Asoka hailed from the most militant Mauryan dynasty
founded by Emperor Chardragupta but gave up his
prestigious clannish identity and called himself ‘A son
of the Sakyan Buddha.’ The Buddha never discoursed the
abolition of the contemporary private wealth of society,
because of the then existing social structure. However,
the Buddha established the Sangha, as against the richly
Brahmin priestly class and gave a model of a socialist
structure for the bhikkhus. He advised the Sangha to be
of bare possessors of essential requirements in that
eight pieces of clothes, sanghate, uttarasangha,
waistband, almsbowl, needle, water-sieve and razor.
The poet, writer and important organizer of the Dalit
Literature Movement of modern times, Monohar Bishwas
wrote, “It is the Buddha who found equality at first in
the world. He brought religion, society, politics,
economics and everything in his feelings for searching
equality. He broke the caste system that is, castes and
social order as a way for social equality.
He led the Sangha to investigate the economic equality.
There is no private ownership of the wealth. All are
equal in dress, fold and residence etc., Greeed is
conquered through practice of morality and then be a
Buddha through his first sermon,
Dhammasakka-pavattana-sutta revealed to the world the
Four Noble Truths, (suffering, cause of suffering,
cessation of suffering and the Path leading to the
cessation of suffering). The Noble Eightfold Path is
universally applicable as it is a mode of living a
harmonious and peaceful life. The Eightfold Noble Path
could be divided into three sections: Moral Precepts
that is sila, mind control and wisdom. Sila consists of
Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood.
This moral code ushers in a society secure and brings
about harmony and good relations among the peoples. Mind
control or concentration includes three other factors,
Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
Wisdom or Panna, consists of two factors: Right View and
Right Thought. Concentration and wisdom are concerned
with the discipline of the mind.
Inter racial and religious conflicts leading to
disastrous wars emanate from not permitting freedom of
speech and thought, that too on reasonable grounds. The
Buddha endorsed freedom of expression and thought in the
Kalama Sutta in the following manner: “When you know
that the advice and things are bad and useless for you
or others, then you will not accept and avoid these. If
you see after testing by your own judgement and
intelligence that the advice is good and useful for you
or others and useful for welfare, then you will accept
and follow this.” These are not commandments like the
Ten Commandments of Jesus Christ in the sermon on the
Mount. The Buddha’s advice is to examine it
intelligently and accept it or reject it.
The Buddha taught the Sapta Aparihani Dhamma
(Non-degenerative methodology of governance to the
chiefs of the Vajji confederacy at Vaishali of
Lichchavis, who had no monarch but a council of 7707
councillors. The Saptaaparihani Dhamma are. Assemble in
concord, rise in concord, and do your duty as Vajjians
in concord; Avoid enacting the unenacted or abolishing
existing enactments and proceed in accordance with the
ancient laws as enacted; Honour, respect, revere and
venerate the Vajjian elders and think they should be
heeded; live without molesting and abducting women and
girls; Honour, respect, revere and venerate the Vajjian
shrines both in town and country without allowing the
lawful oblations, hitherto given and made, to lapse;
provide lawful protection, defence and guarding among
the Vajjians for Arahants; encourage Arahants to come to
the realm and provide them with facilities to live
happily. Herein ‘Arahant’ means a term used by Jainism
meaning noble persons, which term Buddha too used.
In the Vajjian confederacy there was a large number of
followers of Jainism, including Siha the
Commander-in-Chief of the Vajjian army, who later
A few hours prior to the Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha
at Kusinara, a wandering ascetic named Subhadda, came
there and pleaded with Ven. Ananda to permit him to
venerate and see the Buddha and pose a question to him
for an answer.
Ven. Ananda, declined the plea three times and the
Buddha overhearing the altercation, asked Ananda to
permit the ascetic to call on him. Subhadda having
venerated the Buddha posed the question, “Master Gotama,
monks and brahamans are with their community, with their
group, leading groups.
Each group has a philosopher reckoned by many as a saint
- I mean Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala, Ajita
Kesakambalin, Pakudha Kaccayana, Sanjaya Belathiputta
and the Nigantha Nathaputta. Have they all had direct
knowledge as they claim, or have none of them had direct
knowledge, or have some of them had direct knowledge and
The Buddha replied: “Enough, Subhadda. Whether they all
had direct knowledge, or some of them have had direct
knowledge and some not, let that be. I shall teach you
the Dhamma, Subhadda. Listen and attend carefully to
what I shall say. Subhadda, in whatever Dhamma Noble
Eightfold Path is not found, there are not the first
monk (sotapanna), the second monk (sakurdagami), the
third monk (anagami) the fourth monk (arahant).
In fact, the Buddha’s first discourse
Dhammacakkapavattana-sutta deals with the Noble
Eightfold Path. His advice to the first sixty disciples
was to wander and teach the Dhamma for the welfare,
prosperity and happiness of the people.
The Buddha, too told the first sixty disciples (Arahants).
This Noble Truth must be penetrated to by realising the
cessation of suffering: such was the insight, the
knowledge, the understanding, the vision, the light,
that arose in me about things not heard before. (gnanam
udapadi, vijja udapadi, aloko udapadi etc.)
Thus to follow the Noble Eightfold Path and the
teachings of the Buddha entirely built on it, to be
practised by any person, he or she need not label
himself as Buddhist, further to follow the footsteps of
the Buddha (Buddham saranam gachchami).
There are no rituals and rites such as baptismal,
upanayana (holy-thread), circumcision, as advocated by
other religions. The teachings of the Buddha are
universal in character, devoid of any grouping and
classes or nomenclatures.