Must we squabble about the names?

Dear friends,

Must we squabble about the names? Two controversies are going on the words .

The first is Dhamma or Dharma?
It is very true that the Buddha who was preaching in the Ardha Magadhi Prakrit Language, which was the language of the masses, had forbidden to preach in Sanskrit, the language of the Brahmins. His teachings were called "Pali". Later the language itself came to be called Pali. The Buddha's preachings were preserved in Pali and were called "Dhamma". Later Buddhists used Sanskrit as the means of preaching and the word became "Dharma" in Sanskrit.

When "Buddha and His Dhamma" was translated in Hindi by Bhadant Anand Kausallyayan as "Dharma", there was a hue and cry about it. This was because the word "dharma" got associated with "chaturvrnya dharma" in the minds of present day Ambedkarites. This does not mean that "dharma" always meant "chaturvarnya dharma", in earlier times also. It meant Buddha's teachings. One must not forget that meanings of the words change. Examples could be quoted: "Hindu" had a derogatory meaning, but now some people use it with pride. Similarly word "Bhagvat" was being used for the Buddha. This later started being used for worshippers of Vishnu. Word "emperumandiyar" in Tamil was used for early worshippers of Vishnu, but later was equated with female temple dancers.

It must not be presumed that later Buddhist were of the inferior quality or were not "true" Buddhists. Still later Buddhists, called Vajrayanis, are often blamed by present day Brahmanic scholars for wrong practices and even for decline of morals in Buddhism and for its ultimate exit from the country. But it must not be forgotten that this was the only time, when the reigns of religious power was in the hands of "lower" caste leaders, the majority of "Siddhas" being from this class. Also this time Buddhist Palas ruled for four centuries over more than half of India. The subject is elaborated in "Decline & Fall of Buddhism" (on

Even today, I feel, we must not differentiate between various sects, classes or "yans" of Buddhism. At least in India, we have no reason to differentiate various sects, as long as they are not followers of Brahmanism. The difference between Buddhism and Brahmanism was elucidated by sixth century Buddhist Pundit Dharmakirti in "Praman vartika". It holds true even today. He enumerated five differences, Hindus had:

1. Belief in Caste
2. Belief in God, Atma, super natural power
3. Belief in infallibility of scriptures
4. Belief in visiting tirthas to cleanse the sins
5. Belief in self torture as a means of attaining salvation

As long as a group of people follow these norms and avoid above five principles, they all must be respected as good Buddhists. This is my personal view. One has a choice to differ from me.

Second controversy is about Dalit or Bahujan? I had written about this last year in detail in the forum. Dr. Ambedkar used various words. Phule used "shudra-ati-shudra". Bahujan is the original word used by the Buddha Himself to denote ALL except Brahmins. He could have well used the word "sabbajan" instead of bahujan, but he did not. He was aware of a small minority was exploiting the masses. He was the leader of masses and not that of classes. I think it is THE word we should use if we want to give a united fight to the exploiters. Kancha Illiah has advocated the word "dalitbahujan", but it seems nobody picked up the idea. So the todays word is Bahujan.

"Mulnivasi" is the word that should be discarded. Even the concept of race must be discarded. This is because, it is beyond any doubt that there is no 'pure' race in India because of great amount of racial intermixture throughout the millennia. If one wishes to adhere to the concept, one must use the word "NAG" instead of Mulnivasi.

This word NAG could even replace the word "Dravida", in my opinion, as Babasaheb has already proved that we all were NAG people. But of course, everything is a matter of sentiments. All these are my own thoughts and I do not insist on any word in particular. Somebody from Tamil country could elaborate what word was used by Yaothee Thass and the Periyar.

Thanks! Yours with Regards, Dr. K. Jamanadas

Source:Dalit E-Forum
Referred by:Sashi Kanth
Published on: February 20, 2001
Send e-mail to with questions or comments about this web site.
No Copyright: dalit e-forum