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What is Neo Buddhism?


Neo Buddhism, also known as Ambedkarite Buddhism or Navayana Buddhism, is a modern reinterpretation and adaptation of traditional Buddhist teachings. This movement was founded by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in the mid-20th century as a means to combat social inequality and discrimination, particularly against Dalits (formerly known as “untouchables”) in India. Ambedkar’s vision for Neo Buddhism was not just a religious transformation but also a social revolution aimed at uplifting marginalized communities.

Who Founded Neo Buddhism?

Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, a prominent Indian jurist, economist, and social reformer, is the founder of Neo Buddhism. Born into a Dalit family, Ambedkar experienced firsthand the severe discrimination and social exclusion faced by his community. Despite these challenges, he became a leading figure in the fight against caste oppression and was instrumental in drafting the Indian Constitution. Disillusioned with the social injustices perpetuated by the caste system within Hinduism, Ambedkar converted to Buddhism in 1956, along with hundreds of thousands of his followers, marking the beginning of the Neo Buddhist movement.

How is Neo Buddhism Performing in India?

Since its inception, Neo Buddhism has gained a significant following in India. The movement has inspired numerous conversions and has led to the establishment of various Buddhist institutions, educational centers, and social organizations. Neo Buddhism has also played a crucial role in the resurgence of Buddhist culture and heritage in India. Despite the growth the Neo Buddhism’s growth is retarding now.

The Impact of Neo Buddhism on Indian Society

Though Neo Buddhism as a movement has faced its share of challenges, its impact on Indian society has been profound and lasting. Ambedkar’s reinterpretation of Buddhism provided a powerful framework for addressing social inequalities and fostering a sense of dignity and self-worth among Dalits. The principles of Neo Buddhism have influenced various aspects of Indian society, including:

  1. Social Justice and Equality: Neo Buddhism has been a catalyst for social reform, challenging the deeply entrenched caste system and advocating for equal rights and opportunities for all individuals, regardless of their caste or social background.
  2. Education and Empowerment: The movement has emphasized the importance of education as a means of empowerment. Numerous schools, colleges, and vocational training centers have been established to provide quality education to marginalized communities.
  3. Political Participation: Neo Buddhism has encouraged active political participation among Dalits and other marginalized groups, leading to greater representation and influence in local and national governance.
  4. Cultural Revival: The movement has played a vital role in reviving and preserving Buddhist cultural and religious practices in India, promoting a sense of identity and heritage among its followers.
  5. Human Rights Advocacy: Neo Buddhism has been instrumental in advocating for human rights, challenging discriminatory practices, and promoting social harmony and inclusion.

Dr. Ambedkar’s Vision and Modifications

Ambedkar’s reinterpretation of Buddhism addressed several limitations he identified within traditional Buddhist teachings. He questioned the legend of the Buddha’s isolation, the causes of suffering, the concepts of karma and rebirth, and the role of ordained practitioners. Ambedkar proposed a radical re-interpretation of nirvana, emphasizing its attainment through societal peace and justice rather than individual enlightenment. His vision of Navayāna Buddhism prioritized education, social activism, and community engagement as essential components of spiritual practice.

Dr. Ambedkar’s Challenge to Traditional Buddhism

Ambedkar’s approach challenges conventional notions of Buddhist practice, advocating for a more engaged and socially conscious form of Buddhism. He viewed Buddhism as a dynamic and evolving tradition that must adapt to address contemporary issues of injustice and inequality. Rather than retreating from the world, Ambedkar urged his followers to actively participate in social reform, education, and advocacy for marginalized communities. His teachings continue to inspire millions of individuals, embodying the spirit of compassion, activism, and social justice.


Neo Buddhism, founded by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, has made significant strides in transforming the social landscape of India. By addressing the deep-rooted issues of caste discrimination and advocating for social justice, equality, and empowerment, the movement has left an indelible mark on Indian society. Despite challenges, Neo Buddhism continues to inspire and drive positive change, embodying the timeless values of compassion, wisdom, and human dignity that are central to Buddhist teachings.

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