Key Points

While the early part of Ashoka’s reign was apparently rather bloodthirsty, he ended up being a follower of the Buddha’s teachings after ~ his occupation of Kalinga.According come a modern text, the Edicts the Ashoka, Ashoka convert to Buddhism due to the fact that he “felt remorse on account the the conquest of Kalinga because, throughout the subjugation of a formerly unconquered country, slaughter, death, and taking away captive that the people necessarily occur.”In one source, his counter is presented together a gradual procedure coming native intense an individual anguish, fairly than spurred by a details event.As a buddhist emperor, Ashoka thought that Buddhism is beneficial for all human being beings, and also animals and also plants, therefore he developed a variety of stupas. He likewise well spread Buddhism to surrounding kingdoms.

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Edicts that Ashoka

A collection of 33 engravings on the Pillars of Ashoka, as well as boulders and cave walls, made by the Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire during his reign, from 269 BCE to 232 BCE.


Cosmic law and also order, habits that are taken into consideration to it is in in accord with the stimulate that provides life and also the universe possible, including duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues, and also ‘‘right way of living.” additionally specifically signifies the teachings of the Buddha.

Background: occupation of Kalinga

While the early component of Ashoka’s power was apparently quite bloodthirsty, he ended up being a follower of the Buddha’s teachings after ~ his conquest of Kalinga on the east coast of India in the contemporary states of Odisha and North coastal Andhra Pradesh. Kalinga to be a state the prided itself on that sovereignty and also democracy. V its autarchic parliamentary democracy, that was rather an exception in ancient Bharata where there exist the concept of Rajdharma. Rajdharma way the duty of the rulers, i beg your pardon was intrinsically entwined v the principle of bravery and also dharma. The Kalinga War occurred eight year after his coronation. Native Ashoka’s 13th inscription, we involved know that the battle was a huge one and also caused the deaths of much more than 100,000 soldiers and many civilians who increased up in defence; over 150,000 to be deported. When he to be walking with the grounds of Kalinga ~ his conquest, rejoicing in his victory, he was moved by the number of bodies strewn there and the wails that the bereaved.

Conversion to Buddhism

Edict 13 top top the Edicts the Ashoka Rock inscriptions reflect the an excellent remorse the king felt after observing the destruction of Kalinga:

His Majesty felt remorse top top account of the occupation of Kalinga because, during the subjugation that a formerly unconquered country, slaughter, death, and also taking away captive of the human being necessarily occur, vice versa, His Majesty feels profound sorrow and also regret.

The edict go on to address the also greater level of sorrow and regret result from Ashoka’s understanding that the friends and also families the deceased would suffer considerably too.

Legend claims that sooner or later after the battle was over, Ashoka ventured out to roam the city and also all he might see were charred houses and also scattered corpses. The lethal war through Kalinga changed the vengeful Emperor Ashoka into a stable and also peaceful emperor, and he ended up being a patron that Buddhism. According to the significant Indologist, A. L. Basham, Ashoka’s personal religion became Buddhism, if not before, then certainly after the Kalinga War. However, follow to Basham, the Dharma officially propagated by Ashoka was no Buddhism at all. Nevertheless, his patronage brought about the development of Buddhism in the Mauryan empire and other kingdoms during his rule, and worldwide from about 250 BCE.

After the Kalinga War and also Ashoka’s conversion, the empire experienced nearly half a century the peace and security. Mauryan India also enjoyed an era of society harmony, spiritual transformation, and also expansion the the sciences and also of knowledge. Chandragupta Maurya’s embrace of Jainism raised social and spiritual renewal and reform throughout his society, if Ashoka’s embrace of Buddhism has been said to have actually been the foundation of the reign of social and also political peace and also non-violence throughout all of India.

Buddhist Kingship

One of the more enduring traditions of Ashoka Maurya to be the design that he listed for the relationship in between Buddhism and the state. Throughout Theravada Southeastern Asia, the design of rulership embodied by Ashoka replaced the concept of divine kingship that had actually previously conquered (in the Angkor kingdom, because that instance). Under this version of “Buddhist kingship,” the king sought to legitimize his rule, not with descent native a divine source, but by supporting and earning the approval that the buddhist sangha. Following Ashoka’s example, kings developed monasteries, sponsor the building and construction of stupas, and supported the ordination of monks in their kingdom. Plenty of rulers likewise took an active function in resolving disputes over the status and also regulation of the sangha, as Ashoka had actually by phone call a conclave to clear up a variety of contentious worries during his reign. This development ultimately brought about a close association in countless Southeast asian countries in between the monarchy and also the religious hierarchy, an combination that can still be seen now in the state-supported Buddhism the Thailand, and also the traditional duty of the Thai king together both a spiritual and secular leader. Ashoka likewise said the his courtiers always governed the world in a moral manner.

As a buddhism emperor, Ashoka believed that Buddhism is useful for all human beings, as well as animals and also plants, so he built a number of stupas, Sangharama, viharas, chaitya, and residences for Buddhist monks almost everywhere South Asia and central Asia. Follow to the Ashokavadana, that ordered the building and construction of 84,000 stupas to house the Buddhas relics. In the Aryamanjusrimulakalpa, Ashoka take away offerings to every of these stupas, travel in a chariot adorned with priceless metals. He offered donations to viharas and also mathas. He sent out his just daughter, Sanghamitra, and son, Mahindra, to spread Buddhism in Sri Lanka (then known as Tamraparni).


Stupa. Great Stupa (3rd century BC), Sanchi, India. Ashoka notified the building and construction of 84,000 stupas to home the Buddhas relics.

Debate around Ashoka’s Conversion and Rule

The usage of Buddhist sources in reconstructing the life the Ashoka has had a strong influence on consciousness of Ashoka, as well as the interpretations of his Edicts. Building on timeless accounts, early scholars concerned Ashoka as a primarily Buddhist monarch who underwent a conversion come Buddhism and also was proactively engaged in sponsoring and supporting the buddhist monastic institution. Part scholars have actually tended to concern this assessment. The only source of info not attributable to Buddhist sources are the Ashokan Edicts, and these perform not explicitly state that Ashoka to be a Buddhist. In his edicts, Ashoka expresses support for every the significant religions the his time: Buddhism, Brahmanism, Jainism, and Ajivikaism. His edicts handle to the populace at huge (there room some addressed particularly to Buddhists, i m sorry is no the case for the other religions) generally emphasis on moral themes the members of all the religions would accept.

However, the edicts alone strongly show that he to be a Buddhist. In one edict that belittles rituals, and also he banned Vedic pet sacrifices; these strongly suggest that that at least did not look come the Vedic legacy for guidance. Furthermore, many edicts room expressed come Buddhists alone; in one, Ashoka declares himself to be an “upasaka,” and in one more he displayed a nearby familiarity through Buddhist texts. He set up rock pillars in ~ Buddhist holy sites, but did not execute so because that the website of various other religions. He likewise used the word “dhamma” to refer to features of the heart the underlie ethical action; this was an exclusively Buddhist usage of the word. Finally, he advocated ideals that correspond come the very first three steps of the Buddha’s i graduated discourse.

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Interestingly, the Ashokavadana, gift an alternate view that the acquainted Ashoka. In this source, his conversion has nothing to perform with the Kalinga battle or his descent from the Maurya dynasty. Instead, Ashoka’s factor for adopting non-violence appears much much more personal. The Ashokavadana mirrors that the main resource of Ashoka’s conversion, and the plot of welfare the followed, are rooted instead in intense personal anguish, indigenous a wellspring inside himself rather than spurred through a specific event. It in order to illuminates Ashoka as an ext humanly ambitious and also passionate, v both greatness and also flaws. This Ashoka is an extremely different from the “shadowy do-gooder” of later on Pali chronicles.