Good Governance preached by Buddha

The Magadha state circa 600 BC, before it expanded

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Source_Conditions of a Nation’s Welfare from Maha-parinibbana Sutta: Last Days of the Buddha, translated from the Pali by Sister Vajira & Francis Story

Buddha asked, “What have you heard, Ananda, do the Vajjis have_

  1. frequent gatherings, and are their meetings well attended?
  2. Assemble and disperse peacefully and attend to their affairs in concord?
  3. Neither enact new decrees nor abolish existing ones, but proceed in accordance with their ancient constitutions?
  4. Show respect, honor, esteem, and veneration towards their elders and think it worthwhile to listen to them?
  5. Refrain from abducting women and maidens of good families and from detaining them?
  6. Show respect, honor, esteem, and veneration towards their shrines, both those within the city and those outside it, and do not deprive them of the due offerings as given and made to them formerly?
  7. Duly protect and guard the arahats, so that those who have not come to the realm yet might do so, and those who have already come might live there in peace? (Arahant, Pali, in Buddhism, signifies a spiritual practitioner who has realized certain high stages of attainment)”

Buddha revealed: “Once, I dwelt at Vesali, at the Sarandada shrine and I taught the Vajjis these seven conditions leading to (a nation’s) welfare. So long, as these endure among the Vajjis, and they are famous for it, their growth is to be expected, not their decline.”

  • Name of this preaching: Maha-parinibbana Sutta,Last Days of the Buddha,” Conditions of a Nation’s Welfare”
  • Answers by Buddha in the form of discussion with Ananda.
  • Questions of the king of Magadha, Ajatasattu, son of the Videhi queen.
  • Questions conveyed through his Chief Minister the brahman Vassakara
  • Aim of the Questions: desired to wage war against the Vajjis.

The chief minister of Magadha, brahman Vassakara replied to Gotama Buddha: “If the Vajjis, were endowed with only one or another of these conditions leading to welfare, their growth would have to be expected, not their decline. What then of all the seven? No harm, indeed, can be done to the Vajjis in battle by Magadha’s king, Ajatasattu, except through treachery or discord. Well, then, Venerable Gotama, we will take our leave, for we have much to perform, much work to do.”

Above conversation started because the king of Magadha, Ajatasattu, son of the Videhi queen, desired to wage war against the Vajjis. He addressed his chief minister, the brahman Vassakara: “Come, brahman, go to the Blessed One, Buddha, dwelt at Rajagaha, on the hill called Vultures’ Peak, pay homage and ask: ‘O Lord, Ajatasattu, the king of Magadha, desires to wage war against the Vajjis. These Vajjis, powerful and glorious as they are, I shall annihilate them, I shall make them perish, I shall utterly destroy them.” And whatever the Blessed One should answer you, keep it well in mind and inform me; for Tathagatas do not speak falsely.”

After exchanging courteous greetings with the Blessed One, together with many pleasant words, he sat down at one side and addressed the Blessed One thus: “Venerable Gotama, Ajatasattu, the king of Magadha, pays homage at the feet of the Venerable Gotama and wishes him good health, strength, ease, vigour, and comfort. He desires to wage war against the Vajjis, and he has spoken in this fashion: ‘These Vajjis, powerful and glorious as they are, I shall annihilate them, I shall make them perish, I shall utterly destroy them.

At that time the Venerable Ananda was standing behind the Blessed One, fanning him, and the Blessed One addressed the Venerable Ananda.

Thereupon the brahman “Do as now seems fit to you, brahman.” And the brahman Vassakara, the chief minister of Magadha, approving of the Blessed One’s words and delighted by them, rose from his seat and departed. THE PATH OF ARHAT Justice T.U.Mehta

Ajatasatru Vajjis

However, Bimbisara was imprisoned by his ambitious son Kunika Ajatasatru and is said to have committed suicide by taking poison. Ajatasatru ascended to the throne of Magadha and expanded his territory by conquests. He was a very staunch follower of Mahavira though even Buddhists claim his devotion to Buddha. Ajatasatru schemed a plan to break the unity and strength of Vajjis and became successful after the long efforts of sixteen years. Ajatasatru waged war with King Prasenajit of Kosala but was defeated. He quarreled with the strong confederacy of Vajjis led by Cetaka for reasons which are differently given by Buddhists and Jainas. However it was not easy to break the solidarity of the Licchavis and other members of confederacy. Ajatasatru, therefore resorted to dubious method of first sowing the seeds of discord among different classes of the confederacy through one of his ministers who settled amongst the Vajjis and became successful in destroying the social unity of the people.

In this connection, the Buddhist scripture Mahaparinibbana-sutta records a very interesting dialogue between Lord Buddha and his principal pupil Ananda – a dialogue which is very instructive and relevant to the present conditions of our country. It is said that Ajatasatru wanted to know the opinion of Lord Buddha through his pupil Ananda as to the advisability of invading the Vajjis. The Master is said to have replied that it was not possible to vanquish the Vajjis so long as they stuck of the following seven principles viz. :

(1) They continued to hold public assemblies frequently.

(2) They continued to discuss their affairs freely and tried to arrive at unanimity in their resolutions and execution of their affairs.

(3) They continue to act in accordance with their time-tested ancient institutions and enact nothing which is not yet established.

(4) They continue to honour the advice of their elders.

(5) They honor their womanhood.

(6) They continue the traditional worship of their shrines.

(7) They protect and defend the respectful persons who came to reside with them.

Obviously, this was the prescription for unity because unity of a nation is its strength. Ajatashatru seems to have taken a clue from this and prepared for a preliminary grounding by a carefully planned espionage, which sowed seeds of disunity amongst the Vajjis, who were finally defeated and destroyed by Magadha. Lord Mahavira never approved of this aggressive attitude of Ajatasatru and remonstrated him by telling him that he earned his place in Hell by invading the Vajjis.

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