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Mass conversion to Buddhism today

Monday 28 May 2007

Special Correspondent

A significant step, say monks

MUMBAI: After embracing Buddhism, along with a few thousand followers, on October 16, 1956 in Nagpur, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar wanted to hold a mass conversion on Mumbai’s racecourse ground exactly two months later to induct a million people in the religion of peace and humanism. That could not happen as the champion of equality and abolition of casteism passed away just 10 days before that date.

But now his followers and Buddhists want to make the dream come true and are organising mass conversion to Buddhism on the same ground on Sunday under the auspices of the Baudha Damma Diksha Golden Jubilee Celebrations Committee, headed by Republican Party of India leader and MP Ramdas Athavale.

Marathi writer Lakshman Mane has been touring districts of Maharashtra since 14 April last to mobilise people belonging to 42 nomadic tribes to reach Mumbai for Buddham Sharanam Gachchhami ("I take refuge in the teachings of Lord Buddha").

Buddhist monks are here to hail the event as a significant step towards re-establishing Buddhism in India, its motherland.

But the two-day fete, which included an international conference on `Buddhism and World Peace,’ did not start on a grand scale as the spiritual leader Dalai Lama did not turn up to inaugurate it. That, however, did not dampen the spirit of the monks. In his message, the Dalai Lama said conversion to the Buddhist faith was not so important as were efforts to change society.

"Now Dr. Ambedkar’s dream of making entire India Buddhist again is going to be fulfilled," Bhadanta Rahul Bodhi Mahathero, working president of the committee, said in his welcome address. Bhadanta Dhammaviro said the days for realising Dr. Ambedkar’s ideals were near; the outcome of the Uttar Pradesh elections was indicative of that. When Dr. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism in Nagpur, he did not get even five monks to conduct the ceremony but now India had thousands of them.

Nicholas Dhammakaya of Thailand called for raising a million-strong novice monks in India for spreading the religion in its land of origin.

Diplomats of Buddhist countries, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Mongolia and Kampuchia, attended the ceremony. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa sent a goodwill message to the celebration committee.

See online : The Hindu

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