asoka the great

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Asoka the Great. Barbara Yen Buddhist Gem Fellowship 26 July 2011. Personal Profile. Full name: Asoka Bindusara Asoka means ‘without any sorrow’ Born: 304 BC Birthplace: Pataliputra, Patna Reign: 274–232 BC Coronation: 270 BC - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • Asoka the Great

    Barbara YenBuddhist Gem Fellowship26 July 2011

  • Personal ProfileFull name: Asoka Bindusara Asoka means without any sorrowBorn: 304 BCBirthplace: Pataliputra, PatnaReign: 274232 BCCoronation: 270 BCTitles: Samraat Chakravartin (Emperor of Emperors), Devanampriya (Beloved Of the Gods), Dhammashoka (Follower of Dharma), Piyadas (Regards everyone with affection)Wives: Rani Tishyaraksha, Rani Padmavati, Rani Kaurwaki, Consort: Maharani DeviChildren: Mahinda, Sanghamitra (twins born by 1st wife, Devi), Teevala, KunalaGrandfather: Chandragupta Maurya (famous ruler) Religious beliefs: Hindhuism, later embraced BuddhismPassed away: 232 BC, aged 72

  • A Mauryan ruler known as Asoka the Great as he is one of greatest & most exemplary rulers in India & world historyUnder him, whole of India was united with able administration Played critical role in helping make Buddhism a world religionAdvocated state & individual morality based on Buddhist values of compassion, truth, tolerance, moderation & respect for all life:State morality - what he based his administration upon, to lead to more just, humane & spiritually inclined societyIndividual morality - respect towards parents, elders, teachers, friends, servants, ascetics & brahmins (Sigalovada Sutta)

  • Expansion of Buddhism at time of king Asoka, according to his Edicts

  • In his youth, Asoka excelled in what he was taught - warfare or reading holy scripturesReputation as frightening & heartless warrior, fearsome hunterKnown as Chand Asoka meaning Asoka the fierce, ruthless & blood thirstyBecame king of Magadha around 268 B.C after fathers deathAble & courageous king but believed to have killed many of his half brothers in order to seize throneEmpire spread across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt 8 yrs later, conquored Kalinga (present day Orissa)Approx. 100,000 people killed & 150,000 deported. 10,000 from his army diedBattle ground like graveyard & waters of River Daya turned red with blood

  • Asoka emerged victorious but he was heart-broken with shame, guilt & disgustHis famous monologue: What have I done? If this is victory, what's defeat then? Is this victory or defeat? Is this justice or injustice? Is it gallantry or a rout? Is it valor to kill innocent children & women? Do I do it to widen my empire & for prosperity or to destroy other's kingdom & splendor? One has lost her husband, someone else a father, someone a child, someone an unborn infant.. What's this debris of the corpses? Are these marks of victory or defeat? Are these vultures, crows, eagles messengers of death or evil?Pledged never to wage war again

  • Conversion to BuddhismTo seek solace, Asoka converted to Buddhism & made pilgrimage to Buddhist holy sitesSword is not as powerful as love; hatred gives birth to hatred & love gives birth to love & mercySound of drum is replaced by sound of DhammaConquest by Dhamma considers to be best conquestHis troops became his police forceLaw of Dharma is excellent. What does it consist of? Many good deeds, compassion, generosity, truthfulness, purity of life.Mission to spread peace & prosperity in his kingdom & lead people to a higher level of livingCombined complexity of a king & simplicity of Buddhist monk

  • At Place where Asoka gave up war

  • Social DevelopmentAsokas belief - an able king should be responsibleProgress for people through Dhamma was achieved by 2 means - by Dhamma regulations & by persuasionCeremonies can be performed but they bear little or doubtful fruitWhat bears great fruit is ceremony of DhammaInvolves proper behavior towards servants & employees, respect for teachers, restraint towards living beings, generosity towards allFather, son, brother, master, friend, neighbor should say: "This ceremony is good, this should be performed, this I shall do.If they achieve their purpose, it is only in this world but ceremony of Dhamma is timelessOne gets great merit both here & in hereafter

  • 1st emperor in history to ban slavery, hunting or fishing for pleasure & deforestationProvided humanitarian help - doctors, & engineers to his neighboring countries for humans & animalsHe helped students, the poor, orphans & elderly with social, political & economic helpAllowed women to be educatedBuilt roads, hospitals, rest houses Constructed irrigation systems for trade & agricultureAlong roads I have dug wells, watering-places & planted fruit trees for benefit of humans & animals in this empire & neighboring countries (Edicts of Asoka, Rock Edict 2)Wherever medical herbs, roots or fruits suitable for humans or animals are not available, I have them imported & grown

  • Past kings used to go on pleasure tours, animal hunts & entertainmentBut our King made himself accessible to his subjectsWent on Dhamma & inspection tours to ensue reforms & projects were carried outExpected his district officers to follow his eg.Visited people in countryside, instruct & discuss Dhamma with them as is suitableOffered gifts to Brahmans & ascetics, gifts of gold to aged. It is this that delights himI have ordered my children & children of other queens to distribute gifts so that noble deeds of Dhamma & practice of Dhamma will be promotedIn my women's quarters, they organise charitable activities here & in provincesPatronised architects & artistsEncouraged savings & not to spend on immoral acts

  • Human RightsAgainst violence & discrimination to humans & all beingsTreated his subjects as equals regardless of religion, politics, gender & castePermitted women to enter religious order Reformed Judicial system - more fair, less harsh, less open to abuseShowed mercy to prisoners - those sentenced to death were given 3 day stay of execution to prepare appealsIn 26 yrs since my coronation, prisoners have been given amnesty on 25 occasionsPrisoners sentenced to death can give gifts in order to make merit for next world or observe fasts. It is my wish that in this way, even if prisoners time are limited, they can prepare for next world. Allowed them leave for the outside 1 day of yearRequested same merciful actions from neighboring countries

  • All should be well-learned in the good doctrines of other religions to promote tolerance, mutual respect, religious harmony & protection of all religionsTo harm another's religion is a harm to one's own religion.Gave donations to ascetics of Jainism, HinduismInvited Buddhists & non-Buddhists for religious conferencesBelieved that a king should treat his subjects same way a father does. "All humans are my children. As every father desires good & happiness of his children, I wish that all humans should be well & happy always.Believed that happiness of people was happiness of the rulerKingdoms surrounding his were turned to well-respected friends, in peaceful co-existence

  • Sent monastics to teach at various regions in India & beyond its bordersBuilt thousands of temples & stupas in India - Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, Sanchi Stupa, Sarnath, Sariputta Stupa & Barabar cave temples in Bihar; edicts in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, DhamekHelped to develop Nalanda & Taxila UniversitiesInspired Buddhist monastics to compose sacred religious texts & gave help for thisWhoever splits Sangha which is now united, is not to be admitted into it. Whoever, whether monk or nun, splits Sangha is to be made to wear white clothes & reside somewhere other than in monastery (Minor Pillar Edicts 2)Organised 3rd Buddhist Council (c. 250 BC) at Pataliputra (today's Patna) to resolve disputes among monks

  • Animal RightsRespect for all living creatures, refrain from killingNo living beings are to be slaughtered or offered in sacrifice (1st Rock Edict at Girnar)Reduced killing of hundreds of animals in his kitchen to only 3 a day & in time, not even these were killedAnimals giving milk to their young & young ones less than 6 mths old are protected Set list of protected animals, fish, birds, insects Prohibited cruelty to domestic & wild animals Built worlds 1st animal hospital (EdictEstablished wildlife reservesForests not to be burnt without reason One animal is not to be fed to another Instituted law against hunting & fishing for sport & limited them for consumption onlyAgainst rituals & banned Vedic animal sacrificesIntroduced vegetarianism on certain days

  • Good GovernanceAppointed Dhamma Mahamatras (religious officers) to establish & promote welfare & happiness of all devoted to DhammaWork among soldiers, chiefs, Brahmans, householders, women, the poor, aged, proper treatment of prisoners & those devoted to Dhamma, among peoples on western borders - so that they may be free from harassmentThey will go on tours of inspection each year to ascertain if judicial officers are acting according to king's instructions Whatever efforts I am making is to repay debt I owe to all beings to assure their happiness in this life & attain heaven in the nextCredited with 1st serious attempt to incorporate Buddhist values in Govt. & set new model of statesmanshipHe sought to legitimise his rule not through descent from heaven, but by supporting & earning approval of people & monastics (sangha)

  • Asoka Pillars & Rock EdictsErected pillars to mark main sites in life of BuddhaInscribed on rocks & pillars his policies & reforms based on Buddhas teachings in India, Nepal, Pakistan & Afghanistan Pillars made of sandstone, btw 40 & 50 ft. high & weigh 50 tons eachQuarried at Chunar, south of Varanasi, dragged, hundreds of miles, to where they were erected10 pillars, 10 major rock edicts, 19 minor rock edicts remained4 texts used - Kharoshti, Greek, Aramic & BrahmiInscription 1st deciphered in 1837 by James Prinsep in DelhiMost remarkable set of inscriptions in worldProvide knowledge about his life, administration, spread of Buddhism in India, Pakistan, Rome, Greece, Egypt & Mediterranean (Edict 13)Record his compassion & most remarkable - his remorse after the wars

  • Edicts described Asoka as "Beloved of GodsAsoka: This edict has been written that people might follow it & it might endure for long time. One who follows it properly will do something goodWritten so that it might endure long & it may please my successors to devote themselves to promoting Dhamma & not allow it to decline So that my sons & great-grandsons may not consider making new conquests, or that if military conquests are made, they be done with forbearance & light punishment, or better still, they only consider making conquest by DhammaThese Dhamma texts, reverend sirs, I desire that all monks & nuns may constantly listen to & remember. Likewise laymen & laywomen, I have this written that you may know my intentions (Minor Rock Edict 3)Edicts recorded donors from 4 fold sangha to building of temples & stupas

  • Asoka: Whether I am at dinner or in ladies apartments, in my private study, in royal mews, in my carriage or walking in palace gardens, wherever I may be, I have given orders that any matter of importance shall be reported to me without delay I am never completely satisfied with my efforts & way business is despatched. It is welfare of all people that I must work for & that means constant effortWhatever exertions I may make are all for one end - that I may discharge my debt to all living beings & that while I may succeed in making some people happy here, they may in next world attain to heaven. Assured his unconquored neighbours that they could live without fear of him. All men are my children. What I desire for my own children, I desire their welfare & happiness both in this & next world, that I desire for all men.

  • His inscriptions are so transparently honest - no boastings of his treasures, wealth, pomp or power, no vain, glorious inscriptions like other emperors Most famous pillar at Sarnath - marks site where Buddha preached 1st sermon to 5 monks4 lions placed back to back, keeping guard over Chakra (Wheel of Righteousness) of BuddhaLion symbolises Asoka's imperial rule, kingship of Buddha & signifies his enlightenmentOn 22 July 1947, Chakra adopted at centre of National flag of India, replacing spinning wheel of pre-independence versions of flagChakra also became National Emblem of IndiaFollowing Asoka's example, kings established monasteries, funded construction of stupas & supported ordination of monks in their kingdomKalinga war thus became one of decisive events in history of world (Vincent Smith in Oxford History of India)

  • Asokas pillar to mark site where Buddha was born

  • Asokas pillar at Bodhgaya, place of Buddhas Enlightenment

  • Pillar records Asoka building hospitals for humans & animals

  • These pillars have Edicts of King Asoka

  • Inscriptions on one of the Pillars

  • One of the Stupas

  • Stupa was built by Asoka around 3rd century BCE

  • Stupa & Asoka Pillar, Vaishali, Bihar

  • Stupa constructed by Asoka

  • Spread of Buddhism outside IndiaAsoka promoted this peaceful religion by sending many monks throughout India & countries eg. Sri Lanka, Burma south east Asian countries, Egypt & west Asian countriesHis son, Venerable Mahindra & daughter Venerable Sanghamitra (friend of Sangha) established Buddhism in Sri Lanka by converting King, Queen & their peopleFollowing Ashoka's example, kings established monasteries, funded construction of stupas & supported ordination of monks in their kingdom

  • Ven.Sanghamitta brought branch of Bodhi tree to Sri Lanka

  • Recognition for Asoka1992 - Asoka ranked No.53 on Michael H. Harts list of most influential figures in history2001 His life was produced by Bollywood titled Asoka. Film was directed by Santosh Sivan & stars Shahrukh Khan as Ashoka & Kareena Kapoor as Kaurwaki, a princess of Kalinga "Amidst tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd columns of history, their majesties & graciousness & serenities & royal highnesses & the like, name of Asoka shines & shines, almost alone - a star. (British historian H.G. Wells)According to many European & Asian historians, age of Asoka was age of light

  • ConclusionFirst known emperor in history who taught lesson of unity, peace, equality & loveReflects his deep spirituality kindness, self-reflection, truthfulness, gratitude, purity, enthusiasm, loyalty, self-control & love of Dhamma Asoka's subsequent aim was not to expand territories but welfare of his subjects & animalsNo evidence of mutiny or civil war during his reignToday, with widespread disillusionment, in search for political policy that goes beyond greed (capitalism), hatred & delusion (dictatorships), Asoka's edicts can make meaningful contribution to development of a more just & spiritual political system

  • Thank You