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Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Non-profit FHSM Refurbishes Rural School for the Underprivileged in India

Images courtesy of the FHSM
Images courtesy of the FHSM

The socially engaged Buddhist non-profit organization the Foundation of His Sacred Majesty (FHSM) announced that it has completed the renovation and resupply of a rural school in Jhajjar District of the Indian state of Haryana. The project, which concluded on 9 February, is part of the FHSM’s ongoing efforts to support Dalit villages and underprivileged communities in India.

“We have recently refurbished a rural school in Fatehpur Village by providing school bags, uniforms, shoes, plates, stationery, sweaters, and scholarships for the students there,” FHSM president Rev. Gauthama Prabhu told BDG. “In addition, we have also repainted the whole school building, repaired damage, and renovated the school building with the provision of a drinking water tank, a reverse-osmosis filtration system, and water coolers.”

Headquartered in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, and active in nine Indian states, the FHSM is founded on and guided by the principles of socially engaged Buddhism, with a focus on helping deprived and marginalized communities. The foundation’s work is based on four broad propositions: social transformation through strengthening grassroots democracy and good governance; and sustainable livelihoods, education, and social empowerment; promoting alternative healthcare systems; and protecting and conserving ecosystems. The FHSM is affiliated with the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB).

Rev. Gauthama Prabhu. Image courtesy of the FHSM

“This project is aimed at preventing school dropouts among Dalit children and underprivileged communities, and further encouraging them to go for higher studies,” Rev. Prabhu explained. “Fatehpur Village is governed by khap panchayat* and indeed it is challenging to work exclusively for Dalit communities. But beyond such social barricades, there is the hope of social democracy, which we persevere in fighting for through Babasaheb’s [Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s] vision of Prabuddha Bharat [Awakened India].”

India’s Dalit community faces frequent social and economic exclusion as a result of India’s conservative Hindu social hierarchy. Dalit, which translates as “broken” in Sanskrit, is a term for the very lowest castes, which “higher” castes even today deem “untouchable,” despite legal prohibitions of the practice in the Constitution of India.

Generally believed to date back more than 3,000 years, India’s caste system remains culturally pervasive. Although discrimination against lower castes is illegal, segregation, discrimination, and exploitation remain a daily reality for the country’s roughly 200 million Dalits, who are not permitted to attend the same temples or schools, or even drink from the same cups or wells as “higher” castes. To escape this entrenched discrimination, many Dalits have turned to Buddhist conversion, which has given them a new community and opportunities, with a renewed sense of confidence and self-worth.

Images courtesy of the FHSM
Images courtesy of the FHSM
Images courtesy of the FHSM

“Renovating a school offers a chance for the community to invest in its future and provide a safe and welcoming environment for the children,” Rev. Prabhu emphasized. “Renovating schools also means new jobs, creating economic opportunities for people who live in that area. We rejoice the achievements made during the distribution of educational items for these poor students. The initiative is considered a pilot project and replication will take place based on the outcomes of this pilot project with the aspiration to reach out to other underprivileged communities in Jhajjar District.”

Named in commemoration of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (r. c. 268–c. 232 BCE), a key figure in the propagation of Buddhism across Asia, the Foundation of His Sacred Majesty was established in 2007 with a mission to “preserve, promote, and disseminate the principles of liberty, equality, fraternity, and social justice through non-formal education, sustainable livelihood, and conservation of ecology, alternative/preventive medicines, social empowerment, social advocacy, and social development in order for the restoration of the human dignity of the poor and marginalized.” (Facebook)

Contact the FHSM for more information: 

Email[email protected]
Tel: +91-44-2228 2218 / +91-97-9123 9333 

International donations:

Account name: Trailokya Baudha Mahasangh Sahyak Gana
Bank: State Bank of India
Account number: 40109020696
Branch: Selaiyur, Chennai
IFSC code: SBIN0000691

Donations within India:

Account name: Foundation of His Sacred Majesty
Bank: HDFC Bank
Account number: 50200057087992
Branch: Selaiyur, Chennai
IFSC code: HDFC0000676

* Khap panchayat are informal and technically illegal social institutions that regulate clusters of villages in some rural areas, usually run by dominant castes.

See more

Foundation of His Sacred Majesty (Facebook)
Foundation of His Sacred Majesty India (YouTube)
Foundation of His Sacred Majesty (LinkedIn)
International Network of Engaged Buddhists

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Tashi Zangmo
2 months ago

Congratulations to our brother Rev. Gauthama Prabhu, for his tireless work in serving the Dalit communities in educating the under privilege children. Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu.