King Milinda (Menandros)

Fa-Hian (399 AD), the well-known Chinese traveler to India, says: “In the gone by times, the king of Yuche attacked Purushpur (Peshawar) with a big army and wished to take away the Begging-Bowl of Buddha (kept in Purushpur). He conquered this province. Yuche and his army commander were followers of Buddhism and to take away the Begging-Bowl they performed great worship. After worship the Bowl was placed on a decorated elephant, but the elephant came to its knees and could not proceed further. Thereafter the Bowl was placed on a four-wheeled cart and eight elephants were yoked to the cart, but they also could not move the carriage. The king became dejected and ashamed (of his act) and resultantly he made a Stupa and Sangharamas there.”

  This dynasty was invaded and conquered by another warlike horde of Sakai who came from beyond Jaxartes. The tribes of these Sakai were called Asioi (derived from Sanskrit Asva, meaning horse), Pasianoi (derived from Sanskrit Prachi, meaning eastern), Tocharoi and Sakarauloi (sara-kaul-oi?). These Sakai in turn were subdued by fresh hordes of their own type and their king Kanishka extended his authority from Baktria to Kashmir and from Oxus River to Saurashtra. These people became so powerful in consequence of fertility of land and other advantages that they became masters, in addition to large part of India, of Ariana or Iran also.

  One of their famous kings was Milinda (Menandros) who crossed Sutlej River (Hypanis) to the east and reached Jamuna river (Isamos) to expand his kingdom. He reigned from about 140 to 110 BC. His coins have been found over a very wide extent of country, as far west as Kabul, as far east as Mathura and as far north as Kashmir. In the title of the lost forty-first book of Justin’s work, Menander and Apollodotos are mentioned as ‘Indian kings’.

  It is said that his coins were current even after his death as far as Baroach (Barygaza) on the coast of Gujrat. All these coins have a legend in Greek letters on one side and a corresponding legend in Ariano-Pali letters on the other side. These legends are:

BASILEOS SOTEROS MENANDROU

And

MAHARAJASA TRADATASA MENANDRASA.

One coin reads. a bit differently thus:

BASILEOS DIKAIOU MENANDROU

And

MAHARAJASA DHARMIKASA MENANDRASA.

(The righteous Maharaja Menandra)

  As a ruler he was noted for justice and enjoyed great popularity among his subjects. He died in a camp while on a military expedition. Upon his death diverse cities contended for the possession of his ashes. The dispute was resolved by the representatives of the cities by agreeing to divide the relics among them all. King Milinda was a great Buddhist King and before his conversion to Buddhism he had put serious philosophical questions to the famed Buddhist scholar and Yogi Nagasena for learning the Truth and resolution of his dilemmas. These questions bring out the inquisitiveness of human mind and their answers the glimpse of Spirit of real and secret India.

  Milinda, the King, came to the hermitage attended by the five hundred Baktrians and mounted on his royal chariot to converse with Nagasena. One can well imagine the surrounding atmosphere of superiority and ego of the king. The king wanted to know whether Nagasena was willing to discuss with him. “If your Majesty will discuss as a scholar, well, yes; but if you will discuss as a king, no” was the answer.”

  On being requested to differentiate the two, he answered: “When scholars talk a matter over one with another then is there a winding up, an unraveling; one or another is convicted of error, and he then acknowledges his mistake; distinctions and contra-distinctions are drawn; and yet thereby they are not angered. Thus, do scholars, 0 king, discuss.”

  It was the lesson of rising above ones ego, of being open and receptive, of humility, the first condition required for learning anything.

  Thus goes the dialogue between the king and Nagasena: “When you speak of Samsara (transmigration), Sir, what does that mean? Asked the king, “A being born here, 0 king, dies here. Having died here, it springs up elsewhere.

  “Having been there, there it dies. Having died there, it springs up elsewhere. That is what is meant by Samsara” answered Nagasena.”

  “Who after death was not reborn and the answer was:

  “Some are so born and some are not.” On being asked whether he himself would be reborn, Nagasena replied:

  “If when I die, I die with craving for existence in my heart, yes, I would be reborn; if not, then no.”

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