Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

What Ambedkar said about Buddhism ‘being better than Marxism’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Maoism, Leninism and Marxism

Mains level: Not Much

While his views on Buddhism being superior to other religions are well-known, Ambedkar also believed the Buddha’s path to be superior to the popular religion-rejecting philosophy, Marxism.

Marxist view of religion

  • Marx saw religion as a conservative force that prevented social change by creating false consciousness.
  • Marx once said- “Religion is the opium of the people. It is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of our soulless conditions.”
  • The end goal of Marxism is to achieve a classless society throughout the world.

How Dr. Ambedkar compared Buddhism to Marxism?

  • Ambedkar has compared Buddhism with Marxism, saying that while both strive for the same end of a just and happy society.
  • The means propounded by Buddha are superior to those of Marx.
  • It is just simple that Marx was modern and Buddha ancient.
  • If the Marxists keep back their prejudices and study the Buddha and understand what he stood for I feel sure that they will change their attitude, Ambedkar writes.

Similarities between the two

  • In showing the similarities between Buddhism and Marxism, Ambedkar first condenses the basic philosophy of both into neat bullet points.
  • For Buddhism, Dr. Ambedkar lists key points:
  1. The function of Religion is to reconstruct the world and to make it happy and not to explain its origin or its end;
  2. That private ownership of property brings power to one class and sorrow to another;
  3. That it is necessary for the good of Society that this sorrow be removed by removing its cause; and
  4. All human beings are equal.
  • Of Marx, he says all that is left “is a residue of fire”:
  1. The function of philosophy is to reconstruct the world and not to waste its time in explaining the origin of the world;
  2. That private ownership of property brings power to one class and sorrow to another through exploitation;
  3. That it is necessary for the good of society that the sorrow be removed by the abolition of private property.”

How abolition of private property works under Buddhism?

  • Dr Ambedkar says Buddhism’s commitment to abolishment of private property is apparent in how its ‘Bhikshus’ give up all worldly goods.
  • He says the rules for Bhikhshus owning property or possessions are “far more rigorous than are to be found in communism in Russia.”
  • To establish a happy and fair society, the Buddha had laid down a path for believers.
  • The means adopted by the Buddha were to convert a man by changing his moral disposition to follow the path voluntarily.

Key difference: Violent means

  • The means adopted by the Communists are equally clear, short and swift. They are (1) Violence and (2) Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
  • It is now clear what are the similarities and differences between Buddha and Karl Marx.
  • The differences are about the means. The end is common to both.
  • The driving force of India’s Constitution also says Buddha was a democrat.
  • As to Dictatorship, the Buddha would have none of it. He was born a democrat and he died a democrat, Ambedkar writes.


Try this PYQ:

Q. Karl Marx explained the process of class struggle with the help of which one of the following theories?

(a) Empirical liberalism.

(b) Existentialism.

(c) Darwin’s theory of evolution.

(d) Dialectical materialism.


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