Key Points

While the early part of Ashoka’s regime was apparently quite bloodthirsty, he became a follower of the Buddha’s teachings ~ his occupation of Kalinga.According to a modern-day text, the Edicts of Ashoka, Ashoka convert to Buddhism because he “felt remorse ~ above account the the occupation of Kalinga because, during the subjugation of a previously unconquered country, slaughter, death, and also taking far captive that the civilization necessarily occur.”In one source, his conversion is presented together a gradual procedure coming indigenous intense personal anguish, quite than spurred by a specific event.As a buddhist emperor, Ashoka believed that Buddhism is useful for all human being beings, and animals and plants, for this reason he developed a variety of stupas. He also well spread Buddhism to neighboring kingdoms.

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Edicts the Ashoka

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


Cosmic law and order, actions that are considered to it is in in accord with the order that provides life and the cosmos possible, consisting of duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues, and also ‘‘right means of living.” also specifically signifies the teachings that the Buddha.

Background: occupation of Kalinga

While the early component of Ashoka’s regime was apparently fairly bloodthirsty, he ended up being a follower of the Buddha’s teachings after ~ his occupation of Kalinga ~ above the east coastline of India in the contemporary states the Odisha and North coastal Andhra Pradesh. Kalinga was a state that prided itself on the sovereignty and also democracy. Through its monarchical parliamentary democracy, the was fairly an exception in old Bharata wherein there existed the concept of Rajdharma. Rajdharma means the duty the the rulers, i beg your pardon was inherently entwined through the principle of bravery and also dharma. The Kalinga War taken place eight year after his coronation. Indigenous Ashoka’s 13th inscription, we concerned know the the fight was a substantial one and caused the deaths of much more than 100,000 soldiers and also many civilians who climbed up in defence; end 150,000 were deported. When he was walking through the grounds that Kalinga after ~ his conquest, rejoicing in his victory, he was relocated by the number of bodies strewn there and the wails the the bereaved.

Conversion to Buddhism

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

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

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

Legend states that one day after the battle was over, Ashoka ventured the end to roam the city and all he can see were burnt houses and scattered corpses. The lethal war through Kalinga changed the vengeful Emperor Ashoka right into a stable and also peaceful emperor, and he became a patron that Buddhism. Follow to the significant Indologist, A. L. Basham, Ashoka’s personal religion ended up being Buddhism, if no before, then definitely after the Kalinga War. However, follow to Basham, the Dharma officially propagated by Ashoka was no Buddhism in ~ all. Nevertheless, his patronage led to the expansion of Buddhism in the Mauryan empire and also other kingdoms throughout his rule, and global from about 250 BCE.

After the Kalinga War and Ashoka’s conversion, the realm experienced nearly fifty percent a century the peace and security. Mauryan India likewise enjoyed one era of society harmony, spiritual transformation, and expansion the the sciences and also of knowledge. Chandragupta Maurya’s embrace of Jainism increased social and religious renewal and reform throughout his society, while Ashoka’s embrace of Buddhism has been claimed to have been the foundation of the power of social and political peace and non-violence throughout all that India.

Buddhist Kingship

One of the much more enduring traditions of Ashoka Maurya was the model that he provided for the relationship between Buddhism and the state. Throughout Theravada Southeastern Asia, the model of rulership embodied by Ashoka changed the notion of divine kingship that had actually previously conquered (in the Angkor kingdom, because that instance). Under this design of “Buddhist kingship,” the king sought to legitimize his rule, not through descent from a magnificent source, yet by supporting and also earning the approval that the buddhist sangha. Complying with Ashoka’s example, kings created monasteries, sponsor the building of stupas, and supported the ordination that monks in their kingdom. Numerous rulers additionally took an active duty in resolving problems over the status and also regulation the the sangha, together Ashoka had by calling a conclave to resolve a variety of contentious worries during his reign. This advancement ultimately resulted in a close association in countless Southeast eastern countries in between the monarchy and the religious hierarchy, an association that can still it is in seen this day in the state-supported Buddhism the Thailand, and the traditional function 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 buddhist emperor, Ashoka thought that Buddhism is helpful for all person beings, and also animals and also plants, for this reason he built a variety of stupas, Sangharama, viharas, chaitya, and also residences for Buddhist monks everywhere South Asia and central Asia. According to the Ashokavadana, that ordered the construction of 84,000 stupas to house the Buddhas relics. In the Aryamanjusrimulakalpa, Ashoka take away offerings to every of this stupas, traveling in a chariot adorned with priceless metals. He provided donations to viharas and also mathas. He sent out his just daughter, Sanghamitra, and son, Mahindra, to spread out Buddhism in Sri Lanka (then known as Tamraparni).


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

Debate about Ashoka’s Conversion and also Rule

The use of Buddhist resources in reconstructing the life of Ashoka has had a solid influence on consciousness of Ashoka, and the interpretations the his Edicts. Building on traditional accounts, early scholars related to Ashoka together a primarily Buddhist monarch who underwent a conversion to Buddhism and was proactively engaged in sponsoring and supporting the buddhism monastic institution. Part scholars have tended to concern this assessment. The only resource of details not attributable come Buddhist sources are the Ashokan Edicts, and also these carry out not explicitly state the Ashoka to be a Buddhist. In his edicts, Ashoka expresses assistance for all the major religions of his time: Buddhism, Brahmanism, Jainism, and Ajivikaism. His edicts handle to the population at big (there space some addressed specifically to Buddhists, i beg your pardon is no the case for the various other religions) generally focus on ethical themes that members of every the religious beliefs would accept.

However, the edicts alone strongly show that he to be a Buddhist. In one edict the belittles rituals, and also he banned Vedic pet sacrifices; these strongly imply that that at the very least did not look come the Vedic heritage for guidance. Furthermore, numerous edicts space expressed to Buddhists alone; in one, Ashoka declares himself to it is in an “upasaka,” and also in another he demonstrates a close familiarity through Buddhist texts. He erected rock pillars in ~ Buddhist divine sites, however did not perform so because that the website of other religions. He additionally used words “dhamma” come refer to features of the heart that underlie moral action; this was an solely Buddhist use of the word. Finally, he supported ideals that correspond to the first three actions of the Buddha’s graduated discourse.

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Interestingly, the Ashokavadana, presents an alternate view the the acquainted Ashoka. In this source, his conversion has actually nothing to carry out with the Kalinga battle or his descent from the Maurya dynasty. Instead, Ashoka’s reason for adopting non-violence shows up much much more personal. The Ashokavadana reflects that the main source of Ashoka’s conversion, and the plot of welfare the followed, room rooted instead in intense personal anguish, indigenous a wellspring inside himself rather than spurred by a particular event. It thereby illuminates Ashoka as more humanly ambitious and passionate, through both greatness and also flaws. This Ashoka is an extremely different from the “shadowy do-gooder” of later Pali chronicles.