A three day massive event of International Buddhist Conference was  convened in Lokgram, Kalyan East, Mumbai, Maharashtra on 23rd – 25th February, 2013. The Conference was co-ordinated by Buddha Vikas  Sangh.

On the first day ( 23rd  February) the Conference was inaugurated by Dr.K.Veeramani, President, Dravidar Kazhagam. Prior to inauguration , Dr.K.Veeramani paid respect to the great social revolutionary Baba Saheb Dr.B.R.Ambedkar by placing floral petals in front of the magnificient photo of Dr.Ambedkar. Gyan Jotistha Veer, Chairman of the Conference, Suresh Karat, President and Suresh Mate, Secretary of Buddha Vikas Sangh joined with Dr.K.Veeramani to pay the respect.

Inauguration – Dr.K.Veeramani

On behalf of Periyar Movement from Tamil Nadu, we extend  warm greetings to the leaders , delegates and organisers of this Conference. I don’t know Marathi language.  It is not an impediment for our interaction, because we know the language of Dr.Ambedkar’s advocacy; the language of Buddhist rationalistic philosophy; the language of Periyar’s self-respect ideology. We speak the language of equality, we speak for making the humanity  emancipate and progress. Language is not at all a barrier  for  us.

The mammoth gathering of delegates and observers

I derive immense pleasure in inaugurating the Conference, convened in the land of the social revolutionaries, Jotirao Phule and Dr.B.R.Ambedkar.

In this holy (!) country, serving in political plank is an easy affair; it is equivalent to swim along with the course of water current. But functioning for the social cause in an arduous one; it is like swimming against the turbulent water current. Both Periyar and Dr.Ambedkar shouldered the tough task and toiled during their life time for the social cause.

In 1936, Dr Ambedkar was invited to Punjab to address a conference. Dr.Ambedkar   prepared the text of his speech in advance and sent to the organisers of the conference. A few organisers of the conference did not like certain portions of the text and expressed  their objection. Dr.Ambedkar was requested to remove the objectionable portion of the text , which Dr.Ambedkar refused to do. The organisers were insistent on  the removal.

Dr.Amberkar  did not attend the conference and proved that he was a man of Self-Respect. But the text of the speech prepared was a  historical document, ‘Annihilation of Castes’ later.

The English text of  Dr.Ambedkar’s speech became  a link for Periyar and Dr.B.R.Ambedkar. Periyar’s magazine , ‘Kudi Arasu’ sought permission from Dr.Ambedkar to translate his speech  in Tamil for publishing in the magazine. Dr.Ambedkar gave his concurrence. From then onwards the joint functioning of Periyar and Dr. Ambedkar started.

The first  social revolutionary of this land was Buddha. Periyar convened Buddhist Conference in 1954 itself at Erode , Tamil Nadu to propagate the rationalistic ideals of Buddha. Prof. Dr.G.P. Mallaya Sekara, Head of the Department of Culture, University of Sri Lanka was invited to preside over the conference. Raj Boj, who was the then close associate of Dr. Ambedkar inaugurated the conference.

The first person who propagated the ideals of Buddha in Tamil Nadu was Ayothi Dasar. He continued his propaganda in foreign countries like South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore etc. Lakshmi  Narasu’s role in the dissemination of Buddhist ideals was significant in Tamil Nadu. Buddhist ideals are nothing but exponent of truth.

Mahatma Jyotirao Phule praised Buddha as ‘Satya Purusha’ meaning ‘Man of Truth’. Buddhism was against the then prevailing dominant, oppressive Vedic ideals of Brahminism. Buddhism became the ideal acceptable to all he sections of the society. Buddhism is not a religion  of rituals and ceremonies. It is a rationalist ideal for happy and peaceful living.

Periyar projected himself as a committed atheist. He opposed idol worship. Besides, he was an iconoclast strategically. Dr.Ambedkar declares three reasons for embracing Buddhism. The three features quoted as reasons are not available in other religions. When other religions elaborated on god and life after death, only Buddhism spoke about life in the present world. All humans are equal. Buddhism preaches equality among the humans.. It liberated humans from social clutches and advocated equality and fraternity among them. Buddhism emphasises self-respect. That was why Periyar  took special efforts to propagate Buddhism.

Once Periyar was interviewed by a  press person at New Delhi. The press person questioned how it was possible for Periyar a rationalist to support Buddhism which preached, ‘Buddham Saranam Kachami; Dhmmam Saranam Kachami; Sangam Saranam Kachami’. Periyar replied  without any hesitation but with sharpness.’ What was the preaching of Buddha ? Buddham Saranam Kachami – I am associating myself with  the leadership;  Dhammam Saranam Kachami – I am associating myself with the ideals ; Sangam Saranam Kachami – I am  dedicating myself to the organisation.

Where comes the rituals and ceremonies in these preaching? Is there any thing contrary  in it to the rationalism ?  There is no contradiction in myself propagating the Buddhist ideals’.

Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar while explaining  the Buddhist ideals pinpoints more on ‘What is not Dhamma?’ than on ‘What is Dhamma?’

‘What is not Dhamma?’

•    Belief in the supernatural is not Dhamma.

•    Belief in Ishwara (God) is not essentially part of Dhamma.

•    Dhamma based on union with Brahma is a false Dhamma.

•    Belief in soul is not Dhamma.

•    Belief in sacrifices is not Dhamma.

•    Belief based on speculations is not Dhamma.

•    Reading Books on speculations is not Dhamma.

•    Reading Books of Dhamma is not Dhamma.

•    Belief in the Infallibility of Books of Dhamma is not Dhamma.

This approach of Dr.Ambedkar defeats any mode of fabricating the ideals of Buddha.

The preaching was in the line of ‘ what are not Buddhist ideals’, thereby it propagated against Vedic religion, Buddhism was cunningly routed out from the land of its origin by the Brahminical forces. Self-respect is not mere protecting the respect of oneself; it includes giving value  to the respect of others. In that way Vedic religion negates self-respect.Buddhism patronises self respect; it protects the self-respect.

Brahminism encourages discrimination; it discriminates humans by birth; it keeps the half of the human population i.e. women under subjugation. As per Vedic religious dogmas there is no caste identity for women. Even women belonging to upper caste family are also under enslavement. Woman is under the control of her father during the childhood; after getting married , she remains under the control of her husband; later she has to prolonge under the control of her son. Slavery is the everlasting phenomena in the life of every woman as per Vedic prescription, so to say Brahminical prescription. To uproot this evil Buddhist ideals are propagated.

Buddha, Ambedkar and Periyar do not belong to any  particular section  of the society. They belong to  the whole world; they belong to the entire humanity. We have to strive hard in the pathway laid down by these revolutionaries. When we say like this, there is no compulsion for you to accept automatically. It is subject to your rational thinking and application. If   what we say ,is convincing  then admit them in yourselves and act accordingly.

Once again, I greet you on behalf of Periyar Movement. I invite you to convene your next conference in Tamil Nadu. Periyar Movement would be supportive to you in your endeavours. We would be the protective force to you brethren. To conclude, we would like to say that Buddhism is not a religion; it is a rationalistic ideal to liberate human and patronise the humanity.

Long Live Buddha ! Long Live Rationalism!
Long Live Periyar! Long Live  Ambedkar!

V. Kumaresan, General Secretary , The Rationalists’ Forum Tamil Nadu addressed at the conference as follows :

The first agitation for human right was launched by Periyar in the year 1924 in Vaikom, Kerala State to get access to the streets, surrounding the temple, which was denied to the downtrodden masses. Periyar accomplished the historical task and he was praised as ‘Hero of Vaikom’.  This agitation had inspired Dr.Ambedkar  to launch ‘ Mahar Public Tank Agitation’ to fetch  drinking water that was denied to the downtrodden.

Periyar articulated and launched agitation for reservation in educational opportunities for the oppressed people in the year 1950. Dr. Ambedkar who was the then Union Minister of Law accomplished the task by bringing the first amendment to Indian Constitution. Periyar was the initiator for the first amendment  and Dr.Ambedkar was instrumental to it.

Similarly  to bring 76th Amendment to the Constitution, to protect the first legislative enactment exclusively for reservation to get immunity from judicial review, the ideological disciple of Periyar, Dr.K.Veeramani  was the initiator. We have to go a long way to get the rights , which were denied to the downtrodden in the name of god and religion.  In the days to come, both Periyarists and Ambedkarists have to function in unison to serve for the cause of the neglected masses.

In the Inernational  Buddhist Conference Dr.K.Veeramani was awarded with the ‘ Citation Award’ honouring his contributions for the cause of Social Justice.  Many  stalwarts of Social Justice were honoured by Dr. K.Veeramani with the Award. The printed text of the inaugural speech of Dr.K.Veeramnai was distributed as booklet, titled ‘ Humanism thy name is Buddhism’. Besides the joint photo card of Periyar and Dr. Ambedkar with the caption ‘Two sides of the Same coin’ were also distributed to the participants of the Conference.

 Many Buddhist monks from  countries like Indonesia, Cambodia ,Myanmar  attended the International Buddhist Conference. Along with Dr.K.Veeramani,  Seervarisai Shanmugarajan (Founder, Maharashtra Tamil Writers’ Association), A. Ravichandran, Organiser, Mumbai Rationalists’ Forum, S.Kumanarajan, Chief Editor of the monthly, Tamil Lemuria, Prince Ennares Periyar, Secretary, Media Wing, Dravidar Kazhagam and many Black Shirt Cadres of Periyar Movement  attended the conference.

Report by : nietzsche

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