The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes The Fall 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).

When Brahmin Vassakāra returned from the Buddha and got back to the palace King Ajātasattu asked him:

“Brahmin, what did the Bhagavā say?”

“Your Majesty, according to Buddha Gotama, the Vajjians cannot be captured unless through deceit or through causing a disunity among them.”

“If we employ deceit, we shall have to suffer losses in our armed forces. We had better try to cause a disunity among them. But Brahmin, how should we go about it?”

“In that case, hold a meeting at the palace and announce your intention to make war with the Vajjians. Then I shall pretend to disapprove of the idea and leave the council chamber. At that, you should feign anger with me and blame me openly. Thereafter, I shall send gifts to the Vajjians in open daylight which you should promptly find out and confiscate. Then branding me as a traitor, you should, instead of inflicting physical punishment, appear to choose to disgrace me, shave my head and expel me from the city. Then I shall speak out defiant words to the effect that ‘I know the defence system of your city; I will lead the Vajjians to destroy the city walls and ransack the city.’ At those impertinent words from me you should show great anger and order my immediate departure.”

King Ajātasattu carried out Vassakāra’s scheme in detail.

The Licchavī princes learnt that Vassakāra had left Rājagaha. But they had fears of him as a crooked person. “Let him not cross the Gaṅgā to our shore”, they protested strongly. However, some of the Licchavīs said: “Vassakāra is in his plight because he spoke in our defence.” So the Licchavis allowed the Brahmin to cross the Gaṅgā.

Brahmin Vassakāra came up to the Licchavī princes and on being asked the reason for his banishment, he told them what had taken place at the Rājagaha court. The Licchavīs were sympathetic with Vassakāra.

They thought he was treated rather too severely for such a small offence.

“What was your official status at the Rājagaha court?” They asked of Vassakāra.

“I was the Judge (i.e. Minister of Justice).”

“Then you keep that post at our court,” the Licchavis told him. Vassakāra proved himself a very competent judge. The Licchavīs then learned the princely arts from him.

Vassakāra sows Dissent among The Licchavī Princes

When Brahmin Vassakāra had established himself as the royal teacher, he started to put his scheme into effect. He would call up a Licchavī prince in private and ask some trifling thing such as:

“Do youths under your Royal Highness do cultivating?”

“Yes, they do.” (would be the natural answer)

“Do they yoke a pair of oxen?”

“Yes, they do.”

The dialogue did not go further. The two parted. But when one of the Licchavīs who saw the private discussion asked the Licchavī who had conversed with Vassakāra about the subject of their discussion, and was told the truth, the inquirer naturally could not believe it. “There must be something that he is holding to himself,” he thought. A wedge had been thus placed between the two princes.

On another day, Brahmin Vassakāra took another Licchavī prince to privacy and asked: “Your Royal Highness what did you have for breakfast today?” And that was all. When some other Licchavī princes asked about the meeting and was told the truth it struck them as queer. Another wedge had been laid at another place.

On another occasion, Brahmin Vassakāra asked another Licchavī prince in private: “Your Royal Highness is said to be in straitened circumstances, is that true?”

“Who told you so?” asked the Prince.

“Prince so and so told me.”

And so ill-will between two innocent Licchavī princes was created.

Yet on another occasion, Brahmin Vassakāra said to another Licchavī prince in private: “Your Royal Highness is called a coward by someone.”

“Who dare call me a coward?” asked the prince.

“Prince so and so did.”

Thus enmity arose between two innocent Licchavī princes.

After three years of insidious scheming, Brahmin Vassakāra brought the Licchavī princes to such a state that no two princes had faith in each other. Then to test the effectiveness of his scheme, he had a public proclamation made by the beat of the gong, for an assembly of the Licchavi princes. Each bearing a grudge against another, none of the princes was prepared to work together in unison as usual. “Let the well-to-do princes attend; we are the wretched ones,” some would say. Or, “Let brave men go; we are but cowards.” And on these diverse grounds of disunity, the assembly did not take place.

Brahmin Vassakāra then sent a secret message to King Ajātasattu that it was the time to attack Vesālī. Ajātasattu gave the war cry by the beat of the gong and marched out of Rājagaha.

The ruling princes of Vesālī heard the news. “We will not let them cross the Gaṅgā!” they declared and an assembly was called, but nursing the old grudges, no one attended. “Let the brave ones go.” etc., they would say in derision.

When Ajātasattu’s forces had crossed the Gangā, the ruling princes of Vesālī declared: “We will not let them enter our city. We will close our city gates and stand firm. Come! to our defences now!” They shouted and tried to convene an assembly. Yet there was no response.

Ajātasattu’s army met no resistance whatever from Vesālī whose city gates remained open. They massacred all the Licchavī princes and returned to Rājagaha as conquerors.

This is the story of how Vesālī fell.

[The events leading to the fall of Vesālī and its utter destruction took place during the three years, beginning with the year of the passing away of the Buddha and two years after that. The story is reproduced here as described in the Commentary in this connection. May the reader, the virtuous follower of the Buddha, visualize in his imagination the scene of Brahmin Vassakāra learning from the Buddha the seven factors of growth, non-decline for rulers at the mountain abode of the Buddha atop mount Gijjhakuṭa, and his departure (in all satisfaction) from there.)]

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