Dr. Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar renounced Hinduism and embraced Buddhism on 14 October 1956 in Nagpur (Deekshabhoomi) along with five lakh followers. On the same day first he himself had received the initiation of Buddhism from the Buddhist monks and after that, he himself gave the initiation of Buddhism to the people present. As part of the initiation of Buddhism, he also administered twenty-two vows to all which were as follows: –
1. I will not believe in Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh nor will I worship them.
2. I will not have any faith in Rama and Krishna, who are considered to be incarnations of God, nor will I worship them.
3. I will not have faith in Gauri, Ganapati and other Hindu deities and neither will I worship them.
4. I do not believe in the incarnation of God.
5. I do not believe and will never believe that Lord Buddha was an incarnation of Vishnu. I consider it insanity and false propaganda.
6. I will not participate in Shradh nor will I do Pind-Daan.
7. I will not act in a manner that violates the principles and teachings of the Buddha.
8. I will not accept any ceremony to be performed by Brahmins.
9. I believe in the equality of men.
10. I will try to establish equality.
11. I will follow the eightfold path of the Buddha.
12. I will follow the Paramitas prescribed by the Buddha.
13. I will exercise mercy towards all living beings and will protect them.
14. I will never steal.
15. I will never lie.
16. I will not commit adultery.
17. I will not consume intoxicants like alcohol, or drugs.
18. I will try to follow the Great Eightfold Path and practice empathy and being kind in my daily life.
19. I renounce Hinduism which is harmful to humanity and hinders the progress and development of humanity because it is based on inequality, and adopt Buddhism as self-religion.
20. I firmly believe that Buddha’s Dhamma is the true religion.
21. I believe that I am born again (through this conversion).
22. I solemnly and solemnly declare that after this (conversion) I will conduct my life in accordance with the principles and teachings of the Buddha and His Dhamma.
Now the question arises as to why Babasaheb made these twenty-two vows part of the initiation into Buddhism. To understand this, it is necessary to know what the danger is if these promises are not kept. Babasaheb, mentioning the need to get them, informed Valisinhan, General Secretary of the Mahabodhi Society, “We have made a ritual system for the initiation ceremony. Everyone will have to perform those sanskaras while taking initiation into Buddhism. My opinion is that the conversion of an ordinary ignorant man is not a conversion at all. It is only a matter of the name. One of the reasons for the disappearance of Buddhism from India is that the ignorant people continued to worship Buddha because of their loose stance, along with other gods and goddesses introduced into Buddhism by Brahmins in their earlier lives. Therefore, a special ceremony should be performed at the time of initiation of Buddhism.” By taking lessons from the mistakes of the past Babasaheb’s main concern was to take precautions to prevent the re-entry of Hindu gods and goddesses in Buddhism.
Apart from this, Babasaheb’s main concern was to make the newly-initiated Buddhists complete Buddhists so that they could become good Buddhists and role models for others. Apart from this, it is necessary for the follower of every religion to follow the basic principles of that religion. According to Kanwal Bharti, “Any religion lives on its basic principles. The basis of Hinduism is the Varna system, as Gandhiji also used to say that without the Varna system, Hinduism will end. If a Hindu is not a believer, it ok, does not worship, will be ok, does not go to the temple, will be ok, but if does not believe in caste, then it will not work. Belief in caste is the basic condition of being a Hindu. Kanwal Bharati further says that “Similarly there are some basic principles of other religions, without believing in which one cannot be considered a follower of those religions. If a Muslim does not believe in ‘Kalma Tayyba’, then he cannot be considered a Muslim. It is the basic belief of Christians that Jesus is the son of God. One cannot be a Christian by expressing disbelief in it. Similarly, some basic principles were laid down by Dr. Ambedkar for the neo-Buddhists. These principles are known as the twenty-two vows. These vows are administered to the Neo-Buddhists as an oath to be completely free from Hindu culture and beliefs. What is wrong with that? Do BJP Hindus want that even after conversion, neo-Buddhists remain trapped in the ‘Brahmin-trap’ of Hindu beliefs?”
The first two vows in the twenty-two vows are – (1) ‘I will never consider Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh as God, and will never worship them, and (2) I will never consider Rama and Krishna to be God and will never worship them. Regarding this Babasaheb said in his speech at Diksha Bhoomi on 15th October, “There is a great difference between other religions and Buddhism. You will not find the great things of Buddhism in other religions, because in other religions, there is a deep relationship between man and God. Other religions say that the world was created by God. He has created the sky, air, Indra, the sun and everything else. God has done everything for us. Nothing is left, that is why we worship God. There is no place in Buddhism for God and soul.”
According to Kanwal Bharti, “Dr. Ambedkar had converted them to Buddhism with twenty-two vows only to free the Dalits from the exploitation in the name of Ram-Krishna and deities. These vows not only free them from the religious culture of exploitation but also enrich them from a scientific point of view. Because it also has the nineteenth vow that ‘I completely renounce my old Hindu religion, which is harmful to the advancement in man and considers man as unequal and inferior, and accept the Buddha-dharma.
It is clear from the above brief discussion that the twenty-two vows of Babasaheb are of great importance for the newly ordained Buddhists. It is these vows that can free them from the anti-human beliefs of Hinduism and bind them to the human beliefs of Buddhism. It is also worth mentioning that the twenty-two vows of Babasaheb are not anti-Hindu in any way but give guidelines for the followers of Buddhism which each religion gives.
S.R. Darapuri I.P.S.(Retd)
All India Peoples Front