Is King Asoka A Bodhisattva

Reading Chapter 10 Theory & Practice of the Bodhisattva Ideal, Section 7 2nd Para Page 37 of 119 telling that Bodhisattva in the 2nd Ground can be reborn as king in our world system.

Now referring to History of Indian Buddhism Module Unit 11 & 12 The Arising of Mahayana (Chapter 7 The Buddhism of King Asoka), we could see that King Asoka exhibited bodhicitta during the later part of his rein.

Here we see quite similarity between the two. The Gautama went on a schedule trip to see the suffering while Asoka went to war to see the suffering.

King Asoka fulfilled the above equations, so can we said that King Asoka was a Bodhisattva?

kings as incarnations

Equating kings with (sort of) gods was quite common occurrence.

In China, Empress Wu Zetian (624-705 CE) lavished praise and favors upon the Buddhist community. Monk Bodhiruci had re-translated a work (Baoyujing, Precious Rain Sutra) as he added that the Empress was the incarnation of the Sun and Moon Light god who had taken flesh to rule China: (wo)men of destiny manufactured on demand as the gods give (expedient) statements of destiny.

The first Emperor of China (III century BCE) -another founder on a warring journey- bestowed upon himself the title of divine ancestor. In pre-Confucian China (divided in various States), rulers were typically seen as wielding power or authority various deities -in perfect Mesopotamian fashion- had entrusted upon them in a sort of cosmic filial relationship (=the Chinese Emperor as Son of Heaven; the Japanese Emperor as descendent of Sun goddess Amaterasu; the King of Nepal as incarnation of Vishnu; Hellenistic monarchs as “god made manifest”; Roman Emperors seen as incarnations of gods, typically Apollo ).


Gregory Hamilton Schmidt's picture


In reading Tsong-kha-pa's Great Treatise, paraphrased in the handouts for the course on Lamrim, we are presented with the fact that (at least for an ordinary worldling, a non-Arya), we are incapable of knowing who is or is not a bodhisattva and thus should assume that all are at least possibly bodhisattvas.

Lesson 3: "And if you remember that we, as ordinary beings, cannot recognize a bodhisattva among other people, we must beware of harming anybody as who knows, if he is a bodhisattva, the result
of our wrong action towards him or her will be devastating for us."

As a result, the negative actions of body, speech and mind we could perform toward any individual carry the added risk of being done (unknowingly) to one who is such an unknown bodhisattva.

Lesson 3: "For example, Śraddhā-balādhānāvatāra-mudrā-sūtra states that if someone were to despise any bodhisattva, it would be a sin immeasurably greater than that of someone stealing all the belongings of all the living beings in Jambudvīpa."

Furthermore, if we accept as true that bodhisattvas have the power to take rebirths as they see fit for the benefit of beings, in favorable or unfavorable conditions, it would follow that we should look as carefully at the least among as we do the greatest (Ashoka included).