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1 The people know they need religion in order to develop: The relationship between Hindu and Buddhist religious teachings, values and beliefs and visions.

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Presentation on theme: "1 The people know they need religion in order to develop: The relationship between Hindu and Buddhist religious teachings, values and beliefs and visions."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 The people know they need religion in order to develop: The relationship between Hindu and Buddhist religious teachings, values and beliefs and visions of the future in Pune. Tamsin Bradley and Zara Ramsay

2 2 This paper explores how Hindu and Buddhist people living in Punes slums understand, relate to and challenge the world they live in. The problem with development Visions of the future.

3 3 The capacity to aspire (Appadurai). We found that poor people living in Punes slums utilise all resources including religion. NGOs, political parties, Gurus, local leaders, worship.

4 Values provide the moral principles that people draw on to make decisions. Beliefs relate to the cosmological lens through which people understand the world and their place within it. Religion is one dimension shaping the values and beliefs of poor Hindus and Buddhists, However more emphasis placed on religion as a practical resource rather than a philosophical framework. 4

5 Ethnographic research in two different slum settlements one near the suburb of Dapoli and the other in the area of Vishwantwadi. Mixed communities with a Hindu and Buddhist majority and a Christian and Muslim minority. Although many Dalits from the Mahar caste have converted to Buddhism or Christianity many continue to solely observe Hindu practices. In order to gain access to the slums we asked for the help of two new Buddhist organisations Bhujan Hitjay and Manuski. 5




9 Hinduism: Key Beliefs karma, samsara and moksha. What constitutes a better life is rooted in the caste system. Traditionally, low caste people pursue caste-specific menial jobs. 9

10 Buddhism Buddha is depicted as a teacher Samsara is the cycle of life when an individual achieves enlightenment they experience nirvana. The status of bodhistsva is awarded to those who are thought to have acquired deep spiritual insight and are on the verge of enlightenment. Buddhist society is divided between the sangha or monastic community and the laity. 10

11 Our Buddhist informants were all followers of Dr B.R. Ambedkar, born in late 19 th century Maharashtra into the untouchable Mahar caste, spent his life trying to challenge the dominant social processes that sanctioned untouchability. He used Buddhist teachings on equality to launch a successful dalit movement, Conversion to Buddhism became an important part of the dalit struggle for social justice. 11 Buddhist Views on Caste

12 Practical Spirituality Buddhism is not about ignoring all the gods. I have become a Buddha bhakta [worshipper]. Just if one person is Krishna bhakta does that mean he turns his back on Ram? He does not. But coming away from the people who are with those other gods, that is what matters to us. It is their ideas we have left. 12

13 Where do people get their views from? Gurus in India are simultaneously religious teachers and the focus for worship. Ambedkar is worshipped he is described as a bodhistsva. Young women worship gurus from their natal homes maintaining connections. Local religious and political organisations are also influential (e.g. Shiv Sena). In short the people know they need religion for their development 13

14 Street Shrine: Ganesha, Shivaji

15 Street shrine: Kali

16 Religious leadership in Punes slums The influence of local leaders are not often talked about yet many have direct influence over peoples day-to-day decision making. This figures have acquired their status in part through a claim to religious authority and knowledge. Religious solutions are most commonly provided. These locally selected leaders are trusted and bear witness to the day to day problems people face making them a vital source of local knowledge. In turn the advice of these individuals often inspires people into action motivating. 16

17 Religions capacity to inspire Clear conflation between Buddha and Ambedkar; Earlier my family were Hindus, very low [caste] Hindus with no opportunities. My grandfather liked the ideas of Ambedkarji, and so the family became Buddhist. Since then we have many more chances – every generation is more educated, gets better jobs…we have a better future because of that [conversion]. 17

18 Our parents broke free of that... So my own life - no maybe it is not much better than theirs [her Hindu neighbours]… but my children are definitely doing better because we believe it is possible. We are not untouchables, we are Buddhists and we know that we can come up. We can demand what is fairly ours. In that way only our children are doing better… I go there [to the community Buddhist shrine] because it reminds me to keep the right attitudes… life is still not so easy. My husband is not always working, my father in-law is also not well. She too [indicating her mother in-law] complains of pain in the legs often. I mostly have to take care of all these people… So I go there to the shrine and I put flowers or say some prayer. That helps me remember what he [Ambedkar] did for us, the hard work he did. He set us free, so we can also work hard to become something now. We are free now to work for our own progress. 18

19 Ambedkars Buddhist teachings have shaped how Dalit Buddhists see the world and understand and challenge their marginalisation, Buddhist philosophy and teachings beyond Ambedkars message are not being pursued by slum dwellers. In other words Buddhist teachings have been co-opted and used as a mechanism in the Dalit fight for justice. 19

20 Conclusion Religion provides a political platform for local groups to present ideological and rights-based discourses. Religious figures both gurus and locally designated leaders inspire people into action. The fluidity of religion also offers people the constant opportunity to renegotiate their identities. Religious practices are woven into the fabric of everyday life. What is clear is that local people view religions as possessing practical and personal potential and believe it has the capacity to inspire and motivate. 20

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