The Righteous Reign How King Asoka Institutionalized

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The Righteous Reign: How King Asoka Institutionalized Buddhism Essay, Research Paper Colin Wood 630-26-9442 The Righteous Reign: How King Asoka Institutionalized Buddhism Buddhism and Jainism in Ancient and Medieval India Fall 2000 Proferes ?Dhamma sadhu, kiyam cu dhamme ti? Apasinave, bahu kayane, daya, dane, sace, socaye. — Dhamma is good, but what constitutes Dhamma? (It includes) little evil, much good, kindness, generosity, truthfulness and purity.? In the third century BC there lived a king described by the historian H.G. Wells as a ruler who stood out ?amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history… and shines almost alone, a star.? Wells was referring to the legendary Buddhist king, Asoka. The exact dates of Asoka?s birth and

death are still debated by scholars even today. However it is generally excepted that he was born sometime late in the fourth century BC or early third century BC. Although Buddhist literature preserved the legend of Asoka, for many years there was not any definitive historical record of his reign. It was in the 19th century that these records were provided. Many edicts were found in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. These edicts were inscribed on rocks and pillars and exhibited Asoka?s reforms and policies. During his reign (c. 265-238 BC; also given as c. 273-232 BC) Asoka practiced his policy of ?conquest by Dhamma (principles of right life).? The policy was three pronged; administration based on Dhamma, instruction in Dhamma for the populace, and personal practice of

Dhamma by the ruler. The results of this practice were instantly visible among Buddhist circles across India as well as in neighboring countries. The durability and significance of these edicts are a testament to the legacy of King Asoka and are still visible in everyday Buddhist life. I. Administration based on Dhamma Perhaps the most striking example of Asoka?s policy of administering his domain based on the Dhamma is his adoption of Buddhist philosophy after his bloody conquest of Kalinga. Centered in east-central India, Kalinga had recently succeeded from the Magadhan dynasty in about 321 BC. Shortly thereafter Kings Asoka, in only his eighth year of reign, reconquered the area in a battle described as one of the most brutal clashes in Indian history. Supposedly the hardships

suffered by the defeated people moved Asoka to give up violent conquest. It was also about this time that Asoka spiritually embraced Buddhism. The time was 261 BC Although Asoka had encountered Buddhism and ?formally? converted the year earlier, it was in 260 BC that he truly adhered to Buddhism?s teachings. The first evidence of this true conversion is found in and edict released after the war. In it, ?he evinced great remorse at the carnage he had caused, and expressed the desire to govern, please and protect his subjects according to Dhamma.? Asoka?s administration took several steps to implement this edict. Governing according to Dhamma required Asoka to improve the quality of his subject?s lives. He created public wells and rest houses, supported medical aid for both people

and animals, and set up provisions for the same benefits outside his realm. Asoka was ever vigilant over his administration. While he worked to strengthen and unify Buddhism, the occasional schism was unavoidable. In Asoka?s seventeenth year of rule, differences of opinion arose among some Buddhism monks. ?There were many lazy and bad monks given to evil ways. These willful sanyasins were a curse to Buddhism.? Asoka was upset by this trend. In order to save Buddhism from what he considered a ?total eclipse,? Asoka dismissed many monks. He then invited the ?serious-minded? monks to Ashokarama in Pataliputra for a conference. Asoka met with each of the current great teachers of Buddhism and asked them ?What did Lord Buddha teach?? After long discussion, their ideals ?came out