TRIBUTE TO DR. B.R. AMBEDKAR ON HIS 123rd BIRTH ANNIVERSARY (2014).
(14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956)
HISTORICAL SPEECH DELIVERED BY DR. B.R. AMBEDKAR ON 15TH OCTOBER, 1956 AT NAGPUR.
(Source: Mulnivasi Organizer, Vol.1/No.10, October 2004 edition, translation from Marathi to English).
…..My all Buddhist fellows and invitees present.
Perhaps it is difficult for the thinkers to understand the significance of the place of conversion (Deeksha) ceremony which was performed yesterday and today morning. In their and in my opinion as well, the ceremony which was held yesterday should have been held today and today’s yesterday. It is essential to know, why we have shouldered this responsibility, what was its necessity and what will be the result of it. By understanding this, the foundation of our mission will come strong. This process of understanding should have occurred earlier. But few things remain so uncertain that, those happen automatically. About this ceremony the things to be happened, happened. But in spite of exchange of days, nothing is harmed.
Many people asked a question, why had you chosen Nagpur the place for this ceremony? Why this ceremony was not performed at some other place? A few people say that since the large platoon of RSS (Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh) is in Nagpur and just to embarrass them this ceremony is being held in this city. This is not true at all. For this reason, this ceremony is not being held at Nagpur. Our mission is so stupendous that every minute of life is inadequate. I do not have time to ill-omen others by scratching my nose.
The reason for choosing this place is different. Those who have studied the Buddhist history will come to know that the people who propagated Buddhism in India were the Nag people. Nag people were the fierce enemy of the Aryans. Many fierce battles took place between the Aryans and the Non-Aryans. Many examples are available in the Puranas about where the Aryans burnt the Nagas. The sage Agasti could save only one Naga. We are the descendants of him. The Naga people who tolerated the oppression needed some great man to uplift them and they found that great man in Lord Gautam Buddha. The Nagas propagated the teachings of Lord Buddha throughout India. Such are we Nagas. The major habitation of the Naga people was in and around Nagpur. Therefore this city is called ‘Nagpur’ means the city of Nagas. There is a Nagarjuna Hill about 27 miles from this place. The river flowing nearby is ‘Nag’ river. Obviously this river got this name because of the people living here. The river which flows through the habitation of the Naga people is the Nag river. This is the main reason to select this place – Nagpur. There is no question of irritating anybody nor the intention. The reason of the RSS even did not touch my mind. Nobody should interpret in that way.
Opposition, could perhaps be for other reasons. I have already explained that this place has not been chosen for antagonism. I have been criticised by many people and newspapers for the initiation of this mission. The criticism of some is harsh. In their opinion I am misleading my poor untouchables. They are misguiding some of our people by telling that those who are Untouchables today will remain Untouchables and the rights they have got, they will lose it. They advise illiterate people among us to follow the traditional path. This might be influencing some of the young and elder among us. If, by that the doubts have been arisen in the minds of people, it is our duty to clear those doubts and the clearing of those doubts will strengthen the foundation of our movement.
In the past we had a movement for not to eat meat. The touchables thought it as if a thunderbolt of lightening for them. Isn’t this a strange practice that they should drunk the milk of living buffalo and we should carry its carcass on our shoulder after its death. We ask them why don’t you allow us to carry your dead mother? They should give us their dead mother as they give us their dead buffalo. Some one some time wrote in the ‘Kesari’ through correspondence that in certain villages 50 cattle died every year, Rs.500 could be earned from their hides, horns, hooves, meat, bones and tails, and leaving aside the matter of meat of dead animals, these people would be deprived of that profit, such propaganda was made through ‘Kesari’. Really speaking what was the necessity of replying to such propaganda. Our people felt that what our Saheb (leader) is doing if he is not replying such propaganda?
Once I had been to Sanganmer for meeting. The arrangement for the dinner was made. That time a reporter from ‘Kesari’ sent me a chit and asked, “you are advising your people not to carry dead animals. How poor they are! Their women do not have sari and blouse to wear, they do not have food, they do not have fields, when their conditions are so miserable, you tell them to give up an income of Rs.500 per year from hides, hooves, meat, is it not a loss of your people?”
I asked, “where shall I reply you? Shall I reply here in corridor or in meeting? It is better to answer before the people.” I asked the person, “Is it the only thing or you want to ask anymore?” He said, “This much to say and answer this only”. I asked that person, “How many children you have and how many people you are?” He said, “I have five children and my brother has five to seven children”. I said, “it means your family is large. Hence, you and your relatives should carry all the dead animals of that village and earn an income of Rs.500. You must take this benefit. In addition to this, I make an arrangement to give you Rs.500 annually. What will happen to my people, whether they will get food, clothes or not, I will see it myself. Then, why are you giving up this benefit? Why don’t you do this? If we do it, it is beneficial, and if you do it, isn’t beneficial to you carry the dead animals?”
A Brahmin boy came to me yesterday and said, “you have been given reserved seats in the Parliament and the Assemblies, why are you giving them up?” I said, “You become Mahar and fill up those seats in the Parliament and the Assemblies. The vacancies in the services are filled up. So many Brahmins and others apply for the posts. Why don’t you Brahmin people fill up these reserved seats by becoming Mahar as you do in services?”
My question to them is why do you weep for our loss? In reality self-respect is dearer to human being and not material gain. A woman with virtues and character knows how much beneficial is immoral behaviour. In our Bombay there is a locality of prostitutes. Those women wake up at 8 O’ clock and place an order for the breakfast in nearby hotel, (Dr. Ambedkar imitated this in changed voice) “ Suleman, get a plate of mince (Kheema) and bread.” Suleman brings alongwith tea, cake etc. but my downtrodden sisters do not get even simple Chutni Bhakar (mixture of chilli and salt and bread), but they live with dignity and character.
We are fighting for honour and self respect. We are getting ready to take the human being towards the perfection, for that we are ready for any sacrifice. These newspaper people (indicating them) got on my nerves for the past forty years. How severely they have maligned me till date! I ask them to ponder over at least now, leave this childishness and be prudent.
Even after conversion to the Buddhism, I am confident, I will get the political rights. I cannot tell what will happen after my death. For this movement, we have to struggle more. What will happen on having embraced the Buddhism if at all there are difficulties, how could those be avoided. For that, what arguments and efforts are to be made, I have thoroughly thought over this. My pocket is with full of solutions. What are those, I know fully well. These rights I have obtained for my people. One who obtained these rights, will surely regain them. I have obtained these rights and facilities, and I am confident that I will again obtain them. Therefore, now at least you should continue to have faith in me. That there is no truth in the adverse propaganda.
I am surprised at one thing. Everywhere there is debate on large scale. But no one has asked me a question as to why I embraced the Buddhism. Why I embraced only this religion and not any other. This is the basic and important question in any movement of a conversion. While converting it should be put to the test. Which religion and why it should be embraced. Through a resolution at Yeole in 1935, we started the movement of renouncing the Hindu religion. Long back I had vowed, “Though I am born as a Hindu, I will not die as Hindu” and I proved it yesterday. I am overjoyed, I am exalted, I feel I have been liberated from the hell. I do not want blind followers. Those who wish to embrace Buddhism, they should accept it with comprehension. Their conscious should accept that religion.
Religion is absolutely essential for the development of mankind. I know that one sect came into existence after reading Karl Marx. According to them religion is futile. They do not have importance of religion. In the morning they get breakfast containing bread, cream, butter, chicken leg etc. full meal, sound sleep, to see movies and that is all. That is their philosophy. My father was poor, I could not get such kind of luxuries. Nobody has ever lived a life as hard as mine. Therefore, I have a realization that how hard a man’s life can be in the absence of luxuries. I know that economic elevation movement is necessary. I am not against that movement. Man must progress financially.
But I make an important distinction in this matter. There is a difference between buffalo, bull and man. Buffalo and Bull need fodder everyday. Man also needs food but the difference in between the two is that buffalo and bull have no mind, man has body and mind too. Therefore, both should be pondered over. The mind should be developed. The mind should be cultured. It should be made cultured. I do not want to have any sort of relationship with such country or people who say that there is no relation between man and cultured mind except the food. As to keep relationship with people man should have sound body in the same way while making the body healthy, the mind should also be cultured. Otherwise, it cannot be said that mankind has been progressed.
Why man’s body or mind is ill? The reasons are either his body is diseased or his mind has no enthusiasm. If there is no enthusiasm in mind there is no progress. Why is not this enthusiasm there? The first reason is that man has been kept in such a way that he does not get any opportunity or he has no hope to rise. That time, how will he remain enthusiastic? He remains diseased. The man who gets the fruit of his deeds can get enthusiasm. Otherwise a teacher in a school started say, “Hey, who is this?” He is a Mahar. And will this wretched Mahar get through in first class? For what he wants first class? Be in third class only, to get in first class is Brahmin’s claim. Under these circumstances, what enthusiasm the boy will get? How can be progress? The root of creating enthusiasm is in mind, whose body and mind also are healthy, who is courageous, who has confidence in surmounting all adversities, in him only enthusiasm is generated and he only excels. Such a strange philosophy has been incorporated in the Hindu religion which can never promote enthusiasm. Circumstances making man unenthusiastic have been maintained for thousands of years, then at the most such people will be produced who will fill their stomach by clerical jobs. What else will happen? To protect these clerks, a big clerk is needed.
The reason behind man’s enthusiasm is mind. You know the owners of mills. They appoint managers for their mills and get the works done in the mills through their managers. Mill owners are involved in some or the other bad habits, their minds have not been developed culturally. We started movement to infuse enthusiasm in our minds, then the education would be started. I began my education by wearing a loin-cloth. I could not get even water to drink in the school. I spent many days without water in the school. The same situation was maintained even in the Elphinstone Collge in Bombay. If such is the situation what else conditions will be created. Only clerks will be produced.
Lord Linlithgow was the Viceroy, when I was in the Executive Council of Delhi. I said to him, “In addition to the normal expenditure, you spend Rs.3 lacs on the Aligarh University for the education of the Muslims. In the same way, you give Rs.3 lacs to the Banaras Hindu University. But we are neither Hindus nor Muslims. If you think doing something for us, then thousand times more than them should be done. Do at least as much for us as Muslims.” Then Lord Linlithgow said, “Whatever you have to say give me in writing”. Accordingly, I prepared a memorandum. That manuscript is still with me. Europeans were very sympathetic. They accepted my proposal. The problem was on which item the money had to spend. They thought that, our girls are not educated, they should be provided with education. Boarding be started for them, and the money should be spent on that. If our girls are provided education and made educated, where, at home, is the material to cook various types of dishes? What is the end result of their education? The Government spent the money on other heads and withheld the amount for education. Therefore, one day I went to Lord Linlithgow and regarding the expenditure on education I said, “If you do not get angry, I would like to ask you a question – I am alone equal to fifty graduates, Aren’t it?” He had to accept it. Again I asked him, “What is the reason of it?” He said, “We do not know the reason.” I said, “My learning is so great that I could sit on the pinnacle of the palace. I want such men. Because, from there, one can make overall surveillance. If our people are to be protected, then such sharp eyed men should be created. What can a mere clerk do?” At the very moment, Lord Linlithgow was convinced by my words and sixteen men were sent to England for higher education. Just as some earthen pots are half-baked and some are baked, of those sixteen some are half-baked and some are baked, this is different matter. Later on C. Rajgopalachari cancelled this scheme of higher education.
In this country, such situation prevails that will make us unenthusiastic for thousands of years to come. Till this situation exists, there cannot be enthusiasm for our progress. In this regard we cannot do anything by remaining in his religion. There is Chaturvarana in Manusmriti. Chaturvarna system is very harmful for the progress of mankind. It has been mentioned in the Manusmriti that Shudras should do only menial service. Why do they need education? The Brahmin should take education, kshatriya should take up arms, Vaishya should do business and Shudra should serve. Who will unfold this system? Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya have some gain, but what about Shudras? Will there be any enthusiasm in other castes except these three varnas? This Chaturvarna System is not haphazardly, this is not a custom, this is the religion.
There is no equality in the Hindu religion. Once I had been to Mr. Gandhi, he said, “I believe in Chaturvarna?” I said, “Mahatmas like you believe in Chaturvarna?” But was is this Chaturvarna and how is this? (Dr. Ambedkar expressed this by showing his hand fingers one upon another as well as keeping palm in flat position). This Chaturvarna is whether up or flat? From where he Chaturvarna begins and where does it end? Gandhiji did not answer his question and what answer can he give? Those who ruined us, also be perished by this religion. I do not accuse this Hindu religion unnecessarily. Nobody will prosper by the Hindu religion. That religion itself is a ruinous religion.
Why did our country go under the rule of foreigners? Till 1945 Europe witnessed the wars. In what ever number soldiers were killed that number was filled by new recruitment. That time nobody could say that we had won the war. Everything is altogether different of country. If Kshatriyas are killed, we are doomed. Had we right to possess the arms this country would not have gone in servitude. No one could have been able to conquer this country.
By remaining in the Hindu religion nobody can prosper in any way. Because of the stratification in Hindu religion, it is fact that higher varnas and castes are benefited. But, what about the others? The moment Brahmin woman delivers a child, her eyes are focussed towards a post of High Court Judge where it is lying vacant. On the contrary, when our sweeper woman delivers a child, her eyes are focussed on a post of sweeper where it is lying vacant. The Varna System of Hindu religion is responsible for such a strange social structure. What improvement can take place from this? Prosperity can be achieved only in the Buddhist religion.
In the Buddhist religion, 75% Bhikkhus were Brahmins, 25% were the Shudras and others. But the Lord Buddha said, “O, Bhikkhus, you have come from different countries and castes. Rivers flow separately when they flow in their provinces, but they lose their identity when they meet he sea. They become one and same. The Buddhist Sangh is like an ocean. In this Sangh all are equal.” After they merge into the ocean, it is not possible to identify the water of Ganga or Mahanadi. Similarly when we join Buddha Sangh, we lose our caste and become equal. There is only one Great Man who preached such equality, and that Great Man is Lord Buddha. (Thunderous applause).
Some people say, “Why did you take so much time to get converted? What were you doing all these days?” This is the question of importance. Convincing a religion is not an easy task. That is not the mission of a single person. Any person thinking of religion will come to know his. No man in the world shoulder as much responsibility as do I. If I get a long life, I will fulfil my planned work (Shouts of long live Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar).
Some people will say what will happen if Mahar becomes Buddhist. I tell them they should not say so. It will be dangerous for them. Higher and wealthy class will not feel the necessity of religion. The officers among them have bungalows to live in, servants to serve them, they have money, wealth and respect, the men of such sort need not think of religion or to be worried about it.
Religion is necessary for the poor. Religion is necessary for the Depressed people. The poor man survives on hope. The root of life lies in hope. What will happen to the life if the hope is lost? Religion makes hopeful, and gives a message to the depressed and the poor – do not be afraid, life will be hopeful, it will be! Therefore, the poor and the depressed mankind clings to the religion.
When the Christian religion entered Europe, the condition of Rome and neighbouring countries was very distressful. People could not get enough food. That time hotch potch (Khichadi) was distributed among the poor people. Who became the followers of the Christ? Poor and Depressed people. The poor and lower class people of Europe became Christian. Gibbon had said that Christianity is the religion of beggars. Gibbon is not alive to give the answer of all in Europe, otherwise he would have had to answer this.
Some people will say that this Buddhism is the religion of Mahars and Mangs. The Brahmin people used to call Lord Buddha as “Bho Gautam” means “Are Gautam”. In this way the Brahmins used to tease the Lord Buddha. They have to see how many idols of Rama, Krishna and Shankara will be sold out in the foreign countries, if they are put to sale. On the contrary, if the idols of Lord Buddha are kept for sale, not a single idol will be left out (Loud clapping). That is too much in India, go and show something outside, the name known to the world is of Lord Buddha. Then how the propagation of this religion will be prevented!
We will follow our path, you follow yours. We have found a new path. This is the day of hope. This is the path of elevation and progress. This is not the new path. This path has not been borrowed from anywhere, this path is from here, it is purely Indian. The Buddhist religion survived here for 2000 years in India. Truly speaking, we feel regretted why we did not embrace the Buddhism earlier. The principles preached by the Lord Buddha are immortal. But the Lord Buddha did not make such claim. There is a provision for change with the change of time. Such generosity is not found in any other religion.
The main reason of destruction of the Buddhist religion is the invasions of Muslims. Muslims destroyed the idols of the Lord Buddha in their invasions. This was the firs attack on the Buddhist religion. Because of the fear of their invasions, the Buddhist Bhikkhus fled. Some went to Tibet, some went to China and some went elsewhere.
To defend the religion laity is essential. There was a Greek King in the North-West frontier, his name was Milinda. This King always used to debate. He delighted in debates. He used to tell the Hindus, one who is a debater should come forward and debate. He had made many unanswerable. Once he thought to debate with the Buddhist people and he asked to fetch any Buddhist debater. So the Buddhist people requested Nagsena that he should represent the Buddhists in that debate. Nagsena was learned. Earlier he was Brahmin. What debate took place between Nagsena and Milinda is know to the world through a book. The name of that book is ‘Milinda Panha’. Milinda asked a question, ‘Why does the religion decline?’ Nagsena answered and gave three reasons for it.
(1). The first reason is that a particular religion itself is immature. The basic principles of that religion have no depth. It becomes a temporal religion and such religion survives only for short period.
(2). The second reason is that, if there are no learned preachers in that religion, then the religion declines. Learned persons should preach the philosophy of the religion. If the preachers of the religion are not prepared to hold debate with the opponents, then the religion declines.
(3). And the third reason is that, the religion and the religious principles are only for learned persons. For common people there are temples and shrines. They go there and worship supernatural power.
While embracing Buddhism we should keep in mind these reasons. No one can say that the principles of Buddhism are temporal. Today, the whole world respects all the principles of Buddhism even after 2500 years. There are 2000 Buddhist Institutions in America. At the expense of 3 Lac rupees, a Buddhist temple has been built in England. In Germany also, there are 3 to 4 thousand Buddhist Institutions. Buddha’s principles are immortal. Nevertheless the Buddha has not claimed that this is the religion of God. The Buddha said that his father was a common man, his mother was a common woman. If you feel, accept this religion. If this religion appeals to your reason, then accept it. Such generosity has not been allowed in any other religion.
What is the original foundation of Buddhism? There is tremendous difference between the Buddha’s religion and other religions. It is not possible to have changes in other religions because those religions relate man with God. Other religions preach that God has created the Nature. God has created all sky, air, moon, sun etc. God has left nothing for us to do, so we must worship God. According to the Christian religion, after death, there is a Day of Judgement, and all depends on that Judgement. There is no place for God and Soul in the Buddha religion. Lord Buddha said there is sorrow all over the world. 90% people are suffering from sorrow. To emancipate those depressed and poor people from sorrow is the principal task of the Buddha’s religion. What else did Karl Marx tell different from Lord Buddha’s saying? Lord Buddha did not tell anything in a zigzag way.
Brothers, I have told you whatever, I wanted to say. In all respects this religion is perfect. It has no stigma at all. The principles of Hinduism are such from which enthusiasm cannot be created. From thousands of years till the other day not a single graduate or a learned man was produced from our society. I do not hesitate to say, there was a woman who used to sweep my school, she was Maratha. She did not touch me. My mother used to tell me to call elder person as Mama (uncle). I used to call the postman as Mama (Loud laughter). In my childhood, I felt thirsty in the school. I told so to my teacher. The teacher called the peon for my protection and told him to take me to the tap. We went to the tap. The peon opened the tap and I drank the water. Usually at school, I did not get water to drink. Later, I was offered some service as District Judge. But I did not get stick with that sort of job. I had a problem, who would carry out the mission of my brothers, so I did not get stick in that bondage.
As an individual, nothing in this country is impossible for me (clapping). How the arranged declivity of Vaihsya, Kshatriya and Brahmin on your head will be tumbled down and destroyed, is the real question. Hence, it is my duty to give you in all respects the knowledge of this religion. By writing books, I will remove all your doubts and suspicion and will try to lead you to a stage of full knowledge. At least at present, you should have faith in me.
However, your responsibility is great too. Your behaviour should be such that other people will honour and respect you. Do not think that this religion means we have got stuck with a corpse around our neck. As far as the Buddhism is concerned, the land of India is of no account. We must resolve to follow Buddhist religion in the finest way. It should not happen that the Mahar people brought the Buddhism to disgrace, so we must have firm determination. If we accomplish this, then we will thrive ourselves, our nation, and not only that but the whole world also. Because the Buddhist religion only will be the savour of the world. Unless there is justice, there will be no peace in the world.
This new path is full of responsibilities. The young should keep in mind that we had made some resolutions and expressed some desires. They should not become selfish idlers. We should decide that, at least, we should give 20% part of our income for this purpose. I want to take all of you with me. Initially Tathagat gave Deeksha to few individuals and directed them: “Spread this religion”. After that Yasha and his forty friends embraced the Buddhism. Yasha belonged to rich family. Lord Buddha said to them, what is this religion like? The religion is “Bahujan hitay bahujan sukhay, Lokanucampay, Dhamma adi Kalyanam, Madhya Kalyanam, Paryavasan Kalayanam.” Tathagata decided the path of preaching his religion according to the conditions of that time. Now we must have to make the mechanism.
After this ceremony, each one should give deeksha to each one. I proclaim that every Buddhist person has the right to give Deeksha.
Thus, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar concluded his speech under thunderous applause from the Buddhist and invitees.