LESSON – 9
24810 Free Online e-Nālandā University
Awakened One Shows the Path to Attain Ultimate Bliss
Sri Lankan Buddhist monks. It received an impetus with B. R. Ambedkar’s call for conversion of Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, i.e, PraBuddha Bharath(Untouchables or SC/STs) to Buddhism in the context of a caste based society that considered them to be at the lower end of the hierarchy.
At the Yeola conference in 1935, prominent Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, i.e, PraBuddha Bharath(Untouchables or SC/STs leader B. R. Ambedkar declared that he would not die a Hindu, saying that it perpetuates caste injustices. Ambedkar was approached by various leaders of different denominations and faiths. Meetings were held to discuss the question of Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, i.e, PraBuddha Bharath(Untouchables or SC/STs) religion and the pros and cons of conversion. On May 22, 1936, an “All Religious Conference” was held at Lucknow. It was attended by prominent Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, i.e, PraBuddha Bharath(Untouchables or SC/STs) leaders including Jagjivan Ram, though Ambedkar could not attend it. At the conference, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, and Buddhist representatives presented the tenets of their respective religions in an effort to win over Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, i.e, PraBuddha Bharath(Untouchables or SC/STs).
Buddhist monk Lokanatha visited Ambedkar’s residence at Dadar on June 10, 1936 and tried to persuade him to embrace Buddhism. Later in an interview to the Press, Lokanatha said that Ambedkar was impressed with Buddhism and that his own ambition was to convert all Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, i.e, PraBuddha Bharath(Untouchables or SC/STs). to Buddhism. In 1937, Lokanatha published a pamphlet Buddhism Will Make You Free, dedicated to the Depressed Classes of India from his press in Ceylon.
In early 1940s, Ambedkar visited Acharya Ishvardatt Medharthi’s Buddhpuri school in Kanpur. Medharthi had earlier been initiated into Buddhism by Lokanatha, and by the mid-1940s, he had close contacts with Ambedkar. For a short while, Ambedkar also took Pali classes from Medharthi in Delhi.
Bodhananda Mahastvir and B. R. Ambedkar first met in 1926, at the “Indian Non-Brahmin Conference” convened by Shahu IV of Kolhapur. They met on two more occasions and for a short while in the 1940s, where they discussed dhamma. Later, his followers actively participated in Ambedkar’s Republican Party of India.
After publishing a series of books and articles arguing that Buddhism was the only way for the Untouchables(SC/ST) to gain equality, Ambedkar publicly converted on October 14, 1956 at Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur. He took the three refuges and the Five Precepts from a Buddhist monk, Bhadant U Chandramani, in the traditional manner and then in his turn administered them to the 380,000 of his followers that were present. The conversion ceremony was attended by Medharthi, his main disciple Bhoj Dev Mudit, and Mahastvir Bodhanand’s Sri Lankan successor, Bhante Pragyanand. Ambedkar would die less than two months later, just after finishing his definitive work on Buddhism.
Many SC/STs employ the term “Ambedkar(ite) Buddhism” to designate the Buddhist movement, which started with Ambedkar’s conversion and many converted people called themselves as “Nava-Bauddha” i.e. New Buddhists.
After receiving ordination, Ambedkar gave dhamma diksha to his followers. The ceremony included 22 vows given to all new converts after Three Jewels and Five Precepts. On 16 October 1956, Ambedkar performed another mass religious conversion ceremony at Chanda. He prescribed 22 vows to his followers:
Nowadays many Ambedkarite Organisations are working for these 22 vows (i.e. 22 Pratigya). They believe that these vows only are responsible for the existence & rapid growth of present Buddhism in India. The umbrella organization known as the 22 Pledges Practice & Propagation Movement (i.e. in Hindi- 22 Pratigya Aacharan aur Prachaar Abhiyan) is fully devoted for this purpose. This totally non-political movement is the brain-child of Arvind Sontakke, and comprises around 5,000,000 volunteers (Pracharaks) including many regional and local groups throughout India.
The Buddhist movement was somewhat hindered by Dr. Ambedkar’s death so shortly after his conversion. It did not receive the immediate mass support from the Untouchable population that Ambedkar had hoped for. Division and lack of direction among the leaders of the Ambedkarite movement have been an additional impediment. According to the 2001 census, there are currently 7.95 million Buddhists in India, at least 5.83 million of whom are Buddhists in Maharashtra. This makes Buddhism the fifth-largest religion in India and 6% of the population of Maharashtra, but less than 1% of the overall population of India.
Acharya Medharthi retired from his Buddhapuri school in 1960, and shifted to an ashram in Haridwar. He turned to the Arya Samaj and conducted vedic yajnas all over India. After his death, he was cremated according to Arya Samaj rites. His Buddhpuri school became embroiled in property disputes. His follower, Bhoj Dev Mudit, converted to Buddhism in 1968 and set up a school of his own.
Rajendranath Aherwar appeared as an important Untouchable(SC/ST) leader in Kanpur. He joined the Republican Party of India and converted to Buddhism along with his whole family in 1961. In 1967, he founded the Kanpur branch of “Bharatiya Buddh Mahasabha”. He held regular meetings where he preached Buddhism, officiated at Buddhist weddings and life cycle ceremonies, and organized festivals on Dr. Ambedkar’s Jayanti (birth day), Buddha Jayanti, Diksha Divas (the day Ambedkar converted), and Dr Ambedkar Paranirvan Divas (the day Ambedkar died).
The Untouchable(SC/ST) Buddhist movement in Kanpur gained impetus with the arrival of Dipankar, a Chamar bhikkhu, in 1980. Dipankar had come to Kanpur on a Buddhist mission and his first public appearance was scheduled at a mass conversion drive in 1981. The event was organized by Rahulan Ambawadekar, an RPI Dalit leader. In April 1981, Ambawadekar founded the Untouchable(SC/ST)Panthers (U.P. Branch) inspired by the Maharashtrian Untouchable(SC/ST)Panthers. The event met with severe criticism and opposition from Vishwa Hindu Parishad and was banned.
In 2002, Kanshi Ram, a popular out-caste political leader from a Sikh religious background, announced his intention to convert to Buddhism on October 14, 2006, the fiftieth anniversary of Ambedkar’s conversion. He intended for 20,000,000 of his supporters to convert at the same time. Part of the significance of this plan was that Ram’s followers include not only Untouchables, but persons from a variety of castes, who could significantly broaden Buddhism’s support. However, he died October 9, 2006 after a lengthy illness; he was cremated as per Buddhist rituals
Japanese-born Bhadant Nagarjun Surai Sasai is an important Buddhist leader in India. Sasai came to India in 1966 and met Nichidatsu Fuji, whom he helped with the Peace Pagoda at Rajgir. He fell out with Fuji, however, and started home, but, by his own account, was stopped by a dream in which a figure resembling Nagarjuna appeared and said, “Go to Nagpur”. In Nagpur, he met Wamanrao Godbole, the person who had organized the conversion ceremony for Dr. Ambedkar in 1956. Sasai claims that when he saw a photograph of Dr. Ambedkar at Godbole’s home, he realized that it was Ambedkar who had appeared in his dream. At first, Nagpur folk considered Surai Sasai very strange. Then he began to greet them with “Jai Bhim” (victory to Ambedkar) and to build viharas. In 1987 a court case to deport him on the grounds that he had overstayed hisvisa was dismissed, and he was granted Indian citizenship. Sasai is one of the main leaders of the campaign to free the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya from Hindu control.
Since Ambedkar’s conversion, several thousand people from different castes have converted to Buddhism in ceremonies including the twenty-two vows. The Tamil Nadu andGujarat governments passed new laws in 2003 to ban “forced” religious conversions. These laws were later withdrawn due to heavy opposition.
The month of October in India is the month of Revival of Buddhism. Throughout this month and particularly on 14th of October thousands of majority native indians called aboriginal inhabitants of Jambudvipa, i.e, PraBuddha Bharath (SC/STs or Untouchables) keep taking refugee in the Triple Gem. This process has been going on since 1956 for last 50 years and still continues.
Today most of the educated aboriginal inhabitants of Jambudvipa, i.e, PraBuddha Bharath (SC/STs or Untouchables)praise Dr.B.R. Ambedkar- The symbol of
aboriginal inhabitants of Jambudvipa, i.e, PraBuddha Bharath (SC/STs or Untouchables) movement for his embracing of Buddhism and on the other hand they
themselves feel that it is time to rid themselves of internal caste divisions and organize themselves strongly under one umbrella. For which one of the most
effective ways they find is to convert with one voice and one choice to Buddhism.
First of all one may ask why Dr.B.R. Ambedkar the architect of Indian constitution himself left Hinduism? To which Ambedkar himself says:
“I thought for long that we could rid the Hindu society of its evils and get
the depressed classes incorporated into it on terms of equality. That motive
inspired the Mahad Chaudar Tank satyagraha and the Nasik temple entry
satyagraha. With that object in mind we burned the Manu smriti and performed
mass thread ceremonies. Experience has taught me better. I stand today
absolutely convinced that for the depressed classes there can be no equality
among the Hindus because on inequality rest the foundations of Hinduism. We
no longer want to be part of the Hindu society.” (Source material on Dr.
Babasaheb Ambedkar and the movement of untouchables vol-1 Bombay, Govt. of maharastra, 1982, page 250)
The modern aboriginal inhabitants of Jambudvipa, i.e, PraBuddha Bharath (SC/STs or Untouchables) have found that most of the Hindu leaders are hypocrites who profess to fight casteism while in reality practice its rules. Similarly the Bhraminical bureaucrats who claim to have democratic ideas wishing to raise the backward castes but who really crave nothing better than an oligarchy for themselves. The unity of aboriginal inhabitants of Jambudvipa, i.e, PraBuddha Bharath (SC/STs or Untouchables) especially political consolidation proves to be very difficult to achieve because some of the lower castes are often not against caste system but in the system and try to rise within it which, earlier Ambedkar himself had sincerely tried and failed and finally along with five hundred thousand of his followers he embraced Buddhism on 14th october, 1956 at Nagpur.
Since the teachings of Buddha are based on the central fact of life that is
suffering, the cause for suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path
leading to cessation of suffering. Here for Indian aboriginal inhabitants of Jambudvipa, i.e, PraBuddha Bharath (SC/STs or Untouchables) there is
suffering, the cause for their suffering is casteism, the cessation of
suffering is abandoning this castiest religion, the path leading to
cessation of suffering is taking refugee in Buddhism. So now the people of India
with the common sense think why not they take refugee in this Indian
religion when the people all over the world are taking. Buddhism is the only
Indian religion which as become the world religion and is considered to be
the only religion with rational outlook and scientific temper inviting
people to come and see and not to come and believe. The main object of
Buddhism is to emancipate the suffering humanity. So people who have become
refuge less and hope less in the casteist system in india take refugee in cast
less system which is of course Buddhism as recommended by the Dr.B.R. Ambedkar- The greatest Buddhist leader of India. He himself has said that Buddhism is an all-comprehensive Religion and is the best of all.
Once Ambedkar said: “Question is being asked why I am inclined towards Buddhism. The direct answer to this question is that I regard the Buddha’s Dhamma to be the best. No religion can be compared to it. If a modern man who knows science must have a religion, the only religion he can have is the Religion of the Buddha. This conviction has grown in me after thirty-five years of close study of all religions. The Buddha’s Religion is the only religion which a society awakened by science could accept, and without which it would perish.
For the modern world Buddhism is the only religion which it must have to
Throughout his life he was questioned on related issues to which he answered in very effective manner. Some of the questions and his answers are compiled here as follows:
SOME QUESTIONS & DR. AMBEDKAR’S ANSWERS
(Q-stands for question and A-stands for Ambedkar’s answer)
Q: Why had our country lost her freedom time and again? Why have we been
subjected to foreign domination so often?
A: It is because this country as a whole never stood against the enemy. It was always a small section of the society and whoever overpowered it became the victor. This is mainly due to the pernicious caste system of the Hindus.
Second world war was fought in Europe during the period from 1939-45. The
soldiers who were killed in the battles were immediately replaced by the
fresh recruits. Nobody ever paused to say that the credit for winning the
war should go to a particular community or section of the society. Whereas
in our country in the past if all the Kshatriyas were done away with the
battle then there could be no mobilization or recruitment according to the
“chaturvarna” since according to this abominable law, Kshatriyas and
Kshatriyas alone were entitled to fight. This is what has been enslaved many
times. Had the right to bear arms not been denied to us this country would
never have lost her freedom nor could any invader have succeeded in
This religion and this social order have ruined us. But this is not going to
stop here. This would ruin the Hindus themselves and ultimately India.
Q; Should you continue to be hindu?
A: Why should remain bound to a religion which does not even treat you
as a human being? Why do you remain in a religion which prohibits you from
entering its temples? Why do you remain in a religion which prohibits you
from entering temples? Why do you remain under that religion which prohibits
you from drawing water from public wells? Why do you remain in that religion
which bars you from decent occupations and jobs? Why do you remain in the
religion which insults you at every step? The religion which teaches man to
behave with man in an inhuman manner is not religion but infamy. The
religion which does not recognize a human being as a human being is a curse.
The religion in which the touch of animals is permitted but the touch of a
human being pollutes is not a religion but the mockery of a religion. The
religion which precludes some classes from education forbids them to
accumulate wealth and to bear arms, is not a religion but tyranny. The
religion which compels the ignorant to remain ignorant and the poor to
remain poor does not deserve to be called a religion.
Q: Is conversion necessary?
A: I should like to impress this thing on your minds very clearly that
religion is for man and not man for religion. I would like to ask you all
what is the sense in living in a society which is devoid of humanity, which
does not respect you, protect you, humiliates you, and never misses and
opportunity to hurt you. Any person with an iota of self respect and decency
will not like to remain in this satanic religion. Only those who live to be
slaves can remain in this religion.
In view of the facts that the Hindu religion which forced our forefathers
to lead a life of degradation and heaped all sorts of indignities on them,
kept them poor and ignorant, why should you remain within the fold of such a
diabolical creed? If, like your forefathers, you too, continue to accept a
degraded and lowly position, and humiliation, you will continue to he hated.
Nobody will respect you and nobody will help you. It is for these reasons
that the question of conversion has become important for us. To change this
degraded and disgraceful existence into golden life, conversion is
Q: Can education destroy caste?
A: The answer is ‘yes’ as well as ‘no’ If education is given as it is today
education can have no effect on caste. It will remain as it will be. The
glaring example of it is the Brahmin caste. Cent percent of it is educated;
majority of it is highly educated. Yet not one Brahmin has shown himself to
be against caste. In fact an educated person belonging to the higher caste
is more interested, after his education, to retain the caste system than was when he was not educated. For education gives him an additional interest in the retention of the caste system, namely by opening additional opportunity of getting a bigger job. From this point of view, education is not helpful as means to dissolve caste. So far is the negative side of education.
But education may be solvent if it is applied to the lower strata of the
Indian society. It would raise their spirit of rebellion. In their present
state of ignorance, they are the support of the caste system. Once their
eyes are opened they will be ready to fight the caste system.
The fault of the present policy is that though education being given on a
larger scale it is not given to the right strata of Indian society. If you
give education to those strata of Indian society which has a vested interest
in maintaining the caste system for the advantages it gives them, the caste
system will be strengthened. On the other hand, if you give education to
the lower strata of Indian society which is interested in blowing up the
caste system, the caste system will be blown up. All the moment the
indiscriminate help given to education by the Indian Government and American
Foundations is going to strengthen the caste system. To make rich richer
and poor poorer is not the way to abolish poverty. The same is true of
using education as a means to end the caste system. To give education to
those who want to keep up the caste system is not to improve the prospects
of democracy in India, but to put democracy in India in greater jeopardy.
–TALK FOR VOICE OF AMERICA ON PROSPECTS OF DEMOCRACY IN INDIA - 20th May 1956 by DR. B. R. AMBEDKAR
Q: In India some people remark that Buddhism has become the religion of
untouchables and thereby makes others reluctant to come to this religion.
A: Brahmins in his time did not spare even Lord Buddha. In kasibhradwaja
sutta they addressed him as Vasala- an outcaste. In spite of all the
vilifications and the abuses showered on this religion, Buddhism has spread
throughout the world. It is the only Indian religion to become world
According to history even when Christianity made its way into Europe the
situation in and around Rome was appalling. People did not get enough food
to fill their bellies. The people who extended a sympathetic response to the
call of Christianity when it entered into Europe were not those who were
convinced of its spirituality but those miserable poor and oppressed people
for whom porridge, distributed free of cost, served as a meal. The poor and
the oppressed became converts to Christianity.
Thus Mr. Gibbon, the renowned historian and author of the rise and fall of
the Roman Empire scornfully branded Christianity as a religion of the poor
and the beggars. Mr. Gibbon is not alive today. He would have been shocked
to see the whole of Europe engulfed by Christianity.
Q: Why should one convert to Buddhism alone and not to any other religion?
A: For such high principles are not to be found in any other religion. There
is a world of difference between this religion and other religions of the
world. Main principles of Buddhism form no part of theistic religions.
According to other religions God created the world, this earth and
thereafter he created heaven, air, moon and other planets. That means he has
created also the stone in the bladder. God has done all that was required to
be done and now there remains nothing for us to do. All that we are required
to do is, just to sing the praises of Almighty God. This does not appeal to
rational man today.
According to Christianity, there will be a day of judgment and everything
will depend on the judgment that day. One can be sent to heaven or hell on
Buddhism denies the existence of God and Soul. The real basis of Buddhism is
rational way to eradicate suffering. ‘There is’ Buddha said, “Suffering in
the world-suffering wide spread”. 90 percent of the people are afflicted
with suffering or misery of some kind or the other. The main object of
Buddhism is to emancipate the suffering humanity.
The first point, which marks 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. KRISHNA went a step beyond both
Jesus and Mohammed. He claimed that he was “Parameshwar” - the God of Gods. BUDDHA never arrogated to himself any such status. He was born a son of man and was content to remain a common man and preached his gospel as a common man. Jesus, Mohammed and Krishna claimed for themselves a role of
MOKSHADATA. Buddha was satisfied with playing the role of MARGADATA.
Brothers and Sisters, I have said whatever there was to be said. This is the
best religion in the world and there can be absolutely no doubt about it.
With the education, intelligence, knowledge and experience that I have, it
is not difficult for me to oppose or fight against any evil. But there is a
mountain-colossal mountain of caste hierarchy; Brahmins, Kshatriyas,
Vaishyas sitting on our heads. The question before us is, how to topple it
down and blast it. It is for this reason that I wanted to acquaint you fully
with the religion of Buddha. I owe it as a duty, too. - Dr.B.R,Ambedkar
So we see that finally Dr.B.R.Ambedkar on 14th October 1956 along with 5 lakh people went to the refuge of Buddha ,Dhamma and Sangha. Committed as he was to rationality and empiricism, he was attracted by Buddhism’s rational out look tuned with morality further strengthened by scientific temper rather than blind belief. It’s teaching of equality and solidarity, its emphasis on transforming both self and world through self effort with self confidence. Thus with this understanding he was able to accomplish “diksha (conversion on 14th oct. 1956)and shiksha,(instruction through his book –The Buddha and His Dhamma.)
Thus Dr. B.R. Ambedkar went to these three refugee of Buddha, Dhamma
and Sangha because
In BUDDHA he found a True Teacher of Spirituality,
In DHAMMA the true teachings of equality
In SANGHA the true friends of humanity.
Buddhism does not actively look for converts, but it is thoroughly welcoming
to those who do want to convert. The segmented morality endemic to Hinduism
is Oppressive to those who suffer under it, while enabling beneficiaries to
sleep well and feel morally upright in their houses while pain, hunger and powerlessness cries loudly right outside their homes. The data speaks this truth. Long verbal arguments are a waste of time in this denial.
Dr.Ambedkar’s wish before death was to make the whole of India
a Buddhist country. Thus dalits feel that the only and best way to express gratitude to this great leader is to embrace Buddhism and full fill his death wish on this dhamma deksha day of 14th october every year in India. Thereby bringing equality, liberty, and fraternity in India and welfare to the whole of humanity.
Dr. Ambedkar once said “Our ancestors had no means to fight this slavery and
therefore they could not revolt. They were compelled to live in Hindu
religion. Nobody can force this type of slavery upon the present generation.
We have all sorts of freedom. If the present generation does not avail of
such freedom and free itself from the clutches of Hinduism they are sure to
be dubbed as cowardly, mean and slavish people devoid of self-respect”.
Thus what the indian dalits have to say is as follows:
This day of fourteen October,
Is the day for Indian Buddhists to remember.
Taking Buddha as spiritual Teacher,
Noble Dhamma as spiritual Mother;
Noble Sangha as spiritual Elder;
The natives went again to Triple refuge forever.
All this was due to efforts of Babasaheb Ambedker,
Who unfortunately passed away on sixth December.
This movement created scientific temper,
And rescued people from castist viper.
Present generation should work like sniper,
Eliminating from within the immoral character;
Giving reins to moral leader.
Never should you ever surrender,
Nor just be watching like a bystander;
But strive hard and be a defender.
Lead a life like that of a brave commander,
Express your gratitude on this day to Bodhisattva Ambedker.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY & LIBERATED.
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (April 14, 1891 - December 6, 1956) has been called the most prominent Indian Untouchable leader of the 20th century. He was born in Mhow of Madhya Pradesh state in central India, the fourteenth child of parents who belonged to the very lowest stratum of Hindu society, known as Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, i.e, PraBuddha Bharath(Untouchables or SC/STs). He helped spark a revival of Buddhism in India, a movement which is now known as neo-Buddhism.
Ambedkar’s father who hailed from the Ratnagiri district inMaharashtra had acquired a certain amount of formal education in both Marathi and English. This enabled him to teach his children, especially Bhimrao, and to encourage them in their pursuit of knowledge. In 1908, Ambedkar passed the matriculation examination. He was the first ‘untouchable’ from his community to do so . Four years later, Ambedkar graduated with a B.A. degree in Politics and Economics from Bombay University. Soon afterwards, he was awarded a scholarship to study abroad in return for his promise to serve Baroda State for ten years after finishing his studies.
From 1913 to 1916, Ambedkar studied at Columbia University in New York . During his three years at Columbia University he studied economics, sociology, history, philosophy, anthropology, and politics. In 1915, he completed his M.A. in Economics. In 1916, he was awarded a Ph.D. for a thesis which he eventually published in book form as The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India. His first published work, however, was a paper on Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development. After completing his studies in America, Ambedkar, in June 1916, left New York for London, where he was admitted to the London School of Economics and Political Science and to Gray’s Inn. A year later, his scholarship came to an end.
In 1920, having taught in a Bombay college and started a Marathi weekly called Mooknayak or ‘Leader of the Dumb’, Ambedkar was able to return to London and resume his studies there. In the course of the next three years he completed a thesis on The Problem of the Rupee, for which the University of London awarded him a D.Sc. Simulataneously, he also studied for a Bar-At-Law degree to become a Barrister and was admitted to the British Bar. Before permanently ending his residence in England, Ambedkar spent three months inGermany, where he engaged in further studies in economics at the University of Bonn.
On June 15, 1952 Columbia University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Law LL.D. degree. On Jan 12, 1953 the Osmania University conferred the honorary degree of LL.D on him.
Caste, Dalit, Mahar
Back in India, Ambedkar established himself in Bombay and pursued an active career. He built up his legal practice, taught at a college, gave evidence before various official bodies, started a newspaper, and was nominated to the Bombay Legislative Council, in whose proceedings he at once took a leading part. He also attended the three Round Table Conferences that were held in London to enable representatives of the various Indian communities and the three British political parties to consider proposals for the future constitution of India . During the years immediately following his return to India, Ambedkar helped form the Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha or Depressed Classes Welfare Association, the objects of which were to promote the spread of education and culture among Untouchables and low caste persons, to improve their economic condition, and to provide a voice for their grievances.
Between 1927 and 1932, Ambedkar led his followers in a series of nonviolent campaigns to assert the right of the Untouchables to enter Hindu places of worship and to draw water from public tanks and wells. Two of these campaigns were of special importance: the campaigns against the exclusion of Untouchables from the Kalaram Temple in Nasik and from the Chowdar Tank in Mahad. Both of these involved tens of thousands of Untouchable satyagrahis or nonviolent resisters. Higher caste Hindus responded violently. The Chowdar Tank campaign, after years of litigation, ended in a legal victory for the low caste activists. The Chowdar Tank campaign also saw the ceremonial burning of the Manu Smriti or `Institutes of Manu’, the ancient Hindu law book that Ambedkar believed bore much of the responsibility for the cruel treatment that the Untouchables had suffered. By thus desecrating the volume, Ambedkar’s followers intended to demonstrate for equality. It is debatable if this had the intended effect because the importance of Manu Smriti to Hindu beliefs is unclear and disputed. Especially since Manu Smriti is neither a part of Hindu Scripture nor accorded any religious significance outside rural areas.
Unpopular as Ambedkar’s activities had already made him in orthodox Hindu opinion, during 1931 and 1932 he became more unpopular still. In his own words, he became the most hated man in India. The cause of the trouble was Ambedkar’s continued insistence on the necessity of separate electorates for the depressed classes. Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress Party were opposed to separate electorates for the depressed classes, and Ambedkar and Gandhi had clashed on the subject at the Second Round Table Conference. Although Gandhi was one of the earliest champions of the cause of untouchables, and wanted to rid Hindu society of all casteism and discrimination, he also hoped to avoid allowing the British to politically divide Hindus based on caste. When the British made their Communal Award in 1934, they granted separate electorates for untouchables. Gandhi went on a “fast unto death,” an action which led. Ambedkar to meet with Hindu orthodox leaders and leaders of the Indian National Congress, and eventually agree to give up the separate electorates and quotas. In return, the Congress Party agreed to increase its representation of untouchables, and Hindureligious leaders became aggressive in their attack upon caste discrimination and untouchability as a whole.
Today, Dr. Ambedkar, is openly credited with the crafting of the Indian Constitution. This volume has much significance, for other nations who won independence at about the same time in the Indiansubcontinent, failed to enshrine the rights of their citizens. India, alone is the exception - and Dr.Ambedkar’s contributions are openly recognized.
Ambedkar was not satisfied by what he felt were inevitably hollow promises given the reluctance of orthodox Hindus to re-visit caste doctrines, and his conceding to Gandhi over key political issues. At this point, partly as a result of the opposition he had encountered over the question of separate electorates and partly because of the continued exclusion of Untouchables from some Hindu temples, Ambedkar made a tactical shift: he started exhorting his followers to concentrate on raising their standard of living and gaining political power. He also began to think there was no future for the Untouchables within Hinduism and that they should change their religion. Inspite of this, there was little or no reaction from the Hindu community, which saw him as a Reformer. In the same year Ambedkar was appointed principal of the Government Law College, Bombay, built a house for himself and his library of over 50,000 books, and lost his wife Ramabai. They had been married in 1908, when he was sixteen and she was nine and she had borne him five children, of whom only one survived.
In the course of the next few years Ambedkar founded the Independent Labour Party, and took part in the 1937 provincial legislative elections held as a result of the Government of India Act 1935. He was elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly, where he pressed for the abolition of agricultural serfdom, defended the right of industrial workers to strike, advocated the promotion of birth control, and addressed meetings and conferences throughout the Bombay Presidency. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Ambedkar regarded Nazi ideology as a direct threat to the liberties of the Indian people. Ambedkar exhorted the public to support the British government in prosecuting the war and encouraged Untouchables to join the Indian Army. In 1941, Ambedkar was appointed to the Defence Advisory Committee and in the following year joined the Viceroy’s Executive Council as Labour Member, a post he occupied for the next four years. During the same period he transformed the Independent Labour Party into the All-India Scheduled Caste Federation, founded the People’s Education Society, and published a number of highly controversial books and pamphlets. Among the latter were Thoughts on Pakistan, What Congress and Gandhi have Done to the Untouchables, and Who Were the Shudras?
In 1947, India achieved independence and Ambedkar, who had already been elected a member of the Constituent Assembly, was invited by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of the country, to join the Cabinet as Minister for Law. A few weeks later the Assembly entrusted the task of framing the Constitution to a Draft Committee, and this committee elected Ambedkar as its chairman. For the next two years, he worked on the Draft Constitution, writing it almost singlehandedly. Despite ill health, Ambedkar completed the Constitution by the beginning of 1948 and later that year introduced it in the Constituent Assembly. Thereafter he steered it through the legislative process and in November of 1949 it was adopted by the Assembly with very few amendments. He is aptly called as the Father of the Indian constitution.
Ambedkar’s resignation from the Cabinet in 1951 marked the virtual end of his political career. In the general elections of January 1952 he failed to win a seat in the lower house of India’s parliament, the Lok Sabha, and was equally unsuccessful when he contested a by-election the following year. In March 1952 he was, however, elected to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament, as one of the seventeen representatives of the erstwhile Bombay State. He could use this forum to question the government effectively.
While Ambedkar continued to participate in the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha, and was to do so until the end of his life, from 1952 onwards Ambedkar’s energies were increasingly devoted to other concerns. Ever since the 1935 Depressed Classes Conference, when he had shocked Hindu India with the declaration that though he had been born a Hindu he did not intend to die one, Ambedkar had been giving earnest consideration to the question of conversion. Further consideration made him increasingly convinced that there was no future for the Untouchables within Hinduism, that they would have to adopt another religion, and that the best religion for them to adopt was Buddhism. In 1950 he visited Sri Lanka at the invitation of the Young Men’s Buddhist Association, Colombo, where he addressed a meeting of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Kandy and appealed to the Untouchables of Sri Lanka to embrace Buddhism. In 1951, he wrote an article defending the Buddha against the charge that he had been responsible for the decrease in women’s status in ancient India. The same year, he compiled the Bauddha Upasana Patha, a small collection of Buddhist devotional texts.
In 1954, Ambedkar twice visited Burma, the second time in order to attend the third conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Rangoon. In 1955, he founded the Bharatiya Bauddha Mahasabha or Buddhist Society of India and installed an image of the Buddha in a temple that had been built at Dehu Road, near Pune on 25th December 1954. Addressing the thousands of Untouchables who had assembled for the occasion, he declared that henceforth he would devote himself to the propagation of Buddhism in India. He also announced that he was writing a book explaining the tenets of Buddhism in simple language for the benefit of the common man. The work in question was ‘The Buddha and His Dhamma’, on which he had been working since November 1951 and which he completed in February, 1956. Not long afterwards, Ambedkar announced that he would be formally converting in October of that year. Arrangements were accordingly made for the ceremony to be held in Nagpur.
On 14 October 1956, Ambedkar took the Three Refuges and Five Precepts from a Buddhist monk in the traditional manner and then, in turn, administered them to the 380,000 men, women, and children who had come to Nagpur in response to his call. After further conversion ceremonies in Nagpur and Chanda, Ambedkar returned toDelhi. A few weeks later he travelled to Kathmandu in Nepal for the fourth conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, where he addressed the delegates on “The Buddha and Karl Marx”. On his way back to Delhi, he made two speeches in Benares and visited Kusinara, where the Buddha had died. In Delhi he took part in various Buddhist functions, attended the Rajya Sabha, and completed the last chapter of his book The Buddha and Karl Marx.
Ambedkar died on 6 December 1956. Although Ambedkar had been a Buddhist for only seven weeks, during that period he probably did more for the promotion of Buddhism than any other Indian since Ashoka. At the time of his death three quarters of a million Untouchables had become Buddhists, and in the months that followed hundreds of thousands more took the same step - despite the uncertainty and confusion that had been created by the sudden loss of their leader.
The work which has been described as Ambedkar’s magnum opus,The Buddha and His Dhamma, was written between 1951 and 1956 and published by the People’s Education Society in November 1957, almost a year after his death.
These vows were administered by Dr. Ambedkar on October 14th and 16th, 1956 in mass ceremonies to audiences as large as half a million people at Nagpur and Chanda.
1) I shall have no faith in Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh nor shall I worship them. 2) I shall have no faith in Rama and Krishna who are believed to be incarnation of God nor shall I worship them. 3) I shall have no faith in ‘Gauri’, Ganapati and other gods and goddesses of Hindus nor shall I worship them. 4) I do not believe in the incarnation of God. 5) I do not and shall not believe that Lord Buddha was the incarnation of Vishnu. I believe this to be sheer madness and false propaganda. 6) I shall not perform ‘Shraddha’ nor shall I give ‘pind-dan’. 7) I shall not act in a manner violating the principles and teachings of the Buddha. 8) I shall not allow any ceremonies to be performed by Brahmins. 9) I shall believe in the equality of man. 10) I shall endeavor to establish equality. 11) I shall follow the ‘noble eightfold path’ of the Buddha. 12) I shall follow the ten ‘paramitas’ prescribed by the Buddha. 13) I shall have compassion and loving kindness for all living beings and protect them. 14) I shall not steal.15) I shall not tell lies. 16) I shall not commit carnal sins. 17) I shall not take intoxicants like liquor, drugs etc. 18) I shall endeavor to follow the noble eightfold path and practice compassion and loving kindness in every day life. 19) I renounce Hinduism, which is harmful for humanity and impedes the advancement and development of humanity because it is based on inequality, and adopt Buddhism as my religion. 20) I firmly believe the Dhamma of the Buddha is the only true religion. 21) I believe that I am having a re-birth. 22) I solemnly declare and affirm that I shall hereafter lead my life according to the principles and teachings of the Buddha and his Dhamma.
A memorial for Ambedkar has been established in Delhi (26 Alipur Road, Near IP College, Civil Lines, New Delhi - 110054). 26 Alipur Road is the house where Ambedkar spent most of his life since he moved to Delhi, and is also the place where he breathed his last. The memorial was opened after a prolonged struggle by Dalit groups, when finally the Government of India secured the house from Jindals who occupied the property.
His birthdate is now a public holiday in India known as Ambedkar Jayanti. As a sign of respect, many Indians use the title “Babasaheb” in front of his name. “Jai Bhim!”, referring to Ambedkar’s first name, Bhimrao, is sometimes used as a greeting or an exclamation. He was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1990.
B. R. Ambedkar - Ambedkar:the Movie
Jabbar Patel directed the Hindi-language movie “Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar”  about the life of Ambedkar, released in 2000. SouthIndian actor Mammootty starred in the title role. Sponsored by India’s National Film Development Corporation and Ministry of Social Justice, the film was released after a long and controversial gestation period.