Essay Example on Buddhist Kings and Kingship









Buddhist Kings and Kingship In 320 BCE Chandragupta Maurya overthrew the Nanda dynasty to start his own empire the Mauryan Empire Maurya seemed to have been a strong conqueror by 300 BCE his empire included India south of the Hindu Kush and most of northern India However it does not appear that Chandragupta was necessarily born a ruthless conqueror It is thought that at some point possibly after being imprisoned for offending him Chandragupta was influenced by Alexander the Great a ruler who was able to cement his reputation as one of the great conquerors of the ancient world It is possible that after being exposed to Alexander s powerful way of ruling Chandragupta was inspired to become like him However Chandragupta was not Mauryan Empire s most powerful ruler From 269 233 BCE the Mauryan Empire was ruled by a man named Ashoka After conquering a kingdom on the east coast Kalinga more than 250 000 people were killed made captives or died later of starvation Upon realizing the consequences of his actions Ashoka converted to Buddhism and began erecting sandstone pillars inscribed with edicts based on the ideal of dharma he had conceived Within the inscribed messages laid passages stressing ethical conduct both public and private for example one has been translated to say that while we should respect our parents we must also respect living creatures 

Because the towers stand tall and feature an open mouthed lion perched on top it was sure to draw attention by anyone passing by and intrigue them enough to read whatever had been carved into the stone Ashoka a converted Buddhist became a symbol of enlightened rule non violence and religious tolerance he is also widely regarded as the greatest Mauryan emperor Not only was he known for his Buddhist beliefs and religious tolerance but strived to be a cakravartin the Buddhist term for universal ruler Unfortunately after Ashoka the Great s death the empire and Buddhism declined Because of his ideals Ashoka became a very important and trusted leader to those in his empire It only makes sense that after his death the people would become a little lost without his strong presence to lead them and eventually give up on Buddhism Of course the decline after Ashoka s death does not mean the demise of the entire Buddhist religion there are currently around 400 million Buddhists worldwide Theraveda practiced mainly in Sri Lanka Burma Thailand Cambodia and Loas as well as Mahayana practiced primarily in China Tibet Japan and Korea At the very least this proves to today s people that Buddhism is still relevant today Buddhism has some teachings that are not only relevant to Buddhists but people in general 

For example one of the noble truths is that suffering is caused by desire but that it can be overcome The truth continues by stating that by following the Eightfold Path living with right understanding thought speech action livelihood effort mindfulness and concentration people can become free of attachment and reach nirvana There is also the teaching that advocates living according to the Middle Way which just means living without over indulging or completely restricting With the popularity of Buddhism it only makes sense that the religion would be brought into the world of art sooner or later two sculptures made in the Mathura and Gandhara regions depict the bodhisattva Maitreya bodhisattva being enlightened beings who postpone their own salvation to help all sentient beings and the Maitreya being the Buddha of the future who will be born to teach enlightenment in the next age in totally different ways The sculpture from the Gandhara region appears to be heavily influenced by the Greco Roman tradition this is proven most in the way the robes hang off the bodhisattva Maitreya The Gandharan sculptors were interested in the accurate depiction of the human body but the Mathura style place more emphasis on the fleshy human body To be as simple as possible the Mathura sculptor continues the indigenous sculptural style while the Gandhara sculpture was based on Greco Roman art

When viewing the sculptors side by side it becomes apparent that while both are wearing few articles of clothing the Gandhara sculpture has a robe that is much more fabric and wraps elegantly and neatly around the waist and shoulder of the Maitreya This differs quite a bit with the Mathura sculpture that shows the Maitreya wearing essentially nothing however both versions of the Maitreya include fabric wrapped around the shoulder draping down the legs and accessories including bracelets and necklaces There are also a few similarities in the seemingly braided hairstyle and circular object behind the shoulders of the sculptures Whether an observer is looking to find similarities or differences in the two sculptures there are plenty of both to be found Bibliography Bodhisattva Maitreya article Khan Academy Accessed January 17 2018 https www khanacademy org humanities art asia beginners guide asian culture buddhist art culture a bodhisattva maitreya Chandragupta Maurya The Power of Ideas Accessed January 17 2018 http www pbs org thestoryofindia timeline 2 chandragupta_maurya Edicts of Ashoka PBS Accessed January 17 2018 http www pbs org thestoryofindia gallery photos 6 html Indian History Sourcebook Ashoka King of Behar The Rock Edicts c 257 BCE Internet History Sourcebooks Project Accessed January 17 2018 https sourcebooks fordham edu halsall india ashoka edicts asp Neelis Jason The Kushan Empire Virtual Art Exhibit Accessed January 17 2018 http depts washington edu silkroad exhibit kushans kushans html

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