The main theme of this book Buddhism and Ambedkar is to prove that Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956), was essentially a religious man; he lived his life in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha, and had those qualities and virtues which are necessary for the career of a Bodhisattva. The author enunciates the characters and virtues of a Bodhisattva and points out with examples that Dr. Ambedkar had these qualities and virtues. He has marshalled considerable evidence on this, and in doing so, he has outlined in a broader way some of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism.
The author also brings out in bold relief Dr. Ambedkar's place in Buddhism. The historic conversion ceremony at Nagpur on 14 October 1956, when Dr. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism and inspired half-a-million of his followers to do the same, not only changed his destiny but changed the history of Indian Buddhism as well. On this day, the Buddhist revival movement in India entered into an era of intense activity which can be rightly called the 'Ambedkar Era of Indian Buddhism'.
D.C. Ahir (born 1928, Punjab) is a reputed scholar of Buddhism and Ambedkarism. He retired as Director to the Government of India in February 1986. He has published more than forty books on Buddhism.
In appreciation of his noble and notable contribution to the Buddhist literature as a distinguished Scholar and Author, the Maha Bodhi Society of India, Sarnath, conferred on him on 30 November 2001, the Honorary Title of BAUDDHA SAHITYA SHIROMANI. Similarly, the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Government of Sri Lanka, Colombo, honoured him with the Title of BUDDHA SASANA JYOTI on 19 January 2003.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, though engrossed in politics throughout his life, was essentially a religious man. He had immense faith in the spiritual values and the cultural heritage of India. The religion had influenced his life in many ways. Speaking about religion, he once said, "what good things I have in me or whatever have been the benefits of my education to society, I owe them to the religious feelings in me. I want religion but I do not want hypocrisy in the name of religion". His conversion to Buddhism in 1956 was, therefore, the climax of the religious evolution which was progressing in him slowly but steadily ever since he declared his intention in 1935 to give up his parent religion. Clarifying the motive behind his move for the change of religion he had then declared as follows, "My religious conversion is not inspired by any material motive. There is hardly anything which I cannot achieve even while remaining an untouchable. There is no other feeling than that of spiritual feeling underlying my religious conversion". If in 1935 his move to change his religion was not motivated by any material gain, it was much less so in 1956. It has to be conceded that if he and his followers had gone over to Sikhism, Islam or Christianity in 1935 they would have certainly derived some sort of material advantage as the leaders of those creeds were not only anxious to have them in their fold but were also willing to help them in every respect. Dr. Ambedkar, however, unmindful of any such advantage sought refugein the religion of the Buddha by accepting which his followers stand to lose even those rights and privileges which they had enjoyed hitherto.
The main theme of this short treatise about one of the greatest national leaders of modern India is to prove that Dr. Ambedkar was essentially a religious man; he lived his life in accordance with the tenets of the Dhamma and had those qualities and virtues which are necessary for the career of a Bodhisattva. It also brings out in bold relief his place in Buddhism. I hope this insignificant contribution of mine will enable the readers to have better appreciation of Dr. Ambedkar's Pilgrimage to Buddhism.
Coming to personal contacts. I might mention that I had the good fortune of knowing Dr. Ambedkar for over ten years. It was in March 1946 that I had his first `darshan' at his residence at 22 Prithvi Raj Road, New Delhi. After that, I kept on going off and on to him as he, being a symbol of self-elevation, self-help and self-respect, was an immense source of inspiration to me. The last time I met Babasaheb was on the 8 October 1956 at 26 Alipur Road, Delhi. Whenever I bowed before that saint-scholar and giant intellectual I felt some kind of inner-joy which is beyond description.
I am grateful to Dr. R. L. Soni who took pains to write an interesting, impressive and befitting Introduction and also suggested certain very useful improvements. I am also thankful to the Publishers due to whose co-operation this book has seen the light of the day.
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