Apramāda

Buddhist perspectives on society and culture

Apramāda

Buddhist perspectives on
society and culture

No Comparison: Dr Ambedkar and ‘Social Justice’

Posted in: Buddhism, Politics
This article is part of the series Dr Ambedkar and 'Social Justice'. Articles in the series are:
B.R._Ambedkar

Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, statesman, lawyer, activist, and leader of India’s downtrodden, is too little known in the West. But in trying to communicate the significance of the man to those unfamiliar with him, a problem one encounters is a lack of suitable comparisons. To whom could he be compared? As one of the twentieth century’s leading social reformers he deserves to be mentioned alongside Martin Luther King. Except that Ambedkar was also a politician, whose influence on the formation of an independent India was immense and far-reaching, and who is generally recognised as the main architect of the Indian constitution. Thomas Jefferson, then? Except that Jefferson was born into privilege (indeed, into slave-ownership), whereas Ambedkar rose to prominence in the face of discrimination. Moreover, the constitution framed by Ambedkar belongs to a nation three times as populous as the United States (and if one compares the populations at the time the respective constitutions were written, the difference is almost a hundred-fold). How about Nelson Mandela? Except that Ambedkar’s legacy is untarnished by a history of endorsing violence. His moral standing is unquestionable, and 67 years after his death he is still virtually worshipped by millions of ex-untouchables for whom he remains the figurehead. In certain respects a comparison with Ghandi suggests itself. Not only were both men politically active, and treated with adulation by their followers; they were also in their very different ways both religious, both personally and in terms of how they saw nationhood. Aside from these surface resemblances, however, there is more illumination to be found by way of contrast between the two men, and Ambedkar himself wouldn’t have relished a comparison with his opponent, whom, along with Jinnah, he described in terms of ‘colossal egotism’.1 Although in the West Gandhi is far more famous, Ambedkar was the greater of the two, in terms both of his virtues and of his influence on the world.

No, Dr Ambedkar really was a unique figure in world history. But what is most remarkable of all is, outside of Buddhist circles, often neglected in accounts of his life. After a lifetime of unremitting struggle for the betterment of his people, he concluded that politics was not enough: what was needed was a moral and spiritual reform. His last great act on the stage of history was therefore to convert to Buddhism, bringing with him almost half a million of his people (with many more to follow), thereby reviving the Dharma in the land of its birth, 800 years after it had been all but lost. Today that revival movement is, however precariously, very much alive, and represents one of humanity’s brightest hopes for the future.

But this article is not just a paean to Dr Ambedkar, or an account of the tribulations and triumphs of India’s Buddhist revival. Rather, I wish to compare Ambedkar’s vision of social justice with the so-called ‘Social Justice’ (the capitals and scare quotes are significant) of the modern West. In my previous article, ‘A Short History of ‘Social Justice’’, I explained what I mean by ‘Social Justice’ (also called ‘Critical Social Justice’), and gave a rough sketch of its aetiology. While that article stands alone, it may also be considered a prologue to this one, in which I shall examine Ambedkar’s fundamental political philosophy and identify the essential difference between it and that of ‘Social Justice’.

Before beginning I must declare an interest. I am not merely a passive admirer of Ambedkar; I have in a small way been involved in furthering his legacy. For a number of years I have been going to India to teach Buddhism to Ambedkarites. This work is deeply meaningful to me, not only because I am inspired by the re-establishment of Buddhism in India, but also because to further this cause is also to help overcome the most durable system of social injustice in existence, namely caste. I say this to make clear that the cause of social justice is one with which I not only sympathise, but am proud actively to have contributed.

At the same time, I make no secret of the fact that I regard much of what comes under the rubric of ‘Social Justice’ in the modern West to be deeply problematic, even, at its worst, a kind of moral sickness, and a major threat to Western civilization and to Buddhism. It has, over the decades, become increasingly dogmatic, resentful, and divorced from reality. Yet its adherents continually claim a moral superiority which they have not earned.

This difference, between the genuine social justice of Dr Ambedkar and his followers, and the spurious ‘Social Justice’ that has taken hold in the Western world, is my subject for this article. Some Buddhists, seeking to justify engagement with ‘Social Justice’ causes, have been known to invoke Ambedkarism as a precedent,2 and I shall argue that they can only do so in ignorance either of what Ambedkar himself thought or of the ideological foundations of Critical Social Justice (or both). In fact, I hold that if we are to adopt Ambedkar as a figurehead for Buddhism’s engagement with social issues, which I sincerely hope for, many shibboleths of the modern ‘Social Justice’ movement will have to be discarded. Most importantly, in examining the differences between Ambedkarism and ‘Social Justice’ we can learn what genuine social justice advocacy is, and how it can go so wrong.

Ambedkar’s Political Thought

We must begin with an account of Ambedkar’s political thought. Though a brilliant man, Ambedkar will not be remembered as an original political theorist. Rather than a philosopher, he was a man, in his own words, ‘almost the whole of whose public exertion has been one continuous struggle for liberty for the poor and for the oppressed’.3 His political philosophy he summarized in terms of the ‘revolutionary triad’ of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, which he enshrined in the Indian constitution. In pursuit of those ideals he was a pragmatist rather than an ideologue — in which regard, as in many others, we can see the influence of the philosopher John Dewey.4

Although Ambedkar claimed he was not a socialist (and was highly critical of India’s socialists for their neglect of the issue of caste), in the main he was what would now be called a social democrat. That is, he believed that good government should include measures to protect the less fortunate in society from exploitation and give them a decent chance in life, and that this should be attempted through reform and the ballot box rather than through violent revolution. This was characteristic of British socialism, which was generally more moderate than its continental cousin, and was in many respects a development, rather than a rejection, of the liberal tradition of Locke, Burke and Mill. For its proponents it was, as Roger Scruton put it, ‘…nothing but the latest expression of the free-born Englishman’s right to the land and culture that are his.’5 Ambedkar’s higher education took place largely in America, and following that in England, and his politics were more deeply influenced by the tradition of British liberalism than by continental socialism, in which Marx was the major figure. Perhaps surprisingly for some, Burke in particular, a foundational thinker for both liberalism and conservatism, pervades Ambedkar’s thought, and is often quoted in his writings. Thus, we find that the constitution of India — for the drafting of which Ambedkar was the guiding hand — combined principles derived from the best of Enlightenment liberalism with some socialist measures (such as the system of ‘reservations’, of which more later).

The Free Social Order

But whether pragmatist, liberal, social democrat, or some combination of all these, Ambedkar was in large part a child of the European Enlightenment, the ideals of which permeate his writings in both style and content. The significance of this must be understood, since it constitutes the essential difference between Ambedkar’s thought and Critical Social Justice theory. As I outlined in my ‘Short History…’, the theoretical underpinnings of Critical Social Justice entail a radical rejection of Enlightenment principles, including many that Ambedkar vigorously upheld.

One of the most important of such, of great relevance to the task in hand, is his insistence on the primacy of the individual over the collective. He deals with this topic in India and the Pre-requisites of Communism, in which he identifies the two essential characteristics of a free social order:

The first is that the individual is an end in himself and that the aim and object of society is the growth of the individual and the development of his personality. Society is not above the individual and if the individual has to subordinate himself to society, it is because such subordination is for his betterment and only to the extent necessary.6

The second characteristic we will come to shortly. First, to explain what he means by the human individual Ambedkar provides a lengthy quote from Jacques Maritain’s essay, ‘The Conquest of Freedom’, of which I will reproduce only a part:

Man is an individual who holds himself in hand by his intelligence and his will; he exists not merely in a physical fashion. He has a spiritual super-existence through knowledge and love, so that he is, in a way, a universe in himself, a microcosmos, in which the great universe in its entirety can be encompassed through knowledge. By love he can give himself completely to beings who are to him, as it were, other selves.7

The primacy of the individual was a central concern of the Enlightenment — not to mention being foundational to the practice of Buddhism. But one will be hard put to find such an inspiring invocation of the individual in the rhetoric of ‘Social Justice’.8 In fact it can without too much hyperbole be claimed that ‘Social Justice’ has subordinated the individual to a kind of caste system. That is, it divides society into a number of identity groups, each formed of intersecting demographic factors, and stratifies them according to their relative degrees of privilege or oppression. The resulting hierarchy is then insisted upon as the primary means of understanding everything in society. Disparities in typical life-outcomes between groups, such as differences between the sexes in the attainment of positions of influence, are automatically treated as fully explicable in this way, ignoring any other causal factors. Individual interactions between members of different groups are assumed to be constantly imbued with subtle expressions of power (known as ‘microaggressions’). And the validity of one individual’s perspective as opposed to another’s is judged not by objective merit but according to their respective places in the intersectional hierarchy — with those judged as ‘privileged’ being dismissed out of hand. 

I am by no means saying that this idea of ‘intersectionality’ is without a few grains of truth. The problem is the adoption of it as a complete world-view, in which regard ‘Social Justice’ resembles what I referred to in the previous article as a ‘quasi-religion.’ Just as the caste system is a central pillar of the religion of Hinduism, so intersectionality is central to the quasi-religion of ‘Social Justice’. Accordingly, questioning any aspect of it is treated as blasphemy, often to be met not by civil discourse but by defamation, abuse and attempted ‘cancellation’.

The Problem with Identity Politics

This takes us to the root of the problem with ‘identity politics’. The term is usually used pejoratively, to describe the kind of tribal power play described above. However, it cannot be denied that engaging in politics based on group identity is sometimes necessary, and that Dr Ambedkar did just that. We must therefore be dealing with an issue that is more subtle than the binary choice of either advocating for or rejecting identity-based political movements. Rather, I argue that there are two opposite orientations to the politics of identity. Not that any particular political movement can be allocated cleanly to one or the other — inevitably there will be degrees of both present. Nonetheless, the difference is so fundamental that the legitimacy or otherwise of a political movement can be assessed according to which of the two tendencies predominates.  

The distinction is as follows: On the one hand there are those who have a social identity forced upon them by a mainstream society that discriminates against them according to that identity, and whose political advocacy is aimed at the challenging of that discrimination, and the claiming of the right to be treated as individuals. On the other hand we have those whose aim is not to break down group identities but to maintain and even emphasise them. This can be done either in order to wield the power that comes from belonging to such a group, or — perhaps more importantly — the power that comes from manipulating and leveraging the group-identification of others. Ambedkar’s political activism was of the first kind, and most ‘Social Justice’ activism is of the second.

This is the fundamental difference in practice between Ambedkarism and ‘Social Justice’, and why I am a supporter of one and not the other. Ambedkar wished to free the individual human being from the constraints of an imposed identity. ‘Social Justice’ keeps individuals strait-jacketed by an imposed hierarchy of victimhood. But since these two orientations are more like poles on a spectrum than a binary, it is possible for a particular cause to move along the spectrum, away from one pole and towards the other. This is what has happened in the case of several civil rights causes (the movements for racial and LGBT equality being the obvious examples), formerly of noble pedigree, in the course of being co-opted and contaminated by Critical Social Justice.

The Holy and Unholy Trinities

The second essential characteristic of a free social order is equally revealing. Ambedkar identifies it as follows: ‘…the terms of associated life between members of society must be regarded by consideration founded on liberty, equality and fraternity’.9 The ‘revolutionary triad’ figures so prominently in Ambedkar’s thought that it is essential to understand what he meant by them. But this will also be an opportunity to examine Critical Social Justice’s own triad, consisting of ‘diversity, equity and inclusivity’. Comparison between these two sets of ‘values’ will strengthen my case that we are here dealing with fundamentally opposed worldviews.

Ambedkar justifies each member of the revolutionary triad in turn. But before considering them individually, it will help if we see them as a whole and in relation to one another. To do that we must also see their origin with the individual, with which, according to Ambedkar, they are ‘integrally connected’. He tells us, ‘Once the sacredness of human personality is admitted the necessity of liberty, equality and fraternity must also be admitted as the proper climate for the development of personality.’10 Accordingly, Liberty expresses what is owed to the individual by society, namely that his (or her) individuality be respected, that he be allowed to develop his ‘personality’ — his individual virtues and accomplishments — to the best of his ability, and that in order to do so he be free from oppression and coercion of any kind. Equality expresses the converse and complement of this: that the individual ought to see society as consisting of other individuals, equally deserving of dignity and of opportunities for personal development. Fraternity expresses the spirit of fellowship between individuals which guarantees the other two. We can thus see that this triad, proceeding from the primacy of the individual, expresses a wonderfully harmonious and balanced set of political ideals.

Equality

No such harmony and balance is to be found in the unholy trinity of ‘Social Justice’. Perhaps the best starting point for the contrast I wish to make is with the distinction between Equality and Equity, since this is the only point of even a verbal similarity between the two sets. In his defence of Equality Ambedkar quotes from the historian Charles Beard:

What is meant by writers who have gone deepest into the subject is that human beings possess, in degree and kind, fundamental characteristics that are common to humanity. These writers hold that when humanity is stripped of extrinsic goods and conventions incidental to time and place, it reveals essential characteristics so widely distributed as to partake of universality…. Their nature and manifestations are summed up in the phrase ‘moral equality’.11

Important to note is that the recognition of ‘fundamental characteristics that are common to humanity’ was a central ideal of the Enlightenment, and a theoretical foundation for the struggle for human rights. Without such a recognition of a universal human nature there is no basis for the moral equality that was Ambedkar’s concern. But under the influence of postmodern thought, Critical Social Justice has all but jettisoned this idea. Instead, we have the submergence of individuals in group identity as the most fundamental thing about them. It is then a natural shift away from equality and towards ‘equity’, meaning the pursuit — indeed enforcement — of equal outcomes between identity groups.

It is a sign of how far Critical Social Justice has shifted political discourse that those who advocate equality of opportunity over equality of outcome are often pushed to its margins. Ambedkar’s commitment was clearly to equality of opportunity.12 It may, however, be observed that he himself instituted the system of ‘reservations’, whereby a given proportion of government posts are reserved for candidates from the ‘scheduled castes’. Does this not show that he was himself in favour of equity? Not so fast. The idea of using the power of the state to level the playing field for its citizens is hardly a new one; nor am I denying that it is sometimes justified. My point is that it is a strategy, which may be employed in the service of values, but which has been itself raised to the status of a value by ‘Social Justice’.13

Doing so rides roughshod over various complex issues. How should the enforcement of equity be balanced against the liberty of the individual? What, if any, are the limits to the power that should be granted, either to public or private institutions, to enforce equity? Which identity groups are entitled to protection, and how should membership of each be defined? What factors other than inequality might govern disparities in life-outcome between identity groups? What unintended consequences might the adoption of equity policies bring? Most important, what values does the pursuit of equity serve? These are all questions that must be addressed if equity measures are to be adopted effectively as public policy. They cannot be addressed if equity is treated as a value. Values are ends in themselves; strategies are means to ends. The treatment of means as ends is inevitably corrupting, because without the accurate assessment of them as means there is nothing to counteract any negative consequences, unintended or otherwise, their implementation may involve. In particular, equity measures have to be imposed, often by force. Unless it is recognized that all such imposition is by its nature at the expense of liberty, there is no counterweight to the increasingly aggressive demand for equity. This is precisely what has occurred, and the result is an encroaching atmosphere of fear in which liberty is gradually eroded and the individual increasingly suffocated.  

Liberty

Turning to liberty, Ambedkar distinguished between two kinds: civil liberty and political liberty. ‘Political liberty’, he says, ‘consists in the right of the individual to share in the framing of laws and in the making and unmaking of governments.’ This shows his commitment to the principles of parliamentary democracy. But it is civil liberty that is of greater interest to us here. Ambedkar identifies three aspects:

(1) liberty of movement which is another name for freedom from arrest without due process of law; (2) liberty of speech (which of course includes liberty of thought, liberty of reading, writing and discussion) and; (3) liberty of action.14

These make it clear not only that Ambedkar was a liberal in the old-fashioned sense,15 but also that Critical Social Justice is, in Sangharakshita’s coinage, ‘pseudo-liberal’. This can most clearly be seen in relation to liberty of speech. As I spelled out in my ‘Short History…’, the ascendency of Critical Social Justice has been a disaster for free speech. So censorious has it become, and so invasive its reach, that it now constitutes the major obstacle to the maintenance of a free society. Ambedkar, on the other hand, described free speech as ‘…a necessary condition of all progress intellectual, moral, political and social.’16 This fact alone is enough to prove that the social justice for which he stood was of a quite different kind to the modern strain.

Fraternity

Finally, Ambedkar has some beautiful things to say about the importance of fraternity:

Fraternity is the name for the disposition of an individual to treat men as the object of reverence and love and the desire to be in unity with his fellow beings.17

It was perhaps his central insight that democracy must be underlain by fraternity. In fact, in Annihilation of Caste he explicitly equates the two.18 Moreover, this question of a need for unity based on fraternity extended to his conception of what constituted a nation, which further reveals how far he was from modern ‘Social Justice’. It may come as a surprise to some to find that Ambedkar was, in Sangharakshita’s description, a ‘staunch nationalist’,19or in his own, a ‘true nationalist’.20 If this description is to stand, however, some qualification is required. Elsewhere Sangharakshita describes nationalism as ‘the curse of modern history’, and as ‘a pseudo-religion, an idolatrous cult that demands bloody sacrifices’.21 Clearly this is not what is being referred to in relation to Ambedkar. Perhaps ‘patriot’ would be a better descriptor. But it must be understood that Ambedkar didn’t merely love his country with the affection of familiarity; he was concerned with the principles of nationhood, and with what makes for a viable national democracy. This concern expressed itself in his views on policy. For example, he not only advocated for Hindi as the national language, but for the division of India into provinces on linguistic lines. His reasons for this are worth noting:

A Linguistic Province produces what democracy needs, namely, social homogeneity. Now the homogeneity of a people depends upon their having a belief in a common origin, in the possession of a common language and literature, in their pride in a common historic tradition, community of social customs, etc. is a proposition which no student of sociology can dispute. The absence of a social homogeneity in a State creates a dangerous situation especially where such a State is raised on a democratic structure. History shows that democracy cannot work in a State where the population is not homogeneous. In a heterogeneous population divided into groups which are hostile and anti-social towards one another the working of democracy is bound to give rise to cases of discrimination, neglect, partiality, suppression of the interests of one group at the hands of another group which happens to capture political power. The reason why in an heterogeneous society, democracy cannot succeed is because power instead of being used impartially and on merits and for the benefit of all is used for the aggrandisement of one group and to the detriment of another. On the other hand, a State which is homogeneous in its population can work for the true ends of democracy, for there are no artificial barriers or social antipathies which lead to the misuse of political power.22

To understand what is at stake, consider the situation of India at the time he wrote this. It was about to be granted independence and full democracy, but on what basis would it practise them? The Hindu right-wing, who have since seized power so comprehensively, insisted on Hinduism as the basis for national identity. But Ambedkar belonged to a community that had for so long been enslaved according to the Hindu caste system. And he saw that since caste was fundamentally divisive, and Hinduism was integrally connected with the practice of caste, Hinduism could not form the basis for a true democracy. 

Once again, the point deserves underlining that Ambedkar operated within a society divided into fixed identity groups, and his social justice was founded on the attempt to break them down. Not that he naively rejected group identity altogether; in fact he recognised that it was inevitable. But he said that in a healthy society there is ‘a high degree of social endosmosis’23 between different groups. This is, he thought, only possible with a sufficient degree of cultural homogeneity. He expands upon the point here:

…nowhere is human society one single whole. It is always plural. In the world of action, the individual is one limit and society the other. Between them lie all sorts of associative arrangements of lesser and larger scope, families, friendship, co-operative associations, business combines, political parties, bands of thieves and robbers. These small groups are usually firmly welded together and are often as exclusive as castes. They have a narrow and intensive code, which is often anti-social. This is true of every society, in Europe as well as in Asia. The question to be asked in determining whether a given society is an ideal society; is not whether there are groups in it, because groups exist in all societies. The questions to be asked in determining what is an ideal society are: How numerous and varied are the interests which are consciously shared by the groups? How full and free is the interplay with other forms of associations? Are the forces that separate groups and classes more numerous than the forces that unite? What social significance is attached to this group life? Is its exclusiveness a matter of custom and convenience or is it a matter of religion? … The strength of a society depends upon the presence of points of contact, possibilities of interaction between different groups which exist in it. These are what Carlyle calls “organic filaments” i.e. the elastic threads which help to bring the disintegrating elements together and to reunite them.24

The contrast between this perspective and Critical Social Justice is stark. In its insistence on mutually exclusive categories based on relative levels of oppression, the search for unity in society or humanity is hardly emphasised either in the theory or the practice of Critical Social Justice. Still less is there any notion of effective democracy requiring a sense of national unity. In fact, all such talk tends to be dismissed as belonging to what is labelled the ‘far right’. Not that I wish to underplay the issues arising from multiculturalism, the difficulties involved with creating a national unity with a diverse culture, or the importance of minority voices contributing their own stories to the shared history that binds a nation together. I merely wish to point out, firstly, that Dr Ambedkar’s concern was directed more towards unity than diversity and that this is entirely neglected in ‘Social Justice’ rhetoric; and secondly, that one cannot resolve a necessary tension between two competing concerns by denying one and dogmatically insisting upon the other.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity

Returning to the triad of Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity in the light of the foregoing, we find that close consideration of them reveals two salient facts: Firstly, all three presuppose division into identity groups. Consider: diversity of what? Of group-identity indices. Inclusivity of what? The same. Equity of what? Outcomes between groups divided according to such indices.

Secondly, none of the three can be described as values, only as strategies. This should be plain if we consider that none of them is of universal application. Indeed, they are certainly not treated as such by ‘Social Justice’ advocates. No one is campaigning for equal representation of women in sewage farms; nor do they want diversity when it comes to points of view other than their own, or inclusivity with regard to any other characteristics than those on the approved list. Such double standards are typical in the world of ‘Social Justice’. Again, this is not to say that as strategies, diversity, equity and inclusivity are not sometimes helpful and even necessary (as may be their opposites25). Merely that their adoption must be underpinned by more fundamental values, without which they will inevitably re-enforce the very divisions which they in fact presuppose.

As for what those values are, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity are a good start. But even these must be underlain by deeper values, which Ambedkar recognised in the teaching and person of the Buddha. It is in this recognition of the need for a moral and even spiritual basis for the pursuit of social justice, his clarity that Buddhism was the religion best suited to providing it, and his courage in leading his people down that path, that his unique significance truly consists. If those claiming to be concerned about social justice issues paid greater heed to his ideas and example the world would be a better place.

Footnotes

  1. Ambedkar, ‘Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah’, Writings and Speeches Vol 1.
  2. E.g. ‘Given their strong links to the Ambedkar Buddhist Dalit community, an engaged Buddhist lineage that has combatted caste violence and discrimination in India, one might expect to find a similar commitment to justice for other marginalized populations.’ (‘Reactionary White Buddhists Have Joined the Fight Against Critical Race Theory’, Gleig, 2022)
  3. Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste.
  4. Ambedkar’s teacher at Columbia University, and one of the founding figures of American Pragmatism.
  5. Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, p210.
  6. Ambedkar, India and the Pre-requisites of Communism, Writings and Speeches Vol. 3.
  7. Quoted in Ibid.
  8. In White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo (one of the most influential modern Critical Social Justice theorists, especially in the field of race), individualism, defined as the view that ‘we are each unique and stand apart from others, even those within our social groups’, is denounced as an ‘ideology’ which prevents white people from recognising their own privilege.
  9. Ambedkar, India and the Pre-requisites of Communism, Writings and Speeches Vol. 3.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Charles A. Beard, ‘Freedom in Political Thought’.
  12. The preamble to the Indian constitution speaks of ‘Equality of status and opportunity’.
  13. It is worth noting that Ambedkar intended reservations to apply only for a limited duration, which proves my point.
  14. Ambedkar, India and the Pre-requisites of Communism, Writings and Speeches Vol. 3.
  15. He was not, however, a libertarian in the modern sense, as is made clear by the following, from the same passage: ‘It is not enough that liberty of action should be formal. It must be real. So understood, liberty of action means effective power to do specific things. There is no freedom where there are no means of taking advantage of it. Real liberty of action exists only where exploitation has been annihilated, where no suppression of one class by another exists, where there is no unemployment, no poverty and where a person is free from the fear of losing his job, his home and his food as a consequence of his action.’
  16. Ambedkar, India and the Pre-requisites of Communism, Writings and Speeches Vol. 3.
  17. Ibid. The passage continues: ’Fraternity strengthens social ties and gives to each individual a stronger personal interest in practically consulting the welfare of others. It leads him to identify his feelings more and more with their good, or at least with an even greater degree of practical consideration for it… The good of others becomes to him a thing naturally and necessarily to be attended to like any of the physical conditions of our existence.’
  18. ‘An ideal society should be mobile, should be full of channels for conveying a change taking place in one part to other parts. In an ideal society there should be many interests consciously communicated and shared. There should be varied and free points of contact with other modes of association. In other words there must be social endosmosis. This is fraternity, which is only another name for democracy. Democracy is not merely a form of Government. It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards fellowmen.’ Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste.
  19. Sangharakshita, Ambedkar and Buddhism.
  20. Ambedkar, Pakistan or the Partition of India.
  21. Sangharakshita, The Priceless Jewel.
  22. Ambedkar, ‘Thoughts on Linguistic States’, Writings and Speeches Vol. 1, p103. It should also be noted that Ambedkar was explicitly against ethno-nationalism, saying that ‘Ethnically all people are heterogeneous. It is the unity of culture that is the basis of homogeneity.’
  23. Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste.
  24. Ibid.
  25. It is worth considering that the opposites of Ambedkar’s favoured triad are coercion, discrimination, and enmity – all clearly bad things. The opposites of the ‘Social Justice’ triad, on the other hand, are uniformity, inequity, and exclusivity, which are themselves value neutral. ‘Inequity’ sounds bad, until one considers that sometimes unequal representation between identity groups is entirely appropriate – such as between the sexes in a situation requiring physical endurance.
Vidyaruchi

Vidyaruchi has been a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order since 2009, from which time until 2013 he was personal assistant to its founder, Urgyen Sangharakshita. Since then he has been a freelance Buddhist. When not engaged in teaching or travelling he mainly lives in a shed in his parents' garden.

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