12/22/2006, 00.00
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Indian Dalits should unite to fight caste system, says Dalai Lama

by Prakash Dubey
During the World Buddhist Leaders Council, Tibet’s “god-king” urges Indian Buddhist sects to remove any sign of social discrimination and join together to form a single denomination.

Sarnath (AsiaNews) – The Dalai Lama has called on Indian Buddhist Dalits to “transcend the Hindu caste system” that exists in India and instead fight this vice. He lamented the “differences that divide the various Buddhist sects, which are in fact caused by the caste system”. In this spirit he has called for “a sincere debate that would lead to reunification into a single denomination”.

Tibetans’ “god-king” made these remarks at the World Buddhist Leaders Council organised at Sarnath, the Buddhist shrine town in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment.

In his address, the Dalai Lama noted that since his arrival in the 1960s he endeavoured to bring together and foster unity among Indian Buddhists but acknowledged his failure against the tenacity of the caste system, feeling “dejected to see the outcome of my efforts”.

Caste-based differences among Buddhist groups persist in India to this day and have sometimes been the cause of violent clashes between Buddhists from different castes.

For the religious leader, believers should follow the example of Ambedkar, one of India’s founding fathers, who left Hinduism to convert to Buddhism in opposition to the caste system which undermines society. “Religion,” the Dalai Lama said, “cannot be allowed to be the source of further divisions”.

He ended his speech stressing that “religion, the real basis for humanity’s prosperity, is still used as a pretext to cause conflicts in the world. This must stop because each religion teaches peace and anyone using it to make war is wrong or in bad faith”.


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