New Delhi, India -- Across India this month, thousands of Hindus from the former Untouchable castes are converting to Buddhism in protest at the continuing discrimination they face. Mass conversion ceremonies are being held throughout the month, from Delhi in the north, to Hyderabad in the south. Organisers are claiming that more than 100,000 people have already converted.
Conversion is a highly charged political issue. Several states have passed laws this year making it harder to convert, and the mass ceremonies will infuriate Hindu nationalist parties that have been campaigning to stop lower caste Hindus changing their religion.
"These people are converting as a protest," says Sakya Ponnu Durai, one of the organisers of the mass conversion ceremonies. But Mr Durai, a Dalit who himself converted two years ago, says he has wholeheartedly become a practising Buddhist. "After converting, I have much more satisfaction," he says. This year several states, including Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, have introduced laws that anyone wishing to convert will have to obtain official permission first. Gujarat, home to some of the most hardline Hindu groups, has introduced a more controversial law under which Buddhism is considered part of Hinduism.
In a separate rally this weekend, not connected to the conversion ceremonies, thousands of Dalits plan to burn the new laws.
Hindu nationalist parties are unhappy with the large numbers of lower-caste Hindus converting, not only to Buddhism but also Christianity.
James: Let us rejoice for these new friends who have newly entered the stream and fully embrace them with open, loving arms. There is no one untouchable or unreachable by the Dharma. All are welcome. May clarity, softening of the mind and right action come to the minds of the hardline Hindus that they will allow all Indians to choose the religion of their choice (or no religion if they choose).
In news from the homefront we are receiving our first snow of the season. The beautiful soft flakes melt on impact as I smile. A snow storm is such a magical, wonderful sight. I really enjoy the quiet spell that snow casts down upon us. Snowfall is such a wonderful gift and seems to be nature's way of saying "Slow down and watch the show friend." Nature's television programs and movies.
I stepped out into the cold air to snatch up the mail from the box and watched my hot breath escape and quickly blend into the cold air. "What a lovely expression of interconnectivity and impermanence" I remember thinking.
~Peace to all beings-