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The Buddha and His Dhamma

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Publication date  1957
Originally published  1957
Original language  English
Genre  Buddhism
4.5/5 Goodreads

Pages  599
Author  B. R. Ambedkar
Page count  599
Country  India
The Buddha and His Dhamma ecximagesamazoncomimagesI51n792QZZ2BLSX32

Publisher  Siddhartha College Publications, Mumbai
Followed by  Dr. Babasheb Ambedkar, writings and speeches, v. 12. Unpublished writings ; Ancient Indian commerce ; Notes on laws ; Waiting for a visa ; Miscellaneous notes, etc.
Similar  B R Ambedkar books, Gautama Buddha books

The Buddha and His Dhamma, a treatise on Buddha's life and Buddhism, was the last work of Indian statesman and scholar B. R. Ambedkar. The book is treated as a holy text by Indian Buddhists. It was first published in 1957 after Ambedkar's death on 6 December 1956.


It was again Published in 1979 by the Education Department of the Government of Maharashtra as the eleventh volume of Ambedkar's collected writings and speeches, with a list of sources and an index.

Written in English, the book has been translated to many languages including Hindi, Gujarati,Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam, and Kannada.

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar mentioned that it is one of the three books which will form a set for the proper understanding of Buddhism. The other books are: (i) Buddha and Karl Marx; and (ii) Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Ancient India.


While explaining the purpose of writing the book Ambedkar writes:

The urge to write this book has a different origin. In 1951 the Editor of the Mahabodhi Society's Journal of Calcutta asked me to write an article for the Vaishak Number. In that article I argued that the Buddha's Religion was the only religion which a society awakened by science could accept, and without which it would perish. I also pointed out that for the modern world Buddhism was the only religion which it must have to save itself. That Buddhism makes [a] slow advance is due to the fact that its literature is so vast that no one can read the whole of it. That it has no such thing as a bible, as the Christians have, is its greatest handicap. On the publication of this article, I received many calls, written and oral, to write such a book. It is in response to these calls that I have undertaken the task.


The book is written as an answer to the questions the modern students of Buddhism face. In the introduction, the author lists out the four questions:

The first problem relates to the main event in the life of the Buddha, namely, Parivraja. Why did the Buddha take Parivraja? The traditional answer is that he took Parivraja because he saw a dead person, a sick person and an old person. This answer is absurd on the face of it. The Buddha took Parivraja at the age of 29. If he took Parivraja as a result of these three sights, how is it he did not see these three sights earlier? These are common events occurring by hundreds, and the Buddha could not have failed to come across them earlier. It is impossible to accept the traditional explanation that this was the first time he saw them. The explanation is not plausible and does not appeal to reason. But if this is not the answer to the question, what is the real answer?

The second problem is created by the four Aryan Truths. Do they form part of the original teachings of the Buddha? This formula cuts at the root of Buddhism. If life is sorrow, death is sorrow, and rebirth is sorrow, then there is an end of everything. Neither religion nor philosophy can help a man to achieve happiness in the world. If there is no escape from sorrow, then what can religion do, what can Buddha do, to relieve man from such sorrow which is ever there in birth itself? The four Aryan Truths are a great stumbling block in the way of non-Buddhists accepting the gospel of Buddhism. For the four Aryan Truths deny hope to man. The four Aryan Truths make the gospel of the Buddha a gospel of pessimism. Do they form part of the original gospel, or are they a later accretion by the monks?

The third problem relates to the doctrines of soul, of karma and rebirth. The Buddha denied the existence of the soul. But he is also said to have affirmed the doctrine of karma and rebirth. At once a question arises. If there is no soul, how can there be karma? If there is no soul, how can there be rebirth? These are baffling questions. In what sense did the Buddha use the words karma and rebirth? Did he use them in a different sense than the sense in which they were used by the Brahmins of his day? If so, in what sense? Did he use them in the same sense in which the Brahmins used them? If so, is there not a terrible contradiction between the denial of the soul and the affirmation of karma and rebirth? This contradiction needs to be resolved.

The fourth problem relates to the Bhikkhu. What was the object of the Buddha in creating the Bhikkhu? Was the object to create a perfect man? Or was his object to create a social servant devoting his life to service of the people and being their friend, guide and philosopher? This is a very real question. On it depends the future of Buddhism. If the Bhikkhu is only a perfect man he is of no use to the propagation of Buddhism, because though a perfect man he is a selfish man. If, on the other hand, he is a social servant, he may prove to be the hope of Buddhism. This question must be decided not so much in the interest of doctrinal consistency but in the interest of the future of Buddhism.

Book one: How a Bodhisatta became the Buddha

  • Part I — From Birth to Parivraja
  • Part II — Renunciation for Ever
  • Part III — In Search of New Light
  • Part IV — Enlightenment and the Vision of a New Way
  • Part V — The Buddha and His Predecessors
  • Part VI — The Buddha and His Contemporaries
  • Part VII — Comparison and Contrast
  • Book two: Campaign of Conversion

  • Part I — Buddha and His Vishad Yoga
  • Part II — The Conversion of the Parivrajakas
  • Part III — Conversion of the High and the Holy
  • Part IV — Call from Home
  • Part V — Campaign for Conversion Resumed
  • Part VI — Conversion of the Low and the Lowly
  • Part VII — Conversion of Women
  • Part VIII — Conversion of the Fallen and the Criminals
  • Book three: What the Buddha taught

  • Part I — His Place in His Dhamma
  • Part II — Different Views of the Buddha's Dhamma
  • Part III — What is Dhamma
  • Part IV — What is Not-Dhamma
  • Part V — What is Saddhamma
  • Book four: Religion and Dhamma

  • Part I — Religion and Dhamma
  • Part II — How Similarities in Terminology Conceal Fundamental Difference
  • Part III — The Buddhist Way of Life
  • Part IV — His Sermons
  • Book five: The Sangh

  • Part I — The Sangh
  • Part II — The Bhikkhu: the Buddha's Conception of Him
  • Part III — The Duties of the Bhikkhu
  • Part IV — The Bhikkhu and the Laity
  • Part V — Vinaya for the Laity
  • Book six: He and his contemporaries

  • Part I — His Benefactors
  • Part II — His Enemies
  • Part III — Critics of His Doctrines
  • Part IV — Friends and Admirers
  • Book seven: The wanderer's last journey

  • Book Seven, Part I — The Meeting of those Near and Dear
  • Book Seven, Part II — Leaving Vaishali
  • Book Seven, Part III — His End
  • Book eight: The man who was Siddhartha Gautama

  • Book Eight, Part I — His Personality
  • Book Eight, Part II — His Humanity
  • Book Eight, Part III — His Likes and Dislikes
  • References

    The Buddha and His Dhamma Wikipedia