Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great light of the 20th century, 7 Sept. 2008
By 
This review is from: Ambedkar and Buddhism (Paperback)
Everyone has heard of Gandhi, almost no one of Ambedkar. If that's true for you, then you might like to pick up this slim volume by one of Europe's most prolific Buddhist writers. In under 175 pages you will be introduced to perhaps the most remarkable man of the 20th century.

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born at the end of the 19th century as the last child of 14 into a family of untouchables, the lowest caste in Indian Hindu society. The lives of untouchables were not all that different from the lives of blacks in the southeast United States at the same time. Untouchables were not allowed to drink the same water as other castes, could not walk the same streets, in fact had to be careful of the sun so as not to cast a shadow over higher caste persons. They were denied education or any but the most menial employment, forever cutting of any chance for social or economic mobility. They were denied even the right to hear, sing or read the Vedas, the very scriptures underpinning the moral order enslaving them. If any untouchable contravened any of these prohibitions, or should in any way cause an upper caste person offense, he could be beaten or killed with impunity.

Like a lotus blossoming out of muddy water, Ambedkar grew straight and strong out of the filth of the caste system, becoming not only one of India's first university educated untouchables, but also one of the first of his caste to do post-graduate work overseas, earning degrees at both New York's Columbia University and the London School of Economics. Returning home he took up the cause of emancipation of the lower caste, tussling with Gandhi, whom he found patronizing, and after independence from the British serving the Nehru government as chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee. He is remembered in India today as the father of the constitution. After establishing a college for untouchables and an unsuccessful run for political office, he retired to writing about Buddhism and in his final days led a mass ceremony of conversion to Buddhism for nearly half a million untouchables before passing away in 1956.

The author of this book, Sangharakshita, has an equally compelling story that is only briefly reviewed within its pages. An Englishman stationed to India during WWII, he stayed on after the war to become a Buddhist monk, spending 14 years in India during which he met Ambedkar on three occasions, participating in campaigns to empower untouchables through Buddhism. After returning to the UK, Sangharakshit founded the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order and became a prolific speaker and writer on Buddhist topics, including this biography, in which he attempts to trace the origin and development of Ambedkar's interest in and later adoption of Buddhism, as well as to summarize his major writings. Beginning with the time he was presented as a child with a biography of the Buddha, the reader is given a thorough overview of Ambekar's life, as well as his major ideas, including the origin of caste and untouchability, and his conception of a stripped down, socially engaged Buddhism for a new age. Unfortunately in such a survey not everything can be described in great detail and so some particulars are glossed, but nothing so much that it leaves the story incomplete.

Despite having been written by a Buddhist, Ambedkar and Buddhism is pitched to the general reader, does not proselytize, and requires only a passing familiarity with Buddhism and 20th century Indian history. This book is also a worthy companion to the 2000 film, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, helping to fill in some of the detail in Ambedkar's thinking.

#
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 


Review Details

Item

5.0 out of 5 stars (1 customer review)
5 star:
 (1)
4 star:    (0)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
Used & New from: £16.47
Add to wishlist
Reviewer


Top Reviewer Ranking: 332,200