Recently, I found out there is a new branch of Buddhism called the Navayana. I read the article on Wikipedia but it did not say too much. What is Navayana Buddhism and what type of practices does it follow like meditations, sutras, or tantras? How does a Navayana Buddhist relate to Buddhist of different schools?
Navayana is a proposed fourth major branch of Buddhism after Hinayana (sorry not a great term), Mahayana and Vajrayana. I believe it is a term claimed by the Dalit Buddhist movement which I am most familiar with in the context of Dr Ambedkar - in fact I recently have heard the movement is called Ambedkerism.
The Buddhist Centre that I practice with is a Triratna Buddhist Centre. Like Ambedkerism it sees itself as a reforming movement tailored to the concerns of modern society. The definition of the movements aims is very similar to our own (quoting from here)
[Ambedkerism] espouse an eclectic version of Buddhism, primarily based on Theravada, but with additional influences from Mahayana and Vajrayana. On many subjects, they give Buddhism a distinctive interpretation
Moreover the Indian branches of the Triratna movement see themselves as continuing the work of Dr Ambedkar. One of the major Triratna charities, the Karuna Trust, was set up to support this work.
The point is this - I practice in a context explicitly linked to Ambedkerism and therefore according to Wikipedia in a Navayana context. However I haven't heard of this term used but I do believe the concept has meaning and merit so I'm basing my answer on that.
The key point to Triratna/Ambedkerism and therefore Navayana is a return to the roots of Buddhism and a distillation of the previous yanas to potentially create a new form of Buddhism. Though radical, I don't think this should come as surprising or shocking because ...
When Buddhism comes into contact with a new culture it changes.
a. Buddhism + Tao = Ch'an.
b. Buddhism + Bon = Tibetan.
c. Buddhist + (Western?) liberal humanism = ????
This is the first time in history when all the scriptures, commentaries etc.. are easily available. The work isn't finished but new stuff is coming into the Western domain all the time. That's new - so is something new going to happen?
I think it's work in progress so what it looks like in the end is still up in the air. There are a lot of people doing new things and revisiting Buddhism generally - some of them hang around on this site. Secular Buddhism, Daniel Ingram's taboo busting, Engaged Buddhism's social activism, Triratna synthesis of Theravada with Mahayana and Vajrayana, the Insight Meditation Society - lots of things are happening.
I don't know if this answers the questions but I feel it's changing, will continue to change and let's see what happens next.
Navayana Buddhism is critical and radical movement towards building new society which is devoid of caste, class and other forms of inequality: a society which practices liberty, equality and fraternity in its true spirit based on Dhamma alternative to marxist ideology.
For more understanding read Buddha or Karl Marx on the ambedkar.org web site.
Namo Buddhaya. I am a "Navayana" Buddhist from India. Don't completely get misled by google. "Navayana" tradition is a improvised form of "Theravāda", "Mahāyāna", and "Sarvāstivāda" traditions of Buddhism. Bodhisattva Dr. Ambedkar only tried to change a few explanations of few doctrines so that it is logical. It is heavily influenced by "Theravāda" and also has few teachinggs from "Mahāyāna". The holy texts for "Navayana" Buddhists is the "Pali Canon" and the "Buddha And His Dhamma" of which the other one is authored by Dr. Ambedkar. Since, the "Buddha And His Dhamma" has chapters based on "Sutta Pitaka", "Vinaya Pitaka" and some are based on "Mahayana Sutra", I can say "Navayāna" is heavily influenced by "Theravāda" but it has also borrowed some concepts like "Bodhisattva" from "Mahāyāna" tradition. The differences between "Navayāna" tradition and other traditions are : the real reason why Prince Siddhartha took Parivraja, the logical and scientific teaching of karma and rebirth prescribed by Buddha, the truth about Four Noble Truths taught by Buddha, and the objective of Buddha for creating a Bhikkhu.
As everybody knows, there are lots of ancient scriptures regarding buddha and buddhism to understand: which needs deep thinking critically with logic and reason, which is difficult for the common people; and again buddhism got divided in to mahayana, hinayana, vajrayana which are complementary to each other.
So that followers of Ambedkar would not to get deviated with sub-sectional buddhisms, he taught his followers to follow the original teachings of Buddha: which can equated with peace, dhamma, nonviolence, liberty, equality, fraternity, democracy, and justice; and finally he gave a name, "Navayana", which means new way. It looks like the french and russian revolutions mixed together but it's not. To have a clear view, read The Buddha and His Dhamma; and read about Ambedkar, to understand how Navayana took its birth, and what's the purpose of this interpretation.
And finally Ambedkar?? What Ambedkar is for untouchables of India can be compared what Jesus is for Christians.
Navayana Buddhism is the interpretation of Buddha and his Dhamma by Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar. He interpreted the tenets of Buddha for the upliftment and development of the non-Brahmin lowercastes, especially Scheduled Castes. Navayana Buddhism rejected Theravada, Mahayana, etc branches of Buddhism and has more to do with social and political issues of the backward and deprived castes and sections of the Indian society. The Buddhists that follow Navayana branch believe Dr Ambedkar to be an enlightened Bodhisattva.
To put it simply, it's not Buddhism. It's more of communism where Lenix, Marx, etc. have been replaced by Buddha's figure. Buddha has almost no role other than being a figure. Because B.R. Ambedkar clearly rejected 4 noble truths, Nibbana, etc. as explained by Buddha & interpreted them in light of politics only. Below are the salient points of Ambedkar's-ism taken from Rouledge Handbook of Contemporary India (from Wikipedia) & here or more authoritatively, from here as pointed by @ChrisW.
The Buddhist tradition believes that the Buddha one day saw a sick man, an old man and a dead body in sequence, then he left his princely life and sought insights and a way out of human suffering. According to Ambedkar, this was absurd. He proposed that the Buddha likely sought insights because he was involved in "making peace among tribes".
Four Noble Truths-
Ambedkar believed that this core doctrine of Buddhism was flawed because it denied hope to human beings. According to Ambedkar, the Four Noble Truths is a "gospel of pessimism", and may have been inserted into the Buddhist scriptures by wrong headed Buddhist monks of a later era. These should not be considered as Buddha's teachings in Ambedkar's view.
Anatta, Karma & Rebirth-
These are other core doctrines of Buddhism. Anatta relates to no-self (no soul) concept. Ambedkar believed that there is an inherent contradiction between the three concepts, either Anatta is incorrect or there cannot be Karma and Rebirth with Anatta in Ambedkar's view. Other foundational concepts of Buddhism such as Karma and Rebirth were considered by Ambedkar as superstitions.
A Bhikshu is a member of the monastic practice, a major historic tradition in all schools of Buddhism. According to Ambedkar, this was a flawed idea and practice. He questioned whether a Bhikshu tradition was an attempt to create "a perfect man or a social servant", states Zelliot.
According to Navayana, nirvana is not some other-worldly state of perfect quietude, freedom, highest happiness, nor soteriological release and liberation from rebirths in saṃsāra. In Ambedkar's view, nirvana is socio-political "kingdom of righteousness on earth" in which people are "freed from poverty and social discrimination and empowered to create themselves happy lives", state Damien Keown and Charles Prebish.
So as we see, Ambedkarism isn't Buddhism but mere political ideology. Buddha has no more presence in Ambedkarism than of an icon.
Bhimayana: Incidents in the Life of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is a graphic biography of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar published in 2011 by Navayana and was hailed by CNN as being among the top five political comic books. It was created by artists Durgabai Vyam, Subhash Vyam and writers Srividya Natarajan and S. Anand. It depicts the experiences of caste discrimination and resistance that Bhimrao Ambedkar recorded in his autobiographical illustrations, later compiled and edited in Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches by Vasant Moon under the title “Waiting for a Visa”. It is one of India’s top selling graphic books.
Bhimayana has been lauded for its use of Pardhan Gond art to signify the experiences of social discrimination faced by Ambedkar. It uses digna (images originally painted on the walls and floors of Pardhan Gonds’ houses) patterns and nature imagery. According to Jeremy Stoll, affiliate faculty at Metropolitan State University of Denver, ‘It is most remarkable for demonstrating the strength of Indian comics culture and providing a strong example of where folk and popular culture overlap’.
It has been published under the title Ambedkar: The Fight for Justice in the UK and the United States by Tate Publishing in 2013. The book has been translated into several languages including Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Telugu, Kannada, Korean and French.