Research Paper: Enlightened Revolutionary Asoka

Pages: 7 (2283 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: History - Asian  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] After accepting the teachings of Buddha and following his enlightenment path, Asoka stopped thinking of himself as the most important person in the kingdom. Instead, he used to think of the marginal groups in his kingdom as the most indispensable (Thurman, 129).

King Asoka's Edicts

A large number of edicts of King Asoka came to light in Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Pakistan in the 19th century. The edicts are inscribed on rocks and pillars and reflect Asoka's reforms and policies he left for his subjects. These edicts provide an insight to Asoka's attempts of establishing an enlightened empire based on righteousness (Dhammika).

Asoka's edicts are based on five basic principles of enlightenment. They are transcendental individualism, nonviolence, educational evolutionism, social altruism, and universal democratism (Thurman, 117).

The majority of Asoka's edicts confirm that he was not a preacher of Buddhism as such. The definition of 'dhamma' he has given in his edicts contradicts with Buddha's philosophy. A-oka included non-violence, acceptance of all sects and opinions, obedience to one's parents, respect to Brahmins and other religious scholars, bounteousness towards friends, benevolence towards servants and munificence towards all as the basic principles of dhamma. His depiction of dhamma cannot be rejected by any religious or social group as it suggests a universal ethic of behavior. However, it has also been proved that the basis of his edicts and code of moral conduct introduced in them is identical with that of Buddha's teachings (Seneviratna). He has spoken of two types of moralities in his edicts; state morality and individual morality. Both these morality types are permeated with the values of kindness, self-control, forbearance and respect for all life found in Buddhism. Asoka was deeply influenced by the Buddhist texts of Digha Nikaya and Anguttara Nikaya. He based his edicts on the teachings contained in these two holy texts. Asoka himself described Dhamma as, "Dhamma is good, but what constitutes Dhamma? (It includes) little evil, much good, kindness, generosity, truthfulness and purity" (as qtd. In Dhimmika).

Conclusion

No other king of ancient India towers above King Asoka. He is the only king whose personality can be re-enacted with any assurance level. His successors are not recognized anywhere as they were not at all like him. His Enlightenment Revolution makes him stand out.

Asoka's sponsorship holds an extremely important significance in the history of Buddhism. He not only worked untiringly for the development and sustainability of Buddhism at a crucial point in his reign but also made sure that it spreads far beyond his own empire. Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka and Central Asia under his rule. Around the 12th century C.E., Buddhism reached Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and Vietnam mainly from Sri Lanka. Central Asia became a major Buddhism centre. It then spread along the Silk Road and into China and Korea. This all became possible just because of the efforts of Asoka (Swearer).

A magnificent civilization emerged from Asoka's time regardless of the violence and aggression practiced in Indian society after his demise. Asoka's Enlightenment Revolution not only influenced India but it also had a great impact on the other parts of Asia. Following his policy and politics of enlightenment, a number of Asian nations adopted his methods, executed them and practiced them in every way they could. The power of his enlightened principles is still as great as it was back in his time (Thurman, 133).

The credit of developing the first Buddhist polity must be given to King Asoka. The governments in the today's contemporary world are disillusioned with the current ideologies. Failed political philosophies based on communism, dictatorship and capitalism are practiced. The need of the time is to develop polities like those of Asoka's as they can prove to have an important effect on the development of more spiritually-based political systems (Dhammika).

References

"Asoka." The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 2009. Questia. Web. 10 Dec. 2011. .

Basham, A.L. "III History: Ancient and Medieval Empires." The Wonder That Was India: A Survey of the Culture of the Indian Sub-Continent before the Coming of the Muslims. New York: Grove Press, 1954. 44-78. Questia. Web. 10 Dec. 2011. < http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=6357199# >.

"Buddhism." The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 2009. Questia. Web. 10 Dec. 2011. < http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=117008599#>.

Dhammika, V.S. The Edicts of King Asoka. DharmaNet Edition 1994. Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1993. Print.

Seneviratna, A. King Asoka and Buddhism Historical & Literary Studies. 1st ed. Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1994. Print.

Swearer, Donald K. "The Worldliness of Buddhism." The Wilson Quarterly Spring 1997: 81+. Questia. Web. 10 Dec. 2011. < http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5000435025#>.

Thurman, R. Inner Revolution. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1998. 91-133. Print. [END OF PREVIEW]

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