Dasa-Raja-Dhamma: The ‘Ten Royal Virtues’
Dasa-Raja-Dhamma: The ‘Ten Royal Virtues’
by Danister I. Fernando
Buddhism is a way
of life. What is mainly essential, according to the noble philosophy of
Sakya Muni the Buddha is to follow the Eightfold Path leading to
complete emancipation- Nibbana. But it is wrong to conclude that
Buddhism is interested only in such lofty ideals and high philosophical
thought ignoring the social, economic and political welfare of the
people. Buddha was a marvellous repository of loving kindness (metta)
and compassion (karuna) towards all beings and was greatly interested in
the happiness of not only the mankind but of all other beings as well.
To him happiness was not possible without leading a pure life based on
moral and spiritual principles. He firmly believed that such a life was
possible only under favourable material, social and political
conditions. He considers such conditions as a means to a higher and
In Kutadanda Sutta (Digha Nikaya)
Buddha explains that in order to eradicate crime, the economic condition
of the people should be improved. The relationship between the employer
and the employee should be made cordial mainly by the payment of
adequate wages, gifts and incentives. The kings (governments) should
take this fact into serious consideration and keep the people happy and
contented, so that consequently the country would be peaceful and crime
Not only did the Buddha teach
non-violence and peace; he also personally intervened in quelling
disputes in the field of battle through His sublime Dhamma. For
instance, He intervened in the case of a friction between the Sakyas and
the Koliyas and prevented a deadly war. Again, King Ajatasattu who was
about to wage war against the Vajjis was prevented from doing so,
entirely on the valuable advice of the Buddha. Further, our chronicles
(Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa) say that the Buddha visited Sri Lanka on three
occasions, and having suppressed certain disputes through the Dhamma,
established peace in the country, thereby.
Therefore, we see that while the Buddha
put across His philosophy successfully, he also advocated the
maintenance of peace and cordiality throughout, which was absolutely
essential for spiritual development. He had shown how a country could
become corrupt and unhappy when the heads of its government become
corrupt and unjust. For a country to be happy, it must have a good and
just government. How this form of just government is evolved is detailed
in his recommendations entitled “Ten Royal Virtues”. (”Dasa-Raja
Dhamma” - Jataka Text).
The ‘Ten Royal Virtues’ are as follows:
1. Dana: liberality, generosity or
charity. The giving away of alms to the needy. It is the duty of the
king (government) to look after the welfare of his needy subjects. The
ideal ruler should give away wealth and property wisely without giving
in-to craving and attachment. In other words he should not try to be
rich making use of his position.
2. Sila: morality - a high moral
character. He must observe at least the Five Precepts, and conduct
himself both in private and in public life as to be a shining example to
his subjects. This virtue is very important, because, if the ruler
adheres to it, strictly, then bribery and corruption, violence and
indiscipline would be automatically wiped out in the country.
3. Comfort Pariccaga: Making sacrifices
if they are for the good of the people - personal name and fame; even
the life if need be. By the grant of gifts etc. the ruler spurs the
subjects on to more efficient and more loyal service.
4. Ajjava: Honesty and integrity. He
must be absolutely straightforward and must never take recourse to any
crooked or doubtful means to achieve his ends. He must be free from fear
or favour in the discharge of his duties. At this point, a stanza from
‘Sigalovada Sutta. (Digha-Nikaya), a relevant declaration by the Buddha
comes to my mind:
“Canda, dose, bhaya, moha - Yo dhammam nativattati. Apurati tassa yaso - Sukkha pakkheva candima”)
Meaning: If a person maintains justice
without being subjected to favoritism, hatred, fear or ignorance, his
popularity grows like the waxing moon.
5. Maddava: Kindness or gentleness. A
ruler’s uprightness may sometimes require firmness. But this should be
tempered with kindness and gentleness. In other words a ruler should not
be over - harsh or cruel.
6. Tapa: Restraint of senses and
austerity in habits. Shunning indulgence in sensual pleasures, an ideal
monarch keeps his five senses under control. Some rulers may, using
their position, flout moral conduct - this is not becoming of a good
7. Akkodha: Non-hatred. The ruler
should bear no grudge against anybody. Without harbouring grievances he
must act with forbearance and love. At this instance, I am reminded of
how a certain royal pupil, an heir to the throne, who had been punished
by the teacher for an offence, took revenge by punishing the teacher
after he become King! (Jataka Text). Political victimization is also not
conducive to proper administration.
8. Avihimsa: non-violence. Not only
should he refrain from harming anybody but he should also try to promote
peace and prevent war, when necessary. He must practice non-violence to
the highest possible extent so long as it does not interfere with the
firmness expected of an ideal ruler.
9. Khanti: Patience and tolerance.
Without losing his temper, the ruler should be able to bear up hardships
and insults. In any occasion he should be able to conduct himself
without giving in-to emotions. He should be able to receive both
bouquets and brickbats in the same spirit and with equanimity.
10. Avirodha: Non - opposition and
non-enmity. The ruler should not oppose the will of the people. He must
cultivate the spirit of amity among his subjects. In other words he
should rule in harmony with his people.
The Buddha in his dispensations has
emphasised the fact that the nature of the subjects depends largely on
the behaviour of their rulers. Therefore, for the good of the people at
large He set out these Ten Royal Virtues - ‘Dasa-Raja-Dhamma’ to be
practiced by the rulers of men.
After the advent of Buddha Sasana to
Sri Lanka, in the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa, in the 3rd century
B.C, the long line of Buddhist Kings would have kept to ‘Dasa-Raja —
Dhamma’ in fostering good governance.
It is also interesting to note that in
India’s foreign policy the ‘Five Principles’ or ‘Pancasila’ (which is
itself a Buddhist term) are in accordance with Buddhist principles
Dharmasoka, the great Buddhist Emperor of India, who was contemporary
and a good friend of King Devanampiya Tissa of Lanka had applied to his
administration Buddhist principles the authenticity of which is proved
by his Rock Edicts available in India and seen even today.
In this regard, I wish to make
mention of a very great Buddhist Country - Thailand - where the
Theravada concept of Buddhism is in practice and where His Majesty the
King is loved by all and held in very high esteem with deep respect. His
Majesty, seated on the “Bhadrabith Throne” beneath the “Nine-Tiered
White Umbrella of States” in the “Baisal Daksin Hall” of the Grand
Palace, had pronounced the ancient oath of accession to the Throne,
which says, “I will reign with righteousness, for the benefits and
happiness of the people”. The word “righteousness” is the key, as it
leads back in time through over two - thousand five hundred years of
history to the Buddhist concept of Kingship. The ideal monarch is
expected to abide by the “Tenfold Moral Principles” of the Sovereign,
“Tossapit Rajatham” in Thai, * which in our Jataka Text” are called
“Dasa- Raja — Dhamma”. (From a paper published in connection with the birth anniversary of His Majesty, King of Thailand.)