Talk:Edicts of Ashoka

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Untitled[edit]

I'm claiming that the suggestion that various Christian values are derived from edicts of Ashoka is noodle-headed. We must remember Occam's razor when we propose an explanation for something. Christianity grew out of Judaism. To theorize that Ashoka's missionaries influenced Christian or pre-Christian thinking, we need to find distinctly Buddhist themes appearing in Christianity which do not appear in Judaism. The distinct core of Buddhism centers around suffering, answered by the eight-fold path, and includes the system of karma/reincarnation (derived from Hinduism). Karmic thinking implies kindness to all creatures. Where is any of this in Christianity? We don't find it. Furthermore we must not discount the possibility of independent development. Benevolence is a central Confucian theme, as well as a Christian one, as well as a Buddhist one. Does that mean Confucius taught Buddha who taught Christ? While I'm sure there are people who believe exactly that, it is not the most likely explanation. Or take religious tolerance: yes, this is a Buddhist theme, but it is also an important theme in the Old Testament -- for example the Book of Jonah where the Jew's pagan antagonists, the Ninevites, are nonetheless spared by God due to their righteousness. So does this mean Moses taught Buddha? Etc. etc. etc. technopilgrim 21:46, 13 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The transmission of Ashoka’s precepts to the West is presented as a possibility, not a claim. It is supported by Ashoka’s stone inscriptions stating he sent emissaries to the Mediterranean around 250BCE, and by similarities with moral precepts and stories of Christ later developed by Christianity. "Scholars have often considered the possibility that Buddhism influenced the early development of Christianity. They have drawn attention to many parallels concerning the births, lives, doctrines, and deaths of the Buddha and Jesus" (Bentley, "Old World Encounters").
You make a point that the influence of Hindu cosmology and Buddhist philosophical constructions (eightfold path etc..) can hardly be noticed in Christianity, but reading the Edicts will show you that such elements are absent from Ashoka’s writings, which are essentially limited to moral precepts and the description of concrete realizations (except to a few reference to an after-life, and the effects of this life’s actions on the after life, which is not exactly in contradiction with Christian principles).
I think the paragraph you retrieved only expresses the possible influences of Ashoka’s missionary efforts, and deserves to be reinstalled. Could some rewording help? Regards. User:PHG 13 Sep 2004

Here's why I call this kind of thinking noodle-headed. Professor Bentley points to the "many parallels" between Jesus and Buddha, such as their deaths. Sounds wonderful, except have you bothered to read an account of Buddha's death and Jesus' death and resurrection? Many parallels you say? Maybe if you close one eye, squint the other, toss out data you don't like, and wish real hard -- maybe then you'll see it that way, but why should we have to do that? (unless we have an agenda other than simple historical factuality)

We must be mindful of the tendency for religions to claim pre-eminence over one another (my favorite example: the followers of Bön who claim they were following the teachings of Buddha 20,000 years before Buddha himself was born -- see Zhang_Zhung_culture#Were_the_Zhang_Zhung_Buddhists). The Daoists are absolutely shameless in this regard. If Professor Bentley makes broad and unsubstantiated claims he risks being associated with these types. Note that it's not just the Buddhists who have a vested interest here but also Hindu and New Age apologists. Or perhaps Professor Bentley is just trying to make a name for himself with an "Einstein is wrong!" kind of stance, trying to earn a name for himself or tenure, I don't know. This is why it is so nice when assertions are derived from evidence and reason, because then it doesn't matter what Bentley's motivations are...

None of which is to say that I'm opposed to including influences of Ashokan missionaries on the West, if we can find something a little beefier than these vague claims. Scanning the web I see some sites claim that the Western monastic tradition traces back to Indian roots. I didn't check their tracing, but if such a tracing could be found and if it traced through the edicts of Ashoka, then I'd be delighted to see it added.

technopilgrim 02:15, 15 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Hi Technopilgrim. Thank you for the nice discussion. I understand your point that it is always a sensitive issue to discuss cross-influences in religions, and that many unsubstanciated claims are often made. In this case however, there is more evidence than in most: actual engravings from 250BCE, corroborative evidence of many interactions between the Greek world and Buddhism at that time, and some similaraties in the content of the two religions. It is not only one-way either: Christianism was probably present in India by the 2nd century CE with St Thomas, and some Christian symbolism is visible in Mahayana Buddhism (see Guan Yin). I do share your wish for more evidence, but for things that happened more than 2000 years ago, this is about as good as it gets.
You are attacking Bentley for things he doesn't say: he is merely mentionning the fact that "Scholars have often considered the possibility that Buddhism influenced the early development of Christianity.", and that these discussions are based on various parallels (which maybe could be the object of another article). The influence of Buddhism on Christianity is a well-known scholarly hypotheses, rather than, to use your words, a "noodle-headed" sectarian claim. Isn't it only fair to mention it in an article on Ashokan proselytism? Regards. User:PHG Sep 15, 2004

Do you happen to have Bentleys book? Perhaps he mentions the scholars by name & then maybe we can find out more about their claims and also if they met with any degree of acceptance in the scholarly community. If Bentley talks about scholars without naming any of them specifically, I think we can safely conclude that he himself doesn't take scholarship or peer review too seriously. technopilgrim 18:51, 19 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Hi Technopilgrim. Yes I have the book. Bentley references "India and Christendom" by Richard Garbe, "India and the Greek World" by Sedlar. Also "Living Zen" by Robert Linssen has a whole chapter on the subject. Some (good and bad) Internet references to influences of Buddhism on Christianity: [1],[2],[3], and a traditionalist refutation by the Catholic Encyclopedia (the article was apparently written back in 1908, and it shows): [4]. Let's not get into discussions about which of these theses is right or wrong, we are only talking about the possibility that Ashokan proselytism may have influenced the west... Regards. PHG 22:01, 19 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Specific Edict reference[edit]

I've found a number of translations of the various Ashoka Edicts, but haven't yet found which specific edict was written in Greek and Aramaic - can anyone here point me in the right direction? Thanks, Nightngle (nightngle@yahoo.com)

Edict 13 was bilingual, written in Greek and Aramaic, the others use Indian languages. PHG 12:03, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Correction. Edict 13 and 5 were found in today's Afghanistan, but were written in Prakrit. The bilingual (Greek-Aramaic) Kandahar inscrition seems to be a seperate document, also by Ashoka, although I cannot find a transcript at this point.PHG 02:58, 4 January 2006 (UTC)

Ashoka Column picture removed[edit]

This picture was removed because of possible copyright violation. The copyright notice on Wikipedia incorrectly stated that the picture is from buddha101.com and used with the permission of the author of that site. The picture is not on buddha101.com and no permission was given.


Christian/Buddhist Connection and Other Problems[edit]

I made a couple changes in this regard that I wanted to explain more fully for any intersted parties.

  1. The claim that the Ashokan Edicts are mentioned in the Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter seemed very weak. All we have is a mention of 300 years in a passage, and an assertion that 300 years from the date of an event in the life of Christ was approximately the date of an event in the life of Ashoka Mauriya. '300th year of the covenent' could much more easily refer to dating something from onbe of the several covenants that are identified in the Hebrew Bible (Mosaic, Abrahamic, etc.), or a covenant that the Gnostics considered to be present that was not widely accepted in the other Abrahamic religions. Giving the imprecise nature of dating for ancient events (and the even more imprecise knowledge of that dating during ancient times), it seems like a difficult claim to make. I don't think that it belongs here unless there is a serious academic reference that can be provided claiming that there is a connection between Gnosticism and Ashoka.
  2. The bit about the Theripuetae. I looked at the referenced work, and I think that Linssen is making a much more limited claim than what was being implied here. He seems only to say that their lifestyle may have been derived from Buddhist monasticism; he says nothing about them being directly descended from the Theravada. The religious practices and background of the Therapeutae seems to be at odds with Buddhist teachings. They used the Hebrew scriptures as their religious texts, prayed to the Abrahamic God, didn't live by alms, etc. There doesn't seem to be a clearly articulated linguistic theory for how we get from 'stheravada' to 'Therapeutae' and 'Therapeutridae'. So other than the fact that both of them lived 'simple' lives and rejected excess material property, they have little in common. That might be evidence of some cross-pollination in terms of lifestyle choices (which is what I think that Linssen is implying), but to imply that the therapeutae are a long-lost sect of Theravadin monks and nuns seems to go beyond what the material presents.

Overall, this article is suffering from a lot of the same problems that the Ashoka article has. It is relying heavily on Buddhist legends about the life of Ashoka for information without making it clear that is the case. There's a big difference between what Buddhists have traditionally believed about Ashoka, and what scholars say we can know about Ashoka. We need to make clear in this article which is which. --Clay Collier 09:04, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

The Gnostic claim about the '300th year of the covenent' is indeed weak, although interesting. I agree it might be better to leave it out. However, I am afraid replacing a Robert Lissen quote by an un-referenced assertion, does not much contribute to the encyclopedicity of the article. I suggest we insert the quote in full, then:
"It is particularly interesting to note that the Essene community and the sect of the Therapeutae, the forerunners in Egypt of the Thebaid hermits, had frequent contacts with Buddhist thought. Their precepts seem to have almost entirely drawn their inspiration from the teaching and the practices of Buddhist ascetism". Robert Lissen, p208
The concept of precept is clearly not only about lifestyle choices. Regards PHG 10:30, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

The Asoka Edicts don't seem to prove he was a Buddhist[edit]

When you read the Asoka Edicts, there is no evidence he was a Buddhist at all. The only Edict where Asoka actually mentions Buddha, the Minor Edict 3, is clearly a forgery. In Minor Edict #3 at Bairat, unlike all the other Edicts, it lacks the standard "Beloved-of-the-God" phrase, and its greating ("saluting the Sangha and wishing them good health"S. Dhammika trans @ www.cs.colostate.edu/~malaiya/ashoka.html) is unlike any other Edict. Also, the references to specific Buddhist teachings and text unlike any other Edict makes it clearly a forgery.

The only other Edict that specifically ties Asoka with Buddhism is the Minor Pillar Edit at Lumbini. But unlike all the other Edicts, Asoka is not speaking (he is only refered to in the 3rd person - "He had a stone figure", not the first person "I commanded" that you would have found on all the other Edicts, included the forged Minor Edict at Bairat. But at least this forger got the "Beloved of the Gods" phrase right, unlike the Bairat Edict. After you have eliminated these 2 Edicts, which clearly seem to forgeries, there is no specific evidence that Asoka was actually a Buddhist, or even knew of Buddha. The word "Dharma" is not a uniquely Buddhist term, and none of the other concepts and ideas in the genuine Asoka Edicts are uniquely Buddhist. Even the Wikipedia article recognized the absence of key and unique Buddist concepts.

The fact that Buddha or uniquely Buddist ideas or concepts are never mentioned in any of the Asoka Edicts that are not suspect argues strongly that Asoka was not a Buddhist. If Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman emperor, never mentioned Jesus we would be equally suspicious that Constantine was ever a Christian. A religion claiming an prestigious figure in history as one of their is not unknown. Alexander the Great (Iskandar) was sometimes treated in Islam as a muslim, although that tradition has fallen out of favor as the knowledge of the real history of Alexandar increased. Like the Christians and Muslims, the Buddhist many centuries after Asoka time co-opted the famous Asoka as one of their own, a fact made much easier by the India's general lack of ancient Indian written histories as compared with the west - ancient India had no Herodotus, no Tacticus. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 66.51.147.97 (talk) 00:44, 28 September 2007 (UTC)

Map[edit]

Edicts of Ashoka.

The following map could be used to illustrate the article. If someone would like to introduce it in the article, please do. PHG (talk) 06:05, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

Fixed; someone had actually changed all instances of Ashoka to Asoka which broke the image. Shell babelfish 06:27, 19 March 2008 (UTC)
Thanks Shell. PHG (talk) 19:47, 19 March 2008 (UTC)


Junagadh rock inscription[edit]

The Junagadh rock contains inscriptions of Ashoka (fourteen of the Edicts of Ashoka), Rudradaman I and Skandagupta.

A nice image of the Junagadh rock, on which fourteen of the Edicts of Ashoka can be found. Feel free to insert in the article. PHG (talk) 18:54, 26 June 2008 (UTC)

About the Scripts[edit]

The line given in third para "The inscriptions found in the eastern part of India were written in the Magadhi language, using the Brahmi script. In the western part of India, the language used is closer to Sanskrit, using the Kharoshthi script, one extract of Edict 13 in the Greek language, and one bilingual edict written in Greek and Aramaic". in which you have told that inscription found in western part of Indian is closer to sankrit, how can it be because the sankrit was found later in 11th Century and the inscriptions found was in 2 century BCE, so kindly analyse that....GentalMan (talk) 10:03, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

The article needs to re-written as a whole[edit]

Ashoka used the medium of Edicts to propagate his own policy of Dhamma not Buddhism. Wondering the one who wrote this article and the other one who created(If not same). Just an another attempt to manipulate history. How could i say that? read this one, there's around 80 references cited. This article should be removed from search directory from current effect. Needs to re-written presenting reliable sources. AnupMehra 19:41, 8 September 2013 (UTC)