Emperor Ashoka

For those interested in more on this critical figure, Richard Gombrich and others recently discussed on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time, episode here.

The program includes a good bit of historical context, descriptions of the monuments, their inscriptions, their strategic placement and their importance as some of the earliest written records we have of Buddhist doctrine and its application.

Perhaps most relevant to the lectures is how a leader of such great importance and influence could be simply forgotten to Indian history. In Lecture 4 of course 6102 Mahayana, "Mahayana at an Early Stage," professor Peter Della Santina describes how until up until just about a hundred years ago, Asoka was regarded as Buddhist legend. Gombrich and others explain the historical (and still current) reasons why this would be the case, as Asoka (and the Dhamma) specifically went against core brhaminical rituals (including blood sacrifice) and social order (i.e. the caste system).

A worthwhile listen and an opportunity to hear directly from Gombrich himself on this subject.

Alejandro Cardeinte's picture

Any historical details how he became a faithful convert to Buddh

I could understand that the early part of Emperor Ashoka’s reign was that he was a warrior.I would like to know more about him. Any historical details how he became a faithful convert to Buddhism?

Wong Fook Ming's picture

King Ashoka Welfare

King Ahsoka established hospitals for the people as well as animal.
This is an interesting part taking into the account that animal welfare was even being taken care in his empire in his era. That was 300+ B.C.E.

How civilized the society is can be observed on how that society treats their animals.

King Asoka

King Asoka was the greatest king of the Mauryan Dynasty that was founded by his grandfather, Chandragupta Maurya according to the history text. According to one of the Buddhist books, King Asoka's reign was the "Golden Age of Buddhism" in India. At first King Asoka expanded his empire in India through warfare but after the Kalinga War where thousands of lives were lost, he repented and then became a very kind-hearted king when he was converted to Buddhism. He patronized Buddhism so Buddhism flourished during his time . Stupas, pillars, rock edicts, monasteries and the Sangha were given priority. Even his decree was Buddha's Teachings. He sent missionaries to near and faraway places to spread Buddhism. Some heretics took advantage of the patronage of King Asoka and pretended to be part of the Sangha Order. Due to this , the Third Buddhist Council was convened under the Chief Monk, Monggaliputta Tissa in Pataliputra to expel those who were not genuine bhikkhus of the Sangha Order.
So, we should be grateful for King Asoka's efforts in spreading Buddhism to Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Asia , Central Asia, South-East Asia, China and Japan. That's why Buddhism is still one of the main religions of the world today. Due to archaeological research on King Asoka's empire and works, we know that Buddhism originated in India and once flourished especially in North-Western, Western and Northern part of India.

The kindness King

You suggestion is very good. Now I am studying Indian Buddhism. This subject give me alot of knowledge about kind Asoka. He was very precious for sasana. Now i try to study the best in detail about king Asoka.

Sergio Leon Candia's picture

Gotta keep in mind that Asoka

Gotta keep in mind that Asoka arose while nikaya buddhism was already in existance. maybe consider which school he promoted the most? some say that he spread the dharma befre the schools but I think is unlikely.
his participation in the third council is also somewhat doubted

Earl Hardie Karges's picture

King Asoka

The idea that King Asoka helped spread Buddhism to Japan is probably a little far-fetched, considering that they were just learning how to grow rice at that time, and Buddhism would not really be established there for almost another thousand years. China, also, is a stretch, unless you count the Tarim Basin, which is hardly what you think of as 'China'. That Silk road connection would later be the actual path of transmission to China, though, and the Greek influence from Bactria would seem to help spur the later Mahayana emergence in Gandhara, more than any of the missions to Greece itself. And the idea that some Platonic or Aristotelian influence may have crept into Buddhism from there is intriguing. Alexander the Great certainly encountered Buddhism, as did many Indian-area Greeks after him. I wonder if they knew that their Greek forebears were related to the Buddhist Aryan forebears? I guess we'll never know.