How India Will Become Once Again Buddhist?

Dr. K. Jamanadas,

This is in response to Satinath Chaudhari wondering whether there is anything wrong in having different sects of Buddhism in India. The frank reply to that is there is absolutely nothing wrong in having various sects of Buddhism.

Various types of Buddhists in India

At the moment, we have got various kinds of Buddhists. Firstly, there are the original Buddhists, who are there for centuries, mostly concentrated in Laddhak, Sikkim and North East. Secondly, the successors of missionaries from foreign lands like Anagarik Dharmapal, who not only resurrected Buddhism in India, but also motivated Swami Vivekananda to attend Chicago Conference along with him. Thirdly, there are those who became Buddhists under influence of Dharmapala, like Kosambi, Rahul, Kashyap etc. from whom very few may now be alive. Fourthly, there is a vast mass who became Buddhists after Dr. Ambedkar's appeal and mass conversion. In addition, there are two kinds of Refugee Buddhists, one group is followers of H.H. the Dalai Lama, and others are the neglected Chakma Refugees, who, I believe, have been mostly driven out, very much in contrast to Kashmiri Pundits Refugees.

Here we like to talk about those who became Buddhists because of Teachings of Dr. Ambedkar. They are said to be 68 lakhs, as per census of 1991, in a population of about hundred crores, which comes to less than one per cent. If we have to fulfill the dream of Dr. Ambedkar, to make India Buddhist, at least there should be 30 to 40 crores of Buddhists.

Within these 68 lakh Buddhists, there appeared various sects also, though I feel that various castes among the people who embraced Buddhism has mostly disappeared. There are Manuvadis who do not like that the Buddhists should consolidate. They are projecting the Buddha as Hindu. Enough has been written about this tendency.

There are some who follow Shri Goenka ji, who runs Vippasana Centers. His followers, in most parts, are lost to Ambedkarism. This is because most of them have dissociated themselves from the Amedkarite movement. (There are exceptions, salutes to them.) There is nothing wrong, per se, in Vippasana. But they think, Vippasana is the only teaching that the Buddha taught. There are followers of Osho, who run Dhyana Centers. Their activities are such that the majority of population disapproves. There are some Ambedkarites praising Osho also. These two groups, the Goenka and Osho followers are condemned by authors like Yashvant Manohar as "pollutions" among the Ambedkarite movements.

If these two groups could concentrate on the Social aspects and Egalitarian teachings of the Buddha, and advise their followers to denounce the caste as the Buddha did, and later his followers of all the sects, including highly maligned Vajrayanis, did, and as the followers of Ambedkar are trying to do, perhaps the days for Buddhism in India would be bright. Unfortunately, their activities are either not very clear, or are in consonance with the Manuvadis. These are two groups, who are well supported by the Buddhist community outside India. It is here we have to warn our friends outside India to take care that they are not playing in the hands of Manuvadis.

There are Trilokya Boudha Maha Sangha people, trying to propagate the Dhamma. Whatever may be their activities outside India, they are doing reasonably good job. Though some may say, their type of religion is not the same as Dr. Ambedkar taught.

The Creed of Buddha

Dr. Ambedkar, the greatest Indian of modern times, gave Buddhism to India after it had disappeared about thousand years ago. Millions accepted this "new" religion. It was new in the sense, it was almost forgotten and the tenets advocated at one time by the Buddha, got mixed up with the so called "Hinduism". During his last days, he was asked about the rituals, principles and other peculiarities of this religion. To all such questions, he said, he would reply in next meeting at Bombay, in the middle of December 1956. That day never arose.

The followers started following the religion as per what they perceived was proper in their own thoughts. So it got more and more corrupted. Therefore, some people decided to chart out a "Code of Conduct" for the followers of Buddhism.

Spread of Buddhism

Dr. Ambedkar had said, he would make India Buddhist again. (mee bhatat buddha maya karen Who were these people, Ambedkar had in mind? Whom was he to teach his religion. Obviously, all the poor depressed and deprived people of this land divided by tradition into thousands of castes, the SCs, STs, OBCs, and other smaller deprived under-privileged groups. But his dream was not fulfilled. Not only the OBCs and others did not join his religion, but not even all the SCs joined it. So there are two aims facing the todays Ambedkarites. First is to spread the religion to the masses, and second is to teach what is "proper" Buddhism of Ambedkar's mind, which needs to be followed. Faced with this dual task, we have to analyze how we are behaving. We have also to decide our priorities.

Ambedkar's religion not same as traditional Buddhism

During conversion days, Dr. Ambedkar was interviewed by "Tarun Bharat" of Nagpur, asking him which 'yana' he professes. Dr. Ambedkar said his propagation of Buddhism depends upon the original teachings of the Buddha. The traditional teachings have been corrupted during the course of time by the views of various Teachers of different sects. I am putting forward the teachings in proper perspective. I happened to be present during a part of this interview, which was well documented and well published. 'Tarun Bharat' correspondent said "then we can call this a 'Bhim yaan'. Ambedkar said 'No! If you want to give it a new name, you may call it "Nava yaan", but what I propagate is according to original teachings of Buddha, and are based on rational thinking."

Buddha and His Dhamma

Later, he put all his teachings in "Buddha and His Dhamma". Unfortunately, the world leaders of Buddhism do not accept the book as "Standard". Therefore, it is necessary to discuss this point with the world authorities and try to come to some understanding. It must be understood, for followers of Ambedkar, the book is like a gospel. In the light of this fact, if there is proper understanding, the things will improve and Buddhism would spread.

I have no objection to have various sects being present simultaneously and they coexist, provided that they do not form the part of Hinduism.

What is the gist of Brahmanism

We have been hearing various terms like "Brahmanism, brahmanya, brahman vaad, manuvaad, sanatanism, orthodoxy" etc. Now a days, all these words are replaced by "hindutwa" or some new terms like "bharatyatwa" or "rastriyatwa" or "national" and so on and so forth, used in different shades of meanings.

The cardinal tenets of "Hindutwa"

Some differentiate "Hindutwa" (1) of Aribindo and Vivekananda, (2) of Sawarkar and (3) of RSS propounded by Golwalkar. We feel all this discussion is an eyewash to hoodwink the masses. Neither of them started it, and their interests in interpreting it differently, if at all they did as claimed, had arisen out of political needs of the time. The writings of Raosaheb Kasbe amply show this. For our purpose, "Hindutwa" of any and all types have certain cardinal points, and they are:

1. Chaturvarna: This is the main feature. The society must be divided into four water tight compartments of Varnas, which now became castes, with the entry only through birth. This was divinely ordained system, made by god. It is the duty of human beings to follow this system without expecting any returns from it. Your duty is only to do the "karmas," i.e. the deeds related to following the "chaturvarna". This is the divinely ordained "dharma". When this "dharma" gets dormant, god takes birth to punish the evil, i.e. those who disturbed the "dharma" and preserve those who are "sadhus", i.e. those who follow this "dharma". It must not be confused with the division of labour. It is division of labourer, and also the division of labourer's progeny, because you are not allowed to marry outside your own caste, and you are also required to follow the calling of your ancestors, how so ever it may be fearsome. It is better to die doing what your ancestors had been doing, than to follow others' profession. Because it is always better to die in your own inferior "dharma" than a better one of others', which is always fearsome. It means the daughter of a prostitute must become a prostitute and son of a pimp must become a pimp, as Ambedkar put it. A scavenger's son may take education and become a doctor but he must earn his living not by working as a physician but must earn his livelihood by scavenging. Only he must become an expert in scavenging. Remember Gandhi's advice to an educated dalit boy. This is the summary of "Chaturvarna." Even now there are supporters to this theory.

2. Supremacy of god: As the theory of caste is put forward by god almighty himself, it can not be challenged. After all god is the one who has created the universe. Not even a leaf of a tree moves without his wish. How is this theory put into action by god? Of course, according to the deeds of the past life's deeds. If you have followed the "chaturvarna" in the past life, you have accumulated enough virtue to make you, that is, your "atma", to have a body of a higher "varna". After all, you are of no consequence. It is your "atma" that is the thing of great importance. It is your "atma" which is "real you". It is separate from your body. Though you are not your "atma", the "karmas", that is the deeds of chaturvarna, have to be followed by the body. It is very simple theory. When you die, it is the body that dies. The "atma" goes to another body, just like you change your shirt, "atma" changes its garment. This "atma" does not die, it can not be cut by weapons, neither it can be burned by fire, nor it can be desiccated by wind. What ever physical birth you are having now is due to your deeds in previous birth. If you did "good deeds" meaning respecting caste rules, you would be born in higher caste, otherwise you would be born in a lower one. The idea is that you must not grumble about your present situation, it is all arranged by the God himself taking into consideration the deeds of your previous birth.

3. Belief in Infallibility of "Sastras": It is very essential to make this rule so that God and Chaturvarna could be supported, because all the above is stored in Brahmin's books, prohibited to others.

4. Belief in visit to holy places: Also necessary to keep the supply line of provisions to priestly class, so that they can go on writing "sastras" for the governing of rest of the society, and

5. Bath in "Ganga" washes all sins: Very essential to empower the priests to lure masses, specially the OBCs to visit the "tirthas", the places of pilgrimage, spread all over the country. Very useful device to deprive the dalitbahujan of what ever has been accumulated by him during the year and also to indoctrinate him in Manu's way of thinking.

These were the mechanisms used by the Brahmins to dominate the Bahujans. And these were the very things opposed by the Buddhists of all sects, creeds and colours from times immemorial. It was Dharmakirti who mentioned these criteria in sixth or seventh century. As long as this is avoided, I have no objection to coexistence of different sects.

India can not become Buddhist without political power

There are many who quote Ambedkar advocating social awakening first can only give political power. That is very true, but I feel, that stage is now over. Now is the stage to Unite all "Dalitbahujans" and capture the political power. India can only become Buddhist through political power. Let us remember the examples of Ashoka, Kanisha, Harsha and Palas.

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Published on: May 22, 2001
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