Ambedkar and a happy India


Being fearless stands out as a notable theme in both Dr Ambedkar’s philoso- phy and the ethos of Finnish society, embodying a common metaphysical viewpoint that

Published Date – 13 April 2024, 11:59 PM

Ambedkar and a happy India

— MN Bhushi and B Maria Kumar

What fascinating link exists between Dr BR Ambedkar and the happiest nation on the earth? Impressively, both share a powerful inspiration drawn from the pragmatic philosophy of American educational reformer John Dewey, which is centred on achieving greater societal well-being.

This connection reveals striking similarities between Dr Ambedkar’s practical approach to socioeconomic and political equality, oriented towards alleviating people’s suffering in India and Finland’s effective measures to enhance happiness by creating the most equal society possible.

Education stood at the heart of their strategies. Dr Ambedkar fought tirelessly to eliminate the hardships of the marginalised communities and women in India, wielding equality as his weapon. On the other hand, Finland’s consistent ranking as the happiest country for seven years in a row underscores its commitment to equality as a foundational pillar of progress.

Through their dedication to education and equality, both Dr Ambedkar and Finnish governance have exemplified the transformative power of func- tional methods in nurturing the ad- vancement, prosperity and enrich- ment of society.

Belief in Education Dr Ambedkar’s unwavering belief in education as a lever for social and eco- nomic upliftment was more than just an ideology; it was a blueprint for structural reform. Engaging in thought-provoking discussions with Professor Dewey in America, he ex- plored practical solutions to a myriad of Indian societal challenges. On the other side, far away in Finland, a similar realisation gradually emerged over time.

The Finnish society, once beleaguered by educational and eco- nomic shortcomings, found a kindred spirit in Dewey’s revolutionary educational model. Rewinding 40 years, Finland’s educational landscape painted a grim picture, scarcely meeting the global standards of the time.

However, the Finnish resolve turned the tide, demonstrating that with ded- ication, meaningful impacts were attainable.

This journey mirrored Dr Ambedkar’s aspirations, as Finnish planners, inspired by Dewey’s methodology, witnessed the unfold- ing of dramatic outcomes.

Dr Ambedkar, a visionary, positioned education as the prime mover of a three-tier strategy aimed at socio- economic and political equality in India. The efficacy of education as a vital element has been reaffirmed even by well-proven modern research, highlighting its role in foster- ing economic prosperity and social integration.

In a like manner, Finland’s embrace of pragmatic educational schemes in schools stands as a living example of this assessment. These initiatives are designed to level the play- ing field for children from diverse backgrounds, setting them on paths to success from the onset.

Education, thus, becomes a multifaceted instru- ment, sharpening cooperative rela- tionship skills while sowing the seeds of social equality. Social Equality Dr Ambedkar was a young man in his early twenties at Columbia University in New York when his worldview was profoundly shaped by his encounters with his mentor, Dewey, and the lat- ter’s radical conceptions. This pivotal period during 1913-16 marked the beginning of his lifelong journey of cere- bral and philosophical enquiry.

Through the lens of Dewey’s teach- ings, Dr Ambedkar insightfully analysed the lives of millions in disad- vantaged groups and the status of women within the Indian society of that era. He pinpointed the age-old, rigidly stratified social system as the deep-seated cause of unceasing troubles for these unfortunate people. Recognising the crux of the issue, he set his sights on deciphering this com- plex problem with pragmatic solu- tions.

Upon returning to India after his academic endeavours in the United States and subsequently in Britain, he discovered that the remedy for India’s socioeconomic woes lay in the application of Buddha’s tenets.

Specifically, he saw the potential for ending suffer- ing by methodically addressing sys- temic inequalities. Dr Ambedkar famously reasoned, “As long as the human body is not free from suffering, the mind cannot be happy.” He worked relentlessly for social equality, arguing that it should stand alongside political and eco- nomic equality as the backbone of a fair society.

As he delved deeper into the Dhamma of Buddha, Dr Ambedkar discerned that Buddha had, centuries before, laid the solid groundwork for a pragmatic strategy for human equality.

Buddha propagated the idea that everything should be open to enquiry and examination, a principle that res- onated intensely with Dr Ambedkar. Echoing Buddha, he believed that life’s quintessential fact is suffering, which inexorably leads to misery and unhappiness for all individuals. He inferred that happiness remains elusive unless this pervasive suffering is re- dressed head-on.

Therefore, he embarked on a meticulous analysis of the intricate web of causation, seeking to decode the mystery of economic hardships and social disabilities.

Through his keen investigations, Dr Ambedkar concluded that the chief mechanism for reducing misery lies in eradicating the inequalities that ger- minate the seeds of unfairness, injus- tice and sadness in society.

Tackling these inequalities means espousing access to equal conditions, opportunities, rights and resources for everyone.

This campaign bolsters a climate of righteousness and equity, essential for cultivating circumstances where individuals feel valued, respected and included.

Such an environment can significantly diminish feelings of resentment, anger, envy, prejudice and social unrest. Since inequalities frequently tend to spark flames of strife and divisive- ness among communities, Dr Ambed- kar highlighted the indispensable role of fraternity in promoting amity.

He posited that from such brotherhood, the precepts of liberty and equality emerge as a natural progression.

His enlightened revelations on equality and fraternity are vividly reflected in recent empirical findings worldwide, particularly in how these cardinal principles intertwine with the quest for happiness.

Being Fearless The seminal work of British re- searchers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, titled ‘The Spirit Level’ (2009), is a telling endorsement of this linkage.

Their fieldwork convincingly demonstrates that societies with greater equality not only exhibit stronger so- cial cohesion and individual autonomy but also forge a setting rich in happiness. In such societies, a culture of em- pathy, compassion, understanding and fearlessness flourishes.

Being fearless stands out as a notable theme in both Dr Ambedkar’s philoso- phy and the ethos of Finnish society, embodying a common metaphysical viewpoint that

t draws attention to the intrinsic value of human identity. To be human is to embrace one’s essence without fear. This reality invites us to explore and experience the liberating sensation of being unafraid to live our true human nature fully.

Dr Ambedkar’s advocacy for educa- tion as the cornerstone of empower- ment is founded on the conviction that it liberates individuals from the shack- les of ignorance and fear, illuminating the path to unity, awareness of rights and the courage to claim them. “Education is what makes a person fear- less,” he asserted, confirming its role in generating an audacious mindset, curiosity and a rational outlook.

This core doctrine facilitates individuals to become sculptors of their own futures, guided by reason and a bold stance to dismantle the barriers of superstitions and irrational fears.

Corresponding to these sentiments, Finland has prioritised education as a catalyst for change, propelling its society towards a fearless way of life.

The Finnish lesson illustrates how education not only equips individuals with knowledge and wisdom but also instils a sense of assurance in coping with uncertainties, making society less prone to anxiety.

Despite the achievements in income equality, some European counterparts failed to fare well on the hap- piness front in comparison to Finland.

That is because, it is the Finnish com- mitment to an education-driven fear- less lifestyle that distinguishes its high ranking in global happiness indices.

Furthermore, Finland’s robust social support system exemplifies how fra- ternal bonds can flourish without succumbing to xenophobia.

By encouraging a strong sense of community and mutual support, Finland ensures that its citizens face life’s countless hurdles with collective resilience and courage. Dr Ambedkar’s optimism and Finnish society’s shared belief in the power of education to cultivate fearlessness are not merely parallel but a confluence of meticulously devised visions. The notion of living fearlessly, in a world where fraternity and equality shine as beacons of mutual happiness, has been further endorsed by contemporary thought leaders like the Hong Kong-based Nepali thinker Desh Subba and Canadian philosopher R Michael Fisher. Overcoming negative fears can dramatically enhance positive emotions and confidence, leading to the experience of various forms of happiness. Subba draws a poignant analogy between human estrangement and the tragic tale of Sisyphus, as depicted in Greek mythology.

Sisyphus, seen as unequal and inferior to the Olympian gods, was burdened by fear and condemned to eternal unhappiness and toil. From a divergent view- point, Fisher accentuates the catalytic effect of fearlessness in mitigating life’s melancholy.

He suggests that fearlessness is not an unreachable ideal but a latent force within the psy- chological domain, ignited through fear management education involving genuine fraternal connections.

This is why an inverse relationship unfolds between toxic fear and frater- nity; as a result, equality, born from the spirit of fraternity, directly correlates with fearlessness and happiness.

The more we embrace fraternity, the less room there is for fear, paving the way for equality to thrive and elevate collective joy. Through this holistic perspective, happiness emerges not simply as an emotional condition or state of mind but as a tangible outcome of just soci- eties, built on the bedrock of equality and fraternity as postulated by Dr Ambedkar.

And genuinely pursuing these noble values would serve as an apt homage to Dr Ambedkar on his birth anniversary across the globe.

MN Bhushi is a retired Professor and a nonagenarian who had interacted with Dr Ambedkar and was one among the 6 lakh converts at Deekshabhoomi in Nagpur in 1956 when Dr Ambedkar embraced Buddhism. He is a recipient of Eashwari Bai Memorial Award for the year 2023. B Maria Kumar, IPS (Retd), is a winner of National Rajbhasha Gaurav Award for the year 2022-23


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