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Listen to this recent BBC radio documentary featuring our very own Maitriveer Nagarjuna! It is about why the Dalits, after generations of oppression, are converting to Buddhism. An interesting listen in that it highlights the problems of caste, which it calls apartheid, as well as the current difficulties the new Buddhists face as they leave the dominant Hindu culture. However, I think it presents conversion to Buddhism as a reaction against Hinduism and underplays the inspiration of following the Buddhist path itself. She says that Dr Ambedkar embraced Buddhism as a political move, when Dr Ambedkar talked of conversion as having both spiritual and material benefits for his people, and for himself as having purely spiritual benefits. He had a deep feeling for the spiritual life and a lifelong interest in Buddhism. As he said himself “Whatever 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”. What is true is that Ambedkar did ‘open the lock on caste’. We have a unique opportunity to help people open a door to a different way of living, to transformation of self and society in the light of the Dhamma. What do you think of the programme?
BBC world service, ‘Heart and Soul: Converting out of Caste’ 17/4/16