Dr. B.R. Ambedkar A Bodhisattva

– Mahesh Wasnik

Bodhisattva means to work for the welfare of other.

He/She who has awakened himself/herself and then awakens others is called Bodhisattva

Bodhisattva is a one who has personally achieved all the requirements for the Nirvana (Nibbana) but rather than enter the final stages,  chooses instead to help others to acquire it.

Imagine the college graduation ceremony, faculty and graduation ceremony. Faculty and graduating seniors are wearing their caps and gowns. As their names are called off, the line of students leading to the dean’s podium moves slowly forward and each student is handled his/her diploma.

One student in the line, however looks down into the audience and sees a few of his classmates who are not graduating. Perhaps they are not completed their requirements or have not passed their final examinations. He/She makes an important decision at this point rather than graduate , he/she chooses to remain in the school and assist his/her friends with their work so they may all graduate together in future.

Only one word describes such as act and that word is compassion.                                                                   One who would give up his final stage of enlightenment to be able to help others is, in Buddhist thought, the highest personification of this virtue.

We do call Dr Ambedkar as a Bodhisattva because we do see all these requirements and achievements on his activity which he has done for his people.

Dr Ambedkar made as an important decision during his lifetime to go back to his people where he belongs. Back then, he may have a great opportunity to get nice job in other countries or other regions in India to survive happily with his family. He chooses the path by staying in India even though his highest educational achievement from USA and UK Universities. He chooses the path to empower, educate downtrodden people. He stayed within their hearts, works for them, stating their rights, their freedom, their responsibilities and travelled places to places to educate them and eradicate the unqualify in society. 

He wants to see equality , justice and fraternity among all community.

            Bodhisattva idea is to welfare for others.”Bahujan Hitay, Bahujan Sukhay “ (translates to “for the happiness of the many, for the welfare of the many”). Dr Ambedkar mostly fights for the rights of the Bahujan and for Bahujan to get justice and equality in their own society so that they can live happily  & peacefully together forever. He finds the root cause and he tried to remove the root cause.

When Dr Ambedkar saw the quality of life and equality in the society by visiting other countries, which he wants to replicate similar formula to the Indian society. He wanted to the see the personal development and social transformation by brining all community together. Due to the discrimination based on Caste, religion, color, economic factor in India which is lacking behind us since independence compared with other countries.

Prior to King Asoka, it was believed that Buddhism in India will be lost and the prediction was that one Bodhisattva will arise to restart the dhamma wheel in India again after 2500 years. As we know Dr Ambedkar decided before 1930s that he would embrace Buddhism. Dr. Ambedkar was invited to Sixth Buddhist council in year 1954 in Barma to talk about his people back in India. When Dr Ambedkar  described conditions of his followers in council, and he declared that he will embrace Buddhism, after hearing his talk and looking at Dr Ambedkar, one of elder Monk in council stood up and told everyone that this is Bodhisattva for whom we were waiting for, he will restart the Dhamma wheel in India and that will be called as second Buddha Sasan. Also, if you see the dates of  his conversion, Dr Ambedkar knew these details , hence he may select the date of conversion such that it will be exactly falls 2500 years after the Parinibbana of Buddha. Hence from sixth Buddhist council incident, during his lifetime itself Dr Ambedkar  was called as Bodhisatta (individual who has committed themselves to the Buddhist practice). Dr Ambedkar publicly converted to Buddhism on 14 October 1956, at Nagpur, Maharashtra,India over 20 years after he declared his intent to convert. He converted approximately 500,000 millions of  people to Buddhism.

Dr Ambedkar’s statement in his conversion speech, he called his Dhamma as “Neo-Buddhism not as Mahayanism or Hinayanism because he knew Mahayanism is corrupted during that time and Hinayanism has lost its original roots and forgot their identity.

After publishing a series of books and articles arguing that Buddhism was the only way for the backward community to gain equality and fraternity. Fraternity is the cutting edge of Ambedkar’s Buddhism and the new Buddhist movement. Fraternity is sangha is what connects us, the community of practitioners, and the wider community of all beings, and as such, it is linked to the equality.

Now, the truth is many people called  Dr. Ambedkar as a  Bodhisattva during his lifetime because of his attachment towards Buddhism and his work for the emancipation of depressed classes but he himself rejected this theory and never believed in Bodhisattva theory. He used to chuckle on this theory. Bodhisattvas are elegantly portrayed in Buddhist iconology. The mythology of the many Bodhisattvas is extensive and elaborate,  but they all represent the wisdom and compassion.

Dr. Ambedkar remains a symbolic presence and rallying point for Bahujans and those who have converted to Buddhism and those who have not.  Dr Ambedkar passed away within two months, just after finishing his definitive work on Buddhism. Statues of him  along with Buddha are built in towns and cities all over India to pay respect as a Bodhisattva.

Reference:

  • life without stress – Dr Arthur Sokoloff
  • The decline and fall of Buddhism in India
  • Revolution and counter revolution Ancient part II (19B)
  • References from S.N.Goenkaji dhamma talk

Mahesh Wasnik-Automotive Engineer/Purchasing Manager, Detroit, Michigan