The website http://www.answers.com/topic/asokaa, as well as http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9009884/Asoka will be important sources of background information as my students begin their understandings of Ashoka. It will help in developing the vocabulary necessary for this understanding as well as give them the information needed for their traveler boards. It is during this study that my students will (1) pay a visit to the Yale Art gallery and see the stone Buddhas in the Asian section , (2)use Romila Thapar's "Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas," as a source for insight into the influence of Buddhism during this time period, and (3) see writing as a central topic in history. The central understandings are as follows.
Ashoka, meaning "without sorrow" in Sanskrit, was born in 304 B.C. and ruled the Maurya Empire from 268B.C. to 232B.C. At its height, the Maurya Empire covered most of India, South Asia, and beyond. The son of Emperor Bindusara and his mother, Dharma, a lowly consort in a harem, Ashoka became a shrewd statesman and fierce warrior. As the Buddhist lore goes, Prince Ashoka attacked Pataliputra, killed his brothers and became known as a heartless murderer. His early reign included many bloodthirsty conquests adding to his empire and his wealth. His last conquest was at Kalinga on the east coast of India. It was thought that one of his brothers might have escaped to Kalinga to seek refuge which enraged Ashoka. He asked the royalty to submit to his supremacy but when they refused, Ashoka launched one of the greatest attacks in Indian history until then. It was said that over 100,000 people were slaughtered and 150,000 people were deported during this campaign. He was so disgusted by the cruelty and horror of war, by the burnt houses and corpses, by the brutality of what he saw, that he denounced all war and made a decision that would affect all of world history. He would have no more of it.
Instead, he adopted the peaceful doctrines of Buddhism, declared that henceforth his conquests should be the conquests of religion, and he made Buddhism the official state religion.He would lead by example. His reign of twenty eight years was one of the brightest interludes in the troubled history of mankind. He organized a great digging of wells in India and the planting of trees for shade. He abolished the slaughtering of animals. He founded hospitals and public gardens and gardens for the growing of medicinal herbs. He created a ministry for the care of his subjects. He made provision for the education of women. He made vast benefactions to the Buddhist teaching orders, and tried to stimulate them to a better and more energetic criticism of their own accumulated literature. He renovated major roads throughout India. Missionaries went from Asoka to Kashmir, to Persia, to Ceylon and Alexandria.He established "ceremonial states" where he sponsored religious observances and contributed to the construction of religious edifices in hopes that the residents would recognize his generosity and honor him as their ruler.
The concept of
the teachings of the Buddha
or, in broader terms
laws of correct conduct
appear consistently on the Major Rock Edicts, the Minor Rock Inscriptions, and the Pillar Edicts ordered placed throughout his empire. They can be summed up in the Four Noble Truths.
The Four Noble Truths in Buddhism
1. SUFFERING is universal (to be born is to suffer) 2. The CAUSE of suffering is desire (desire propels the cycle of Samsara) 3. Suffering CAN be eliminated (through man's own untiring efforts) 4. There is a PATH to the cessation of suffering. (the practice of Dhamma)
Ashoka was far in advance of his age. He believed in abstinence from killing and non-injury of living beings, deference to relatives, Brahmans and sramanas, obedience to mother and father, and obedience to elders
He left no prince and no organization of men to carry on his work, though, and within a century of his death in 232 B.C. the great days of his reign had become a glorious memory.
1 How did Buddhism come to the Mauryan Empire?
2 What effect did it have on the people?