Justice T.U.Mehta

Ajatasatru Vajjis

However, Bimbisara was imprisoned by his ambitious son Kunika Ajatasatru and is said to have committed suicide by taking poison. Ajatasatru ascended to the throne of Magadha and expanded his territory by conquests. He was a very staunch follower of Mahavira though even Buddhists claim his devotion to Buddha. Ajatasatru schemed a plan to break the unity and strength of Vajjis and became successful after the long efforts of sixteen years. Ajatasatru waged war with King Prasenajit of Kosala but was defeated. He quarreled with the strong confederacy of Vajjis led by Cetaka for reasons which are differently given by Buddhists and Jainas. However it was not easy to break the solidarity of the Licchavis and other members of confederacy. Ajatasatru, therefore resorted to dubious method of first sowing the seeds of discord among different classes of the confederacy through one of his ministers who settled amongst the Vajjis and became successful in destroying the social unity of the people. In this connection, the Buddhist scripture Mahaparinibbana-sutta records a very interesting dialogue between Lord Buddha and his principal pupil Ananda - a dialogue which is very instructive and relevant to the present conditions of our country. It is said that Ajatasatru wanted to know the opinion of Lord Buddha through his pupil Ananda as to the advisability of invading the Vajjis. The Master is said to have replied that it was not possible to vanquish the Vajjis so long as they stuck of the following seven principles viz. :

(1) They continued to hold public assemblies frequently.

(2) They continued to discuss their affairs freely and tried to arrive at unanimity in their resolutions and execution of their affairs.

(3) They continue to act in accordance with their time-tested ancient institutions and enact nothing which is not yet established.

(4) They continue to honour the advice of their elders.

(5) They honor their womanhood.

(6) They continue the traditional worship of their shrines.

(7) They protect and defend the respectful persons who came to reside with them.

Obviously, this was the prescription for unity because unity of a nation is its strength. Ajatashatru seems to have taken a clue from this and prepared for a preliminary grounding by a carefully planned espionage, which sowed seeds of disunity amongst the Vajjis, who were finally defeated and destroyed by Magadha. Lord Mahavira never approved of this aggressive attitude of Ajatasatru and remonstrated him by telling him that he earned his place in Hell by invading the Vajjis.