I would like to thank my ancestors and the Earth from which we come. I extend my respects from my people the Nguhi of Moreton and Stradbroke Islands to the Gadigal and Eora peoples.
Recently I was ordained in India with four other Dharmacharis from Australia and New Zealand, Dharmaraja, Chittamuni (NZ), Maitribandha and Manichitta.
Every evening as we emerged from afternoon mediation we would look across to the caves on the opposite side of the valley. The sun’s rays filled a grotto opposite us and illuminated a 3 ½ meter, 2,200 year old solid granite stupa. The natural reflex was to touch the ground and prostate in reverence and in harmony with our Indian Brothers. This was the coming home of Buddhism to its birthplace it was a reconnection to a lost spiritual birthright stretching back through the centuries. For me continuity, belonging and connection elicited a cascade of familiar emotions.
The Indians who I met on retreat in India spoke with great reverence and gratitude of a man who to them he is nothing less than a modern Bodhisattva.
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar or Babasaheb was born an untouchable and rose to become India’s first law inister and the principal architect of the Constitution of India. He is India’s most significant modern figure and was responsible for the revival and reinterpretation of Buddhism both in his life and in the lives of untouchables and other Indians. He brought a Constitution based on equality which outlawed discrimination and though affirmative action has transformed the lives, especially of women and India’s depressed classes.
In Nagpur on 14 October 1956 after a long association with Buddhism, Bagasaheb accepted the Three Refuges and Five Precepts. In a huge public ceremony he then converted half a million of his supporters.
This does not seem long ago yet the Indian Dharmachari’s on retreat humbled me with the confidence, depth, proficiency and profundity of their practice.
Entire Buddhist administrative educational and social structures are well established in areas that were once Hindu. Theirs is a distinctly Indian way of sharing the Buddha’s message in puja or ritual music and dance. The Triratna’s Buddhist Order has played and continues a major role in nurturing the growth of Buddhism in India. For me it is an association for which I feel natural affinity.
Not only do my Indian Brothers and I have a shared history of dispossession and oppression. We also have a common identification with products greed violence and power, such as passivity and powerlessness. Thus our common labels as being ‘broken peoples’.
The great vision of Ambedkar was to see the connection between personal and social transformation. He worked tirelessly for both. Educate agitate and organise Ambedkar proclaimed. It is through ‘embracing liberty, equality and fraternity; or freedom, equity and inclusion that we overcome gender, cast and race based discrimination. To me real change is possible through the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. This is what I shared with my Indian brothers, confidence in a spiritual practice which unites peoples from different countries as we reverently share a vision of enlightenment across a valley.