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Buddhadharma : Spring 2011
someone asked you to their home for food, if you were Dalit, you had to wash your own plate. My father often used to do that. Once I was invited for dinner, but I refused to wash my plate. They asked why I wouldn’t wash it. I said, if you invite me to eat with you, it is not right to force me to wash my own plate. In that case, I can give up your food and go. So I just left.” A woman of twenty said: “I am from Orissa. Where I live there is still a very strong caste system. They don’t allow Dalit children to get any kind of education. If a girl tries to get an education, their parents become afraid and get them mar- ried quickly. Neighborhood people will not allow the girls to learn as they wish to. We are here at Nagaloka now, but my family doesn’t know we are learning Buddhism. When we go back to the village we will share with them what we have learned about the dharma. We came with the help of former students, and when we go back we will help find other students. I really believe that our training at Nagaloka will benefit our community.” The school explains its mission this way: “The different Scheduled Caste communities in India do not usually cooper- ate with each other, even after they have become Buddhists. At the Nagarjuna Training Institute, they relate to each other just as Buddhists and not in terms of the caste they have come from. This in itself is an enormous contribution to a truly democratic society. The intensive practice for a year with other Buddhists from all over India means they cease to identify with the old untouchable caste but just as Buddhists.” I was inspired by the students at Nagaloka. Meeting them over several days, their stories touched me. Their way-seeking minds glow with the spirit of inquiry. Despite having been involved with engaged Buddhism for twenty years, nowhere else have I met young people with their kind of intuitive grasp of Buddhist practice and social action arising together. Nowhere else have I had deeper discussion that never slipped into abstraction, but focused on the conditions of oppres- sion these students know only too well. Nowhere else have I encountered anything like their determination to remake the world in peace. My heart is with them. There is much in this new Indian Buddhism that we share in the West. On both sides we have turned to the dharma in response to the Buddha’s central message about suffering and the end of suffering. Knowingly or not, many of us in the West come to Buddhism to deal with suffering, often alienated from the religious traditions we were born into. For Dalits, whose material circumstances may be so different from ours, the motivation is the same: to learn about suffering and to reach its end, in each person’s life and in society. As well, what I call the “three marks” of Western Buddhism—a largely lay movement, feminization, and social action—are shared by Ambedkarites. With all that we have in common, it is painful that Indian Buddhism is almost invisible to other Buddhists around the world. The time has come for us to see that a vast engaged movement in India promises to change the way Bud- dhism is seen by all the world’s religions. www.tibetanlanguage.org Tel: 406/961-5131 • firstname.lastname@example.org TIBETAN LANGUAGE INSTITUTE LEARN TIBETAN Experience the joy of reading your texts and prayers in Tibetan LESSONS with DAVID CURTIS 18 years’ experience teaching hundreds of students Tibetan by Group Teleconference Call This Winter Free “Intro to Tibetan” Lecture: March Levels I, II, III: Starting in April Tibetan from the convenience of your own home: TLI makes it fun. TLI makes it easy. SUmmER TIBETAN LANGUAGE SEmINARIN mONTANA In Missoula, MT TLI BOOkSTORE: hELpING STUDENTS ENhANCE pRACTICE & STUDy Best-selling Beginners’ package with Effective Instructional DVDs & more Visit our website for: Tibetan learning materials for modern students, info on our courses, & free study aids “Learning Tibetan from David Curtis is definitely one of life’s better experiences.” —K.J., VA buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spRing 2 0 11 90