My visit to Nagaloka, Nagpur.

by Vasantha Mistry
Submitted on 2008/10/15 at 1:03am

What can I say, Agony & Ecstacy!

The purpose of the visit was to see Diksha Bhumi, where on October 14th in 1956 Dr. Ambedkar and his followers (often referred to as Dalits) converted to Buddhism on Vijayadashmi day, and to attend the two day retreat (10th and 11th) by ven. Thich Nhat Hanh (Thai). Many of us are aware of his history – a Vietnamese monk asked to leave his country when he refused to take sides, either with south or north Viet Nam; has been living in Plum Village, France. He was accompanied by monks and nuns from different parts of the world.

Having nothing much to say about the retreat, I shall give my impressions on Nagaloka – a learning institute started by TBMSG under the guidance of Dhammachari Lokamitra.

We will never know how, or by following which school of Buddhism – Theravada, Mahayana or Vajrayana, Dr. Ambedkar would have taken his movement forward. His untimely death stopped him in his stride. However, a visit to Nagaloka and seeing the devotion of so many of his followers to Dhammachari Lokamitra, will inspire us with his single minded purpose in taking forward the movement to its present destination. A lot can be learned of his fruitful efforts by visiting FWBO and TBMSG websites.

We, along with monks and nuns, visited the Samatha Mahila Society (SMS) Girls Hostel where young girls enthralled us with a Bharat Natyam performance. The interaction between some monks and nuns, learning Bharat Natyam steps and teaching the girls their music and dance steps, was an example of the west joining the east under one umbrella called Buddhism. Ordinarily, these girls would never have got an opportunity to see the face of a school, let alone be able to perform before western/eastern monks and nuns. The management of the school by dedicated women has given them this chance in a life that would otherwise have been spent who knows where.

Sangharakshita in “A Survey of Buddhism” says: “……… is not surprising that between the different schools of Buddhism there was a relationship of mutual respect and tolerance. This is not to say that doctrinal differences were not keenly felt and vigorously debated ……………., but such differences were always settled peacefully, by means of discussion, no attempt ever being made to enforce conformity. Persecution, or ‘arguing by torture’, was unknown. ………………………………….Such, indeed, was the harmony that prevailed, that monks of different schools sometimes occupied the same monastery, observing a common rule and sharing in the same corporate monastic life, but devoting themselves, in addition, each one to his own special studies and meditations.”

I am back in Mumbai overwhelmed by my interaction with budding Buddhists. I am so caught up in this mundane samsarik world that the one question that keeps popping up is: What the hell am I doing?

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