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Thread: Asoka Maurya

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2015

    Asoka Maurya

    In the annals of history there are few (if any) greater men than Asoka. After doing all the normal things men have done - conquering and warring, he decided it was best if he built something worthwhile. Yes, I know, I cannot prove he had not planned to do what he did even when he was doing all the conquering, he was already showing compassion for his enemy. I also know there are many people who history has lost any record of - by intent.

    Some of the things he did include bringing a non-theistic religion called Buddhism to his nation. Non-theistic religions are harder to use in motivating hatred against your fellow man. You cannot declare your god commands bad acts or immoral behaviour.

    He built infrastructure like no other region in his era. Indoor plumbing on a large scale, education and ethics to admire for a thousand years after the Dark Ages of medieval Europe. In other words we still can learn from him.

    "The system of government founded by Chandragupta lasted for about ninety years (322-231 BC). It was an absolute monarchy - a case of pure despotism - with the seat of government in Patiliputra (modern Patna), which, according to Megasthenes, was a city of dazzling magnificence. The Maurya Empire was roughly commensurate with that of British India of the early 20th century, but excluding the territory below Madras and excluding what is now Sri Lanka. The standing army was enormous: in Asoka's time, it consisted of 600,000 infantry, 130,000 cavalry, and 9,000 elephants attended by 36,000 men, together with many thousands of chariots and charioteers, all strictly controlled by six different boards of government. The size of this force must be remembered when considering the scale of the warfare of the day, and the casualties and losses that could result. With an army of this size at his disposal, Asoka's power was absolute.

    C. Emperor Asoka's conquest of the Kalingas and subsequent remorse

    With the capability for waging war that he inherited and augmented, Asoka defeated the three Kalinga kingdoms (mod ern Orissa) in about 256 BC - the sixteenth year of his reign and the eighth after his consecration. Historical evidence - consisting of little other than the surviving thirty-four edicts[2 ] - does not reveal why he went to war with the Kalingas. However, one of his edicts - the famous Thirteenth Edict or " Rock Edict " , also known as the " Conquest Edict " , of 257 BC -, declared that the victory was overwhelming and losses among the defeated peoples were particularly devastating: his army took 150,000 people captive and slew 100,000, and many times that number died in the conquest.[3 ]

    " . . . one hundred and fifty thousand persons were . . . carried away captive, one hundred thousand were . . . slain, and many times that number died . . . [I]f the hundredth part or the thousandth part were now to suffer the same fate, it would be a matter of regret. ..."

    From Edict XIII, circa 257 BC.

    Asoka was at pains to declaim in this edict that the casualties, privations and suffering of the defeated Kalingas caused him " profound sorrow " and " regret " , " because " , he said, " the conquest of a country previously unconquered involves the slaughter, death and carrying away captive of the people. That is a matter of profound sorrow and regret to His Sacred Majesty " .[4 ] No note of elation can be detected in the edict, and no attempt was made to vindicate his military action or the resulting carnage: the silent moral premise was that all destruction of life, human and animal, and all suffering and privation - no matter how small the scale - are regrettable and to be avoided.[5 ]

    There was, however, another reason for Asoka's feeling of " still more regret " , he said, " inasmuch as the Brahmins and ascetics, or men of other denominations, or householders who dwell there, and among whom th ese duties are practised, to wit:- harkening to superiors, harkening to father and mother, harkening to teachers and elders, and proper treatment of (or courtesy to) friends, acquaintances, comrades, relatives, slaves and servants, with steadfastness of devotion - to these befall violence (or injury) or slaughter or separation from their loved ones. Or violence happens to the friends, acquaintances, comrades, and relatives of those who are themselves well protected, while their affection (for those injured) continues undiminished. Thus for them also that is a mode of violence and the share of this [violence ] distributed among all men is a matter of regret to His Sacred Majesty, because it never is the case that faith in some one denomination or another does not exist " .[6 ]

    In this edict, Asoka discloses a truly remarkable degree of religious tolerance and of heightened sensitivity to the suffering - even indirect suffering - of all, especially of the righteous, regardless of their religion or denomination.[7 ] For a mighty Emperor who had only recently won a major victory in war, these are very noble and enlightened sentiments; although, realistically, such sentiments would be of little avail if he did not have absolute power over his peoples.

    D. Conversion to Buddhism and the inculcation of the Law of Piety

    From the time of his victory over the Kalingas in 256 BC, and the consequent remorse, until the end of his reign in 232 BC, Asoka never waged another war. Indeed, in the years following his victory, he spent time piously retracing the steps of the Buddha and raising stupas inscribed with moral injunctions and imperatives at holy places of pilgrimage; and for some two years he became a member of a Buddhist order without relinquishing his role as Emperor.

    His conversion to Buddhism, effected with the help of his own teacher, Uprag upta, was gradual. Even though he did little to change the system of government he inherited, he introduced a novel and powerful moral idealism - a moral rule or " way of life " in the Buddhist sense as he understood it - which he called the " Law of Piety " . This law, though following the tenets of the Buddha, was distinct from them and peculiar to Asoka. It was to become one of the great turning points of the civilization of the East, having profound effects throughout the neighbouring kingdoms, not least in India itself and in Sri Lanka, and reaching China and Greece.

    The Law of Piety consisted in moral imperatives requiring that reverence be paid to all to whom it was due, especially to one's superiors, parents, teachers, elders and relations. The imperatives of the Law of Piety required that respect be shown for the sanctity of all animate life, human and animal; they also required humane and just treatment of all, including backward and uncivilized peoples both inside and outside the empire. There were injunctions and prohibitions against vices such as envy, indolence and injustice in relation to and affecting the administration of the empire. In short, the imperatives and prohibitions of the Law of Piety formed a network of righteous relationships between all sentient and animate beings, affecting public, social and familial relationships, and affecting relationships between peoples of different levels of development and between humans and animals. No one was outside its ambit, not even Asoka or the Empress: censors were appointed to ensure that the Law of Piety was observed even in the latter's apartments in the Palace. The Law of Piety was a moral law, an imperial law, a law governing foreign relations and a way of life. At the epicentre of the network was Emperor Asoka himself, who assumed the burden of ensuring the publication and enforcement of this Law.[8 ]

    The Law of Piety disseminated by Asoka throughout his empire a nd beyond was not a reasoned moral system; it lacked coherence and the intellectual order normally expected of such a system. In this regard, Asoka cannot be compared with the philosophers of classical Greece. No developed dogma or cogent philosophy can be found in his edicts, neither can any theology, except the implicit acceptance of a world other than that of the material, as revealed in the statement, inter alia , that he regards as bearing much fruit only that which concerns the other world;[9 ] and the implicit acceptance of the Law of Piety as possessing transcendental validity, as revealed in his statement that, after he had annexed the kingdoms of the Kalingas, he began his " zealous protection of the Law of Piety, his love of that Law and his inculcation of that Law " .[10 ]

    Asoka drew a comparison between conquest by force of arms and the conquest of the Law of Piety: he called the latter - the conquest of man's heart by the Law of Piety - " the true conquest " , quite unlike military conquests. " Delight " , he said, " is won in the conquest of the Law . . . for this purpose has the scripture of the Law been recorded, in order that my sons and grandsons, who may be, may not think it their duty to make a new conquest. If, perchance, a conquest should please them they should take heed only of patience and gentleness, and regard as a conquest only that which is effected by the Law of Piety. That avails both for this world and the next... " .[11 ]"

    I see his ethic in the 20th Century communism voted in for Kerala, even if some of the administrators took more for themselves.
    Last edited by R_Baird; 02-07-2016 at 06:59 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    The Taliban who once were called 'student revolutionaries' when the US was funding them through General Zia and that horror show, tore down and destroyed the art and remains of Buddha statues and other things left by Asoka. The media did not take time to consider what a fine opportunity that was to promote ecumenicism and Brotherhood rather than the usual us versus THEM rhetoric.

    If you look real deep into esoterics and history you will find Asoka was more than a Buddhist - he had elements of Magian RIGHTEOUSNESS just like the older brother of Yeshua later had at Qumran where we now know books from all over were hidden to save them from EMPIRE. (Read or translate as what we now have)

    The author of the above article tells us Asoka (aka Ashoka) was applying his own brand of Buddhism or his own thought. I think he integrated various thoughts including Greek thought, and even Gnosis via Qumran. His times were very hectic with much social change, due to industrialization and new technology - like today. There were the Brahmins (elites like that word is still used to describe those in Canadian archaeology) who created a defined Caste system - which is very much a racist and horrid form of governance - and theocracy. Here is a little from Wikipedia to consider.

    His Dhammas or Dharmas have much to teach us and the very word is not fully agreed upon by intellectuals. We can forgive the military man writing the article for the Red Cross above, because anyone reading Dharmas will know they integrate all aspects of reality here and in the hereafter, and I left the quote at that point in his article for that reason.

    "The word Dhamma is the Prakrit form of the Sanskrit word Dharma.[4][5][6] There have been attempts to define and find equivalent English words for it, such as "piety", "moral life" and "righteousness" but scholars could not translate it into English because it was coined and used in a specific context. The word Dharma has multiple meanings in the literature and thought of ancient India. The best way to understand what Ashoka means by Dhamma is to read his edicts, which were written to explain the principles of Dhamma to the people of that time throughout the empire.[7][8][9]

    Dhamma was not a particular religious faith or practice, or an arbitrary formulated royal policy.[10] Dhamma related to generalized norms of social behavior and activities; Ashoka tried to synthesize various social norms which were current in his time. It cannot be understood by assuming it is one of the various religions that existed that time. To understand why and how Ashoka formulated Dhamma and its meaning, one must understand the characteristics of the time in which he lived and to refer to Buddhist, Brahmanical and other texts where norms of social behavior are explained.[11][12]

    Historical background

    Maurya Empire at the age of Ashoka. The empire stretched from Afghanistan to Bangladesh/Assam and from Central Asia (Afghanistan) to South India.
    Socio-economic conditions[edit]

    The Mauryan period saw a change in the economic structure of the society. The use of iron resulted in surplus production, and the economy changed from being a simple, rural economy to a pattern of economy in which urban centres became important. It has been generally argued[by whom?] that the use of the Northern Black Policed Ware pottery is an indicator of material prosperity in the period. The use of Punch-marked silver coins and some other varieties of coins, the conscious intervention of the State to safeguard trade routes and the rise of urban centers point to a structural change in the economy, requiring adjustments in the society. The commercial classes had come to the forefront of society. The emergence of urban culture demanded a flexible social organization. The incorporation of tribes and peoples from the outlying areas into the social fabric also presented a problem.[13][14]

    The response of the Brahmanical social order, which was based on the four-fold varna division, was to make the caste system more rigid and deny a higher status to the commercial class. The rigidity of the Brahmanical class system sharpened the divisions within the society. The lower orders turned to various heterodox sects and this created social tensions. It was this situation which emperor Ashoka inherited when he ascended the Mauryan throne.[14]"
    Last edited by R_Baird; 02-07-2016 at 10:09 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    In order for a Western mind to grasp how Asoka should be viewed when they see words like Monarchy is not easy to make clear or evident. One reason is there have been many Indian fakirs or despots just as is true in all other cultures. I would have a hard time naming a King during Christian (Romanized) time who I think deserves recognition by the concept or title of their dogma. I am referring to the Divine Right of Kings handed out by their Infallible Pope at the center of the universe. I cannot envisage such an idea as they have sold it - where "the Lord's only representative on Earth" is that elected and often corrupt person in Rome or even in Avignon.

    I also doubt his dynasty was replete with nothing but enlightened souls who were on the Path of Purification or following his Law of Piety to join Buddha in Nirvana, and not having to return to Earth for further enlightenment. I judge all said monarchs or Popes according to phrases like this "By their acts, ye shall know them." I do however see him DOing what is Right and I allow he did reach a great stage of Nirvana on Earth, while alive.

    This thread on Dharma and Karma might help a western person see the Theraveda Buddhist perspective which is akin to the Pythagorean Therapeutae who taught the Essenes at Qumran where the first leader of Christian thought was James the Righteous who I think scholars have established is the older brother of Yeshua. Both of them are entitled to the title Jesus (Iesa) as were others in their family including Solomon. I think most Roman Christians would agree if Jesus were here they would want him to be their earthly ruler or King. I do not think any Messiah (Christos or other spelling) ever truly existed and all people must strive on the Path of Perfection. It is of interest to note that the Cathars called their priests and Priestesses by words like Perfecti and Parfaits - and they included Buddhists, Sufis, Jews and Magians. That is why Rome burned them at the stakes in the Children's Crusade. After all, Rome wants sheep to shear and free education and free medicine (not sins and demons crap) was not to the liking of Rome.

    Karma is not Destiny in my opinion. Yes, there are forces and there are causal factors to affect what a soul must learn, but there are many ways to get there, from wherever you are. Do I believe in Divination? No I do not. Do I believe anything? Not much of anything would fall into the category of certainty for me, but I do believe or know many systems and forces which do influence the FUTURE POTENTIAL. There are alternate possibilities and free choice can overcome forces lining up to cause something different. I told my father this when I told him he would die when he was 65, and he replied something to the extent - 'If so, that is fine.' We buried him a day after his 65th birthday and he had just been given a clean bill of health to continue working past retirement. I am at that same point in life now. A few years ago I made some healthy choices that probably have extended my life a decade or so, but I don't fear death or meeting the future for my soul.
    Last edited by R_Baird; 02-08-2016 at 07:42 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Shortly before Asoka took power there was a member of his family who supported a very Nietzschean form of deterministic cosmos and atheistical uber-mensch. Here is an ancient Indian belief system that has a corollary in the uber-mensch of Nietzsche and gives a backdrop for why Asoka was a middle of the road individual developing a new way of seeing and doing what you say you believe. It is also instructive about the way religions and books get destroyed by those who are selling a different myth.

    "From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    On the left: Mahākāśyapa meets an Ājīvika and learns of the parinirvana[1]
    Ajivika (IAST: Ājīvika) is one of the nāstika or "heterodox" schools of Indian philosophy.[2] Founded in the 5th century BCE by Makkhali Gosala, it was a śramaṇa movement and a major rival of early Buddhism and Jainism.[3] Ājīvikas were organised renunciates who formed discrete communities.[4]

    Original scriptures of the Ājīvika school of philosophy once existed, but these are unavailable and probably lost. Their theories are extracted from mentions of Ajivikas in the secondary sources of ancient Indian literature.[5] Scholars question whether Ājīvika philosophy has been fairly and completely summarized in these secondary sources, written by competing and adversarial philosophies to Ajivikas.[6]

    The Ājīvika school is known for its Niyati doctrine of absolute determinism, the premise that there is no free will, that everything that has happened, is happening and will happen is entirely preordained and a function of cosmic principles.[5][7] Ājīvika considered the karma doctrine as a fallacy.[8] Ajivika metaphysics included a theory of atoms similar to the Vaisheshika school, where everything was composed of atoms, qualities emerged from aggregates of atoms, but the aggregation and nature of these atoms was predetermined by cosmic forces.[9] Ājīvikas were atheists[10] and rejected the authority of the Vedas, but they believed that in every living being is an ātman a central premise of Hinduism and Jainism.[11][12]

    Founded in what is now the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Ājīvika reached the height of its popularity during the rule of the Mauryan emperor Bindusara around the 4th century BCE. This school of philosophy thereafter declined, but survived for nearly 2,000 years through the 14th century CE in the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.[2][8][13] The Ājīvika philosophy, along with the Cārvāka philosophy, appealed most to the warrior, industrial and mercantile classes of ancient Indian society.[14]

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