Black Leadership Analysis

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Leader Analysis

The Integral Case for Dr. William Cross

What makes William Cross Yellow Meme?

The hallmark of the Yellow meme is the ability to understand that people naturally progress in life in stages and meet people in their current stage. Dr. Cross developed an ethnic development hierarchy that is very similar to Spiral Dynamics. Even though his scope focused on African-Americans, the framework has been used to understand many identities better. As his work developed, he moved from the position that some stages are pathological to the belief there are healthy versions of all stages. He also discusses regression in the face of adversity.

Similarities between Spiral Dynamics and Nigrescence

  1. People progress through stages
  2. Stages can not be skipped
  3. People can ascend or descend
  4. There are healthy versions of each stage

Frequently, Integralists view race as an arbitrary social construct. Dr. Cross doesn’t talk about race, which is the idea that people from the same area are genetically linked, and these links create similarities in ability and personality. He talks about ethnicity, which is the idea that people from a similar lineage have similar experiences and position in society. Ethnicity is something that can be verified and explains how changing environment can have a positive effect on a person life. By concentrating on ethnicity, he can talk about the unique experience of being black without delving into racist ideas of superiority.

Example of this is his thoughts on criminality in the black community. Dr. Cross first explains the similarity in black gangs and gangs of other oppressed groups. Before the New Deal, Italians and Jews formed gangs and other criminal organizations. When mainstream America prevents a group from operating in the economy, the oppressed group create an underground economy. Therefore, the solution is to find ways to reduce discrimination in the marketplace.

Another example of Dr. Cross’s Integral view of problems in the black community is his view of the disparity in education. He begins the conservation by talking about the greatest achievement in American education, the teaching of former slaves. After the Civil War, former slaves created a network of Sabbath schools. The system was nationwide two years after slavery. By 1900 illiteracy in the blacks under 40-year-old was non-existent according to the University of Illinois. Dr. Cross said if blacks had been allowed to explore their natural curiosity, we could have been just as successful as any other ethnic group.

Even though Dr. Cross doesn’t use Wilber’s four-quadrant terminology, he has a four-quadrant view of social problems and solutions. He doesn’t assume blacks are destined to become super-predators because of culture or genetics. He also doesn’t blame everything on slavery or evil whites. He looks at all the factors of a problem for a better understanding. His better understanding leads to advocating for practical solutions and not merely eternal blaming.

How does William Cross not find the Yellow meme mold?

He is by no means an individualist or preferential to independent study. He said in his talk on collaboration that his last book Shades of Black(1991) would be his last solo work. Ideology is something that infects everyone’s decision making. The only way to catch and understand one’s blind spots is to work with those that do not agree with you.

Dr. Cross criticizes mainstream psychology for being too individualistic. The focus is on attaining personal happiness which is contingent on building proper bonds with parents, life partner, and children according to Dr. Cross. Since there are few opportunities to develop these bonds for personal happiness most will not find it. It is more important to build and aid one’s community. Most people will have more salience with people of the same ethnicity because they share the experience. By wrestling with the issues surrounding a particular identity one can contribute to society and help create more well-adjusted people. Personal happiness could not affect the surrounding community or building a better world.

The other way that Nigrescence is different from Spiral Dynamics in that there is no oscillation between collaborative stages and individualistic stages. Ethnic Identity Development focuses on how a person relates to others in his ethnicity, the stages are all collectivist.

The world nor black America are in crisis or on the verge of collapse, according to Dr. Cross. He made clear that black people have lived and thrived for hundreds of years before psychology or ethnic development theory. He approached his work with the attitude that he can learn as much from black people as he can teach. This perspective allowed him to value input from people at all education levels and socio-economic backgrounds. Traditionally, Yellow meme individuals want lean information from sources they feel are “in the know.”

The ways Dr. Cross diverges from the Yellow meme show his growth and a healthy understanding of people. The areas in which he would not fit the Yellow meme mold are areas in which Yellow is anti-social. Anti-social meaning unhealthy individualistic.

What can’t be determined?

One can not determine if he has any fear or shadow controlling his decisions. To know his shadow, one would have to work with Dr. Cross over an extended period. However, one can assume that Dr. Cross’s success in founding the field of African American Studies shows he more than likely isn’t suffering from serious shadow issues.


  1. How former slaves established schools and educated their population after the Civil War by Chamberlain
  2. Pi Lamda Phi About page
  3. Dr. William Cross Jr. Exemplifies Inclusive Excellence by J. Davies
  4. William Cross
  5. William Cross
  6. “Validating the Cross Racial Identity Scale” By Vandiver, Worrel, Fhagen-Smith, and Cross in Journal of Counseling Psychology
  7. “The Psychology of Nigrescence” by Cross in Handbook of Psychology
  8. Cross, William E. (1991) Shades of Black; Diversity in African-American Identity Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press
  9. “Cross’s Nigrescence Model: From Scale to Theory” in Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development
  10. “William. E. Cross, Jr. PhD Awarded 2014 APA Presidential Citation on


Dr. William Cross

Biography / Philosophy


Ethnic Identity Development (Nigrescence)

The Evolution of Ethnic Identity Development

Philosophy of Hinduism

Ambedkar begins by establishing what he means by a philosophy of religion. This treatise evaluates Hinduism’s ability to create a fair and just society. Hinduism will either be vindicated or dismissed as a way of life.

A short synopsis of various terms and sub-categories used in comparative religion follows. The treatise defines religion as an ideal scheme of divine government that creates a social order in which men live in a moral order. The previous statement shows Ambedkar’s ability to think holistically as he describes religion as a large holon that encompasses the smaller holon of social order which includes the smaller holon of moral order. He then explains how these three holons were not always connected and over time life conditions facilitate these holons merging.

The work evaluates the idea of G-d as a supreme controller. Ambedkar admits that there is no way to know where the idea to G-d originated definitively. It is possible that it came from hero worship or as an explanation for the origin of the Universe. However, the concept of G-d is not necessary for evaluating morality and or explaining the source of the universe. Also, the idea of an omnipotent and benevolent creator is not in primitive religion.

The progression of religion is briefly explained. At one time religion encompassed all knowledge. An external revolution called the renaissance pruned religion from branching into areas of study it had no real authority. Internal revolutions forced a progression in how the relationship between man and G-d was viewed.

Religion should be both godly and earthly. Instead of evaluating Hinduism on these criteria Hindus take one of two stances. The first is religion is not important. The second is all religions are good. Both these statements are demonstrably false, as Ambedkar will later prove. Religion is a societal influencer for better or worse.

Hinduism’s claim to be a religion of equality was first dissected. The caste system as defined in the scripture Manusmriti creates a societal scheme that is hierarchical. An individual’s position determined at birth with no means to move up or down. Manusmriti dictates romantic relationships, the division of labor, and access to education between caste. When a lower caste is created that can be isolated socially and economically inequality will persist in society. A collective remedy for social and economic inequality is needed for further progress. Society intentionally created the division and must remove it.

The inequality in education leads to those in lower caste being more vulnerable to servitude. In Hinduism, only Brahmin can study scripture which leads to them being the literate class. Shudras, Dalit, and women were forbidden from studying Vedas. Those without an ability to understand the law or access written information of any kind will always be susceptible to manipulation. Also, if one believes Hinduism leads to union with G-d, precluding lower caste from scripture is especially sinister.

Hinduism all runs counter to the building of fraternity or fellow feeling needed for an equitable society. In addition to the four castes, there are thousands of sub-castes. It is difficult for a Hindu to find a suitable community outside his hometown. In addition to social isolation, the caste system has caused genocide. According to scripture, the priest caste annihilated the soldier class twenty-one times. Ambedkar frames these caste wars as a class war. They are endemic and permanent in Hindu society. All the castes and those outside Hinduism are suffering. Hindus can’t even share a meal with a member of a different caste.

He summarizes the problem with Hinduism and the caste system in four points.

  1. Caste divides labourers
  2. Caste dissociates work from interest
  3. Caste devitalises because it prevents men from pursuing their interest
  4. Caste prevents mobilization

Caste is not merely a division of labor; it is a division of laborers. By creating a system that assigns occupations at birth you divorce work from ability or interest. The separation of work and personal ability is a market inefficiency. Caste is also impractical in times of national emergency such as war. In war, everyone must be a soldier. To confine fighting to the soldier caste would prevent taking on any outside enemy. Also, Shudras are not allowed to accumulate wealth. Not being allowed to accumulate wealth removes them from any business pursuits.

He ends the treatise by comparing Hinduism to Nazism. The idea of supermen is the basis for both philosophies. Whether Brahman or Aryan, there is an idea that some are just born better, and others are not allowed to challenge the belief. The real difference was Nazism was out to create a super race, and Hinduism was created to maintain privilege asserted by a few at an earlier stage in history.

Ambedkar recognizes critics could say Manusmriti was not an essential text of Hinduism. He refutes this by recounting the history of how the smritis rose in prominence over time. Because smritis maintained social order, they became equal with the Vedas. It is true that Manusmritis states explicitly the rules of Vedas, but the concept is in the Vedas and Bhagwat Geeta.

Because the Hindu scriptures do not create a more just society or protect individual freedom, their study is unimportant. Ambedkar favors study of the greats in Western philosophy such as Plato and Rousseau. The Bible and other works of poetry are equally insignificant in comparison to rational philosophy. India must modernize while looking backward. However, he doesn’t completely disavow religion. Instead, he understands its value is proportional to its ability to fosters a love for humanity. If love for humanity and its advancement are not the center of religion, the religion should be abandoned.

Full text can be found HERE

Revolution and Counter Revolution in Ancient India

The book Revolution and Counter-Revolution is an unfinished work of Ambedkar.

At the time of the Buddha, India was a decadent country. Hinduism permitted all manner of licentious behavior. The Buddha came as a reformer and gave people an alternative that can lead to a purposeful life. The religion spread due to the charisma of the leader and being backed by influential people. After his death, his disciples spread his dhamma from India to Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Far East.

Hundreds of years after Buddhism began, Ashoka became the most prominent Buddhist. Ashoka was emperor of the Maurya Empire and converted to Buddhism toward the end of his life. At the time Buddhism was vegetarian. As king, Ashoka banned the killing of animals and animal sacrifice. The Hindu Brahman primarily served the community as officiants in animal sacrifice. They lost not only money but prestige and social standing. Ashoka conquered the Maurya Empire around 45 BC.

The revolt against Buddhism was lead by Pushyamitra. The goal was to re-solidify the role of the Brahman and secure it. To ensure Brahman stay in control, Brahmans had to grant themselves the right to hold kingship and fight in a war. Both responsibilities were initially given to the Kshatriya. Then the Brahman had to create a strict social order to ensure a converted king could not reinstall Buddhism. The Manusmriti was the perfect sacred document for this purpose. The Pushyamitra revolution happened in 185 BC.

Pushyamitra persecuted Buddhist monks, going as far as placing a bounty on their heads. If Buddhist were found practicing their religion, were banished from the realm. Denial of water was also punishment for practicing Buddhism. Pushyamitra was a brutal dictator.

Through Manusmriti, Pushyamitra was able to codify the caste system. To solidify the place of Brahman in society and ensure the progeny would enjoy the same privilege, Manusmriti prohibited inter-dinning, inter-marriage, and general social interaction. These prohibitions provided the Brahman were an isolated group held above the rest of society.

Changing marriage laws to allow child brides and forbidding widows to remarry further solidified the Brahmans place and lineage. Controlling the sexuality of women reduces the likelihood they will procreate with those outside their caste. Having women wed in childhood prevents sexual exploration in youth. The killing of widows does prevent sexual exploration in adult years. Brahman also allowed themselves to marry and have children with lower varna women. Low varna men were castrated if he had sex with high caste women. To further extend the privilege of Brahman men, they were not responsible for the children they had by low caste women. The children would have their mother’s caste.

The Islamic invasion starting in 712 AD and ending around 1296 AD was another blow to Buddhism. The areas conquered by Muslims outlawed the practice of other religions. Islamic rulers killed Buddhist and Hindu clergy. The Hindu were able to replenish quicker because Hindus are born into the priesthood. Buddhist have to undergo a lengthy process administered by elder monks. If all the monks in a region died, the Sangha ended. Also, the Hindu priest had the support of the state, Buddhist had no state support.

Even though many Buddhist were forced to convert, others willingly joined Islam. Hindu rulers were persecuting Buddhist in southern India as severely as they did in the Mauryan Empire. Many Buddhist joined Islam to consolidate forces and resist. Ambedkar also offers evidence that the present-day country of Bangladesh was once a Buddhist kingdom. Converting to Islam provided a nominal level of protection from Hindu and other Muslim invaders.

Ultimately Hindu India was invaded by Muslim invaders, and Brahman invaders invaded Buddhist India.

Caste in Buddhism

Ambedkar reiterates that Buddha allowed people of both genders and all social status to be part of his Sangha. For further evidence, he provides the Ambattha Sutta. In this Sutta, Buddha refuses to pay respect to a Brahman because Buddha knows the Brahman does not come from a pure lineage. Also, he makes the Brahman acknowledge that his life is not virtuous and renounce Hinduism. The Brahman is then allowed to join the Sangha.

Manusmirti and the conflict between Brahmin and Kshatriya

Manusmirti is the religious text that codified the caste system. The caste system existed long before the document, but no one text housed all the rules. In this text, the four castes were separated with Brahman on the top. To solidify the superiority of Brahman, they were allowed to take the duty of caste below them. However, lower castes could not assume the role of castes higher than them. Manusmirti allowed Brahman to take up arms against Kshatriya. The arming of Brahman was a fundamental change to the caste system unprecedented in previous works.

Brahman taking up arms was important to solidify their dominance over the Kshatriyan Kings. The Kshatriya wanted to have their own priesthood to solidify power, temporal and divine. The conflict between Kshatriya and Brahman is mythologized as the conflict between the Brahman Vashishtha and the Kshatriya Vishvamitra.

Ambedkar contradicts his other works by saying the Shudra were members of a privileged political class not vanquished Kshatriyas. The King that the name Shudra is derived, Sudas, was always a Shudra. There were many Shudra kings before Manusmirti and Brahman say nothing wrong with serving them.

Manusmirti degraded women. Specifically:

  1. Women had no right to initiate divorce
  2. Be subject to beatings by husband
  3. Own property
  4. Obtain Education

Women before Manusmirti had freedom and were considered equals in society and marriage.

Significance of Bhagvat Gita

Ambedkar makes a case that the Bhagvat Gita is not a religious text. Instead, it is a counter-revolutionary text used to oppose Buddhism. The three main points of the Bhagvat Gita are:

  1. Justification of killing because the soul and body are separate. If a person is killed or dies in war only there body perishes. The soul is indestructible and the body will re-incarnate
  2. Defense of the caste system as the result of unchangeable quality in an individual
  3. Expands the idea of karmic yoga, the concept that your current life conditions are the result of past actions in this or previous lives, to make a case against revolt. Ultimately, people should accept there position in society as a cosmic duty

There is no over-arching morality to the text. It is merely a defense of duty and the status quo.

Ambedkar also questions the year the text was written and if it predates Buddhism. To begin the Bhagvat Gita has concepts that are in Buddhism and not the Upanishads. Scholars know the idea of Nirvana started with Buddhism. Also, when the text describes a good devotee of Krishna, the language is very similar to the Sutta’s description of an excellent devote of Buddha. Also, The Bhagvat Gita mentions a religious sect called Mahasanghikas. Ambedkar determined Mahasanghikas are an early sect of Mahayana Buddhist.

The Bhagvat Gita is also determined by Ambedkar to have four distinct parts written at different times. The first and original is the epic poem in which Krishna is determined to be a mortal human. The second is the introduction of Sankhya and Vedanta philosophy. The third raises Krishna to the level of a god. The work is unfinished so the fourth point is not detailed.

Full Text can be found HERE

Ambedkar Biography

Bhimrao Ambedkar was born on April 14, 1891, in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh. His father was a leading administrator in a military school, and his family had been involved in the military for generations. Military service was common for hundreds of years in Ambedkar’s subcaste of Mahars. The Mahar community also had a history of fighting for equality.

Ambedkar’s family pushed for him to become educated. He went to a school reserved for upper caste children. As a Dalit, the school segregated him from the other students. After graduation, which in and of itself was a feat for a Dalit, he was able to obtain Ph.D.’s from Columbia University and London School of Economics. His thesis “The Problem with the Rupee” was a seminal work in economics. He became a Barrister at Grey’s Inn. Finally, he worked as a consultant to the anthropology department; he began to debunk the Aryan Invasion Theory. This theory was the scientific justification of the caste system and British rule. The work eventually became the book “The Annihilation of Caste.”

He began his career as an advocate for India by joining the Indian Home Rule League. He eventually left because they were not concerned with ending untouchability. The Depressed Classes Mission was the most popular anti-untouchability movement during Ambedkar’s early career. Ambedkar criticized this organization because it did not have Dalits in its leadership or consult with Dalits on strategy. Ambedkar will ultimately oppose the Mission in the Southborough Commission. For the first time, Ambedkar was an advocate to the ruling elite for Dalit rights including the right to a separate electorate.

The water rites of untouchables was always a contentious subject. Under the caste system, Dalits could not drink from the same water sources as upper caste individuals. Ambedkar began a publication for Dalit water rights in 1930.

At the time of Ambedkar, there were various visions for an independent India. Ambedkar saw that the Dalits had to issues to solve. The first was building an egalitarian society within India. The second was freeing India from British Rule. Ambedkar always cared more about fighting the caste system then overthrowing the British. The quality of life in India was more important than merely being free. Also, British rule will allow Indians to concentrate on social reform because the British would take care of running the state.

The famous confrontation between Ambedkar and Mohandas Gandhi took place during the round table conferences. Both men claimed to represent the interest of Dalits. However, Gandhi saw the Dalits as a group of people the upper caste needed to care for and manage. Ambedkar believed in Dalit self-determination. Ambedkar secured a separate Dalit electorate for 78 seats in Congress through the Communal Award. Gandhi saw that a separate Dalit electorate would weaken the Hindu position concerning Muslims and Sikhs. Gandhi then went on fast to build public support against separate Dalit electorates. Their standoff ended with the Poona Pact which doubled the number of seats allocated to Dalits, but a general electorate would elect the Dalit candidates.

Ambedkar opposition to Gandhi and the Indian National Congress with the creation of the Independent Labor Party 1936. The party of Ambedkar had a moderate socialist bent and saw the enemy of the working class being both Brahmanism and Capitalism. Through the party, Ambedkar would advocate for citizenship and economic opportunity. Later he would form the Samata Sainik Dal as a youth league focused on self-defense. The league would later form the Scheduled Caste Federation in 1942. All these political organizations focused on building an egalitarian society and funneling resources to underprivileged communities.

Upon Indian Independence, India appointed Ambedkar as first Law Minister. In this position, he got to draft the Indian constitution.

Women’s rights were fundamental to the building Ambedkar’s new India. He saw the subjugation of women as essential to preserving the caste system. Once women were free to marry whom they want or no one at all, the rest of the system would come crashing down. He advocated for the Hindu Code Bills which, among other things, would establish some gender equality.

Ambedkar’s first wife was ill and died when she was forty. She wanted to make a pilgrimage to a Hindu holy site. Ambedkar would not let her go because the priest at this site would not conduct the last rites while facing a Dalit. He promised her to build Dalits their holy sites. Ambedkar began to study and court the leaders of various world religions. The plan was to facilitate a mass exodus of Dalits out of Hinduism. After much deliberation, Ambedkar accepted Buddhism and oversaw the first mass conversion in modern Buddhism on October 14, 1956. This mass conversion earned Ambedkar the moniker of the father of modern Buddhism.

Due to complications from diabetes and other illnesses, Ambedkar died on December 6, 1956. He is remembered fondly in India with more statues than any other modern Indian. There are several schools and organizations named in his honor. The airport in Nagpur was named in his honor. His school of Buddhism, Navayanna, has inspired many downtrodden people including the Romani of Hungary. There are now many Navayanna Buddhism in India and Hungary. Ambedkar’s secular philosophy is still encouraging revolutionaries and other freedom organizations.

Pakistan or the Partition of India

The Muslims came to India in various ethnic groups during many invasions. All the attacks shared one goal, the total eradication of native Hindu religion. Areas that maintain Hindu control violently suppressed Islam. The suppression of both faiths led to two distinct people groups inheriting what would become future India, Muslims and Hindus.

Ambedkar is clear that there are two distinct people groups must come together as a new whole. The heroes of Muslims are the villains of Hindus and vice versa. The stark differences in worldviews led to people of both ethnicities to advocate for separate homelands. Hindustan for the Hindus and Pakistan for the Muslims.

One of the things a unified India would lose if Pakistan becomes a separate state is the majority of its military. Most of the current military is native to the Northwest region of the country. The reason for the concentration of military force in the northwest was not due to an inherent trait in the people of that area. The concentration was the result of British military policies. It is because the British military had recruitment policies that favored these territories. The initiative to recruit high caste members from the northwest was politically motivated.

Supporters of the creation of Pakistan would say that its creation would end the need for separate electorates dictated in the Communal Award. Ambedkar explains how the creation of Pakistan would not absolve the demand for separate electorates. Under the current system the four northwest provinces would control a Hindu minority while the rest of India controlled a Muslim minority. The reservation of seats for minorities ensured there would be some representation for the Hindus in the Northwest and Muslims in the rest of India. If in either section of the country the majority oppresses the minority, they minority could call on his brothers in the other part of India to retaliate. Essentially, creating a mutual hostage situation. Even though the method is crude, it could cause both majorities to treat minorities with respect. If Pakistan is created, Hindus inside its borders would be vulnerable to ethnic cleansing.

In a unified India the northwest provinces could act as a national home, without the full powers of a state. The provinces could hold the cultural, religious, and communal heritage of the Muslims of India without the power of a state. The Muslims of southern India would benefit from a unified India in that, they are connected to their brothers. If Pakistan splits, southern Muslims will be alone to tend with a Hindu cultural and political majority.

As stated earlier, if Pakistan is not separated from India, the Muslims will live as a minority in a Hindu country. Even if their rights are not infringed upon they will live by Hindu cultural norms. The thirst for Muslim nationalism could increase even after political concessions. Ambedkar uses the Arabs of the Ottoman Empire and the Slovaks of former Czechoslovakia to illustrate how nationalism grows even in people that are not oppressed. If the current political climate changes to allow for a unified India, separation could be inevitable.

A genuine growth of fellow-feeling needs to be fostered between Hindus and Muslims to create a new nation. Political allegiance and expediency will not promote long-lasting unity. Both parties have to see the inherent value in solidarity and be willing to sacrifice privilege to stay together. If Britain grants India independence, and Muslims mistrust Hindus, political stability is impossible. Britain often serves as an arbitrary third party in disputes as the situation stands now. Western intervention is not always a bad thing.

One issue observed in the Muslim community by Ambedkar was the inability to advocate for social change. Most Muslims put religion at the top of their priorities. The hyper-focus on religion causes them to only seek control in the political realm. They want to be in charge, yet do not care about how the government functions or if vulnerable people are protected. To expand political power they often implore violence. In the year immediately preceding the publishing of this book, Hindus reciprocated. The current climate could lead to a civil war.

The idea that Muslims are superior and a fear of absorption into the more dominate Hindu culture leads to torpor in the field of social justice. If the Koran doesn’t specifically condemn an act, most Muslims will not advocate for change. As a result, women’s rights had been halted and once a Muslim is in charge, no one would challenge him. Also, questioning a Muslim leader could lead to a Hindu takeover. Therefore the social stagnation seen in the Muslim community is a superiority complex mixed with fear of vulnerability.

Another division in the Hindu and Muslim community is what they ideally want with independence. Muslims want full autonomy and no affiliation with the British Empire. Hindu support varies between dominion status in the British Empire similar to Australia and full independence. However, for Muslims, a significant tenet of their religion is to live in a country that they rule. Living side by side with another religion as equals is not part of the Islamic faith. It is also incumbent on Muslims to extend the rule of Islam all over the world. Therefore, if another Muslim country declares war, they are obligated to help the Muslim nation whether or not it is beneficial to India.

As a solution, Ambedkar purposes Britain granting India a limited amount of Independence as a unit. If the Muslims see they can be in a unified India with their rights not infringed upon, they can decide to become entirely independent. He also questions if the Muslim League reflects the thoughts and concerns of the entire community. It appeared to him that the league was only concerned with the elites.


From an Integral perspective what Ambedkar is talking about here is the dangers of fundamentalist religion. A nation can not be built with a large percentage of people identifying with their faith more than the country. Besides if they see those outside their religious community as enemies or oppressors, then national unity is impossible.

This book has a lengthy discussion on how Gandhi’s position on nationalism changed over the years.

If you enjoyed the summary and want to know more the full text can be found HERE

The Buddha and His Dharma

Buddha’s Early Life

The Buddha’s whose real name is Siddharth Gautama, Buddha means teacher in Pali was born in the sixth century BCE. His father was a king. Therefore Buddha was a member of the soldier caste. His birth mother had a dream before Buddha was born that her son would change the world. Unfortunately, his birth mother Mahamaya died and his aunt Parapati raised him.

The Buddha was educated in all fields of study befitting a future king including meditation. The cultivation of his mind through meditation created a peaceful disposition in the young man that caused him to believe in non-violence. His belief in non-violence will lead to his later spiritual journey.

As a member of the soldier caste, Buddha was obligated to fight in wars. The declaration of war was decided democratically by the majority of caste members. When the Buddha was twenty-nine years old, such a declaration was made to secure water rites from another tribe. Buddha made a passionate plea to no go to war, but could not dissuade the majority of caste members. Because the Buddha did not want to violate his principles he decided to go into exile. He explained his decision to his family that included a son and wife named, Yeshodhara. Buddha left with their consent and support.

He begins his spiritual journey by going to an Ashram, which is a community of other spiritual seekers. After being there a short while, five men who were practicing extreme deprivation arrived. They informed the Buddha that his tribe never actually went to war. After he left the tribe reconsidered their position, and came to a peace agreement with the tribe they were going to attack. The Buddha was free to return if he wanted. After strong consideration, the Buddha decided to stay on his journey. He felt he had to find the root of human suffering and a way to alleviate it and decides to practice extreme deprivation, asceticism, with the five fellows.

For the next six years, the Buddha undergoes the most extreme trials. He eats so little he stays near starvation and baths so infrequently that dirt falls off of him. When nights are cold, he stays outside with no shelter. Instead of cutting his hair he plucks all the hair from his beard and scalp. Yet, he realizes he is no closer to finding the end of suffering. He sits under a Banyan tree, a passerby sees him and gives him food. The taking of food until satisfied ended his experiment with asceticism.

He decides to have one more go at enlightenment. He gathered forty days worth of food and returns to the Banyan tree. He decides to stay there in meditation until he finds a way out of human suffering. After having many mystical experiences, he finally sees the answer. His early life of luxury and indulging every want was one extreme. His recent journey is asceticism of denying all wants was another extreme. The way to live is the middle path. Not deprivation or indulgence. A person must overcome lustful craving to reveal the genuine bodily needs. Satisfying bodily needs is acceptable. After Buddha found enlightenment, the tree was renamed the Bodhi tree.

How the Buddha Taught

The decision to teach others the Dharma came after much deliberation and soul-searching. He began by teaching the five men that practiced asceticism with him. He gave his first sermon detailing all the aspects of the middle path. These aspects included foundational Buddhist concepts such as the noble eightfold path. After the sermon, the five ascetics were so moved they joined his new community. They became the first monks also known as Bikkhus.

Together they traveled all over Northern India spreading the Dharma. As Buddha’s of old, he begged for food and owned no property. These wandering preachers became famous all over India and their ranks swelled. Eventually, the Buddha’s father gets word of this and asks his son to return home. The Buddha grants the request.

Upon returning home, he reunites with his family. His father asks him to assume the throne, but the Buddha refuses. Eventually, the Buddha’s mother, wife, and son become monks. The Buddha never settled in his hometown, to do so would not keep in the tradition of the Buddha’s of old. However, he returned frequently to connect with family and teach the people of his hometown.

What the Buddha Taught

The Buddha taught Dhamma, not religion. Religion focuses on man’s relationship with a god and how to obtain paradise after death. Dhamma chiefly focuses on how man relates to other men. Dhamma has a closer relationship with ethics than religion. Religion only contains ethics to regulate interactions between adherents and the outside world to please a god.

Dhamma is a  tool to create a more equitable society. By equitable, it is meant that social barriers are removed, and a pure meritocracy is established. Society stops granting status due to birth, status is granted because people have earned it. Working for the social good is fundamental to Dhamma, it is not a side effect.

The world and the state man currently finds himself in is the result of Kamma. Kamma is another name for causation, meaning that the actions of individuals, society, or past generations leads to punishment and reward in the present day. The teaching of karma is in line with modern-day sociology. It is not the belief that past lives of an individual cause his present state.

In fact, the Buddha did not believe in an essential essence that last for infinity, otherwise known as the soul. He believed that the elements that create a person would go back into space and eventually re-emerge as a new, different person. What the Buddha taught conflicted with the Brahmanic idea of reincarnation of the same soul in a new body. What the Buddha taught was called rebirth.

The Buddha never proclaimed to have any divine or exalted position. He claimed to be a man that created his Dhamma from reason and evaluation. There is also no infallible text, although there are sutras which are a historical record of the life and teachings of Buddha. Again what the  Buddha taught was very much in line with modern science.

Who the Buddha Taught

The community started by the Buddha include people of all occupations, classes, castes, and both genders. The Buddha had two types of people in the Buddhist Sangha, householders and monks. The goal of the group was not to isolate oneself and obtain perfection. The goal was to improve the world.

Women were not allowed to be monks at first. The reason was not that the Buddha thought they were inferior, but they were so vital in building the home. To have women renounce house-holding would be impractical. Many of the monks asked him to reconsider the position. His mother Parapati with a large contingent of women in his hometown asked to become monks. He turned them down at first. These women undaunted by the denial cut their hair and began living as monks. Eventually, the Buddha relented. Hundreds women from his hometown joined the community as monks including Parapati and Yeshodhara.

The Buddha’s End

As time progressed, the Buddha and his family grew old. His mother and wife died on the same day of old age. Many confidants and critiques also grew old and passed on. Many in his community wanted the Buddha to choose a successor. The fear was if there is conflict in the future and nobody can make a final decision the community could break into factions.

The Buddha considered this and decided not to pick a successor. Compromise and consensus should settle disputes. Having someone picked to dictate beliefs goes against the spirit of Dharma.

In 583 BC the Buddha ended his journey. He was around eighty years old. Followers and admirers surrounded him.


The writer of this article is not a monk or certified Dharma teacher. The goal of this post is to summarize the book. Questions on Buddhism will not be answered in the comments. For more on Buddhism contact a local Vihara. For the full-text click on the link below:

Full Text: The Buddha and His Dharma

Who Were The Untouchables

In this treatise, Ambedkar attempts to explain the origins of untouchability. He admits there is no conclusive evidence of the birth of untouchability. However, he presents a theory that is supported by more evidence than other arguments at the time. He admits this is not a final thesis on untouchability and the subject will need more research. He also debunks theories of a popular analyst Stanley Rice.

He starts off by addressing the fact the Brahmins that normally study the subject would do little to debunk or undermine the basis of the caste system. The caste system gives them privilege. To quote Ambedkar:

It must be recognized that the selfish interest of a person or of the class to which he belongs always acts as an internal limitation which regulates the direction of his intellect.

Ambedkar begins by analyzing practices of untouchability outside of the Hindu culture. He uses examples from primitive and ancient times from all over the world. In all the cases outside of India, untouchability is:

  1. Caused by and action or bodily change such as puberty or pregnancy
  2. The untouchability was lifted after proper ceremony or time had passed
  3. After purification the person could return to normal life

Only in India is untouchability something someone is born into and there is no way to get out of it. Untouchability doesn’t relegate someone to lowly and unsanitary occupations as it does in India. The untouchability faced by the Dalit is unique in India.

A unique feature of Indian untouchability is that untouchables have to live in ghettos outside the city. The condition of Dalits residing in ghettos is prevalent in India and often mandated by law. Ambedkar postulates that Dalit lived on the outskirts from the beginning and their presence there has nothing to do with untouchability.

In primitive society, there were people in settle tribes and nomadic herdsmen. In ancient India, the primary source of wealth was cattle. The nomadic herdsman would follow there cattle herds along a migratory grazing path. Those that settled were able to have livestock and produce. The nomadic herdsman would raid the settled village tribesman because they had more food on average. Ancient India was in a constant state of war.

Ambedkar then postulates that those that broke ties with their original tribe would be left alone to fend for themselves. They would go to a settled tribe and live outside the village and act as watch and ward. In the event of an attack, these men would be on the front line. Ambedkar calls these ex-tribesman Broken Men.

To support his theory, Ambedkar shows a similar situation happened in Europe. In ancient Ireland and Wales, Broken Men served as watch and ward over settled estates. Those orphaned by their original people could live outside of the village. However, in Ireland and Wales, these people eventually integrated into society due to intermarriage. Untouchability prevented this from happening in India.

Even though there is no direct evidence, Ambedkar postulates that the Broken Men came to adopt Buddhism. As Buddhists, they did not see the Brahmin as superior or respect their exclusive right to religious ceremony. Hindus began to bar Buddhism from their temples, and Buddhism repaid the favor causing conflict in the communities. The tension is well documented in Hindu literature even though there is no direct connection between untouchability and Buddhism. Also when Hinduism won most of the inhabitants of India, there were those that would not let go of the Buddhist faith. The Hindus shunned the Broken men because of their religion and imposed social segregation.

Another possibility is that the Broken Men never observed the custom of making the cow sacred. All untouchable communities eat beef or make products out of cow skin. The consumption of cows was viewed as disgusting by Hindus. Beef eating caused untouchability, the act of declaring a group impure in perpetuity.

Now beef eating was not always prohibited. Early Hindu scriptures written by Manu do not ban beef eating. The prohibition came as a strategic way to win public support from Buddhist. Buddhism prohibited animal sacrifices and Hinduism did not. The public began to see the practice as wasteful and cruel. To improve Hinduism’s stance with the public, the Brahmin chose to be vegetarian and forbid their followers from eating beef. Brahmin dietary laws gave us the present classes of Brahmin, Non-Brahmin caste Hindus, and Untouchables. The earliest Hindu prohibitions on beef eating came in the 400’s AD.

The question remains as to why did the Broken Men not stop eating beef. It is possible that the Broken Men only ate cows that were already dead. Since the law was against killing a cow, the Broken Men did not violate the law. To give up beef would mean starvation. Because Dalit only had lowly professions buying other food was not feasible. Those that ate the flesh of the cow for any reason became hated once the Hindu exalted the cow.

Many Hindus believe scriptures mention untouchables and untouchability. There is one word “Asprashya” used three times in Hindu scripture that means “untouchable.” However, there is no detail in these scriptures to know why the people were untouchable or what were the rules of untouchability. Ambedkar explains that many of the other words loosely translated into “untouchable” are explaining a temporary state of impurity or merely living on the outskirts of town. The birth of untouchability came with the bans on killing cows implemented by the Gupta kings around 400 AD.

Debunking Dr. Stanley Rice

Dr. Rice postulated that the Dalit were the aboriginal race of India and that the Dravidians invaded and conquered them. After that, the Aryans from Central Asia conquered the Dravidians. Ambedkar used the same evidence as he did in Who are the Shudras to show that the names of people groups in the Hindu scripture denote people of different faiths, not races.

Further evidence that caste does not denote different races or levels of miscegenation also comes from science. Studies on the facial features show people of the same province and different castes have more similar characteristics than the reverse. Also, a survey of last names shows that lasts names are more common in regions than in castes. The commonality of last names in regions and not castes show intermarriage and intermixing happens even when the practices are strictly prohibited by law.

One piece of evidence discussed in Who are the Untouchables not discussed in Who are the Shudras was the Nagas people. Stanley postulates they were the aboriginals and Ambedkar shows they were people that worship a snake god. The Vedic term Dasa and Naga refer to the same people. Dasa denotes peoples using their king; Naga denotes the people using their god. The Naga people and their religion were pervasive throughout India, Sri Lanka, and Central Asia.

Dr. Rice also postulates that untouchability came about because of the need to segregate people doing unsanitary jobs before proper cleaning technologies existed. Ambedkar points to Hindu scriptures that show upper caste people doing unsanitary jobs and rules for them to do unsanitary jobs. Therefore there was a time when anyone could do an unsanitary job.

Notes on Manusmriti

Ambedkar mentions that a revolution happened in which Hindu kings overthrew and killed Buddhist kings. The Brahmin participated in this revolution. Their old scripture prohibited Brahmin from touching a weapon. They also considered the body of any king sacred, and regicide a sin. Manusmriti was created to change these rules to allow Brahmin to fight in the revolution.

The centrality of Manusmriti in the conflict between Buddhism and Hinduism could be a reason Ambedkar chose to burn this book publically December 25, 1927.

A copy of the full-text can be found HERE

The Untouchables and the Pax Britannica

This treatise was used as evidence in the Round Table Conference. It explains the unique suffering of the Dalits and how Britain was coupable.

He begins with a short history of how exploration centered around finding routes to India. The conquest of India was unique in that it had a complex government when it was conquered that had survived for hundreds of years. Another aspect of the conquest that is perplexing is how the East India Company was able to capture the area without help from those in Britain. The Napoleonic Wars were raging from 1757 to 1818, and they consumed most of Britain’s resources. Ambedkar’s answer the East India Company employed Dalits as soldiers. Four of every five East India Company soldiers was from the native Dalit population.

Dalits made a name for themselves in the military and did more than enough to prove they were a martial race. They were instrumental in the suppression of The Mutiny of 1857. Unfortunately, as British influence spread to the upper caste, Dalits were unceremoniously banned from military service. The ban began in 1890, and in twenty years most of the Dalit in the military retired. The only exception was a brief lift on the ban during World War 1.

Other avenues of advancement were not available to the Dalits. The Civil Service requires education, most commonly it requires a college degree. Even when Dalit obtain degrees, the Caste Hindus in charge of the department will not hire them out of prejudice. Not only would prejudice prevent Dalit from being employed, but the tradition of untouchability would also prohibit them from working. For example, if a Dalit were to arrest a Caste Hindu, he would have to enter his home. The act of entering the house of a Caste Hindu would make the home unclean. Therefore Dalits could not be policemen.

Britain excluded Dalits from education in 1854. The lift on the ban to Dalit education came with no effort to integrate the schools. Therefore those in charge of the school would find ways to exclude Dalit. The only education available to Dalit’s was from the Christian missions. After 1882 Britain created special schools for Dalits. They also gave grants to missions that educated Dalits. However, these efforts were not enough to significantly raise the level of Dalit education.

Ambedkar contrasts education levels among Dalit to education levels among Muslims. Muslims were also a disadvantaged class, but their education was second only to high Caste Hindus. The reason is Muslim petitioned for reserved representation in school administration. These administrators were able to earmark funds and resource to combat specific education hurdles in their community. If Dalit had been given the same representation, their fate might have been different.

Britian has made laws in the past that go against local customs to keep order and observe human rights. A short list can be found below:

  1. A law preventing BRahmin from killing women and children
  2. Removal of restrictions on the marriage of widows
  3. Prohibition of using religious law in arbitrations between Hindu’s and Muslims
  4. Law against rape
  5. Law against marriage of women under ten years old

These laws have helped India to modernize. However, Britain has not banned untouchability or the observation of caste. Early on Britain did not see anything wrong with the practice as they practiced similar customs in their African and American holdings. Later on, they felt advocating for Dalits would cause turmoil. Ambedkar reiterates there is more than enough court precedence to justify laws against caste and untouchability. Not only is protecting Dalits morally right, but Dalits are also currently paying taxes for public service they can not use, such as wells.

A copy of the treatise can be found HERE

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