Dr Ambedkar’s had announced at the Yeola conference in 1935, that he will not die a Hindu. The threat to leave Hinduism and to convert to another religion instigated a lot of activity on behalf of the Hindu Mahasabha, Christianity, Sikhism and also Buddhism to draw Dr. Ambedkar over to these respective religions. The Nizam of Hyderabad had reserved Rs.5 crores if untouchables become Muslims, Bishop J. W. Prikel and East Stanley Jones met Dr. Ambedkar several times and persuaded him to accept Christianity. Dr. Ambedkar said to Jones that if Christians had eradicated untouchability, I would have certainly moved in the direction of accepting Christianity.
Rev Loknath who was the founder of Loknath Buddhist Mission came to Dr. Ambedkar’s residence at Dadar on June 10, 1936. Clad in the robe of a priest and carrying a bowl and an umbrella, he interviewed Dr. Ambedkar and tried to persuade him to embrace Buddhism. After his talk with Dr. Ambedkar, the monk, in an interview to the Press, said that the leader of the Depressed Classes seemed to be impressed with the Buddhistic faith and promised to consider the question carefully, but had not given any definite reply.
Rev Lokanath was an American of Italian descent with the name of Salvatore. Lokanath’s pamphlet dedicated to the Depressed Classes of India ‘Buddhism Will Make You Free’ was published from his Harijan Publishing Society in Panadura, Ceylon.
Dr. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism on 14 October 1956. But his attachment to Buddha and Buddhism was visible much before. Even before the Yeola Conference, he had named his house in Dadar Mumbai as ‘Rajgriha’ (capital of King Bimbisara a lay disciple). In 1946, he started a College in Mumbai (then Bombay) named it after ‘Siddharth’. Another building for the college was named ‘Buddha Bhavan’. He was impressed by “Essence of Buddhism” written by P.S. Narasu of Madras and got it reprinted at his own expense. In Aurangabad, a college started by him was named ‘Milind College’. In 1948, his elaborate article “Buddha and the Future of Religion”, containing an analysis of Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam was published as an article in the journal of Maha Bodhi Society of Calcutta, affirmed his faith in Buddhism. Even today it remains an excellent exposition of Buddhism and is a challenge or invitation to Buddhist nations.
Rev Loknath viewed that had Dr. Ambedkar adopted Buddhism earlier, partition of Burma (separation of Burma from India under the Government of Burma Act 1935) could not have taken place in 1936
Reference – Loknath’s letter to Dr. Ambedkar in 1936