The Righteous Reign How King Asoka Institutionalized — страница 2

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clearly and unambiguously.? Asoka now considered Buddhism stronger as a result of this conference. While legislation played a large role in his administration, Asoka also relied on persuasion to further the Buddhist cause. One of the main virtues found in his edicts was ahimsa, or ?non-injury.? This idea is a central concept of Buddhism and other Indian traditions. Although Asoka kept his army, he did so only to prevent invasion, never for the purpose of conquest. One way he used persuasion to influence the populace was to encourage respect for one?s parents and good behavior towards friends and relatives. Furthermore, good treatment of servants was encouraged and many game animals were protected. The virtues supported by Asoka included, ?Mercy, truthfulness, sexual purity,

gentleness, and contentment…? Realizing that the success of his policy rested with the people, Asoka greatly advanced what was then considered the Buddhist cult practice of relic worship through the construction of stupas. Richard Gombrich has argued that the principle point of this practice was to unite an empire which was fundamentally divided. The tactic seemed to have worked because now there was ?a favorable climate for the acceptance of Buddhist ideas…? This was probably the greatest contribution Asoka gave to Buddhism. In fact A.L. Basham has maintained that prior to Asoka?s rule, ?Buddhism was a relatively minor factor in the religious life of India.? Perhaps a quote conveying the wishes of Asoka best expresses his ideology, ?All men are my children. As for my own

children I desire that they may be provided with all the welfare and happiness of this world and of the next, so do I desire for all men as well.? King Asoka undertook an unprecedented attempt to institutionalize a religion. However some scholars have pointed out the Asoka?s edicts bare a strong resemblance to the teachings of Ven. Moggaliputta-tissa, a Buddhist teacher of the time. Whether King Asoka selected the edicts on his own or at the advice of his mentor, Ven. Moggaliputta-tissa, no one knows. Still it is possible to gain some insight into the Dhamma of which Asoka approved, whether or not it originated with him. One of the main points of Asoka?s edicts is that Dhamma is ?a quality of a person, rather than of doctrines or ideas.? The central passage in the edicts, (and

its only extended poem, ?The Sage,?) paints a picture of the Dhamma as personified in the deeds, words, and attitudes of the people who practices it. Only if the Dhamma finds concrete expression in people’s lives will it last and have value. It was for this reason that Asoka undertook the instruction of his populace in Buddhist traditions. II. Instruction in Dhamma for the Populace India in the third century BC was not a particularly humanitarian time. There was ritual animal sacrifice, a huge number of neglected orphans, the accepted reality of underprivileged women, and forgotten destitute elderly. In addition the courts regularly handed down biased sentences based on the judges own personal beliefs. Punishment for many crimes was severe, even to the point of torture and

death. Asoka set out to right what he perceived as injustices, and his primary means of doing so was to appoint several high ranking Dhamma Ministers. These ministers, (including his own son and daughter), were sent to various parts of his empire as well as to outlying countries to ?encourage virtue, look after old people and orphans, and ensure equal judicial standards throughout the empire.? By encouraging virtue, Asoka did not expressly promote Buddhism. Actually he was tolerant of all ?harmonious? religious practices and insured that all of his subjects could adhere to whatever creed they so chose. Asoka had such an interest in the instruction of his people that he ordered matters concerning public welfare to be reported to him at all times. His interest in the elderly and

orphans seems to come only from his wish that they suffer no discomfort. In some cases his protection even extended to condemned prisoners. ?[T]hey work among all religions for the establishment of Dhamma, for the promotion of Dhamma, and for the welfare and happiness of all who are devoted to Dhamma. They work among the poor, the aged and those devoted to Dhamma — for their welfare and happiness — so that they may be free from harassment. They (Dhamma Mahamatras) work for the proper treatment of prisoners, towards their unfettering, and if the Mahamatras think, ?This one has a family to support,? ?That one has been bewitched,? ?This one is old,? then they work for the release of such prisoners. They work here, in outlying towns, in the women’s quarters belonging to my