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 Post subject: King Asoka
 Post Posted: Sat Jun 10, 2006 3:14 pm 
Remembering King Asoka on Poson Poya

By C. Fernando
@ DM / 10Jun2006

Chandragupta Maurya was a great king of India. He had a minister called Chanakya who advised him to make the kingdom economically successful, either by good means or bad.

Chandragupta’s son Bindusara succeeded him. He also followed his father’s footsteps and continued to rule by implementing the Chanakya doctrine.

He conquered a lot of adjoining states and made his kingdom stretch up to the Puror river. He was called Amithra-gathakba, as he had no compassion towards his enemies. King Bindusara had 100 sons out of 100 queens. But the most intelligent of his sons was Asoka, whose mother was Dharma, a queen of the Maurya dynasty.

Bindusara’s capital city was Pataliputra. He made his son Asoka the crown prince and sent him to the state of Avanthi. On his way to Avanthi city, Prince Asoka spent some time in Vedisa city. There he met Devi the royal treasurer’s daughter and married her. Both Asoka and Devi went to Ujjeni and they were blessed with a son named Mahinda and a daughter named Sanghamitta. These two royal offspring lived in Ujjeni for 10 years.

Prince Asoka left his queen Devi and his children at Ujjeni and went to Pataliputra to succeed his father who sent him a message to ascend the throne. Asoka had to rule for four years without wearing the crown as he had to fight his 98 brothers. He saved only the life of Prince Tissa who did not differ with his ideas.

Two hundred and eighteen years after the Buddha, Asoka wore the crown and became the king at Pataliputra. He made his half-brother Tissa the crown prince. When Queen Devi heard about the kingship of Asoka, she sent her son Mahinda and daughter Sanghamitta to their father and she continued to live at Vedisa city.

Up to the war with the king of Kalinga, Asoka carried a policy of war only. But he felt sorry for the people who lost their lives in the Kalinga Magha war.

Just like his father he continued to offer alms to the Brahmins. Although he gave alms to more than 50,000 Brahmins at his palace every day, he observed that they were not worthy of respect. The Brahmins did not behave in a pious manner. They were not noble in their words and deeds. This irritated the king. He was in search of pious priests who could advice him. Therefore he instructed his ministers to bring priests who were following a pious doctrine. Although the ministers brought priests whom they thought to be pious, the king was not satisfied with their behaviour.

How Asoka embraced Buddhism

The king was disgusted of not being able to find a proper advisor to guide him spiritually. When he was at the balcony of his palace he saw a little monk walking in the palace compound. This was none other than Nigrodha Samanera, who was the brother of the king in a previous birth. This little monk’s walk was so impressive that the king immediately sent an invitation to the little Samanera to visit the palace. A minister went to meet the little monk and conveyed the king’s wish. Little Nigrodha Thera felt compassion towards the king and came inside the palace.

The king invited the monk to sit on a suitable seat. The monk who realized that there were no higher ordained monks in the vicinity ascended the thrown and sat on it.

The King Asoka realized that this was indeed a monk who could lead his life to prosperity. The king offered him alms first. It was not 12 noon and the little monk accepted the alms which were offered into his begging bowl.

After partaking the meal, little Nigrodha Thera made a sermon based on Appamado Amatha Padan – Pamado Machchuno Padan. The king was quite impressed with Nigrodha Samanera that he invited the monk to visit the palace the next day too.

The following day, little Nigrodha Thera visited the palace with another 32 monks. The king became quite impressed by the behaviour of the monks and he realized that at last he had reached his goal.

Developing acts of merit

King Asoka who became a Buddhist invited a lot of monks to his palace. The number of Bhikkus reached a pinnacle of 60,000 and the king offered them alms everyday. After becoming a Buddhist the king built a temple called Asokaramaya in Pataliputra.

Arahath Moggalipuththa Tissa Thera advised the king. The king built 84,000 temples in his kingdom when he learnt that Gautama Buddha had preached 84,000 sermons to the world. These 84,000 temples were offered to the Maha Sangha on the same day.

The king asked Arahath Moggaliputa Tissa as to how one could inherit the Buddha Dhamma. The Arahat Thera said that one can become an inheritor only if he makes way for his own child to become a Buddhist monk.

By this time crown prince Tissa was ordained as a disciple of Arahath Maha Dhammarakkita Thera. The king had the intention of making his son Mahinda the crown prince. But he asked the prince whether he could be ordained and make the king inherit the Buddha Sasana. Prince Mahinda who was dreaming of becoming a Buddhist monk was happy to accept this invitation.

The king asked his daughter Sanghamitta whether she too wanted to be a Buddhist nun. Princess Sanghamitta’s husband Prince Aggibrahma had already become a monk. Therefore she too agreed to join the female order and be a Buddhist nun. Please note that Sumana Samanera Thera who visited our country with Arahat Mahinda Thera was the son of Princess Sanghamitta.

It is with great gratitude that we should respect King Dharmasoka who not only sent his son and daughter with the message of the Buddha Dhamma and the Bodhi sapling respectively but also sent his grandson Sumana Samanera too. Sumana Samanera Thera’s higher ordination (Upasampada) here made the retinue of Arahath Mahinda Thera be five in number of the higher ordained priests.

For a person to offer something in the Sanghika category a minimum of five higher ordained priests are necessary. The ordination of monks in our island could not have been made possible if Arahath Mahinda Thera had come alone. Thanks to the far-sighted King Dharmasoka, we are blessed with Bhikkus.

People who do not realize the value of seela (morality) and Nekkhamma (Renunciation) sometimes say that it is not essential to offer alms to Buddhist monks. This is because of their ignorance that they make such remarks.

It is indeed the pious behaviour of a Buddhist monk which changed the mind of King Dharmasoka.

King Dharmasoka, with compassion towards us the citizens of Sri Lanka, sent the message of the Dhamma to us. What Gautama Buddha preached was conveyed by Arahat Mahinda Thera.

It is with gratitude that we have to remember not only Arahath Mahinda Thera and his sister Arahath Sanghamitta Theri, but also their compassionate father King Dharmasoka who did a great service to our Sambuddha Sasana on Poson Poya Day.

(Based on facts from Biographies of Mahinda and Sanghamitta)

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