About The Book
The conversion of Asoka (273 - 232 B. C.) to Buddhism was an important turning point in the history of Buddhism. He launched a vigorous campaign of preaching the teachings of the Buddha and sent missionaries even to the foreign countries. The first neighbouring country to accept Buddhism during the reign of Asoka was Sri Lanka. From there, Buddhism spread in due course to other countries in South-East Asia. Buddhism reached China in the first century A. D. From China, it reached Korea. From Korea, the missionary monks took it to Japan. The Bhikkhu Sangha has a unique position in Buddhism as they played a major role in converting monarchs to Buddhism. In India, Asoka the Great was the first Emperor to be converted to Buddhism by an eminent Buddhist saint and scholar, Ven. Moggaliputta Tissa. Asoka the Great supported the Sangha with lavish donations and built innumerable monasteries and stupas to popularise Buddhism.
The Asokan model proved a great inspiration for the Buddhist Kings in other countries. Wherever Buddhism spread in Asia, it was primarily as a result of the royal patronage. In this book, are given the biographies of 30 Great Buddhist Kings of 12 countries who promoted the cause of Buddhism in a big way. These countries are: India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Combodia, Laos, China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, Bhutan and Mongolia.
D.C. Ahir (born 1928, Punjab) is a reputed Buddhist scholar and has made a very notable contribution to the Buddhist studies. He retired as Director to the Government of India in February 1986, and since then is fully engaged in enriching Buddhist literature.
In appreciation of his noble and notable contribution as a Distinguished Scholar and Author, the Maha Bodhi Society of India, Sarnath Centre, conferred on him the Honorary Title of BAUDDHASAHITYASHIROMANI on 30th November 2001. Similarly, the Government of Sri Lanka, Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Colombo, conferred on him the honour of BUDDHA SASANA JYOTI on 19th January 2003. His biodata also appears in the premier Edition of THE CONTEMPORARY WHO'S WHO 2003, for Significant Contribution to Society, published by American Biographical Institute, USA.
The emergence of Asoka the Great in the third century BC was an important turning point in the history of Buddhism. Soon after ascending the throne of the Mauryan Empire, which covered almost the whole of India, and even more, Asoka, under dramatic circumstances, embraced Buddhism, and declared that henceforth he would make the Buddha- Dhamma the basis of all his actions in the spiritual as well as temporal fields. Asoka also launched a vigorous campaign to preach and propagate the sublime teachings of the Buddha in India as well as the neighbouring countries.
The first neighbouring country to accept Theravada Buddhism, during the reign of Asoka, was Sri Lanka, where it has survived through the ages. Though Buddhism had reached Burma and Siam also in the third century BC but there it was later eclipsed by Mahayana Buddhism and/or Brahmanism. Then, in the 11th century AD, there was Theravada revolution. Beginning with the conversion of King Anawrahta of Pagan (Upper Burma) by a Mon Theravada monk, Buddhism gradually spread across South-East Asia. From Burma, it was transmitted to Thailand. From Thailand, it was transmitted, in a later century, to Cambodia, and from Cambodia to Laos.
The migration of Mahayana Buddhism to Central Asia and China began in the first century AD. From China, it reached Korea in 372 AD and became religion of the masses within two centuries. From Korea, the missionary monks took it to Japan in 552 AD. Later in the seventh century, Buddhism penetrated Tibet. From Tibet, it reached Bhutan and Mongolia.
Today, Theravada Buddhism is prevalent in South Asia (India and Sri Lanka), and in South-East Asia (Myanmar- Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos); Mahayana Buddhism is prevalent in East Asia (China, Korea and Japan); and Mahayana-Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet, Bhutan and Mongolia.
The Theravada Buddhist scriptures are in Pali. Since Lord Buddha spoke in Pali, the Pali Canon is regarded as the most authentic version of the Buddha-Word. The Pali Canon is commonly referred to as Tipitaka (Sanskrit : Tripitaka) i.e. 'Threefold Basket'. The Three Pitakas are : Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka. The Vinaya Pitaka mainly deals with the rules of conduct of the monks and nuns. The Sutta Pitaka consists of chiefly the sermons of the Buddha. The Abhidhamma Pitaka contains the profound philosophy of the Buddha's Teachings. The Pali Canon runs into more than fifty volumes in its printed Western edition. And its Indian edition in Devanagari has forty-one volumes of about 400 pages each.
The Theravada Buddhist countries did not translate the Pali Tipitaka when they received it, as they believed it to be the word of the Buddha.
The Chinese, however, translated almost all the Mahayana sutras from Sanskrit into Chinese language. The Koreans and Japanese follow the Chinese Canon. The Tibetans have also a large collection of Indian Buddhist texts in their own language. The Buddhists of Bhutan and Mongolia follow the Tibetan Canon.
The Bhikkhu Sangha has a unique position in Buddhism. The Bhikkhus have invariably played a major role in converting monarchs to Buddhism. In India, Asoka the Great was converted to Buddhism by an eminent saint, seer and scholar, Yen. Moggaliputta Tissa. History shows that wherever monks . and monarchs had cooperated, Buddhism spread rapidly. Asoka, the first Buddhist Emperor of India, supported the Sangha with lavish donations and built innumerable monasteries and stupas to popularise Buddhism. He even endeavoured to purify the Sangha by expelling the monks who had violated the Vinaya rules.
The Asokan model proved a great inspiration for the Buddhist Kings in other countries of Asia. Wherever Buddhism spread in Asia, it was primarily as a result of royal patronage. In this book, are given the biographies of 30 Great Buddhist Kings of 12 countries of Asia, who Promoted the cause of Buddhism in a big way. These countries are : India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos,China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, Bhutan, and Mongolia. The biographies of the kings primarily highlight their contribution to the development of Buddhism in their respective countries.
Buddhism is a living religion even today in all these countries. However, Buddhism had disappeared from India, its original home, after the 12th century AD, and was almost a dead religion for the next seven centuries. Thanks to the Buddhist Revival Movement, initiated by Anagarika Dharmapala in 1891, and transformed Dr. B.R Ambedkar in 1956 into a mass movement, India now has about ten million Buddhists. In all, about 400 Million people in Asia follow Buddhism today.
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