Greetings to all on the occasion of Vaishakh Purnima or Buddha Purnima which is being celebrated all over the world today. The idea of Buddha’s reasoning added with compassion in our heart is the need of the hour. What made Buddha different from other thinkers is that apart from speaking of reasoning he spoke of compassion and ‘metta’ or what we term as Fraternity.
A country like India need Buddhism more than ever. Not because for the sake of having another ‘organised’ cult based idea but because humanity need to be saved. India is the birth place of Buddha and we need to feel proud of it. Yes, I was quite surprised to hear this when I was speaking with Bhadant Nagarjun Surai Sasai, in Nagpur. I asked him wasn’t Buddha born in Lumbini, which is in Nepal. No, said Susai. The man who was born in Lumbini was Siddhartha, the son of the Shuddhodhana but Buddha was born in India after he got enlightenment in Gaya which is now called as Bodh Gaya.
It is supreme irony that the most sacred shrine of the Buddhists world over is not in their hand and the brahmanical control exists in the sacred land. The courts and all other who forces who wanted to ‘undo’ a historical wrong in Ayodhya, never utter a word about Maha Bodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya. We hope one day, it will be handed over to the Buddhists to manage its affairs. Let us see how our judicial system look at this issue.
Buddha and his teaching have become more relevant when hatred and prejudices are spreading much faster than the Corona virus. The culture of finding a ‘villain’ and building a network of ‘superstitious’ ‘Pius’ and unquestioning ‘bhaktas’ will do more damage to India than anything else. In the fight against Corona, we have created fight against people and communities.
It is time to get out of the extreme view points and rigidity. What Buddha spoke all the time was the Madhya marg or middle path. For us to succeed, this middle path is essential and absolute need of the hour. If people have to educated in this middle path, I am sure their learning to this middle path will help them overcome the age old prejudices and ensure them to introspect which is part of traditional philosophies. All of us who believe that fault linens do not emerge from one side, need to introspect and improve whenever and where possible. Human being are prone to make mistakes and it is the power of human spirit to admit them gracefully and rectify.
Reasoning for the sake of ‘reason’ will take us nowhere. We need to build up compassion towards the fellow citizens. The idea of developing ‘science’ and its reaping its benefit may be a commercial ones and religious rights always benefited from the growth of science for ‘capitalism’. For building healthier society, which respect dissent and failures too, we seriously need to build up ‘scientific thinking’ and ‘spirit of inquiry’. Each one of us have these spirit when we are born but our social environment make us dumb and compel us to follow things which are irrational and inhuman too many times. Slowly, a rational human being is converted into a ‘faithful’ ‘believer’ losing sanity most of the time and looking all those who are not ‘like’ him as unfaithful. He or she cant think in terms of the faith of others and that they too can be faithful to their own thoughts.
Human being evolve and religion too evolved though none of us can change their ‘guidebooks’. No religious book is open for scrutiny and that is why when democracy became part of our life, there was no rule book like our religious texts and political philosophers and leaders realized that we need our sacred law books ‘need based’ which can be amended as per time and need. That is why we have so many amendments. You can not change a single comma or a single line from your religious books. We are told that ‘all’ religions have ‘great’ qualities. I agree but I want to add a rider here, all religions have tremendously feudal, patriarchal, irrational, anti people thoughts too. The day, we will learn to critique religions and accept these criticism not as a challenge to some one’s supremacy or a conspiracy against ‘faithful’, the world will be better.
Buddha, for millions of people denied dignity and victims of our birth based caste system, is an identity of respect, reasoning and compassion as advocated so eloquently by Baba Saheb Ambedkar. The mission Annihilation of caste will not succeed by being inside the caste but coming out of it as guided by Dr Ambedkar. Important for all of us to remember those guiding principles, the 22 vows which he administered to half a million people who embraced Deeksha on October 14th, 1956 at Nagpur. Annihilation of caste in Indian situation is only possible through the reasoning and humanism of Buddha when you question the very idea of supremacy of ‘birth based’ system and challenge the idea of God itself. Buddha democratised the knowledge system which was hijacked by the Brahmanical elite through their denial of allowing Sanskrit to be a language of masses. Buddha preached in people’s language. So democratisation of knowledge system is essential to build a strong democracy. Democratisation of knowledge will lead to democratisation of society which will only strengthen political democracy. India is failing in political democracy because our social cultural value system still follow the traits of varnaashram dharma which deny right to education to India’s Bahujan Samaj. We cant build a healthy society where knowledge is monopoly of a few by keeping the majority out of it. Buddha broke that and those who followed his path or got enlightenment through his ideas actually progressed and also build better societies while we suffered the tyranny of an iniquitous social order.
An enlightened India will respect diverse faiths and strong rule based system where all citizens are equal but at the same point of time, it is not merely a rule based compulsion. While we talk about constitutional morality, it is also important that as a society we will have to learn to live together, respect dissent and diversity of food culture. We are not waiting for miracles and nor do we have ‘superman’ and ‘super gods’ to ‘protect’ people, the real power and emancipation of people can only happen through enlightenment and self introspection.
Greetings to all on the day of enlightenment of Buddha.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
May 7th, 2020