India's Former Untouchables Renounce Hinduism in Droves
Updated: Oct 14, 2022
Only nine states or union territories in India have less than 50 percent Hindus: Ladakh, Manipur, Punjab Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Lakshadweep, and Mizoram. In the remaining Indian states, Hindus are between 95 percent to 51 percent.
Muslims are in the majority in only two places: Jammu, Kashmir, and Lakshadweep. Christians form a majority in Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya. In Punjab, Sikhs 18 million constitute 57.7% of the population.
Surveys until 2020 indicated that 99% of born Hindus remained Hindus. Yet, Hindutva organizations have often accused Islam and Christianity of converting Hindus. For example, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an offshoot of the Hindu militant group, the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS), blames the two Abrahamic faiths for converting millions of Hindus.
India's official data does not support the claim of the Hindu militants. On the contrary, conversion to Hinduism has increased over the years. For example, in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, more than 8,000 people converted to Hinduism from July 2014 - December 2014 under the Ghar Wapsi program.
In Jharkhand in April 2017, at least 53 tribal Christian families converted to Hinduism as part of the RSS's "Christianity-free" block campaign, and in March 2021, 181 Christians were in the Garhwa district. Similar conversions took place in large numbers in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Kerala, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Chhattisgarh.
The situation in 2022 is changing. Conversions from Hinduism to Buddhism are on the rise. In October, hundreds of thousands of Hindus, known as Dalits or the so-called lower castes, accepted Buddhism publicly in different places.
Buddhism follows the teachings of Siddhārtha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha, who was born in modern-day Nepal. He lived and taught in India in the 5th century B.C. There are between 495 million and 535 million Buddhists in the world.
Buddhism is the majority and state religion in nine countries: Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Bhutan, Mongolia, Japan, and Singapore. In addition, particular administrative areas in China are Buddhist-majority areas, such as Macau, Tibet, and Hong Kong.
Kalmykia is the only Buddhist-majority region in Europe. It is an autonomous republic in Russia.
There are more than 10 million Buddhists in India, and 87% are neo-Buddhists or Narayana Buddhists. They converted from Hinduism, mostly Dalits (Scheduled Caste) who changed religion to escape the Caste System of Hinduism.
Buddhists faced genocidal persecution in India at the hands of Hindu upper castes, but it began a dramatic comeback in the 20th century.
The foundation of the Mahabodhi Society (Society of Great Enlightenment) in 1891, formed to wrest control of the Buddhist shrine at Gaya from the hands of Hindu managers, popularized Buddhist philosophy and the importance of the religion in India's past.
A breakthrough occurred in 1956 after some thirty years of Untouchable, or Dalit, agitation when Bhimrao Ramji (B.R.) Ambedkar, leader of the Untouchable wing of the Congress, announced his decision to convert to Buddhism to escape the Hindu caste system. With him, masses of Untouchables — also known as Harijans or Dalits — and members of Scheduled Castes converted to Buddhism.
After leaving the Hindu religion and accepting Buddhism on 14th October 1956, Dr. Ambedkar prescribed 22 vows to his followers.
Thus by prescribing the 22 Vows, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar challenged the foundations of Hinduism built on the concept of four varnas or castes: Vaishya, Kshatriya, Shudra, and Brahmin.
Hindus converting to Buddhism are mainly Dalits and repeat these vows in October to live the legacy of Dr. Ambedkar. However, the Hindu upper castes have called these vows anti-Hindus. So now the Buddhists are also on their list of anti-Hindus and anti-nationals.
The Buddhist Vows
I shall have no faith in Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh, nor shall I worship them.
I shall have no faith in Rama and Krishna, who claim to be incarnations of God, nor shall I worship them.
I shall have no faith in 'Gauri,' Ganapati, and other gods and goddesses of Hindus, nor shall I worship them.
I do not believe in the incarnation of God.
I do not and shall not believe that Lord Buddha was the incarnation of Vishnu. I think this to be sheer madness and false propaganda.
I shall not perform 'Shraddha' nor shall I give 'pind-dan.'
I shall not act in a manner violating the principles and teachings of the Buddha.
I shall not allow any ceremonies performed by Brahmins.
I shall believe in the equality of man.
I shall endeavor to establish equality.
I shall follow the 'noble eightfold path of the Buddha.
I shall follow the 'paramitas' prescribed by the Buddha.
I shall have compassion and loving-kindness for all living beings and protect them.
I shall not steal.
I shall not tell lies.
I shall not commit carnal sins.
I shall not take intoxicants like liquor, drugs, etc.
I shall endeavor to follow the noble eightfold path and practice compassion and loving-kindness in everyday life.
I renounce Hinduism, which is harmful to humanity and impedes the advancement and development of society because it promotes inequality, and adopt Buddhism as my religion.
I firmly believe the Dhamma of the Buddha is the only true religion.
I believe that I am having a rebirth.
I solemnly declare and affirm that I shall hereafter lead my life according to the principles and teachings of the Buddha and his Dhamma.