Tuesday, 5 August 2008

An Awakened Vision: Dr. B.R. Ambedkar's Struggle to Re-Ethicize Indian Society
Mangesh Dahiwale
Introduction
Dr. Ambedkar's View of Caste Dr. Ambedkar's Seminal Experiences of Caste Dr. Ambedkar's Analysis of CasteDr. Ambedkar's "Awakened" Vision The New Buddhism Steps Towards an Awakened Society Dr. Ambedkar’s Vision of Dhamma and Practice
Dr. Ambedkar's Movement For Justice Just Society through a Model Society (sangha) of Just People Dr Ambedkar and the Future of his Movement
Introduction
Although the words and terminology of Brahmanism and Buddhism look alike, they are functionally counteractive. For example, the idea of "karma" in Brahmanism refers to ritual action, while in Buddhism it refers to ethical action. In this way, the brahmanical worldview of society is diametrically opposite to Buddhist worldview. "Dharma" in Buddhism refers to the natural karmic law of ethical action and the Buddha's teachings on benevolent conduct, which create the basis for a democratic social system. However, "Dharma" in Brahmanism strikes at the basis of democracy by speaking of the religious "duty" of following the principles of graded inequality in varna or caste. According to Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, born on April 14, 1891 in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, Indian history and the history of caste is nothing but the conflict between these two worldviews of Buddhism and Bramhanism. He noticed that caste as human inequality based on birth and maltreatment meted out to one class of people by another has been sanctified by so-called sacred religious texts, such as the Vedas, Smrtis, and Shastras. In Buddhism, he not only found the mechanism to create a democratic social system, but also found a mechanism to liberate individuals classed as "untouchables" and "backward." In order to make Buddhism relevant to modern society, he had two tasks: liberate Buddhism itself from the corruption and distortion injected by the Brahmanical tendency towards ritualism and liberate his people from mental and social slavery in order to establish a democratic social system. While attempting to liberate Buddhism from the dead wood of the past, he suggested minor changes in the form but none in the content. One important example was his attempt to redefine the role of sangha and the role of the monastic. He was in favor of humanistic Buddhism in lieu of monastic Buddhism. Dr. Ambedkar envisioned a just society. A just society is a democratic social system. It is a society based on the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. He knew that if the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity are to be injected in caste-based Indian society, there is a need for sangha, not necessarily monastic, to make these principles a living reality. As he was for humanistic Buddhism, he commented that this order would also include the lay persons. This project of constituting sangh to dissolve caste identities could not become reality during his life, as he died a few weeks after administering initiation, dhamma diksha, to his followers. However, the signposts he placed indicate beyond a doubt that he wanted to create such sangha and make lay persons the torchbearers of a New Buddhism (Navayana) in India.
Dr. Ambedkar's View of Caste
Dr. Ambedkar's Seminal Experiences of Caste Although Indian society is fragmented into castes, there has been some change due to the movement of Dr. Ambedkar and other reformers. Some of his followers have benefited in terms of education and wealth due to his efforts. However, the change is not striking, and many are still subjected to hatred and perish in poverty. Caste-based violence continues to be an all pervading phenomenon. Even after the abolition of untouchability by law, practices, such as inhuman treatment, raping untouchable women and so forth, still occur in India. The situation at the time of Dr. Ambedkar was worse, and he personally experienced the caste system in its most inhuman form, being born into and brought up in an untouchable family.
A few seminal experiences awakened him to reality of the caste system. The first took place in Goregaon when Dr. Ambedkar was a boy of nine. He was to visit his father along with his brother. The location of his father's work place was far from the railway station, and no cart man was willing to take them on a bullock cart. One cart man agreed with the condition that the boys would have to drive the cart while he would sit behind. Throughout this escapade which lasted through the night, the boys went hungry because they could not get pure water to drink, even though they had plenty of food. Their inability to get water was of course due to the fact that untouchables were barred from using public wells. This incident had a very important place in Dr. Ambedkar's life and it left an indelible impression on his mind.
His worst experience of the caste system took place in Baroda when he was to become the Military Secretary to the Baroda State. He could not get accommodation in Baroda because he was an untouchable, though highly educated. He found a quarter in a Parsi boarding house and assumed a Parsi name. At work, the Brahman clerks and subordinates kept their distance and threw files and papers on him to avoid his touch. Even in the club, he was only allowed to sit in the corner and was not allowed to take part in games. No clear assignment was given to him, though he was a Military Secretary. When the Parsis discovered his identity, they besieged his boarding house and threatened to beat him. Eventually, the owner expelled him and he had to leave Baroda. The third seminal experience took place in Chalisgaon, where no horse carriage driver was willing to take Dr. Ambedkar from the railway station to the place where a meeting was to be held. After a long wait, a carriage was finally brought. The driver and he were the only two occupants of the carriage. The carriage had not gone 200 paces when there was almost a collision with a motor car. Dr. Ambedkar was surprised that the driver, who was paid for hire every day, should have been so inexperienced. The accident was averted only because of the loud shout of a policeman. They somehow arrived at the culvert on a river. Around it there were no walls as there are on a bridge. The carriage was thrown down on the stone pavement of the culvert, and the horse and the carriage fell down from the culvert into the river. So heavy was the fall that Dr. Ambedkar was knocked senseless. As a result of this he received several injuries. His leg was fractured and he was disabled for several days. On inquiry, Dr. Ambedkar was told the real facts. The delay at the railway station was due to the fact that the carriage drivers were not prepared to drive with a passenger who was an untouchable. They felt it was beneath their dignity. The Mahar untouchables could not tolerate that their leader should walk to their quarters. A compromise was therefore arrived at: the owner of a carriage would give it on hire but not drive. Although they could not find someone to drive it, the Mahars thought this to be a happy solution, evidently forgetting that the safety of the passenger was more important than the maintenance of his dignity. It was then that Dr. Ambedkar learned that even a menial Hindu carriage driver looked upon himself as superior to any untouchable even if that person be a barrister-at-law like Dr. Ambedkar.
There are many more incidences such as these from Dr. Ambedkar's life. These few, however, are sufficient for any person to understand the suffering experienced due to the practice of untouchability and caste. Many people in contemporary India still suffer from this system of graded inequality. They are living the life of degraded human beings. In the end we must ask why is it necessary that they have to suffer so much and occupy such positions in the social system?
Dr. Ambedkar's Analysis of CasteUnderstanding the origin, genesis and mechanism of caste in India is a very complex problem. Many able minds have tried to penetrate it, including Dr. Ambedkar who began work on this issue as early as 1916. He attempted to link the many chains in the history of India in order to show how the caste system evolved. In Dr. Ambedkar's understanding, the prime factor responsible for the evolution of the system of untouchability was the religious persecution of Buddhists, while other social-psychological factors are secondary. The existence of caste in India is due to the notion of inequality imposed by religion, which gives rise to social and cultural practices and prejudices. If these social and cultural practices cease, caste could be annihilated. This is a simple formulation of the quite complex issue of caste.
The life and work of the Buddha marks the flowering of the axial period in India in the sixth century BCE. This period was one of great turmoil as smaller tribal societies were transforming into larger settled ones and eventually mighty empires. It has been shown that these smaller, pre-imperial societies were not based on a graded system of inequality or caste (Chakravarti, 1987). This is not to say that there was no class system. Further, these societies often exhibited unethical and immoral aspects, like incest, alcoholism, war mongering, and the savage practice of ritual sacrifice. Thus the revolutionary role of the Buddha was in first clearly proclaiming that the happiness of humans and society lies in ethics and not in rituals. Dr. Ambedkar understood the Buddha's awakening under the bodhi tree as a true revolution. "It was as great a revolution as the French Revolution. Though it began as a religious revolution, it became more than a religious revolution. It became a social and political revolution."
The Buddha's revolution which culminated in the emergence of the mighty empire of Ashoka (r. 270-232 B. C.) further strengthened the Buddhist worldview based on liberty, equality, and fraternity; a universal message that went beyond the Indian subcontinent. Under Ashoka, equality of punishment irrespective of the social standing of the criminal emerged. The priestly class was given the same treatment as that of the common people. Although Ashoka prevented worship of clan deities (kula devata) which served as the basis of income for the Brahmins, he was ecumenical and promoted inter-religious tolerance. He did not persecute the Brahmins, yet the Brahmans lost their social prestige as the majority of the people abandoned the animal sacrifices that the Brahmans officiated. The rule of law was established, and even animals received good treatment, as noted by the famous Chinese pilgrim, Hsuan Tsang.
In Revolution and Counterrevolution in Ancient India, Dr. Ambedkar described that after the establishment of the rule of law, the Brahmins lived as a depressed class for the nearly 140 years of the Mauryan Empire. Pushyamitra Sunga of the Samvedi Brahmin clan then conspired to destroy Buddhism as the state religion and to make the Brahmins the sovereign rulers of India with the political power of the state behind it through murdering Ashoka's grandson, Emperor Brhadratha, in 185 B.C.. After his accession, Pushyamitra launched a violent and virulent campaign of persecution against Buddhists and Buddhism. Thus, the counter-revolution against Buddhism began with the emergence of the Brahmins under the Sunga Dynasty.
At the same time, various major Brahmanical texts were written in order to counter Buddhism. According to Dr. Ambedkar, these texts are the true sources of inequality and were largely post-Mauryan developments. For example, Dr. Ambedkar showed that the Code of Manu (Manu Smriti) was written by Sumati Bharagava after Psuhyamitra's revolt in 185 B.C. The Code of Manu, which served as the law of inequality, was drafted and enforced with the newly acquired state power by the Brahmins, while the myth of the first cosmic being Purusha, which tells of the divine origin of caste, was interpolated into the Rig-Veda. According to Dr. Ambedkar, the Manu Smriti, the Bhagavad Gita, Shankaracharya's Vedanta, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Puranas are all post-Mauryan texts which serve as sources of inequality.
It should be noted, however, that the Buddhists of ancient India did not accept this worldview all at once - perhaps they never did as is evident from the continuous struggle between the Brahmans and the untouchables (former Buddhists) of modern India. The hatred and contempt preached by the Brahmins was directed against Buddhists in particular and not against other groups. After the Mauryan Period, most Indians who had upheld Buddhism slipped back into Brahmanised Hinduism. Other Indians who did not became untouchables, like the "Broken Men." The "Broken Men", according to Dr. Ambedkar, were the remaining peoples of broken and defeated tribal groups of ancient India. Dr. Ambedkar wrote about this concept of "Broken Men" and how they came into being when the primitive societies were breaking up and transforming into the larger settled societies of imperial India. Brahmanism never tried to absorb these Buddhists into the caste system but rather shut them right out of it by making them untouchables and all that that stood for, like no education, no means of economic development, etc. Untouchability was thus only born sometime around 400 A.D., as these "Broken Men" were not able to abandon beef eating when cow killing was made a capital offence by the Gupta kings. In this way, the cow politics of present day India has its roots in the counterrevolution of the Brahmans against the Buddhists. Untouchability was thus born out of the struggle for supremacy between Buddhism and Brahmanism on a variety of levels from political power to social convention.
This is not to say that Buddhism was destroyed all at once. The struggle went on until the Muslim invasion in 1200 C.E.. The Muslim invasions played a decisive role as the Muslim invaders killed Buddhist monks or caused them to flee India. According to Dr. Ambedkar, "Religion like any other ideology can be attained only by propaganda. If propaganda fails, religion must disappear. The priestly class, however detestable it may be, is necessary to the sustenance of religion. For it is by its propaganda that religion is kept up. Without the priestly class religion must disappear." Due to this onslaught, the Buddhist Sangha in India underwent a great change in its composition. A disorganized system of married clergy with families who were called aryas developed. They took the place of the bhikkhus and began to cater to the religious needs of the general community. They eventually attained the status of bhikkhus through the performance of some sacraments. They officiated at religious ceremonies, but at the same time, in addition to their profession of priesthood, they earned their livelihood through such avocations as masonry, painting, sculpting, gold smithing, and carpentry. These artisan-priests, who were in later times larger in number than the bhikkhus, became the religious guides of the people. Their avocations left them little time and desire for the acquisition of learning, for deep thinking, or for devotion to meditation and other spiritual exercises. They could not be expected to raise Buddhism to a higher position through their endeavors, nor could they check its course towards ruin through the introduction of salutary reforms. It is obvious that this new Buddhist priesthood had neither prestige nor learning and was a poor match for the rival Brahmins (BAWS III, 151-437).
The upheaval caused by the Muslim invaders in the Buddhist Community lasted for a while. However, the Muslims did not destroy or challenge its principles or doctrines, which governed the spiritual life of the people. On the other hand, the Brahmanic invasion changed the principles which Buddhism had preached for centuries as universal ones of a spiritual life. According to Dr. Ambedkar, the Brahmanic invasion of Buddhist India is significant but usually neglected by the historians of India. Buddhist India is not a myth or construction of Dr. Ambedkar. This is supported by material evidence (Rhys Davids 1903). However, the concept of Vedic India or the Golden Vedic Age is truly a construction of recent times by Hindu Nationalists. The neo-Brahmanism of the post-Mauryan period brought the real changes in the political and social structure.
Through the medieval and colonial periods, the struggle against Brahmanism continued, though it was very much weakened due to the forces of time. The saint-poets of the 14th century onwards, such as Kabir, Nanadnar, Chokamela, and Tukaram, came from untouchable castes or backward classes and reflect "Buddhist" sentiments. Their teaching is marked with anti-caste and anti-Bramhanistic ideas. They ridiculed the Vedas and the religious texts of the Brahminism. They praised the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. This influenced Untouchables in south India who also realized in the beginning of the twentieth century that they were Buddhists and began their now well documented movement (G. Aloysius, 2004).
This deep-seated caste based hatred is responsible for most of the problems and evils in India today, including the degradation of women. The creative energy of the country is imprisoned in the caste system. The life and mission of Dr. Ambedkar was to annihilate caste and create a new society based on the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. He also knew that the solution lies in making people aware of their social history and why they are condemned to such a life. He wanted to usher India into an era of enlightenment, or "Right Enlightenment". (Nanda, 2002). This enlightened vision is the preface and key to everything else in conquering ignorance (the origin of suffering) and in the higher life (the end of suffering). For developing this enlightened vision, Dr. Ambedkar felt one needs to realize and understand the law of causality (paticca samuppada) or dhamma, "This is, that is; with the arising of this, that arises. This is not, that is not. With the cessation of this, that ceases."
Dr.  Ambedkar’s “Awakened” Vision
The New Buddhism
Dr. Ambedkar likened Indian society to an orange. If one removes the artificial rind of Hinduism, what remains is a fragmented society with mutually conflicting groups called the castes that run into 6000 in kind. Ambedkar did not strive for positional change in the whole system of graded inequality. He wanted to bring structural change to Indian society.  He concluded that the contemporary state of degradation in India was due to the triumph of Brahmanism over Buddhism – the victory of a worldview which sanctifies a graded inequality amongst living beings over one which prizes ethical conduct towards all such beings.
David Brazier in his thought-provoking book, The New Buddhism, raises some very important points by questioning what the real project of the Buddha was after his enlightenment. He stresses that the Buddha had a vision of an ideal society which he shared with his disciples and thus awakened them to the reality of the world. This vision he termed as bodhi, that is, awakened vision. This vision of an awakened society moved the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Dhamma and to express his enlightenment experience to others to make this awakened society a reality (Brazier, 2001).
Dr. Ambedkar also challenged traditional Buddhist positions and views. While he accepted that the Buddha was centrally concerned with suffering and the end of suffering, he did not define suffering based on the traditional eight types of suffering. His set of sufferings includes suffering due to humans’ own wrong-doing and suffering due to inequality to other humans. In The Buddha and His Dhamma, he reformulates the life and teachings of the Buddha so that they can speak to contemporary Indian society and modern world. For him, the function of the Dhamma is twofold. That is to purify one’s mind and to reconstruct world. In short, the purpose of the Dhamma is to transform an individual into a buddha and to transform the world into a sangha. In the preface to The Buddha and His Dhamma, Dr. Ambedkar speaks of the purpose of the Dhamma as the creation of Dhamma Rajya, an ideal society based on liberty, equality and fraternity. It is clear that Dr. Ambedkar was trying to revive the Buddha’s original project of the reconstruction of world. He called this vision Navayana or the “New Buddhism,” which is a universal model applicable to all societies.
Steps Towards an Awakened Society
In the early years, Dr. Ambedkar was still struggling with his spirituality and slowly defining for himself this awakened vision. Therefore, most of his work for the liberation of his people came within a framework of activism concerning laws, committees, and commissions in the British India. For example, he gave evidence before the Southborough Committee for franchise and representation to the Indian legislatures in 1919. This was his first successful campaign without any mandate from his people. He successfully gained representation for depressed classes in the legislative assembly in Bombay. He was invited to participate in the Round Table Conference during 1932-1934 in order to discuss the future constitution of India, which he subsequently drafted. At this conference, he clashed with Gandhi, who denied the independent political rights of untouchables by deliberately trying to keep them in the fold of Hinduism. He also submitted a memorandum to the Cabinet Mission Plan in 1946 on behalf of the All India Scheduled Caste Federation (AISCF) in order to guarantee civil and political rights for them in free India.
The limited effect of such work within the system led Dr. Ambedkar to increasingly work outside of it as well. He began initiating mass protest movements, such as the Mahad Water Tank Movement (1927), and the Kalaram Temple Entry Movement (1934). He consciously created conditions for the illiterate people around him to become aware of the reality of the caste system. These conditions included writing books addressing various issues, editing several newspapers, launching political parties, and forming social organizations.
After clashing with Gandhi on the issue of the political empowerment of untouchables, Dr. Ambedkar realized the futility of changing the minds of the high caste Hindus. Although Gandhi outwardly showed his commitment to the untouchables, his real purpose appears to have been political. He wanted to ensure numerical power to Hindus (i.e. high-caste Hindus) vis-à-vis Muslims. These events led Ambedkar to renounce the systemic container of Hinduism. On May 30-31, 1936 at Dadar in Mumbai, he delivered a lengthy speech entitled “What way Liberty?” In this historic speech, he detailed the path leading towards liberty and gave a call to conversion. He did not make it clear as to which religion he was going to convert. However, at the end of this speech, he gave a clarion call to his people, which echoed the teaching of the Buddha, to “be your own light and refuge”:
While thinking over what message should I give you on this occasion, I recollected the message given by the Lord Buddha to his Bhikkhu Sangha just before his mahaparinirvana and which has been quoted in Mahaparinibbana Sutta:
“Once the Bhagwan, after having recovered from illness, was resting on a seat under a tree and his disciple venerable Ananda went to the Buddha. Having saluted, he sat beside him and said, ‘I have seen the Lord in illness as well as in happiness. But from the present illness of the Lord, my body has become heavy like lead, my mind is not is peace. I cannot concentrate on the Dhamma, but I feel consolation and satisfaction that the Lord will not attain the parinibbana until a message is given to the Sangha.’”
“Then the Lord replied, ‘Ananda! What does the Sangha expect from me? Ananda, I have preached the Dhamma with an open heart, without concealing anything. The Tathagata has not kept anything concealed as some other teachers do. So Ananda, what more can the Tathagata tell the Bhikkhu Sangha. So Ananda, be self illuminating like the sun. Do not be dependent for light like the Earth. Believe in yourself, do not be dependent on others. Be truthful. Always take refuge in the truth and do not surrender to anyone.’”
I also take refuge in the words of the Buddha to be your own guide. Take refuge in your own reason. Do not listen to the advice of others. Do not succumb to others. Be truthful and take refuge in the truth. Never surrender to anything. If you keep in mind this message of Lord Buddha at this juncture, I am sure, your decision will not be wrong.
In order to realize an awakened society, Dr. Ambedkar saw than an inner revolution among his people needed to take place in tandem with the social and political work of gaining equal rights for untouchables. This internal revolution he found in the act of conversion from the dependency and subservience of being an untouchable in Hinduism to the independence and empowerment of a Buddhist identity and complete development as a human being. In this way, Dr. Ambedkar began to develop a vision for his people in order to make them realize the importance of the Buddha Dhamma. He saw that religious reformation is often a precursor to political emancipation. In his Annihilation of Caste, he cited such examples in the revolutions of Protestant Europe, the first Mauryan ruler Chandragupta, and the contemporary revolution of Guru Nanak and the Sikhs in Punjab. He concluded that the emancipation of the mind is a necessary preliminary for the political emancipation of the people.

Dr. Ambedkar’s Vision of Dhamma and Practice
Vision of Dhamma
Dhamma is the perfection of life: In  The Buddha and His Dhamma, Dr. Ambedkar describes the path of the bodhisattva and presents the sublime teaching of non-attachment through quotes from the dialogue between the Buddha and Subhuti in the Diamond Sutra. In this sutra, the six perfections (paramita) of giving, morality, patience, energy, meditation, and wisdom are taught as not only practices for the individual but also ones to instigate others to do.
Dhamma is to live in Nibbana: Dr. Ambedkar strongly affirmed the nature of Nibbana as experienced here in this life and in this world. He wrote that the Buddha clearly rejected notions of Nibbana held by other schools of thought at the time. Specifically, the Buddha saw that the Brahmanistic and Upanishadic notions of the salvation of a soul made Nibbana into a goal achieved after death. Dr. Ambedkar quotes the famous Fire Sermon (Adittapariyaya Sutta, S.iv.19) to show how the Buddha’s notion of the extinction of the passions, and not physical death, made Nibbana into a much more practical this-worldly goal. Nibbana or “awakened vision” tells one of the difficulties in the realization of the Eight-Fold Path. The chief of these difficulties are the five fetters (samyojana) or five underlying tendencies (anusaya). The third fetter of dependence on the efficacy of rites and ceremonies is especially important in this context. Dr. Ambedkar felt that no good resolutions, however firm, will lead to anything unless we shed ritualism. By ritualism, he meant the belief that outward acts associated with priestly power and holy ceremony can afford one assistance of some kind. It is only when we have overcome our ties to salvific ritual, that humans can be said to have fairly entered the stream of liberation and have a chance to sooner or later win victory.
Dhamma is Karma - the instrument of moral order: Dr. Ambedkar clearly stated that the moral order or the world (kamma niyama) does not depend on a creator god or any other gods. The moral order may be good or bad but this depends on humans and nothing else. The Buddha discovered that the world (loka) revolves due to karma. There are three worlds: the sensual world, the form-ish world, and the formless world. The state of Nibbana, where the law of karma is not operative, is a way of being and acting beyond these worlds. However, the world in which most of us live most of the time is the world of sensual pleasures. The mental states in the sensual world are destructive because enormous strife and suffering come about due to competition for sensual desires. This world is made up of sounds, forms, colors, tastes, tactile objects, ideas, concepts etc. Sometimes, the ideas or concepts are just imposed by society, such as caste or graded inequality in India.
Caste as a consciousness comes into being due to social practices and conventions and is wrong view (miccha ditthi). It is a mental and social conditioning whereby the individual is crushed. Individuals have little or no choice. Clearly, this goes against the Buddha’s teaching of karma and the power of intention (cetana). The intention or mental state behind an action indicates its moral quality and action per se does not determine the nature of karma. As mental states precede actions by body and speech, positive mental states lead to positive actions of body and speech and negative mental states lead to negative actions of body and speech. Thus, the law of karma emphasizes personal responsibility and positive action, not passivity to harmful social conventions. In this way, it clearly does not support that the idea that birth in a lower caste is the deserved result of one’s unwholesome past actions.

Practice – purification of mind, body and speech by meditation and morality
Thus Dr. Ambedkar made it explicit that purification of mind, body and speech is the Dhamma. Dr. Ambedkar emphasized the training of mind in meditation, as did the Buddha, for developing intention or thought, which leads to right states of consciousness. He paraphrases the Sallekha Sutta (M.i.40):
You are to expunge by resolving that, though others may be harmful, you will be harmless.
That though others may kill, you will never kill.
That though others may steal, you will not.
That though others may not lead the higher life, you will.
That though others may lie, traduce, denounce, or prattle, you will not.
That though others may be covetous, you will covet not.
That though others may be malignant, you will not be malignant.
That though others may be given over to wrong views, wrong aims, wrong speech, wrong
actions, and wrong concentration, you must follow (the Noble Eightfold Path in)
right outlook, right aims, right speech, right actions, right mode of livelihood, right
effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
That though others are wrong about the truth and wrong about deliverance, you will be
right about truth and right about deliverance.
That though others may be possessed by sloth and torpor, you will free yourselves
therefrom.
That though others may be puffed up, you will be humble-minded.
That though others may be perplexed by doubts, you will be free from them.
That though others may harbor wrath, malevolence, envy, jealousy, niggardliness, avarice,
hypocrisy, deceit, imperviousness, arrogance, forwardness, association with bad
friends, slackness, unbelief, shamelessness, unscrupulousness, lack of instruction,
inertness, bewilderment, and unwisdom, you will be the reverse of all these things.
That though others may clutch at and hug the temporal nor loose their hold thereon, you
will clutch and hug the things that are not temporal, and will ensue renunciation.
I say it is the development of thought which is so efficacious for right states of
consciousness, not to speak of act and speech. And therefore, Cunda, there must
be developed the thought to all the foregoing resolves I have detailed.
(BAWS XI, 285-286)

This sutta can be interpreted as one’s own resolve to transform oneself into a buddha even when the world around is steeped with various vices.
Morality & Ethics (sila) – the bridge between the individual and the social or the foundation of a just society
The highest realization in Buddhism is the emancipation of the mind, which Dr. Ambedkar also understood as liberty. The antithesis of liberty is slavery. According to the Buddha, there are two kinds of slavery: inner and outer. A certain deity asked the Buddha: 

The inner tangle and the outer tangle-
This generation is entangled in a tangle.
And so I ask of Gotama this question:
Who succeeds in disentangling this tangle?
The Buddha replied:
When a wise man, established in Virtue
Develops Consciousness and Understanding
Then as a Bhikkhu ardent and sagacious
He succeeds in disentangling this tangle. (S.i.13)
Liberty is freedom from any control and in return demands no will to control others. The ethics of Buddhism ensures this freedom from control. Therefore, sila is the foundation of a just society. It is universal and not marked with sectarian feeling. If it does, it will only protect the “group interest,” and according to Dr. Ambedkar will become anti-social. Sila is right or ethical behavior by one person towards another. Thus Dr. Ambedkar wrote that religion is personal, while Dhamma as the practice of sila is interpersonal. Therefore, society cannot do without Dhamma or righteousness.
In this way, Dr. Ambedkar clearly shows an understanding of the difference between the type of morality belonging to personal power and threat and the type belonging to collective power and personal responsibility. He makes the observation that the former type belongs to religion, which is concerned with the relation between humans and God. This type of morality helps to maintain peace and order and "is attached and detached as the occasion requires" to protect the interests of a particular group (Sangharakshita, 1986:156). In the latter understanding of morality, Ambedkar speaks not of religion but of Dhamma:
Morality is Dhamma and Dhamma is Morality. Morality and Dhamma arise from the direct necessity for man to love man. It is not to please God that man has to be moral. It is for his own good that man has to love man. (Sangharakshita, 1986:156)
This Dhamma is the universal morality which protects the weak from the strong and which safeguards the growth of the individual. It gives common models, standards, and rules. Finally, it ensures that liberty and equality can be established.
The only remedy lies in making fraternity universally effective. What is fraternity? It is nothing but another name for the brotherhood of men which is another name for morality. This is why the Buddha preached that Dhamma is morality and as Dhamma is sacred so is morality. (Sangharakshita, 1986:157)This morality, however, is not just a set of ideals, but part of the three-fold training of the mind in morality, concentration, and wisdom. For Dr. Ambedkar, training in sila is formalized for non-monastics in the practice of the five basic precepts (pancasila) and the “taking of refuge” in a ceremony called diksha. In the institutionalization of the diksha ceremony for untouchables converting to Buddhism, Ambedkar included taking the five precepts as well as twenty-two additional vows. Dr. Ambedkar made this ceremony of taking refuge central to his vision of a new Buddhist identity for the lay Buddhist movement he led among untouchables. He recognized the fundamental need of a very conscious statement of Buddhist identity for his community as it renounced Hinduism and embraced Buddhism. In order to face the oppressive system of caste society in India, this new Buddhist identity could not be fuzzy or passive, especially since there was no monastic order to lead and defend the community. He also felt a strong lay community was imperative to re-establishing a proper ordained community in India, since he saw the existing monastic order, especially in Theravada countries, as corrupt (Sangharakshita, 1986:123).
Dr. Ambedkar's Movement For Justice
Just Society through a Model Society (sangha) of Just PeopleThe vision of an awakened society led the Buddha to set in motion the Wheel of the Dhamma. The Buddha set in motion the wheel of the Dhamma when he awakened five disciples in Sarnath. According to Dr. Ambedkar, the Buddha organized the Bhikku Sangha to make this just society a living reality and to set a model for the society to imitate.
But the blessed Lord also knew that merely preaching the Dhamma to the common man would not result in the creation of that ideal society based on righteousness. An ideal must be practical and must be shown to be practicable. Then and then only people strive after it and realize it. To create this striving, it is necessary to have a picture of a society working on the basis of the ideal and thereby proving to the common man that the ideal was not impracticable but on the other hand realizable. The Sangha is a model of a society realizing the Dhamma preached by the blessed Lord. (BAWS XI, 434)
According to Dr. Ambedkar, the code of the bhikkhu, the patimokkha, was formulated to make the sangha an ideal society. Thus, the bhikkhu must always be seen as subordinate to and enfolded into the sangha or ideal society. The training of a bhikkhu/bhikkhuni is aimed at making him/her a perfect citizen of the ideal society. In another sense, the rules of the monastic are not meant for making a perfect being, but for creating a servant of the society who will be committed to ending suffering and to living the ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The monastic should not be indifferent to the suffering of lay people. S/he must fight for establishing an ideal society.
Since the Buddha established the sangha in order to lay the foundation of an awakened society, he preached his Dhamma to all without distinction, to monastic as well as to lay people. Ambedkar felt there was no difference between the monastic and a lay person as far as the practice of the Dhamma goes. The distinction, however, is in the degree of involvement in the preaching and propagating of the Dhamma, essentially of time and commitment. Monastics are the full-timers, having neither the worldly responsibilities of marriage nor private property. On the other hand, lay persons are the part-timers, insconsed in worldly duties. As the full-timers have no private property, the part-timers have had to support them with dana. The part-timers have mainly given alms, and provided abodes and robes to the full-timers. The Buddha put in place these dependencies, which are also freedoms, as a check and balance mechanism to ensure that the full-timers should not betray the mission. The part-timers could complain to the larger sangha about the misconduct of any of the full-timers. Thus, the bond of alms between monastic and lay person was instrumental in the successful spread of the Dhamma.
However, this bond of alms was taken to extremes when the lay emperor Ashoka supported and interfered in the matters of sangha. The history of this disappearance of Buddhism in India is the history of the gradual weakening of this bond of alms and the disappearance of the nucleus of the Buddhist society, the monastic sangha. How could any teaching survive with the destruction of its organization and propaganda base? Buddhism eventually disappeared, because although the lay sangha strove hard, they could not give their best energies and could not organize themselves effectively.
Despite his often strong criticisms, Dr. Ambedkar did not wish to do away with the monastic sangha. On the contrary, he saw the sangha as having an important role in the awakened society. His ideal society was the Buddhist Sangha. But here is a departure from the tradition. He wanted lay persons to be part and parcel of the New Sangha. With this basic view in mind, Dr. Ambedkar expressed his views on the reconstruction of the sangha to suit modern society.
Firstly, he felt that the absence of a dhamma diksha for lay followers was a grave omission. Throughout history, the bhikkhus have been initiated and organised but the lay sangha has not. Except for a few insignificant exceptions, the Dhamma is common to both. Dr. Ambedkar wanted to correct this anomaly, and so accepted the challenge to initiate his own lay followers in the Dhamma. He also suggested the creation of lay preachers who could go about and preach the Buddha's Dhamma among the people and look after the new converts to guide their practice, rather than creating newly ordained monastics or depending on foreign monastics for this purpose. He felt these lay preachers must be paid and that they could be married. He wanted to restructure the Sangha so as to fit it in the modern society. Unfortunately, Dr. Ambedkar did not live long enough to build a movement to actualize this new understanding of the role of monastics in an awakened society.
However, the British monk Sangharakshita, who met Dr. Ambedkar thrice and helped lead the neo-Buddhist movement in India after Ambedkar's death, did develop Ambedkar's basic concept further. He has integrated Ambedkar's criticisms of the bhikkhu sangha in the creation of his new orders, the British-based Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) and the Indian-based Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha (TBM) order nurtured by Dhammachari Lokamitra. In the spirit of Ambedkar's notion of married lay preachers who would spread the Buddha Dhamma about India, Sangharakshita has developed an intermediate form of Buddhist practitioner, called a dharmachari/charini or "dharma-farer," which dissolves the dichotomy between lay and monastic. Sangharakshita's order has sought to intensify serious training for those interested while not creating a distinction of superiority between those who choose less arduous courses. This flexibility of practice models has significantly allowed those with a high level of training to maintain a lay appearance, thereby facilitating involvement in social activities. The uniting factor of the different levels of practice is the commitment to social service within the community and the society. Sangharakshita's vision is one of a decentralized community of people sharing the same spiritual commitment without the need for ecclesiastical structure (Sponberg, 1996:90).
Dr. Ambedkar also had other concrete ideas for the creation of an awakened society based on the Buddha Dhamma. He had planned to establish a Buddhism and Religions Seminary where persons who wished to become preachers could be taught Buddhism and trained in the comparative study of other religions. He suggested the introduction of congregational worship in the Buddha Vihara every Sunday followed by a sermon. The Buddha and His Dhamma, itself, was an attempt to create a "Buddhist Bible" - a single volume work which could be a constant companion of the convert. Like the lay preacher, the Buddhist Bible represents a middle way intended to bridge the gap between the lofty ideals of monastic practice and learning and the daily needs of the larger lay sangha.
Dr Ambedkar and the Future of his Movement
Dr. Ambedkar made many provisions to create the Dhamma as a living force in India. Besides his emphasis on the Dhamma, which he wanted to make heart of his movement, he knew the importance of social awakening and politics. After his conversion, he planned to constitute a political party, The Republican Party of India. The aim was to ensure the social, political and economic justice enshrined in the preamble of the constitution of India in order to create an ideal society. Society, according to Ambedkar, cannot do without Dhamma nor without just government.
Society has to choose one of the three alternatives. Society may choose not to have any Dhamma as an instrument of government. For Dhamma is nothing if it is not an instrument of government. This means society chooses the road to anarchy. Secondly, society may choose the police, i.e., dictatorship as an instrument of government. Thirdly, society may choose Dhamma plus the magistrate wherever people fail to observe the Dhamma. In anarchy and dictatorship liberty is lost. Only in the third liberty survives. (BAWS XI, 316-317)
According to Ambedkar, the norm or the criterion for judging right and wrong in modern society is justice. Justice is ensured when the society is based on the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The system of grading people as in the caste system will always lead to injustice. Ambedkar saw no solution in communism or capitalism, the two political currents dominant during his day. He found a solution in Buddhism. He said. “Man must grow materially as well as spiritually. Society has been aiming to lay a new foundation which was summarized by the French Revolution in three words, Fraternity, Liberty and Equality. The French Revolution was welcomed because of this slogan. It failed to produce equality. We welcome the Russian Revolution because it aims to produce equality. But it cannot be too much emphasized that in producing equality in society one cannot afford to sacrifice fraternity or liberty. Equality will be of no value without fraternity or liberty. It seems that the three (liberty, equality and fraternity) can coexist only if one follows the way of the Buddha” (BAWS III, 462, Italics and bracket added).
He saw the ideal society as one full of channels for conveying change taking place in one part to other parts. In an ideal society, he remarked, there should be many interests, consciously communicated and shared. There should be varied and free points of contact with other modes of association. In other words there must be social endosmosis. This is fraternity, which is only another name for democracy. Democracy is not merely a form of government. It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards fellow beings. Finally, this reconstruction of the world is possible through Dhamma. Dhamma is essentially and fundamentally social. In this way, his ideal society is based on the universality of Dhamma, which consists of liberty, equality and fraternity. In the All India Radio broadcast of his speech on October 3,1954, Dr. Ambedkar clarified the usage of these terms:
Positively, my social philosophy may be said to be enshrined in three words: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Let no one, however, say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French Revolution. I have not. My philosophy has roots in religion and not in political science. I have derived them from the teachings of my master, the Buddha.
The sad part of Dr. Ambedkar’s movement, however, has been the lack of recognition in the entire movement of the role of Dhamma (the practice of liberty, equality and fraternity). As a result of this, the social organizations and political parties based on Ambedkar face the problems of caste and conflict. They fall asunder due to organizational problems. The success of Dr. Ambedkar’s movement lies not just in education and agitation but in how effectively his followers organize themselves; that is to say how they use fraternity as a principle to make fraternity universal. Ambedkar wanted to establish universal fraternity which was not to be based on sectarian attitudes and caste prejudices. He wrote:
There are two forces prevalent in society: individualism and fraternity. Individualism is
ever present. Every individual is ever asking "I and my neighbours, are we all brothers, are we even fiftieth cousins, am I their keeper, why should I do right by them?" and under the pressure of his own particular interests acting as though he was an end to himself, thereby developing a non-social and even an anti-social self.
Fraternity is a force of opposite character. Fraternity is another name for fellow feeling. It consists in a sentiment which leads an individual to identify himself with the good of others whereby "the good of others becomes to him a thing naturally and necessarily to be attended to like any of the physical conditions of our existence." It is because of this sentiment of fraternity that the individual does not "bring himself to think of the rest of his fellow-creatures as struggling rivals with him for the means of happiness, whom he must desire to see defeated in their object in order that he may succeed in his own." Individualism would produce anarchy. It is only fraternity, which prevents it and helps to sustain the moral order among men. Of this there can be no doubt. (BAWS III, 44)
There are many offshoots of the political party of which Dr. B. R. Ambedkar himself planned and wrote a constitution. Their main motivation is anti-Brahmanism and anti-caste. However, most of them are trapped in their own prisons of caste or the interests of their group, and therefore become anti-social. Dhamma is the way to break the prison of caste and prejudices. Dhamma is to extend fraternity both horizontally and vertically in the social structure and hence the Dhamma can help in overcoming caste identities.
In conclusion, the most unfortunate part of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s movement was his untimely death. He died just after the great conversion movement in 1956. Most of the ideas in his mind died with him. However, he left enough material and blueprints for his millions of followers to follow and organize themselves as an ideal society to set up a model for the world. The re-entry of Buddhism to India after a gap of hundreds of years has been very dramatic. Buddhism has come back as a mass movement among the untouchables.   The success of the Buddhist movement depends on the organization of a sangha of full-timers and part-timers. This sangha must transcend caste and should not get trapped in one caste or group. It needs to integrate with the larger Indian society by breaking isolation. This sangha should exemplify liberty, equality, and fraternity to live and act in harmony within itself. There is a necessity for trained dhammasevak (servants of the Dhamma). The dhammasevak must have at the same time a strong sense of history and should be ready to go beyond the great wall of caste. The new servants of the Dhamma must passionately fight for practicing and propagating liberty, equality, and fraternity. In short, Dhamma can re-ethicize Indian society but it depends on how the followers of Dr. Ambedkar understand and situate the Dhamma in the various movements organized under his name and philosophy.
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Mangesh Dahiwale is a member of the Trailokya Bauddha Mahashangha Sahayak Gana (TBMSG) founded by Ven. Sangharakshita to promote the advancement of ex-Untouchable Buddhists in India according to the vision of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. He coordinates the International Ambedkar Forum which organizes meetings to educate especially young Buddhists in several schools and universities in Bombay and New Delhi.

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