WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka
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 nobler end.
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 free.
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 monarch.
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.)
WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka