Recently a controversy has arisen over the “Lion Capital”, the national emblem of India.
The reason for this controversy was the replica of the LionCapital to be installed on top of the newly constructed building of the Parliament of India.
Highlights of the Lion Capital statue to be installed on the roof of the new Parliament building
@ The Lion Capital statue to be installed on the roof of the newly built Parliament House is a replica of the original statue located in the museum of Sarnath, Varanasi.
@ The replica to be installed on the roof of the Parliament House is made of bronze and weighs 16,000 kg. The total height of this replica is 6.5 meters.
@ The replica was made by 100 artisans over a period 9 months. This statue is completely hand made, no machine has been used in its construction.
The controversy behind this statue-:
Major opposition parties mainly Congress and Communist Party are attacking the ruling party over this statue. These political parties say that in the construction of this statue, the four lions have been shown as aggressive, whereas in the Lion Capital statue at Sarnath, the four lions have been shown calm and majestic.
Some people say that these lions seem to be violent and man-eaters.
This dispute increased so much that some people went to the court, well the court rejected this petition, but many people are still angry about this incident.
At first glance, it seems that because of being associated with Buddhism, these four lions must have been depicted with a calm nature in the Original statue.
Are the four lions actually depicted as calm & majestic in the original statue located in the Sarnath Museum?
Close up of Lion Capital in Sarnath Museum. (Wikimedia commons )
In fact, even in the original Lion Capital, the four lions are depicted in an aggressive posture.
All four lion’s mouths are open, sharp teeth, their tongue flapping, protruding veins, heavy mane, their claws sticking out (It is worth noting that lion’s claws are retractable and they come out of their paws only when hunting.) It becomes clear at the very first sight itself that all the four lions are depicted in an aggressive posture.
Now an important question arises here.
There is a lot of emphasis on non-violence in Buddhism, then why are the lions depicted in an aggressive posture in the Lion Capital ?
Along with this it becomes necessary to find answers to some more questions.
@ What does the Lion Capital built by Emperor Ashoka on the top of the pillar symbolize?
@ What teachings of Buddha did Emperor Ashoka consider as the basis for the construction of the Ashoka Pillar?
To answer these questions, we must turn to Buddhist literature and Lion Capital. Fortunately, all of these sources are available in abundance.
IN THE WORDS OF THE BUDDHA HIMSELF
THE SUTRA OF THE LION’S ROAR
A teaching of the Buddha was named the Sutra of the Lion’s Roar by his disciple Ananda. Buddha had emphasized the need of Buddhist organization(known as SANGHA, a BUDDHIST COMMUNITY) under this and highlighted the importance of organization.
SANGHA : Monastic community of bhikkhu (monks )and bhikkuni (nuns) Buddha described Sangha as the community that supports one along the path.
Buddha explained this importance of Sangha by giving the example of rice that joint effort is better than single effort, just as a rice grain has the natural tendency to turn into a rice plant, but for this to happen some other Factors are also required such as: sunlight, soil, water, air etc.
Similarly, a person can also try to attain enlightenment all by himself, but with the help of other people, his/her path becomes easier, so association is necessary for attaining knowledge. According to Buddha, by concerted effort under the Sangha, the wall of ignorance crumbles in the same way as darkness with the advent of light.
After explaining the importance of the Sangha, Buddha described the Sangha as powerful as a lion roaming in the jungle.
According to Buddha, The lion is the king of the jungle, when he comes out of his cave, the message of his arrival spreads in all four directions.
When the lion roars before the hunt, fear prevails in all the animals and all the creatures start hiding.
Birds start flying high on hearing the lion’s roar, crocodiles start searching the depth of water, foxes hide in burrows, even the majestic elephants which are decorated with precious jewels, equipped with golden canopies start running away from the roar.
Sangha is the proclamation of the path of enlightenment like the roar of a lion in the jungle. Buddha says that Sangha is like the roar of a lion. All false ideas and misconceptions lurking in some corner are replaced with the ideas and concerted effort of the Sangh.
The teachings of the Buddha, known as the Sutra of the Lion Roaring, make it clear that the lion that the Buddha portrayed the Sangha as, was a majestic and aggressive one.
Now another question arises as to why did Emperor Ashoka get Buddha’s sermons depicting Sangha like a lion installed on the top of the pillars in the form of idols at Sarnath and some other places?
Not only did Buddha give the first sermon in Varanasi Sarnath, but he also gave the concept of the Buddhist Sangha here and established the Sangha. Later, a huge Buddhist monastery was also established here.
The great Chinese traveler Hieun Tsang, during his visit to India, mentioned the residence of 1500 monks and nuns in this huge Buddhist monastery.
In 1905, during the excavation of Sarnath, the ruins of the Ashoka Pillar were found. A picture from that period shows the Lion Capital, and the section of the pillar bearing Emperor Ashoka’s edict. Presently the top of the pillar is located in the Sarnath Museum and the fragments of the pillar are located in a glass show case among the Sarnath Ruins.
Ashoka Pillar Fragments and the warning of Emperor Ashoka can be seen in Sarnath.
English translation of Emperor Ashoka’s warning It is mentioned by Mr. F.O Oertal. The credit for the archaeological excavations of Sarnath in 1905 and the discovery of the Ashoka pillar goes to Mr. F.O Oertal.
Thus saith the beloved of the Gods announced in the Order of Monks and in the Order of Nuns. The Church (Baudh- Math)is not to be divided But whosoever, monk or nun, shall break up the Church, shall be made to dwell white garments and dwell in a place which is not a residence for the clergy. Thus must this edict be announced in the Order of Monks and in the Order of Nuns…………………Key points of Emperor Ashoka’s warning
Emperor Ashoka was very upset and worried about the rising trend of rebellion in the Sangha. In order to convey his point clearly to the Buddhist monks and nuns, the emperor got his warning inscribed on a pillar.
The top of the pillar reflects Gautam Buddha’s description of the Sangha as a lion and reflects the majestic qualities of the lion, certainly for this reason, Emperor Ashoka built the Lion Capital on the top of the pillar.
Observing the teachings of Buddha himself in the Buddhist literature and the warning of Emperor Ashoka, which is still inscribed on the Ashoka Pillar and the top of the pillar kept in the museum of Sarnath, there is no doubt that the Lion Capital’s lions are majestic. Depicted in an aggressive and virtuous posture.
If you want to find out the significance of the Ashoka pillar, the carved figure of other animals on the lion capital, the wheel with 32 spokes, the wheel with 24 spokes and the base like a lotus flower? You can check out this blog post that I wrote earlier—– https://nithinks.com/2022/11/23/ashokan-pillar-its-history-and-importance/
Source :- OLD PATH WHITE CLOUDS (THICH NHAT HANH)
THE ROMANTIC LEGEND OF SHAKYA BUDDHA (FO SO HING TSAN )