King Ashoka was a remarkable leader, by any standard. Converting to Buddhism early in his reign, he worked tirelessly to uplift and civilize his world through the influence of Dhamma —the teaching of the Buddha. He had numerous inscriptions carved on stones and pillars set up in all reaches of his empire, but within a few generations the script he used went out of usage and people no longer understood the markings. All these sayings, and many others, thus lay unread for centuries, until British archeologists in the 19th century put the puzzle together and managed to decipher both script and language which is close to Sanskrit and Pali. The high officers of this region, in charge of administration of the city, are to be addressed as follows at the command of King Ashoka:.
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King Ashoka was a remarkable leader, by any standard. Converting to Buddhism early in his reign, he worked tirelessly to uplift and civilize his world through the influence of Dhamma —the teaching of the Buddha. He had numerous inscriptions carved on stones and pillars set up in all reaches of his empire, but within a few generations the script he used went out of usage and people no longer understood the markings.
All these sayings, and many others, thus lay unread for centuries, until British archeologists in the 19th century put the puzzle together and managed to decipher both script and language which is close to Sanskrit and Pali. The high officers of this region, in charge of administration of the city, are to be addressed as follows at the command of King Ashoka:. Whatever vision I have, I want to see carried out in practice and fulfilled by proper means.
And I regard giving instruction to you as the principle means to this end. All people are as my children. Just as I desire that my own children may be provided with complete welfare and happiness both in this world and the next, so do I desire the same for all people.
Most of you do not understand how far this matter goes. Some do understand this, but only partially. See to it then, since you are well provided for.
If in the course of administration it happens that a person dies because of imprisonment or torture, many other people are also deeply injured by this. You must insist that a middle path be followed in matters of justice. The root of the matter, indeed, is patience and steadfastness. One who is lethargic in administration will not rise up; but you should rouse yourselves, get going, and move forward. Formerly in the kitchen of the king thousands of living creatures were slaughtered daily for use in curries.
But now, as this edict is being inscribed, only three living creatures are slaughtered: two peacocks and one deer, and the deer, moreover, not regularly. Soon, even these three living creatures will not be slaughtered….
Harmony Among Traditions. King Ashoka honors all traditions, and honors both ascetics and house-holders by giving gifts of various kinds.
But the King himself does not value gifts or homage as much as growth in the essential teachings of all the traditions. Such criticisms should be on specific grounds only. Rather, the traditions of others should be honored on this ground and that. Harmony alone is commendable. Toward this end, all should be willing to listen to the doctrines professed by others.
It is the wish of King Ashoka that in all traditions there be great learning and benevolent teachings.
And those who are content in their respective traditions should all be told that the King does not value gifts or homage as much as that all traditions flourish, and that there be growth in their essential teachings. This alone is my desire for those outside the kingdom: that they may understand my kind wishes towards them, that they may be free from fear of me and trust me, that they may receive from me only happiness and not sorrow. And I would further wish that they understand this: that the king will tolerate in them whatever can be tolerated; that they may be inspired by me to practice Dhamma ; and that they may thus gain happiness in both this world and the next.
People perform various ceremonies: In troubles, marriages of sons and daughters, birth of children, departures from home… Ceremonies should certainly be performed, but these bear little fruit. However, what is concerned with Dhamma produces great fruit: The proper treatment of servants and employees, reverence to teachers, restraint of violence towards living creatures and liberality to teachers and ascetics.
These and other such [virtues] are called Dhamma -blessings…. Ceremonies other than these are all of doubtful effect. They may achieve their purpose or they may not. And they only pertain to this world. But these ceremonies of Dhamma [described above] are timeless. For the past several hundred years the sacrificial slaughter of animals, cruelty towards living beings, and the improper treatment of relatives and teachers have all increased.
And to a degree unseen for several hundred years past, through the edicts of King Ashoka, the slaughter of animals has ceased, non-violence towards living beings is practiced, and relatives, teachers, parents and elders are all treated with proper respect. These and many other kinds of Dhamma practice have increased. And King Ashoka will further increase this practice of Dhamma , as will his sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, in every era. And not only will they practice Dhamma through virtuous conduct, but they will all also teach Dhamma , for teaching Dhamma is the most important work that can be done.
Right Livelihood. There is no satisfaction for me in exertion and the dispatch of business. But my highest duty is the promotion of the good of all, and the root of this is exertion and dispatch of business. There is no higher work than the promotion of the common welfare. Whatever exertion I am making, it is in order that I may discharge a debt to all living beings, and make them happy in this world, while they may attain heaven in the world beyond.
For this purpose this edict has been inscribed that it may last for ever, and that my sons, and grandsons, and great-grandsons may follow it for the good of all. But this can only be achieved by great and sustained effort.
Thus proclaims King Ashoka: There is no gift like the gift of Dhamma … which consists of:. Father, son, brother, master, friend, acquaintance, or neighbor —all should declare that it is good to do these things. By means of this gift of Dhamma one succeeds in this world, while immeasurable merit flows into the world beyond.
Everywhere within the dominion of King Ashoka, and also among the neighbors of his realm —in South India, Kerala and Sri Lanka, in the Greek kingdom of Antiochus, and even among his neighbors— the King has instituted two kinds of medical treatment: medical treatment for humans and medical treatment for animals.
Also roots and fruits and medicinal herbs, wholesome for humans and for animals, have been imported and planted wherever they did not exist.
And along the roads wells have been dug and trees have been planted for the benefit of both humans and animals. King Ashoka does not regard glory or fame as bringing much gain. Whatever glory or fame he desires, it would be only for this: That the people in the present time and in the future might practice in accordance with Dhamma , and conform to the observances of Dhamma.
For this purpose alone does the King wish for glory or fame. And what little he exerts himself, it is all for future generations, and in order that all beings may be free from the bondage of wrong-doing. Indeed, this is difficult to achieve by those of low rank or high rank, —except by strenuous effort and renunciation. But of these [two], it is more difficult for the person of high rank to achieve. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the work of BCBS.
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Edicts of Ashoka
The edicts describe in detail Ashoka's view about dhamma , an earnest attempt to solve some of the problems that a complex society faced. These inscriptions proclaim Ashoka's adherence to the Buddhist philosophy which, as in Hinduism , is called dharma , "Law". The inscriptions show his efforts to develop the Buddhist dharma throughout his kingdom. Although Buddhism as well as Gautama Buddha are mentioned, the edicts focus on social and moral precepts rather than specific religious practices or the philosophical dimension of Buddhism. These were located in public places and were meant for people to read. In these inscriptions, Ashoka refers to himself as "Beloved of the Gods" Devanampiya.
List of Edicts of Ashoka
The Edicts of Ashoka are in total 33 inscriptions written on the Pillars, boulders and cave walls of Mauryan Period, during the reign of the Emperor Ashok that are dispersed throughout the Indian Sub-continent covering India, Pakistan and Nepal. These edicts have mentioned that Buddhism as a religion had reached as far as Mediterranean under the Ashokan reign. Many Buddhist monuments had been created in the wide-spread area. In these edicts, Buddhism and the Buddha are also mentioned. While in the western parts of the empire, the script used is Kharoshti , written in Prakrit. To add to the variety, one extract in the Edict 13 is written in Greek and Aramaic. The world came to know of these details of Mauryan empire and Ashoka when the edicts and inscriptions were decoded by British Archaeologist James Princep.
Prohibits animal slaughter. Bans festive gatherings and killings of animals. He wished to discontinue this practice of killing two peacocks and one deer as well. Generosity to Brahmans.