Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Caste supremacists thrive on religion. Buddha was against religion. Buddha is the strongest threat to caste supremacy even with retrospective effect. Therefore the caste supremacists, who are traditional exploiters of social forces, find their omnipresent enemy in Buddha. And, therefore, they want to obliterate him from the system of Jagannatha as therein the people feel the omnipresence.
Buddha was a Guru, but not a religious Guru. He was a socio-political thinker and revolutionary, who had gone deep into the cause of suffering of human beings and discovered that people suffer due to exploitation and exploitation commences and continues by a class of non-workers under the umbrage of patriarch autocracies.
Patriarch autocracy was the political weapon of these non-workers with which they were consolidating their exploitative network and continuing to exploit the working people.
To perpetuate this process of exploitation, they had built up a caste system and branded the working people as Sudras projecting themselves as Brahmanas.
The patriarch autocrats and their musclemen on the strength of which these Brahmanas were enjoying the best of comfort without doing any physical labor to earn that comfort, were shown by them as demigods or Kshyatriyas and those amongst the working people who were too ambitious to stay as workers and avaricious enough to act as conduits of the Brahmanas and Kshyatriyas were elevated to a creamy layer of Sudras called Vaisyas.
The Brahmanas declaring themselves as born not to do any physical labor, had developed the concept of property in such a design that without shouldering any responsibility they should be enjoying the fruits thereof. In this design, possession of properties was vested in the hands of their cohorts, the Kshyatriyas, who as a class, were ordained to act under area-specific autocrats called kings or emperors preferred by the Brahmanas. These Khyatriyas were allowed to grant lease of landed property and right of trading to Vaisyas at fixed but enhancive premiums and the Sudras were ordained not to possess any property but to work in the land belonging to Kshyatriyas and leased out to Vaisyas and to do any work that their Masters, meaning the propertied classes, were to require of them. And, all these three castes were ordained to satisfy whatever the Brahmanas want of them at whatever time.
This ordainment was promulgated in the name of the creator Brahma under concocted codes called the Vedas.
Any Brahmana was free to claim himself as a seer and coining any hymn as he could to contribute to the cause of his class was claiming to have seen that hymn being composed by Brahma and eventually to have been authorized by Brahma to deliver it.
And all such hymns under the cover of speculation on cause of creation were in the reality the instruments of a social system that was aimed at perpetuating social exploitation of the working class. Their enforceability was totally dependant on patriarch autocrats. Therefore imperialism was growing under Vedic order aimed at subjugating all the peoples so that by exploiting their labor, the caste supremacists could enjoy their lives without bothering to work for livelihood.
Buddha had found this exploitation as the root cause of sufferings of human society. Therefore he had campaigned against acquisition of private property and against concentration of power in the hands of autocrats. To succeed in this campaign he had tried to consolidate the tribal democracies where the cardinal principle was management of society on majority opinion ascertained through adult franchise and vesting of ownership of all means of production in the hands of the society so as not to allow concentration of property in individual hands and to eliminate thereby exploitation of working class by the owners of private property.
Not only he had built up his unique Samngha system on this principle to educate people through demonstration, but also he had rushed from his birthplace Tosala (Orissa) to Magadha to stop spread of Vedic imperialism in its heartland by organizing against it the tribes in his Samgha pattern.
Emergence of tribal democracies strengthened by politico-economic directions of Buddha made emperor Bimbisara suspend his aggression on tribal lands and to remain content with whatever area he already had acquired. He even thought it prudent to make friendship with Buddha and to act according to his sermons.
This enraged the Brahmanas so much that they cooked up a conspiracy against him leading to his incarceration in the hands of his ambitious son Ajatasattu.
As Ajatasattu captured power, a Brahmana namely Vassakara reached Buddha as emissary of the emperor and asked him on behalf of Ajatasattu to desist from supporting the tribes. Tibal democracies must be vanquished, so that empire should expand, he said. Buddha rejected the pleadings of Vassakara and declared that the emperor should not venture any attack on the tribes for they were invincible as long as their democracies were run on their franchise on basis of equality and fraternity.
The Buddha-Vassakar dialogue offers us a very interesting insight into the real cause of Brahminic antagonism to Buddhism.
T.W.R. Rhys Davids has rendered it in Dialogues of the Buddha [London(1910)Vol-ii(78-80)] as hereunder:
“The Exalted One was once dwelling in Rajagaha, on the hill called the Vulture’s Peak. Now at that time Ajatasattu, the son of the queen-consort of the Videha clan, the king of Magadha, had made up his mind to attack the Vajjians; and he said to himself ‘I will strike at these Vajjians, mighty and powerful though they be, I will root out these Vajjians, I will destroy these Vajjians, I will bring these Vajjians to utter ruin.’ So he spoke to the Brahmana Vassakara, Prime Minister of Magadha, and said: ‘Come now Brahmana, do you go to the Exalted One and bow down in adoration at his feet on my behalf, and enquire in my name whether he is free from illness and suffering, and in the enjoyment of ease and comfort and vigorous health. Then tell him that Ajatasattu, son of the Videhi, the king of Magadha, in his eagerness to attack the Vijjians, has resolved,”I will strike at these Vijjians, mighty and powerful though they be, I will root out these Vajjians, I will destroy these Vajjians, I will bring these Vajjians to utter ruin”; and bear carefully in mind whatever the Exalted One may predict and repeat it to me. For the Buddha speaks nothing untrue.’ Then the Brahmana Bassakara, the rain-maker, harkened to the words of the king, saying, ‘Be it as you say.’ And, ordering a number of state carriages to be made ready, he mounted one of them, left Rajagaha with his train, and went to the Vulture’s Pick, riding as far as the ground was passable for carriages and then alighting and proceeding on foot to the place where the Exalted one was. On arriving there he exchanged with the Exalted One the greetings and compliments of politeness and courtesy, sat down respectfully by his side (and then delivered to him the message even as the king had commanded).
Now at that time the venerable Ananda was standing behind the Exalted One, and fanning him. And the Blessed One said to him: ‘Have you heard, Ananda, that the Vajjians foregather often and frequent the public meetings of their clan?’ ‘Lord, so I have heard’, replied he.
‘So long Ananda’, rejoined the Blessed One, ‘as the Vajjians foregather thus often, and frequent the public meetings of their clan; so long may they be expected not to decline, but to prosper.’
(And in like manner questioning Ananda, and receiving a similar reply, the Exalted One declared as follows the other conditions, which would ensure the welfare of the Vajjian confederacy.)
‘So long, Ananda, as the Vajjians meet together in concord and rise in concord, and carry out their undertakings in concord,- so long as they enact nothing not already established, abrogate nothing that has already been enacted and act in accordance with the ancient institution of the Vajjians, as established in the former days – so long as they honour and esteem and revere and support the Vajjian elders, and hold it to a point of duty to hearken to their words,- so long as no women or girls belonging to their clans are detained among them by force or abduction – so long as they honor and esteem and revere and support the Vajjian shrines (cetiyani) in town or country, and allow not the proper offerings and rites, as formerly given and performed, to fall into desuetude – so long as the rightful protection, defense, and support shall be fully provided for the Arahants among them, so that Arahants from a distance may enter the realm, and the Arahants therein may live at ease – so long may the Vajjians be expected not to decline, but to prosper.’
It is to be noted that till demise of Buddha, Magadha had not dared to attack the tribal democracies fortified by Buddha.
By restricting Vedic imperialism in Magadha itself, Buddha had saved his motherland Orissa and her autonomous social system.
Asoka’s attack on Orissa was meant only to avenge this and to destroy Buddhism by plundering its cradle.
History has been wronged by vested interest noting that Asoka won the battle and on seeing the vast destruction he had wrecked on the people his heart melted in repentance and he embraced Buddhism on the battlefield at the foot of Dhauli Giri and spent his might in spreading Buddhism. But in reality, he was defeated and had fled with his life by taking umbrage under Buddhism, which he had come to destroy.
The Kalinga war had two phases. The first phase was sudden like a bolt from the blue and the most peaceful people of Orissa, before being aware of the attack, had been overwhelmed by the army of Asoka who plundered the land and captured more than a lakh of people and exported them to his land as slaves under custody of packs of his plundering soldiers while keeping the rest of his army pressed on his campaign to desecrate the birthplace of Buddha in Kapilavastu (modern Kapileswara) near the Sweta (Dhauli) hills with the ill motive of humiliating Buddhism. There were many places of Orissa where he could have challenged the Oriyas to a war if annexing their land to his empire was his aim. But that was not. His target was Kapilavastu, the birthplace of Buddha near the Dhauli Hills and therefore the battle was fought at the foot of the Dhauli.
The people of Orissa, the most ardent and loyal followers of Buddha, did not allow him to reach Kapilavastu, the present Kapileswar. They resisted him at the cost of their lives at Dhauli. The devastation has no parallel in Indian history. Millions of Oriyas sacrificed their lives to stop desecration of the sacred birthplace of their beloved Gurudev Buddha who had saved their motherland from being engulfed by Vedic imperialism by rushing up to Magadha to obstruct it there. And, Asoka’s army declined in numbers even as the brave Oriya women jumped into the battlefield with their traditional weapons. The wicked Maurya, who was ill famed as Chanda Asoka, was vanquished by the united women of Orissa. And, subsequently, the entire army of Asoka including resummoned troops was annihilated. The Chanda Asoka could be able to flee with his life only after he prayed to be initiated into Buddhism, the creed he had come to destroy.
The resounding victory of Orissa’s matriarch forces over the Chanda Asoka and the total destruction of his army has been symbolically depicted in Devi Bhagavat where he has been shown as Chanda asura.
History, as we know, is not without wrongs.
History has wronged Orissa by not recording correctly the purpose of Asoka’s expedition to Orissa and his battle at Dhauli Hills and the real reason of his praying for and getting initiation into Buddhism.
We shall try to help history correct itself in this matter in course of our discussion. But for now, this suffices to say that Vedic chauvinists had attacked Orissa through the Chanda Asoka of Magadha to desecrate the birthplace of Buddha.
Vedic chauvinists have succeeded to desecrate Buddha Jagannatha by infesting his Pahandi Bije with Vedic hymns taking advantage of the confusion that has been spread by the religious revivalists in Navinraj where rabid right wing communalists are assigned with portfolios that oversee and controls the Jagannatha Temple administration.
We will later come to the history.