Articles by alphabetic order
 Ā Ī Ñ Ś Ū Ö Ō
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0


From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search




F. Social and Political Philosophy

The Enlightened Sovereign

Buddhism and Kingship in India and Tibet


As the fame of some blameless king who, like a god, maintains justice; (o whom the black earth brings forth wheat and barley; whose trees are bowed with fruit, and his sheep never fail to bem; and the sea gives him fish.

Homer, Ode XIX

All religions, insofar as they are championed by individuals and develop in communities and particular historical contexts, have shaped and been shaped by prevailing political ideas on how to arrange our collective life, social institutions, and practices, including our economy and systems of governorship. Buddhism is no exception, despite statements that it is fundamentally an "other-worldly" religion. In different parts of AsiaIndia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Laos, Tibet, China, Japan, and Mongolia — and at different periods down to the present time, political, social, and legal structures have been influenced by Buddhist precepts (Dhamma) and sanctioned by monastic institutions (Sangha), while the historical spread of Buddhism in India and outside its borders might not have taken place were not for the patronage of sympathetic rulers who embraced it as a state religion. Many Buddhist rulers attained the cultic status of divinity as buddhas or celestial bodhisattvas and were expected to exercise their power in accord with Buddhist principles.

Conceptions of Kingship in Early Buddhism

The principal goal of Buddhism for monks and laymen alike has always been soteriological — the attainment of nibbãna (Skt nirvãr.ža) — and, however this term is understood, it has never implied escape from thc affairs of the world. 2 It is truc that the Buddha never articulated a systematic theory of politics and government, such as Kaulalya's Arthašãstra — a well-known and frequently consulted Indian political treatise on A Companion 10 Buddhist Philosophy, First Edition. Edited by Steven M. Emmanuel. C) 201 B John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2013 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

statecraft rejected by the Buddhist tradition for framing the "maximum advantage to the ruler and his polity" in Machiavellian terms (Tambiah 1976, 16). Nevertheless, a synthesis between Buddhist precepts and practice is fundamental to Buddhism (Gombrich 1971), and the Pâli canon contains numerous allusions to the ideal functioning of the state and society. These alleged prescriptions of the Buddha often come in the form of sermons, legends, or parables spread throughout the Dïgha Nikãya ("The Book of Long Sayings"), the Añguttara Nikäya ("The Book of Gradual Sayings"), and in Jãtaka and avadãna stories of the Buddha's previous lives as a bodhisatta (Skt bodhisattva). In these rebirth stories, the bodhisatta is depicted as perfecting both the virtues of kingship and the virtues of renunciation, thus preparing the way for his supreme enlightenment in which the two strands of sovereignty and renunciation "receive their final synthesis and fulfilment" (Reynolds 1972, 14). These strands were modeled after Šäkyamuni's life, and there is no shortage of instructive stories of Indian kings listening to the Buddhist teachings and renouncing the world along with their subjects (Collins 1998, 42 5—32). The centrality of Jãtaka tales is attested in a plethora of sculptures and paintings at Buddhist monasteries and catiyas and stüpas (reliquaries) that depict scenes from the most popular stories, which were read carefully by the literati who translated them into various vernacular languages and utilized them in the legal systems of South-East Asia (Lewis 2003, 235).

While it is true that, for the most part, the monastic community, the Sangha, respected the autonomy of the political field, it did not hesitate to legitimize the political power of and idealize kingship in a Buddhist fashion (Tambiah 19 76). The survival of the Buddhist movement required a transaction with the secular sphere, for, as put tersely by Houtart (1977, 209), "had it not been able to furnish the necessary justification to the political power, it would have been replaced by another religious system. " However, there are important theoretical reasons for demarcating Buddhist soteriology and political expediency, for neither can be reduced to the inner logic of the other, since they are conditioned by a different set of assumptions and circumstances. At the same time we should be cautious not to treat them as two exclusively distinct categories of interpretation. It is commonly assumed that political matters are driven by concerns about how to exercise temporal power and authority over others, while Buddhist doctrines deal with a power over oneself for the purpose of attaining mastery of one's grosser levels of consciousness in pursuit of liberation from suffering (dukkha). In reality, of course, things are not one-sided, and a symbiotic relation between the Sangha and the king existed in India and manifested in overlapping conceptions of what constitutes Dhamma (Skt Dharma; duty, morality, law, truth, etc.) — articulated in Buddhism as buddha-dhamma and in the temporal sphere as raja-dhamma. For Buddhism, human suffering is caused, to a large extent, by unwholesome human actions and states of mind whose origin is greed (lobha), hatred (dosa), and confusion (moha). These "poisons" do not just affect individuals but contaminate institutions and society at large. The role of the Buddhist community, then, is to influence policy-making to ensure that it accords with the Dhamma, while an ideal ruler would be a righteous leader that works for the welfare and harmony of his subjects.

The relationship between state and religion was a subject of some concern in Manu's dharmašästra, one of the most widely discussed ancient Indian sources for litigation. If the Manusmrti ("Laws of Manu") were in effect at the time of the Buddha,

we may assume that the king was advised to support the regulations of religious associations in his state and that the Sangha enjoyed state recognition as one of the constituent communities in the body politic (Voyce 1986, 129). In the Vinaya, the Buddhist monastic code, the Buddha made it clear that the monastic body should never compete on issues of political authority with the state or disregard the laws of the land in any way, including accepting into the order those who have broken such laws (Lewis 2003, 237). Monks and nuns were expected to perform their duties in an environment of legal pluralism, for they were subject both to the Buddhist code, the general social expectations of mendicants concerning brahmanical concepts of purity and pollution, and to the dharmašãstra, the laws of the state enforced by the king (Voyce 2007, 36). While there are clear lines of demarcation between the role of the Buddha and his Sangha and the function ol' the king, there is often a blurring of these lines in the liter„ ary, practical, and cultural manifestations of Buddhism across Asia. Ambiguity is nowhere more evident than in the promotion and application of notions of "dual sovereignty" combined in a single person capable of arbitrating secular and spiritual power in this world and the world beyond.

The Ruler and the State

The Beloved by the Gods, King Ašoka speaks thus.

Having in view this very matter; I have set up pillars of morality, appointed Officers of morality, and issued proclamations on morality.

Delhi-Topra Pillar Edict

From what we know from the sources, Sãkyamuni (lit. "sage of Säkya") was a prince who came from a tribal oligarchy. He abandoned his kingdom and his right to inherit the throne for a life in search of the ultimate truth that he characterized as nibbãna — the suppression of endless transmigrations and the unfailing, deathless, sorrowless, undefiled, and unexcelled security from bondage (AN.I.145). For pragmatic reasons, and because of his privileged upbringing, he had no difficulty in mingling in the courts of Indian monarchs and nobles. He advised them on religious matters, welcomed their patronage, and admitted scions of royal families to join his order of monks and nuns — many of whom played a leading part in "the propagation of the creed during its early critical years" (Gokhale 1966, 15). His close relationship with King Prasenajit of Košala and King Bimbisãra of Magadha is well documented in Buddhist texts (Bareau 1993). This period in Indian history featured a patchwork of small monarchies wherc the religious caste of the brãhmana priests was dominant and placed at the top of a hierarchical division of society according to four castes (varnas). It was followed by the class of warriors and kings, the then the vaiŠyas, who engaged with agriculture and trade, and lastly the servants, thc Šûdras, at the bottom of the social ladder. The Buddha, who belonged to the class, voiced his reaction against the injustice of the caste system. In the Aggañña Sutta (DN.lIl.83), he proclaimed that dark and bright qualities are scattered indiscriminately among the four castes, and there is no reason

to hold the brãhrnanas as the highest. Furthermore, "not by birth is one an outcast; not by birth is one a brãhmana. By deeds one becomes an outcast, by deeds one becomes a brãhmana" (Vassala Sutta, SN.116.142).

There are political implications to these statements that parallel Plato's political thought — namely, that leadership in society should rest on individual talent and merit and not on the basis of its sanction by an elite class, by popular vote, or through primogeniture. Buddhism's greatest contribution to the social and political landscape of ancient India is the radical assumption that all men and women, regardless of their caste, origins, or status, have equal spiritual worth. This is especially pertinent concerning the status of women, who were traditionally prevented by the brãhmanas from performing religious rites and studying the sacred texts of the Vedas. Their oppression in society and religion is laid out in the "Laws of Manu" (V, 147—8, 155): "By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house. In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent." And, "no sacrifice, no vow, no fast must be performed by women apart from their husbands; if a wife obeys her husband, she will for that [[[reason]] alone] be exalted in heaven." On the other hand, the pursuit of Buddhist practice and attainment is not bound by considerations of gender — "what difference does being a woman make when the mind's well-centred, when knowledge is progressing, seeing clearly, rightly, into the Dhamma. Anyone who thinks 'I am a woman' or 'a man' or 'Am I anything at all?' that's who Mara's fit to address" (Soma Sutta, SN.I.129). 3

In remarkable ways, the Buddha was a progressive and visionary leader whose understanding of the world was as relevant 2,500 years ago as it is today (Zsolnai 2011). Nevertheless, the Buddha was not a political reformer, and his philosophy on equality and social justice was part of his soteriological teachings. He admitted in his spiritual order everyone, regardless of caste or sex — or, rather, almost everyone. People with natural physical handicaps — cripples, eunuchs, hermaphrodites — or those bearing marks imposed by the state as punishment for crimes (branding, mutilation, scars) were not permitted to ordain as monks or nuns so that they might not disrupt the community. Those who had certain liabilities that fell outside the Sangha's jurisdiction were also excluded: debtors, slaves, members of the king's service, or anyone who had committed an offence, such as matricide, patricide, murder, theft, or who was in theory subject to the king's criminal jurisdiction (Voyce 1986, 13 7).

In the Kûtadanta Sutta (DN.I.13 5—7) the Buddha acknowledges that crime in society cannot be reduced through executions and harsh punishments but ought to be based on sound plans of economic development, such as practicing moderation and modifying the nature of consumption. Similar sentiments resound in the Cakkavattisïhanãda Sutta, where poverty is identified as the origin of social vices and crime. Kings and governments may try to suppress crime through rigid laws, but it is futile to hope to eradicate society's ills by sheer force. There are more effective methods, such as introducting agricultural and rural reforms, providing state subsidies to entrepreneurs and businesses, and granting sufficient wages to workers, who may then uphold with dignity their duties and the interests of the state. An effective government ought to encourage the development of private enterprise and prosperity with the aim of alleviating poverty and providing basic material needs to its citizens — food, shelter, clothing.

and medicine, which are necessary prerequisites for living with dignity and for spiritual advancement. The generation of wealth, though not recommended for monastics and renunciants, is not disparaged in Buddhism, for it is often thought of as a sign of virtue and partly the result of good karma. The more important issue is whether wealth was acquired by means that do not bring harm to oneself and others, and ultimately how one relates with it. 4 As long as money doesn't become the cause for greed, attachment, and craving, there are five ways to utilize it with generosity and prudence that are equally satisfying and pleasant: (l) to provide for oneself and one's parents, spouse, children, and servants; (2) to share with one's friends and associates; (3) to save for hard times and emergencies; (4) to spend on performing oblations to relatives, guests, kings, the dead, and the gods; and (5) to offer for supreme aims to spiritual teachers and monks (AN. 111.45).

Although it is not clearly laid out in the suttas how a ruler should actualize sound socio-economic policies, it is implicit in Buddhist discourse that reforms ought to disavow social and economic structures that rely on the exploitation of' sentient beings. The generation and circulation of wealth is encouraged insofar as it is rightfully gained and does not rely on five kinds of trading activity: manufacturing or trading in weapons, and trading in living beings (the slave trade and prostitution). in meat, in intoxicants, and in poisons (AN.III.208). The aim of effective social policies and laws is society's inner transformation, the recognition that the Buddhist precepts of abstaining from taking life, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and the excessive consumption of intoxicants are important factors for healthy and harmonious communities.

A social philosophy framed by Buddhist principles is sufficiently pragmatic to allow for the enforcement, if it is justifiable, of laws through punishment, a stance commonly reiterated in Indian books on jurisprudence. The ruler of the land should possess certain qualities and rely on the advice of those accomplished in counselling, warfare, religion, and wealth on how best to perform the "true sacrifice," not by slaughtering animals and offering them to the gods, but by improving the conditions of his people (Kû(adanta, DNA. 140—3). The Cakkavattisïhanãda Sutta warns against a feeble king whose failure properly to punish a thief leads to the deterioration of values in society. In the story, a thief is caught stealing and blames his poverty for his actions. The king decides to give him money instead of punishing him. This hasty action for a ruler served as the cause of an unfortunate chain of events. Thieves went on stealing, hoping to receive money for their deeds. Informed of this, the king decided to put an end to it by having a culprit executed. This incited robbers to kill their victims for fear that they should be reported to the authorities and share in the same fate. In due course, the whole social fabric was torn asunder by a vicious cycle of violence. The parable of the unwisc king, without explicitly condoning violence as a form of reparation, warns against this idealistic monarch who was unable to bc effcctivc in the affairs of the world. Killing as a form of punishment goes against the very essence of Buddhist ethics and is not recommended for rulers. On the other hand, disregard Ibr any form of punishment towards wrongdoing can cause social degradation and anarchy. This state of affairs, as we will sce in the next section, prompted people to elect a ruler among them who would enforce the laws of the land, bring harmony, and protect the people.

There is a large body of Indian literature delineating the functions and dutics of a king, and Buddhist notions of kingship draw largely from this legacy. In the Pãli sources the ruler should possess certain qualities (dasa-rãja-dhamma), singled out as "ten royal virtues"

1 liberality, generosity, and charity (dãna)

2 a high sense of morality (sïla)

3 self-sacrifice for the good of the people (pariccãga)

4 honesty and integrity (ajjava) 5 kindness and gentleness (maddava)

6 austerity and self-control (tapas)

7 to possess no ill will and enmity (akkodha)

8 to promote peace and non-violence (avihimsä)

9 forbearance, patience, and tolerance (khanti) and

TO to rule in harmony without giving offence and opposing the will of his people (avirodha).

(Râhula 1985, 84-5) These virtues serve as ethical guidelines for the rulers of states and have a powerful effect insofar as they trickle down to the ministers and the people. In "The Book of the Fours, " the Buddha explains to his listeners: But, monks, when rajahs (kings) are righteous, the ministers of rajahs also are righteous. When ministers are righteous, brãhmins and householders are righteous. This being so, moon and sun go right in their courses. This being so, constellations and stars do likewise; days and nights, months and fortnights, seasons and years go on their courses regularly; winds blow regularly and in due season. Thus the devas (gods) are not annoyed and the sky-deva bestows sufficient rain. Rains falling seasonably, the crops ripen in due season. Monks, when crops ripen in due season, men who live on those crops are long-lived, wellfavoured, strong and free from sickness.

(AN.11.85) The striking discovery of a Greek—Aramaic bilingual inscription in 195 7 in Kandahar (present-day Afghanistan) reveals that the Greek part of the inscription, 14 lines in all, is based on King Ašoka's first minor edict and differs considerably from the Aramaic and Prãkrit versions. D The fluent use of standard Hellenistic language and vocabulary (koine) shows that it was adapted to the cultural needs of a Greek audience. It informs us that, after ten years have passed since his consecration, King Ašoka, known by his title "benevolent-looking," Piyadassi (Skt Priyadaršin), showed the Dhamma (Gk eóŒéßEIŒ) to men by personal example. He refrained from harming sentient beings (Gk ånéxet(ll Tãv Cuvúxov), and so did others — those who were hunters and fishermen similarly refrained from taking life, ceased being intemperate, and obeyed their parents and elders. And from that time onwards he made men more pious and everything on earth (KCTà näoav )/ûv) prospered (eðenvei). fi The doctrine of psycho-physical causation, or the "law ol' co-dependent origination" (pa(iccasamuppãda), suggests that people can have an effect on their environment not only by their physical actions but also through their moral conduct. This concept is

worked out in both positive and negative terms. In the Räjovãda-jãtaka there is a story of King Brahmadatta, who is offered a fig by a bodhisatta. The king praises its sweetness and the bodhisatta explains to him that, "in the time of unjust kings, oil, honey, molasses and the like, as well as wild roots and fruits, lose their sweetness and flavour . but when the rulers are just, these things become sweet and full of flavour, and the whole realm recovers its tone and flavour" (Cowell 19 5 7, 3: 73). The moral of the story is clear: kings, like their subjects, are not exempt from ethical responsibility. Failure to act according to the Dhamma will bear karmic retributions to the kingdom, to the subjects, and to the king himself. On the other hand, spiritual merit (puñña) is accrued by those who act in conformity with the Buddhist teachings.

This point is reiterated in several stories. In the Khantivãdi-jãtaka, a wicked king who maltreats and kills an ascetic is cast into the Avïci hell, and in the Culladharnmapãlajätaka another one incurs the same punishment after committing murder out of jealousy. In the Dhonasákha-jãtaka, a monarch is led by the immoral counsel of his evil priest and orders that 1,000 kings have their eyes removed. The violation of his moral duty to serve as a just ruler brings nature against him — personified by a yak'k'ha and a vulture that blind him. Once blind, he recalls in remorse the words of the bodhisatta who spoke before his mind's eye: "These mortals experience results corresponding to their deeds, even as fruit corresponds with the seed" (Cowell 1957, 5: 106). Examples like these underlie many Jãtaka stories. The power of the state poses a threat of royal tyranny in the arbitrary abuse of a king's prerogatives. These fears are mitigated by the Buddhist ideals of compassion and non-injury, the power of Dhamma against crude selfishness that dwells at the heart of men. The Tesakupa-jätaka contains admonitions delivered by the Buddha to the King of Košala and includes some revealing material on early Buddhist ideas, expressed as the duties and powers of a king and the basis for kingship: "First of all should a king put away all falsehood and anger and scorn; Let him do what a king has to do, or else to his vow be forsworn. By passion and sin led astray, should he err in the past, it is plain he will live to repent of the deed, and will learn not to do it again" (Cowell 1957, 5: 61).

Buddhist Accounts of Government:

Elected Kings and Universal Monarchs

While Buddhism does not promote any specific form of government, our Pãli sources elaborate on two models of kingship which were familiar to the Buddha — namely, village republics and monarchies. We will start with the first model, which forms a part of the Aggañña Sutta narrative on Buddhist cosmogony. The Buddhist origins of human society differ from the Vedic view that celebrates the creation of human society in positive terms as the self-reflective will of a demiurge and the participation of gods in shaping the physical and social reality. At different times thc world and its inhabitants abide in a pristine state of undifferentiated perfeclion, a non-dual state of pure radiance. bliss, and consciousness. But the universe is in flux. subject to contraction and expansion. During the latter phase, an inexplicable coagulation ol' primal liquids occurred like a "skin that forms itself over hot milk as it cools," endowed with yellow color and sweet odor. A self-luminous being under the

influence of residual karma from a previous world cycle comes to taste this savory formation and in time develops a craving for it. Soon after, other beings follow his lead, indulging greedily in material consumption. They continue like this for a long time, feeding and being nourished by the earth, eventually losing their formless luminosity as their bodies assume a growing coarseness that gives rise to mental concepts of beauty and ugliness, pride and envy. In due course, untruth, greed, theft, and savagery rule the lives of humans. Confronted with this anarchy, the people (mahãjana) decide to elect a person from their community that has the most "perfect form" (abhirüpa), "appearance" (dassanïya), "grace" (pãsãdika), and "great power" (mahesakkha). They confer upon him the power of kingship with the task of enforcing law and order in their community. He is thus called "the great chosen one," Mahäsarnmata, and is granted a share of their rice produce in return for protection. The elected ruler is also referred to as the "Lord of the Fields," but above all as the one who rules guided by Dharnma — a dharnmaraja.

According to the sutta, the state originates as a collective arrangement without an appeal to "divine right" or "divine appointment." It comes into operation as a "contract" between the electors and the elect, the Mahasammata whose legend finds expression across South-East Asia granting sacred authority to the Mon-Pagan and Thai legal codes as their first institutor (Tambiah 1976, 93—5). Similarly, Lycophron, a disciple of the sophist Gorgias (483—375 BCE), formulated the idea of the social contract declaring that all men are equal and that nobility is a hollow sham. The philosopher Aristotle reports that Lycophron proclaimed that "law becomes a compact and 'a guarantor of mutual justice,' instead of being what makes the citizens good and just men" (Politics 1280, 10—12). Along the same lines, Plato, in the Protagoras, states that during the development of civilization it was the weakness of men that necessitated the need for laws and government. Though there is no explicit mention of any contract or agreement, for Protagoras, law and justice "find their origin in man's desire to escape from the insecurity of a lawless existence for reasons of individual selfprotection," and it is "essentially similar to the contract theory of Epicurus" (Mulgan 1979, 124).

It is important to note that, although the ideal of the elected king was sanctioned by ancient Asian traditions, it does not seem to have been a method of selection that fared well in the Indian historical process that featured hereditary monarchies. The novelty of the democratically chosen ruler was overshadowed by other canonical formulations of kingship — namely, the "righteous king" (dhammarãjã) and the "wheelturning monarch" (P. cakkavatti; Skt cakravartin) — the latter being a counterpart of Buddha Sãkyamuni in the temporal world.

The Cakkavattisïhanãda and Mahãsudassana suttas discourse on Buddhist governorship based on the cakkavatti model. 8 We can better appreciate the duties and functions of the universal wheel-turning monarch by looking at some stock epithets that describe him: (1) ruler of four quarters (dharnmiko, dhammarãjã, cäturanto); (2) conqueror (vijitãvï); (3) guardian of the people's good (jana-padalthavãriyappaí[o): and (4) possessor of seven treasures (sattaratanasamannãgato). 9 According to the Cak'kavat(isïhanõlda, Mallásudassana and Ambattha suttas, a cakkavatti comes to possess seven precious objects that manifest during his reign. There is much wc could say about the Indian symbol-

ism and mythological references to thesc treasured items — especially the cakka (Skt cakra), which represents the greatest emblem of a monarch's conquering might over his dominions and one which has been appropriated by the Buddhists to indicate their teacher's first sermon in the deer park in Sarnath (Dhamma-cakka-pavattana).

The symbolism of the dhammacakka, the wheel of Dhamma, lies at the heart of Buddhist notions of kingship. The king's ability to rule is dependent not on his might but. ultimately, on whether he respects the principles of justice (Dhamma). The Cakkavattisïhanãda Sutta (§5) explains: But what, sire, is the duty of an Ariyan wheel-turning monarch? It is this my son: Yourself depending on the Dharnma, honouring it, revering it, cherishing it, doing homage to it and venerating it, having the Dhamma as your badge and banner, acknowledging the Dhamrna as your master, you should establish guard, ward and protection according to Dhamma for your own household, your troops, your nobles and vassals, for Brahmins and householders, town and country folk, ascetics and Brahmins, for beasts and birds.

In the Añguttara Nikäya, the wheel of state (ãnãcakka) cannot stand alone but depends on being attached to another wheel, the dhammacakka. The conception of the universal wheel-turning monarch is further developed in the fourth part of the Dirghãgama ( -Long Treatise"), the earliest and most complete source of cosmological ideas in Buddhism translated into Chinese. Chapter 3 of Part 4, known as the Shih chi Ching ("Sütra of Cosmology"), is dedicated to the story of how a cakkavatti attained each of the seven treasured objects that mark his greatness. On the day of the full moon after cleansing his body with scented water, the king had retired to the upper rooms of his palace with his women when suddenly before him appeared a brilliantly lit thousand-spoked wheel, 14 feet in diameter. Following the golden wheel to the east with his four armies, he meets the kings of the eastern kingdoms and delivers the following Buddhist sermon to them:

you should administer in the correct Law, you must not deviate from it. In your land there must be no activities against the Dharma. Do not kill living beings, teach others not to kill living beings, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not engage in double talk, do not slander, do not lie, do not engage in exaggerated speech, do not covet, do not succumb to anger and do not hold biased views. These are the tenets by which I administer. (Howard 1986, 125)

The idea of the universal monarch superseded contractual models of the state, and may be framed as a response to the territorial extension and growing power of monarchies in India that subsumed in their fold smaller village republics. In the cakkavatti model, the king is not elected by the people but assumes power on the basis of being born a "Great Being" (mahãpurisa) who bears "thirty-two" major signs (lakkhanãni) and many accompanying minor marks in his body. However, his power is not automatically passed from one generation to the next, as is the case in Indian monarchies (Strong 1983, 47). Auspicious events and astrological configurations precede such extraordinary birth, and he who bears these marks ll is destined to become either a universal monarch or a fully enlightened being (sammãsambhl/ddha), whose Dhamma bears universal


implications, since "the welfare of the cntirc world is considered to depend on it" (Wiltshire 1990, 188). A "Great Being" once born is confronted by two options: he may remain a monarch and acquire the stature of a cakkavatti or, like Sãkyamuni, abandon his kingdom and become a world renouncer (ibid., 191). These options share much in common. Just as there can be only one universal monarch at a time in the world, there can be only one Buddha. Buddhas and universal monarchs are two sides of the same coin. The funeral of a cakkavatti should be carried out in the same way as the funeral of a buddha, a Tathagata. In the Mahãparinibbãna Sutta (DN.II.143), Šãkyamuni tells his disciple Änanda that, in a former life at Kušinagar, he was the king Mahãsurdaršana and when he passed away he was given the funeral of a wheel-turning king. In memory of this tradition, buddhas and universal monarchs should have their remains disposed of in the same manner:

But, Lord, what are we to do with the Tathãgata's remains? Änanda, they should be dealt with like the remains of a wheel-turning monarch. And how is that, Lord? Ananda, the remains of a wheel-turning monarch arc wrapped in a new lincn-doth. This they wrap in teased cotton wool, and this in a new (foth. Having done this five hundred times each, they enclose the king's body in an oil-vat of iron. which is covered with another iron pot. Then having made a funeral-pyre of all manner of perfumes they cremate the king's body, and they raise a Stupa at a crossroads. That, Ananda, is what they do with the remains of a wheel-turning monarch, and they should deal with the Tathãgata's body in the same way.

The manner of disposing of the remains of the Buddha were known not just among Indians but also among the Indo-Greeks who settled in India after Alexander's campaigns in the Far East. It appears that it was not unusual for Indo-Greeks and Buddhists to engage in philosophical debates. The conversion to Buddhism of King Menander (Milinda, c. 155—130 BCE), the greatest of all the Indo-Greek kings of the Euthydemid dynasty, who ruled over much of Afghanistan and Pakistan, is narrated in the Milindapañha ("Milinda's Questions"), a well-known philosophical dialogue between King Menander and the otherwise unknown Buddhist monk Nãgasena. For Nägasena, a king and a buddha share a tradition of righteousness in common.

A king is one who, in his turn proclaiming laws and regulations according to the instructions laid down in succession by righteous kings of ancient times, and thus carrying on his rule in righteousness, becomes beloved and dear to the people, desired in the world and, by the force of his righteousness, established his dynasty long in the land. The Blessed One, sire, proclaiming in his turn laws and regulations according to the instructions laid down in succession by the Buddhas of ancient times, and thus in righteousness being teacher of the world, is beloved and dear to both gods and humans, desired by them and, by the IOrce of his righteousness, makes his teaching last long in thc land. For this reason too the Blessed One is called a king. (Mendis -1993, 116)

King Menandcr not only served as a patron of Buddhism as the Indo-Greek Agathocles had done before him, 12 but, according to the Milindapañha and later traditions, he embraced the Buddhist teachings and attained arhatship (enlightenment). Even if Menander's alleged devotion to Buddhism may be questioned as a pious reconstruction of a Buddhist legend, it is reinforced by Plutarch's account (Moralia, 52.28) — namely, that after Menander's death his relics were distributed, like those of a cakravartin, across his capitals in stüpas erected to enshrine them.

The similarities between a buddha and a cakkavatti reveal the ways in which Buddhism was preoccupied with temporal power as a parallel development to spiritual sovereignty. Across Buddhist literature, Sãkyamuni's life is thoroughly fused with royal mvthology and symbols of sacral kingship. He is often addressed with epithets of sov — "the Conqueror," "the Vanquisher, " "the Ruler of Rulers" — and even stüpas are referred to as repositories of the Buddha's "power of conquest" (Snodgrass 1985, 90). Furthermore, Buddhist monks are compared with the warriors of a king (AN. 11.170). Max Moerman aptly suggested that there is a tension that lies within the earliest tradition in which the Buddha and the king are placed in a relationship of both identity and opposition. Sákyamuni abjured kingship in order to become a buddha and yet his hagiography. his iconography, and his ritual prerequisites are those of the cakravartin, the wheel turning universal king. By abdicating the throne he became the royal par excellence. One could thus say that the king is always already present in the figure of the Buddha and hence also the Buddha in the figure of the king.1 3

The powers of a cakkavatti are on a par with those of a buddha, while the office held bv the latter is no longer regarded as a rational choice, much less contractual, but as subordinate to the Dhamma. The Dhamma bestows on the king a charisma by an agency higher than himself, which turns into an instrument for the legitimation of his political power. Ethics and politics are closely bound up with each other, and Wiltshire notes that if the monarch does not rule according to the Dhamma he loses the right to be king; hence, Buddhism absorbs the "notion of 'power' entirely into the notion of •ethical justice,' so that the former cannot thrive without the latter" (Wiltshire 1990, 194). The role of the Sangha, then, is to function as the conscience-keeper of the state; it is equipped with sanctions far more subtle, and powerful in certain circumstances, than the state. In other words, whereas the king "commands," the Buddha "persuades through his spiritual authority, " and should the king be opposed to the Dhamma he is no longer fit to rule. This balance of forces "limits the potential despotism of the state and its subordination to the dhamma makes it an instrument of morality"; hence, "the state becomes a moral institution" (Gokhale 1994, 130—1).

The Buddhist cakkavatti, like the philosopher-king in Plato's The Republic, draws his authority from the Platonic maxim: "the knowing is wise and the wise is good." This view is eloquently expressed by Socrates: Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom mcct in one, and those commoner natures who pursue cither to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never rest from their evils, — no, nor the human race, as I believe, and then only will this our Statc have a possibility of life and behold thc light of day. (Bk V, 737)


Notions of Kingship in Mahãyãna and Vajrayãna Buddhism

But now, I will speak of those among the twice-born laymen, virtuous in the Dharma, who, through their persistent employment in mantras and Tantras, will be engaged in the functions of the state.


Buddhism spread in India for a variety of reasons, not least because it gained support and patronage from the rulers who sought in Buddhism a powerful solvent to the brahmanical caste system and a means of reducing the political and economic power of traditional status groups. At the same time Buddhist notions of kingship were flexible enough to provide legitimation to rulers who arrogated the title of cakravartin to themselves. Others were referred to by the Buddhist tradition as "wheel-turning" monarchs, such as King AŠoka, who conveyed his political vision in religious terms using public inscriptions carved on polished cliffs or stone pillars. He respected other religions and creeds of faith, yet his conversion to Buddhism and open support of the Buddhist Sangha is evident by a careful study of all thc major and minor edicts he issued. In order to propagate a rule based on morality and righteousness (Dhamma), he employed several official languages and scripts, namely Brahmï, Kharo$thï, Greek, and Aramaic. In what may have been the earliest of these inscriptions, issued in 258 BCE, Ašoka claims to have been a Buddhist lay disciple (upãsaka) for more than two and a half years, and by the eighth year of his reign he expresses remorse for the massacre in Kalinga and denounces taking life. In the twelfth year of his reign, he issued edicts that prescribed: (1) no votive offerings are to be made with living beings (i.e., animal sacrifice is prohibited), while the killing of animals for food has been restricted and will henceforth cease so far as the royal kitchen is concerned; (2) medical services for men and animals are to be established throughout the kingdom and medicinal herbs have been distributed and planted for this purpose (Warder 19 70, 244).

The successful growth of Buddhism across the Indian subcontinent and its missionary spread in Central and East Asia is the result of complex forces and conditions that gave rise to unique interpretations of kingship, many of which elaborated on earlier conceptions, as well as others adopted according to local systems and institutions of power. Buddhism in Central Asia internalized and reaffirmed Greek and Iranian solar imagery, and in Tibet and East Asia it overlapped traditional concepts of divine kingship with Mahäyãna themes of incarnate bodhisattvas. From early on the identification of buddha and bodhisattva in the single person of Sãkyamuni is attested in Mahãyãna art and literature, on the grounds that there is no essential difference between the actions of Buddha and the saving efforts ol' bodhisattvas who, having reached their final stage short of actual buddhahood, continue incarnating among living beings in order to assist them and convert them (Snellgrovc 198 7, 79). In the Lañkãvatãra and I)ašabhûmika sûtras, the ritual of coronation is firmly embedded in the narrative of a bodhisattva at the tenth stage of his spiritual evolution, gaining confirmation by the buddhas of the ten directions, who shower him with light (Davidson 2002, 125). More than ever before, there is a plethora of royal symbolism in Mahayana and Vajrayãna texts, rituals, and art — especially in the depiction of bodhisattvas in royal garmcnts, jewellcry, and crowns, in the iconography of the Buddha seated on a lion throne in a celestial palace

or his own spiritual land (buddha-field), in the use of mandalas as potent symbols for the ruler and his polity, and in the reproduction of images of cakravartins in Buddhist sculptures and stüpas.14

Following on earlier conceptions of kingship, many Mahãyäna texts elaborated on the notion of cakravartin, while the Durgatiparišodhana Tantra is noted for its overriding concern on how to achieve such a state. 15 The Mahãbherihãraka-parivarta-sütra calls a cakravartin a "dharmarãjika dharmaraksa, a righteous monarch protecting the dharma, who is the king of kings" (Ku 2001 [1991], 163). In the royal policy chapter of the Ratnãvalï, attributed to the second-century Indian philosopher Nãgãrjuna, the king is counseled on how to rule his kingdom based on Buddhist principles (Zimmerman 2006 , 228). The Srïmãlãdevï Sirphanäda-sütra features Queen Srïmâlä empowered by the Buddha to teach the Buddhist doctrines, and the Suvarrgabhãsa-sütra ("Sütra of Golden Light") expands on the correlation between the king's duties and the stability in his realm. It states explicitly that calamities may befall a state because of the negligence of its king, and it therefore recommends that the Sütra of Golden Light bc recited for peace and prosperity, for the protcction of the statc from enemies, and for the well-being and long life of rulers. It became the standard model in China and Japan for "state protection sûtras" (Tanabe and Tanabe 1989, 16). along with the Lotus Sûtra (Saddharma Pundarïka). The apocryphal Chinese Renwang jing, the "Sûtra of the Humane Kings," proposes that the benevolent king ought to provide "outer protection" and Buddhism "inner protection, " hence serving and complementing each other.

With the advent of Vajrayãna Buddhism we discern the most politically involved form of Buddhism most acculturated to the socio-political landscape of medieval India. 16 Tantras featured the systematic use of consecration, coronation, and protection rituals, the deployment of powerful visualization techniques of oneself as a deity, the uttering of mantras and spells, and the construction of mandalas. In the hands of ritual adepts, tantricas, and monastics, Buddhist tantras acquired political and military efficacy in promising effective ways of empowering individuals to assume the throne and acquire extraordinary powers. The following passage from the Vajrapãpiabhiyka-mahãtantra illustrates the central position of imperial metaphors in tantric discourse:

Now, O possessor of the vajra, this Dharma of vajra has been explained [for] you, and the vajra arisen from meditation has been actually placed in your hand by all the Buddhas. So, from today, all the magical ability of Vajrapãni in the world is just yours. It is yours to tame those insufferable beings harming the Dharma and to kill those afflicted with anger that is why the guides of the world have given you the vajra. In the way a Universal Conqueror [[[cakravartin]]] is coronated that he might achieve dominion, in the sarnc sense it is said that you have been consecrated Adamantine Intellect so as to be the King of the Dharma. (Davidson 2002, 126)

The appropriation of royal metaphors, symbols, and ritual acts played a vital role in mapping territorial and supra-regional claims corresponding to the Buddhist religious universe, legitimizing the consolidation of the state process, and sacralizing rule among the subject population. In fact it is only in tantric practice that wc may identify a notion of kingship that is in some sense sacral or divine. In the early period the ethical goal of


Buddhism coincided with the aims of the state, but there was nothing regal in the make-up of an arhat. Later, with the development of Mahãyãna, the goal came to be conceived as a kind of potential altruistic activity in the persona of bodhisattvas, the princes of Dharma. These higher beings were conceived in regal terms in ways that appealed to the ruling classes who sought a model that corresponded with exalted and popular forms of worship. It is in the tantras that we learn of new practices that were able to turn the notion of kingship to practical account (Snellgrove 19 59, l). The currency of Mahayana themes and Vajrayäna formulations of Buddhist kingship among the ruling classes was not confined to medieval India but had considerable impact in Central and East Asia. In Tibet and in culturally Tibetan areas, variant models of dual sovereignty (Tb chos-srid) were adopted by the kings of Ladakh, Sikkim, Bhutan, and other principalities in the Himalayas, who were expected to support the Sangha and abide by Buddhist principles. The famous statement of the fourth Buddhist king of Bhutan, Jigme Sangye Wangchuk (b. 1954), that "gross national happiness" (Th. rgyal yongs (Iga' skyid dpal 'dzoms), or GNH, is more important than gross national product (GNP), pronounces the impact ol' Buddhist ethics for the political philosophy of this last of Himalayan kingdoms.

The Bodhisattva-Emperors of Tibet

For the most part, Tibetans recount their history in terms of Buddhism (Th. nang-pa'i chos; lit. "the religion of the insiders") and its introduction to Tibet in two major phases. They identify the early spread of the Buddhist doctrine (Th. bstan-pa snga-dar) during the reign of the Tibetan emperors (Th. btsan-po)p followed by a later revival (Th. bstan-pa phyi-dar) that coincides with the rise of monasticism in the early eleventh century. The institutionalization of Buddhism in Tibet is closely tied to the state that supported the spread of religion within the empire and beyond its borders. This was reinforced in a variety of ways, among them the public erection of Buddhist markers (i.e., pillars, temples, monasteries, stüpas, etc.); forging theophoric associations with the emperors; the importation, translation, reproduction, and study of Buddhist scriptures; the sponsorship of Buddhist crafts and art; and inviting and welcoming foreign Buddhist teachers to visit Tibet and attend to the spiritual needs of the royal court.

State sponsorship of the Buddhist creed was sanctioned by Emperor Srongbrtsan-sgam-po (c. 617—649/ 50), who was identified with the Indian bodhisattva of compassion Avalokitešvara and was regarded by a later Tibetan polity as the first in a series of three incarnations of bodhisattva-dharmarãjas. At the times of the Tibetan Empire, Buddhism was established in many borderland areas, and the model of the enlightened sovereign was successfully adopted by the neighboring kings of Khotan, who, according to the Khotanese religious history Li yul lung Instan pa ("Buddhism in Khotan"), were considered incarnations of the bodhisattva Maitreya. 17 Tibetan texts seem to suggest that the Tibetan sons of heaven (Th. Iha-sras) modeled themselves on the cakravartin ideal and wcrc identified as celestial bodhisattvas bcforc the collapse of the empire. There is a post-imperial interpolation of Srong-brtsan-sgam-po pleading with his parents to grant him power to rule on the grounds that he had vowed to Buddha Amitãbha to discipline Tibet through the teachings of Buddhism.

According to the Yar-lung edicts, the royal pledging of monastic protection and sustenance goes back to 779, during the reign of sovereign Khri Srong-lde-btsan (756—c. 800), who was exalted in traditional narratives as the second Buddhist king (Skt dharmaräja; Tb. chos-rgyal) of Tibet — and for good reason: in the late eighth century he declared Buddhism the official religion of the Tibetan Empire by erecting inscriptions and issuing two royal edicts swearing to preserve the creed of the Buddha, and he actively supported the Tibetan Buddhist Sangha. He took a keen interest in the interpretation and dissemination of Buddhist literature and established the Buddhist Council (Tb. mdun-sa), an institution responsible for overseeing the official translations of Buddhist texts into Tibetan. Because of these activities, he is invariably referred to as an incarnation of Mañjušrï, the celestial bodhisattva of wisdom and knowledge. Much of the life of Khri Srong-lde-btsan is discussed in the Padma Kathang (Padma bKa' thang), a popular Tibetan biography of the Indian tantric siddha Padmasambhava, who was requested by the emperor to expel the factions opposed to the construction of Tibet's first Buddhist monastery, Samye. His skills at binding demons with oaths and eventually serving as the emperor's Vajrayana teacher — that is, showing mastery in both religious and secular spheres — should not surprise us, given the political efficacy exhibited by esoteric discourses in India by that time. Their relationship, governed by the rules of conduct and an indissoluble bond between a Vajrayäna master and his disciple, presents an inversion of power, the secular domain succumbing to the spiritual instructions of the Tantric adept.

Khri gTsug-lde-brtsan (815—841), also known in Tibetan as Ral-pa-can, is the last glorified Dharma king of the empire and is traditionally identified with Vajrapäpi, the celestial bodhisattva of powerful means. He vigorously enacted religious reforms, restoring Buddhist temples and initiating a major literary revision movement to standardize Tibet's Buddhist heritage. Before Buddhism, models of divine kingship played an important role in the political traditions of Tibet, as they did in Chinese and Eurasian contexts. Heavenly beliefs and mortuary rites in pre-Buddhist Tibet were probably shaped through contact with Central Eurasian peoples. Whatever the lines of transmission may have been, old Tibetan beliefs about the afterlife were not eclipsed by the advent of Buddhism in the Tibetan court. Early Indo-Tibetan forms of Buddhism would struggle and eventually succeed to build upon older notions of divine kingship refashioned in a new light through the doctrine of reincarnation and the conviction of an afterlife in a pure land. The monastic appropriation of the returning bodhisattva theme was one of a series of tropes that went into the creation of Tibet's socio-political system in service of a stable and non-hereditary process of political succession.18

According to the indigenous belief, the Tibetan kings were direct descendants of the gods of Phyva. They . . . were gods like the Phyva themselves and so were imbued with supernatural qualities such as byin, "splendor" of body for the overpowering of political and military opponents and 'phrul, "magic sagacity" of mind enabling them to sustain the order of the world. Nevertheless, Buddhism seems to have adjusted itself, as it usually did in the countries where it spread, to the native beliefs by assimilating the indigenous conception of kingship and the notion of royal powers to its own notions: the term byin came to be used in conjunction with rlabs to form thc word byin rlabs (adhisthâna) and 'phrul with rdzu, rdzu 'phrul (siddhi) or with other similar Buddhist terms. Both the terms subsequently almost entirely lost their original and early connotation. The kings


themselves became simply chos rgyal (dharmarãja) and were finally subjected to the Buddhist moral code.

(Karmay 1988, 2)

Rule by Incarnation Regimes

Following the collapse of the Tibetan Empire in the ninth century and the restoration of Buddhism from the tenth century onwards, Buddhism became the one unifying force in the whole region. A system of dual governance was adopted in Western Tibet by the ruling house of royal descendants, IHa-lde and his father IHa Lama Ye-shes-'od (royal lama and ex-king), who were instrumental in the second diffusion of Buddhist teachings during the latter part of the tenth century. In time, Tibetan political authority shifted from the nirrnãvakãya model of bodhisattvas emanating as emperors — and thus combining ultimate spiritual and temporal power in them — to charismatic monks entrenched in big monasteries serving as spiritual counselors for Mongolian and Chinese rulers. Chos-rgyal 'Phags-pa, of the Sa-skya school of Tibetan Buddhism, was appointed "imperial preceptor" (Th. dbu-bla) by his patron-disciple (Tb. yon-bdag), the Yuan Emperor Kublai, who, upon becoming Khan at Karakorum in 1260, promoted his guru to "State Preceptor" and at the same time made Tibetan Buddhism the official religion of the whole eastern part of the Mongol Empire in China.19

For 91 years, nine Sa-skya hierarchs and 20 regional chief officials (Tb dpon-chen) ruled over the whole of Tibet and became the leaders in charge of Tibetan secular and religious affairs. The fall of the Mongol power in China in the mid-fourteenth century and the political decline of the Sa-skya abbots left an ideological structure that remained the basis of subsequent political activity. Sa-skya succession was hereditary and did not go unchallenged by those who might have rightly thought that ability and heredity had no inherent connection to each other. They may have opted instead for a more democratic method of succession that would turn the Buddhist belief in incarnation into a chain of ecclesiastical legitimation. The Buddhist idea of rebirth provided enough prestige and flexibility to connect histories, people, and places across time and space.

The head of the bKa'-brgyud school of Tibetan Buddhism and founder of the lineage of the Karmapas, Dus-gsum mKhyen-pa (1110—119 3), was reportedly the first to introduce incarnation as a means of succession by requesting that his foremost disciple find him 11 years after his death in Talung, Eastern Tibet. Karma Pak-shi (1204—1283), the second Karmapa, was very effective at spreading the doctrine and founding monasteries in Tibet, Mongolia, and China. 2() From the twelfth century onwards, all schools adopted the institution of incarnate lamas, which led to the emergence of numerous incarnations in nearly all Tibetan Buddhist monasteries.

The seventeenth century saw the consolidation of secular and religious power by the dGe-lugs-pa school of Tibetan Buddhism, founded by the reformist Tsong kha-pa Blo-bzang grags-pa (13 5 7—1419). The order developed rapidly, gaining more force and leverage, which brought about a widespread reaction against them and led to a series of draining civil wars. Political ascendancy for this school did not come until 1642 — when Gu-shri Khan gained suzerainty over Tibet and the Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngag-dbang blo-bzang rgya-mtsho (1617—1682), received authority to reign over all Tibet, along

with a "governor" (sde-srid) imposed on him by the Mongols. Thc stratification of incarnation-based power structures was glossed for domestic and international consumption with the marketing of the Fifth Dalai Lama as an incarnate emanation of the Mahãyäna deity Avalokitešvara and patron deity of the whole of Tibet. The Lhasa government was aptly renamed the dGa'-ldan Pho-brang, (lit. "Tushita Palace"; Avalokitešvara's pure-land). It unified Tibet under one sovereign ruler, the Dalai Lama, and one dominant state religion, of which the Dalai Lama was the head.

As we have seen, from the earliest times Buddhism had a political dimension. Without advocating a particular system of governance it placed its emphasis on Dhamma and social equality, applicable to the lives of monastics and householders and to democratic and autocratic systems of governance. This situation reflected both prevailing norms and a real opportunity for the Sangha both to educate leaders on matters of ethics, social policy, and political processes and to gain their patronage. Politics was realistically seen as an unavoidable exercise of power that can and ought to be used to promote righteousness, while the philosophical interpretation of Buddhist doctrines reflects the pragmatic nature of Buddhist ethics, which, unlike the deontological and absolutist ethical traditions, allows for the expression of multiple and variant attitudes towards the state and the role of religion in shaping and being shaped by social and political conditions.

Notes 1 I wish to thank the Käte Hamburger Kolleg, Center for Religious Studies, at the RuhrUniversität Bochum for providing me with research facilities and generous support for the duration of the completion of this chapter.

2 The view that Buddhism is an "other-worldly" religion was promoted by the German sociologist Max Weber (1970, 213). Premasiri (2001 [1991], 46) has argued convincingly that "Buddhism does not see any opposition between an improvement of the conditions of this world and man's striving for salvation. It is a considerable distortion of Buddhism to interpret it as a religious idea which ignores the process of mankind in this world, to escape into a euphoric bliss in a mystical and metaphysical realm of transcendental being. "

3 Samyutta Nikaya: The Grouped Discourses, ed. John T. Bullitt. At tipitaka/sn/index.html (accessed 30 December 2011).

4 Sivaraksa encapsulates these concerns when he writes that in Buddhism there are three poisons to be avoided, namely: greed, hatred, and delusion. "All three are manifestations of unhappiness, and the presence of any one poison breeds more of the same. Capitalism and consumerism are driven by these three poisons. Our greed is cultivated from a very young age. We are told that our desires will be satisfied by buying things, but, of course, consuming one thing just arouses us to want more. We all have these seeds of greed within ourselves, and consumerism encourages thcrn to sprout and grow" (Sivaraksa 2000, 181—2).

5 Transcription and translation of the Greek text in Carratelli and Garbini (1964, 29—39). For a discussion and English translation of the Greek edicts of Ašoka, see Halkias (2013). Drawing from a mixture of legends and historical facts, thc ligurc of Emperor Ašoka exerted enormous influence on a number of rulers in South and East Asia to pattern their states after his own. Though there is regrettably little written about AŠoka in traditional Indian literature such as thc Purálllas, perhaps on account of his preference for Buddhism, thcrc arc many sources in Pilli, Chinese, Sanskrit, and Tibetan where he figures as one of the


greatest patrons that Buddhism has ever known. His depiction of the dharmacakra, the symbol of the "righteous state, " is found in a number of his edicts, only to be adopted nearly two millennia later by the independent Republic of India on its national flag.

6 Compare with Homer's ode XIX at the beginning of this chapter as also quoted in Plato's The Republic.

7 The Singhalese Buddhist scholar Buddhaghosa (c. fifth century CE) explains that the term dharnmarãjã applies to a king who has acquired his power not through violence or fraudulent means, but through rightful succession and faithful adherence to the precepts of "righteous kings" (Gokhale 1953, 162).

8 The origins of the cakkavatti are much debated by scholars. Although Babylonian influences have been posited, in India the concept goes back at least to the tenth century BCE, acquiring its own special significance in Buddhism but also retained in non-Buddhist circles (Strong 1983, 48). Early Buddhist and Jain sources distinguish three types of cakkavtti: (a) a king who rules over all four continents posited by ancient Indian cosmography (cakkavãlacakkavatti); (b) he who governs only one of these continents (dvïpa cakravartin); and (c) the pradeŠa cakravartin, who rules only a part of the continent and may be equivalent to a local king (Doniger 1999, 193).

9 For further occurrences and explanations of these terms, see The Pali Text Society's Pali—English dictionary (Davids and Stede 1959).

10 These seven treasures are the wheel (cakka): the treasure of the elephant (hatthiratana); the treasure of the gem (mar.liratana); the pearl among women (Itthiratana); the commoner (ghapatiratana); the treasurer (gahapati); and the treasure of the councillor (parinãyakaratana).

11 The marks of a "Great Being" are mentioned in several places in the Pãli canon, and elsewhere in Buddhist literature, and there are variations in their order of presentation. For a list of the 32 signs of a mahãpurisa, see the Mahãpadãna and Lakkhana suttas.

12 For Narain (1989, 406), Agathocles was "the first Yavana king to possess Taxila and initiate a forward policy of extending patronage to Indian religions and cults, both Buddhist and Brahmanical." On a unique coin issued by him, there is a depiction of a Buddhist stüpa and the legend "Akathukreyasa": on the reverse there is a depiction of a tree inside a railing with the legend "Hirañasame. " 13 Quoted in Strong (2002, 38).

14 Archaeological reports show that many Indian and Central Asian kings, around the period from the fourth to the fifth century CE, adopted and sponsored representations of the cakravartin (Ku 2001 [1991], 164).

15 Snellgrove (1987, 266). Ku (2001 [1991], 164) notes that the vaipulya sütras (extensive scriptures), the Mahãvaipulya (vedalla) mahãsannipãta-sütra, the Suvarnaprabhãsa-sütra, and so forth, were particularly instrumental in promoting the idea of cakravartin, and many of these texts were retranslated and used by later Chinese emperors for the purpose of promoting identification. She cites the example of the Empress Wu-ze tian (fl. 662—705) of the Tang dynasty, who issued, in the first year of her reign, a decree to spread the text of the Mahãmega-sütra in every state of her territory in order to advance the idea that she was a ICmale cakravartin.

16 Davidson argues that "the evidence supports a position that is curiously both astonishing and reassuring: the Mantrayûna is simultaneously the most politically involved of Buddhist forms and the variety of Buddhism most acculturated to the medieval Indian landscape. Briefly the mature synthesis of esoteric Buddhism — the form defined as a separate method or vehicle employing mantras is that which embodies the metaphor of the practitioner becoming the overlord (rajãdhiraja). In this endeavour, the candidate is coronatcd and provided with ritual and metaphorical access to all the various systems that an overlord

controls: surrounded by professors of mantra, he performs activities to ensure the success of his spiritual 'state"' (2002, 114).

17 Emmerick (1967, 25). The idea expressed here — namely, that the secular ruler is an incarnation of a buddha or bodhisattva — was popular in China in 419 with the monk Fa-kuo, who was the first to formulate the idea when he claimed that his sovereign, the Emperor T'ai-tsung of the Northern Wei dynasty, was in fact the Tathãgata, a Buddha. Farquhar further explains that "the Manchu rulers, beginning with T'ai-tsung, were all regarded by the lamas as bodhisattvas, but paralleling the development of ecclesiastical reincarnations in Tibet and Mongolia, where the occupants of a particular monastic throne were always the same bodhisattva, the Manchu emperors were all reincarnations of Mañjušrï. They managed their divinity in a very different way from the Yiian emperors of the fourteenth century: whereas the latter did not hesitate to proclaim their bodhisattvahood, the former never formally referred to it" (1978, 33).

18 Tucci (1955, 199—200), in his detailed study on Tibetan kingship before the advent of Buddhism, explains that Tibetan monarchs were endowed with four powers — namely, religious law (Tb. chos); dominion (Tb. mnga'-thang); government (Tb chab-srid); and "helmet" (Tb. dbu-rmog) — signifying their majesty and rank. Kapstcin notes that, "as the later Tibetan institution of an incarnate religious hierarchy demonstrates, the Buddhist teaching of transmigration would itself eventually bc made to serve an ancient and autochthonous Tibetan interest in stable succession" (2()0(), 5).

19 Ruegg (1997, 866) distinguishes three theoretical models that shed light on the constitutional relationship between spiritual authority and temporal power in Tibet: (a) the dyarchic model of dharmarãja-cakravartin and officiant-spiritual preceptor; (b) the model of the vajrayãna-lama and his neophyte disciple; and (c) the hierocratic and nirmãnic model of the bodhisattva-king combining in himself both spiritual and temporal power.

20 Franz reports: "There followed a period of political infighting during which the secular heads of government were strongly backed by the Karmapa incarnations, who did not assume open power but were deeply involved in politics. The new political role of the incarnations marked a decisive shift of power away from the ruling houses, and from now on, the incarnations were installed by the monks of a sect and monastery" (1982, 38).


Bareau, André (199 3). Le Bouddha et les rois. In Bulletin de l'Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient 80, 15-39.
Bühler, Georg (1964 [1886]). The Laws of Manu. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Carratelli, G. P., and Garbini, G. (1964). A Bilingual Graeco-Aramaic Edict by Asoka: The First Greek Inscription Discovered in Afghanistan. Serie Orientale Roma, XXIX. Rome: Instituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estermo Oriente.
Collins, Steven (1998). Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities: Utopias of the Pali Imaginaire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cowcll, Edward (1957). The Jãtaka, or the Stories of the Buddha's Former Births. 7 vols. London: Pali Text Society.
Davids, Rhys, and Stede. William (1959). The Pali Text Society's Pali—English Dictionary. London: Luzac.
Davidson. Ronald (2002). Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social Ilislory Q/' the Taníric Movement. New York: Columbia University Press.
Doniger, Wendy (ed.) (1999). Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.

Emmerick, R. E. (1967). Tibetan Texts Concerning Khotan. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Farquhar, M. David (19 78). Emperor as Bodhisattva in the Governance of the Ch'ing Empire. In Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 38, 5—34.
Franz, Michael (1982). Rule by Incarnation: Tibetan Buddhism and its Role in Society and State. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Gokhale, Balkrishna G. (1953). Dhammiko Dhammaraja: A Study in Buddhist Constitutional Concepts. In Indica, 161—5.
Gokhale, Balkrishna G. (1966). Early Buddhist Kingship. In Journal of Asian Studies 26, 15—22.
Gokhale, Balkrishna G. (1994). New Light on Early Buddhism. London: Sangam Books.
Gombrich, Richard (1971). Precept and Practice: Traditional Buddhism in the Rural Highlands of Ceylon. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Halkias, Georgios (2013). When the Greeks Converted the Buddha: Asymmetrical Transfers of Knowledge among Indo-Greek Cultures. In Trading Religions: Religious Formation, Transformation and Cross Cultural Exchange between East and West. Ed. Volker Rabens. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
Houtart, François (19 77). Theravada Buddhism and Political Power-Construction and Destructuration of its Ideological Function. In Social Compass 24, 207—46.
Howard, Angela Falco (1986). The Imagery of the Cosmological Buddha. Lcidcn: E. J. Brill.
Kapstein, T. Matthew (2000). The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation, and Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Karmay, Samten (1988). The Great Perfection: A Philosophical and Meditative Teaching of Tibetan Buddhism. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
Ku, cheng-mei (2001 [19911). A Ritual of Mahãyâna Vinaya: Self-Sacrifice. In Buddhist Thought and Ritual. Ed. D. Kalupahana. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 159—68.
Lewis, Todd (2003). Buddhism: The Politics of Compassionate Rule. In God's Rule: The Politics of World Religions. Ed. J. Neusner. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Mendis, N. G. K. (1993). The Questions of King Milinda. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society.
Mulgan, R. G. (19 79). Lycophron and Greek Theories of Social Contract. In Journal of the History of Ideas 40, 121-8.
Narrain, A. K. (1989). The Greeks of Bactria and India. In The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. VIll. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 388—421.
Premasiri, P. D. (2001 [1991]). The Social Relevance of the Buddhist Nibbana Ideal. In Buddhist Thought and Ritual. Ed. D. Kalupahana. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Rähula, Walpole (1985). What the Buddha Taught. London: Gordon Fraser.
Reynolds, Frank (1972). The Two Wheels of Dhamma: A Study of Early Buddhism. In The fro Wheels of Dharnma: Essays on the Theravada Tradition in India and Celylon. Ed. G. Obeyesekere, F. Reynolds, and B. Smith. Chambersburg, PA: American Academy of Religion.
Ruegg, D. Seyfort (1997). The Preceptor—Donor (yon mchod) Relation in Thirteenth Century Tibetan Society and Polity, its Inner Asian Precursors and Indian Models. PIATS 1995: Proceedings of the Seventh Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Vol. 2: Tibetan Studies Il. Vienna: Verlag dcr Ostcrrcichischen Akademie der Wissenschaffen.
Sivaraksa, Sulak (2000). The Religion of Consumerism. In Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism. Ed. S. Kaza and K. Kraft. London: Shambhala.
Snellgrovc, David (19 59). The Notion of Divine Kingship in Tantric Buddhism. In Studies in the Ilistory Q/' Religions. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
Snellgrove, David (1987). Indo-Tibetan Buddhism: Indian Buddhists and their Tibetan Successors. London: Serindia.
Snodgrass, Adrian (198 5). The Symbolism of the Stupa. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, Southeast Asia Program.
Strong, John (1983). The Legend of King Ašoka: A Study and Translation of the Ašokãvadãna. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Strong, John (2002). Ašoka's Wives and the Ambiguities of Buddhist Kingship. In Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie 13, 35-54.
Tambiah, Stanley J. (19 76). World Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tanabe, George, and Tanabe, Jane (1989). The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
Tucci, Giuseppe (1955). The Secret Characters of the Kings of Ancient Tibet. In East and West 6(4), 197-205.
Voyce, Malcom (1986). Some Observations on the Relationship between the King and the Buddhist Order in Ancient India. In Journal of Legal Pluralism 24, 12 7—50.
Voyce, Malcom (2007). The Vinaya and the Dharmašãstra: Monastic Law and Legal Pluralism in Ancient India. In Journal of Legal Pluralism 56, 33—65.
Warder, A. K. (19 70). Indian Buddhism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Weber, Max (1970). The Religion of India. Trans. IL Gerth and D. Martindale. New York: Free Press.
Wiltshire, Martin (1990). Ascetic Figures Before and in Early Buddhism: The Emergence of Gautama as the Buddha. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Zimmermann, Michael (2006). Only a Fool Becomes a King: Buddhist Stances on Punishment. In Buddhism and Violence. Ed. M. Zimmermann. Lumbini, Nepal: Lumbini International Research Institute.
Zsolnai, Laszlo (2011). Ethical Principles and Economic Transformation: A Buddhist Approach. New York: Springer.