Greetings on the Occasion of Dhamma Chakra Parivartan Din – 14th October 2013!
Indeed, it is a Social Liberation Day for most of the Buddhist in India. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar had said on 13th October, 1935 that “Unfortunately I was born a Hindu untouchable but I solemnly assured you that I will not die a Hindu.” Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s announcement to renounce Hindu Religion and to embrace some other religion then got wide publicity on a global scale. He took 21 years to research various religions and finally he announced in September, 1956 that he will convert to Buddhism on Ashoka Vijaya Dashami, falling on 14th October, 1956. It is an unparallel event in the history of world wherein about 5,00,000 people gave up their religion and adopted Buddhism on their own without any pressure and violence. Today, majority of Buddhist in India who were once treated as untouchables as per the graded inequality based Hindu Religion are Buddhist. After announcing his decision to convert, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar during his speech on 31st May, 19361 said “You are at the lowest rung of the ladder today. You shall remain lowest forever. This means the struggle between Hindus and Untouchables shall continue forever.” That means unless conversion takes place the situation of Untouchables would have remained as it is forever. Dr Ambedkar also said “Thousands of untouchables tolerate insult, tyranny and oppression at the hands of Hindus without a sigh of complaint, because they have no capacity to bear the expenses of the courts. As regards mental strength, the condition is still worst. The tolerance of insults and tyranny without grudge and complaint has killed the sense of retort and revolt. Confidence, vigour and ambition have been completely vanished from you……. The Hindus practice injustice and tyranny against you only because you are helpless……. There is no place for an individual in Hindu society. The Hindu religion is constituted on a class-concept. Hindu religion does not teach how an individual should behave with another individual. A religion, which does not recognise the individual, is not personally acceptable to me. Three factors are required for the uplift of an individual. They are: Sympathy, Equality and Liberty……. By conversion, nobody can say or feel that one society has been split up. You will remain as separate from the Hindus as you are today. Nothing new will happen on account of this conversion……. To reform the Hindu society is neither our aim nor our field of action. Our aim is to gain freedom. We have nothing to do with anything else…….. It will be seen that this path of conversion is the only right path of freedom, which ultimately leads to equality. It is neither cowardice nor escapism……. The caste system in the Hindus has the foundation of religion. The castes in other religions have no sanction in their religion …Hindus cannot destroy their castes without destroying their religion. …… Untouchability is a permanent handicap on your path of progress. And unless you remove it, your path cannot be safe. Without conversion, this hurdle cannot be removed.” Prof. Saddhananda Fulzele, one of the organizer of the Great 1956 conversions ceremony, said recently in one of the interview “Fifty odd years are a very short time in history of a religious movement, and I think that over this period the conversion movement has a good response.” During visit to Diksha Bhoomi at Nagpur on 14th October 2013 I saw one of the hoarding stating that Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s mission of Buddhist India will be realized by 2056 and I have no doubt about it. Certainly India is moving in right direction. Recently on 13th October, 2013 on the occasion of Ashoka Vijaya Dashmi and the 57th Anniversary of Dhamma Chakra Parivartain Din, thousands of the people embrace Buddhism at ceremony “Chalo Budhh Ki Aur”2 held at Patapar-Dungarpur Village, District Junagadh, Gujarat. As per the press reports, Mr. Devendra Govindbhai Vanvi, Convenor of Buddha Diksha Mohotsava Samiti (BDMS), said that people from 19 districts and 51 Talukas of the State came to Junagadh on the occasion. Over 30,000 families had completed the process of conversion by filling out forms and submitting them to respective local district administrations. He further said that he had secured prior permission on various heads from respective authorities for the function. However, the Gujarat Government has ordered an inquiry into the mass conversion under the provisions of Section 5 of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Rules, 2008. It is really surprising that Gujarat state has Anit-Conversion Law when India is a secular country and such Anti-Conversion Law is against the fundamental rights of the citizen in India. This is not the first time such conversion took place in Gujarat State. In past, many such conversions took place in Gujarat State. Some of the prominent conversions were in October 2003, May, 2007 and May 2011.
During the last month, Two Buddhist monks passed away and it is a loss to the Buddhist Society. Venerable Acharya (Dr.) Buddharakkhita Bhante, the founder of Maha Bodhi Society, Bangalore, India passed away at the age of 91 years on the 23rd September, 2013. Buddhist world lost a dedicated and true missionary. Another Buddhist Monk, Bhante Buddharatna passed away at the age of 67 years. He was stationed at Kandivali, Mumbai in India. Bhante Buddharatna was born as a Hindu and later became a Buddhist. He was from Andhra Pradesh but stationed in Mumbai. He married a Buddhist girl against wishes of his family and after studying Buddhism he became a strong Buddhist. In latter part of his life, with permission from his family, he became a Buddhist Monk and dedicated his life towards Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s mission of Buddhist India.
It is sad to report that Prominent Tibetan religious leader Choje Akong Rinpoche, aged 73, who introduced the Tibetan Buddhism to Europe, was assassinated on 7th October, 2013 in China’s Sichuan Provincial Capital Chengdu. Choje Akong Rinpoche had founded the first Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in United Kingdom in 1967 and later become instrumental in setting up Rokpa International, a humanitarian organisation that worked mainly in Tibet and Nepal. He founded Samye Ling Monastery at Scotland. Located in a valley on the bank of River Esk in Scotland, the monastery was the first Tibetan Buddhist Center to have been established in West. In 1959, in the aftermath of the year’s Tibetan Rebellion, he came to India at the age of 20. After spending time in refuge camps, he was asked to teach at the Young Lama Home School in Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh, India. In 1963, he went to Oxford to learn English. His book “Taming the Tiger: Tibetan Teachings for Improving Daily Life” was well received by the readers. The book aims to help those seeking the truth about suffering and happiness. In 1992, Mr. Akong got opportunity to visit his native Tibet. This was largely due to Beijing implementing of an Open Door Policy that allowed foreign fact-finding missions. In 2009, he gave a presentation on Tibetan medical treatments using Mantras and Prayers at the Seventh International Congress on Traditional Asian Medicine held in Bhutan. In August, 2011, Choje Akong Rinpoche was among the honoured guests in Lhasa3 at the invitation of Communist Chinese during the 60th Anniversary of Peaceful Liberation of Tibet function. It was reported that the assassination of Choje Akong Rinpoche was due to dispute over the property / money.
Another, prominent person from Buddhist World Padma Bhushan Vipassana Acharya Mr. Satya Narayan Goenka passed away peacefully at the ripe age of 90 on 29th September 2013 in Mumbai, India. Mr. Satya Narayan Goenka Contributed to spread of Buddhism via Vipassana in India and his contribution cannot be ignored. Mr. Satya Narayan Goenka, originally from Myanmar, was a president of Burma Marwadi Chambers of Commerce and he was also actively involved with Ramkrishna Mission, Araya Samaj before he was exposed to Vipassana. He was actively teaching Vipassana since 1969. During his life time, he set-up 173 mediation centres (60 Centres in India) all over the world. Government of Maharashtra even allows paid leave to Sate Government Employees to attend the 10 days mediation course.
Amongst the Indian Buddhist, a big faction is followers of Mr Satya Narayan Goenka. However, a section of the Indian Buddhist Society always feel that Meditation or Vipassana is harmful for the Indian Buddhist and introduction of Vipassana to Indian Buddhist is a part of bigger conspiracy, may have been planned by the dominant caste people in India in order have dominance of Hindu mindset. There are many intellectuals who have spoken and written against and in support of Vipassana. There appears to be no chance of arriving at the consensus on this issue. In order to understand some of the basis for both for and against views we need to understand some of the important issues. Mr Satya Narayan Goenka had always maintained that the Vipassana Technique was not discovered by Buddha but it was used by Buddha. Vipassana Technique was known to mankind prior to period of Buddha and he stated that the Vipassana technique has immerged from the teachings of Vedas. If this is the fact then it may not be out of place to state that Mr. Satya Narayan Goenka was teaching Vedic teaching in the name of Buddhism. Therefore, some of scholars doubt the real intention of Mr Goenka in spreading Vipassana in India. Many of scholars also argue that Buddha always taught the rational way of life but he never said that everybody should become a Buddha. If that is the case then why are we giving too much importance to Vipassana which is the path for achieving enlightenment?
We must also understand what Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar had said about Vipassana. In book “The Buddha and His Dhamma”, Dr. Ambedkar presented the Buddhist Philosophy based on logic, rationality and truth. During the International Buddhist Conference held on 4th December 1954 (Buddhist Sasana Council of Burma) held in Rangoon he submitted a Memorandum wherein he said “In regard to the preparation of Buddha’s Gospel care must be taken to emphasise the social and moral teachings of the Buddha. I have emphasised this because what is emphasised is Meditation, Contemplation and Abhidhamma. This way of presenting Buddhism to Indians would be fatal to our cause”.4 Dr Ambedkar’s movement was connected to the pure Dhamma which was based on Logic, Rationality and Truth whereas Mr. Satya Narayan Goenka’s Vipassana movement was in direction of Abhidhamma. This factor created confusion in the minds of the Indian Buddhist. The whole process of taking people towards the Abhidhamma results in Samadhi. In Buddhism, Samadhi is mental concentration or composing the mind i.e. a state of thoughtlessness. This state of mind where thought stops and makes a person inactive and tolerant to the injustice happening to him and this is against the main teaching of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar i.e. Educate, Agitate and Organize. May be the real time for learning meditation or Vipassana for the Buddhist is not now as most of them are still fighting for their existence, basic needs and discrimination from dominant caste. For the present Vipassana may be helpful to the dominant castes who are not interested in Buddhist philosophy of rational thinking, logic and equality but certainly not to the Buddhist who have adopted Buddhism 1956 onwards.
Speech delivered by Dr. Ambedkar to the Bombay Presidency Mahar Conference, 31st May 1936, Bombay. Can be read at http://www.columbia.edu /itc /mealac / pritchett/ 00 ambedkar / txt_ambedkar _salvation.html
Lhasa is the administrative capital of Tibet. It is the second most populous city on the Tibetan Plateau, after Xining, and at an altitude of 3,490 metres, Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world.
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches Volume 17 Part Three, page No. 508