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On October 22nd the Nagaloka Centre in Nagpur, India hosted a grand celebration of ‘Ashoka Vijaya Dashami’ to commemorate the Buddhist Conversion initiated by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in 1956. During the day thousands of people visited Nagaloka to pay their tributes and attend a public programme.
Dhammachari Maitryeanath introduced the public programme by dicussing the significance of Dr. Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism as a step towards the creation of Prabuddha Bharat – an “Enlightened India” based on values of liberty, equality and fraternity.
During the programme forty-seven people from Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat converted to Buddhism in a moving Dhamma Diksha Ceremony led by Dhammachari Vivekaratna.
Two new Nagaloka programmes were introduced at the event. Mangesh Dahiwale announced the launch of the Ambedkar School of Governance which will run seminars and classes on Dr. Ambedkar’s approach to democracy, socially engaged Buddhism and effective government. He also introduced Theodore Mayer, who is developing a new MA programme in Socially Engaged Buddhism through the International Network of Engaged Buddhists. Students will spend four or five weeks of the MA programme at Nagaloka learning about Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and his conversion to Buddhism.
The principle talk of the event was given by Dhammachari Lokamitra, who pointed out that although Urgyen Sangharakshita and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar came to Buddhism in very different ways, they both developed a common approach. Urgyen Sangharakshita was interested in Buddhism as a method of personal development but realised that to transform oneself one has to work as hard to transform the world. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar wanted to create an ideal society, but he realised that its foundation was the transformation of individual attitudes. Both saw the Sangha as instrumental in this, representing a microcosm of the ideal society. Lokamitra concluded by looking at what we could expect from the Sangha in terms of the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. These, he said, corresponded to three aspects of Babasaheb’s approach - Dhamma as empowerment, breaking down barriers between people, and governance.
The public programme was concluded with a short talk by Dhammachari Viradhamma about the positive impact that Nagaloka has on Indian society and final words from the Master of Ceremonies, Dhammachari Ritayush.
More information about Nagaloka can be found at www.Nagaloka.org
Report by Rebecca Ningthoujam, Nagaloka Centre