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The word of the Buddha appealed to him, and he became a Buddhist. His conversion was the turning point of his career. Gradually he reformed himself. His outlook on life was completely changed, He modified his was and means. He preferred the Dharma Vijaya - righteous domination - to Dig Vijaya - word domination. Later in life he became such a devout and righteous monarch that H.G. Wells says: - "Amidst the ten thousand names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousness and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Ashoka s.h.i.+nes, and s.h.i.+nes almost alone a star. From the Volga to j.a.pan his name is still honored. Chine Tibet and even India, though it has left his doctrine, preserve the tradition of his greatness. More living men cherish his memory today than has ever heard the names of Constantine or Charlemagne."
Although he embraced Buddhism after meeting the novice Nigrodha, he did not give up his ambition of expending his empire. It was after the Kalinga war that he became a genuine Buddhist by abandoning all warfare. Wells says he is the only monarch on record who abandoned warfare after victory.
He thereafter became an ideal Buddhist monarch. With ceaseless energy he worked for the dissemination of the Dhamma, not only in India and other parts of Asia but also in Europe and Africa. He transformed Buddhism into a world religion. He made the important teaching of the Buddha popular by his numerous interesting rock edicts. He erected so many Viharas (monasteries) round about Patna (Pataliputra) that the whole province came to be known as Vihara sacred places connected with the life of the Buddha, and lasting monuments were erected to mark those historic spots. Even the slaughtering of animals in the palace for household consumption was gradually lessened and stopped, and he forbade animal sacrifice. As Pandit Nehru says - "Ashoka example and the spread of Buddhism resulted in vegetarianism becoming popular."
With his royal patronage Buddhism flourished in his time, but as a real Buddhism monarch he was tolerant towards all faiths. One edit says: - " All sects deserve for some reason or other. By thus acting a man exalts his own sect and at the same time does service to the sects of other people."
Ashoka was interested not only in the spiritual development of the people but also in their material development. All his subjects he treated as sons. He was so willing and ready to promote the public good that he says:- "At all times and at all places, whether I am dining or in the ladies' apartments, in my bedroom or in my closet, in my carriage or in my palace garden, the official reporters should keep me constantly informed of the people's business. Work I must for the common weal".
True to his words he acted like a father to all. In his time public gardens, medicinal herbs, hospitals for both men and animals, wells roads and educational inst.i.tutions grew up all over the country. To his external credit it should be said that it was Ashoka who, for the first time in the history of the world, established hospitals for both men and animals, not only in Asia but also in Europe and Africa.
To those hasty critics who decry Buddhism as the cause of the decline and downfall of India, Asoka's prosperous Buddhist reign is a cogent reply.
Ashoka Missioners According to the Pali Chronicles, at the end of the Third Council which was held in the seventeenth year of Ashoka' coronation, under the presidency of Arahant Monggaliputta Tissa, it was decided to send competent Arahants to nine different places to propagate the Teachings of the Buddha.
The names of the missioners and the places are as follows: -
Missioners Place Majjhantika TheraKashmir and Gandhar Mahadeva TheraMahimsaka Mandala Rakkhita Thera Vanavasi Yonaka Dhammarakkhita TheraAparantaka Mahadhammarakkhita TheraMaharattha Maharakkhita TheraYonakaloka Majjhima TheraHimavantapadesa Sonaka and Uttara Thera.s.suvanabhumi Mahinda, Itthiya, Uttiya, Sambala and Bhaddasala Theras Tambapannidipa It is stated that each mission consisted of five Theras so that it would be possible to perform the Upasampada ceremony in remote districts.
1. Kashmir is situated in the northwest of India. Peshavar and Ravapindi in north Punjab embrace Gandhara. Majjhantika Thera arrived here and subjugated the Naga King Aravala by his psychic powers and preached the Asivisopama Sutta.
2. Mahimsaka Mandala is identified the modern Mysore in South India. According to some it is a country south of the Vindhya Mountains. The Devaduta Sutta was preached here.
3. Vanavasi is North Kanara situated in South India. Even today there is a city called Vanavasi in this country. The Anamatagga Sutta Sutta ws the subject of the sermon.
4. Aparanta (Western End) is supposed to be Western India. According to the Puranas one of the five countries that existed in ancient India was Aparanta. Its capital was port Supparaka, modern Sopara. North Gujerat, Katiyavar, Kach, Sindh are included in Aparanta. The discourse that was delivered here was the Aggikkandhopama Sutta.
5. Maharattha is modern Maharashtra, which embraces mid-West India. The Maha Narada-Ka.s.sapa Jataka was delivered here.
6. Yonakarattha is the kingdom of the Greeks. It must be the Greek kingdom that existed in West India. According to some it comprises Egypt, Syria and Greece. The Kalakarama Sutta was delivered here.
7. It is stated that the Arahants Ka.s.sapagotta, Alakadeva, Mahadeva and Dundubhissara accompanied the Arahant Majjhima to the Himalaya region and preached the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta.
8. Some identify Suvannabhumi with Burma. Some say it is Karna Suvarna situated in Bengal and some say it is Hiranyavaha district along the banks of the Sona River. The brahmajala Sutta was the subject of the discourses.
9. Tambapannidipa is Sri Lanka (Ceylon).
The Mission to Ceylon King Asoka's son himself accompanied by four Bhikkhus, one Samanera, and a lay Upasaka arrived in Langka to convert the Sinhalas. It was on a festival day that they reached Ceylon. It was on a festival day that they reached Ceylon. They met the reigning king Devanampiyatissa, who had gone with a party to hunt deer on a hill called Missaka (modern Mihintale). The Arahant Mahinda arrested the attention of the king by addressing him simply as "Tissa". An interesting conversation then followed. After this the Arahant Mahinda preached the Cullahantthi-padopama Sutta to the king and his followers, hearing which they all sought refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha and embraced this new teaching.
The Venerable Mahinda's Ceylon mission was a great success he found in Langka a fertile soil to disseminate the sublime Teachings of the Buddha. With royal patronage Buddhism was firmly established in Ceylon.
As Princess Anula, who attained the first stage of sainthood on hearing the first discourse delivered in the capital of Anuradhapura, expressed her desire to join the Order, the Venerable Mahinda dispatched a messenger to India inviting his sister Sanghamitta Their to visit Langka in order to establish the Bhikkhuni Sasana. As invited, she arrived in Ceylon with a branch of the Mahabodhi Tree at Buddha Gaya, and accompanied by a large retinue of distinguished men, who contributed largely to the material, intellectual and spiritual development of Sri Lanka.
To the eternal credit of Sinhala Buddhists it should be said that it is they who protected the sublime Teachings of the Dharma in their pristine purity by committing them to writing on ola leaves for the first time in the history of the Buddhist world.
The Mangala Sutta
Blessing Thus have I heard: - On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at the monastery of Anathapindika in Jeta's Grove, near Savantthi. Now when the night was far spent, a certain deity, whose surpa.s.sing splendor illuminated the entire Jeta Grove, came to the presence of the Blessed One and, drawing near, respectfully saluted Him and stood on one side. Standing thus, he addressed the Blessed One in verse: - 1. "Many deities and men yearning after good have pondered on Blessings, Pray, tell me the Highest Blessing"
The Blessed One answered him thus: - 2. "Not to a.s.sociate with fools, to a.s.sociate with the wise, and to honor those who are worthy of honor - this is the Highest Blessing."
3. "To reside in a suitable locality, to have done meritorious actions in the past, and to set oneself in the right course - this is the Highest Blessing."
4. "Much learning, perfect handicraft, a highly trained discipline and pleasant speech - this is the Highest Blessing."
5. "To support of father and mother, the cheris.h.i.+ng of wife and children and peaceful occupations - this is the Highest Blessing."
6. "Liberty, righteous conduct and helping of relatives and blameless actions - this is the Highest Blessing."
7. "To cease and abstain from evil, forbearance with respect to intoxicants and steadfastness in virtue - this is the Highest Blessing."
8. "Reverence, humanity, contentment, grat.i.tude and opportune hearing of the Dhamma - this is the Highest Blessing."
9. "Patience, obedience, sight of the Samanas and religious discussion in due season - this is the Highest Blessing."
10. "Self-control, the hold life perception of the n.o.ble Truths and the realization of Nibbana - this is the Highest Blessing."
11. "He whose mind does not flutter by contact with world contingencies. Sorrow less, Stainless and Secure - this is the Highest Blessing."
12. "To them, fulfilling matters such as these, everywhere invincible, in every moving happily - these are the Highest Blessing."
The Parabhava Sutta
Downfall Thus have I heard: - On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at the monastery of Anathapindika in the Jeta Grove near Savatthi.
Now when the night was far spent, a certain deity whose splendor illuminated the whole Jeta Grove, came to the presence of the Blessed One, and drawing near, respectfully saluted Him and stood on one side. Standing thus, he addressed the Blessed One in verse; 1. "Having come to interrogate the Blessed One, we ask thee, O Gotama, about the falling man. Pray, tell us the cause of one's downfall."
2. "Easily known is the progressive one, easily known is the declining one. A lover of the Dhamma is the progressive one, a hater of the Dhamma is the declining one.'
3. "This then we learn is the first cause of one's downfall. Pray, O Blessed One, tell us the second cause of one's downfall."
4. "The vicious are dear to him. In the virtuous he finds nothing pleasing. He favors the creeds of the vicious - this is the cause of one's downfall."
5. "This then we learn is the second cause of one's downfall. Pray, O blessed One, tell us the third cause of one's downfall.'
6. "The man who is drowsy, fond of society, not industrious, indolent, and who manifests anger - this is the cause of one's downfall."
7. "This then we learn is the third cause of one's downfall. Pray, O Blessed One, tell us the fourth cause of one's downfall."
8. "Whosoever, being rich, does not support his aged mother and father who have pa.s.sed their youth - this is the cause of one's downfall."
9. "This then we learn is the fourth cause of one's downfall, Pray, O Blessed One, tell us the fifth cause of one's downfall."
10. "He who, by falsehood, deceives a Brahmana or an ascetic or any mendicant - this is the cause of one's downfall."
11. "This then we learn is the fifth cause of one's downfall. Pray, O Blessed One, tell us the sixth cause of one's downfall."
12. "The man who owns much property, who has gold and food, but alone enjoys his delicacies - this is the cause of one's downfall."
13. "This then we learn is the sixth cause of one's downfall. Pray O Blessed One, tell us the seventh cause of one's downfall."
14. "The man who takes pride in birth or wealth or clan, and despises his own kinsmen - this is the cause of one's downfall."
15. "This then we learn is the seventh cause of one's downfall. Pray, O Blessed One, tell us the eighth cause of one's downfall."
16. "The man who is debauch, a drunkard, a gambler and who squanders whatever he possesses - this is the cause of one's downfall."
17. "This then we learn is the eight cause of one's downfall. Pray, O Blessed One, tell us the ninth cause of one's downfall."
18. "Not contented with one's own wives, if one is seen amongst courtesans and the wives of others - this is the cause of one's downfall."
19. "This then we learn is the ninth cause of one's downfall. Pray, O Blessed One, tell us the tenth cause of one's downfall."
20. "The man who, past his youth, brings a very young wife and sleep not for jealousy of her this is the eleventh cause of one's downfall."
21. "This then we learn is the tenth cause of one's downfall. Pray, O Blessed One, tell us the eleventh cause of one's downfall."
22. "He who places in authority an intemperate spendthrift woman, or a man of similar nature - this is the cause of one's downfall."
23. "This then we learn is the eleventh cause of one's downfall. Pray, O Blessed One, tell us the twelfth cause of one's downfall."
24. "He who, of warrior birth, with vast ambition but slender means, aspires to sovereignty - this is the cause of one's downfall."
25. "Knowing well these causes of downfall in the world, the n.o.ble Sage, endowed with insight, shares a happy realm."
The Metta Sutta
Loving-kindness 1. He who is skilled in his good, and who wishes to attain that state of Calm, should act thus: - 2. He should be able, upright, perfectly upright, obedient, gentle and humble. Contented easily supportable, with few duties, of light livelihood, with senses controlled, discreet, not impudent, not be greedily, attached to families.
3. He should not commit any slight wrong on account of which other wise men might censure him. May all beings be happy and secure, may their hearts be wholesome.
4. Whatever living beings there be - feeble or strong, long, stout or medium, short, small or large, seen or unseen, those dwelling far or near, those who are to be born - may all beings, without exception, be happy minded.
5. Let none deceive another nor despise any person whatever in any place. In anger or ill-will let him not wish harm to another.
6. Just as a mother would protect her only child at the risk of her own, even so, let him cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings.
7. Let his thought of boundless love pervade the whole world - above, below across without any hatred, without any enmity.
8. Whether he stands, walks, sits or lies down, as long as he is awake, he should develop this mindfulness. This, they say, is the Highest Conduct here.
9. Not falling into Error, virtuous and endowed with Insight, he discards attachment to sense-desires. Of a truth, he does not come again for conception in a womb.