The Ideal of Government and the Decay and
Growth of Civilization (from Digha Nikaya)
The following Discourse, again attributed to the Buddha, attempts ... to account for the origin of crime and evil, but it gives a different answer. According to a former passage crime began in the state of nature, and kingship was introduced to suppress it. Here government precedes crime. The golden age has its governments and indeed its conquests, but they are not conquests by the sword. It seems more than likely that this account of the Universal Emperor's peaceful victories over his neighbors is in some way linked with Ashoka's "Conquest by Righteousness," and we are inclined to believe that the present passage is post‐ Ashokan. Note that sin and crime, and the consequent lowering of the standards of civilization and of human conditions generally, are said to be due to the shortcomings of the ruler, and especially to his failure to continue the policy of his predecessors in caring for the poor. Hence crime appears, morality declines, and with it the standards of life deteriorate, until, after a brief period of complete anarchy, human love and fellowship again prevail, and gradually restore the golden age. Interesting is the reference to Metteya (Sanskrit, Maitreya), the future Buddha. This indicates that the Discourse is a comparatively late one. Our version is considerably abridged.
[From Digha Nikaya, 3.58 ff.]
In the past ... there was a king called Dalhanemi. He was a Universal Emperor ... a king of Righteousness, a conqueror of the four quarters, a
protector of his people, a possessor of the Seven Jewels—the Wheel, the Elephant, and Horse, the Gem, the Woman, the Householder, and the General. 1 He had over a thousand sons, all heroes brave of body, crushers of enemy armies. 2 He conquered the earth from ocean to ocean and ruled it not by the rod or by the sword, but by the Law of Righteousness.
Now after many thousands of years King Dalhanemi ordered one of his men thus: "When you see that the Divine Wheel has sunk or slipped from its place, come and tell me." ... And after many thousand years more the man saw that the Divine Wheel had sunk ... and went and told the King. So King Dalhanemi sent for his eldest son, and said: "Dear boy, the Divine Wheel has sunk, and I've been told that when the Wheel of a Universal Emperor sinks he has not long to live. I have had my fill of human pleasure—now the time has come for me to look for divine joys. Come, dear boy, you must take charge of the earth...." So King Dalhanemi duly established his eldest son on the throne, shaved his hair and beard, put on yellow robes, and left his home for the state of homelessness. And when the royal sage had left his home seven days the Divine Wheel completely vanished.
Then a certain man went to the King, the anointed warrior, and told him that it had vanished. He was beside himself with sorrow. So he went to the royal sage his father and told him about it. "Don't grieve that the Divine Wheel has disappeared," he said. "The Wheel isn't an heirloom, my dear boy! You must follow the noble way of the Universal Emperors. If you do this and keep the fast of the full____________________