If India remained Buddhist (the greatest ‘might have beens’ of history)
Posted on June 5th, 2013

SIR J. C. COYAJEE, B.A., LL.B. Department of History, Economics and Politics, Andhra University, India

In this account of the antecedents of the League of Nations it has not been found possible to take any account of the religious and philosophical influences which have always preached a world organization for peace and progress. Such a study would occupy a course of lectures by itself. On the West there was the teaching of Pierre Dubois, of Dante, of Erasmus and Kaait, of William Penn and Saint Pierre-* In the East a great effort had been made by Buddhism long ago to unite the world into a pacifist whole.

It is well known how the great Asoka pro- claimed all over his empire his inscriptions that ‘the chief conquest is the conquest of piety’. He also begged his descendants to rid themselves of the popular notion that conquest by arms is the duty of the kings; and even if they should find themselves engaged in warfare he reminds them they might still find pleasure in patience and gentleness, and should regard as the only true conquest that which is effected through the law of piety or Duty.

Less realised hitherto by the public has been the influence of Buddhism for peace when it left its native country and crossing the Himalayas established itself in Tibet and Mongolia.

Mongolia which had in former times sent forth one swarm of invaders after another, to plague the world from the Altais to the Atlantic Ocean, has been made into one of the most pacific countries in the world thanks to the pacifying-genius of Buddhism ; and if the Mongolians still retain some of the martial ardour of their ancestors it is expended in the harmless contests of the wrestling ring.

The aura of peace which radiates today from Geneva (1932) has flowed for centuries from centres like Lahasa and Nalanda; and as the missionaries of peace now go in crowds across the Alps to Geneva so they crowded once across the Himalayas.

It is a pleasure to find that at least one work on the League of Nations pays a tribute to Buddha as the greatest, ( *Ct Jones & Sherman, League of Nations, from Idea to Reality, pp. 4550), and, in some respects, the earliest forerunner of the cause of world peace; for it speaks of Buddhism as the greatest movement towards world-peace that the history of religion records.*

It is quite conceivable that the history of the world might have-been changed greatly for the better, and much of the present development might have been anticipated, had India chosen to remain as a country in the fold of the Buddha.

For then India could have been the nucleus and focus of a great religious and political system stretching not only over China, further India and Ceylon but over Central Asia and Ceylon. That would have formed a great system dominated by pacific ideals, and such ideas could have had a splendid chance of spreading over Western Asia and of permeating the entire world. We are face to face here with one of the greatest “might have beens” of history.

Nor when talking of religions would it be at all just not to mention that system of the founder of which the first dictum was “blessed are the peace-makers”. Nor should we forget the system of Zoroaster which boasted of being “the religion which makes men lay down their arms”.

Extracted from a paper entitled



Department of History, Economics and Politics, Andhra University, India

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