Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The TAO of Ambedkarite Buddhism-2


My grandmother belonged to the family and native village of Dr. Ambedkar, namely Ambavde. My father too spent the early years of his life in that village, before moving to Mumbai. So I am related to Dr. Ambedkar on my fathers side. My grandfather belonged to the family and native village of Ghanashyam Talwatkar (nee Krishnaji Bhikaji Tambay), who translated Dr. Ambedkars book, The Buddha And His Dhamma (TBAHD) into marathi. My wife is related to Subhadar Sawadkar, a key colleague of Dr. Ambedkar on her mothers side and her father ghost-translated TBAHD on behalf od Mr. Ghanashyam Talwatkar. Essentially I am a bonafide Ambedkarite who understands the reason why he wanted dalits to become buddhists and agree thoroughly with it. I have read and reflected a lot on this choice and remain eternally grateful to him for making it.

My father was an orphan when the mass conversions took place and so I am not buddhist on paper yet. My father never formally converted us later, since that would have cost us the facility of reservations, which I have benefitted from. He led a confused religious life, practicing a lot of hindu ritual, which performing all life cycle ceremonies in the Buddhist manner. So I was brought up in a confused manner, like I am sure many other dalits are brought up in. While my father was alive, it never occured to me to deviate from the confused religious practices of the family. I had'nt explored buddhism adequately. But when my father expired (in 1999), as per his request we donated his body to medicine and did not perform any rituals, neither hindu, nor buddhist. But due to pressure from the community, I had to perform the Jal-dan-vidhi ceremony. The turmoil that I went through in those days in implementing my fathers last wishes against the misunderstandings of the community about me, my father and our family made me realize that I now had to decide how I was going to live henceforth. So I read a lot and thought a lot and started on my journey of exploration of buddhism. I did not like buddhism practiced by many of my relatives, since the focus was on ritual and it did not seem to adequately show a logical path to salvation. I got married to a buddhist girl according to buddhist ritual. Her family is buddhist in practice, unlike the confused, mixed-up manner in which my family had practiced buddhism. Among other reasons, I selected her since she had done Vipassana course from Igatpuri 7 times. I had heard about the course and thought that anyone who could do such a difficult course 7 times must be a very pure person. I did my first course of Vipassana, with my wifes recommendation (she being a veteran student). It taught me the meaning of the many prayers that I had muttered many times. I also understood the theory of buddhism through this course and learnt how to practice it. Buddhism appealed to my heart as well as my brain, since it shows a logical path to salvation.

After this, I embarked on a path to reconcile my practice with Dr. Ambedkars book, The Buddha And His Dhamma (TBAHD hereon), which has taken me almost 3 years. I am now confident that I am now comfortable that I understand TBAHD as Dr. Ambedkar intended it to be understood and that I find no contradiction between it and my own practice and reading (albeit limited) of ancient buddhism and modern science. My practice has deepened and the benefits of Dhamma have accrued. I am a far better and peaceful person than the person who embarked on the path of buddhism. And the practice of Dhamma has helped improve my life at personal, family, social, professional level in tangible measurable manners.
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