The Discourse about the Great Emancipation

[The First Chapter for Recitation]

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[1: King Ajātasattu]

 

Thus I heard:
At one time the Gracious One was living near Rājagaha on the Vultures’ Peak Mountain. The discourse opens about one year before the Parinibbāna. Rājagaha was the capital of the Magadhan State, and Vulture's Peak was one of the 7 mountains surrounding the city.01

Now at that time the Magadhan King Ajātasattu, Ajātasattu came to power in Magadha about 7 years before the Parinibbāna. His name is an epithet meaning one with no born enemy; but after he had starved his Father to death, the good King Bimbisāra, the name was re-interpreted to mean one who was an enemy (to his Father even) before being born.02 the son of Lady Wisdom, had a desire to attack the Vajjians. The Kingdom of Magadha and the Vajjian Republic were neighbouring countries. According to the Commentary they seem to have been in dispute about control of the trade along the Ganges river. The period the Buddha was living in saw the gradual rise of the Monarchies to power, displacing the Republics until a couple of centuries later the whole of India was eventually united under King Asoka.03 He said this: “I will annihilate these Vajjians, who are so successful, so powerful, I will destroy the Vajjians, I will bring about the downfall and destruction of the Vajjians”.

Then the Magadhan King Ajātasattu, the son of Lady Wisdom, The lady in question was the daughter of a King of Kosala.04 addressed the Magadhan chief minister the brahmin Vassakāra, (saying): We find later on in this discourse that there were two chief ministers under Ajātasattu: Sunīdha and Vassakāra.05

“Go, brahmin, and approach the Gracious One, and after approaching worship the Gracious One's feet in my name, and ask whether he is free from sickness, free from illness, in good health, and living comfortably, (and say): ‘The Magadhan King Ajātasattu, the son of Lady Wisdom, reverend Sir, worships with his head at the Gracious One's feet, and asks whether you are free from sickness, free from illness, in good health, and living comfortably.’

And say this: ‘The Magadhan King Ajātasattu, the son of Lady Wisdom, reverend Sir, desires to attack the Vajjians. He says this: “I will annihilate these Vajjians, who are so successful, so powerful, I will destroy the Vajjians, I will bring about the downfall and destruction of the Vajjians.” And just what the Gracious One says to you, after learning it well, you must inform me, for the Realised Ones do not speak falsely.”

“Very well, dear Sir,” and the Magadhan chief minister the brahmin Vassakāra, after replying to the Magadhan King Ajātasattu, the son of Lady Wisdom, and having (many) great and august vehicles prepared, and mounting (those) great and august vehicles, departed with those great and august vehicles from Rājagaha, and after approaching by vehicle to the Vultures’ Peak Mountain as far as the ground for vehicles (would allow), and descending from the vehicles, he approached the Gracious One by foot, and after approaching, he exchanged greetings with the Gracious One, and after exchanging courteous talk and greetings, he sat down on one side. While sitting on one side, the Magadhan chief minister the brahmin Vassakāra said this to the Gracious One:

“The Magadhan King Ajātasattu, the son of Lady Wisdom, dear Gotama, worships with his head at dear Gotama's feet, and asks whether you are free from sickness, free from illness, in good health, and living comfortably. This is an example of what is called elsewhere: courteous talk and greetings. Notice he doesn't wait for a reply because it is a formality, and a reply was not expected.06

The Magadhan King Ajātasattu, the son of Lady Wisdom, dear Gotama, desires to attack the Vajjians. He says this: ‘I will annihilate these Vajjians, who are so successful, so powerful, I will destroy the Vajjians, I will bring about the downfall and destruction of the Vajjians’ ”.