When A Million Buddhist Dalits Come to Town, Part 2

By Greg Snyder
Nagpur, 10/14/2016
During Fall Break, Cláudio Carvalhaes, Associate Professor of Worship, and Greg Snyder, Senior Director of Buddhist Studies traveled to Nagpur, India for The Social Engagement and Liberation conference, hosted by the International Network of Engaged Buddhists. Both Cláudio and Greg will be reflecting on their experience on the Union website.
To read Greg’s first post, please click here.
To read Cláudio post, please click here.  
Over the last two days, part of my role here has been to facilitate a discussion group exploring a daily theme. When considering the topics of empowerment and breaking down barriers, a contrast to similar conversations in the United States was striking, though not particularly surprising. As participants spoke about what was empowering for them in the Buddhadharma – the teaching of the Buddha – most everyone in the group from a Dalit background opened with a story about giving up a social identity rooted in self-hatred or a sense of no value. One might say that to greater or lesser degrees each exchanged a Dalit identity for that of a Buddhist. Some even celebrated that they do not use the word Dalit at all, but only refer to themselves as Buddhist.

Why this is not particularly surprising is because Ambedkar set up the conversion ceremony to do just this. In addition to taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha as well as the five moral precepts foundational to Buddhism – no killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying or consuming intoxicants – Ambedkar added 22 more


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