Since 1956 millions of Dalits have responded to Dr. Ambedkar’s appeal to adopt Buddhism and escape the caste system. Today in thousands of villages and towns the homes of Dalit people have shrines with pictures of the Buddha and Dr. Ambedkar – a man they revere as a Bodhisattva. Each October over a million Dalit Buddhists come to Nagpur to rally at the site of the original conversion.
In spite of their poverty and lack of education and resources, the new Indian Buddhists are working to create a just society and develop their understanding of the Dharma. In many places temples, meditation centers and social projects have been developed, and new generations of young Buddhists are working to realize Dr. Ambedkar’s vision of social justice and personal growth based on the ancient teachings of the Buddha.
Participants in the Buddhist revival movement have a variety of approaches, ranging from an emphasis on spiritual practice to a focus on social transformation. Some people are committed to Dharma teaching and practice, and others are involved in community organizing, social work and education.
The following organizations illustrate the variety of activities that make up the broad-based Buddhist revival movement:
Nagaloka Center – www.nagaloka.org
Nagaloka is a training center for Buddhist activists located near Nagpur. It operates a ten-month residential course that has provided instruction in meditation, Dharma and community organizing to over 600 young people since 2001. Nagaloka is also a conference center that has hosted well-known Buddhist teachers, such as the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hahn. Each year thousands of pilgrims visit the Walking Buddha statue at the center of the Nagaloka campus.
Since 1972 this Buddhist sangha has reached hundreds of thousands of people through its meditation and Dharma classes, public talks, health centers, pre-schools and hostels for boys and girls. Affiliated with the international Triratna Buddhist Order, it is committed to realizing Ambedkar’s vision of the Dharma as a means of personal and social transformation.
National Network of Buddhist Youth – www.nnby.org
NNBY is a organization of underprivileged young people who have left behind their caste identity and work together as a mutual support network emphasizing education, peer support, social responsibility and ethical living.
Youth Buddhist Society
Established in 1986 in Northern India, YBS is a non-profit grassroots organization that works on poverty and social problems in thousands of poor villages. YBS sponsors Dharma talks, educational programs, peace marches and the construction of community centers.
Manuski Institute – www.manuski.org
Manuski works to transcend caste barriers through social development programs and legal interventions against discrimination. The staff at Manuski is also working to develop leadership among Dalit women and create bridges between different Dalit groups and organizations. Manuski has been very successful at bringing international attention to incidents of extreme violence targeting Dalit people in India.