Dr. Ambedkar‘s role as a prominent constitution maker of India is quite well known. However, his views on religion, particularly his reasons for renouncing Hinduism, the religion of his birth, are not as widely known. Ambedkar who was born in an “untouchable” family carried on a relentless battle against untouchability throughout his adult life. In the last part of his life, he renounced Hinduism and became a Buddhist. What were his reasons for doing so?
A detailed answer to this question can be obtained by studying his The Buddha and His Dhamma, Annihilation of Caste, Philosophy of Hinduism, Riddles in Hinduism etc. Nonetheless, some of his articles, speeches and interviews before and after his conversion to Buddhism throw some light on this question.
Ambedkar’s statement in 1935 at Yeola Conference is quite instructive in this regard. Ambedkar believed that the untouchables occupied a “weak and lowly status” only because they were a part of the Hindu society. When attempts to gain equal status and “ordinary rights as human beings” within the Hindu society started failing, Ambedkar thought it was essential to embrace a religion which will give “equal status, equal rights and fair treatment” to untouchables. He clearly said to his supporters “select only that religion in which you will get equal status, equal opportunity and equal treatment…”
Evidently, after a comparative study of different religions, Ambedkar concluded that Buddhism was the best religion from this point of view.
1. The society must have either the sanction of law or the sanction of morality to hold it
together. Without either, the society is sure to go to pieces. 2. Religion, if it is to survive, it must be in consonance with reason, which is another name for science.
3. It is not enough for religion to consist of moral code, but its moral code must recognize the fundamental tenets of liberty, equality and fraternity.
4. Religion must not sanctify or make a virtue out of poverty.
According to Ambedkar, Buddhism fulfilled these requirements and so among the existing religions it was the only suitable religion for the world. He felt that the propagation of Buddhism needed a Bible. Apparently, Ambedkar wrote The Buddha and his Dhamma to fulfill this need.
In the same article, Ambedkar has enumerated the evils of Hinduism in the following manner:
1. It has deprived moral life of freedom.
2. It has only emphasized conformity to commands.
3. The laws are unjust because they are not the same for one class as of another. Besides, the code is treated as final. Continue reading