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Why I Chose Buddhism Over Any Other Religion

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You know ‘eyes are useless when the mind is blind’. In today’s epoch, where ‘opening your mouth before opening the mind’ is so conspicuously normalized, little do we examine the cost and benefits of wisdom against ignorance. I do not think that it is any crime to be ignorant of oneself, which is, after all, a mundane issue and one that most people feel ‘my ignorance is as good as your knowledge’. But it is morally irresponsible to have a loud, incoherent and vociferous opinion against Buddhism while remaining in this state of ignorance.

Do not conspire to ‘agree to disagree’. There has been a slot and also an ongoing plot to horrendously appropriate the image, teachings, features and qualifications of Buddha and Buddhism nevertheless by the Vedic section in our society for all the religious and sociopolitical reasons known.

Truth does not care, but it verily wins. So-called theism like Buddhism is substantially not a substance of organized religion in the first place, yet a philosophy and a coherent mechanism that unexpectedly teaches the significance of self-transformation than self-mortification at the atomistic expense of your own common-sense, which is/was comparatively not the case with my former religion (Hinduism) hitherto.

About 2550 years ago, a rich prince named Siddhartha Gautama of Sakya underwent a period of existential crisis at the age of 29, which eventually gelled him to seek the ‘path of wisdom’ and nonetheless ‘truth’. His findings, of course without a PhD, then, brilliantly made a scientific case of debunking the ingredients of ritualism, animal sacrifices, brahmins, religiosity and infallible Vedas for achieving the state of Nirvana (enlightenment), i.e., Buddhahood.

Nirvana is not to be bemused with Moksha ever, please. He did not claim to be a messenger, avatar, neither promised any visa to ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’. His agnostic and non-Vedic understanding of the nature of reality and mind gave the world a podium to decode and decipher the causes and effects of ‘suffering’, through his eight-noble path.

He decentralized and disseminated his teachings with the help of Sangha, without discriminating anyone on the basis of identity, caste, class, gender and sexuality, and indirectly reforming the arrogance of Brahminism in a parallel universe, and also simplifying the factors of understanding, observing, perceiving, experiencing and achieving Nirvana. ‘Mahaveera’ Jain, the contemporary of Buddha, shared compliments and regards, too.

The portfolio of Buddhism has continued to proliferate across the shores and continents, without the marginal involvement of sword and edicts. The axioms have wildly appealed my common sense to a huge extent, due to which I decided to never die as a Hindu in my life, and, thus, at the age of 29, on 30th of December 2018, I proudly proselytized the objective of Dhamma at Chaitya Bhoomi (Mumbai), after having witnessed incoherence, riddles, casteism and contradictions in Hinduism, so far.

To any sane being with the ‘attitude’ of open ‘aptitude’, Buddhism would naturally appear as his only ‘altitude’. It would have been a gross error if I were to not die as a Buddhist in my life. Especially to incorporate the undertaken volition when India’s landscape is in boiling waters, knowingly, I can never stop being grateful to The Buddha, Ananda, Asoka, Sanghamitta, Buddhamitra, Nagasena, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Asanga, Atisa, Bodhidharma, Linji Yixuan, Xuanzang, Dogen Zenji, Nichiren, Anagarika Dharmapala, Iyothee Thass, Dr Ambedkar, S N Goenka, Dipa Ma, Thich Naht Hanh, Pema Chodron, Zenji Nio and many others for their immense contribution, wisdom, thoughts and social action.

Culturally, with volitional regards to ‘religion’, parenting leaves no room and personal space for the post-puberty child to decide the considerable path reasonably for itself. This essence, albeit undemocratic and ‘sanskaari’, goes against the very axioms of liberty, privacy and consent. Article 25 of the Indian Constitution is a rescuer, but sadly, it contradicts with the social realities and thence the contemporariness of lynching, apathy, ostracism and discrimination ‘continues’ to violate the preamble of Indian Constitution even today.

Burnol-moment for the bigots who vehemently fail to muster the courage in referring Buddha’s refutation of casteist system (mentioned in the Majjhima Nikaya discourse) and Vedas (in the Tevijja Sutta); since my proselytization, I feel more welcomed, respected and equal in the Dhamma community. This is the best social philosophy I could ever privilege myself with.

To add to this, the essayBuddha and His Future of Religion’ published in 1950 by Dr Ambedkar, the architect of Indian Constitution, has very much won my mind and heart. The major premises of this essay continue to appear as a ‘standpoint’ of Buddhism, personally for me, and with all due respect, facilitated a contextual role to assist me in embracing Buddhism over other religions.

From simplifying the realities of Buddha dhamma to reasoning over the theses of Buddhism, as usual, Dr Ambedkar has done another splendid work. Other religions, yet organized ones, are the portals of Mokshadatta (only when accepting the idols as Gods) which is not the case in Buddhism (the religion of Margadatta). Thankfully, dhamma is an inside job that can help one internalize without attachment and expectations and frees oneself from the cobweb of matrix and other delusions. That’s the ultimate value of spirituality, anyway.

This is not just my story. About 87% of the Buddhists in India are ex-Hindus who escaped the oppressive, casteist and immobile clutches of Hinduism and other religion, whereas the rest are traditionally Buddhists since ages. The literacy rate (81.2%) of newly converts (and the traditional Buddhists), as per the 2011 Census data, followed by parameters like greater work participation and sex ratio, is incrementally higher than the literacy rate (66.7%) of the SCs belonging to brahminized Hindu community.

On a holistic level, the Census report also states that the literacy rate of Hindu society (73.2%) is lower than the Buddhists’ literacy rate (81.29%). The national average literacy rate stands at 72.98%, which is lower than Buddhists’ literacy rate. These numbers tell that the philosophy of Buddhism does not impede and hamper individuals on the basis of caste, class, identity and gender, and stop them from acquiring education, opportunities and socialization.

Female literacy among Buddhists in India is also considerably higher (74.04%) than the total population average (64.63%), data shows. Only Uttar Pradesh (57.07%) and Karnataka (64.21%) show female literacy rates lower than total population averages, but these are still considerably higher than Scheduled Castes (SCs) in these two states.

Buddhism has literally debrahminized, enriched and enhanced the social and economic status  through education—especially of Dalits or newly converts. Their work participation ratio (43.15%) is higher than that of total Scheduled Castes (40.87%) and higher also than the national average (39.79%).

A detailed report (2017) by IndiaSpend also highlighted that Dalit consciousness in India is gradually rising against the apathy of Brahminism and patriarchy and obliges conversion to Buddhism religion for accessing equality, castelessness and social fraternity but at a dwindling rate. Such steps are constitutionally valid, fracturing the fins of an arrogant fish.

A society’s DNA is shaped by empathy, brotherhood and civic sense. Its survival is dependent on the organic and structural development of egalitarian statuses and free/open thinking or else the closedness dehumanizes the spirit of wisdom, religiosity and fraternity. That’s why Buddhism could make it to the 21st century, since 400 BCE, despite experiencing functional violence and conflict from Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Communism. Such a battle is won without brouhaha and vanity. It begets intellectualism and adaptability.

In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, Buddha told Ananda that his followers should not accept his teaching as correct and binding merely because they emanated from him. Being based on reason and experience, the followers were free to modify or even to abandon any of his teachings if it was found that at a given time and in given circumstances, they do not apply.

Ceteris Paribus; on few occasions, Buddha unanswered few questions on the existence of God, the totality of Universe, etc. not because he was not knowing, but he hinted that these queries beget the scope of conformation-bias in the apocryphal minds and very much dawdle the spirit of mindful purposes. What lovely agnosticism!

Also, this is not the actual case with other religions known so far. To which, Dr Ambedkar enunciates “Buddha wanted his religion to remain evergreen and serviceable at all times. That is why he gave liberty to his followers to chip and chop as the necessities of the case required. No other religious teacher has shown such courage. They were afraid of permitting repair, because the liberty to repair may be used to demolish the structure they had reared. Buddha had no such fear. He was sure of his foundation. He knew that even the most violent iconoclast will not be able to destroy the core of his religion.”

Do not believe in anything (simply) because you have heard it; Do not believe in traditions, because they been handed down for many generations; Do not believe in anything, because it is spoken and rumored by many; Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books; But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it. – Buddha

The intellectual cocktail that saves one from the cacophonic whirlpool of nihilism, materialism and consumerism is Buddhism. Noises that are psychological, behavioral and physical are regulated well by the theory of emptiness and vipassana when obediently consecrated. I have personally benefitted, incentivizing me to share the welfare of these benefits without expecting anything in return. Other religion, in their own words, do not focus on the point of ‘cognitive empathy’.

Robert Wright’s book ‘Why Buddhism is True’ makes a good case in this context. However, in two years, starting with six members for regular interactions on Buddhism, I have managed to endeavor the teachings of Buddhism philosophy to more than 2000 individuals till date, on my own, without any funding from ISI or CIA. No pun intended.

Followed by the readings of 250+ books in the sphere of Buddhism, I have managed to also disseminate the ancient psychotherapy (Buddhism) to the needy ones and raising their dimensions closer to the status of ‘arahat’. It takes a pinch of salt to make the food tastier and an iota of Buddhism to revolve a human life.

“Do not be dependent on anyone. Work hard for your own salvation” – Buddha

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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