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P9 Unit 4
King Asoka the Great (232-304 BCE)
3rd King of Mauryan Dynasty
Son of King Bindusara and his wife Subhadrangi (or Dharma)
King Bundusara had 100 sons and, before he died,
Decided to give the throne to his eldest son Sumonrajakumara
But, his ministers and advisers thought otherwise:
They preferred Asoka, then viceroy of Avanti state.
Before ascending the throne, in 268 BCE, suppressed 100 hundred brothers, except Dissa, born from the same mother
Asoka, as King of the Mauryan Empire: Ruthless character
Ambition, expansion, military conquests
During the 8th year of his reign, defeated/conquered many states
Until the turning point (last conquest):
Mauryans: 10,000 killed
Kalingas: 50,000 killed
Many others wounded
Other consequences of war
o Misery, starvation, devastation
King Asoka was proud of his powerful empire, ruling the whole Indian sub-continent, but… We was feeling guilty and upset with the amount of death (the high price to pay for his conquests. His mother was a Buddhist, but he needed something else to become interest in his mother’s religion:
One day, in his palace, looking through a window, he saw a little novice (samanera) holding a bowl in a very calm manner
Curious about the samanera (named Nogrodha), King Asoka asked him about his religion: Buddhism
And Nogrodha told them: “Be not careless because a careless person, though alive, is like dead.”
King Asoka thought about his ruthlessness, and about the many lives destroyed after his orders
He realize that all those brutal past actions were a result of his carelessness.
So he decided to stop all the wars
And started learning the teachings of Buddha
After listening to the dharma taught by Samudra Thera, Asoka became a Sotapanna o Sotappana: Entering the stream (sotapatti) is the first of four stages one must
achieve in order to attain Enlightenment.
Having declared himself a disciple of Buddha, King Asoka
Started to apply dharma principles in his administration As a result
The people started to call him “Dhammasoka”, the dharma holder
And started seeing him as a model to follow
Important deeds Sent nine groups of monks to spread Buddhism in his kingdom and
Instead of war to destroy lives, he built hospital to save lives
Founded schools, universities and other centers of studies for monks
Built many temples, pagodas, stupas and other religious sites.
And many other contributions and donations to support and help spreading Buddhism
The Four Holy Places King Asoka also commissioned archaeological excavations that led to the discovery of the Four Holy Places. He also commissioned the construction of pagodas and the production of stone inscriptions to mark those sacred places.
1. Buddha’s Birthplace – Lumbini, located between Devadaha and Kapilavastu, modern-day Prirawas district, Nepal, 23 kilometers away from the Indian border.
2. Bodh Gaya - The place where Buddha attained enlightenment under the Boddhi Tree. Modern-day Gaya district, Bihar state, India. There we can visit Mahabodhi Temple.
3. Sarnath – The place where Buddha gave his 1st sermom to the 5 ascetics (Kondanna, Vappa, Badiya, Mahanama, Assaji). There we can visit Dhamek Stupa. Located 10 km away from Varanasi, India.
4. Kusinara – The place where Buddha attained Nirvana. It is located in Kushinagar district, state of Uttar Pradesh, India. In Kusirana we can visit the place Buddha was cremated:
Phra Sona and Phra Uttara
3rd Buddhist Council(1) - 250 BCE
Organized under the patronage of Emperor Asoka
Led by Phra Moggalliputtatissa Thera
The main goal was to spread Buddhism throughout all the regions of his Empire.
Increasing the number of people learning Buddhist teachings
And becoming Buddhists
And, therefore, helping people freeing themselves from suffering
To do so:
Asoka sent 9 groups of Buddhist missionaries to various regions
The 8th group was headed by to Indian Theras: o Phra Sona o Phra Uttara
The destination of Prha Sona and Phra Uttara was Suvarnabhumi(2), present day Thailand, Myanmar and Laos (???)
Where they would be propagating Buddhist teachings
As you can imagine
This mission was very hard
Traveling from India to a faraway land
When there was no transportation available Other difficulty
The language barrier between the Indian Theras and the local people
Both Theras did not lose their courage in the face of difficulties and, eventually, succeed in spreading Buddhism in this part of South East Asia
But, there a big polemic about this mythological place called Suvarnabhumi, mentioned several times in the Jataka Tales.
Check the differences between the Thai and the English versions of Wikipedia on Suvarnabhumi
TH: https://th.wikipedia.org/wiki/ดนิแดนสวุรรณภมู ิ EN: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suvarnabhumi#Thailand_theory
Suvarnabhumi means Suvarnapura (golden city): Suphan Buri (U Thong)
Suvarnabhumi means Golden Land (latin Aurea Regio)
or Suvarnadvipa, The Island of Gold (Sumatra)
“Scholars have identified two regions as possible locations for the ancient Suvarnabhumi: Insular Southeast Asia or Southern India. In a study of the various literary sources for the location of Suvannabhumi, Saw Mra Aung concluded that it was impossible to draw a decisive conclusion on this, and that only thorough scientific research would reveal which of several versions of Suvannabhumi was the original.”
(by Saw Mra Aung, "The Accounts of Suvannabhumi from Various Literary Sources", Suvannabhumi: Multi-Disciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies (Busan University of Foreign Studies, Korea), vol. 3, no.1, June 2011, pp.67-86)
Anyway, Thai people came from modern-day southern China between the 6th century CE and 11th century CE, while the Jataka Tales were created much earlier, around 4th century BCE.
Knowing so, we can be sure that this 2 Theras did not preach Buddhism to Thai people.
TO LEARN MORE:
(1) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Buddhist_council
(2) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suvarnabhumihttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Buddhist_councilhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suvarnabhumi