|Monday, 31 December 2001|
Principles behind Lichchavi Administration and their relevance to present day politics
by Mahindadasa Ratnapala
The king or the ruler should always be righteous was the main theme of the Buddha. The kings were expected to follow the four types of hospitality (Satara Sangraha Vastu) namely charity or the giving of alms, pleasant speech (Priya Vachana), benevolent conduct or helpfulness towards the people (arthacharya) and equality (Samanathmatha).
The new Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe stressed that a new government with a new thinking is a must for the development of the country. The government should ensure equality of rights to everybody irrespective of multifarious differences. The government should be based on that of the Lichchavis in India, implemented during the 6th century BC.
Lichchavi administration had been hailed by the Buddha as an ideal type of government which could work for the welfare of the masses.
Hence, one might be able to peep at the brief history and mode of administration, which the Lichchavis implemented in their kingdom about 2,700 years ago.
King Ajatasattu, the king of Magadha wanted to invade the Vajji territory in order to bring it under his sovereignty. He sought the advice of the Buddha by sending his chief minister Vassakara, to get the necessary instructions.
The Buddha's admonition was that the Lichchavis, rulers of Vajji could not be suppressed and defeated until they adhered to the seven Dhammas which were not conducive to defeat (Sapta aparihaniya Dhamma)
(i) They held regular meetings to discuss matters pertaining to the day-to-day administration.
(ii) They met, worked and dispersed as a team.
(iii) They strictly followed the law of the country.
(iv) They were submissive to the elders.
(v) They respected the women-folk and condemned the oppression of women.
(vi) They followed the religious customs and protected them.
(vii) They respected the clergy and held them in veneration.
The kingdom of Lichchavis was known as Vajji and it comprised of number of rulers. The capital was Vesali or Visala. The unity among the rulers was the main force behind the unity and integrity of the Vajji kingdom.
The main feature of this republican mode of administration was the regular meeting of the rulers in the Assembly Hall or the Santhagara Sala for consultation and arriving at a consensus. The rulers elected one of their own members as the head on the majority vote. This was similar to the Cabinet of Ministers in a modern democracy. This republican type of administration existed in Pava and Kusinara. The Buddha approved this republican mode of administration and the seven Dhammas which were not conducive to defeat (Sapta aparihaniya Dhamma)
The king or the ruler should always be righteous was the main theme of the Buddha.
The kings were expected to follow the four types of hospitality (Satara Sangraha Vastu) namely charity or the giving of alms, pleasant speech (Priya Vachana), benevolent conduct or helpfulness towards the people (arthacharya) and equality (Samanathmatha).
Apart from these four main types of hospitalities the ruler was expected to follow the Ten Duties of a king (Dasa Raja Dhamma), namely charity or the giving of alms (dana), high moral conduct or high discipline (sila), sacrificing towards the common weal of the people (pariccaga), honesty and integrity (ajjava), kindness and gentleness (majjava), austerity in habits (tapa), freedom from hatred, illwill and enmity (akkhoda), non-violence (ahimsa), patience, forbearance, tolerance and understanding (khanti) and non-obstruction (avirodha).
These Ten Duties should be followed not only by a king, but also by those who constituted the government of a country i.e. the administrative hierarchy of a nation.
If a ruler and his subordinates followed the code of just administration the country would definitely prosper in every way.
The Buddha stressed the necessicity of a good and just government because He saw the type of oppression, exploitation, torture, cruelties, persecutions, the imposition of excessive taxes and other inhumanities meted out to the people by the rulers.
In that context the Buddha hailed the administration of Lichchavis as the ideal mode of administration to bring about harmony, peace and prosperity to a nation.
This should be accompanied by the Ten Duties of a king or Dasa Raja Dhamma.
May honest and righteous rulers follow the path shown by the Buddha to bring about a happy and peaceful environment in creating a peaceful and prosperous nation, a Utopia of the common man, who loves peace and harmony.
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