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Abridged Translation of Milinda Panha

Abridged Translation of Milinda Panha

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Published by: simion on Jul 19, 2009
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In the Mahàparinibbàna Sutta the Buddha predicted that the
city of Pàñaliputta, which was founded shortly before his
death, would become a great city, “ânanda, among the
towns and cities that are centres of congregation and com-
merce of people of the Aryan race, this new town will be-
come the greatest city, called Pàñaliputta, a place where goods
are unpacked, sold and distributed, but it will be in danger
from flood, fire and internal dissension”.8

The Magadha
Kingdom, of which Pàñaliputta (modern Patna) was the capi-
tal, gradually became the most powerful in all India.

In the mid 4th century B.C. a Sudra named Mahà-
padma Nanda usurped the throne of the kingdom of
Magadha and became the ruler of a kingdom stretching
from the Brahmaputra river in the east to the Beas in the
west. But beyond the Beas were several small kingdoms.

During this period, Alexander the Great conquered
Persia and crossed the Hindu Kush into Bactria (Northern
Afghanistan). It took him two years to subdue these inhos-
pitable regions, but in so doing he founded several cities
penetrating as far north as Samarkand and Leninabad (in
the USSR). Another city has been identified at Charikar
(north of Kabul). Hearing about the river Indus he re-
crossed the Hindu Kush in 327 B.C. and pushed eastwards
to Taxila (Takkasãla), but when he reached the Jhelum river
he encountered the Paurava rajah, who had war elephants.
Even the veterans of Macadonia were unable to continue

8.

D. ii. 87, 88.

22

against such opposition, so Alexander was forced to retreat
down the Indus river and thence back through Persia,
where he died at Babylon in 323 B.C. Nevertheless, he had
left behind him the foundations of the Bactrian kingdom
and had surveyed the Jhelum and Indus rivers.
After Alexander’s death, Chandragupta, the founder
of the Mauryan dynasty, was able to drive away the Greek
garrisons from the Indus valley. In 321 B.C. he defeated
Nanda and became the ruler of the Magadha kingdom
from the capital at Pàñaliputta. Alexander’s successor,
Seleukos I Nikator, led an expedition against the Indians in
311 B.C. hoping to regain the Punjab. However, he was up
against the might of Chandragupta. So, by 304 B.C.,
Seleukos was glad to conclude a treaty with him, giving his
daughter in marriage and ceding large areas of what is now
Baluchistan and Afghanistan in exchange for 500 war
elephants. Seleukos sent his ambassador, Magasthenes, to
Pàñaliputta and from what remains of his writings we
know something about the size of the army and the
strength of the fortifications there. Chandragupta ruled for
24 years and his son Bindusàra, about whom we know very
little, ruled for 28 years until his death in 269 B.C.
At the time of Bindusàra’s death his eldest son was the
viceroy at Takkasãla and his younger son, Asoka, was the
viceroy at Ujjeni in the south. Asoka fought with his brother
for the right to ascend to the throne, and when his
brotherwas killed in battle, Asoka became the ruler of a vast
empire from Bengal to Afghanistan. However, he was still
not satisfied and it was only in the ninth year of his reign,
after the bloody conquest of the Kaliïga kingdom (Orissa)

23

that he gave up warfare and became a devoted follower of
Buddhism. Emperor Asoka sent missions of monks to the
border areas of his great empire. Asokan inscriptions have
been found in the Kabul valley written in Greek and Ara-
maic, and elsewhere his inscriptions say that he had made
Dhamma conquests in Egypt, Syria, Macedonia, Greece,
Cyprus, Bactria, Kashmir, Gandhàra, etc. The Mahàvaüsa
says that missionaries were sent to Kashmir, Gandhàra,
Bactria, the Himalayas, Sindh (Gujarat), and inscriptions on
relic caskets found in ståpas at Sanchi record the success of
those missions to the Himalayas. Unfortunately, the other
ståpa records have been vandalised, but we can be sure that
the missions to Kashmir and Gandhàra were successful
since even in the Buddha’s time Takkasãla was a renowned
centre of learning. The Mahàvaüsa also records that at the
consecration of the Great Ståpa in 157B.C. monks came
from Alasanda (Charika) in Yona (Bactria).

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