Who are the Untouchables?

More than 240 million people in India are called “Untouchables.” Also known as “non- humans”, these people are believed to be unclean by birth. They are  the Dalits. The word means “crushed” or “broken to pieces.”

Although  India’s national constitution of 1950 sought to abolish caste discrimination and the practice of untouchability, the caste system  remains deeply entrenched in Hindu culture throughout southern Asia, especially in rural India. In what has been called India’s “hidden apartheid,” entire Dalit villages in many Indian states remain completely segregated by caste.

These people suffer unthinkable acts of terror and pain. If only the shadow of a Dalit falls upon a member of the upper caste, that person must go home, bathe and wash his clothes.  Anyone who is accidentally touched by a Dalit is considered tainted. It is not uncommon for Dalits to be beaten, abused, raped or even killed without remedy or interest in bringing perpetrators to justice. Their children are kidnapped and sold as sex or work slaves. They live in isolation.

But, things are slowly changing as the people begin to empower themselves and each other. And, they need our help. Through VIHARA, a state recognized, non-profit Buddhist organization in India, Dalits in five villages of Tamil Nadu (southern India) are working together to build their communities by providing spiritual, educational and economic development programs.

Approximately 2,000 Dalits have joined the organization. They have asked Venerable Pannavati to visit them and assist in creating a unified spiritual  community based on Buddhist principles. They realize that freedom under the law is not enough. They want to be self-empowered through cultivating wisdom and loving-kindness. Development of these qualities first liberate the mind from any sense of hatred and fear of an oppressor and foster energy and clarity for advancement.

It is significant to note that they wish a contemporary Bhikkhuni (female monk) to lead this effort in recognition of the qualities and skillfulness of women in human and spiritual  endeavors. The purpose of this visit is not to  proselytize. It is to visit Dalits friends – to bear witness to their own efforts for emergence as an integral and positive part of Indian society. We will join in meditation with converts and share ways they can continue to learn the dhamma and practice it.

How You Can Help…

What we are doing about it...

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How you can help...

We are looking for teachers to visit on of the schools in Tamil Nadu, India for a month to help train other teachers and co-develop an education program.

Are you a teacher or know one? Please follow this link.

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