The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes War between King Ajatasattu of Magada and the Licchavis of Vesali contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Buddha Declared the Seven Factors of Non-Decline for Rulers. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

Part 1 - War between King Ajātasattu of Magada and the Licchavis of Vesāli

(As we have said earlier on,) the Buddha spent the earlier twenty vassas at various places and preached the noble Doctrine that led to the liberation of the multitudes and spent the latter twenty-four vassas in Sāvatthi only. After the end of the vassa or rains-retreat, He set out on journeys of three kinds of periphery (as described earlier on) and tamed those worthy of taming. The number of discourses and dialogues are as varied as they are wide so that they cannot be treated fully within the confines of this work. Just as a drop or two of sea water would suffice to understand that the sea is saltish, so also in this book, only a few examples from the suttanta (discourses) can be given that should give the reader a fair idea of the richness of the Doctrine. Scholars, who wish to gain further knowledge from the Buddha’s extensive teachings, are advised to read from the (Myanmar) translations of the Piṭaka (with the help of the Commentaries and Sub-commentaries. We shall henceforth confine our narrative to the events and discourses that belong to the period extending from around the forty-fourth vassa onwards which was the period close to His realization of Parinibbāna.)

At one time (when the Buddha had completed his forty-fourth vassa) the Buddha of Illustrious Attributes was staying at the mountain abode, up on Gijjakuṭa Hill, near Rājagaha. (The place name Gijjakuṭa means ‘Vulture Peak’ probably derived from the shape of the peak, or from the fact that it was the roosting place of vultures.)

At that time, King Ajātasattu (of Rājagaha) was very keen on invading Vesālī, the country of Licchavis. “I will exterminate them however powerful and mighty they may be, play havoc with them, cause their ruin,” he was saying all the time, a haughty monarch as he was.

The reason for his deep-seated hatred of the Licchavis could be traced to some unhappy incidents thus:

Rājagaha and Vesali were two flourishing cities on either side of the River Gaṅga which flowed east and west, with Rājagaha on the southern side and Vesāli on the northern side. There was a caravan station known as Paṭṭanagāma (The present-day Patna was probably around that place.) With Paṭṭanagāma in the middle, the region extending about half a yojana came under the domain of King Ajātasattu while the region of the same extent towards the other side of that region came under the domain of the Licchavīs.

There were rich deposits of precious materials originating at the hillside near Paṭṭanagama. As King Ajātasattu learnt about the treasures and was making plans to go there, the Licchavīs reached there first and took away all the treasures. When King Ajātasattu arrived and learnt that the Licchavīs had stolen a march on him, he went back home with great fury.

In the following year too, the Licchavis were ahead of King Ajātasattu in getting there and enjoying the find. King Ajātasattu’s anger knew no bounds. He was obsessed with the thought of exterminating, destroying and ruining the mighty Licchavīs. In all his four bodily postures he was cursing aloud. He even went so far as giving orders to his men to plan an expedition.

On second thoughts, however, he restrained his action. “War is disastrous to both sides. There is no clash of arms that do not result in loss of life (and property). By taking wise counsel, I may not have harsh consequences. There is no one in the world greater in wisdom than the Buddha. Just now the Buddha is staying near my city, on his mountain abode on Gijjakuṭa Hill. I shall send a minister to Him and seek His advice, on my proposed expedition. If my plan is of any benefit to me, He would remain silent; if it is against my own good, He would say: “What good is it for the king to go on such an expedition?”

Reflecting thus, he said to the Brahmin Vassakāra (his Chief Minister):

“Here, Brahmin, go to the Bhagavā. Pay homage at His feet and convey my message. Enquire after His health whether the Bhagavā is free from any affliction and disease, whether He is well and fit, and is well at ease. Say to the Bhagavā: ‘Venerable Sir, King Ajātasattu of Magada, son of Queen Vedehī, pays homage at Your feet. He enquires after the Bhagava’s health whether the Bhagavā is free from affliction and disease, whether the Bhagavā is well and fit, and is well at ease.’ Then say to Him: ‘Venerable Sir, the King wishes to make war against the Vajjī princes, the Licchavis of Vesālī, and is making self-glorious declarations that he will exterminate the Vajjī princes, however powerful and mighty they might be, and that he will play havoc with them and cause their ruin.’ And then carefully note what the Bhagavā says and report back to me. The Bhagavā never speaks false.”

“Very well, Your Majesty,” said the Brahmin Vassakāra and he went to the Gijjakuṭa Hill amidst a splendid formation of carriages. Once there, he (ascended from the carriage) approached the Buddha, and after exchanging greetings and concluding courteous words of felicitation, sat at a suitable place.

Then he said to the Buddha:

“Revered Gotama, King Ajātasattu of Magada, son of Queen Vedehī pays homage at Your feet. He enquires after Your health whether You are free from affliction and disease, whether You are well and fit, and whether You are well at ease. Revered Gotama, King Ajātasattu wishes to make war against the Vajjī princes, the Licchavī of Vesalī, and is making self-glorious declaration that he will exterminate the Vajjī princes, play havoc with them, and cause their ruin.”

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: