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Thinkers, Beliefs And Buildings

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Themes in Indian History I

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Class 10 Class 12

[This is an excerpt from the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, part of the Sutta Pitaka:]

As the Buddha lay dying, Ananda asked him: “What are we to do Lord, with the remains of the Tathagata (another name for the Buddha)?”

The Buddha replied: “Hinder not yourselves Ananda by honouring the remains of the Tathagata. Be zealous, be intent on your own good.”

But when pressed further, the Buddha said: “At the four crossroads they should erect a thupa (Pali for stupa) to the Tathagata. And whosoever shall there place garlands or perfume ... or make a salutation there, or become in its presence calm of heart, that shall long be to them for a profit and joy.”
A. Why were the stupas built?
B. What did Asoka do with the relics of Buddha?
C. Describe the structure of the stupas.

A. The tradition of erecting stupas may have been pre-Buddhist, but they came to be associated with Buddhism. Since they contained relics regarded as sacred, the entire stupa came to be regarded with veneration, as an emblem of both the Buddha and Buddhism.

B. According to a Buddhist text known as the Asokavadana, Asoka distributed portions of the Buddha’s relics to every important town and ordered the construction of stupas over them.

C. Different stupas were built in different ways. Each stupa has a history of its own.

The stupa (a Sanskrit word meaning a heap) originated as a simple semi-circular mound of earth, later called the anda. Gradually it evolved into a more complex structure, balancing round and square shapes. Above the anda was the harmika, a balcony like structure that represented the abode of the gods. Arising from the harmika was a mast called the yastii, often surmounted by a chhatri or umbrella. Around the mound was a railing, separating the sacred space from the secular world outside.

The early stupas at Sanchi and Bharhut were plain except for the stone railings, which resembled a bamboo or wooden fence, and the gateways which were richly carved and installed at the four cardinal points. Worshippers entered through the eastern gateway and walked around the mound in a clockwise direction keeping the mound on the right, imitating the sun’s course through the sky. Later, the mound of the stupas came to be elaborately carved with niches and sculptures as at Amaravati, and Shah-ji-ki-Dheri in Peshawar (Pakistan).

The world beyond the palace:

Just as the Buddha’s teachings were compiled by his followers, the teachings of Mahavira were also recorded by his disciples. These were often in the form of stories, which could appeal to ordinary people. Here is one example from a Prakrit text known as the Uttaradhyayana Sutta, describing how a queen named Kamalavati tried to persuade her husband to renounce the world:

If the whole world and all its treasures were yours, you would not be satisfied, nor would all this be able to save you. When you die, O king and leave all things behind, dhamma alone, and nothing else, will save you. As a bird dislikes the cage, so do I dislike (the world), I shall live as a nun without offspring, without desire, without the love of gain, and without hatred ...

Those who have enjoyed pleasures and renounced them, move about like the wind, and go wherever they please, unchecked like birds as their flight.

Leave your large kingdom ... abandon what pleases the senses, be without attachment and property, then practise severe penance, being firm of energy ...
A. Name the text from which this excerpt has been taken. What is the language of the text?
B. What did queen Kamalavati ask the king to renounce?
C. Describe the main principles of Jainism.

A. The name of the text from which this excerpt has been taken known as the Uttaradhyayana Sutta. The language of text is Prakrit.

B. Queen Kamalavati asked the king (her husband) to renounce the world in the following words:

“If the whole world and all its treasures were yours, you would not be satisfied, nor would all this be able to save you. When you die, O king and leaves all things behind, dhamma alone, and nothing else, will save you. As a bird dislikes the cage, so do I dislike (the world). I shall live as a nun without offspring, without desire, without the love of gain, and without hatred...”

C. The main principles of Jainism are as follow:

(a) Ahimsa: The most important idea in Jainism is that the entire world is animated: even stones, rocks and water have life. Non-injury to living beings, especially to humans, animals, plants and insects is central to Jaina philosophy. Infact the principle of ahimsa, emphasized within Jainism, has left its mark on Indian thinking as a whole.

(b) Cycle of birth and Karma theory:
According to Jaina teachings, the cycle of birth and rebirth is shaped through Karma. This can be achieved only by renouncing the world; therefore, monastic existence is a necessary condition of salvation.

(c) Achauriya (Do not steal): According to Jainism one should not even touch a thing, which is lying in the forest.

(d) Aparigriha: According to Jainism do not try to collect the things beyond your necessities. It will check on greed.

(e) Brahmacharya for salvation: Every one has to give up the worldly pleasure and had to go for sufferings before attainment of salvation. Even a married person can work on the principle Brahmacharya having self-control.

Buddhism in practice: This is an excerpt from the Sutta Pitaka, and contains the advice given by the Buddha to a wealthy householder named Sigala:

In five ways should a master look after his servants and employees... by assigning them work according to their strength, by supplying them with food and wages, by tending them in sickness; by sharing delicacies with them any by granting leave at times ...

In five ways should the clansmen look after the needs of samanas (those who have renounced the world) and Brahmanas: by affection in act and speech and mind, by keeping open house to them and supplying their worldly needs.

There are similar instructions to Sigala about how to behave with his parents, teacher and wife.
A. Which were the five ways through which Buddha wanted a householder to look after his employees?
B. How should clansmen treat Samanas and Brahmanas?
C. What according to you should have been the instructions to teachers?
D. What was the Buddhist sangha? Give any two features of the sangha?

A. Buddha wanted a householder to look after his (her) employees through the following five ways:

(a) by assigning his servants and employees work according to their strength,

(b) by supplying them with food and wages,

(c) by tending them in sickness,

(d) by sharing delicacies with them, and

(e) by granting leave at times.

B. (a) The clansmen should look after the needs of samanas (those who have renounced the world) and Brahmanas: by affection in act and speech and mind.

(b) By keeping open house to them (i.e., samanas and Brahmanas).

C. According to me the teachers should have been instructed to love and to have affection for their disciples. They should give them food, clothes, shelter and religious preachings.
They should present the bear type of moral character before them.

D. (a) It was a momentic order of the Buddhists union where the Bikhshus (monks) and Bhikshunis (lady monks) lived as commune were called Sangha.

(b) All the members in Buddhism enjoyed equal rights irrespective of their varna and castes.

(c) They used to work in a democratic work. All matters were discussed in a democratic atmosphere in these Sanghas.

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