12 04 2012 THURSDAY LESSON 579 FREE ONLINE eNālāndā Research And Practice UNIERSITY And THE BUDDHIST ONLINEGOOD NEWS LETTER by ABHIDHAMMA RAKKHITA through http://sarvajan.ambedkar.org
Dhammapada: Verses and Stories
Verse 132 Those Who Do Not Receive Happiness
Whoever doesn’t harms with force
those desiring happiness,
as seeker after happiness
one gains future joy.
Explanation: If people who are in search of pleasure and
happiness for themselves, do not hurt or torture others or give pain to others,
then they achieve happiness in the next life too.
Indian nationalist, jurist, SC/ST political leader and a Buddhist revivalist.
(April 14, 1891 - December 6, 1956)
He was also the chief architect of the Indian
Constitution. Born into a poor Untouchable family, Ambedkar spent his whole
life fighting against social discrimination, the system of Chaturvarna - the
Hindu categorization of human society into four varnas - and the Indian caste
system. He is also credited with having sparked the Dalit Buddhist movement.
Ambedkar has been honoured with the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian
Overcoming numerous social and financial obstacles,
Ambedkar became one of the first “untouchables” to obtain a college
education in India. Eventually earning law degrees and multiple doctorates for
his study and research in law, economics and political science from Columbia
University and the London School of Economics, Ambedkar returned home a famous
scholar and practiced law for a few years before publishing journals advocating
political rights and social freedom for India’s untouchables.
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born in the British-founded
town and military cantonment of Mhow in the Central Provinces (now in Madhya
Pradesh). He was the 14th and last child of Ramji Maloji Sakpal and Bhimabai
Murbadkar. His family was of Marathi background from the town of Ambavade in
the Ratnagiri district of modern-day Maharashtra. They belonged to the Hindu
Mahar caste, who were treated as untouchables and subjected to intense
socio-economic discrimination. Ambedkar’s ancestors had for long been in the
employment of the army of the British East India Company, and his father served
in the Indian Army at the Mhow cantonment. He had received a degree of formal
education in Marathi and English, and encouraged his children to learn and work
hard at school.
Belonging to the Kabir Panth, Ramji Sakpal encouraged his
children to read the Hindu classics. He used his position in the army to lobby
for his children to study at the government school, as they faced resistance
owing to their caste. Although able to attend school, Ambedkar and other
Untouchable children were segregated and given no attention or assistance by
the teachers. They were not allowed to sit inside the class. Even if they
needed to drink water somebody from a higher caste would have to pour that
water from a height as they were not allowed to touch either the water or the
vessel that contained it. This task was usually performed for the young
Ambedkar by the school peon, and if he could not be found Ambedkar went without
water. Ramji Sakpal retired in 1894 and the family moved to Satara two years
later. Shortly after their move, Ambedkar’s mother died. The children were
cared for by their paternal aunt, and lived in difficult circumstances. Only
three sons - Balaram, Anandrao and Bhimrao - and two daughters - Manjula and
Tulasa - of the Ambedkars would go on to survive them. Of his brothers and
sisters, only Ambedkar succeeded in passing his examinations and graduating to
a bigger school. His native village name was “Ambavade” in Ratnagiri
District so he changed his name from “Sakpal” to “Ambedkar”
with the recommendation and faith of Mahadev Ambedkar, a Deshasta Brahmin
teacher who believed in him.
Ramji Sakpal remarried in 1898, and the family moved to
Mumbai (then Bombay), where Ambedkar became the first untouchable student at
the Government High School near Elphinstone Road. Although excelling in his
studies, Ambedkar was increasingly disturbed by the segregation and
discrimination that he faced. In 1907, he passed his matriculation examination
and entered the University of Bombay, becoming one of the first persons of untouchable origin to enter a
college in India. This success provoked celebrations in his community, and
after a public ceremony he was presented with a biography of the Buddha by his
teacher Krishnaji Arjun Keluskar also known as Dada Keluskar, a Maratha caste
scholar. Ambedkar’s marriage had been arranged the previous year as per Hindu
custom, to Ramabai, a nine-year old girl from Dapoli. In 1908, he entered
Elphinstone College and obtained a scholarship of twenty five rupees a month
from the Gayakwad ruler of Baroda, Sahyaji Rao III for higher studies in the
USA. By 1912, he obtained his degree in economics and political science, and
prepared to take up employment with the Baroda state government. His wife gave
birth to his first son, Yashwant, in the same year. Ambedkar had just moved his
young family and started work, when he dashed back to Mumbai to see his ailing
father, who died on February 2, 1913.
As a leading Indian scholar, Ambedkar had been invited to testify before the
Southborough Committee, which was preparing the Government of India Act 1919.
At this hearing, Ambedkar argued for creating separate electorates and
reservations for Dalits and other religious communities. In 1920, he began the
publication of the weekly Mooknayak (Leader of the Silent) in Mumbai. Attaining
popularity, Ambedkar used this journal to criticize orthodox Hindu politicians
and a perceived reluctance of the Indian political community to fight caste
discrimination. His speech at a Depressed Classes Conference in Kolhapur
impressed the local state ruler Shahu IV, who shocked orthodox society by
dining with Ambekdar . Ambedkar established a successful legal practise, and
also organised the Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha to promote education and
socio-economic uplifting of the depressed classes. In 1926, he became a
nominated member of the Bombay Legislative Council. By 1927 Dr. Ambedkar
decided to launch active movements against untouchability. He began with public
movements and marches to open up and share public drinking water resources,
also he began a struggle for the right to enter Hindu temples. He led a
satyagraha in Mahad to fight for the right of the untouchable community to draw
water from the main water tank of the town.
He was appointed to the Bombay Presidency Committee to work with the
all-European Simon Commission in 1928. This commission had sparked great
protests across India, and while its report was ignored by most Indians,
Ambedkar himself wrote a separate set of recommendations for future
By now Ambedkar had become one of the most prominent untouchable political
figures of the time. He had grown increasingly critical of mainstream Indian
political parties for their perceived lack of emphasis for the elimination of
the caste system. Ambedkar criticized the Indian National Congress and its
leader Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, whom he accused of reducing the untouchable
community to a figure of pathos. Ambedkar was also dissatisfied with the failures
of British rule, and advocated a political identity for untouchables separate
from both the Congress and the British. At a Depressed Classes Conference on
August 8, 1930 Ambedkar outlined his political vision, insisting that the
safety of the Depressed Classes hinged on their being independent of the
Government and the Congress both:
We must shape our course ourselves and by ourselves…
Political power cannot be a panacea for the ills of the Depressed Classes.
Their salvation lies in their social elevation. They must cleanse their evil
habits. They must improve their bad ways of living…. They must be
educated…. There is a great necessity to disturb their pathetic contentment
and to instill into them that divine discontent which is the spring of all
In this speech, Ambedkar criticized the Salt Satyagraha
launched by Gandhi and the Congress. Ambedkar’s criticisms and political work
had made him very unpopular with orthodox Hindus, as well as with many Congress
politicians who had earlier condemned untouchability and worked against
discrimination across India. This was largely because these “liberal”
politicians usually stopped short of advocating full equality for untouchables.
Ambedkar’s prominence and popular support amongst the untouchable community had
increased, and he was invited to attend the Second Round Table Conference in
London in 1931. Here he sparred verbally with Gandhi on the question of
awarding separate electorates to untouchables. A fierce opponent of separate
electorates on religious and sectarian lines, Gandhi feared that separate
electorates for untouchables would divide Hindu society for future generations.
When the British agreed with Ambedkar and announced the
awarding of separate electorates, Gandhi began a fast-unto-death while
imprisoned in the Yeravada Central Jail of Pune in 1932. Exhorting orthodox
Hindu society to eliminate discrimination and untouchability, Gandhi asked for
the political and social unity of Hindus. Gandhi’s fast provoked great public
support across India, and orthodox Hindu leaders, Congress politicians and
activists such as Madan Mohan Malaviya and Palwankar Baloo organized joint
meetings with Ambedkar and his supporters at Yeravada. Fearing a communal
reprisal and killings of untouchables in the event of Gandhi’s death, Ambedkar
agreed under massive coercion from the supporters of Gandhi to drop the demand
for separate electorates, and settled for a reservation of seats, which
although in the end achieved more representation for the untouchables, resulted
in the loss of separate electorates that was promised through the British
Communal Award prior to Ambedkars meeting with Gandhi which would end his fast.
Ambedkar was later to criticise this fast of Gandhi’s as a gimmick to deny
political rights to the untouchables and increase the coercion he had faced to
give up the demand for separate electorates.
In 1935, Ambedkar was appointed principal of the Government Law College, a
position he held for two years. Settling in Mumbai, Ambedkar oversaw the
construction of a large house, and stocked his personal library with more than
50,000 books. His wife Ramabai died after a long illness in the same year. It
had been her long-standing wish to go on a pilgrimage to Pandharpur, but Ambedkar
had refused to let her go, telling her that he would create a new Pandharpur
for her instead of Hinduism’s Pandharpur which treated them as untouchables.
His own views and attitudes had hardened against orthodox Hindus, despite a
significant increase in momentum across India for the fight against
untouchability. and he began criticizing them even as he was criticized himself
by large numbers of Hindu activists. Speaking at the Yeola Conversion
Conference on October 13 near Nasik, Ambedkar announced his intention to
convert to a different religion and exhorted his followers to leave Hinduism.
He would repeat his message at numerous public meetings across India.
In 1936, Ambedkar founded the Independent Labour Party,
which won 15 seats in the 1937 elections to the Central Legislative Assembly.
He published his book The Annihilation of Caste in the same year, based on the
thesis he had written in New York. Attaining immense popular success,
Ambedkar’s work strongly criticized Hindu religious leaders and the caste
system in general. He protested the Congress decision to call the untouchable
community Harijans (Children of God), a name coined by Gandhi. Ambedkar served
on the Defence Advisory Committee and the Viceroy’s Executive Council as
minister for labour.
Between 1941 and 1945, he published a large number of highly controversial
books and pamphlets, including Thoughts on Pakistan, in which he criticized the
Muslim League’s demand for a separate Muslim state of Pakistan. With What
Congress and Gandhi Have Done to the Untouchables, Ambedkar intensified his
attacks on Gandhi and the Congress, charging them with hypocrisy. In his work
Who Were the Shudras?, Ambedkar attempted to explain the formation of the
Shudras i.e. the lowest caste in hierarchy of Hindu caste system. He also
emphasised how Shudras are separate from Untouchables. Ambedkar oversaw the
transformation of his political party into the All India Scheduled Castes
Federation, although it performed poorly in the elections held in 1946 for the
Constituent Assembly of India. In writing a sequel to Who Were the Shudras? in
1948, Ambedkar lambasted Hinduism in the The Untouchables: A Thesis on the
Origins of Untouchability:
Architect of India’s
Upon India’s independence on August 15, 1947, the new Congress-led government
invited Ambedkar to serve as the nation’s first law minister, which he
accepted. On August 29, Ambedkar was appointed chairman of the Constitution
Drafting Committee, charged by the Assembly to write free India’s new
Constitution. Ambedkar won great praise from his colleagues and contemporary
observers for his drafting work. In this task Ambedkar’s study of sangha
practice among early Buddhists and his extensive reading in Buddhist scriptures
was to come to his aid. Sangha practice incorporated voting by ballot, rules of
debate and precedence and the use of agendas, committees and proposals to
conduct business. Sangha practice itself was modelled on the oligarchic system
of governance followed by tribal republics of ancient India such as the Shakyas
and the Lichchavis. Thus, although Ambedkar used Western models to give his
Constitution shape, its spirit was Indian and, indeed, tribal.
The text prepared by Ambedkar provided constitutional guarantees and
protections for a wide range of civil liberties for individual citizens,
including freedom of religion, the abolition of untouchability and the
outlawing of all forms of discrimination Ambedkar argued for extensive economic
and social rights for women, and also won the Assembly’s support for
introducing a system of reservations of jobs in the civil services, schools and
colleges for members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, a system akin to
affirmative action. India’s lawmakers hoped to eradicate the socio-economic
inequalities and lack of opportunities for India’s depressed classes through
this measure, which had been originally envisioned as temporary on a need
basis. The Constitution was adopted on November 26, 1949 by the Constituent
Assembly. Speaking after the completion of his work, Ambedkar said:
Ambedkar resigned from the cabinet in 1951 following the stalling in parliament
of his draft of the Hindu Code Bill, which sought to expound gender equality in
the laws of inheritance, marriage and the economy. Although supported by Prime
Minister Nehru, the cabinet and many other Congress leaders, it received
criticism from a large number of members of parliament. Ambedkar independently
contested an election in 1952 to the lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha
but was defeated. He was appointed to the upper house of parliament, the Rajya
Sabha in March 1952 and would remain a member until his death.
Conversion to Buddhism:
In the 1950s, Ambedkar turned his attention to Buddhism and travelled to Sri
Lanka (then Ceylon) to attend a convention of Buddhist scholars and monks.
While dedicating a new Buddhist vihara near Pune, Ambedkar announced that he
was writing a book on Buddhism, and that as soon as it was finished, he planned
to make a formal conversion to Buddhism. Ambedkar twice visited Burma in 1954;
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 the Buddhist Society of India. He completed his final work, The Buddha and
His Dhamma, in 1956. It was published posthumously.
After meetings with the Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Hammalawa Saddhatissa,
Ambedkar organised a formal public ceremony for himself and his supporters in
Nagpur on October 14, 1956. Accepting the Three Refuges and Five Precepts from
a Buddhist monk in the traditional manner, Ambedkar completed his own
conversion. He then proceeded to convert an estimated 500,000 of his supporters
who were gathered around him. Taking the 22 Vows, Ambedkar and his supporters
explicitly condemned and rejected Hinduism and Hindu philosophy. He then
traveled to Kathmandu in Nepal to attend the Fourth World Buddhist Conference.
He completed his final manuscript, The Buddha or Karl Marx on December 2, 1956.
Death / Mahanirvana:
Since 1948, Ambedkar had been suffering from diabetes. He was bed-ridden from
June to October in 1954 owing to clinical depression and failing eyesight.
He had been increasingly embittered by political issues, which took a toll on
his health. His health worsened as he furiously worked through 1955. Just three
days after completing his final manuscript The Buddha and His Dhamma, it is
said that Ambedkar died in his sleep on December 6, 1956 at his home in Delhi.
Since the Caste hindus denied the cremation at Dadar crematorium, A
Buddhist-style cremation was organised for him at Chowpatty beach on December
7, attended by hundreds of thousands of supporters, activists and admirers.
Ambedkar was survived by his second wife Savita Ambedkar, born as a caste
Brahmin and converted to Buddhism with him. His wife’s name before marriage was
Sharda Kabir. Savita Ambedkar died as a Buddhist in 2002. Ambedkar’s grandson,
Prakash Yaswant Ambedkar leads the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangha and has served in
both houses of the Indian Parliament.
A number of unfinished typescripts and handwritten drafts were found among
Ambedkar’s notes and papers and gradually made available. Among these were
Waiting for a Visa, which probably dates from 1935-36 and is an
autobiographical work, and the Untouchables, or the Children of India’s Ghetto,
which refers to the census of 1951. A memorial for Ambedkar was established in
his Delhi house at 26 Alipur Road. His birthdate is celebrated as a public
holiday known as Ambedkar Jayanti. He was posthumously awarded India’s highest
civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna in 1990. Many public institutions are named
in his honour, such as the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University in Hyderabad,
Andhra Pradesh, B. R. Ambedkar Bihar University, Muzaffarpur, the other being
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport in Nagpur, which was otherwise
known as Sonegaon Airport. A large official portrait of Ambedkar is on display
in the Indian Parliament building.
On the anniversary of his birth (14 April) and death (6 December) and on Dhamma
Chakra Pravartan Din, 14th Oct at Nagpur, at least half a million people gather
to pay homage to him at his memorial in Mumbai. Thousands of bookshops are set
up, and books are sold.
His message to his followers was ” Educate!!!, Organize!!!,
VOICE OF SARVAJAN
April 10 2012, DHNS:
In a shocking incident, a woman was allegedly stripped and paraded
in a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki district, about 40 km from here, by
some people of the same village following an altercation with a member of her
According to reports, the woman kept pleading with her tormentors to let her go
but her pleadings fell on deaf ears even as the other villagers remained mere
onlookers and did not interfere.
Reports said the miscreants, who also hailed from the same village, had an
altercation with one Kripa Shankar Tewari on Sunday evening over a petty issue.
They had then threatened to teach him a lesson.
The miscreants numbering around four barged into the house of Tewari on Monday
in an apparent bid to exact their revenge but he was not present. Irked over
his absence they caught hold of Tewari’s younger brother Badri and began
thrashing him. On hearing his cries, Badri’s wife rushed to rescue him from the
attackers, reports said.
The attackers then caught hold of the woman and paraded her in the lanes of the
village after stripping her, according to eye witness accounts. “I kept
pleading with them to leave me but they did not listen… They also hit me
repeatedly with boots and rods”, the victim alleged. She was let off only after
some people from the village gathered courage and asked them to leave her.
The victim and her family approached the police for lodging a report but the
latter, instead of registering a case and taking action, told the victim and
her family that the matter would be investigated by the ‘Mahila’ (woman)
police. The delayed response from the police allowed the culprits to escape
from the village.
The situation in the village was reported to be