Question about Ashoka
#1
I read this in an article on The Modern Rationalist site about Dr.N.Surbramanian and came across this..

Quote:According to him (Dr.Subramanian), Indian history has no value for dharma, “History has it that Ashoka was overcome by guilt after the Kalinga war, that is why he embraced Buddhism. My question is then why didn’t he return Kalinga to the real rulers? Why did he keep it as a part of his kingdom till the very end?” he asks.

I must admit I have never heard of Dr.N.Subramanian before and only chanced upon this article. The question is nevertheless profound. Any takers?
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#2
I have one more question on Ashoka. Some time back, I watched a program on Discovery channel(Or was that History Channel?) on Ashoka. Unfortunately, I was bit absentminded while listening to the program. The narrator mentioned the story of Ashoka could be still heard from the local bards in East India. The story in fact calls him 'Chanda Ashoka' for the way he ill treated his wives. But unfortunately, I couldn't concentrate on the complete narration and missed the part whether Ashoka's change of heart was also part of the folklore or it was just a Buddhist tale. Any inputs?
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#3
Quote:According to him (Dr.Subramanian), Indian history has no value for dharma, “History has it that Ashoka was overcome by guilt after the Kalinga war, that is why he embraced Buddhism. My question is then why didn’t he return Kalinga to the real rulers? Why did he keep it as a part of his kingdom till the very end?” he asks.

We cannot interpret "overcome with guilt" by 21st century standards. For Ashoka, the emperor who before the war was, according to Dr. Kamath "both Dhananjaya (Conqueror of Wealth) and Paranthapa (Scorcher of Foes)", "overcome with guilt" probably is not in the same territory as reparations for the Kalinga war. Besides, he ruled almost all of India by this time. Why would he give back a small portion of the most independent region of his empire to a group of people who have been a pain in his side for years and were probably more pissed off now than ever? Finally, Buddhism is not really the completely peaceful religion we think it is today in popular culture.

Our mythologizing of history often leads to building these people into legends. No person, let alone an emperor, can go from being completely evil to a humanitarian saint overnight. He was probably already a a bit of a humanitarian (probably had noble goals of providing for and keeping safe his minions) who had a quest for power. After he converted, his humanitarian side probably came out a bit more, and the conquerer in him was probably tempered a bit.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#4
(25-May-2010, 12:31 PM)manju Wrote: I couldn't concentrate on the complete narration and missed the part whether Ashoka's change of heart was also part of the folklore or it was just a Buddhist tale. Any inputs?

I haven't had the time yet to go through these attachments, but you can take a look at them. They are from this site.

Quote:The Edicts of Ashoka are a collection of 33 inscriptions on the pillars of Ashoka as well as boulders and cave walls, made by the king Ashoka of the Mauryan dynasty during his reign.

These inscriptions are dispersed throughout the areas of modern-day Pakistan and India and represent the first tangible evidence of Buddhism. The edicts describe in detail the first wide expansion of Buddhism through the sponsorship of one of the most powerful kings of Indian history.

The inscriptions revolve around a few repetitive themes: Ashoka's conversion to Buddhism, the description of his efforts to spread Buddhism, his moral and religious precepts, and his social and animal welfare programme.

Quote:"Ten years (of reign) having been completed, King Piodasses (one of the titles of Ashoka: Piyadassi or Priyadarsi, "He who is the beloved of the Gods and who regards everyone amiably") made known (the doctrine of) Piety to men; and from this moment he has made men more pious, and everything thrives throughout the whole world. And the king abstains from (killing) living beings, and other men and those who (are) huntsmen and fishermen of the king have desisted from hunting. And if some (were) intemperate, they have ceased from their intemperance as was in their power; and obedient to their father and mother and to the elders, in opposition to the past also in the future, by so acting on every occasion, they will live better and more happily." Translated by: G.P. Carratelli

Please find attached the comprehensive translation of Edicts of Ashoka on 14 major Rocks and 7 Pillars. The Translation of Edicts of Ashoka (The Major Rock Edicts & The Pillar Edicts) is the courtesy of Katinka Hasse homepage.

I am fairly certain there is a concerted effort by Hindu revisionists to portray Ashoka as Hindu and the whole conversion story as Buddhist myth.


Attached Files
.pdf   Translation of Edicts of Ashoka - The Pillars Edicts.pdf (Size: 52.81 KB / Downloads: 6)
.pdf   Translation of Edicts of Ashoka - The Rocks Edicts.pdf (Size: 65.62 KB / Downloads: 4)
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#5
Thank you for the links, Ajita.
Quote:I am fairly certain there is a concerted effort by Hindu revisionists to portray Ashoka as Hindu and the whole conversion story as Buddhist myth
.

I'm not sure why you had to mention that. My point is not about conversion to Buddhism. First of all, there doesn't need to be grand reason like this one for a person to convert to other religions. Indian kings had freely converted to Buddhism, Jainism, Saivism and Vaisnavism throughout the history. I'm not skeptical about his conversion(from what identity? From his caste?) or initiation to Buddhism but curious about very dramatic 'change of heart' incident.

That's why I'm curious about those folklores in Bihar about Ashoka. What do they tell about his life? Though a folklore surviving 2200 years must be a miracle Rolleyes.
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#6
(25-May-2010, 02:37 PM)manju Wrote: Thank you for the links, Ajita.
Quote:I am fairly certain there is a concerted effort by Hindu revisionists to portray Ashoka as Hindu and the whole conversion story as Buddhist myth
.

I'm not sure why you had to mention that.

I didn't have to. I wanted to, because I thought it was relevant. Revisionism of Indian history is despicable. Also, I wasn't mentioning it on account of anything you said. I have come across multiple instances on forums and groups where Hindus express disbelief about the conversion story in the face of fairly clear historical evidence to the contrary.

Edit: I just did a google search and this is the first instance I found: http://science.niuz.biz/ashoks-t32705.html
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#7
Quote:He was probably already a a bit of a humanitarian (probably had noble goals of providing for and keeping safe his minions) who had a quest for power. After he converted, his humanitarian side probably came out a bit more, and the conquerer in him was probably tempered a bit.

That's more or less my position too. His dislike of Brahminic rituals could have contributed too. Found this on the link to the edicts...

Quote:9th Major Rock Edict: People practise various ceremonies. In illness, at the marriage ...on these and on other similar occasions people perform many ceremonies. Women especially perform a variety of ceremonies, which are trivial and useless. If such ceremonies must be performed they have but small results. But the one ceremony which has great value is that of Dhamma. This ceremony includes, regard for slaves and servants, respect for teachers, restrained behaviour towards living being and donations to sramanas and brahmans

The Brahmins of the day probably wouldn't have agreed with the first part but Ashoka seems to make up for it in the later part. The mention of slaves and servants is quite interesting, probably indicating they were distinct. Nevertheless I felt this passage would have been quite advanced thinking for his time.
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#8
(25-May-2010, 01:43 PM)Ajita Kamal Wrote: Our mythologizing of history often leads to building these people into legends. No person, let alone an emperor, can go from being completely evil to a humanitarian saint overnight. He was probably already a a bit of a humanitarian (probably had noble goals of providing for and keeping safe his minions) who had a quest for power. After he converted, his humanitarian side probably came out a bit more, and the conquerer in him was probably tempered a bit.

I'm glad you brought this up, Ajita.
You've probably heard of the Ashokavadana, an ancient Buddhist text describing the exploits of Emperor Ashoka. In this text, the Emperor is said to have persecuted Nirgranthas (Jains) because they considered the Buddha to be subordinate to Mahavira.
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