Thursday, October 31, 2013

What was the nature of Asoka's Dhamma?
Till very recently historians were confused as to the true nature of Asoka's Dhamma. Some pointed  that Buddhism and Asoka's Dhamma are one and the same. But after a deep analysis of Asokan Edicts on Dhamma it has been found the these are two different things and one should not be confused with the other.
Indeed, Asoka embraced Buddhism after the Kalinga war. 
  • According to Romila Thapar, Dhamma was Asoka's own invention. 
  • In his Dhamma,  Asoka had suggested a moral life that was convenient to follow. 
  • Dhamma incorporated a way of life that included a number of ideals and practices. 
  • Abstinence from killing, respect to elder moderation in behaviour, etc. were the ideals that could be follow- by all people.
No matter to what religion they belonged. In conclusion it may be said that Buddhism was the personal religion of Asoka while Dhamma was the way of life that he wanted, as a king, the people in general to follow.
  • Ashoka’s dhamma meant ‘righteousness’. 
  • The concept of dhamma is well discussed in Ashoka edicts which were the oldest surviving documents of Indian history. 
  • The edicts found scattered all over the Indian subcontinent are basically official pronouncement of policy, and instructions of Ashoka to his officials and subjects. 
  • Ashoka is said to have underwent a complete charge of heart after Kalinga war during his eight regnal year and thus visualized ‘Dhamma’.

The traditional policy of territorial expansion was substituted by Dhamma. As mentioned in Ashokan edicts, Dhamma calls for certain virtues to be possessed and the negative traits to be abstained from. It gives a moral guidance to the subjects and stresses on social harmony and religious tolerance. 

  • Respect to elders, parents teachers; equal treatment to all religious sects, ahimsa, moderate accumulation of wealth and judicious spending etc, are dealt with in detail in the Major Rock Edicts VII and III respectively.
  • The major rock edict IX condemns rituals as ‘the source of ignorance’ and Ashoka appeals for non-sacrifice of animals in ceremonies and food habits. 
  • The Major Rock Edict V speaks about the welfare activities undertaken and the appointment of Dhamma Mahavratas to propagate Dhamma. Ashoka strived for the moral and spiritual development of his subjects. He even undertook pilgrimages and sent his kith and kin as missionaries to propagate Dhamma abroad. 

1.   Ashoka's creation of the institution of the Dhammamahamattas convincingly proves that Asoka's Dhamma did not favor any particular religious doctrine. Had that been case, then there would have been no need for such an office, as Ashoka could have utilized the organisation of Samgha to propagate Dhamma.

2.   A careful study of Rock Edicts depicts that Ashoka wanted to promote tolerance and respect to all religions sects and duty of the Dhammamahamattas included working for the Brahmans and Sarmans.
  • In totality, Dhamma was not a religion but a ‘way of life.’
Relevance in the current Society ?
  • Ashoka’s Dhamma holds good even in the present society. 
  • Dhamma is distinguished by several characteristic doctrines and philosophical positions. 
  • Tolerance was insisted upon as an absolute duty, which is very much necessary for multi-religious country India. 
  • Dhamma is completely cosmopolitan and has universal applicability. 
  • It can act as a panacea for the religious and social unrest currently prevailing in India.
In conclusion, Dhamma being secular in nature and advocates humanitarian approach, making it a very practical solution. Dhamma promotes social equality and is realistic. So, Dhamma is the need of the hour of the present India. Ashoka’s Dhamma has all-time applicability in a divergent Indian society.


Was Ashoka's Dhamma responsible for the downfall of his empire?

  • According to the historians, the sole cause behind the decline of the Mauryas after Ashoka was his weak successors. 
  • After Ashoka`s demise, there was none among his heirs to equal the gigantic task of maintaining unity within the vast Empire. 
  • Moreover the successors of Ashoka had been reared in the tradition of non-violence and the policy of Dharma Vijaya. 
  • To them, aggressive imperialism initiated by Chandragupta Maurya was a dim idea. 
  •  As a result they had neither will nor the strength to bridle the process of disruption within the Empire. 
  • None of Ashoka`s successors except Dasharatha could really understand and implement the Dharma Vijaya policy inaugurated by the enigmatic man. 
  • The later Mauryas followed the policy of Dharma Vijaya only by forbidding any armed resistance against the invaders and internal revolutionaries. As a result the very foundation of the Mauryas was shattered.   
However downfall of the Mauryan Empire cannot solely be attributed to Ashoka's Dhamma..infact der were many other genuine reasons due which the EMPIRE could not STAND as follows :-

1. The Partition of the Mauryan Empire:
  • An immediate cause for the decline was the partition of the Mauryan Empire into two halves . 
  • "Had the partition not taken place, the Greek invasions of the north-west could have been held back for a while. The partition of the empire disrupted the various services as well."
2. Weak later-Mauryan Rulers:
  • The succession of weak Mauryan rulers after Asoka completely disrupted the Mauryan administration. 
  • The weak­ness of these rulers can be imagined from the fact that as many as six rulers could rule only 52 years over the eastern part of the empire and finally the last Mauryan King was assassinated by his own commander-in-Chief Pusyamitra Sunga. 
  • These weak later-Mauryan rulers could also not con­tinue the traditional policies of the Mauryas.
3. Asoka's Responsibility for the Decline:
  • Many scholars have accused Asoka as being directly responsible for the decline of the Mauryan Em­pire.
  • H.C. Raychaudhuri maintains that Asoka's pacifist policies were responsible for undermining the strength of the empire. 
  • He says: "From the time of Bimbisara to Kalinga war the history of India was the story of the expansion of Magadha from a tiny state in South Bihar to a gigantic empire extending from the foot of the Hindukush to the borders of the Tamil country.
4. Pressure on Mauryan Economy:
  • D.D. Kosambi has expressed the opinion that there was considerable pressure on Mauryan economy under the later Mauryas. 
  • This view is based on the increase of taxes and debasement of later- Mauryan punch- marked coins. 
  • But contrary to the above, the foreign accounts and the material remains of the period give a picture of an expand­ing economy
5. Highly Centralized Administration:
  • Prof. Romila Thapar is of the view: "The machinery of the Mauryan administrative system was so central­ized that an able ruler could use it both to his own advantage and that of his people, to the same degree it could become harmful to both under a weak ruler who would lose its central control and allow forces of decay to disintegrate and wreck it."

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