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Pillars of Ashoka
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“Ashoka Pillar” redirects here. For the pillar in Delhi also known as Ashoka pillar, see Iron pillar of Delhi.
Not to be confused with Lion Capital of Ashoka.
The
pillars of Ashoka are a series of monolithic columns dispersed
throughout the Indian subcontinent, erected or at least inscribed with
edicts by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka during his reign from c. 268 to
232 BCE.[2] Ashoka used the expression Dhaṃma thaṃbhā (Dharma stambha),
i.e. “pillars of the Dharma” to describe his own pillars.[3][4] These
pillars constitute important monuments of the architecture of India,
most of them exhibiting the characteristic Mauryan polish. Of the
pillars erected by Ashoka, twenty still survive including those with
inscriptions of his edicts. Only a few with animal capitals survive of
which seven complete specimens are known.[5] Two pillars were relocated
by Firuz Shah Tughlaq to Delhi.[6] Several pillars were relocated later
by Mughal Empire rulers, the animal capitals being removed.[7] Averaging
between 12 and 15 m (40 and 50 ft) in height, and weighing up to 50
tons each, the pillars were dragged, sometimes hundreds of miles, to
where they were erected.[8]
Pillars of Ashoka
One of the Pillars of Ashoka, in Vaishali
Material
Polished sandstone
Period/culture
3rd century BCE
Known locations of the Pillars of Ashoka[1]
The
pillars of Ashoka are among the earliest known stone sculptural remains
from India. Only another pillar fragment, the Pataliputra capital, is
possibly from a slightly earlier date. It is thought that before the 3rd
century BCE, wood rather than stone was used as the main material for
Indian architectural constructions, and that stone may have been adopted
following interaction with the Persians and the Greeks.[9] A graphic
representation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka from the column there was
adopted as the official State Emblem of India in 1950.[10]
All
the pillars of Ashoka were built at Buddhist monasteries, many
important sites from the life of the Buddha and places of pilgrimage.
Some of the columns carry inscriptions addressed to the monks and
nuns.[11] Some were erected to commemorate visits by Ashoka. Major
pillars are present in the Indian States of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya
Pradesh and some parts of Haryana.
Ashoka and Buddhism
Edit
Lion Capital of Ashoka from Sarnath, with Wheel of the Moral Law (reconstitution). 3rd century BCE.[12][13][14]
Ashoka
ascended to the throne in 269 BC inheriting the Mauryan empire founded
by his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya. Ashoka was reputedly a tyrant at
the outset of his reign. Eight years after his accession he campaigned
in Kalinga where in his own words, “a hundred and fifty thousand people
were deported, a hundred thousand were killed and as many as that
perished…” As he explains in his edicts, after this event Ashoka
converted to Buddhism in remorse for the loss of life. Buddhism became a
state religion and with Ashoka’s support it spread rapidly. The
inscriptions on the pillars set out edicts about morality based on
Buddhist tenets.[15][16] They were added in 3rd century BCE.
Construction
Edit
Possible sources of inspiration
Sphinx of the Naxians, Delphi, c. 6th BCE.[17]
Highly polished Achaemenid load-bearing column with lotus capital and ashvins, Persepolis, c. 5th-4th BCE.
See also: Mauryan polish
The
traditional idea that all were originally quarried at Chunar, just
south of Varanasi and taken to their sites, before or after carving,
“can no longer be confidently asserted”,[18] and instead it seems that
the columns were carved in two types of stone. Some were of the spotted
red and white sandstone from the region of Mathura, the others of
buff-colored fine grained hard sandstone usually with small black spots
quarried in the Chunar near Varanasi. The uniformity of style in the
pillar capitals suggests that they were all sculpted by craftsmen from
the same region. It would therefore seem that stone was transported from
Mathura and Chunar to the various sites where the pillars have been
found, and there was cut and carved by craftsmen.[19]
The
pillars have four component parts in two pieces: the three sections of
the capitals are made in a single piece, often of a different stone to
that of the monolithic shaft to which they are attached by a large metal
dowel. The shafts are always plain and smooth, circular in
cross-section, slightly tapering upwards and always chiselled out of a
single piece of stone. There is no distinct base at the bottom of the
shaft. The lower parts of the capitals have the shape and appearance of a
gently arched bell formed of lotus petals. The abaci are of two types:
square and plain and circular and decorated and these are of different
proportions. The crowning animals are masterpieces of Mauryan art, shown
either seated or standing, always in the round and chiselled as a
single piece with the abaci.[20][21] Presumably all or most of the other
columns that now lack them once had capitals and animals. They are also
used to commemorate the events of the Buddha’s life.
Left
image: Vaishali lion of Ashoka. Right image: Assyrian relief of a lion
at Nineveh (circa 640 BCE). Many stylistic elements (design of the
whiskers, the eyes, the fur etc…) point to similarities.[22]
Currently
seven animal sculptures from Ashoka pillars survive.[5][23] These form
“the first important group of Indian stone sculpture”, though it is
thought they derive from an existing tradition of wooden columns topped
by animal sculptures in copper, none of which have survived. It is also
possible that some of the stone pillars predate Ashoka’s reign.[24]
Floral designs
Top image: Abacus of the Allahabad pillar, with lotuses alternating with “flame palmettes” over a bead and reel pattern.
Bottom image: A quite similar frieze from Delphi, 525 BCE
Origin
Edit
Western origin
Edit
There
has been much discussion of the extent of influence from Achaemenid
Persia,[25] where the column capitals supporting the roofs at Persepolis
have similarities, and the “rather cold, hieratic style” of the Sarnath
Lion Capital of Ashoka especially shows “obvious Achaemenid and
Sargonid influence”.[26] India and the Achaemenid Empire had been in
close contact since the Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley, from
circa 500 BCE to 330 BCE.
Hellenistic
influence has also been suggested.[27] In particular the abaci of some
of the pillars (especially the Rampurva bull, the Sankissa elephant and
the Allahabad pillar capital) use bands of motifs, like the bead and
reel pattern, the ovolo, the flame palmettes, lotuses, which likely
originated from Greek and Near-Eastern arts.[22] Such examples can also
be seen in the remains of the Mauryan capital city of Pataliputra.
It
has also been suggested that 6th century Greek columns such as the
Sphinx of Naxos, a 12.5m Ionic column crowned by a sitted animal in the
religious center of Delphi, may have been an inspiration for the pillars
of Ashoka.[17] Many similar columns crowned by sphinxes were discovered
in ancient Greece, as in Sparta, Athens or Spata, and some were used as
funerary steles.[17] The Greek sphinx, a lion with the face of a human
female, was considered as having ferocious strength, and was thought of
as a guardian, often flanking the entrances to temples or royal
tombs.[28]
Pillar as Dhvaja, military standard
Heliodorus pillar in Vidisha, India, 2nd Century BCE
Shunga horseman carrying portable garuda standard, Bharhut 2nd Century BCE
Indian origin
Edit
Some
scholars such as John Irwin emphasized a reassessment from popular
belief of Persian or Greek origin of Ashokan pillars. He makes the
argument that Ashokan pillars represent Dhvaja or standard which Indian
soldiers carried with them during battle and it was believed that the
destruction of the enemy’s dhvaja brought misfortune to their opponents.
A relief of Bharhut stupa railing portrays a queenly personage on
horseback carrying a Garudadhvaja.[29] Heliodorus pillar has been called
Garudadhvaja, literally Garuda-standard, the pillar dated to 2nd
century BC is perhaps the earliest recorded stone pillar which has been
declared a dhvaja.[30]
Ashokan
edicts themselves state that his words should be carved on any stone
slab or pillars available indicating that the tradition of carving stone
pillars was present before the period of Ashoka.
Jhon
Irwin also highlights the fact that carvings on pillars such as
Allahabad pillar was done when it had already been erected indicating
its pre Ashokan origins.[31]
Ashoka
called his own pillars Silā Thabhe (𑀲𑀺𑀮𑀸𑀣𑀪𑁂, Stone Stambha, i.e.
stone pillars). Lumbini inscription, Brahmi script.
Stylistic argument
Edit
Though
influence from the west is generally accepted, especially the Persian
columns of Achaemenid Persia, there are a number of differences between
these and the pillars. Persian columns are built in segments whereas
Ashokan pillars are monoliths, like some much later Roman columns. Most
of the Persian pillars have a fluted shaft while the Mauryan pillars are
smooth, and Persian pillars serve as supporting structures whereas
Ashokan pillars are individual free-standing monuments. There are also
other differences in the decoration.[32] Indian historian Upinder Singh
comments on some of the differences and similarities, writing that “If
the Ashokan pillars cannot in their entirety be attributed to Persian
influence, they must have had an undocumented prehistory within the
subcontinent, perhaps a tradition of wooden carving. But the transition
from stone to wood was made in one magnificent leap, no doubt spurred by
the imperial tastes and ambitions of the Maurya emperors.”[33]
Whatever
the cultural and artistic borrowings from the west, the pillars of
Ashoka, together with much of Mauryan art and architectural prowesses
such as the city of Pataliputra or the Barabar Caves, remain outstanding
in their achievements, and often compare favourably with the rest of
the world at that time. Commenting on Mauryan sculpture, John Marshall
once wrote about the “extraordinary precision and accuracy which
characterizes all Mauryan works, and which has never, we venture to say,
been surpassed even by the finest workmanship on Athenian
buildings”.[34][35]
Complete list of the pillars
Edit
Five
of the pillars of Ashoka, two at Rampurva, one each at Vaishali,
Lauriya Araraj and Lauria Nandangarh possibly marked the course of the
ancient Royal highway from Pataliputra to the Nepal. Several pillars
were relocated by later Mughal Empire rulers, the animal capitals being
removed.[7]
The
two Chinese medieval pilgrim accounts record sightings of several
columns that have now vanished: Faxian records six and Xuanzang fifteen,
of which only five at most can be identified with surviving
pillars.[36] All surviving pillars, listed with any crowning animal
sculptures and the edicts inscribed, are as follows:[20][37]
Complete standing pillars, or pillars with Ashokan inscriptions
Edit
Geographical spread of known pillar capitals.
Delhi-Topra
pillar, in the fortress of Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi (Pillar Edicts I,
II, III, IV, V, VI, VII; moved in 1356 CE from Topra Kalan in
Yamunanagar district of Haryana to Delhi by Firuz Shah Tughluq.[1]
Delhi-Meerut,
Delhi ridge, Delhi (Pillar Edicts I, II, III, IV, V, VI; moved from
Meerut to Delhi by Firuz Shah Tughluq in 1356.[1]
Nigali
Sagar (or Nigliva, Nigalihawa), near Lumbini, Nepal. Pillar missing
capital, one Ashoka edict. Erected in the 20th regnal year of Ashoka (c.
249 BCE).[1]
Rupandehi,
near Lumbini, Nepal. Also erected in the 20th regnal year of Ashoka (c.
249 BCE), to commemorate Ashoka’s pilgrimage to Lumbini. Capital
missing, but was apparently a horse.[1]
Allahabad
pillar, Uttar Pradesh (originally located at Kausambi and probable
moved to Allahabad by Jahangir; Pillar Edicts I-VI, Queen’s Edict,
Schism Edict).[1]
Rampurva,
Champaran, Bihar. Two columns: a lion with Pillar Edicts I, II, III,
IV, V, VI; a bull without inscriptions. The abacus of the bull capital
features honeysuckle and palmette designs derived from Greek designs.[1]
Sanchi, near Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, four lions, Schism Edict.[1]
Sarnath,
near Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, four lions, Pillar Inscription, Schism
Edict.[1] This is the famous “Lion Capital of Ashoka” used in the
national emblem of India.
Lauriya-Nandangarth, Champaran, Bihar, single lion, Pillar Edicts I, II, III, IV, V, VI.[1]
Lauriya Araraj, Champaran, Bihar (Pillar Edicts I, II, III, IV, V, VI).[1]
Vaishali, Bihar, single lion, with no inscription.[1]
The
Amaravati pillar fragment is rather problematic. It only consists in 6
lines in Brahmi which are hardly decipherable. Only the word vijaya
(victory) can be made out, arguably a word also used by Ashoka.[38]
Sircar, who provides a detailed study, considers it as probably
belonging to an Ashokan pillar.[39]
Complete standing pillars, or pillars with Ashokan inscriptions
Vaishali
Vaishali
Lauriya-Nandangarh
Lauriya-Nandangarh
Lauriya-Araraj
Lauriya-Araraj
Delhi-Meerut (originally from Meerut, broken in pieces during transportation).
Delhi-Meerut (originally from Meerut, broken in pieces during transportation).
Delhi-Topra (originally from Topra Kalan).
Delhi-Topra (originally from Topra Kalan).
Allahabad (originally from Kosambi)
Allahabad (originally from Kosambi)
Lumbini (broken in half). Capped for protection in the 20th century.
Lumbini (broken in half). Capped for protection in the 20th century.
Sarnath
Sarnath
Sanchi
Sanchi
Rampurva
Rampurva
Nigali Sagar
Nigali Sagar
Fragment of pillar with inscription, Amaravati.[40]
Fragment of pillar with inscription, Amaravati.[40]
Pillars without Ashokan inscriptions
Edit
There
are also several known fragments of Ashokan pillars, without recovered
Ashokan inscriptions, such as the Ashoka pillar in Bodh Gaya, Kausambi,
Gotihawa, Prahladpur (now in the Government Sanskrit College,
Varanasi[41]), Fatehabad, Bhopal, Sadagarli, Udaigiri-Vidisha,
Kushinagar, Arrah (Masarh) Basti, Bhikana Pahari, Bulandi Bagh
(Pataliputra), Sandalpu and a few others, as well as a broken pillar in
Bhairon (”Lat Bhairo” in Benares)[42] which was destroyed to a stump
during riots in 1908.[43] The Chinese monks Fa-Hsien and Hsuantsang also
reported pillars in Kushinagar, the Jetavana monastery in Sravasti,
Rajagriha and Mahasala, which have not been recovered to this day.[43]
Fragments of Pillars of Ashoka, without Ashokan inscriptions
Kausambi
Kausambi
Gotihawa, possible base of the Nigali Sagar pillar
Gotihawa, possible base of the Nigali Sagar pillar
Bodh Gaya (originally near Sujata Stupa, brought from Gaya in 1956).[44]
Bodh Gaya (originally near Sujata Stupa, brought from Gaya in 1956).[44]
Portion of an Ashokan pillar, found in Pataliputra.
Portion of an Ashokan pillar, found in Pataliputra.
Bhawanipur Rupandehi.
Bhawanipur Rupandehi.
The capitals (Top Piece)
Edit
Abacus of the Allahabad pillar of Ashoka, the only remaining portion of the capital of the Allahabad pillar.
There
are altogether seven remaining complete capitals, five with lions, one
with an elephant and one with a zebu bull. One of them, the four lions
of Sarnath, has become the State Emblem of India. The animal capitals
are composed of a lotiform base, with an abacus decorated with floral,
symbolic or animal designs, topped by the realistic depiction of an
animal, thought to each represent a traditional directions in India.
The horse motif on the Sarnath Lion Capital of Ashoka, is often described as an example of Hellenistic realism.[45]
Various
foreign influences have been described in the design of these
capitals.[46] The animal on top of a lotiform capital reminds of
Achaemenid column shapes. The abacus also often seems to display some
influence of Greek art: in the case of the Rampurva bull or the Sankassa
elephant, it is composed of honeysuckles alternated with stylized
palmettes and small rosettes.[47] A similar kind of design can be seen
in the frieze of the lost capital of the Allahabad pillar. These designs
likely originated in Greek and Near-Eastern arts.[48] They would
probably have come from the neighboring Seleucid Empire, and
specifically from a Hellenistic city such as Ai-Khanoum, located at the
doorstep of India.[24] Most of these designs and motifs can also be seen
in the Pataliputra capital.
The
Diamond throne of Bodh Gaya is another example of Ashokan architecture
circa 260 BCE, and displays a band of carvings with palmettes and geese,
similar to those found on several of the Pillars of Ashoka.[49]
Chronological order
Based
on stylistic and technical analysis, it is possible to establish a
tentative chronological orders for the pillars. The earliest one seems
to be the Vaishali pillar, with its stout and short column, the rigid
lion and the undecorated square abacus. Next would follow the Sankissa
elephant and the Rampurva bull, also not yet benefiting from Mauryan
polish, and using a Hellenistic abacus of lotus and palmettes for
decoration. The abacus would then adopt the Hamsa goose as an animal
decorative symbol, in Lauria Nandangarh and the Rampurva lion. Sanchi
and Sarnath would mark the culmination with four animals back-to-back
instead of just one, and a new and sophisticated animal and symbolic
abacus (the elephant, the bull, the lion, the horse alternating with the
Dharma wheel) for the Sarnath lion.[50]
Other
chronological orders have also been proposed, for example based on the
style of the Ashokan inscriptions on the pillars, since the
stylistically most sophisticated pillars actually have the engravings of
the Edicts of Ashoka of the worst quality (namely, very poorly engraved
Schism Edicts on the Sanchi and Sarnath pillars, their only
inscriptions). This approach offers an almost reverse chronological
order to the preceding one.[51] According to Irwin, the Sankissa
elephant and Rampurva bull pillars with their Hellenistic abacus are
pre-Ashokan. Ashoka would then have commissioned the Sarnath pillar with
its famous Lion Capital of Ashoka to be built under the tutelage of
craftsmen from the former Achaemenid Empire, trained in
Perso-Hellenistic statuary, whereas the Brahmi engraving on the very
same pillar (and on pillars of the same period such as Sanchi and
Kosambi-Allahabad) was made by inexperienced Indian engravers at a time
when stone engraving was still new in India.[51] After Ashoka sent back
the foreign artists, style degraded over a short period of time, down to
the time when the Major Pillar Edicts were engraved at the end of
Ashoka’s reign, which now displayed very good inscriptional
craftsmanship but a much more solemn and less elegant style for the
associated lion capitals, as for the Lauria Nandangarh lion and the
Rampurva lion.[51]
Known capitals of the pillars of Ashoka
Ordered chronologically based on stylistic and technical analysis.[50]
Vaishali lion
Vaishali lion
Sankissa elephant.
Sankissa elephant.
Rampurva zebu bull original (now in Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi).
Rampurva zebu bull original (now in Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi).
Lauria Nandangarh lion.
Lauria Nandangarh lion.
Rampurva lion.
Rampurva lion.
Four lions, once possibly crowned by a wheel, from Sanchi.
Four lions, once possibly crowned by a wheel, from Sanchi.
The “Lion Capital of Ashoka”, from Sarnath.
The “Lion Capital of Ashoka”, from Sarnath.
Of
the Allahabad pillar, only the abacus remains, the bottom bulb and the
crowning animal having been lost. The remains are now located in the
Allahabad Museum.
The elephant-crowned pillar of Ashoka at the Mahabodhi Temple, Gaya. Bharhut relief, 100 BCE.
A few more possibly Ashokan capitals were also found without their pillars:
Kesariya
(capital). Only the capital was found in the Kesaria stupa. It was
discovered by Markham Kittoe in 1862, and said to be similar to the lion
of the Lauriya Nandangarh pillar, except for the hind legs of the lion,
which did not protrude beyond the abacus.[1] This capital is now lost.
Udaigiri-Vidisha
(capital only at the Udayagiri Caves, visible here).[1] Attribution to
Ashoka however is disputed (ranging from the 2nd century BCE Sunga
period,[52] to the Gupta period.[53]).
It
is also known from various ancient sculptures (reliefs from Bharhut,
100 BCE), and later narrative account by Chinese pilgrims (5-6th century
CE), that there was a pillar of Ashoka at the Mahabodhi Temple founded
by Ashoka, that it was crowned by an elephant.[54]
The
same Chinese pilgrims have reported that the capital of the Lumbini
pillar was a horse (now lost), which, by their time had already fallen
to the ground.[54]
Inscriptions
Edit
Main article: Edicts of Ashoka
Ashoka
also called his pillars “Dhaṃma thaṃbhā” (𑀥𑀁𑀫𑀣𑀁𑀪𑀸, Dharma
stambha), i.e. “pillars of the Dharma”. 7th Major Pillar Edict. Brahmi
script.[3]
The
inscriptions on the columns include a fairly standard text. The
inscriptions on the columns join other, more numerous, Ashokan
inscriptions on natural rock faces to form the body of texts known as
the Edicts of Ashoka. These inscriptions were dispersed throughout the
areas of modern-day Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan
and represent the first tangible evidence of Buddhism. The edicts
describe in detail Ashoka’s policy of Dhamma, an earnest attempt to
solve some of problems that a complex society faced.[55] In these
inscriptions, Ashoka refers to himself as “Beloved servant of the Gods”
(Devanampiyadasi). The inscriptions revolve around a few recurring
themes: Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism, the description of his efforts
to spread Buddhism, his moral and religious precepts, and his social and
animal welfare program. The edicts were based on Ashoka’s ideas on
administration and behaviour of people towards one another and religion.
Alexander
Cunningham, one of the first to study the inscriptions on the pillars,
remarks that they are written in eastern, middle and western Prakrits
which he calls “the Punjabi or north-western dialect, the Ujjeni or
middle dialect, and the Magadhi or eastern dialect.”[56] They are
written in the Brahmi script.
Minor Pillar Edicts
Edit
Main article: Minor Pillar Edicts
These
contain inscriptions recording their dedication, as well as the Schism
Edicts and the Queen’s Edict. They were inscribed around the 13th year
of Ashoka’s reign.
Sanchi pillar (Schism Edict)
Sarnath pillar (Schism Edict)
Allahabad pillar (Schism Edict, Queen Edict, and also Major Pillar Edicts)
Lumbini
(Rummindei), Nepal (the upper part broke off when struck by lightning;
the original horse capital mentioned by Xuanzang is missing) was erected
by Ashoka where Buddha was born.
Nigali Sagar (or Nigliva), near Lumbini, Rupandehi district, Nepal (originally near the Buddha Konakarnana stupa)
Kosambi-Allahabad Schism Edict.
Kosambi-Allahabad Schism Edict.
Sanchi Schism Edict.
Sanchi Schism Edict.
Sarnath Schism Edit.
Sarnath Schism Edit.
Rummindei, in Lumbini.
Rummindei, in Lumbini.
Nigali Sagar.
Nigali Sagar.
Major Pillar Edicts
Edit
Fragment of the 6th Major Pillar Edict, from the Delhi-Meerut Pillar of Ashoka, British Museum.[57]
Main article: Major Pillar Edicts
Asoka’s
6 Major Pillar Edicts have been found at Kausambhi (Allahabad), Topra
(now Delhi), Meerut (now Delhi), Lauriya-Araraj, Lauriya-Nandangarh,
Rampurva (Champaran), and a 7th one on the Delhi-Topra pillar.
These pillar edicts include:[58]
I Asoka’s principle of protection to people
II Defines dhamma as minimum of sins, many virtues, compassion, liberality, truthfulness and purity
III Abolishes sins of harshness, cruelty, anger, pride etc.
IV Deals with duties of government officials
V
List of animals and birds which should not be killed on some days and
another list of animals which cannot be killed on any occasion.
Describes release of 25 prisoners by Asoka.
VI Works done by Asoka for Dhamma Policy. He says that all sects desire both self-control and purity of mind.
VII Testimental edict.
Major Pillar Edicts I, II, III (Delhi-Topra)
Major Pillar Edicts I, II, III (Delhi-Topra)
Major Pillar Edicts IV (Delhi-Topra)
Major Pillar Edicts IV (Delhi-Topra)
Major Pillar Edicts V-VII (Delhi-Topra)
Major Pillar Edicts V-VII (Delhi-Topra)
Major Pillar Edicts VII, second part (Delhi-Topra)
Major Pillar Edicts VII, second part (Delhi-Topra)
Description of the pillars
Edit
Front view of the single lion capital in Vaishali.
Pillars retaining their animals
Edit
Main article: Lion Capital of Ashoka
The
most celebrated capital (the four-lion one at Sarnath (Uttar Pradesh))
erected by Emperor Ashoka circa 250 BC. also called the “Ashoka Column” .
Four lions are seated back to back. At present the Column remains in
the same place whereas the Lion Capital is at the Sarnath Museum. This
Lion Capital of Ashoka from Sarnath has been adopted as the National
Emblem of India and the wheel “Ashoka Chakra” from its base was placed
onto the centre of the flag of India.
The
lions probably originally supported a Dharma Chakra wheel with 24
spokes, such as is preserved in the 13th century replica erected at Wat
Umong near Chiang Mai, Thailand by Thai king Mangrai.[59]
Depiction of the four lions capital surmounted by a Wheel of Law at Sanchi, Satavahana period, South gateway of stupa 3.
The
pillar at Sanchi also has a similar but damaged four-lion capital.
There are two pillars at Rampurva, one with a bull and the other with a
lion as crowning animals. Sankissa has only a damaged elephant capital,
which is mainly unpolished, though the abacus is at least partly so. No
pillar shaft has been found, and perhaps this was never erected at the
site.[60]
The
Vaishali pillar has a single lion capital.[61] The location of this
pillar is contiguous to the site where a Buddhist monastery and a sacred
coronation tank stood. Excavations are still underway and several
stupas suggesting a far flung campus for the monastery have been
discovered. The lion faces north, the direction Buddha took on his last
voyage.[62] Identification of the site for excavation in 1969 was aided
by the fact that this pillar still jutted out of the soil. More such
pillars exist in this greater area but they are all devoid of the
capital.
Pillar at Prayagraj
Edit
Main articles: Allahabad pillar and Allahabad Stone Pillar Inscription of Samudra Gupta
In
Prayagraj there is a pillar with inscriptions from Ashoka and later
inscriptions attributed to Samudragupta and Jehangir. It is clear from
the inscription that the pillar was first erected at Kaushambi, an
ancient town some 30 kilometres west of Allahabad that was the capital
of the Koshala kingdom, and moved to Allahabad, presumably under Muslim
rule.[63]
The
pillar is now located inside the Allahabad Fort, also the royal palace,
built during the 16th century by Akbar at the confluence of the Ganges
and Yamuna rivers. As the fort is occupied by the Indian Army it is
essentially closed to the public and special permission is required to
see the pillar. The Ashokan inscription is in Brahmi and is dated around
232 BC. A later inscription attributed to the second king of the Gupta
empire, Samudragupta, is in the more refined Gupta script, a later
version of Brahmi, and is dated to around 375 AD. This inscription lists
the extent of the empire that Samudragupta built during his long reign.
He had already been king for forty years at that time and would rule
for another five. A still later inscription in Persian is from the
Mughal emperor Jahangir. The Akbar Fort also houses the Akshay Vat, an
Indian fig tree of great antiquity. The Ramayana refers to this tree
under which Lord Rama is supposed to have prayed while on exile.
Pillars at Lauriya-Areraj and Lauriya-Nandangarh
Edit
The
column at Lauriya-Nandangarh, 23 km from Bettiah in West Champaran
district, Bihar has single lion capital. The hump and the hind legs of
the lion project beyond the abacus.[20] The pillar at Lauriya-Areraj in
East Champaran district, Bihar is presently devoid of any capital.
Erecting the Pillars
Edit
The
Pillars of Ashoka may have been erected using the same methods that
were used to erect the ancient obelisks. Roger Hopkins and Mark Lehrner
conducted several obelisk erecting experiments including a successful
attempt to erect a 25ton obelisk in 1999. This followed two experiments
to erect smaller obelisks and two failed attempts to erect a 25-ton
obelisk.[64][65]
Rediscoveries
Edit
Rediscovery of the Ashoka pillar in Sarnath, 1905.
A
number of the pillars were thrown down by either natural causes or
iconoclasts, and gradually rediscovered. One was noticed in the 16th
century by the English traveller Thomas Coryat in the ruins of Old
Delhi. Initially he assumed that from the way it glowed that it was made
of brass, but on closer examination he realized it was made of highly
polished sandstone with upright script that resembled a form of Greek.
In the 1830s James Prinsep began to decipher them with the help of
Captain Edward Smith and George Turnour. They determined that the script
referred to King Piyadasi which was also the epithet of an Indian ruler
known as Ashoka who came to the throne 218 years after Buddha’s
enlightenment. Scholars have since found 150 of Ashoka’s inscriptions,
carved into the face of rocks or on stone pillars marking out a domain
that stretched across northern India and south below the central plateau
of the Deccan. These pillars were placed in strategic sites near border
cities and trade routes.
The
Sanchi pillar was found in 1851 in excavations led by Sir Alexander
Cunningham, first head of the Archaeological Survey of India. There were
no surviving traces above ground of the Sarnath pillar, mentioned in
the accounts of medieval Chinese pilgrims, when the Indian Civil Service
engineer F.O. Oertel, with no real experience in archaeology, was
allowed to excavate there in the winter of 1904–05. He first uncovered
the remains of a Gupta shrine west of the main stupa, overlying an
Ashokan structure. To the west of that he found the lowest section of
the pillar, upright but broken off near ground level. Most of the rest
of the pillar was found in three sections nearby, and then, since the
Sanchi capital had been excavated in 1851, the search for an equivalent
was continued, and the Lion Capital of Ashoka, the most famous of the
group, was found close by. It was both finer in execution and in much
better condition than that at Sanchi. The pillar appeared to have been
deliberately destroyed at some point. The finds were recognised as so
important that the first onsite museum in India (and one of the few then
in the world) was set up to house them.[66]
Other Ashokan structures
Edit
The Buddha’s Diamond Throne and the Pillars of Ashoka
Discovery of Ashoka’s Diamond throne in Bodh Gaya, near the spot of the Buddha’s illumination and the Boddhi tree.
Side
decorative bands of the Diamond Throne (top) and the Sanchi pillar
capital (bottom), both featuring geese and flame palmettes.
Front
decorative friezes of the Diamond Throne (top) and the Sankissa pillar
capital (bottom), both alternating flame palmettes, rosettes and
lotuses.
Stupas
Legend
has it that Ashoka built 84,000 stupas commemorating the events and
relics of Buddha’s life. Some of these stupas contained networks of
walls containing the hub, spokes and rim of a wheel, while others
contained interior walls in a swastika (卐) shape. The wheel represents
the sun, time, and Buddhist law (the wheel of law, or dharmachakra),
while the swastika stands for the cosmic dance around a fixed center and
guards against evil.[15][16]
“Diamond throne” in Bodh Gaya
Main article: Vajrasana, Bodh Gaya
Ashoka
also built the Diamond Throne in Bodh Gaya, at the location where the
Buddha had reached enlightenment some 200 years earlier.[67][68] This
purely Buddhist monument to the Buddha is a thick slab of polished grey
sandstone with Mauryan polish[69]
The
sculpted decorations on the Diamond Throne clearly echoe the
decorations found on the Pillars of Ashoka.[70] The Diamond Throne has a
decorative band made of honeysuckles and geese, which can also be found
on several of the Pillars of Ashoka,[49] such as the Rampurva capitals
or the Sanchi capital.[69] The geese (hamsa) in particular are a very
recurrent symbol on the pillars of Ashoka, and may refer to the devotees
flocking to the faith.[68] The same throne is also illustrated in later
reliefs from Bharhut, dated to circa 100 BCE.[71]
Similar pillars
See also
Notes
Edit
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Buddhist Architecture, Huu Phuoc Le, Grafikol, 2010 p.36-40
^
Bisschop, Peter C.; Cecil, Elizabeth A. (May 2019). Copp, Paul;
Wedemeyer, Christian K. (eds.). “Columns in Context: Venerable Monuments
and Landscapes of Memory in Early India”. History of Religions.
University of Chicago Press for the University of Chicago Divinity
School. 58 (4): 355–403. doi:10.1086/702256. ISSN 0018-2710. JSTOR
00182710. LCCN 64001081. OCLC 299661763.
^ a b Inscriptions of Asoka. New Edition by E. Hultzsch (in Sanskrit). 1925. p. 132, Edict No 7 line 23.
^ Skilling, Peter (1998). Mahasutras. Pali Text Society. p. 453. ISBN 9780860133209.
^
a b Himanshu Prabha Ray (7 August 2014). The Return of the Buddha:
Ancient Symbols for a New Nation. Routledge. p. 123. ISBN 9781317560067.
^ India: The Ancient Past: A History of the Indian Subcontinent from c. 7000 BCE to CE 1200, Burjor Avari Routledge, 2016 p.139
^ a b Krishnaswamy, 697-698
^ “KING ASHOKA: His Edicts and His Times”. www.cs.colostate.edu. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
^ India: The Ancient Past: A History of the Indian Subcontinent from c. 7000 BCE to CE 1200, Burjor Avari, Routledge, 2016 p.149
^ State Emblem, Know India india.gov.in
^ Companion, 430
^ “Lion Capital of Ashoka At Sarnath Archaeological Museum Near Varanasi India”. YouTube.
^ Agrawala, Vasudeva Sharana (1965). Studies In Indian Art. p. 67.
^ “Remains of the topmost wheel in the Sarnath Archaeological Museum”. 17 February 2019.
^ a b Time Life Lost Civilizations series: Ancient India: Land Of Mystery (1994) p. 84-85,94-97
^ a b Oliphant, Margaret “The Atlas Of The Ancient World” 1992 p. 156-7
^
a b c “It can also be suggested that Lats topped by animals figures
also have an ancestor in the sphinx-topped pillars of Greece of the
Middle-Archaic period (c.580-40 B.C), Delphi Museum at Delphi, Greece,
has an elegant winged sphinx figure sitting on an Ionic capital with
side volutes.” in Graeco-Indica, India’s cultural contexts with the
Greek world, Ramanand Vidya Bhawan, 1991, p.5
^ Harle, 22
^ Thapar, Romila (2001). Aśoka and the Decline of the Mauryan, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-564445-X, pp.267-70
^ a b c Mahajan V.D. (1960, reprint 2007). Ancient India, S.Chand & Company, New Delhi, ISBN 81-219-0887-6, pp.350-3
^ Companion,
^ a b Buddhist Architecture, by Huu Phuoc Le, Grafikol, 2010 p.44
^ Rebecca M. Brown, Deborah S. Hutton. A Companion to Asian Art and Architecture. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 423–429.
^ a b Boardman (1998), 15
^ Boardman (1998), 13
^ Harle, 22, 24, quoted in turn
^ A Comprehensive History Of Ancient India, Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd, 2003, p.87
^ Stewart, Desmond. Pyramids and the Sphinx. [S.l.]: Newsweek, U.S., 72. Print.
^
Irwin, John (1974). “‘Aśokan’ Pillars: A Reassessment of the
Evidence-II: Structure”. The Burlington Magazine. 116 (861): 712–727.
ISSN 0007-6287. JSTOR 877843.
^ Agrawala, Vasudeva S. (1977). Gupta Art Vol.ii.
^
Irwin, John (1983). “The Ancient Pillar-Cult at Prayāga (Allahabad):
Its Pre-Aśokan Origins”. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great
Britain and Ireland. 115 (2): 253–280. doi:10.1017/S0035869X00137487.
ISSN 0035-869X. JSTOR 25211537.
^ Boardman (1998), 13-19
^
Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India:
From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education India. p. 361.
ISBN 9788131711200. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
^ The Early History of India by Vincent A. Smith
^ Annual report 1906-07 p.89
^ Ashoka, 2
^
Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India:
From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. New Delhi: Pearson Education. p.
358. ISBN 978-81-317-1677-9.
^ Buddshit Architecture, Le Huu Phuoc, Grafikol 2009, p.169
^ Sircar, D. C. (1979). Asokan studies. pp. 118–122.
^ Sircar, D. C. (1979). Asokan studies. p. 118.
^ Mapio
^ Asoka by Radhakumud Mookerji p.85
^ a b Buddhist Architecture, Le Huu Phuoc, Grafikol 2009, p.40
^
Geary, David (2017). The Rebirth of Bodh Gaya: Buddhism and the Making
of a World Heritage Site. University of Washington Press. p. 209 Note 1.
ISBN 9780295742380.
^ A Brief History of India, Alain Daniélou, Inner Traditions / Bear & Co, 2003, p.89-91 [1]
^
The pillars “owe something to the pervasive influence of Achaemenid
architecture and sculpture, with no little Greek architectural ornament
and sculptural style as well. Notice the florals on the bull capital
from Rampurva, and the style of the horse of the Sarnath capital, now
the emblem of the Republic of India.” “The Diffusion of Classical Art in
Antiquity” by John Boardman, Princeton University Press, 1993, p.110
^
Le, Huu Phuoc (29 October 2017). Buddhist Architecture. Grafikol. ISBN
9780984404308. Retrieved 29 October 2017 – via Google Books.
^
Le, Huu Phuoc (29 October 2017). Buddhist Architecture. Grafikol. ISBN
9780984404308. Retrieved 29 October 2017 – via Google Books.
^ a b Buddhist Architecture, Huu Phuoc Le, Grafikol, 2010 p.240
^ a b Le Huu Phuoc, Buddhist Architecture, p.42
^ a b c The True Chronology of Aśokan Pillars, John Irwin, Artibus Asiae, Vol. 44, No. 4 (1983), pp. 247-265 [2]
^ Story of the Delhi Iron Pillar, R. Balasubramaniam p.19
^ The Past Before Us, Romila Thapar p.361
^ a b Buddhist Architecture, Le Huu Phuoc, Grafikol 2009, pp 238-248
^ “The Ashokan rock edicts are a marvel of history”.
^
Inscriptions of Ashoka by Alexander Cunningham, Eugen Hultzsch.
Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing. Calcutta:
1877
^ “British Museum Highlights”. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
^ Full texts, An English rendering by Ven. S. Dhammika, 1993
^ “Wat Umong Chiang Mai”. Thailand’s World. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
^ Companion, 428-429
^ “Destinations :: Vaishali”.
^ “Destinations :: Vaishali ::Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation”. bstdc.bih.nic.in. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
^ Krishnaswamy, 697-700
^ “NOVA Online - Mysteries of the Nile - August 27, 1999: The Third Attempt”. www.pbs.org. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
^ Time Life Lost Civilizations series: Ramses II: Magnificence on the Nile (1993)p. 56-57
^ Allen, Chapter 15
^
A Global History of Architecture, Francis D. K. Ching, Mark M.
Jarzombek, Vikramaditya Prakash, John Wiley & Sons, 2017 p.570ff
^ a b Buddhist Architecture, Huu Phuoc Le p.240
^ a b Alexander Cunningham, Mahâbodhi, or the great Buddhist temple under the Bodhi tree at Buddha-Gaya p.19 Public Domain text
^ Allen, Charles (2012). Ashoka: The Search for India’s Lost Emperor. Little, Brown Book Group. p. 133. ISBN 9781408703885.
^ Mahâbodhi, Cunningham p.4ff Public Domain text
^ Buddhist Architecture by Huu Phuoc Le p.45
References
Further reading
External links
Last edited 27 days ago by पाटलिपुत्र
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Ashoka pillar at Vaishali, Bihar, India.jpgPillars of Ashoka is located in Indiahttps://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5f/Naxos_Sphinx_with_humans_for_size.jpg/108px-Naxos_Sphinx_with_humans_for_size.jpgVaishaliLauriya-NandangarhLauriya-ArarajDelhi-Meerut (originally from Meerut, broken in pieces during transportation).Delhi-Topra (originally from Topra Kalan).Allahabad (originally from Kosambi)Lumbini (broken in half). Capped for protection in the 20th century.SarnathSanchiRampurvaNigali SagarFragment of pillar with inscription, Amaravati.[40]KausambiGotihawa, possible base of the Nigali Sagar pillarBodh Gaya (originally near Sujata Stupa, brought from Gaya in 1956).[44]Portion of an Ashokan pillar, found in Pataliputra.Bhawanipur Rupandehi.Vaishali lionSankissa elephant.Rampurva zebu bull original (now in Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi).Lauria Nandangarh lion.Rampurva lion.Four lions, once possibly crowned by a wheel, from Sanchi.The Kosambi-Allahabad Schism Edict.Sanchi Schism Edict.Rummindei, in Lumbini.Nigali Sagar.Major Pillar Edicts I, II, III (Delhi-Topra)Major Pillar Edicts IV (Delhi-Topra)Major Pillar Edicts V-VII (Delhi-Topra)Major Pillar Edicts VII, second part (Delhi-Topra)

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13) Classical Benevolent Assamese-ধ্ৰুপদী উপকাৰী অসমীয়া,,13) ধ্ৰুপদী উপকাৰী অসমীয়া-ঊষ্ণৱিক-৲ৰঊষ্ণৱিক ঊষ্ণৱ ঊন ঊষ্ণৱ ঊষ্ণৱ,,

18) Classical Benevolent Bengali-ক্লাসিক্যাল বাংলা,18) ধ্রুপদী দানশীল বেঙ্গল- বাংলা বাংলা,,


47) Classical Benevolent Gujarati-ક્લાસિકલ ગુજરાતી,
47) શાસ્ત્રીય પરોપકારી ગુજરાતી- ક્લાસિકલ ગુજરાતી,,



62) Classical Benevolent Kannada- ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಕನ್ನಡ,
62) ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಬೆನೆವೊಲೆಂಟ್ ಕನ್ನಡ- ಕನ್ನಡ,
83) Classical Benevolent Malayalam-ക്ലാസിക്കൽ മലയാളം,
83) ക്ലാസിക്കൽ ബെനിവാസന്റ് മലയാളം- ഒരു തരത്തിൽ,

86) Classical Benevolent Marathi-क्लासिकल माओरी,
) 86) शास्त्रीय बेनिव्हलेंट मॅरेथी- चतुरक,91) Classical Benevolent Nepali-शास्त्रीय म्यांमार (बर्मा),
1)) शास्त्रीय पमानदार नेपाली कामी (फ्रामि),
93) Classical Benevolent Odia (Oriya)
93) ଶାସ୍ତ୍ରୀୟ, ଓଡିଆ (ଓଡିଆ),
99) Classical Benevolent Punjabi-ਕਲਾਸੀਕਲ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ,
99) ਕਲਾਸੀਕਲ ਨਿਦਾਨ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ,

105) Classical Benevolent Sanskrit छ्लस्सिचल् षन्स्क्रित्
१०५) शास्त्रीय परोपकारी संस्कृत,

111) Classical Benevolent Sindhi,
111) طبقاتي قاتل سنڌي،


121) Classical Benevolent Tamil-கிளாசிக்கல் பெனவலண்ட் தமிழில் பாரம்பரிய இசைத்தமிழ் செம்மொழி,
123) Classical Benevolent Telugu- క్లాసికల్ తెలుగు,123) క్లాసికల్ బెనెవోలెంట్ తెలుగు- తెలుగు,

131) Classical Benevolent Urdu- کلاسیکی اردو

131) کلاسیکی فلاحی اردو- ک السالس یردو
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Fraternity,Liberty and Equality – can coexist only if one follows the way of the Buddha the Benevolent Awakened One.
Fraternity
is the feeling of brotherhood; Liberty is freedom to manage one’s life;
and equality is the absence of discrimination.
In
the backdrop of communalism, entrenched caste system and abject poverty
all the above qualities were important for newly born Prabuddha Bharat.
Buddha’s way of life comprises of -
1. controlling desires - this reduces greed and consequent communal tendencies. Ex.
2. living by a common code (dhamma) -
3. following middle path by avoiding extremities (ie. hedonism & asceticism)
4. rejection of caste system & varna system
5. every person trying to move towards achievement of awakenment ie complete knowledge.
Thus Benevolent Awakened One Buddha’s way of life leads to

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Buddhism
Buddhism and Democracy
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Washington, D.C., April 1993
For
thousands of years people have been led to believe that only an
authoritarian organization employing rigid disciplinary methods could
govern human society. However, because people have an innate desire for
freedom, the forces of liberty and oppression have been in continuous
conflict throughout history. Today, it is clear which is winning. The
emergence of peoples’ power movements, overthrowing dictatorships of
left and right, has shown indisputably that the human race can neither
tolerate nor function properly under tyranny.
Although
none of our Buddhist societies developed anything like democracy in
their systems of government, I personally have great admiration for
secular democracy. When Tibet was still free, we cultivated our natural
isolation, mistakenly thinking that we could prolong our peace and
security that way. Consequently, we paid little attention to the changes
taking place in the world outside. We hardly noticed when India, one of
our closest neighbours, having peacefully won her independence, became
the largest democracy in the world. Later, we learned the hard way that
in the international arena, as well as at home, freedom is something to
be shared and enjoyed in the company of others, not kept to yourself.

Although the Tibetans outside Tibet have been reduced to the status of
refugees, we have the freedom to exercise our rights. Our brothers and
sisters in Tibet, despite being in their own country do not even have
the right to life. Therefore, those of us in exile have had a
responsibility to contemplate and plan for a future Tibet. Over the
years, therefore, we have tried through various means to achieve a model
of true democracy. The familiarity of all Tibetan exiles with the word
‘democracy’ shows this.
I
have long looked forward to the time when we could devise a political
system, suited both to our traditions and to the demands of the modern
world. A democracy that has nonviolence and peace at its roots. We have
recently embarked on changes that will further democratize and
strengthen our administration in exile. For many reasons, I have decided
that I will not be the head of, or play any role in the government when
Tibet becomes independent. The future head of the Tibetan Government
must be someone popularly elected by the people. There are many
advantages to such a step and it will enable us to become a true and
complete democracy. I hope that these moves will allow the people of
Tibet to have a clear say in determining the future of their country.
Our
democratization has reached out to Tibetans all over the world. I
believe that future generations will consider these changes among the
most important achievements of our experience in exile. Just as the
introduction of Buddhism to Tibet cemented our nation, I am confident
that the democratization of our society will add to the vitality of the
Tibetan people and enable our decision-making institutions to reflect
their heartfelt needs and aspirations.
The
idea that people can live together freely as individuals, equal in
principle and therefore responsible for each other, essentially agrees
with the Buddhist disposition. As Buddhists, we Tibetans revere human
life as the most precious gift and regard the Buddha’s philosophy and
teaching as a path to the highest kind of freedom. A goal to be attained
by men and women alike.
The
Buddha saw that life’s very purpose is happiness. He also saw that
while ignorance binds beings in endless frustration and suffering,
wisdom is liberating. Modern democracy is based on the principle that
all human beings are essentially equal, that each of us has an equal
right to life, liberty, and happiness. Buddhism too recognises that
human beings are entitled to dignity, that all members of the human
family have an equal and inalienable right to liberty, not just in terms
of political freedom, but also at the fundamental level of freedom from
fear and want. Irrespective of whether we are rich or poor, educated or
uneducated, belonging to one nation or another, to one religion or
another, adhering to this ideology or that, each of us is just a human
being like everyone else. Not only do we all desire happiness and seek
to avoid suffering, but each of us has an equal right to pursue these
goals.
The
institution the Buddha established was the Sangha or monastic
community, which functioned on largely democratic lines. Within this
fraternity, individuals were equal, whatever their social class or caste
origins. The only slight difference in status depended on seniority of
ordination. Individual freedom, exemplified by liberation or
enlightenment, was the primary focus of the entire community and was
achieved by cultivating the mind in meditation. Nevertheless, day to day
relations were conducted on the basis of generosity, consideration, and
gentleness towards others. By pursuing the homeless life, monks
detached themselves from the concerns of property. However, they did not
live in total isolation. Their custom of begging for alms only served
to strengthen their awareness of their dependence on other people.
Within the community decisions were taken by vote and differences were
settled by consensus. Thus, the Sangha served as a model for social
equality, sharing of resources and democratic process.
Buddhism
is essentially a practical doctrine. In addressing the fundamental
problem of human suffering, it does not insist on a single solution.
Recognising that human beings differ widely in their needs, dispositions
and abilities, it acknowledges that the paths to peace and happiness
are many. As a spiritual community its cohesion has sprung from a
unifying sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. Without any apparent
centralized authority Buddhism has endured for more than two thousand
five hundred years. It has flourished in a diversity of forms, while
repeatedly renewing, through study and practice, its roots in the
teachings of the Buddha. This kind of pluralistic approach, in which
individuals themselves are responsible, is very much in accord with a
democratic outlook.
We
all desire freedom, but what distinguishes human beings is their
intelligence. As free human beings we can use our unique intelligence to
try to understand ourselves and our world. The Buddha made it clear
that his followers were not to take even what he said at face value, but
were to examine and test it as a goldsmith tests the quality of gold.
But if we are prevented from using our discrimination and creativity, we
lose one of the basic characteristics of a human being. Therefore, the
political, social and cultural freedom that democracy entails is of
immense value and importance.
No
system of government is perfect, but democracy is closest to our
essential human nature. It is also the only stable foundation upon which
a just and free global political structure can be built. So it is in
all our interests that those of us who already enjoy democracy should
actively support everybody’s right to do so.
Although
communism espoused many noble ideals, including altruism, the attempt
by its governing elites to dictate their views proved disastrous. These
governments went to tremendous lengths to control their societies and to
induce their citizens to work for the common good. Rigid organisation
may have been necessary at first to overcome previously oppressive
regimes. Once that goal was fulfilled, however, such rigidity had very
little to contribute to building a truly cooperative society. Communism
failed utterly because it relied on force to promote its beliefs.
Ultimately, human nature was unable to sustain the suffering it
produced.
Brute
force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic human
desire for freedom. The hundreds of thousands of people who marched in
the cities of Eastern Europe proved this. They simply expressed the
human need for freedom and democracy. Their demands had nothing to do
with some new ideology; they were simply expressing their heartfelt
desire for freedom. It is not enough, as communist systems have assumed,
merely to provide people with food, shelter and clothing. Our deeper
nature requires that we breathe the precious air of liberty.
The
peaceful revolutions in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have
taught us many great lessons. One is the value of truth. People do not
like to be bullied, cheated or lied to by either an individual or a
system. Such acts are contrary to the essential human spirit. Therefore,
those who practice deception and use force may achieve considerable
short-term success, but eventually they will be overthrown.
Truth
is the best guarantor and the real foundation of freedom and democracy.
It does not matter whether you are weak or strong or whether your cause
has many or few adherents, truth will still prevail. Recently, many
successful freedom movements have been based on the true expression of
people’s most basic feelings. This is a valuable reminder that truth
itself is still seriously lacking in much of our political life.
Especially in the conduct of international relations we pay very little
respect to truth. Inevitably, weaker nations are manipulated and
oppressed by stronger ones, just as the weaker sections of most
societies suffer at the hands of the more affluent and powerful. In the
past, the simple expression of truth has usually been dismissed as
unrealistic, but these last few years have proved that it is an immense
force in the human mind, and, as a result, in the shaping of history.
As
we approach the end of the twentieth century, we find that the world
has grown smaller and the world’s people have become almost one
community. We are also being drawn together by the grave problems we
face: overpopulation, dwindling natural resources, and an environmental
crisis that threaten the very foundation of existence on this small
planet we share. I believe that to meet the challenge of our times,
human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal
responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for his or her
own self, family or nation, but for the benefit of all humankind.
Universal responsibility is the real key to human survival. It is the
best foundation for world peace, the equitable use of natural resources,
and the proper care of the environment.
This
urgent need for cooperation can only strengthen mankind, because it
helps us recognize that the most secure foundation for the new world
order is not simply broader political and economic alliances, but each
individual’s genuine practice of love and compassion. These qualities
are the ultimate source of human happiness, and our need for them lies
at the very core of our being. The practice of compassion is not just a
symptom of unrealistic idealism, but the most effective way to pursue
the best interests of others as well our own. The more we - as nations
or as individuals - depend upon others, the more it is in our own best
interests to ensure their well-being.
Despite
the rapid advances made by civilization in this century, I believe that
the most immediate cause of our present dilemma is our undue emphasis
solely on material development. We have become so engrossed in its
pursuit that, without even knowing it, we have neglected to foster the
most basic human needs of love, kindness, cooperation and caring. If we
do not know someone or do not feel connected to a particular individual
or group, we simply overlook their needs. And yet the development of
human society is based entirely on people helping each other. Once we
have lost the essential humanity that is our foundation, what is the
point of pursuing only material improvement?
In
the present circumstances, no one can afford to assume that someone
else will solve our problems. Every individual has a responsibility to
help guide our global family in the right direction and we must each
assume that responsibility. What we have to aim at is the common cause
of our society. If society as a whole is well off, every individual or
association within it will naturally gain from it. They will naturally
be happy. However, if society as a whole collapses, then where can we
turn to fight for and demand our rights?
I,
for one, truly believe that individuals can make a difference in
society. As a Buddhist monk, I try to develop compassion myself - not
just from a religious point of view, but from a humanitarian one as
well. To encourage myself in this altruistic attitude, I sometimes find
it helpful to imagine myself, a single individual, on one side and on
the other a huge gathering of all other human beings. Then I ask myself,
‘Whose interests are more important?’ To me it is then quite clear
that, however important I may feel, I am only one, while others form the
majority.
Buddhism and Democracy | The 14th Dalai Lama
Buddhism and Democracy | The 14th Dalai Lama
The Official Website of The Office of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

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