‘You will not devour this book’ a review by Liam Paul Wallinger

The faithful scribe of a world eerily similar to our own, Author Fauzia Rafique skewers human foibles in The Adventures of SahebaN: Biography of a Relentless Warrior with the zeal of an archer, and…

Source: ‘You will not devour this book’ a review by Liam Paul Wallinger

Launching ‘The Adventures of SahebaN: Biography of a Relentless Warrior’ by Fauzia Rafique

The story of a woman who was forever curious about an object called ‘Pee-nuts’. Book Launches Sunday, Nov 20, Camp Alexandra, South Surrey 4 – 6 pm Host Virginia Gillespie Guest Speaker…

Source: Launching ‘The Adventures of SahebaN: Biography of a Relentless Warrior’ by Fauzia Rafique

Ambedkar, Buddhism and Caste

ambedkar

Written by Randeep Singh

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was one of modern India’s most remarkable statesman. He drafted the Constitution of India, served as the country’s first Minister of Law and led the Untouchables in his fight against the caste system.

Ambedkar singlehandedly revived Buddhism in India. On October 14, 1956, he converted to the religion, prompting the mass conversion of hundreds of thousands of his followers. He created a new identity for India’s Untouchables, but he polemicized his interpretation of Buddhism in the process.

Ambedkar claimed that the Buddha did everything to uproot the caste system, but ignored the fact that the caste system remained entrenched in India throughout the Buddhist period (c. 268 BCE – 551 CE). He did not mention that the practice of Untouchability first emerged during this period. He gushed about how Buddhism gave India democratic parliaments with whip, quorum, resolutions, ballot voting and vote counting.

He still inspires me though and I believe that Buddhism, as secularized political philosophy, can help undermine the caste system. It was the first religion to challenge the caste system by turning upside down the concepts upholding it. Its insights in this respect are interesting from a modern, secular perspective.

Buddhism is concerned with the end of suffering as a human problem.  Its primary concern is to promote human welfare and happiness. It holds that only humans can end their own suffering through moral action, self-discipline, and understanding. No God, divine being, black magic, superstition or astrological charts are necessary.

Humans are equal in Buddhism in the sense of being equally capable of achieving enlightenment. They are equally subject to one universal moral law (‘Dharma’) with moral obligations to one another such as to respect one another’s life, liberty and dignity. This contrasts to the caste system which differentiates laws on the basis of caste.

The Buddha recognized the existence of caste in his society. He exhorted his followers, however, to emphasize the cultivation of moral character as an indication of self-worth. Caste or rather class in Buddhism arise due to human expediency, not divine sanction: it is a matter of vocation, not birth.

Caste is not static either. Like all existence, individual or collective, it is subject to change, interrelated and composite and conditioned by many interdependent factors. The seasons come and go, empires rise and fall and ancient communities perish. There is no “caste” other than the conditions giving rise to it.

Lastly, Buddhism left an important secular legacy for India. It inculcated a more humane ethic in politics (e.g. the reign of Ashoka). It formulated a social contract theory of government. It established inclusive social institutions such as universities, monasteries, and hospitals. Its appeal to reason, ethics and its concern for human well-being, can enlighten India yet.

 

Dhahan Prize 2016 Awards Gala – Vancouver – October 29/16

uddari-dhahan-2016

Join us in celebrating excellence in Punjabi literature.

DATE AND TIME
Sat, October 29, 2016
6:30 PM – 10:00 PM PDT
LOCATION
Museum of Anthropology
6393 Northwest Marine Drive
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2

In 2014, the Dhahan Prize took flight, and in 2016 we return to recognize the achievements of Punjabi writers at our 3rd annual event with keynote speaker, Giller Prize winner, M G Vassanji.
For work in the Punjabi scripts of Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi, this prize recognizes one outstanding writer with a $25,000 award, as well as two finalists with awards of $5,000. Forging meaningful relationships with writers, community organizations and educational institutions in Pakistan, India and the diaspora, the Dhahan Prize is the world’s signature prize for Punjabi literary works.

This year’s winning book, Kaale Varke (Dark Pages), is a collection of short stories about the lived experience of immigrant Punjabis in North America by Jarnail Singh. The title story of the book probes the links between the colonization of India, and the suffering of abuse and violence of the Canadian indigenous communities via the residential school system. Through a dialogue between an Indo Canadian counsellor and an indigenous man, who is a residential school survivor, the deep impacts of their experiences are explored.

Co-finalist, Tassi Dharti (Thirsty Land) by Zahid Hassan, is a gripping representation of existential concerns of the valiant people of the undivided Punjab, known as Bar, and their hardy struggles in the context of evolving social and political environment during the colonial period and beyond.

Our other finalist, Us Pal (That Moment) by Simran Dhaliwal, is a collection of short stories that deal with the rapidly fraying social and cultural fabric of contemporary Punjab. These short narratives provide fresh insight into the complexity of moral struggles and emotional relations of the common people.

Please join us for an evening of celebration in a glorious venue; enjoy the pre & post ceremony reception and also a stroll through the Museum’s multitude of exhibits.

We hope you can make and look forward to seeing you.

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