Posted on 31/10/2022
Gautama Buddha (563 BCE—483 BCE)
On 14 October 1956, Ambedkar administering 22 vows after renouncing Hinduism at Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur
Dedicated to Dr. B. R. Ambedkar…
“For in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.“Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Speech in the Constituent Assembly (25th November, 1949)
· Perhaps you have noticed that we have used Buddha’s skeletal image as part of our Once in a Blue Moon Academia (OBMA) logo. Why? Primarily, there are three causes:
a) Maintaining the dhamma of ahimsa or non-violence
b) The marga or path for eradication of inevitable sufferings
c) Deity-less, casteless, creedless system of philosophy
· We are rejecting the institutionalized, ritualistic projection of the Buddha under the Mahayana school. We do not need the disciplinary technology of the monasteries as well as Hindu shrines, Islamic mosques or Christian cathedrals.
· Recently we have seen on the occasion of the dhamma cakra pravartana din (October 5, 2022), a large mass of people gathered at Nagpur (well-known for being the headquarters of the Hindutva group RSS) as well as in certain other parts of the country to renounce the discriminatory Hindu religion and convert themselves to the egalitarian Buddhism under the purview of Ambedkar’s Navayana Buddhism. The BJP got all furious after witnessing such an event.
The converted mass reiterated the 22 vows given by Ambedkar, which are given as follows:
4. I do not believe in the incarnation of God.
5. I do not and shall not believe that Lord Buddha was the incarnation of Vishnu. I believe this to be sheer madness and false propaganda.
7. I shall not act in a manner violating the principles and teachings of the Buddha.
8. I shall not allow any ceremonies to be performed by Brahmins.
9. I shall believe in the equality of man.
10. I shall endeavour to establish equality.
11. I shall follow the Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddha.
12. I shall follow the ten paramitas prescribed by the Buddha.
14. I shall not steal.
15. I shall not tell lies.
16. I shall not commit carnal sins.
(The previous five proscriptive vows [#13–17] are from the Five Precepts.)
19. I renounce Hinduism, which disfavors humanity and impedes the advancement and development of humanity because it is based on inequality, and adopt Buddhism as my religion.
20. I firmly believe the Dhamma of the Buddha is the only true religion.
21. I consider that I have taken a new birth. (Alternately, “I believe that by adopting Buddhism I am having a re-birth.”)
22. I solemnly declare and affirm that I shall hereafter lead my life according to the teachings of Buddha’s Dhamma.
· The mass conversion to Buddhism from Hinduism (as conceived by the Sangh Parivar) is undoubtedly a backlash to the bulldozing project of Hindutva groups to establish a standarzied, pasteurized and homogenized Hindu Rashtra.
· It is worth recalling that noted Dalit scholar Kancha Ilaiah wrote a pertinent autobiographical piece entitled Why I am not a Hindu ⤡. The readers are requested to go through the text.
· Buddha’s ecological thoughts and economics of austerity (From Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” ⤡):
“…‘Right Livelihood’ is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is clear, therefore, that there must be such a thing as Buddhist economics. Buddhist countries have often stated that they wish to remain faithful to their heritage. So Burma: ‘The New Burma sea no conflict between religious values and economic progress. Spiritual health and material wellbeing are not enemies: they are natural allies.” Or: ‘We can blend successfully the religious and spiritual values of our heritage with the benefits of modern technology.” Or: ‘We Burmese have a sacred duty to conform both our dreams and our acts to our faith. This we shall ever do.'” All the same, such countries invariably assume that they can model their economic development plans in accordance with modern economics, and they call upon modern economists from so-called advanced countries to advise them, to formulate the policies to be pursued, and to construct the grand design for development, the Five-Year Plan or whatever it may be called. No one seems to think that a Buddhist way of life would call for Buddhist economics, just as the modern materialist way of life has brought forth modern economics. Economists themselves, like most specialists, normally suffer from a kind of metaphysical blindness, assuming that theirs is a science of absolute and invariable truths, without any presuppositions. Some go as far as to claim that economic laws are as free from ‘metaphysics’ or ‘values’ as the law of gravitation. We need not, however, get involved in arguments of methodology. Instead, let us take some fundamentals and see what they look like when viewed by a modern economist and a Buddhist economist. There is universal agreement that a fundamental source of wealth is human labour. Now, the modern economist has been brought up to consider ‘labour’ or work as little more than a necessary evil. From the point of view of the employer, it is in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum if it cannot be eliminated altogether, say, by automation. From the point of view of the workman, it is a ‘disutility’; to work is to make a sacrifice of one’s leisure and comfort, and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice. Hence the ideal from the point of view of the employer is to have output without employees, and the ideal from the point of view of the employee is to have income without employment. The consequences of these attitudes both in theory and in practice are, of course, extremely far-reaching. If the ideal with regard to work is to get rid of it, every method that ‘reduces the work load’ is a good thing. The most potent method, short of automation, is the so-called ‘division of labour’ and the classical example is the pin factory eulogised in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.’ Here it is not a matter of ordinary specialisation, which mankind has practised from time immemorial, but of dividing up every complete process of production into minute parts, so that the final product can be produced at great speed without anyone having had to contribute more than a totally insignificant and, in most cases, unskilled movement of his limbs. The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give a man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his egocentredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless. To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal: it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence. Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure. From the Buddhist point of view, there are therefore two types of mechanisation which must be clearly distinguished: one that enhances a man’s skill and power and one that turns the work of man over to a mechanical slave, leaving man in a position of having to serve the slave. How to tell the one from the other? ‘The craftsman himself.’ says Ananda Coomaraswamy, a man equally competent to talk about the modem west as the ancient east, ‘can always, if allowed to, draw the delicate distinction between the machine and the tool. The carpet loom is a tool, a contrivance for holding warp threads at a stretch for the pile to be woven round them by the craftsmen’s fingers; but the power loom is a machine, and its significance as a destroyer of culture lies in the fact that it does the essentially human part of the work.'” It is clear, therefore. that Buddhist economics must be very different from the economics of modem materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilisation not in a multiplication of wants but in the purification of human character. Character, at the same time, is formed primarily by a man’s work. And work, properly conducted in conditions of human dignity and freedom, blesses those who do it and equally their products. The Indian philosopher and economist J. C. Kumarappa sums the matter up as follows: ‘If the nature of the work is properly appreciated and applied, it will stand in the same relation to the higher faculties as food is to the physical body. It nourishes and enlivens the higher man and urges him to produce the best he is capable of. It directs his free will along the proper course and disciplines the animal in him into progressive channels. It furnishes an excellent background for man to display his scale of values and develop his personality.•” If a man has no chance of obtaining work he is in a desperate position, not simply because he lacks an income but because he lacks this nourishing and enlivening factor of disciplined work which nothing can replace. A modern economist may engage in highly sophisticated calculations on whether full employment ‘pays’ or whether it might be more ‘economic’ to run an economy at less than full employment so as to ensure a greater mobility of labour, a better stability of wages, and so forth, His fundamental criterion of success is simply the total quantity of goods produced during a given period of time. ‘If the marginal urgency of goods is low,’ says Professor Galbraith in The Affluent Society, ‘then so is the urgency of employing the last man or the last million men in the labour force.” And again: ‘lf … we can afford some unemployment in the interest of stability – a proposition, incidentally, of impeccably conservative antecedents – then we can afford to give those who are unemployed the goods that enable them to sustain their accustomed standard of living.’ From a Buddhist point of view, this is standing the truth on its head by considering goods as more important than people and consumption as more important than creative activity. It means shifting the emphasis from the worker to the product of work, that is, from the human to the sub-human, a surrender to the forces of evil. The very start of Buddhist economic planning would be a planning for full employment, and the primary purpose of this would in fact be employment for everyone who needs an ‘outside’ job: it would not be the maximisation of employment nor the maximisation of production. Women, on the whole, do not need an ‘outside’ job, and the large-scale •employment of women in offices or factories would be considered a sign of serious economic failure. In particular, to let mothers of young children work in factories while the children run wild would be as uneconomic in the eyes of a Buddhist economist as the employment of a skilled worker as a soldier in the eyes of a modern economist, While the materialist is mainly interested in goods, the Buddhist is mainly interested in liberation. But Buddhism is ‘The Middle Way’ and therefore in no way antagonistic to physical well-being. It is not wealth that stands in the way of liberation but the attachment to wealth; not the enjoyment of pleasurable things but the craving for them. The keynote of Buddhist economics, therefore, is simplicity and non-violence. From an economist’s point of view, the marvel of the Buddhist way of life is the utter rationality of its pattern – amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfactory results. For the modern economist this is very difficult to understand. He is used to measuring the ‘standard of living’ by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is ‘better off’ than a man who consumes less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. Thus, if the purpose of clothing is a certain amount of temperature comfort and an attractive appearance, the task is to attain this purpose with the smallest possible effort, that is, with the smallest annual destruction of cloth and with the help of designs that involve the smallest possible input of toil. The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. It would be highly uneconomic, for instance, to go in for complicated tailoring, like the modern west, when a much more beautiful effect can be achieved by the skilful draping of uncut material. It would be the height of folly to make material so that it should wear out quickly and the height of barbarity to make anything ugly, shabby or mean. What has just been said about clothing applies equally to all other human requirements. The ownership and the consumption of goods is a means to an end, and Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum means. Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity, taking the factors of production – land, labour, and capital – as the means, The former, in short, tries to maximise human satisfactions by the optimal pattern of consumption, while the latter tries to maximise consumption by the optimal pattern of productive effort. It is easy to see that the effort needed to sustain a way of life which seeks to attain the optimal pattern of consumption is likely to be much smaller than the effort needed to sustain a drive for maximum consumption. ‘We need not be surprised, therefore, that the pressure and strain of living is very much less in say, Burma than it is in the United States in spite of the fact that the amount of labour- saving machinery used in the former country is only a minute fraction of the amount used in the latter. Simplicity and non-violence are obviously closely related. The optimal pattern of consumption, producing a high degree of human satisfaction by means of a relatively low rate of consumption, allows people to live without great pressure and strain and to fulfil the primary injunction of Buddhist teaching: ‘Cease to do evil; try to do good.’ As physical resources are everywhere limited, people satisfying their needs by means of a modest use of resources are obviously less likely to be at each other’s throats than people depending upon a high rate of use. Equally, people who live in highly selfsufficient local communities are less likely to get involved in large-scale violence than people whose existence depends on world-wide systems of trade. From the point of view of Buddhist economics, therefore, production from local resources for local needs is the most rational way of economic life, while dependence on imports from afar and the consequent need to produce for export to unknown and distant peoples is highly uneconomic and justifiable only in exceptional cases and on a small scale. Just as the modern economist would admit that a high rate of consumption of transport services between a man’s home and his place of work signifies a misfortune and not a high standard of life, so the Buddhist economist would hold that to satisfy human wants from faraway sources rather than from sources nearby signifies failure rather than success. The former tends to take statistics showing an increase in the number of ton/miles per head of the population carried by a country’s transport system as proof of economic progress, while to the latter – the Buddhist economist – the same statistics would indicate a highly undesirable deterioration in the pattern of consumption. Another striking difference between modern economics and I Buddhist economics arises over the use of natural resources. Bertrand de Jouvenel, the eminent French political philosopher, has characterised ‘western man’ in words which may be taken as a fair description of the modern economist: ‘He tends to count nothing as an expenditure, other than human effort; he does not seem to mind how much mineral matter he wastes and, far worse, how much living matter he destroys. He does not seem to realise at all that human life is a dependent part of -an ecosystem of many different forms of life. As the world is ruled from towns where men are cut off from any form of life other than human, the feeling of belonging to an ecosystem is not revived. This results in a harsh and improvident treatment of things upon which we ultimately depend, such as water and trees.)” The teaching of the Buddha, on the other hand, enjoins a reverent and nonviolent attitude not only to all sentient beings but also, with great emphasis, to trees. Every follower of the Buddha ought to plant a tree every few years and look after it until it is safely established, and the Buddhist economist can demonstrate without difficulty that the universal observation of this rule would result in a high rate of genuine economic development independent of any foreign aid. Much of the economic decay of south- east Asia (as of many other parts of the world) is undoubtedly due to a heedless and shameful neglect of trees. Modern economics does not distinguish between renewable and nonrenewable materials, as its very method is to equalise and quantify everything by means of a money price. Thus, taking various alternative fuels, like coal. oil, wood, or water-power: the only difference between them recognised by modern economics is relative cost per equivalent unit. The cheapest is automatically the one to be preferred, as to do otherwise would be irrational and ‘uneconomic’. From a Buddhist point of view, of course, this will not do; the essential difference between non-renewable fuels like coal and oil on the one hand and renewable fuels like wood and water-power on the other cannot be simply overlooked. Non- renewable goods must be used only if they are indispensable, and then only with the greatest care and the most meticulous concern for conservation. To use them heedlessly or extravagantly is an act of violence, and while complete non-violence may not be attainable on this earth, there is nonetheless an ineluctable duty on man to aim at the ideal of non-violence in all he does. Just as a modem European economist would not consider it a great economic achievement if all European art treasures were sold to America at attractive prices, so the Buddhist economist would insist that a population basing its economic life on non- renewable fuels is living parasitically, on capital instead of income. Such a way of life could have no permanence and could therefore be justified only as a purely temporary expedient. As the world’s resources of non-renewable fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – are exceedingly unevenly distributed over the globe and undoubtedly limited in quantity, it is clear that their exploitation at an ever-increasing rate is an act of violence against nature which must almost inevitably lead to violence between men. This fact alone might give food for thought even to those people in Buddhist countries who care nothing for the religious and spiritual values of their heritage and ardently desire to embrace the materialism of modem economics at the fastest possible speed. Before they dismiss Buddhist economics as nothing better than a nostalgic dream, they might wish to consider whether the path of economic development outlined by modern economics is likely to lead them to places where they really want to be. Towards the end of his courageous book The Challenge of Man’s Future, Professor Harrison Brown of the California Institute of Technology gives the following appraisal: ‘Thus we see that, just as industrial society is fundamentally unstable and subject to reversion to agrarian existence, so within it the conditions which offer individual freedom are unstable in their ability to avoid the conditions which impose rigid organisation and totalitarian control. Indeed, when we examine all of the foreseeable difficulties which threaten the survival of industrial civilisation, it is difficult to see how the achievement of stability and the maintenance of individual liberty can be made compatible.’ Even if this were dismissed as a long-term view there is the immediate question of whether ‘modernisation’, as currently practised without regard to religious and spiritual values, is actually producing agreeable results. As far as the masses are concerned. the results appear to be disastrous – a collapse of the rural economy, a rising tide of unemployment in town and country, and the growth of a city proletariat without nourishment for either body or soul. It is in the light of both immediate experience and long-term prospects that the study of Buddhist economics could be recommended even to those who believe that economic growth is more important than any spiritual or religious values. For it is not a question of choosing between ‘modern growth’ and ‘traditional stagnation’. It is a question of finding the right path of development, the Middle Way between materialist heedlessness and traditionalist immobility, in short, of finding ‘Right Livelihood’.”
· Why did the Buddha choose the path of renunciation? As per the traditional anecdotes, Buddha left the worldly realm after witnessing the naked reality of unavoidable sufferings and death (jara-vyadhi-mrityu). However, the entire episode depicted in the popular narratives is but a misnomer, deviating from history. Both Dharmananda Kosambi and B. R. Ambedkar strived to bring out the factual happenings of Buddha’s life through their works.
· Given below is a selected portion from Ambedkar’s The Buddha and his Dhamma⤡, depicting the entire episode of Prince Siddhartha’s exile from samsara:
§ 14. Conflict with the Sangh
1. Eight years had passed by since Siddharth was made a member of the Sakya Sangh.
2. He was a very devoted and steadfast member of the Sangh. He took the same interest in the affairs of the Sangh as he did in his own. His conduct as a member of the Sangh was exemplary, and he had endeared himself to all.
3. In the eighth year of his membership, an event occurred which resulted in a tragedy for the family of Suddhodana and a crisis in the life of Siddharth.
4. This is the origin of the tragedy.
5. Bordering on the State of the Sakyas was the State of the Koliyas. The two kingdoms were divided by the river Rohini.
6. The waters of the Rohini were used by both the Sakyas and the Koliyas for irrigating their fields. Every season there used to be disputes between them as to who should take the water of the Rohini first, and how much. These disputes resulted in quarrels and sometimes in affrays.
7. In the year when Siddharth was twenty-eight, there was a major clash over the waters between the servants of the Sakyas and the servants of the Koliyas. Both sides suffered injuries.
8. Coming to know of this, the Sakyas and the Koliyas felt that the issue must be settled once for all by war.
9. The Senapati of the Sakyas, therefore, called a session of the Sakya Sangh to consider the question of declaring war on the Koliyas.
10. Addressing the members of the Sangh, the Senapati said, “Our people have been attacked by the Koliyas and they had to retreat. Such acts of aggression by the Koliyas have taken place more than once. We have tolerated them so far. But this cannot go on. It must be stopped, and the only way to stop it is to declare war against the Koliyas. I propose that the Sangh do declare war on the Koliyas. Those who wish to oppose may speak.”
11. Siddharth Gautama rose in his seat and said, “I oppose this resolution. War does not solve any question. Waging war will not serve our purpose. It will sow the seeds of another war. The slayer gets a slayer in his turn; the conqueror gets one who conquers him; a man who despoils is despoiled in his turn.”
[THIS ENTAILS THAT THE BUDDHA WAS AGAINST ALL WARS WAGED AMIDST ARTIFICIAL, IMAGINED BOUNDARIES AND IT ALSO REVEALS HIS ECOLOGICAL CONCERN BASED ON A NON-VIOLENT WORLDVIEW. Cf. Rabindranath Tagore’s play Muktodhara/The Waterfall⤡. The Buddha stood for total disarmament thousands of years before the Pacifist movements began worldwide!]
12. Siddharth Gautama continued, “I feel that the Sangh should not be in hast to declare war on the Koliyas. Careful investigation should be made to ascertain who is the guilty party. I hear that our men have also been aggressors. If this be true, then it is obvious that we too are not free from blame.”
13. The Senapati replied, “Yes, our men were the aggressors. But it must not be forgotten that it was our turn to take the water first.”
14. Siddharth Gautama said, “This shows that we are not completely free from blame. I therefore propose that we elect two men from us, and the Koliyas should be asked to elect two from them, and the four should elect a fifth person, and these should settle the dispute.” [THE BUDDHA THUS ADVOCATED A PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRATIC PRAXIS FROM THAT TENDER AGE!]
15. The amendment moved by Siddharth Gautama was duly seconded. But the Senapati opposed the amendment, saying, “I am sure that this menace of the Koliyas will not end unless they are severely punished.”
16. The resolution and the amendment had therefore to be put to vote. The amendment moved by Siddharth Gautama was put first. It was declared lost by an overwhelming majority.
17. The Senapati next put his own resolution to vote. Siddharth Gautama again stood up to oppose it. “I beg the Sangh,” he said, “not to accept the resolution. The Sakyas and the Koliyas are close relations. It is unwise that they should destroy each other.”
18. The Senapati encountered the plea urged by Siddharth Gautama. He stressed that in war the Kshatriyas cannot make a distinction between relations and strangers. They must fight even against brothers for the sake of their kingdom.
19. Performing sacrifices is the duty of the Brahmins, fighting is the duty of the Kshatriyas, trading is the duty of the Vaishyas, and service is the duty of the Shudras. There is merit in each class performing its duty. Such is the injunction of our Shastras.
20. Siddharth replied, “Dharma, as I understand it, consists in recognising that enmity does not disappear by enmity. It can be conquered by love only.”
21. The Senapati, getting impatient, said, “It is unnecessary to enter upon this philosophical disquisition. The point is that Siddharth is opposed to my resolution. Let us ascertain what the Sangh has to say about it by putting it to [a] vote.”
22. Accordingly the Senapati put his resolution to [a] vote. It was declared carried by an overwhelming majority.
§ 15. Offer of Exile
1. Next day the Senapati called another meeting of the Sakya Sangh, to have his plan of mobilisation considered by the Sangh.
2. When the Sangh met, he proposed that he be permitted to proclaim an order calling to arms, for the war against the Koliyas, every Sakya between the ages of 20 and 50.
3. The meeting was attended by both sides–those who at the previous meeting of the Sangh had voted in favour of a declaration of war, as well as those who had voted against it.
4. For those who had voted in favour, there was no difficulty in accepting the proposal of the Senapati. It was a natural consequence of their earlier decision.
5. But the minority who had voted against it had a problem to face. Their problem was—to submit or not to submit to the decision of the majority.
6. The minority was determined not to submit to the majority. That is the reason why they had decided to be present at the meeting. Unfortunately, none of them had the courage to say so openly. Perhaps they knew the consequences of opposing the majority.
7. Seeing that his supporters were silent, Siddharth stood up, and addressing the Sangh, said, “Friends! You may do what you like. You have a majority on your side, but I am sorry to say I shall oppose your decision in favour of mobilisation. I shall not join your army, and I shall not take part in the war.”
8. The Senapati, replying to Siddharth Gautama, said, “Do remember the vows you had taken when you were admitted to the membership of the Sangh? If you break any of them, you will expose yourself to public shame.”
9. Siddharth replied, “Yes, I have pledged myself to safeguard the best interests of the Sakyas by my body, mind and money. But I do not think that this war is in the best interests of the Sakyas. What is public shame to me before the best interests of the Sakyas?”
10. Siddharth proceeded to caution the Sangh by reminding it of how the Sakyas have [=had] become the vassals of the King of Kosala by reason of their quarrels with the Koliyas. “It is not difficult to imagine,” he said, “that this war will give him a greater handle to further reduce the freedom of the Sakyas.”
11. The Senapati grew angry and, addressing Siddharth, said, “Your eloquence will not help you. You must obey the majority decision of the Sangh. You are perhaps counting upon the fact that the Sangh has no power to order an offender to be hanged or to exile him without the sanction of the king of the Kosalas, and that the king of the Kosalas will not give permission if either of the two sentences was passed against you by the Sangh.”
12. “But remember, the Sangh has other ways of punishing you. The Sangh can declare a social boycott against your family, and the Sangh can confiscate your family lands. For this the Sangh does not have to obtain the permission of the king of the Kosalas.”
13. Siddharth realised the consequences that would follow if he continued his opposition to the Sangh in its plan of war against the Koliyas. He had three alternatives to consider–to join the forces and participate in the war; to consent to being hanged or exiled; and to allow the members of his family to be condemned to a social boycott and confiscation of property.
14. He was firm in not accepting the first. As to the third, he felt it was unthinkable. Under the circumstances, he felt that the second alternative was the best.
15. Accordingly, Siddharth spoke to the Sangh. “Please do not punish my family. Do not put them in distress by subjecting them to a social boycott. Do not make them destitute by confiscating their land, which is their only means of livelihood. They are innocent. I am the guilty person. Let me alone suffer for my wrong. Sentence me to death or exile, whichever you like. I will willingly accept it, and I promise I shall not appeal to the king of the Kosalas.”
§ 16. Parivraja–the Way Out
1. The Senapati said, “It is difficult to accept your suggestion. For even if you voluntarily agreed to undergo the sentence of death or exile, the matter is sure to become known to the king of the Kosalas, and he is sure to conclude that it is the Sangh which has inflicted this punishment, and take action against the Sangh.”
2. “If this is the difficulty, I can easily suggest a way out,” said Siddharth Gautama. “I can become a Parivrajaka and leave this country. It is a kind of an exile.”
3. The Senapati thought this was a good solution. But he had still some doubt about Siddharth being able to give effect to it.
4. So the Senapati asked Siddharth, “How can you become a Parivrajaka unless you obtain the consent of your parents and your wife?”
5. Siddharth assured him that he would do his best to obtain their permission. I promise,” he said, “to leave this country immediately, whether I obtain their consent or not.”
6. The Sangh felt that the proposal made by Siddharth was the best way out, and they agreed to it.
7. After finishing the business before the meeting, the Sangh was about to rise when a young Sakya got up in his place and said, “Give me a hearing, I have something important to say.”
8. Being granted permission to speak, he said, “I have no doubt that Siddharth Gautama will keep his promise and leave the country immediately. There is, however, one question over which I do not feel very happy.
9. “Now that Siddharth will soon be out of sight, does the Sangh propose to give immediate effect to its declaration of war against the Koliyas?
10. “I want the Sangh to give further consideration to this question. In any event, the king of the Kosalas is bound to come to know of the exile of Siddharth Gautama. If the Sakyas declare a war against the Koliyas immediately, the king of [the] Kosalas will understand that Siddharth left only because he was opposed to war against the Koliyas. This will not go well with us.
11. “I, therefore, propose that we should also allow an interval to pass between the exile of Siddharth Gautama and the actual commencement of hostilities, so as not to allow the King of Kosala to establish any connection between the two.”
12. The Sangh realised that this was a very important proposal. And as a matter of expediency, the Sangh agreed to accept it.
13. Thus ended the tragic session of the Sakya Sangh, and the minority which was opposed to the war but who had not the courage to say so, heaved a sigh of relief that it was able to overcome a situation full of calamitous consequences.
§ 17. Parting Words
1. The news of what happened at the meeting of the Sakya Sangh had travelled to the Raja’s palace long before the return of Siddharth Gautama.
2. For on reaching home, he found his parents weeping and plunged in great grief.
3. Suddhodana said, “We were talking about the evils of war. But I never thought that you would go to such lengths.”
4. Siddharth replied, I too did not think things would take such a turn. I was hoping that I would be able to win over the Sakyas to the cause of peace by my argument.
5. “Unfortunately, our military officers had so worked up the feelings of the men that my argument failed to have any effect on them.
6. “But I hope you realise how I have saved the situation from becoming worse. I have not given up the cause of truth and justice, and whatever the punishment for my standing for truth and justice, I have succeeded in making its infliction personal to me.”
7. Suddhodana was not satisfied with this. “You have not considered what is to happen to us.” “But that is the reason why I undertook to become a Parivrajaka,” replied Siddharth. “Consider the consequences if the Sakyas had ordered the confiscation of your lands.”
8. “But without you what is the use of these lands to us?” cried Suddhodana. “Why should not the whole family leave the country of the Sakyas and go into exile along with you?”
9. Prajapati Gautami, who was weeping, joined Suddhodana in argument, saying, “I agree. How can you go alone leaving us here like this?”
10. Siddharth said, “Mother, have you not always claimed to be the mother of a Kshatriya? Is that not so? You must then be brave. This grief is unbecoming of [=to] you. What would you have done if I had gone to the battle-field and died? Would you have grieved like this?”
11. “No,” replied Gautami. “That would have been befitting a Kshatriya. But you are now going into the jungle far away from people, living in the company of wild beasts. How can we stay here in peace? I say you should take us along with you.”
12. “How can I take you all with me? Nanda is only a child. Rahul my son is just born. Can you come, leaving them here?” he asked Gautami.
13. Gautami was not satisfied. She urged, “It is possible for us all to leave the country of the Sakyas, and go to the country of the Kosalas under the protection of their king.”
14. “But mother! What would the Sakyas say?” asked Siddharth. “Would they not regard it as treason? Besides, I pledged that I will do nothing either by word or by deed to let the king of the Kosalas know the true cause of my Parivraja.
15. “It is true that I may have to live alone in the jungle. But which is better? To live in the jungle, or to be a party to the killing of the Koliyas!”
16. “But why this impatience?” asked Suddhodana. “The Sakyas Sangh has decided to postpone the date of the hostilities for some time.
17. “Perhaps the hostilities may not be started at all. Why not postpone your Parivraja? Maybe it would be possible to obtain the permission of the Sangh for you to stay among the Sakyas.”
18. This idea was repellent to Siddharth. “It is because I promised to take Parivraja that the Sangh decided to postpone the commencement of hostilities against the Koliyas.
19. “It is possible that after I take Parivraja the Sangh may be persuaded to withdraw their declaration of war. All this depends upon my first taking Parivraja.
20. “I have made a promise, and I must carry it out. The consequences of any breach of promise may be very grave both to us and to the cause of peace.
21. “Mother, do not now stand in my way. Give me your permission and your blessings. What is happening is for the best.”
22. Gautami and Suddhodana kept silent.
23. Then Siddharth went to the apartment of Yeshodhara. Seeing her, he stood silent, not knowing what to say and how to say it. She broke the silence by saying, “I have heard all that has happened at the meeting of the Sangh at Kapilavatsu.”
24. He asked her, “Yeshodhara, tell me what you think of my decision to take Parivraja.”
25. He expected she would collapse. Nothing of the kind happened.
26. With full control over her emotions, she replied, “What else could I have done if I were in your position? I certainly would not have been a party to a war on the Koliyas.
27. “Your decision is the right decision. You have my consent and my support. I too would have taken Parivraja with you. If I do not, it is only because I have Rahula to look after.
28. “I wish it had not come to this. But we must be bold and brave and face the situation. Do not be anxious about your parents and your son. I will look after them till [=as long as] there is life in me.
29. “All I wish is that now that you are becoming a Parivrajaka, leaving behind all who are near and dear to you, you will find a new way of life which would result in the happiness of mankind.”
30. Siddharth Gautama was greatly impressed. He realised as never before what a brave, courageous and noble-minded woman Yeshodhara was, and how fortunate he was in having her as his wife, and how fate had put them asunder. He asked her to bring Rahula. He cast his fatherly look on him, and left.
§ 18. Leaving His Home
1. Siddharth thought of taking Parivraja at the hands of Bharadwaja, who had his Ashram at Kapila-vatsu. Accordingly he rose the next day and started for the Ashram on his favourite horse Kanthaka, with his servant Channa walking along.
2. As he came near the Ashram, men and women came out and thronged the gates to meet him as a newly arrived bridegroom.
3. And when they came up to him, their eyes wide open in wonder, they performed their due homage with hands folded like a lotus calyx.
4. Then they stood surrounding him, their minds overpowered by passion, as if they were drinking him in, with their eyes motionless and blossoming wide with love.
5. Some of the women verily thought that he was Kama incarnate, decorated as he was with his brilliant signs as with connate [?] ornaments.
6. Others thought from his gentleness and his majesty that it was the moon with its ambrosial beams, as it were, visibly come down to the earth.
7. Others, smitten by his beauty, yawned as if to swallow him, and fixing their eyes on each other, softly sighed.
8. Thus the women only looked upon him, simply gazing with their eyes. They spoke not, nor did they smile. They surrounded him and stood aghast, thinking of his decision to take Parivraja.
9. With great difficulty he extricated himself from the crowd and entered the gates of the Ashram.
10. Siddharth did not like [=wish] Suddhodana and Prajapati Gautami to be present to witness his Parivraja. For he knew that they would break down under the weight of grief. But they had already reached the Ashram without letting him know.
11. As he entered the compound of the Ashram, he saw in the crowd his father and mother.
12. Seeing his parents he first went to them and asked for their blessing. They were so choked with emotion that they could hardly say a word. They wept and wept, held him fast, and bathed him with their tears.
13. Channa had tied Kanthaka to a tree in the Ashram and was standing [by]. Seeing Suddhodana and Prajapati in tears, he too was overcome with emotion and was weeping.
14. Separating himself with great difficulty from his parents, Siddharth went to the place where Channa was standing. He gave him his dress and his ornaments to take back home.
15. Then he had his head shaved, as was required for a Parivrajaka. His cousin Mahanama had brought the clothes appropriate for a Parivrajaka, and a begging bowl. Siddharth wore them [=put them on].
16. Having thus prepared himself to enter the life of a Parivrajaka, Siddharth approached Bharadwaja [with a request] to confer on him Parivraja.
17. Bharadwaja, with the help of his disciples, performed the necessary ceremonies, and declared Siddharth Gautama to have become a Parivrajaka.
18. Remembering that he had given a double pledge to the Sakya Sangh, to take Parivraja and to leave the Sakya kingdom without undue delay, Siddharth Gautama immediately, on the completion of the Parivraja ceremony, started on his journey.
19. The crowd which had collected in the Ashram was unusually large. That was because the circumstances leading to Gautama’s Parivraja were so extraordinary. As the prince stepped out of the Ashram, the crowd also followed him.
20. He left Kapilavatsu and proceeded in the direction of the river Anoma. Looking back ,he saw the crowd still following him.
21. He stopped and addressed them, saying, “Brothers and sisters, there is no use your following me. I have failed to settle the dispute between the Sakyas arid the Koliyas. But if you create public opinion in favour of settlement you might succeed. Be, therefore, so good as to return.” Hearing his appeal, the crowd started going back.
22. Suddhodana and Gautami also returned to the palace.
23. Gautami was unable to bear the sight of the robes and the ornaments discarded by Siddharth. She had them thrown into a lotus pool.
24. Siddharth Gautama was only twenty-nine when he underwent Parivraja (Renunciation).
25. People admired him and sighed for him; saying, “Here was a Sakya blessed with high lineage, noble parentage, possessed of considerable riches, in the bloom of youthful vigour, accomplished in mind and body, brought up in luxury, who fought his kinsmen for the sake of maintaining peace on earth and goodwill towards men.
26. “Here was a Sakya youth who, when outvoted by his kinsmen, refused to submit, but preferred to undergo voluntary punishment which involved the exchange of riches for poverty, comfort for alms, home for homelessness. And so he goes, with none in the world to care for him, and with nothing in the world which he could claim as his own.
27. “His was an act of supreme sacrifice willingly made. His is a brave and a courageous act. There is no parallel to it in the history of the world. He deserves to be called a Sakya Muni or Sakya Sinha.”
28. How true were the words of Kisa Gotami, a Sakya maiden. When referring to Siddharth Gautama, she said, “Blessed indeed is the mother, blessed indeed is the father, who has such a son. Blessed indeed is the wife who has such a husband.”
· As our logo reads: “bahujana sukhaya bahujana hitaya ca”, we are presenting this compilation to resist the fascist, militant, masculine, thug, crony, religious extremist Sangh Parivar. It is the need of the hour to reinstate the Buddha’s teachings to consolidate a casteless, private property-less, egalitarian, self-reliant (atmadipa), local-resource based, decentralized social order.
· At the end, let us listen to Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s poem “Buddh aur Nachghar” (The Buddha and the Dancing Hall), recited by Amitabh Bachchan: