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Hindu festivals and Buddhist converts

Hindu festivals and Buddhist converts




इसको भरनेवाले जन को
सर्वस्व-समर्पण करना है।
अपना तन-मन-धन-जन-जीवन
माता को अर्पण करना है।

(Those who fill this form, shall renounce everything; surrender their body, heart, mind, and life to the motherland.)

पर यह साधारण पत्र नहीं,
आज़ादी का परवाना है।
इस पर तुमको अपने तन का
कुछ उज्जवल रक्त गिराना है!

(But understand, this is not an ordinary paper.
This is a warrant of freedom, on this letter you have to shed your own blood.)

वह आगे आए जिसके तन में
खून भारतीय बहता हो।

(Step forward, if the blood rushing through your veins is Indian).

These are the lines from Gopal Prasad Vyas’ poem Khooni Hastakshar[1], dedicated to the Azad Hind Movement led by Netaji Subash Chandra Bose.


However, when I listen to this poem, I relate it to the ‘Human emancipation movement’ led by Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar in India. What was his last and most important move for the emancipation of millions of Dalits in India? It was the conversion to Buddhism from Hinduism. Was it only for the Dalits of Maharashtra? Definitely not! Though Babasaheb could physically give Deeksha of Buddhism only in Nagpur and Chandrapur (on 14th and 16th October 1956 respectively, to nearly 2 million Dalits), the plan was much bigger.

The conversion was planned on 14th December at Mumbai, followed by many different cities in India. This could not happen as Babasaheb attained nirvana on 6th December 1956, due to which the plans for the remaining conversion ceremonies came to a standstill. People still lament the death of Babasaheb – they feel that if he had lived longer, India would have seen at least 25 million Buddhists. This may be true, but when Dhamma has to reach people, it reaches them in many ways, and one of them had been shown by Babasaheb himself. When he converted along with lakhs of people at Nagpur, he established the judicially written 22 vows. Through these 22 vows, Babasaheb gave power to the common people to help other Dalits throughout India convert to Buddhism. It was the righteous duty of the people of Nagpur and Chandrapur to become messengers of Modern Indian Buddhism like Mahendra and Sanghmitra (the children of Samrat Asoka) and spread Buddhism in India with the help of the 22 vows. Was it that difficult to spread it or was it too difficult for the people in Maharashtra itself to accept?

The question has multiple answers. But those who understood and followed the 22 vows knew what Babasaheb expected from them. The lines of the above poem are relevant here – though Babasaheb did not ask Dalits for their blood, he expected pure loyalty towards the movement. He wanted Dalits to embrace Buddhism by embracing the 22 vows, and for that, he expected wholehearted dedication from the Scheduled Castes and Tribes of India. The SCs and STs of India were never Hindus by birth but were Untouchables and tribals. Through the 22 vows and Buddhism, Babasaheb gave them power and self-reliance. The vows were not about mere stubbornness to leave Hinduism. Rather, they aimed to give a new life to the Dalits and Adivasis of India. As that was not an easy task, Babasaheb appealed only to those who could willingly embrace the vows and later follow them with full dedication.

The 22 vows are:

1. I shall not consider Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh as God nor shall I worship them.
2. I shall not consider Ram and Krishna as God nor shall I worship them.
3. I shall not believe in Gouri-Ganesh and other Gods and goddesses of Hindu Religion nor shall I worship them.
4. I don’t have faith incarnation of God.
5. I believe that Buddha is an incarnation of Vishnu, is a false and malicious propaganda.
6. I shall not perform shraddha, nor shall I give pind-dan.
7. I shall not practice anything which is against and different from Buddha’s Dhamma.
8. I will not perform any rituals to be performed by Brahmins.
9. I believe that all human beings are equal.
10. I shall make efforts to establish equality.
11. I shall follow the Eightfold path as told by the Buddha.
12. I shall practice ten Paramitas as told 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 any sexual misconduct.
17. I shall not consume liquor/intoxicants.
18. I shall lead a life based on Buddhist principle of wisdom, precepts, and compassion.
19. I denounce Hindu religion which is harmful to my development as a human being and which has treated human beings as unequal and lowly, and I accept Buddha’s Dhamma.
20. I am convinced that Buddha’s Dhamma is Saddhamma.
21. I believe that I am taking new birth.
22. I commit that henceforth I shall act as per Buddha’s principles and teachings.

Those who follow the above-mentioned vows are said to be Indian Buddhists.

For rational people, it is difficult to deny Babasaheb for their own small pleasures or selfish motives. It can be said that the first generation of converts was very much dedicated to the spread of Buddhism, whereas the second and third generations have almost forgotten the vows! There are exceptions among them who are wholeheartedly dedicated to the spread of Buddhism as expected by Babasaheb, but the situation should have been the other way around, with Hinduism-followers among the converts being the exceptions.

Today we see that second and third generation Buddhists have become Buddhists only for namesake, while increasingly enjoying Hindu culture. The chariot of Ambedkar’s Buddhist/Anti-brahminical movement is being dragged back by none other than such so-called Buddhists, and they have their own arguments for modifying the expectations of Dr.Ambedkar. The frequently heard arguments are: We do Hindu celebrations for our kids. We just wear traditional dresses and wish people; we are not celebrating. We do this because in our office, everyone comes dressed up and we can’t go shabby. We like the festivity. We believe in sarva dharma samabhav (most comic), etc.

When a 22 vows-following Buddhist asks them about their non-Buddhist behaviour, they often get offensive, and even stop talking to such practicing Buddhists, hate them and what not! But do they stop to think why he or she was explaining to them that they should not behave like a Hindu? Do they ever feel connected to the struggle of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar? Do they ever give a thought about why Babasaheb expected us to not take part in any Hindu activities? Doesn’t their celebration of Hindu festivals give more power to Brahminical movements and suppress the Anti-Brahminical or Buddhist movement in India? Aren’t they setting a wrong example for other Dalits who are yet to convert to Buddhism and are on the verge of accepting it?

Babasaheb proved to the world that Scheduled Castes were Ex-Untouchables, and since touching them polluted the Hindus, they were never a part of Hindu society, Hindu culture or Hindu festivity. Being attracted to the Hindu (Brahminical) movement and making it stronger in spite of this knowledge, is a huge loss for the Anti-Brahminical and Buddhist movements in India. Rather, the youth of Nagpur, Chandrapur and Maharashtra should stand as examples to the Dalit brethren in the country, by following the 22 vows and being part of the Buddhist movement, thus encouraging others to embrace Buddhism fearlessly. It is only when they follow the 22 vows that others can gather the courage to do the same and walk on the path of emancipation shown by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. There is a big responsibility on the shoulders of the youths whose forefathers had embraced (Anti-Brahminical) Buddhism along with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes can celebrate important dates in history like 14th October, and the birth anniversaries of all leaders and historical figures who led Anti-Brahminism movements. If they are following Babasaheb (and they should for their own dignity), they must walk on the path of Buddhism shown by him in its purest form. The Dalit Bahujans of India have been given an identity by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. They had no identity earlier – they were just untouchables. They got a Buddhist identity because of Babasaheb, and it is the righteous duty of such Bahujans to respect this new identity and the 22 vows, in order to create a distinct ideal society. Yes, it will not be easy to leave certain pleasures aside, but pleasure at the cost of one’s dignity is never justified. Once the converted Buddhists form their own distinct identity from caste Hindus, the Bahujans throughout India will definitely walk towards the pure path of Buddhism.

Babasaheb declared at Yeola on 13th October 1935, “Though, I was born a Hindu, I solemnly assure you that I will not die as a Hindu”. Then why do the second and third generation Buddhists want to die as Hindus?






Deekshit is an amateur foot-soldier of the Buddhist (anti-brahminical) movement of India.