವಾದರೂ ಸರಿ , ಇಲ್ಲ ಪಾಕಿಸ್ತಾನವಾದರೂ ಸರಿ , ನಿಮಗೆ ಯಾರು ಬೇಕೊ ಅವರ ಜೊತೆ ಸೇರಬಹುದು ಎಂದು ತಿಳಿಸಿದರು. ಆದರೆ ರಾಜ ಹರಿಸಿಂಗ್ ಆಗಸ್ಟ್ 15  ರೊಳಗೆ ತಮ್ಮ ನಿಧರ್ಾರವನ್ನು ತಿಳಿಸಲಿಲ್ಲ,. ಬದಲಿಗೆ ಭಾರತ ಮತ್ತು  ಪಾಕಿಸ್ತಾನಗಳೆರಡರಿಂದಲೂ ದೂರ ಉಳಿವ  ಯಥಾಸ್ಥಿತಿ ಕಾಪಾಡಿ ಕೊಳ್ಳುವ  ನಿಧರ್ಾರ ಕೈಗೊಂಡರು.  ಈ ಕಾರಣದಿಂದಾಗಿ ಆಗಸ್ಟ್ 14 ರಂದು ದೇಶ ವಿಭಜನೆಯಾದಾಗ  ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಅತ್ತ ಪಾಕಿಸ್ತಾನಕ್ಕೂ  ಸೇರಲಿಲ್ಲ, ಇತ್ತ ಭಾರತಕ್ಕು ಸೇರಲಿಲ್ಲ . ಒಂದರ್ಥದಲಿ ಭಾರತ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ರಹಿತವಾಗಿ ಸ್ವತಂತ್ರವಾಯಿತು. ( ಬಹುಶಃ ಹಾಗೇ ಇದ್ದರೆ ಸೂಕ್ತವಿತ್ತೇನೋ) ಇತ್ತ ನಮ್ಮದೂ ಅಲ್ಲದ ಅತ್ತ ಪಾಕಿಸ್ತಾನದ್ದೂ ಅಲ್ಲದ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ತನ್ನ ಪಾಡಿಗೆ ತಾನು ಇರುವ ಯಥಾಸ್ಥಿತಿ ವಾದಕ್ಕೆ ಅಂಟಿಕೊಂಡಿತು.
ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ಈ ನಿಲುವಿನ ವಿರುದ್ಧ  ತಿರುಗಿಬಿದ್ದ ಪಾಕಿಸ್ತಾನ ಅದರ ಮೇಲೆ ಒತ್ತಡ ಹೇರಲು ತನ್ನ ಮಾರ್ಗದ ಮೂಲಕ ಆಗುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಆಹಾರ, ಪೆಟ್ರೋಲ್ ಇತ್ಯಾದಿ ಅಗತ್ಯ ವಸ್ತುಗಳ ಸರಬರಾಜನ್ನು ತಕ್ಷಣ ನಿಲ್ಲಿಸಿತು.  ಸಿಯಾಲ್ಕೋಟ್ನಿಂದ ಜಮ್ಮುವರೆಗೆ ರೈಲ್ವೆ ಸೇವೆಯನ್ನು ಸಹಾ ನಿಲ್ಲಿಸಿತು. ಪಾಕಿಸ್ತಾನದ ಈ ಕ್ರಮದ ವಿರುದ್ಧ ಅಕ್ಟೋಬರ್  15, 1947 ರಂದು  ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ  ಅಂದಿನ ಪ್ರಧಾನಿಯಾಗಿದ್ದ ಎಂ. ಸಿ. ಮಹಾಜನ್ರವರು ( ನೆನಪಿರಲಿ ಭಾರತದ ಅಂದಿನ ಪ್ರಧಾನಿ ನೆಹರು ) ಬ್ರಿಟಿಷ್ ಪ್ರಧಾನಿಗೆ ದೂರಿತ್ತರು. ತಕ್ಷಣ ಬ್ರಿಟಿಷ್ ಪ್ರಧಾನಿಯವರು ಪಾಕ್ ಪ್ರಧಾನಿಗಳಿಗೆ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ಜೊತೆ ಸುಲಲಿತವಾಗಿ ವ್ಯವಹರಿಸುವಂತೆ  ಹಾಗೂ ಅಗತ್ಯ ವಸ್ತುಗಳನ್ನು ಸರಬರಾಜು ಮಾಡುವಂತೆ ಸೂಚಿಸಿತು.
ಅಂದಹಾಗೆ  ಸಮಸ್ಯೆ ಇಲ್ಲಿಗೇ ಮುಕ್ತಾಯವಾಗಿದ್ದರೆ ಬಹುಶಃ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಎಂಬ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆ ಪಾಕ್ ಮತ್ತು ಭಾರತವನ್ನು ಕಾಡುತ್ತಲೇ ಇರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಸ್ವತಂತ್ರ ರಾಷ್ಟ್ರವೆಂದು ಎರಡು ದೇಶಗಳು ಒಪ್ಪಿಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದರೆ , ಹಾಗೆ ಮನ್ನಣೆ ನೀಡಿದ್ದರೆ  ಎರಡೂ ರಾಷ್ಟ್ರಗಳೂ ಮುಂದಿನ ಹಲವಾರು ವರ್ಷಗಳವರೆಗೆ ( ಬಹುಶಃ ಶತಮಾನಗಳವರೆಗೆ !) ನೆಮ್ಮದಿಯಿಂದ ಇರುತ್ತಿದ್ದವೋ ಏನೋ? ಆದರೆ ತನ್ನ ಜೊತೆ ಉತ್ತಮ ರಸ್ತೆ ಸಂಪರ್ಕ ಹೊಂದಿದ್ದ ಪ್ರತಿಯೊಂದಕ್ಕೂ ತನ್ನನ್ನೇ ಅವಲಂಬಿಸಿದ್ದ ( ರ್ಯಾಡ್ ಕ್ಲಿಫ್ ಒಪ್ಪಂದ ಬರುವವರೆಗೆ ಭಾರತ ಮತ್ತು ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ನಡುವೆ ರಸ್ತೆ ಸಂಪರ್ಕವೇ ಇರಲಿಲ್ಲ!) ಅಷ್ಟೇನು ಮಿಲಿಟರಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಬಲಿಷ್ಟವಲ್ಲದ ಭೂಬಾಗವೊಂದನ್ನು ಯಾವ ದೇಶ ತಾನೆ ಹಾಗೆ ಇರಲು ಬಿಡುತ್ತದೆ ? ಸರಳವಾಗಿ ಹೇಳುವುದಾದರೆ ಆಕ್ರಮಣ ಮಾಡುತ್ತದೆ. ಅಂತಹ ಆಕ್ರಮಣದ ಉಪಕ್ರಮ ಪ್ರಾರಂಭವಾದದ್ದು ಅಕ್ಟೋಬರ್  22, 1947 ರಂದು. (ಜ್ಞಾಪಕವಿರಲಿ ಪಾಕಿಸ್ತಾನ ಆಕ್ರಮಿಸಿದ್ದು ನಮ್ಮ ದೇಶವನ್ನಲ್ಲ , ಅಥವಾ ನಮ್ಮ ದೇಶದ  ಒಂದು ಭಾಗವನ್ನಂತೂ ಅಲ್ಲವೇ ಅಲ್ಲ!) ಅಂದಹಾಗೆ ಪಾಕಿಸ್ತಾನದ ಅಂತಹ ಆಕ್ರಮಣಕ್ಕೆ ಉತ್ತರ ಹೇಳಬೇಕಾದ್ದು ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ಅಂದಿನ ಜವಾಬ್ದಾರಿಯುತ ಸಕರ್ಾರದ್ದಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಅದು  ಮಹಾರಾಜರದ್ದಾಗಿರಬಹುದು ಅಥವಾ ಪ್ರಜಾಪ್ರಭುತ್ವದ್ದಾಗಿರಬಹುದು. ಆ ಸಕರ್ಾರ ಪಾಕಿಸ್ತಾನಕ್ಕೆ  ಸೇನಾ  ಹೋರಾಟದ ರೂಪದಲ್ಲಿ ಸ್ಪಷ್ಟ ಉತ್ತರ ನೀಡಬೇಕಿತ್ತು.
ಆದರೆ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ಅಂದಿನ ಸಕರ್ಾರ ಮಾಡಿದ ಕೆಲಸವೇನೆಂದರೆ  (ಅಥವಾ ತಪ್ಪೆಂದರೆ) ಸಹಾಯಕ್ಕಾಗಿ ತನ್ನ ನೆರೆಯ ರಾಷ್ಟ್ರ ಭಾರತವನ್ನು ಕೇಳಿದ್ದು,. ಭಾರತವೂ ಕೂಡ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ದೌರ್ಬಲ್ಯವನ್ನು ತಿಳಿದಿತ್ತಲ್ಲವೇ? ನಾವೂ ಒಂದು ಕೈ ನೋಡೇ ಬಿಡುವ ಎಂದೆನಿಸಿರಬೇಕಲ್ಲವೇ ? ತಕ್ಷಣ ಭಾರತ ಸಹಾಯ ಹಸ್ತ ಚಾಚಿತು . ಅಂತಿಮಾವಾಗಿ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರವೆಂಬ ಬಿಸಿತುಪ್ಪ ಅಕ್ಟೋಬರ್ 26, 1947 ರಂದು ಭಾರತದ ಗಂಟಲಲ್ಲಿ ಸಿಕ್ಕಿ ಹಾಕಿಕೊಂಡಿತು.
ಇದಿಷ್ಟು ಭಾರತದ ಮಕುಟವಾಗಿ ಪರಿವರ್ತನೆಗೊಂಡ ವಿಕ್ಷಿಪ್ತ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ಸಂಕ್ಷಿಪ್ತ ಇತಿಹಾಸ.
ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆಯೇನೆಂದರೆ ಸ್ವಾತಂತ್ರ್ಯ ಬಂದು ಆಗ ತಾನೆ ಕೆಲವೇ ದಿನಗಳಾಗಿರುವಾಗ , ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಗಳು ಕಿತ್ತು ತಿನ್ನುತ್ತಿರುವಾಗ  ಆಗಿನ ನಮ್ಮ ನಾಯಕರುಗಳಿಗೆ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ಉಸಾಬರಿಯಾದರೂ ಯಾಕೆ ಬೇಕಿತ್ತು? ಎಂಬುದು,. ಇದಕ್ಕೇ ಇರಬೇಕು ತಮ್ಮ  ನಾನೇಕೆ ಮಂತ್ರಿ ಪದವಿಗೆ ರಾಜೀನಾಮೆ ನೀಡಬೇಕಾಯಿತು ಎಂಬ ತಮ್ಮ ಕೃತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಡಾ. ಅಂಬೇಡ್ಕರ್ ರವರು  ನೆಹರೂರವರು ಭಾರತದ ಬಾಲಕ್ಕೆ  ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರವೆಂಬ ಬೆಂಕಿಯನ್ನು ಹಚ್ಚಿದರು  ಎಂದಿರುವುದು.
ಇದು ಅಕ್ಷರಶಃ ನಿಜ. ಏಕೆಂದರೆ ಇಂದು ಮೂಲತಃ ನಮ್ಮದಲ್ಲದ ಹಾಗೆ ಪಾಕಿಸ್ತಾನದ್ದೂ ಅಲ್ಲದ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಮತ್ತದರ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಗಳು ದೇಶವನ್ನು ಕಿತ್ತುತಿನ್ನುತ್ತಿವೆ. ನಮ್ಮ ವಿದೇಶಾಂಗ ವ್ಯವಹಾರದ ಬಹುತೇಕ ಸಮಯ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ನಮ್ಮ ನಿಲುವನ್ನು ವಿದೇಶಿಯರಿಗೆ ತಿಳಿಸುವುದರಲ್ಲಿಯೇ ಕಳೆದು ಹೋಗುತ್ತಿದೆ. ವಿದೇಶಿಯರಿಗೆ ಭಾರತ ಎಂದಾಕ್ಷಣ ಅದರ ಪ್ರಮುಖ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಎಂಬಂತಾಗಿದೆ. ಇದು ಹೇಗೆ ಅಂದರೆ 1951 ರಲ್ಲೇ ನಮ್ಮ ರಕ್ಷಣಾ ಬಜೆಟ್ಟಿನ 350 ಕೋಟಿ ರೂಗಳಲ್ಲಿ 180 ಕೋಟಿ ರೂ ಗಳನ್ನು ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರವೇ ತಿಂದುಹಾಕಿದೆ. ಈಗಂತೂ 1 ಲಕ್ಷ 60 ಸಾವಿರ ಕೋಟಿ ರಕ್ಷಣಾ ಬಜೆಟ್ಟಿನಲ್ಲಿ 1 ಲಕ್ಷ ಕೋಟಿಯನ್ನು ಪ್ರತ್ಯಕ್ಷವಾಗಿ, ಪರೋಕ್ಷವಾಗಿ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆ ನುಂಗಿಹಾಕುತ್ತಿದೆ.! ಇತ್ತೀಚೆಗೆ ಲೋಕಸಭೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಸ್ವತಃ ಹಿರಿಯ ನಾಯಕರೊಬ್ಬರು ಹೇಳಿರುವ ಹಾಗೆ  ದೇಶದ ಶೇ 1 ರಷ್ಟು ಇಲ್ಲದ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ಜನ ಶೇ 11 ರಷ್ಟು ದೇಶದ ಬಜೆಟ್ಟನ್ನು ತಿಂದುಹಾಕುತ್ತಿದ್ದಾರೆ!
ಅಂದಹಾಗೆ ಇದು ಇಂದಿನ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಯಲ್ಲ .63 ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದಲೂ ಇದೇ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆ. ಮುಂದೆ ಇನ್ನೆಷ್ಟು ವರ್ಷಗಳು ಈ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆ ಹಾಗೇ ಇರುತ್ತದೆಯೋ , ಈ ದೇಶದ ತೆರಿಗೆ ಹಣವನ್ನು ಹಾಗೆಯೇ  ತಿನ್ನುತ್ತಿರುತ್ತದೆಯೋ ಆ ದೇವರೆ ಬಲ್ಲ!
ಒಟ್ಟಿನಲಿ ಎತ್ತೆತ್ತಲೋ ಇದ್ದ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆ ಸುತ್ತಿಸುತ್ತಿ ಸುಳಿದು ಭಾರತವನ್ನು ಸುತ್ತಿಕೊಂಡಿದೆ. ಅದು ನಮ್ಮ ಕುತ್ತಿಗೆಗೆ ಸುತ್ತಿಕೊಂಡಿರುವ ಸತ್ಯ ತಿಳಿಯದೇ ನಾವು ಅದನ್ನು ನಮ್ಮ  ಮಕುಟ ಎನ್ನುತ್ತಿದ್ದೇವೆ!
ಅದಕ್ಕೇ ಮೊದಲು ನಾವು ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಎಂಬ ಆ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಗೆ ಶಾಶ್ವತ, ದಕ್ಷ ಮತ್ತು ಧೃಡ ಪರಿಹಾರ ಕಂಡುಕೊಳ್ಳುವ ನಿಟ್ಟಿನಲಿ ಯೋಚಿಸಬೇಕಿದೆ. ಆ ದಿಕ್ಕಿನಲಿ ಹೆಜ್ಜೆ ಇಡಬೇಕಿದೆ .
ಹೆಜ್ಜೆ ಇಡಬೇಕು ಎಂದಾಕ್ಷಾಣ ಆ ಹೆಜ್ಜೆಎತ್ತ ಇಡಬೇಕು ಎಂದು ಸೂಚಿಸದಿದ್ದರೆ ತಪ್ಪಾಗುತ್ತದೆಯಲ್ಲವೇ? ಖಂಡಿತ ಈ ನಿಟ್ಟಿನಲಿ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದ  ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಗೆ ಪರಿಹಾರವಿರುವುದು ಅಂಬೇಡ್ಕರ್ ಮಾರ್ಗದಲ್ಲಿ. ಏಕೆಂದರೆ ಕೇಂದ್ರದ ಪ್ರಥಮ ಕಾನೂನು ಮಂತ್ರಿಗಳಾಗಿದ್ದ ಅಂಬೇಡ್ಕರ್ರವರು 1951 ಅಕ್ಟೋಬರ್ 10 ರಂದು ಕ್ಯಾಬಿನೆಟ್ನಲ್ಲಿ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆ ಕುರಿತು ಮಾತನಾಡುತ್ತಾ  ಹಿಂದೂಗಳು ಬಹುಸಂಖ್ಯಾತರಾಗಿರುವ ಜಮ್ಮು ಪ್ರದೇಶ ಮತ್ತು ಬೌದ್ಧರು ಬಹುಸಂಖ್ಯಾತರಾಗಿರುವ ಲಡಾಕ್ ಪ್ರದೇಶಗಳನ್ನು ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರದಿಂದ ಪ್ರತ್ಯೇಕಗೊಳಿಸಿ ಭಾರತಕ್ಕೆ ಸೇರಿಸಬೇಕು ಹಾಗೆಯೇ ಮುಸ್ಲಿಮ್ ಬಾಹುಳ್ಯವುಳ್ಳ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಕಣಿವೆಗೆ ಸ್ವತಂತ್ರ ಸ್ಥಾನಮಾನ ನೀಡಿ , ಅಲ್ಲಿಯ ಜನತೆಗೆ ನಿಧರ್ಾರ ತೆಗೆದುಕೊಳ್ಳುವ (ಸ್ವತಂತ್ರವಾಗಿ ಉಳಿಯುವ ಅಥವಾ ಪಾಕ್ ಜೊತೆ ಸೇರುವ ) ಹಕ್ಕು ನೀಡ ಬೇಕು. ಎನ್ನುತ್ತಾರೆ. ತನ್ಮೂಲಕ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಗೆ ಸರಳ ಮತ್ತು ಜಾರಿಗೊಳಿಸಬಹುದಾದ ಶಾಶ್ವತ ಪರಿಹಾರ ಸೂಚಿಸುತ್ತಾರೆ.
ನಿಷ್ಪಕ್ಷಪಾತವಾಗಿ ಹೇಳುವುದಾದರೆ, ಈ ದೇಶದ  ಸಂವಿಧಾನ ಶಿಲ್ಪಿಯಾಗಿ ,ಓರ್ವ ಬ್ಯಾರಿಸ್ಟರರಾಗಿ ಅಂಬೇಡ್ಕರರು ಸೂಚಿಸಿದ ಆ ಪರಿಹಾರ ಕೇವಲ ಪರಿಹಾರದಂತಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಬದಲಾಗಿ ಹಿರಿಯ ನ್ಯಾಯಾಧೀಶರೊಬ್ಬರು ನೀಡಿದ ತೀಪರ್ಿನಂತಿತ್ತು. ದುರಂತವೆಂದರೆ ಅಂಬೇಡ್ಕರ್ರವರ ಆ ತೀರ್ಪನ್ನುಆಗಿನ ನೆಹರೂರವರ ಸಕರ್ಾರ  ಒಪ್ಪಿಕೊಳ್ಳುವ ಮನಸ್ಸು ಮಾಡಲಿಲ್ಲ.  ಕಾಕತಾಳೀಯವೆಂದರೆ ನಂತರದ ಸಕರ್ಾರಗಳೂ ಕೂಡ ಅದರ ಕಡೆ ಗಮನಹರಿಸಲು ಹೋಗಿಲ್ಲ! ಆಶ್ಚರ್ಯಕರವೆಂದರೆ ಅಂಬೇಡ್ಕರ್ರವರು ಸೂಚಿಸಿರುವ ಆ ಮಧ್ಯಮ ಮಾರ್ಗದ ಹೊರತು  ಪ್ಯಾಕೇಜು, ಸ್ವಾಯತ್ತತೆ ಗಳೆಂಬ ಸೌಮ್ಯ ರೂಪದ ಅಥವಾ ಸೇನಾಕಾಯರ್ಾಚರಣೆ, ಯುದ್ಧಗಳೆಂಬ ಉಗ್ರರೂಪದ ವಿಧಾನಗಳ್ಯಾವುವು ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಯನ್ನು ಬಗೆಹರಿಸುವಂತೆ ಕಾಣುತ್ತಿಲ್ಲ.
ಕಾಲ ಈಗಲೂ ಮಿಂಚಿಲ್ಲ. ಆಳುವ ಸಕರ್ಾರಗಳು ತಡವಾಗಿಯಾದರೂ ಎಚ್ಚತ್ತುಕೊಂಡು ಅಂಬೇಡ್ಕರ್ರವರು ನೀಡಿರುವ ಆ ತೀರ್ಪನ್ನು ಜಾರಿಗೊಳಿಸಿದರೆ ಒಳಿತು. ಇಲ್ಲದಿದ್ದರೆ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಯಾಗಿಯೇ ಉಳಿಯುತ್ತದೆ. ಹಾಗೆಯೇ ಕಾಶ್ಮೀರ ಪ್ರಕ್ಷುಬ್ಧವೆಂಬ ಆ ನಿರಂತರ ಹೆಡ್ ಲೈನೂ ಕೂಡ….
ರಘೋತ್ತಮ ಹೊ. ಬ

Buddhists and Human Rights


Robert Traer

An analysis of Buddhist affirmations of human rights might begin in India, the birthplace of Buddhism. There in 1956 another Hindu, B. R. Ambedkar, converted to Buddhism and took some four million other untouchables with him.1

Sangharakshita, a Buddhist who played an important role in the mass conversion movement that Ambedkar set in motion, writes of Ambedkar:

In the end, after years of unsuccessful struggle for the basic human rights of his people, he was forced to recognize that there was going to be no change of heart on the part of the Caste Hindus, and that the casteless, “Protestant” Hinduism of which he had sometimes spoken so enthusiastically was only a dream.2

As early as 1935 Ambedkar had threatened to leave Hinduism, when in a speech to a conference of the depressed classes he “spoke bitterly of the failure of their attempts to secure their basic human rights as members of the Hindu community.”3

Ambedkar had considered conversion to Sikhism, but finally admitted that only the personalities of the Buddha and Christ captivated him. However, because the caste system was observed in the Christian churches of Southern India and Ambedkar felt the Christian community had not fought against social injustice, he turned to Buddhism.4

Ambedkar wrote that his philosophy was “enshrined” in three words: liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Let no one however say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French Revolution. I have not. My philosophy has roots in religion and not in political science. I have derived them from the teachings of my master, the Buddha.5

He suggested that fraternity was only another name for democracy, which is “essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards [one’s] fellow men.”6 Buddha transformed attitudes of respect and obedience contained in the ethnic Hindu notion of dharma into a universal morality. By admitting members of lower castes and women into the Bhikshu Sangha, the Buddha took “concrete steps to destroy the gospel of inequality.”7

Ambedkar argued that for Buddhists the dharma is that

universal morality which protects the weak from the strong, which provides common models, standards, and rules, and which safeguards the growth of the individual. It is what makes liberty and equality effective. . ..”8

For Ambedkar, fraternity “is nothing but another name for brotherhood of men which is another name for morality. This is why the Buddha preached that Dhamma [dharma] is morality and as Dhamma is sacred so is morality.”9


Many Buddhists are reluctant to identify the dharma with human rights. Buddhist scholar Masao Abe writes that “the exact equivalent of the phrase ‘human rights’ in the Western sense cannot be found anywhere in Buddhist literature.”10 The Western concept of human rights concerns only humans. By marked contrast, in Buddhism

a human being is not grasped only from the human point of view, that is, not simply on an anthropocentric basis, but on a much broader trans-homocentric, cosmological basis. More concretely, in Buddhism human beings are grasped as a part of all sentient beings or even as a part of all beings, sentient and nonsentient, because both human and nonhuman beings are equally subject to transiency or impermanency.11

Therefore, the human self is also impermanent, or relative.

The notion of absolute self-identity or substantial, enduring selfhood is an unreal, conceptual construction created by human self-consciousness. Buddhism calls it maya, or illusion, and emphasizes the importance of awakening to no-self by doing away with this illusory understanding of the self.12

Though self and nature are different from one another on the relative level, “on the absolute level they are equal and interfuse with one another because of the lack of any fixed, substantial selfhood.”13

For this reason Buddhism, Abe tells us, differs radically from the monotheistic religious traditions.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition the problem of human rights and human duty to other people must be considered in relation to the exclusive commandment of the supreme God, whereas in Buddhism the same problem should be grasped in relation to all living beings in the universe. This difference entails that in Buddhism conflict between human rights and religious freedom becomes much less serious. . ..14

It also means that for Buddhists nature is no more subordinate to human beings than human beings to nature. Buddhism offers a kind of ecological view of life: “Under the commandment ‘Not to destroy any life,’ the rights of animals and plants are as equally recognized as are human rights.”15

On the basis of this Buddhist analysis, Abe makes the following recommendations to foster human rights and overcome religious intolerance. First, attachment to doctrine and dogma should be eliminated, for this is the cause of intolerance. Second, wisdom rather than justice should be emphasized, as this is the basis of compassion and love. Third, monotheistic traditions must come to understand the Oneness of ultimate reality in a nondualistic way in order to avoid exclusivistic and intolerant attitudes toward other traditions.16

Similarly, Kenneth Inada acknowledges the importance of human rights, but suggests that for Buddhists human rights are “ancillary to the larger or more basic issue of human nature.”17 Human nature is understood as part of the process of “relational origination (paticcasamupada),” which is the greatest doctrine of Buddhism:

It means that, in any life-process, the arising of an experiential event is a total, relational affair. A particular event does not arise in a vacuum, nor does it result by the imposition of external forces of elements. It is a unique arisal which is vitally dependent on or related to all the elements present within the surroundings. Thus, in the process there is nothing which is fragmentary or has any gaps, since it relates with the complete fullness of all the elements present. Each relationship is full insofar as the process is concerned. This means that relational origination is a most concrete way in which life-process goes on.18

This is the Dhamma (dharma), for the Buddha said: “He who sees relational origination sees the Dhamma and he who sees the Dhamma sees relational origination.”19 Therefore, “there is an intimate and vital relationship of the Buddhist norm or Dhamma with that of human rights.”20

The Bodhisattva personifies the ideal existence, for it goes to the heart of human nature:

In its concern for fellow beings, it demonstrates the best concrete illustration of the doctrine of relational origination—in which every being is involved in every other being . . . It is not only the beginnings of harmony with other beings, but more important, the sustenance of harmony within the changing ambient world.21

The Bodhisattva ideal reminds us that there is no actual, individual experience, for it “speaks to us of “equality, liberty, and security from the total perspective.”22

Human rights are an extension of human nature. Thus, in the Buddhist perspective they flow from right human relations.

Human rights are legal matters which can be legislated, but only to a certain extent, especially so in a divided world. Human nature, however, is an existential matter which can neither be legislated nor measured; therefore, one must resort to persuasion and self-realization in order to seek one’s unique existence.23

Inada concludes that “when governments, singly or in consortium, are able to provide an ambience conducive to individual life-fulfillment by way of an open and free contact to all, the question of human rights based on human nature should be eased considerably, if not solved.”24

Taitetsu Unno asserts: “The fact that the Buddhist tradition in its past history has had little to say about personal rights in the current sense of the term does not mean that Buddhists were not concerned with human well-being, with the dignity and autonomy of the spirit.”25 Moreover, he argues that contemporary Buddhism “must clarify what it has to offer to the concept of personal rights and its realization for all people.”26

The key to the Buddhist contribution, Unno believes, is its notion of the human person. The human person is a part of the interdependence of all life. Thus, the Buddhist teaching of no-self (anatman) makes possible an appreciation of persons as more than entities or individuals. This awareness liberates a person from the enslaving concepts and practices of culture and religion, such as those imposed by the Hindu tradition of caste.

By negating the metaphysical basis of traditional values and practices the Buddha affirmed instead the crucial nature of human conduct and virtus [sic] as determining what is truly human. He also stressed reliance on the powers of analysis and autonomous reason and rejected revelation, authority, and tradition as sources of knowledge.27

The Sangha was to model this image of the human person, as “a society of equals—regardless of birth or lineage or whether one was rich or poor, man or woman.”28 People are human in relation to others and nature, by virtue of their conduct and character.

Rights are a reflection of this interdependent reality. When one realizes the interconnectedness of all life, one realizes that rights are fundamental not only for people but equally for all sentient beings, as well as for nature itself. Unno asserts:

respect for the individual and the recognition of rights is not a static but a dynamic fact which makes it imperative that as we affirm our own individual rights we must also be willing to give up ourselves in order to affirm the rights of others. When, however, we affirm only our own rights at the expense of the rights of others—including the rights of humanity over nature, one nation or one race over another, one belief or view over others—we become tyrannical and oppressive.29

Only with such an understanding of interdependent reality will assertions of human rights contribute to a society of equals. In this way will we see that the person is not “one among the many, but one as the absolute subject, the negation of the many; and the many is not simply a collection of ones, but many as the common good, the negation of separate ones going their different ways.”30

While the Bodhisattva is exceptional, all persons may live with a sense of gratitude for the interdependence of reality in the recognition that “one lives by virtue of the working and sacrifices of countless others, including the blessings of nature.”31 The common Japanese expression “Okagesama” reflects just this kind of humble gratitude.


Thus, from a Buddhist perspective, human rights need to be grounded in what today might be described as an ecological view of nature and humanity, and rights need to be conceived for other forms of life and not just for humans, if the ego-centeredness often associated with personal rights is to be avoided. In this respect, religion has often been a stumbling block.

The most subtle forms of disguised self-centeredness appear in all world religions; we see it in sectarianism and triumphalism, classism and sexism. How can we root out this radical egocentricity, all the more difficult because it is affirmed in noble language? How can we affirm plurality, cherishing our own beliefs without negating those of others? Good will and tolerance have been inadequate as evidenced in the world today. What is necessary is a new understanding of reality, a new vision of the ideal community, based on the interdependence and interconnectedness of life. . ..32

Unno concludes “that it is necessary for contemporary Buddhism to come forth with a clear a unequivocal statement on personal rights,” to aid in the development of an adequate foundation for human rights.33

Similarly, Robert Thurman argues that the Buddhist experience has much to offer human rights considerations: “the principles of human rights were all there in the Buddha’s earliest teachings” and were embodied in the Sangha; however, they never led to an institutional democracy until modern times, and then only when there was outside help.34

Thurman asserts: “The Buddhist ‘individual,’ as a living, relative, social, conventional being emerges as the center of the Buddha’s Teaching since there is no such thing as an unchanging, ultimate, isolated, intrinsically identifiable ‘individual’.”35 Thus, in Buddhism

the individual human who possess rights is presented as a spiritual as well as physical being of unique accomplishments and valuable opportunities. We have earned our rights through suffering and transcending egotism in the sea of evolution, and no one can deprive us of them, since no one conferred them upon us. Societies cease to be truly human when they cease to acknowledge that each individual’s fulfillment is the purpose of the whole. And humans are free also to give away their rights in furtherance of the fulfillment of others. Indeed it is by the supreme generosity of giving even one’s life that one evolved into a human out of lower forms. Thus talk of rights quickly passes over into talk of responsibilities, as the self-fulfilled (that is, enlightened as to selflessness) individual automatically wills to share that happiness of release with others by aiding them in their own quest of enlightenment.36

As persons assume responsibility, there is less need to talk about or enforce human rights.

Thurman argues that several texts provide the foundation for a Buddhist social philosophy and notes that the stone-carved edicts of Emperor Ashoka (third century B.C.E.) set forth five basic principles of Buddhist politics: “(1) individualistic transcendentalism, (2) nonviolent pacifism, (3) religious pluralism with an educational emphasis, (4) compassionate welfare paternalism, and (5) reliance on a powerful central authority to affirm the rights of individuals over claims of intermediate groups.”37 He also discusses Tibet as a “long-term Buddhist experiment” in “furthering human social and cultural rights.”38

Contemporary Advocacy

Apart from these theoretical considerations, Buddhists have begun to speak of human rights in various ways.39 Buddhists protest “human rights violations” in China, Tibet, Laos, and Korea.40 Buddhists join with other members of religious traditions in conferences concerned with human rights.41 Buddhists participate in resolutions on human rights, such as the Seoul Declaration of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace, which declared: “Human dignity must be safeguarded by human rights, through which human dignity can be fully manifested.”42

The late U Thant, a Burmese Buddhist who served as Secretary-General of the UN, on at least one occasion reiterated Eleanor Roosevelt’s comment that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the “Magna Carta of Mankind.”43 Furthermore, he wrote of the family:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society. It follows that any choice and decision with regard to the size of the family must irrevocably rest with the family itself, and cannot be made by anyone else. But this right of parents to free choice will remain illusory unless they are aware of the alternatives open to them. Hence, the right of every family to information and the availability of services in this field is increasingly considered as a basic human right and as an indispensable ingredient of human dignity.44

In a statement that clearly reflects Buddhist philosophy, at least as articulated by Abe and Inada, U Thant urged: “We must all foster and encourage a climate of opinion in which human rights can flourish. We must be alive to any encroachment upon the rights and freedoms of any individual. And, above all, we must practice tolerance, and respect the rights and freedoms of others.”45

Dr. Tilokasundari Kariyawasam, President of the World Fellowship of Buddhist Women and Deputy Director General of Education in Sri Lanka, also strongly supports human rights: “Buddhism is an all pervading philosophy and a religion, strongly motivated by human rights or rights of everything that exists, man, woman, animal and the environment they live in.”46 She writes of the influence of Buddhist thought on the woman “as an individual born free and equal in dignity and rights,” claims that the “rights, the Buddhist woman has enjoyed for centuries are revolutionary and daring,” and suggests that concern “for human rights is seen in the efforts of women to ensure great equality of access to and participation in Buddhism.’47

Thai Buddhist Sulak Sivaraksa, in writing of the Sangha as an ideal for human society, translates the basic ethical precepts of Buddhism into modern terms. He suggests that the precept to speak the truth is taking new collective forms today: “Out of the networking of the global peace, justice and human rights movements arises a radical discourse, a pluralistic, insurgent understanding, a dynamic truth which threatens the power of the forces of violence, greed and ignorance.”48 As a Buddhist he asserts: “The defense of human rights and justice takes ethical precedence over national sovereignty.”49 Thus, he urges Buddhist involvement in international issues, the United Nations, and development in the Third World.50

Moreover, in a Sri Lankan village Buddhists and Roman Catholics have found a common cause in human rights. In 1981, before a thousand people gathered to celebrate the triple light festival of Vesak, recalling the birth, enlightenment and the mahaparinibbana of the Buddha, a Christian speaker suggested: “if we violate human rights for food, clothing, shelter, justice, then we violate the first precept: pranatipata vera mani sikkha. . ..”51 The Venerable Kotaneluwe Upatissa of the ancient Happoruwa temple, who was present for the festival at Suba Seth Gedara on this occasion, replied: “Let me say that this Catholic priest expoundeddhamma well.”52

Similarly, when Buddhists and Christians joined together to seek help for farmers who had lost their harvest due to severe drought, the Venerable Alutwela Piyananda—although pressured by local officials not to participate in the petition—affirmed instead his unity with the Christians in their common cause: “For whom did Jesus live and die? for man. For whom did the Buddha work? for man, for men and women. Now let us get together and work for human rights.”53

Thus, Buddhists do affirm human rights, as central to their understanding of the dharma and the living out of the Buddhist precepts. Despite the conceptual difficulties of justifying human rights, as central to Buddhist faith, at least some Buddhists find human rights language expressive of their religious commitment to the Three Refuges: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

Of course, at various times and places Buddhists have justified violence in defense of a favorable political regime or in self-defense. Historically, the spread of Buddhism benefited from violence, which it did not condemn. In 1959 a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka assassinated the nation’s Prime Minister, and more recently Sri Lankan Buddhist monks have supported violent anti-government protests. One such monk explained that this was simply the law of karma: “those who live by the sword die by the sword.”54

However, the exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhists articulates in contemporary idiom a more traditional view of Buddhist teaching. The Dalai Lama, suggests that “we all have an equal right to be happy”55 because of our common humanity: “This shared humanness and thus the shared aspiration of gaining happiness and avoiding suffering, as well as the basic right to bring these about, are of prime importance.”56 He concludes that:

Universal responsibility is based on an understanding of the desire, the right, and the possibility of achieving happiness for all beings. When we recognize the importance of this outlook, a true sense of compassion becomes possible, and, eventually, a natural reality.57

For Buddhists, recognition and protection of human rights may be seen not only as the fruits of wisdom and compassion, but also as a means of attaining both.

*Revision of material in Faith in Human Rights: Support in Religious Traditions for a Global Struggle (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1991).

Land of No Buddha:by Richard P. Hayes (Dh. Dayamati)


by Richard P. Hayes (Dh. Dayamati)
Birmingham, England: Windhorse Publications, 1998

About the author


n January 1967, at the age of 21, Richard Hayes attended four talks on Buddhism and a month-long seminar on the trial and death of Socrates, both at the family Unitarian Church. Afterwards, he felt quite comfortable telling his friends that he was a Buddhist, albeit a rather Socratic one. After migrating to Canada a month later, his personal alternative to answering the call to appear for induction into the US military, Hayes found himself in the company of Quakers, whom he joined regularly for silent worship. As his Quaker friends bore silent witness to their Christian faith, he practised Buddhist meditation exercises he had read about in a book. Until he met other Buddhists, Hayes studied on his own and eventually took academic courses in Buddhism, which led him to study Sanskrit, Pali and Tibetan.

During his years in Toronto, Hayes practised in a Korean Zen context. He discovered the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) in 1987 and, despite the distance between Montreal and the nearest FWBO centre (about eight hours by bus), he became increasingly involved with the movement. He was ordained into the Western Buddhist Order on January 26, 2000 in Bor Dharan, India and is now called Dayamati. He still thinks of himself as a Socratic Buddhist.

To find out how to contact the author, click here.

About the book

and of No Buddha is a collection of essays, all but one of which were written in the 1980s. Some of them were published, in different form, in the now defunct quarterly Spring Wind: Buddhist Cultural Forum , of which the author, then known as Mubul (which means No Buddha), was a contributing editor. Others were written for Spring Wind but never appeared there, because the magazine stopped being published owing to a lack of funding and adequate staff.

By the time the decision was made to publish these essays in a single collection, the author was no longer a practitioner of Zen and had changed his views on a number of issues. Rather than rewriting the essays to reflect his latter thinking, the author decided to add one final essay in which some of his more recent thinking was recorded. The entire collection of twelve essays, then, can be seen as part of a work in progress, namely, the work of one Western Buddhist trying to come to terms with both being Western and being Buddhist. As it says in the Forward: “If nothing else, the collection might be a record of how at least some North American Buddhists were thinking towards the end of the twentieth century.”

The first essay begins with a discussion of dreams. The final essay ends with a discussion of fantasy and imagination. The material in between is sometimes philosophical, sometimes historical, sometimes satirical, sometimes homiletic. Whatever the style, the author’s aim has been to produce essays that provoke reflection and ultimately deepen understanding of Dharma.

1. On Being Dharma-centric
2. Bodhisattvas in Blue Jeans
3. A Dialogue on Rebirth
4. Teachers
5. Dr Ambedkar’s Social Reform Through Buddhism
6. Christianity and Buddhism
7. Some Reflections on Words
8. Buddhism in the new Dark Ages
9. Does a Logician have Buddha Nature?
10.What is a Friend?
11. Farewell to the Raft
12. Perils of a Raft-dodger

1  On Being Dharma-centric

n 1986 Venerable Sunthorn, a Theravadin monk from Thailand, who is now working in the USA, asked several American and Canadian Buddhists for their autobiographies so that he and other Asian monks might gain some insight into how North American Buddhists view the world. This essay was written in response to that request.

The account chronicles the author’s early fascinations with classical Greek schools of thought such as Stoicism, Skepticism, and Cynicism, his later interest in and eventual disillusionment with Marxism and Maoism, his experiences with Quakers and his eventual discovery of Buddhist meditation. Through the practice of meditation he learned that

the ability to live in peace among the war-makers is not a consequence of divine grace, nor is it the outcome solely of one’s genetic makeup or social upbringing, but rather it is an acquired skill. Developing the skill begins with the determination to forget about the shortcomings of others and simply to focus on one’s own. As this skill is developed, one learns to be responsive to the basic humanity of all peoples and to be unmindful of the ideological, cultural and national differences that separate people into artificial categories.

Buddhist philosophy, combined with appropriate meditation exercises helps the individual to realize that

we have absolutely no one anywhere to help us, and so we can only help ourselves, even if only in small ways. There will be no justice at all unless we make it. There will be no comfort unless we provide it. There will be no freedom unless we bestow it. Developing the habit of thinking something like this is the only good means we human beings have of collectively beginning to pull out of the horrible downward spirals of retributive warfare and the technological rape of the planet.

Reversing this downward spiral can be achieved by becoming what the author calls “Dharma-centric” which he defines as “making wisdom itself the very centre of one’s life. It means being philosophical in the root sense of that word: in love with wisdom.”

Human history, insofar as it is a history of human institutions, whether religious or political in nature, is a tragic testimony to the simple fact that wisdom defies formalization and formalization makes a mockery of wisdom. Wisdom is an outlook, an attitude characterized by open-mindedness and impartiality and freedom from prejudice and dogma; wisdom is not doctrines or slogans or adherence to any sort of orthodoxy. Because wisdom can never successfully be codified or formalized, and because it is by its very nature expressed in openness, it follows that wisdom can never be the exclusive property of any one religious or philosophical system.

The author’s interest in the wisdom traditions of both the East and the West led eventually to his rediscovery of Thomas Jefferson, “a most Dharma-centric man.” The discovery of Jefferson and the realization that the United States was founded on Jeffersonian principles led to the author’s eventual emotional reconciliation with the country of his birth after many years of alienation from the country owing to its role as an international superpower.

[Click here to hear author reading the opening paragraph]

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2  Bodhisattvas in Blue Jeans: the Dharma in North America

his is a revised version of two public talks given in July 1987 at the Zen Buddhist Temple, Ann Arbor, Michigan. The argument is made that those who have turned to Buddhism in North America

form part of a larger movement on this continent, a movement of people who have grown tired of the shambles that our culture has become and are seeking an intelligent alternative to the unparalleled materialism of our society on the one hand and to the many mindless alternatives to materialism that have arisen to provide people escape from what really is an untenable way of life.

Those who turn to Zen and other Eastern religions and philosophies, it is argued, are seeking to live by the traditional philosophical virtues of the ancient Greeks (wisdom, justice, patience and moderation); these virtues were devalued by the early Christian fathers, who placed greater emphasis on the theological virtues (faith, hope and love). The claim is made that the emphasis on faith and revelation led to a loss of critical thinking as a primary cultural value and that the results have devastated the West:

Symbolically the fate of Western civilization was presaged by the death of Socrates, a thinker of unparalleled excellence put to death by stupid and narrow-minded fellow citizens for the crime of examining, with a truly open mind, the most cherished beliefs of the day. Since his time it has always been the same in Western civilization: those who do not run with the crowd die by the crowd.

Buddhism offers a promise to Westerners to rediscover the spirit of critical thinking, but only, it is argued, if the form of Buddhism that evolves in the West is freed of certain folk beliefs, such as the myths of karma and rebirth. The last part of the essay therefore consists of a critical examination of the traditional Buddhist doctrines of karma and rebirth.

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3  A Dialogue on Rebirth

ati Rinbochay is a high-ranking master within the Tibetan Gelug order. During his visit to Toronto in September 1986, he granted an interview with Spring Wind. The interview was never published. Part of that interview, which contained a lengthy discussion of the Buddhist doctrines of karma and rebirth, has been included in this collection. In some of the other essays in this collection questions have been raised concerning the traditional Buddhist teaching of rebirth. In “Bodhisattvas in Blue Jeans” the author outlined misgivings about the teaching of rebirth. It seemed only fair, therefore, to present the case for rebirth as advanced by a highly trained spokesman of a traditional point of view.

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4  Teachers

his essay is an excerpt of a longer essay entitled “Gleanings in the aftermath” on the Conference on Zen in North America, written originally for Spring Wind. The issue for which the essay was originally written never appeared. The point of departure of this essay is the observation that at the 1986 Conference on Zen in North America

One issue that repeatedly came up for discussion…was that of the role of teachers, an issue that was especially poignant for those who had witnessed situations in which Zen teachers had failed to set an example of humanity at its best. Particularly painful emotions arise when teachers let their students down. And in such situations, pain itself becomes the teacher.

It is observed in this essay that the original form of Buddhism, unlike modern North American Zen Buddhism, was a way of life exclusively for those who renounced the life-style and the preoccupations of ordinary people. The first monks were described as men and women who set aside their interests in personal wealth, fame, power and comfort in favour of acquiring and transmitting wisdom. But monastic Buddhism has never been very attractive to North American Buddhists on the whole:

The claim that there is no real Buddhism without monks would strike many North Americans as simply false. What I wish to do here is to explore why these attitudes prevail.

This leads to a discussion of the suspicion of clerical authority that characterized the early Protestant reformers such as Luther and Calvin. This mistrust of clergy runs so deep in North American culture that there is little likelihood that the monastic forms of Buddhism will ever take root on this continent. But ironically, the forms of Buddhism that have become popular in the West, specifically Zen and Tibetan tantra, may entail a greater risk of degenerating into abusive forms of authoritarianism than does the more democratic monastic structure of early Buddhism.

The Zen master is surrounded with a certain mystique due to the claim of enlightenment. By the very fact that he or she is supposed to be an enlightened being, the Zen master can claim a degree of immunity from the criticisms of disciples, who by the very fact of being disciples acknowledge their spiritual inferiority. The mythology of enlightenment is one that invites abuse for the simple reason that it is much easier to claim to be enlightened than it is actually to be enlightened. It is even easier to be perceived by disciples as an enlightened teacher than it is actually to be an enlightened teacher. Events in Zen and other guru-oriented traditions in North America have made this painfully clear.

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5  Dr Ambedkar’s Social Reform through Buddhism

B.R. Ambedkar

himrao Ramji Ambedkar was a contemporary of Mahatma Gandhi. Like Gandhi, Ambedkar had received a British education, and in addition he continued his studies at Columbia University in New York City.

But unlike Gandhi, Ambedkar was concerned not only with the campaign to gain self-rule for India, but also with a campaign to free his own people, the so-called Untouchable classes of India, from the invidious yoke of the Hindu caste system. At first working with Gandhi, Nehru and the Congress Party, Ambedkar grew increasingly disillusioned at the reluctance of caste Hindus to consider making any fundamental reforms in the Hindu religious law according to which a person’s place in society is determined by the person’s birth.

Eventually, when India won her independence from Great Britain in 1947, Ambedkar was chosen by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to serve in his cabinet as the first Minister of Law, and not long afterwards he was elected chairman of the committee that drafted India’s constitution.

In the Indian Constitution the institution of Untouchability was officially outlawed, but no one was so naive as to believe that some two thousand years of Hindu custom would come to an abrupt end by the passage of a new law. Ambedkar therefore fought to improve the standard of education for his people and to win for them greater political power, for he knew that without educational reforms his people could never rise from the bottom of Indian society. But Ambedkar’s experiences with Gandhi and with the Congress Party also convinced him that the fate of the former untouchables would therefore never be improved unless they took up a new religion in which there was no systematic inequality. He began an intensive study of the major religious traditions of the world, and after some two decades of research made the decision to become a Buddhist.

When Dr Ambedkar took the simple vows of becoming a Buddhist layperson in October 1956, he was joined in his conversion by some 500,000 of his fellow ex-untouchables.

Even in his conversion to Buddhism, Ambedkar was a reformer at heart. Not entirely content with any tradition of Buddhism as it now exists in Asia, Ambedkar had dreams of founding for his people a pure Buddhism, free of the influences of Hinduism and other Asian folk religions that it has acquired during the past 2500 years.

In this respect, Ambedkar serves as a model that many Western Buddhists find worthy of emulating. The essay examines three aspects of Ambedkar’s thought: 1) The religious politics of eating meat, 2) the Buddha’s teachings on birth and social position, and 3) the classical background to Dr Ambedkar’s philosophy. The first of these sections puts forth evidence, which can be found in Mahayana Buddhist texts, that corroborates Ambedkar’s claim that an obsessive concern with purity, combined with the custom of viewing restrictions in diet as a criterion of purity, has resulted in an onerous stigma on those members of Indian society who have traditionally eaten meat. This section of the essay invites the reader to reflect on the hidden dangers of using ideologies and dogmas as the basis of social reform:

There is something chilling in the very possibility that an attempt to protect animals by introducing a dietary reform could have the inadvertent consequence of turning an entire class of people into despised untouchables. Let us, in our eagerness to achieve justice through social reforms, be most cautious, lest the dictates of our own conscience result in condemning others to such a level of degradation that our attempts to establish justice end up making a mockery of justice.

The essay as a whole concludes with some reflections on Ambedkar as a model to be followed by North American Buddhist social reformers, for Ambedkar both taught and showed through the example of his conduct that injustice and hatred always have two victims.

The more obvious victim is the person who is hated or treated badly. And the less obvious victim is the person who hates or treats others badly. Both victims deserve our love. Both victims deserve our compassion. Our wisdom must help us find the way to free both the person who hates and the person who is hated from the shackles of hatred itself.

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6  Christianity and Buddhism: Dialogue or Debate?

he main question considered in this essay is that of how important the differences are between Christianity and Buddhism. The most obvious difference between the two traditions is that Christianity is monotheistic and Buddhism is rigorously atheistic. The author claims that

there is not a single argument for the existence of God that has not been carefully considered and ultimately rejected by philosophers of the Buddhist tradition. Buddhism has been, therefore, invariably atheistic and will probably always remain so, at least so long as Buddhists continue to think and to reject doctrines for which there is inadequate support.

The traditional Buddhist arguments against the existence of God are reviewed, with the warning that

it is important to realize that Buddhists are atheists only insofar as they reject the hypothesis that the world had a single benevolent intelligent creator, and the hypothesis that any transcendent source communicates directly to human beings individually or collectively. In rejecting these hypotheses, however, the Buddhist does not reject the virtues that are usually attributed to God. The Buddhist believes, for example, in the power of love and in trust and forgiveness and patience and compassion. But rather than saying that God is love, we prefer to say that love is love; in this way, even if it should be proven that God does not exist, the ideal of love would remain unimpaired. Similarly…we Buddhists prefer to say that good is simply good and beauty is simply beauty and justice is simply justice, and there is no need to confuse these principles with the bewildering and controversial concept of divinity.

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7  Some Reflections on Words

rom the very beginning of the Buddhist movement some 2500 years ago, Buddhist wisdom has been transmitted through a great variety of languages. Translation from one language to another has always been a routine practice of Buddhist teachers. As Buddhist thought finds its way to the West, countless human-hours are spent translating Buddhist literature from classical Asian into modern European languages. Given all this transmission from one language to another, one cannot help wondering how much is being lost in the translation.

This is not by any means a uniquely modern concern. On the contrary, the Buddhists of the past had a regard for linguistic precision that might seem almost obsessive to our present age, in which mass communications and the uncontrollable explosion of technical jargons have all but obliterated our sensitivities to nuance. An illustration of the careful reflection on language that many Buddhists went through is found in the story of how Buddhist literature was translated into Chinese. At the peak of activity of translation, which lasted for several hundred years, committees of scholars compiled large lexicons and used them to determine the most suitable expressions that would convey the message of Buddhism with a minimum of confusion to the readers of Chinese.

In this essay the author draws on his experience as a translator of Sanskrit, Pali and Tibetan texts to reflect on the

problems we face today as translators struggle to find ways of expressing the essential wisdom of Buddhism into languages that are replete with the technical vocabularies of Greek philosophy, Christian and Jewish spirituality, and the post-Enlightenment scientific traditions.

To illustrate what some of these problems are, the author considers such English words as “religion,” “philosophy,” “piety,” ”soteriology,” “salvation,” “sacred,” “sin,” “heresy,” “church,” ”temple,” “priest,” “monk,” and “abbot,” which are often used to express key Buddhist ideas, practices and institutions. The etymologies and histories of these English words are explored as the author considers some of the advantages and disadvantages of using these words with reference to Buddhism.

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8  Buddhism in the New Dark Ages

hen eighteenth century authors such as Voltaire and Diderot popularized the ideas of their seventeenth century predecessors such as Descartes and Locke, much of the European populace acquired a new suspicion of anything that did not appear to be rational or empirically verifiable.

The new intellectual climate came to be called the Enlightenment, and nearly two millennia of Western civilization was dismissed as the Dark Ages. Eighteenth century confidence that the ages of darkness had become a thing of the past, however, proved unduly optimistic.

According to Hindu mythology, on the other hand, we are now living in the the age of conflict (kali-yuga), in which people become increasingly incapable of discerning right from wrong and the beautiful from the grotesque. Buddhist mythology also designates the present age as the time of declining wisdom.

Since the early days of Buddhism the prediction has been made that things would grow steadily worse until only a handful of people would even think it desirable to seek wisdom. Whether or not one puts much stock in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, few would dispute the claim that the world in which we live is a sad, confused and dangerous place. Nor is anyone likely to dispute the contention that at least some of those who claim to be part of the solution are in fact part of the problem.

In a whirlwind tour through the wonderful world of numerology, magic wands, healing crystals and gems, acupuncture, past lives, aura reading, astral travel, hot coal walking and native American shamanism, this essay takes a lighthearted look at some of the alternatives to traditional religion and philosophy that have arisen in what the author calls the “New Age Dark Age.” People of our age, contends the author

are among the most intellectually promiscuous in the history of our species, and in general they find little difficulty with the notion of pursuing a great plurality of claims to the truth, even when those claims are radically incompatible with one another. Random eclecticism and pluralism is the form of sad and dangerous confusion that appeals to the tastes of modern humanity. Just as we will eat anything, whether or not it is nutritious, we will believe anything, whether or not it makes sense.

The essay points out ways in which New Age advocates and followers of various Oriental religions and philosophies have become allied in a relationship of mutual exploitation that will bring little benefit to either party and even less benefit to humanity as a whole.

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9  Does a Logician Have Buddha Nature?

famous koan used in Zen training is based on the question “Does a dog have Buddha Nature?” Such koans are used, it is said, to help the practitioner transcend the limitations of ordinary logical thinking. Indeed, when Zen is presented to Westerners, it is typically portrayed as an anti-intellectual antidote to the scholasticism and rationalism associated with the Indian schools of Buddhism. There are representatives of the Zen tradition, and indeed of the wider Buddhist tradition, who express a degree of suspicion of logic and rational thinking. D.T. Suzuki identified logical thinking with dualistic thinking and warned his readers that dualistic thinking would prevent one from ever understanding the most profound messages of Buddhism. This anti-intellectual and anti-rationalistic tenor of some forms of Zen has naturally attracted some of those who favour the more anti-intellectual and anti-rationalistic schools of Western thought, such as Romanticism and its recent incarnations as the Beat movement, the Flower Children movement, and some (but by no means all) forms of feminism. The stated thesis of this essay is that

it is probably only with the benefit of ignorance that one can maintain the view that Buddhism offers much solace to those of a Romantic nature…[Romantics] are sure to find less spontaneous freedom of the spirit among most Buddhists than they first imagined they might find there; some may even discover that what the neo-Romantic sees as untrammeled spirit running joyously free, the average Buddhist regards with some alarm as self-indulgent ego running riot.

In traditional Indian Buddhism, the study of formal and informal logic was highly prized as an effective method of breaking down unproductive and counterproductive habits of thinking. After outlining the basic methods of Buddhist logicians, the author concludes that

breaking down prejudices, so that we can just a little more clearly see things as they really are, is the business of logic and reason. It is also the business of such Zen practices as working on koan. It would be a sad mistake indeed to develop a prejudice over which of these two methods was more effective. To reject logic and rational thinking as inferior to Zen would be to adopt a most inferior type of Zen.

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10  What Is a Friend?

his essay considers how friendship has been regarded in Greek philosophy, in Buddhist thought, in classical Christianity, and in modern society.

One of the most keen observers of the nature of human friendship was Aristotle, who argued that human associations can be based on three types of foundation: the pursuit of possessions, the pursuit of pleasure or the pursuit of wisdom. Those alliances founded on the pursuit of pleasure and wealth tend to be unstable, Aristotle observed, because pleasure and wealth are both fleeting things, and one who would use other people to help secure those things is not likely to have much loyalty to any particular means of acquiring them.

The Buddha also placed a high value on friends who helped one to acquire wisdom. The true friend according to the Buddha is the person

who faithfully reminds one of the distinction between right and wrong and urges one to do what is morally right and counsels against what is harmful.

Somewhat similar ideas of friendship evolved within Christian theories of morality, according to which

the principal form of sin was a person’s turning away from God in the sense of wanting not to discover and live in accordance with the divine will. An action is sinful if the fundamental motive in performing it is to disobey the spirit of the divine law, which is understood as the law of universal love; love, in turn, is understood as the ability to put oneself in the place of others and to consider the effects of one’s actions upon all creatures who might be affected by them.

In modern society, claims the author, there tends to be great confusion over the nature of friendship and the meaning of love.

It is one of the greatest tragedies of Western civilization that we collectively promote the myth that being in love with another person is anything other than a form of acute mental disease brought on by a temporary deflation of confidence in one’s own ability to be emotionally self-sufficient and strong enough to face old age and death alone.

The author advocates rejecting the relatively immature fascination with romantic love that characterizes modern popular culture and adopting either the classical Greek or the Buddhist concepts of love and friendship.

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11  Farewell to the raft

his essay was begun in the autumn of 1988 and completed the following spring. In the autumn of 1988, the author had just moved to Montreal and had made the painful decision to cut formal ties with the Zen community of which he had been a part for many years. Finding himself without a community with which to practice, the author took the opportunity to re-examine his connection with Buddhism in particular and with organised religion in general. Driven by environmental and political concerns, and disenchanted with the direction of North American Buddhism as he had experienced it so far, the author bids his farewell to the raft of organized institutional Buddhism and extols the virtues of being an island unto oneself. The result is the longest essay in the book, a searingly critical essay that has the passionate tones of a radical anti-establishment green Buddhist manifesto.

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12  Perils of a Raft-dodger

his essay, written in 1997, chronicles the author’s experiment with trying to establish a dharma practice without a sangha. The experiment consisted in founding an egalitarian meditation group that did nothing but meditate together and promote a life of utmost simplicity based on a simple meditation routine in his small apartment that included no dharma study, no rituals, no authority figures, no altars, no images, no statues, no incense, no flowers, and therefore no expenses and no need to work out financing. No-Buddha’s No-Sangha was open to everyone who wished to meditate. It attracted Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists. During this period the author’s concern for environmental issues led him to stop using heated water, and he took only ice-cold showers and followed a strict Vegan diet, consisting mostly of uncooked fruits and vegetables.

The experiment was in many important respects a failure. Perhaps the most important lesson that the author learned from it was that his drive for perfection and purity of life-style took on harsh, almost fanatical overtones that did more to smother than to enhance real dharma practice. This final essay reflects on how and why the author feels his experiment failed. It also chronicles the author’s rediscovery of the benefits of ritual, fantasy and imagination, and, most importantly, of community.

[Click here to hear author reading the concluding paragraph]

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Ordering Land of No Buddha

t present the easiest way to order a copy of Land of No Buddha is through Windhorse Publications on line. If you prefer to order the old-fashioned way, the postal address of the distributer is:

32 Finlas St
Cowlairs Estate
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Booksource can also be contacted by e-mail. Alternatively, you may wish to order through Amazon Books on-line. In case you wish to order through your local book dealer, the ISBN is 1 899579 12 5.

Please note that all royalties from the sale of this book have been (and will continue to be) donated to Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, NH.

Contacting the author

am always pleased to hear from people who like to discuss issues of mutual interest. If you have comments you would like to make about Land of No Buddha, or questions you would like to ask about it, I would enjoy hearing from you. Also, if you have recently read (or written) anything that you think I might enjoy reading, please bring it to my attention. Because my schedule is rather busy, I cannot promise that I will respond immediately, but I will make every effort to get back to you within a reasonable amount of time.

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