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මුල් පිටුව | බොදු පුවත් | කතුවැකිය | බෞද්ධ දර්ශනය | විශේෂාංග | වෙහෙර විහාර | ඉංග්‍රිසි ලිපි | පෙර කලාප | දායකත්ව මුදල් |

Dr. Ambedkar

Eventful days of the great mass conversions

By Dr. K. Jamanadas

It was not within my capacity to be born in a particular religion. but though I was born as Hindu, I will not die as a Hindu. This was the declaration of Dr. Ambedkar made by him as early as 1935 at Yeola in Nashik district in Maharashtra. He made this declaration after his disillusion of Hindu reforms due to experiences with the Stayagraha at Mahad to drink water from the public lake, burning of Manusmruti, Kalaram Temple Satyagraha for temple entry and treacherous behaviour of Gandhi at Round Table Conference and subsequent coercive Poona Pact. There is already a vast literature available on these subjects. After this declaration, he convened a conference in Bombay, wherein he delivered a speech, which goes by the name of Mukti kon pathe? what way emancipation? which is available verbatim in his volumes (No. 17, Part 3, pp. 113), describing the need for religious conversion for the low castes. His inclination was towards Buddhism from the beginning, but from 1950 or so, it became clear that he would adopt Buddhism and finally he decided to adopt Buddhism in 1956.

Background preparations

After global celebration of 2500 years of Buddha Jayanthi, it had become clear, early in 1956, that conversion to Buddhism will take place that year either at Saranath, Kanpur or Bombay. But about three months in advance, Babasaheb decided Nagpur as the venue and October 14 as date. When the news reached Nagpur, the whole atmosphere was charged with enthusiasm and every leader, big and small, started earnestly for the preparation. There were public meetings at all mohollas (ward) in Nagpur. S.M. Meshram, Babu Hardas Awale and Bar. Rajabhau Khobaragade were the main political leaders of Nagpur, who started organising public opinion for conversion. The whole atmosphere was charged with a feeling of enthusiasm, vigour, excitement, and zeal about the coming event.

I was hectically preparing for my final year MBBS Exam in November/December. We as students decided to hold the Students Convention on this occasion in the Dhanwate Chambers, which was nearly next door to Hotel Shyam, where Babasaheb was scheduled to stay.

Ambedkars conception of Buddhism

When asked about which vehicle of Buddhism he is propagating, he remarked that he would preach the original teachings of the Buddha. What are the differences from traditional Buddhism? One is about Siddharthas renouncement. Ambedkar believes traditional story of diseased, old man, dead man, hermit etc. could not be the real cause. Second he doubted suffering to be the main of Four Noble Truths. Third was His conception of karma and rebirth not conforming to traditional views and lastly he believed the Buddha created Bhikku not as a priest or a superman but as a friend, philosopher and guide and hence he liked the standing Buddha rather than one in meditation.

The ceremony of conversion and Babasahebs historical speech are well documented. I mention only salient points. It was Maha Thera Bhikkhu Chandramani Thera, the Most Senior Buddhist Monk in the country, who gave deeksha to Dr. Ambedkar. He was of Burmese origin but was resident in India for 40 odd years. After his own conversion, Babasaheb converted all the rest of half a million people by Trisaran, Panchasila and 22 vows.

This was a historical event in more ways than one. Never in history half a million were converted to any religion at one time and never had conversion been effected by a lay Buddhist and never ever the Hindu Gods and goddesses were denounced by 22 vows which became the inseparable part of rite of conversion to Buddhism in India, and never before it was declared that all and every Buddhist lay person was authorised to convert other willing person. There used to be rite of Upasampada for conversion as a Bhikku, but for lay Buddhist there was traditionally no rite. Ambedkar started this, as he believed one of the reasons of disappearance of Buddhism from India was absence of such a rite.

The famous 22 vows:

1. I shall have no faith in Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh nor shall I worship them.

2. I shall have no faith in Rama and Krishna who are believed to be incarnation of God nor shall I worship them.

3. I shall have no faith in Gauri, Ganapati and other gods and goddesses of Hindus nor shall I worship them.

4. I do not believe in the incarnating of God.

5. I do not and shall not believe that the Buddha was the incarnation of Vishnu. I believe this to be sheer madness and false propaganda.

6. I shall not perform Shraddha (Brahminic funeral rites) nor shall I Give pind-dan (funeral oblations of food to the dead).

7. I shall not act in a manner violating the principles and teachings of the Buddha.

8. I shall not allow any ceremonies to be performed by Brahmins.

9. I shall believe in the equality of man.

10. I shall endeavour to establish equality.

11. I shall follow the Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddha.

12. I shall follow the Paramitas prescribed by the Buddha.

13. I shall have compassion and loving kindness for all living beings and protect them.

14. I shall not steal.

15. I shall not tell lies.

16. I shall not commit carnal sins.

17. I shall not take intoxicants like liquor, drugs etc.

18. I shall endeavour to follow the Noble Eightfold Path and practise compassion and loving kindness in everyday life.

19. I renounce Hinduism,which is harmful for humanity and impedes the advancement and development of humanity because it is based on inequality, and adopt Buddhism as my religion.

20. I firmly believe the Dhamma of the Buddha is the only true religion.

21. I believe that I am having a re-birth.

22. I solemnly declare and affirm that I shall hereafter lead my life according to the principles and teachings of the Buddha and His Dhamma.

These 22 vows, especially prepared by him for conversion and which are used now in all conversions, now form the main principles of guidance for the Indian Buddhists. Ambedkar achieved three things thereby.

(i) It clarified that adopting Buddhism means denouncing Hinduism

(ii) It clarified that even Lay Buddhists were elements of Buddhist society and

(iii) It clarified that even Lay Buddhists have to follow the tenets of Buddhism.

They struck a blow at the roots of Hindu beliefs and practices, and protect Indian Buddhism from confusion and contradictions caused by Brahmanism and wasteful expenditure.

Speech of Dharmantar

He explained Nagpur was selected, as this was the land of Nagas, the great patrons of Buddhism, and we are the progeny of a single Naga Warrior Takshak, who was saved from Brahminic genocide of Nagas in Naga Satra. He refuted all Brahminic criticism against his conversion. A clear reference to Marx, he said that man cannot live on bread alone and stressed the importance of self-respect more than mundane pleasures. If the Hindu religion had allowed lowered castes to bear arms, India would never have suffered political slavery, he averred. He explained how Buddhism gives hope of progress, which is absent in Hinduism. He asked his followers to be ready to sacrifice for Buddhism at the same time he declared that he did not want blind followers. He declared that he was feeling relieved from the Hell of Hinduism.

Students convention

As the President of Students organisation, I led a deputation to Dr. Babasaheb to ask for his blessings for Students Convention and congratulate him on the occasion. SSD volunteers led us to a small hall on the second floor of Hotel Shyam after a strong security check. As we stood in the corner, Dadasaheb Gaikwad told Babasaheb that some students have come to see him. Babasaheb thundered as to what we wanted. Everybody kept mum. Nobody dared to utter a word. After a long pause, I dared to stammer out that we came to congratulate him and we wanted His blessings.

He said something soothing and Adv. S.M. Meshram said, Do you students wish to ask Babasaheb, anything? I gathered courage to say, Babasaheb! We are worried about our scholarships. No sooner, I uttered these words, Babasaheb started talking loudly, everybody around, and there would be about hundred people around, all sat down at once on the floor, as Babasaheb kept on talking. He said how, we students have gone lazy, are reluctant to study and avoid hard work. In spite of facilities we dont do exams. Well, and the lot. Lastly, he consoled us, the facilities, he got for us was his effort and he will snatch it again for us, and that the scholarships are in his pocket. After about ten minutes speech, it was time for us to leave.

Students Convection was well attended, there were more people than the hall could accommodate.

Main speakers were Adv. S.M. Meshram and Dadasaheb Gaikwad. Many resolutions were passed and all that, but later, the police had come to our hostels repeatedly and wanted to know more and more details, which we had none.

Civic reception

More important was Babasahebs speech at the Civic Reception given by the Nagpur Municipal Corporation.

After explaining the working of democracy in Parliament, he told the stunned gathering that there are many lady members of Parliament, who talk of Prime Minister Nehru as aamche he, aamche te, the mode of addressing used, in Maharashtra, by women only while talking about their husbands. He said that he was ashamed that there were some Maharashtrian lady members among them. He said, he tried to apprise Prime Minister Nehru about this, but Nehru couldnt care less. All this obviously was a severe criticism about Nehru, but the organisations of upper castes women came down heavily on Ambedkar the next day in newspapers, curiously enough not for criticising Nehru, but for defaming womanhood of Maharashtra.

Tea party at Shyam Hotel

Such was the mentality of press and media in twisting the facts to suit their purpose, those days not really much different from today, was it?

In the night there was a tea party only meant for senior workers of the party from all over India, and entry was by passes. I was given three passes for students. I, along with our Secretary Nagdeote, and a senior Ph.D. student from Hindi speaking area, attended. Babu Hardas as Awale gave an introductory speech as usual in Hindi, and requested Babasaheb to address the gathering of, may be fifty or sixty people sitting around tables with the snacks served. I had heard Babasaheb on many occasions before, but that was the first time, I was hearing him talk in fluent Hindi. The speech though brief had many new points, and very scanty reports of this speech are available. He said, that we all cared more for politics than social and religious change. He had achieved everything in his life for himself. There was nothing more to be achieved for himself, except perhaps the post of Prime Minister, among cheers, he declared. But he was worried for all of us, as we keep on fighting amongst ourselves. He said, we were not used to work with people of other castes.

Though the Scheduled Castes Federation (SCF) would be in existence for some more time and though Buddhists, we could still be members of it, as he had already made provisions in Constitution of SCF for sympathizers, it was time we change our ways and start learning to work together with other castes. He was already in touch with other leaders like R.M. Lohia, N.G. Gore, Madhu Limaye, P.K. Atre, S.M. Joshi and others and he had prepared the Constitution of new party, which would be launched soon. He gave a lot of stress on mixing with the people of democratic thoughts, belonging to other castes. It is rather unfortunate, that this aspect of his speech, is totally neglected by the next generation of leaders, our predecessors. When next year in 1957, Republican Party of India was formed, there was not one single member of other castes.

Chandrapur Mass Conversion

A Samanera Sumedha Thera wrote a book, wherein he raised three allegations against this mass conversion at Chandrapur that (i) it was not rearranged, (ii) Babasaheb was brought by wrong road and hence had to suffer and (iii) Conversion was carried out not by Babasaheb but by someone else. All these are wrong allegations, which I refuted many times from public platform and in writings. The Conversion ceremony was arranged well in advance, there was no other road then and Babasaheb himself conducted ceremony of diksha.

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