Anil Yadavrao Gaikwad
Published in Issue IV, October 2013
On 23rd September 1956, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar had issued a statement that “The date and place for my conversion to Buddhistm has now been finally fixed. It will take place at Nagpur on Dussehra ( Ashoka Vijaya Dashmi) day i.e. 14th October, 1956. The ceremony of conversion will take place between 9 to 11 AM and in the evening of the same day I will address the gathering”
The Prabuddha Bharat Weekly dated the 29th September, 1956 further declared that “Mass Conversion ceremony to be held at Nagpur on the Vijaya Dashmi on Sunday, 14th October, 1956. Venerable Bhikku Chandramani, MahaThera of Burma, now in India, shall perform the ceremony.”
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar knew that his followers are fully involved in rituals and wrong practices of Hinduism for thousands of years. In order to help people to come out of shackles of Hinduism he prescribed 22 vows to his followers during the historic religious conversion to Buddhism on 14th October, 1956 at Diksha Bhoomi, Nagpur, India. The conversion to Buddhism by about 5,00,000 people was historic because it was the largest religious conversion, the world has ever witnessed. He prescribed oaths so that there may be complete severance of bond with Hinduism. These 22 vows struck a blow at the roots of Hindu beliefs and practices. These vows could serve as a bulwark to protect Buddhism from confusion and contradictions. These vows could liberate converts from superstitions, wasteful and meaningless rituals, which have led to pauperization of masses and enrichment of upper castes of Hindus. Observing 22 vows is a must for Indian Buddhist.
22 Oaths / Vows Given by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar on 14th October, 1956
“I am giving up my existing Hindu religion and adopting to Buddhism. I take the following vows on my own and nobody has influenced me in this regard.
- I shall have no faith in Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, nor shall I worship them.
- I shall have no faith in Rama and Krishna, nor shall I worship them.
- I shall have no faith in ‘Gauri’, Ganapathi’, and other Gods and Goddesses of Hindu religion, nor shall I worship them.
- I do not believe in the theory of incarnation of Gods.
- I do not and shall not believe that Lord Buddha was the incarnation of Vishnu. I believe this to be, mischievous and false propaganda.
- I shall not perform ‘Shraddha’ nor shall I give ‘Pind-Dan’.
- I shall not act in any manner contrary to the principles and teachings of the Buddha.
- I shall not perform any ceremony through Brahmins.
- I shall believe in the equality of mankind.
- I shall endeavour to establish equality.
- I shall follow the Eightfold Path taught by the Buddha.
- I shall follow the ‘Ten Paramitas’ enunciated by the Buddha.
- I shall be compassionate and living beings and nurture them with care.
- I shall not steal.
- I shall not lie.
- I shall not commit carnal sins.
- I shall not consume liquor.
- I shall strive to lead my life in conformity with the three priincipales of Buddhism i.e. Pradnya (Wisdom), Sheel (Character) and Karuna (compassion).
- I hereby embrace Buddhism by renouncing my old Hindu religion which is detrimental to the prosperity to the humankind and discriminate human beings and treat them low.
- I firmly believe the Buddha Dhamma is Saddhamma.
- I believe, I am entering the new life.
- Hereafter I pledge to conduct myself in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha.”
Needless to say, these vows were given by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar at the time of embracing Buddhism to his followers who were just giving-up the Hindu Religion. Today, after completion of 57 years, the new generation who are Buddhist by Birth and also follows Buddhism in right earnest feel that some of the vows are redundant. The new generation Buddhist feel that when they are not Hindu, nor they were ever Hindu, then why they should even pronounce the names of the Hindu Gods and Goddess. It is the matter of debate and surely we need to resolve this conflict over the period by arriving at amicable solution.
During the Speech on 15th October, 1956, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar said “Religion is absolutely essential for development of mankind. I know that one sect came into existence after reading Karl Marx. According to them, religion is futile. They do not have importance of religion”. Dr Ambedkar further said that although he embracing Buddhism, it is not compulsory for his followers to convert. However, if they wish to convert then observing 22 Vows is compulsory. He further clearly said that if anybody is not willing to follow 22 vows they should not embrace Buddhism.