Friday, April 14, 2017

Complementarities of Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar

Complementarities of Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar

The birth anniversary of Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar falls on April 14. The day of one of the greatest sons of India is celebrated and observed with great enthusiasm in India and abroad and rightly so. I am located in Jalandhar where the followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar, who are also the ardent followers of the 15th century champion of the Bhakti Movement, Guru Ravidass, are concentrated. Though Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism in October, 1956 towards the end of his life in December 1956 yet the followers of Dr. Ambedkar sincerely tended to find similarities and complementarities between the missions and philosophies of the great social and spiritual revolutionary, Guru Ravidass and the contemporary social reformer and thinker, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. The thinking of the followers of both the great leaders and path finders of the masses is not completely off the mark. Dr. Ambedkar was a spiritual person not only in his thinking but also in conduct. Like Guru Ravidass, he believed that religion is nothing but morality and good conduct. Dr. Ambedkar was a keen observer of the teachings of Sant Kabir and Guru Ravidass. He dedicated one of his books to Guru Ravidassji, it is a common knowledge. I personally don’t find any confusion and conflict among the teachings of Mahatma Buddha, Guru Ravidass on one hand and Dr. Ambedkar’s mission and philosophy on the other. My off the cuff argument in support of my assertion is that let us look for the positives rather than the negatives to unite the community and help them stand up to fight for their rights and space in the society as desired by Buddha, Guru Ravidass and Ambedkar. They stood fast against dogmas,
inequality, immorality, conflict and ill-will.  If, we all, like good followers of these great masters, live life based on the lofty ideals of equality, liberty and fraternity, as taught by our fore-fathers, we will pay wholesome and befitting tribute to Mahatma Buddha, Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar. Let us be honest and pragmatic in our approach and not confine ourselves to Buddha or Guru Ravidass to understand and follow Babasaheb Ambedkar irrespective of our spiritual leanings. It will be a true help and service to the down-trodden masses for which the galaxy of our leadership waged their struggle at different stages and periods of history.

The immediate provocation to write on this subject, as a novice and a humble follower of Mahatma Buddha, Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar, came from one of my fellow Bootan Mandians, Om Parkash Mahey who met me the other day to suggest that they were interested in streamlining and organizing the
Shobha Yatra/Chetna March to observe the birth anniversary in a befitting way.  And they wanted to dedicate the float/Jhanki to the theme of oneness and complementarities between Guru Ravidass and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Om Parkash asked me to write something on the subject. I accepted this as a humble beneficiary of the results of struggle and mission of Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar to register my sense of gratitude. One of my other fellow Bootan Mandian and an illustrious son of the soil Pritam Ramdasspuri wrote a well researched book on the subject “Mala Ke Teen Moti”.

Not as an authority but as a layman, I find considerable complementarities among Mahatma Buddha, Guru Ravidass and Ambedkar, the trinity of champions of human dignity and oneness of mankind. Babasaheb Ambedkar was an ardent follower of Sant Kabir, Guru Ravidass, Sant Tukaram, Mahatma Phule and many others who stood for social justice. But towards the dawn of his life, he felt that the three percepts of Buddha – Buddham, Dhammam and Sangham were better suited to the fragmented and decaying Indian society under the weight of dogmatic, excessively ritualistic, graded inequality, caste system and Manuwadi thinking and opted for more egalitarian, rationalistic and pragmatic way of life called Buddhism. But it does not mean that there is any idealogical conflict.  Ambedkar remains as good as he was before for the universal values of love, affection, compassion, harmony and human dignity as professed and preached by the great Gurus like Guru Ravidass and Sant Kabir.

Let us begin with Dr. Ambedkar’s often mentioned dictum “Educate, Organise and Agitate”. These values conform to the mission and philosophy of Guru Ravidass. Guru Ravidass realized the importance of these aspects of life in empowering the poor and exploited masses. On Education, he said in his Bani:
Madho Avidya ahit keen,  vivek deep maleen

(Ignorance: no education has done much damage; it has eclipsed our rationale)
Similarly, on Organisation and working together to mutual advantage, Guru Ravidass was forthcoming and said”
Sadh Sangat Mil Rahie Madho, Jaise Madhup Makhira
(One should live in the company of good people as bees live in the honey-web) and:
Tum Chandan Hum Rind Baapre; sangh tumhare basa,
Neech rukh te unch bhayo hai gandh sugandh niwasa !
You are like a tree of Chandan and I am like a cactus. But by living with you, I have also got the fragrance of you and thus transformed)
As regards Agitation, Guru Ravidass’s whole life was full of agitation- agitation for the good of the society, justice, equality, liberty, fraternity, harmony. Only agitated minds to do something concrete and worthwhile, can think and say:
So kat Jaane Peer Parai, Jaake antar dard na kai
(How can one understand the pain of others when oneself does not have concern and pain in ones heart)
The minds of both Guru Ravidassji and Babasaheb were so agitated and obsessed to annihilate and eradicate subjugation and oppression, that both of them in their times stood up against the social tyranny and exploitation of the down-trodden. Babasaheb renounced Hindu religion to free himself and his followers from the social hegemony and human degradation. Guru Ravidass unequivocally said:
Pradhinta paap hai jan liyo re meet;
Ravidass dass pradhin se kaun kare hai preet !
(Slavery is a sin, you should know my friend. Who will love Ravidass who is a slave?)
Coming to the other cardinal principles of Buddhism and mission of Dr. Ambedkar, there are similarities and complementarities with the philosophy of Guru Ravidass. Guru Ravidass, like Dr. Ambedkar openly denounced all the Brahminical scriptures like Vedas, Puranas, Smritis, Upanishads etc. as these promoted the hegemony of Brahmins and justified the social inequality and exploitation of the masses. He said: –
Charon ved kiya khandoti, Jan Ravidas kare dandoti

( Ravidas proclaims all Vedas are worthless)
Guru Ravidass further said:
Ravidass Brahmin mat pujio; jo hove gunn heena,
Pujio charan chandaal ke; jo hove gunn parveena
(There is no need to worship or recognize Brahmin who is ignorant and uneducated. On the other hand, recognize and honour a low caste who is educated and knowledgeable)
Guru Ravidas was one of the country’s foremost socio-religious revolutionaries who not only attacked the socio-religious inequalities but also preached justice, liberty, equality and fraternity where all fellow beings will live in harmony. Ultimately, Bodhisattva Ambedkar enshrined these lofty ideals in the constitution of India. Thus doubts and conflicts were set to rest. The followers of Guru Ravidass and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar must understand this to stand united to face the challenges of the future.
Babasaheb Ambedkar was a socialist democrat following the footsteps of Guru Ravidass and his Bani:
Begumpura Shehar Ka Naon, Dukh Andoh Nahin Jis Ke Thaon;
Na Tasbees Khiraaj Na Maal, Khauff Na Khata Na Taras Jawaal !
(The place of my stay should be free of sorrow; there should not be any pain or misery. There nobody should dis-appropriate anyone’s belongings and there should be no fear or favour)
Dr. Ambedkar was interested in transforming the political democracy into economic and social democracy as visualized by Guru Ravidassji:
Aisa Chahun Raj Main; Jahan Mile Saban Ko Ann,
Chot Bade Sab Sam Basein; Ravidass Rahe Parsan !
(I want such a state and governance where nobody shall be hungry and everybody should have ones bread and butter. All should live in an equitable order. Only then Ravidass will be happy)
Dr. Ambedkar stood for harmony and fraternity in the society as preached by the great Guru:
Keh Ravidass Khalas Chamara, Jo Hum Sehri So Meet Hamara !
(Ravidass, the pure Chamar says that all my fellow citizens are my friends)
Like Guru Ravidass, Babasaheb was the greatest exponent of liberty as the Guru said:
Kaayam Daayam Sada Patshahi; Dom Na Som Ek So Ahi !
(The good order and governance should remain. There should be no gradation or division. We should all be one)
With this I conclude and say that Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was the champion of the Buddhist values of equality, liberty and fraternity as followed an propagated the great Guru Ravidass in the 15th century. I don’t find any conflict in these lofty ideals. We all should try to imbibe these in our daily life. Here lies the progress and salvation which we all need to lead a peaceful and contented life.

हुबैदा आज अपने जखमे पिन्हा कर के छोडूंगा;
लहू रो रो के महफ़िल को गुलिस्तां कर के छोडूंगा !
पिरोना एक ही तस्बीह में है इन बिखरे दानो को;
जो यह मुश्किल है तो इस मुश्किल को आसान कर के छोडूंगा !

Greetings on the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar, the greatest son of India.


  1. Thanks Ramesh Chander Saheb for the precise & beautiful article attempting to examine Buddhism, Ravidas Baani & Ambedkarism with a positive frame of thinking. This level of analysis & comparison was missing in the period immediately after exit of Dr Ambedkar in 1956.
    I would like to add something in this regards that Buddhism came into existence as a result of strong absurdities of Hindu religion which were forced on the people with the shear bulldozing force as the religious dogmas. Buddha, himself being Kshatriya challenged the dogmas & superstitions & enacted Humanist & Religious Thinking that was later on called Buddhism. But due to onslaught of Extremist Sanatan sect, Buddhism was virtually wiped out from 7th Century till start of age of arrival Saints which was wrongly branded as Bhakti Kaal. In fact Kabir, Ravidas, Namdev, Nanak never believed in or preached Bhakti but propogated a rational humanist, social & political life and in fact went to jail many times during their life time. Begumpura --,Aisa Chahun Raaj --, Madho Avidya Hitkeen etc are not Bhakti Songs but were suggesting the ruler what type of governance should be there which in political term is called Constitutionalism. These saints gave their Baani but could not reach a common platform till writing of Guru Granth Sahib. As regards Ambedkar, he had declared that he took birth as Hindu which was not in his hand but will not die as one. The vested interest & discriminatory policies of prevailing Sikh religion in Thirties under Master Tara Singh drove away Ambedkar from Sikhism. For next 20 years Ambedkar could not take a decision regarding his conversion and was in fact had to embrace Buddhism, less that two months of his death. Dr. Ambedkar was a religious person but for a religion with Humanist & rational approach. Unfortunately there was nothing comparable to Guru Granth Sahib at that time. Even Ravidassia Dharam was not there but in any case that also does not fit as per Ambedkar requirement. Mangu Ram Muggowalia had a better proposal in the shape of Ad-dharmi concept that for the first time brought Mool Niwasi concept amongst the downtrodden class. So Ambedkar preferred Buddhism. This is a fact that great Gurus like Ravidas, Nanak, Namdev. Kabir etc. never referred to Buddh or Buddhism in their Baani. But once drifted away from Sikhism, Ambedkar embraced Buddhism.
    As regards your inference, which I agree that there is no difference between the preaching of Guru Ravidas & Ambedkar philosophy. With Buddhism still not crossed one crore mark & highjacking of Bahujan Movement by Chamars every where, there appears to be no future for SC's numbering over 25 crores coming under one banner, what to talk of Bahujan Samaj of 100 crores.
    Please excuse me if I have unintentionally submitted anything that may disturb any of our friend including yourself Ramesh Chander Saheb whom I always treat in highest esteem.

    1. thanks joginderpalji. i am happy to get your comments. you made your point clearly there are many more comments and views conveyed to me verbally and by email. i intend to write yet another piece by bringing in those views.

  2. Wonderful comparison of two icons life message.missions,contribution.Pl tell me the name of the book which Baba Saheb Ambedkar dedicated to the memory of Sri Guru Ravidas. I salute the icons,and the write of this article. If you can spare time to read more on such topics,pl log on to the Bligspot --Dalit vision,where you will find similar 101 essays. Jai Bhim,Jai Guru Ravidas,Jai Guru Dev.