The vajra: cutting through to the truth

2 Sangharakshita

IV. Sangharakshita’s Career

a | Sangharakshita’s Involvement with Ambedkarism

The FWBO Files asserts that Sangharakshita makes a claim that he officiated at a ceremonial mass conversion of [Dr. Ambedkar and] half a million Harijans (Untouchables) to Buddhism. This, it says, is spurious as Sangharakshita was in Sikkim at the time of this conversion. Neither the FWBO nor Sangharakshita has ever claimed that Sangharakshita conducted the conversion. [ 53 ] Indeed, the “meticulously documented account of the proceedings” [ The FWBO Files, 10 ] cited by The FWBO Files in partial evidence of this claim, actually appeared in the Maha Bodhi Journal which was edited by Sangharakshita himself. It is a matter of historical record that Dr. Ambedkar asked Sangharakshita to perform the ceremony, and that Sangharakshita declined, and recommended U Chandramani as he was the most senior bhikkhu in India. [ 54 ]

Sangharakshita personally initiated and instructed more than 200,000 people and his work is presently being continued by TBMSG (as the FWBO is known in India) which has many thousands of adherents, and by its sister organisation, Bahujan Hitay, which runs educational, health and vocational projects across central India. [ 55 ] Whether this makes Sangharakshita a significant figure in an important Indian historic and religious event is for history to determine.

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53 ]
The accusation that Sangharakshita claims to have officiated at Ambedkar’s conversion ceremony would appear to derive from a similar mistake in Snelling’s Buddhist Handbook, which The FWBO Files’ author has either failed to check against FWBO sources, or else has knowingly used as a basis for a smear. Sangharakshita has many thousands of ex-Untouchable disciples, including many who were present at the conversion, and could themselves give an account of it. The most charitable explanation of this blatant untruth is that the author of The FWBO Files is so convinced of Sangharakshita’s dishonesty that any apparent inconsistency is seized on; but in this case, there is no doubt whatsoever that Sangharakshita has never claimed to have been present at the ceremony. The less charitable explanation is that The FWBO Files author is himself lying. Neither possibility reflects well upon him and each raises questions about his motivation, and credibility.
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54 ]
Christopher Queen, Dean of Harvard University, in his interviews with Mrs. Ambedkar, has independently corroborated Sangharakshita’s claim that he was asked by Ambedkar to officiate at the initial conversion ceremony, but declined. Sponberg, Engaged Buddhism, (SUNY,1996).
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55 ]
See Sponberg, ibid, for a summary of this work.
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