Navayana (a.k.a. Bhimayāna after Ambedkar’s first name Bhimrao) (Navayana means “New vehicle”) refers to the reinterpretation of the understanding of Buddhism by B.R.Ambedkar. Ambedkar found several of the Buddhist beliefs and doctrines such as Four Noble Truths flawed. He reinterpreted these into what he called Navayana (New vehicle) of Buddhism. Ambedkar held a press conference on October 13, 1956, announcing his rejection of Theravada and Mahayana vehicles, as well as of Hinduism.
Navayana rejects practices and precepts such as renouncing monk and monasticism, karma, rebirth in the afterlife, samsara, meditation, enlightenment and Four Noble Truths considered to be foundational in the Buddhist traditions.
Ambedkar’s book “The Buddha and His Dhamma” is the holy book of Navayana followers. Ambedkar’s text on Navayana states that this was what the true Buddha believed and taught.
The Navayana movement had twenty-two vows.
- I shall have no faith in Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara nor shall I worship them.
- I shall have no faith in Rama and Krishna who are believed to be an incarnation of God nor shall I worship them.
- I shall have no faith in Gauri, Ganapati and other gods and goddesses of Hindus nor shall I worship them.
- I do not believe in the incarnation of God.
- I do not and shall not believe that Lord Buddha was the incarnation of Vishnu. I believe this to be sheer madness and false propaganda.
- I shall not perform Shraddha nor shall I give pind-dan.
- I shall not act in a manner violating the principles and teachings of the Buddha.
- I shall not allow any ceremonies to be performed by Brahmins.
- I shall believe in the equality of man.
- I shall endeavour to establish equality.
- I shall follow the noble eightfold path of the Buddha.
- I shall follow the ten paramitas prescribed by the Buddha.
- I shall have compassion and loving-kindness for all living beings and protect them.
- I shall not steal.
- I shall not tell lies.
- I shall not commit carnal sins.
- I shall not take intoxicants like liquor, drugs etc.
- I shall endeavour to follow the noble eightfold path and practice compassion and loving-kindness in everyday life.
- I renounce Hinduism, which is harmful to humanity and impedes the advancement and development of humanity because it is based on inequality, and adopt Buddhism as my religion.
- I firmly believe the Dhamma of the Buddha is the only true religion.
- I believe that I am having a re-birth.
- I solemnly declare and affirm that I shall hereafter lead my life according to the principles and teachings of the Buddha and his Dhamma.
(The four proscriptive vows [#14-17] are from the Five Precepts.)