The Great Buddhist Emperors of Asia

by Shibani Dutta | 2018 | 86,618 words

This study deals with the patronage of Buddhism in Asia by the ruling powers and nobility. It further discusses in detail the development of Buddhism under the patronage of the royal dynasties in the religious history of Asia right from the time of 3rd century B.C. (i.e., the reign of Ashoka) to the reign of Kublai Khan in 13th century A.C....

The Buddha’s first sermon after his enlightenment marked the formal beginning of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent. The creed of Lord Buddha won the hearts of the people by virtue of its simplicity and deliverance from the caste-ridden and ritualistic dogmas of traditional Hinduism. The ideals of the Buddha appealed to common people and this acceptance subsequently led to the establishment of a highly organized Sangha.

The conversion of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka to Buddhism marked the up gradation of Buddhism from the position of a sect to that of a state religion. Ashoka’s patronage of Buddhism was responsible for the propagation and spread of Buddhism beyond the Indian subcontinent. Kings like Milinda, Kanishka and Harshavardhana carried forward the missionary zeal of Ashoka during their reigns.

Despite the sincere efforts of these Indian emperors, Buddhism did not last long in the Indian subcontinent. Turkish invasion and the revival of Brahminical Hinduism dealt a major blow to Buddhism. But the seeds of Buddhism had already been sown outside India by Buddhist missions sent abroad under the patronage of Ashoka and his succeeding rulers.

King Sron Tsan Gampo is credited with the introduction of Buddhism in Tibet. Emperor Yu Tee, a devout believer in Buddhism, promoted Buddhism in China. Buddhism became a state religion in Korea during the period of Wang dynasty. Korean emperor Wang Kiyen promoted Buddhism as the national religion of Korea Buddhism swept across Asia just within a millennium. It reached Japan, first from Korea and then from China. Prince Shotoku is the pivotal figure in the history of Japanese Buddhism. King Dhammaceti was a great ruler of Burma (Myanmar) and at the same time a patron of Buddhism. King Dutthagamani, a national hero of Sinhala island, had a mission of propagating Buddhism in Sinhala (Shrilanka). Many learned monks flourished during his reign. King Parakkamabahu was another national hero of Sinhala (Shriilanka). He united the whole island under his rule and reformed Buddhist practices. Kublai Khan, embraced Buddhism and the Buddhist organizations rose considerably under his patronage. In short both the Indian and foreign emperors contributed to the dissemination of Buddhism in various parts of Asia which gave birth to a new civilization and culture.

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