Live up to the essence of Amaravati

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Mallepalli Laxmaiah

“For those famers who have lost their crop, the king must give seed and rebate their taxes, the poor shall not be taxed and the populace should not be harassed for taxes. A king must put himself in the place of the citizen and impart such judgment. He must be available to his citizens as nature itself has been.” This is the essence of the teachings that Bodhisatva Acharya  Nagarjuna imparted to Emperor Yajnashree Sathakarni. With these words he paved a pathway to ideal kingship to all kings and emperors.

“Paralokamandundi teleru rajyamu,

Maru Janmaku thoduga Raabodu rajyamu,

Dharmamuche Sampraptamainadi Bhagyamu,

Dharmaheenamuga daani Paalimparadu.”

“Kingdoms cannot be brought from heaven,

Nor can they be taken along when we leave this world,

This opportunity has been given to you as your Dharma,

And you Shall not rule unjustly.”

A Kings’s responsibility for his kingdom is justice and nothing else, progress of his citizens is paramount and for this reason the king must establish such governing bodies consisting of the intellectual, selfless and those with discretion. Knowledge of the law is not as important as a heart that yearns for justice and a soul not maligned by greed and ambition, and such people must be made ministers and administrators. These teachings of Acharya Nagarjuna hold true even after two millennia.

Acharya Nagarjuna preached Buddhism on the banks of river Krishna during the rule of the Satavahanas. From around 300 BC to 300 AD the Satavahanas ruled from Amaravati alias Dhanyakatakam as their capital. The Satavahanas were tolerant towards all religions, Buddhism and Vedic Hinduism thrived equally during their time. The common citizens practised Buddhism in Amaravati.  Asoka’s also had a Stupa in Amaravati and people of all walks of life aided in the construction, historians vouch that objects found in the Stupa were gifted by various people from different religions. A Purnaghatam in the Stupa is said to have been gifted by Vidhikudu, a cobbler. In Buddhism, Purnaghatam is symbolic of complete knowledge. This was renamed Purnakalasam and made the symbol of Andhra Pradesh in 1956.

Along with Buddhism, Amaravati became associated with humanitarianism, which did not end with Amaravati. Trade and commerce carried these teachings to South East Asia causing a revolutionary change in the life of the people and rule by their Kings. This made Amaravati a prime location for export oriented manufacture, traders and workers felt encouraged to follow the path of Buddhism. Vedas also forbade ocean voyages causing a hindrance to exports and the prevalent Yagnas called for animal sacrifice causing a decline in cattle rearing, also affecting agriculture which used oxen as a means. This was when Buddhism forbade animal sacrifice and urged animal welfare instead. Amaravati then became a center for agriculture and cattle rearing, and went on to be known as Dhanyakatakam.

In Buddhist history, Acharya Nagarjuna was probably the only one to reach close to Goutama Buddha as a Bodhisatva, he followed the Mahayana sect of Buddhism and preached Madhyamargam (the middle path). After the Satavahanas a Pallava prince Bodhi Dharma carried the message of Buddhism to China, and created the sect of Zen Buddhism. He also taught the monks martial arts for self defense, the present day Kung-fu was originally created by Bodhi Dharma originally a student of Amaravati Buddhism.

There is evidence to say that a large number of monks carried Buddhism to Sri Lanka, even today there are Telugu Buddhist manuscripts in Sri Lankan monasteries. Colombo’s National Museum Library still houses a large number of these manuscripts. A close examination of these shows the prevalence of Buddhism from Amaravati not only in Sri Lanka but also several South East Asian countries.

Andhra Pradesh’s new capital is to be called Amaravati, a name that became the symbol of humanitarianism, welfare and equality calls for the remembrance of the erstwhile kingdom of Amaravati and compare it to the new capital in juxtaposition.

The Andhra Pradesh government has waged a war against its citizens for their capital, who have been troubled by the state’s decision to acquire thousands of acres of fertile land with the capability of cultivation all over year. The state claims that the people who own those lands have voluntarily offered their lands to the government as a contribution to the new capital. People say these are blatant lies by the state. Farmers who own these lands also recall that the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh warned that those who do not cooperate in this draconian acquisition would gain no benefit.

Acharya Nagarjuna warned, “Dharma heenamuga Paalimparadu….” meaning the King shall not rule unjustly and this injustice can be seen in the present Amaravati.

The state has lured those with registered lands with compensation amounting to crores of rupees per acre, while the people with assigned lands are offered peanuts, this unwarranted inequality cannot be called justice and does not amount to adequate compensation. The State has called for meetings and discussions with the farmers with registered lands, the farmers with assigned lands have been completely ignored, out of which a majority of farmers belong to the Dalit caste who received these lands under various schemes.

The farmers with registered lands are being offered 1200 sq yards of developed land while those with assigned lands are being offered only 800 sq yards of land. The agricultural labourers and seasonal labourers have not even been addressed. The area chosen for land acquisition has a large Dalit population out of which the majority are agricultural labourers, and ignoring the livelihood of the downtrodden is not only unconstitutional but also against the essence of the name Amaravati.

It is important for the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh to assimilate the teachings of Acharya Nagarjuna before calling his state’s new capital Amaravati. Those teachings were at a time of a Monarchy for an Emperor, and are surprisingly more applicable in our democracy. Amaravati meant, land of the Deathless, named aptly for the people who lived there for their knowledge, compassion and a yearning for equality. Spreading love and ending hate was essential to Buddha’s teachings.

The Government, before calling their capital Amaravati should understand that their inability to show compassion towards the people and promoting equality is against the principles of that hallowed land.

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