Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Rajgir was a cradle for modern civilization. People migrated to this part of the world and fell in love with its calm serenity; it was the age of fermentation. Groups of travelers became settlers and those small settlements turned into larger communities and slowly graduated into kingdoms. The haphazard life of a nomad turned so much more predictable, a sense of community built up and so did the need for rules of conduct.
The stability of a day to day life brought the need to break free from the mundane and thrill seekers challenged the rules and in turn led to the conversion of rules into laws.
Among the many laws that kept the society together and productive, one was to support the art and culture and the spiritual practices.

The law to patronize the spiritual practices wasn’t a new concept in the area but its diligent execution by the kings gave it a new dimension. By taking care of the basic necessities of survival of the devout, they were given ample opportunities to meditate and develop new thinking; culture and religion flourished and gave birth to new schools of thoughts.
Rajgir was the capital of most powerful kingdom, the Magadha and the political might gave enough encouragement and protection to the people to follow their own practices, and the opportunity for growth attracted more teachers and preachers and religious leaders to the area. At one time there existed 60 different schools of thoughts. It was remarkable even to this day the various thinking patterns coexisted; there were differences in their opinion but no apparent dispute. These schools are generally designated as Ditthi. The sixty-two wrong views (Micchaditthi) referred to by the Buddha in the Brahmajala sutta represent the teachings of such schools.

It is to the credit of the prosperity and sovereignty of the empire that 6 prominent teachers of the time lived and had disciples in and around Rajgir. The multiple streams of followers that existed here facilitated the start of new tradition and that is, when two strangers met on streets, besides the usual exchange of greetings they would also enquire about the school of thought that they follow. Halls were erected for the discussion among different school of thoughts so that logical debates may bring out clearer thoughts and encourage people to think various perspectives.

Besides all the other religious leaders who called Rajgir home, Buddha has a very prominent place in its history. There were many structures built to honor his presence in this area and some of them still live on. In this chapter we’ll explore life of Buddha and his Sangha and Sutras that he delivered while staying in this region; will try to follow his footsteps at Rajgir, try to relate the major events and the discourse he delivered and how he connected important lessons of life to moral stories.

Rajgir was a very prominent place since the beginning of times and its popularity saw some major rise and crests but the Buddha and Rajgir have a link that time cannot defy. The importance of the Buddha’s story at Rajagriha is revealed by the fact that when Xuanzang was on his way to India in the 7th century from China via the silk route, he found a reference of a place named ‘Baktra’ which was nicknamed as ‘mini Rajgir’ because of the presence of umpteen number of relics at the place. This place is now part of the present day Afghanistan.
Let’s try to put together yet another set of puzzle pieces and explore the possibilities and find out the roots to Rajgir’s importance to the Buddhist world. We will try to build a chronology of events of the Buddha at Rajgir besides discussing the sutras that he delivered and also discover three jewels of Magadha, Buddha’s three disciples Sariputra, Moggallana and Mahakashyapa.

Next Post: The Early Beginnings

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